A reader writes…
After living in Montclair for 25 years from 1972-1997, it is part of my heart and soul. I was pleased to be in town again for five days over the New year’s holiday, seeing-some dear-to-our-hearts old friends, very few of which still remain in town. Upper Montclair seemed bustling and sparkling, even after the holidays — people slipping in and out of Starbuck’s, The Gap, Williams Sonoma, the upscale jewelry stores and childrens’ clothing shops. The bakeries, 5 & 10, and so many other of the old stores I remember are long gone, and recently my favorite store of all, Vitti’s, closed.
I was sad to see the last of the Olympic stores had closed, as well as the funky Orion book store. I stopped in Barbara Eclectic, a clothing store I used to love, but found it totally changed, and stocked with clothes I hated.
I drove around my town, and whereas the houses all look fantastic, all spiffed up to within an inch of their life, it begins not to feel like home. McMansions have eaten up some of the neighborhoods, (I was
horrified at what used to be the Marlboro Inn) and the yuppification of my comfortable, diverse and interesting town is now complete. It worries me. House prices, as everywhere, have soared. Friends sold their nice, comfortable but nothing extraordinary house for close to a million dollars, and
I learned that our dear old home on Fernwood Avenue was recently assessed for $925,000, and would undoubtedly sell for over a million.
I was shown on a list of my old neighborhood assessments that even the little houses on Nassau are all well over half a million, and I saw none on
the entire huge list for less than that. Most of the plain, normal houses I remember are over $750,000, many that I remember in the 8’s and 9’s, like ours, and MANY way over a million, a number over 1 million 5, and one on Park street for $2,300,000. And this was always a very nice, but not
the priciest part of town. I cannot imagine the assessments on Upper Mountain, or in the estate section in Montclair proper.
Well, it concerns me greatly. An old friend, who recently moved to Clifton to avoid the taxes, was telling me that her son and his wife wanted so much to buy a house in town, but could find nothing they could afford, and are in Bloomfield, I believe. I remember when my own daughter and her husband were house hunting a few years back after renting in town, and they found the same thing and had to move elsewhere. And these are the kinds of young people Montclair needs in order to stay the community it always was.
I have to think that everyone moving in now is making BIG bucks. How else could they afford to buy a house there? This HAS to change the tenor of the town I loved so much. All the young women I saw walking about were in designer jeans or classy pants, stiletto heels, all made up, bejeweled. The only young women dressed “normally” were nannies. This smacks of Short Hills, not my Montclair! (I don’t even see that in Wilton CT where my son and family live, another very upscale, yuppified area.)
I am sure, in fact I KNOW, that there are still many really interesting folks in town who moved there earlier, or who happen to be interesting AND rich (like the musicians, artists, writers who have made it) . But the demographics must have changed enormously since we moved there in 1972. Some might feel it is for the better— but the town must be losing its middle class base rather rapidly, and what is happening to the poor people in town?
We did have a number of them— have they been sent packing with high rents and high taxes? Gentrified right out of town? I did read that the school population is growing more and more white, which could be an indication of just that — not that the only poor people in my day were black by means, but a larger percent of the really economically challenged were black. It makes me feel very sad. And, it made me feel like Montclair is not home anymore. When I got back here to Vermont, for the first time in over nine years I felt as if my little rural village of Strafford was really, really home. And the Montclair that was for so long home to me, is no more.”