Despite two meetings last week – one with officials at Montclair State University and the other with Montclair councilor Rich Murnick – residents in the Normal Avenue neighborhood of Montclair are still highly suspicious of the university’s latest plans to revamp traffic patterns. “They don’t trust them,” Murnick says of his constituents. “They’re living next to a university that’s growing by leaps and grounds bounds.”
Despite suspicions, Murnick is sure there’s “nothing slated to be built on my watch” in the neighborhood and he has communicated to MSU that he wants to know any plans before bulldozers show up.
Resident Soraya Morgan thinks the university could do a better job at being a good neighbor.

soroya.jpgMy family and I just moved to Montclair 2 years ago. I am originally from Dallas and when I learned there was a home available walking distance from a university, I was thrilled! And it is, in fact, a great opportunity. My daughter goes to the pre-school at Montclair State University (MSU) and could not be happier. They are the most dedicated, talented and caring teachers I have ever seen. And I can’t wait until she goes to Bradford – the University Magnet. All of my neighbors have told me how happy they are with the quality of education, care and love MSU teachers give to their children. But I have been shocked to learn of the poor communication and lack of concern the university displays to its neighbors. For instance, one of my neighbors lives West side of the tracks and has to look at an ugly cell tower and parked buses. The fence MSU put around the temporary lot next to the Bond House which now seems permanent is old and tattered. Trees require less maintenance and are prettier. Plus, graffiti is not a problem on trees. Perhaps the University would revisit the lot and beautify it if they are intent on making it permanent. They recently planted many trees around the Bond House which can be seen from a busy street. What about adding more trees so their neighbors can also appreciate the trees and have less of an eyesore. Just last Thursday, I learned the University is taking traffic off of their property and putting the volume into a small corner of the community. They have plans to put trees on campus but not around the perimeter. Why not consider working together with the neighbors to find solutions? These issues can all be solved easily. All it takes is MSU making the first steps toward building a relationship with its neighbors.
Southern Methodist University (SMU), for example, is located in one of the most valued real estate areas in Dallas, Highland Park. Today, residents there are some of the wealthiest in the world including billionaires like Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and H. Ross Perot, a former U.S. presidential candidate. It is also the recently chosen home for George W. Bush and his presidential library. Highland Park is a beautiful neighborhood full of tree-lined streets and historic homes very much like what we have here in Montclair. Residents there have the same issue as those of us who live close to MSU: loud games, student littering, fast driving. Yet, SMU is not just tolerated by their neighbors; it is appreciated and respected. Why? Because SMU, regardless of who is the president of the university or on the local town council, understands the importance of public opinion and what it means to proactively be a good neighbor. The university does not just “beautify” its own campus; it donates money and time to beautifying its neighborhood by committing to landscaping outside the school as well as local non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity. SMU also understands and appreciates the importance of respecting the “fence” of its neighbors. These positive gestures have built a tremendous amount of good will in the community over the years that has resulted in consistent positive public relations, increased student enrollment as well as increased donations from Alumni and neighbors.
I still am very happy to be living so close to MSU but hope that it makes the purposeful decision to place a higher priority on building good will by proactively halting all activity that negatively affect the quality of life of their beloved neighbors.
Soraya Morgan

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19 replies on “Normal Avenue Neighbors Still Wary of MSU”

  1. I hate to break it to this nice lady, but this is Jersey, the Soprano state. Its doubtful that Montclair State would open up its coffers to upgrade anything. Look at the Bond House, such a disgrace. And they can’t seem to turn down anyone even if they are completely out of space to board them.
    To be quite harsh, naw, not me, Montclair residents do not see themselves as the typical college town “townies” you find in so many other environments. Those state college kids are not received with open arms here.

  2. “They’re living next to a university that’s growing by leaps and grounds.”
    Is that a coffee like speed reference?

  3. Another thing to remember is that as MSU buys up houses from the residents on Normal Avenue, the property taxes received from those houses are lost to the town forever. If they own 6 houses, and each house paid $10,000 in taxes, that is $60,000 lost every year. In addition, Montclair services such as police and fire still are still responding to emergencies in this area. This certainly adds to our ever increasing tax bill…

  4. The comments that follow these stories of MSU encroachment demonstrate that the full extent of this issue is not being grasped– not by the public and not by the town officials yet. The town is basically losing the whole northwestern end of its residential neighborhoods–a slow, painful death. And a slow, painful loss of revenue for the town and more services needed from the town to then support this public institution which only will gobble up more. I would have thought there would be more outrage.

