Mark your calendars and get your questions ready. Baristanet is hosting a live chat/digital debate with the three Montclair mayoral candidates: Robert Jackson, Harvey Susswein and Karen Turner. Be on the site on Monday, April 2, at 4 p.m. to follow the chat live as well as participate with your own questions for any or all of three candidates. Not around on Monday, but want your questions answered? Send your questions to

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65 replies on “Baristanet Live Chat With The Next Mayor of Montclair”

  1. “Which mayoral candidate will have all the right answers on April 2?

    Robert Jackson

    Harvey Susswein

    Karen Turner

    None of the above X

  2. I’m amazed Turner is leading this (albeit unscientific poll). Other than the absurd trolley she hasn’t proposed anything specific.

  3. This is one very shrewd political play. Actually, I bow to the authors.
    O_12_29 places Robert Jackson in position to check – maybe checkmate- his mayoral opponents before the first debate.

  4. The Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance, that Frank refers to is bizarre. In so far as creating additional living options, I’m all for it. But for the life of me I can’t understand why any home owner in his or her right mind would build one of these. And it is SO obvious to me, I can’t help but wonder what I’m missing? There is so little benefit to the homeowner!

    And, PAY ATTENTION FOLKS, the Ordinance before that? Allowing Assisted Living in the Redevelopment Area? It sounds nice but with rental units pegged at $5K per month, plus assistance up to another $5K per month, I can’t see who but the very wealthy could afford this! People are saying “we want the elderly to be able to age in place.” At $10K per month?

  5. Good grief. So everyone can turn their homes into multiple family dwellings? Maybe you can provide more information?

  6. People vote, and make so many decisions, based on “gut feel” as opposed to thinking things through.

    I can’t tell you how many people have told me “I like him/her and that’s why I’m voting for him/her.” It is very difficult to talk people out of such a “decision.”

    The secret seems to be “Do they LIKE you?”

    I think the effect is strongest for those least involved in the political process. I also think that when people do “think” about the candidate they try and find information that supports the emotional decision that’s already been made.

    By the way, there’s a ton of “new” books that talk about emotion/reason but probably add little to the Greek philosophers.

  7. That might be true for many people, but I also find there are never perfect candidates, but there are obvious candidates we don’t want, so we vote for one in order to not vote for the other. That’s kind of where I am now with our local election.

  8. jersey,

    Yes. That’s where I’m at.

    I can identify two candidates that are a “must.” I can also identify candidates we don’t want!


  9. At this point, it seems easier to go by process of elimination. Kathryn Weller-Demming says she’s voting for former Mayor Jackson. Which means I now only have to choose between Susswein and Turner. I’m eager to find out which other candidates KWD is endorsing, so I can make sure not to vote for them either.

  10. Jerseygurl,
    I used to think I understood the zoning process, but not now. In the past, zoning changes had to align with specific objectives in the Master Plan. But, Montclair’s Master Plan has never included a goal of allowing ADUs. Also, I never heard of any reports from the Planning Dept, the Planning Board, or the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

    The R-O and R-1 zones are the backbone of Montclair land use. To introduce this change, at this time is clearly intended to splinter the electorate.

    I think Freid/Baskerville, the sponsors, already have the 4 votes to pass this (RT & KWD)…which means the timing is to allow for the 2nd reading & vote before the election.

    I am wondering what will happen when a neighbor demos their garage and installs a pre-fab, modern granny pod on the slab foundation and rents out the 4 BR/2BATH to frat house – all without a tax increase. Upper Montclair..where the University meets the Suburbs. Big Yellow Taxi time!

  11. Frank, how can they get away with this? At the risk of offending people, which you know I never do, I will go out on a limb and say I bought a home here believing Upper Montclair’s property values would remain relatively stable because the town had halted the practice of giving variances to anyone who wanted to convert to a two family. (Here come the tirades, but you only need to look at the crime stats of the neighborhoods that are comprised primality of multi-family units to figure this one out). Now you can build a shack on your property and rent it out? Are they completely nuts? This is how they deal with “affordability” issues? Let’s devalue the areas that are most stable? Good grief.

  12. You misunderstood my use of April Fools. I was applying this to the timing, not the possible impact. You can go back to being worried.

  13. I hope not. Scheduling a plumber and electrician will become impossible…not to mention finding someone to asphalt a 1/8 acre.

  14. My mother has already suggested living in an Airstream on our property. I rolled my eyes and told her the town would never allow it. I guess I could get a variance now, or maybe attach it via a small walkway. Converted garages and trailers for all!

  15. Frank, you are absolutely right to be calling attention to these items on the Council’s agenda. It’s just wrong for a lame-duck Council to be rushing controversial and arguably harmful ordinances through in the last weeks of their term.