  5. This is not right. In this economy, we can not afford for the value of our homes to continue to go down as a result of MSU’s use of our services and possession of residential homes. If we all demand a stop to this painful loss of revenue from our town and encroachment of our neighborhood, we can start the first steps toward what SMU neighbors have. There’s a meeting tonight where we can all voice our opinion about MSU:

  6. This is not right. In this economy, we can not afford for the value of our homes to continue to go down as a result of MSU’s use of our services and possession of residential homes. If we all demand a stop to this painful loss of revenue from our town and encroachment of our neighborhood, we can start the first steps toward what SMU neighbors have. There’s a meeting tonight where we can all voice our opinion about MSU:

  7. I’m sorry Soraya Morgan, but you moved to a nuisance. College campuses are constantly undergoing construction and changing traffic patterns. Drunk students, loud parties, littering and general ugliness are things that are expected directly adjacent to the Campus.
    MSU has great programs and professors. But, sadly, no one told you that the Administration sucks. I mean, it is heinous. This is NJ bureaucratic culture at its worst.
    Fact of the matter is that the neighborhoods that are a few blocks of the university are doing just fine. They are quiet and peaceful. Quit your whining.

  8. ubuwalker31-
    Your attitude is the perfect example of the complacency that allows”NJ bureaucratic culture” to continue. When Gov. Whitman dissolved the oversight commission of NJ state colleges and Universities in 1994, we should ALL have been yelling! Now, Baristanet readers like you get to bash “the whiners” for pointing out that there have been problems and issues that are worth addressing for perhaps a possible outcome for all. I guess you live near MSU to be able to report the peace and quiet? Why then are some residents appealing their taxes winning with new values now of 75% of assessment done 2 years ago due to the University as a neighbor? Think about the bigger picture be constructive with your comments.

  9. mmm…yesterday a lacrosse ball smacked into my window! Nice!
    We also currently have a McDonald’s bag full of rotten fries, part of someone’s car, and an empty deodorant bottle in our yard!
    LOVE IT!

  10. I feel for you shei13. I live down the street from Bloomfield College and my block is covered with liter.

  11. ubuwalker31
    Give me a break. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think everyone is affected by this encroachment. Whether you are for it or against it you are involved. Perhaps the University will grow to be at your front door if those closer don’t fight your battle for you. Sounds like you’d let your quaterback be sacked. Don’t misconstrue blocking as whining.

  12. The “general ugliness” next to a campus is not accepted” I couldn’t disagree more. My neighborhood is not quiet and peaceful. It has been invaded by illegal noise pollution and legal? light pollution from Sprague Field. A previously wooded mountain side has been replaced with a 5 story parking garage lit all night. Newark, New York City all use special lighting to minimize the impact of multistoried garages. MSU didn’t and has made it clear it won’t. The mistrust of the neighbors is not that the University is growing, it is that Susan Cole and the rest of MSU neglects and ignores the legitimate interests of the neighborhood to have its impact mitigated. Letters in my possesion from Joe Harnett and Governer Corzine (responses to my letter and cc’d to me) to Susan Cole ask her to deal responsibly with the neighborhood and asks if she has any intention to reasonably mitigate the Urban Stresses MSU has placed on what used to be a quiet wooded neighborhood. She hasn’t and is responding this time by taking all of the traffic currently entering onto Campus off Campus and next to my back yard. This is the 8th project to impact this piece of land. Even the most cynical among you will recognize this as excessive in an already congested area.

  13. I was just walking with a photographer from the Montclair Times taking pictures of the proposed road way. We were forced to leave by MSU police. So much for freedom of press. MSU is not an open place, it fears exposure.

  14. If the town wanted to force MSU Admin to the table to discuss traffic, it should consider threatening to close of the Normal Ave train crossing for the Train Quiet Zone.

  15. So I’m surprised no one has mentioned the real problem: in five years MSU has grown from 13,000 students to 18,000 and there’s no sign of slowing down (Bloomfield College, by contrast, has only 2,000 students). How big will MSU get next year with the popularity of state schools in bad economic times?
    There’s no regulation from the state (though it criticizes MSU growth as “reckless”) so the University does what it wants, claiming eminent domain when it suits it, and blatantly disregarding what is safe or what neighbors consider reasonable. The article in yesterday’s Montclair Times is a classic example of MSU officials’ typical disregard for public safety ( ).
    MSU wants to “beautify” its campus by narrowing one of its entrances. Terrific! But to do that they need another entrance to campus. So they turn an already horrible intersection often moving only thanks to traffic cops (a few feet from the Montclair Heights NJ Transit crossing) into a three-lane road. If the county approves this it’s going to be utter gridlock with cars backed up Normal Ave, Valley, and Upper Mountain, and stuck on the RR tracks.
    And what happens if they need to evacuate those 20,000 students in case of emergency? Good luck!
    Montclair isn’t the only town affected—Little Falls and Clifton are also getting hammered (literally). The University needs to start thinking more practically, realizing they are a part of surrounding communities (who support their water, sewerage, trash, etc.), and that they can only do so much with the campus they have. If they insist on being as big as Rutgers why don’t they open satellite campuses? Online education?
    And if not, then limit the student population to sustainable numbers. The reckless growth is a catastrophe waiting to happen and not just for neighbors.

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