    I’m particularly troubled by the proposed assisted living facility. I’m not in a position to say flatly whether it’s a good or a bad idea, for the simple reason that no one is or could be in such a position. There has been no public discussion, no consideration of the idea by the Planning Board, nothing. All we’ve heard is the idea that the residents of an assisted living facility will “shop” in Montclair, and that this is a reason to approve the proposal (which evidently will come with a tax break). As a justification, that’s just silly. We should be putting that space to its highest and best use, measured by such criteria as what the town needs and the expected ratable impact.

    If this assisted living facility is a good proposal for Montclair, let’s hear the reasons and debate them publicly. There is no urgency requiring such speedy (and cloaked) consideration.

    Thanks again for your contributions to this debate.


    Jeff Jacobson
    Third Ward Candidate
    For Montclair

  16. Mr. Jocobson,

    “let’s hear the reasons and debate them publicly.”

    You’ve been dodging my question (and Andrew Gideon’s) regarding Fire Department layoffs (the obvious implication of your slate’s stated position). And you criticize the current council for not being forthcoming? Shouldn’t you practice what you preach?

  17. Does local developer Steven Plofker still have a part ownership stake of the proposed assisted living facility site?

  18. I’m confused…is Mr.Jacobson saying that all town council activity should stop and wait until we see if he’s elected or not??

  19. Mr. Jacobson is saying nothing, basically. He doesn’t have a point of view other than the current council should debate the merits of an assisted living facility. I’m still scratching my head over the major change in the zoning laws to allow rental units.

    If the reason for giving tax breaks and variances to the developer re: the assisted living facility is that such a facility will generate additional revenues for the surrounding businesses, I would like them to provide examples from other similar facilities in other towns. I don’t buy it.

  20. Yes, Steve Plofker is partners in the property.

    He has proposed several, GOOD, ideas all of which this Council has rejected for one reason or another.

    This will likely have resonance because, well, who can be against Assisted Living? Hmmm … maybe the person who can’t afford the $10K per month anticipated “rent.” Per month.

  21. The accessory dwelling ordinance seems poorly thought out and dangerous. It’s going to open the door to sub-standard living conditions throughout town. The thought of converted garages with kerosene heaters and deadly winter fires comes to mind.

  22. Cary,
    Maybe you can answer this. If a candidate from a slate wants to speak to the ADU ordinance tomorrow night, are they allowed 3 minutes or 5? What if the candidate is not part of a slate…just 3 minutes?

  23. “This will likely have resonance because, well, who can be against Assisted Living? Hmmm … maybe the person who can’t afford the $10K per month anticipated “rent.” Per month.”

    Having dealt with this type of assisted living for the past eight years, I would NEVER repeat the situation. The people who are devoted to do most of the hard work are greatly underpaid from the then thousand a month that you are paying. Its sad. Its even gets more expensive than that if you’re not there checking or involved. Caring for an elderly family member at home even, with someone to assist, costs much less.

  24. Frank,

    “Theoretically,” a slate candidate could speak for three plus three minutes, as could an independent.


  25. Frankgg is right. The people who do the work in these facilities are not on the high end of the pay scale. And most of the seniors in these facilities don’t go out and shop on their own – there’s lot’s of dementia and/or walkers. It’s not likely the employees or the residents will be buying $5 soy grande lattes at Starbucks, or clothes at Urban Outfitters. And as for visitors, I can only suggest sitting in the lobby of one of these places for a few hours. Crickets. And they aren’t going to hang around the hood much either.

  26. Home health care, depending on the needs of the person and family, can be much less expensive, and provide a richer and better environment. I think Medicaid and other programs are beginning to recognize this and are putting together programs.

    My personal experience is in line with Frankgg and jersey.

  27. I think an assisted living center is a perfectly legitimate use of the space. If done right it will fit into the neighborhood and If they were building condos which housed people who (as gurl desires) ” go out and shop on their own and buy $5 soy grande lattes at Starbucks, or clothes at Urban Outfitters.” she’d be bitching that the increased drain of township services would empty our coffers.

    Families will visit (and spend), employees will visit (and spend) and there will be retail space on the ground floor.

  28. Maybe I am not in complete understanding, but I have reviewed the Zoning Ordinances in town and see nothing stopping a developer from putting an Assisted Living Residence in town.

    If I am wrong please point out where that can be found!

    Secondly, 10K a month is not unheard of… My father paid that amount for years for my Grandmother in Old Bridge NJ. Only until he retired to FL, he brought her with him and the cost went down. For people to believe that there are not enough individuals in this state who have children with high incomes or elderly individuals with enough wealth to sustain that cost are simply ignorant. Plus, like my parents and all of there friends, they have purchased Long Term Care Insurance in the past 15 years to insure that these costs are not a burden to their family.

    What about the Walpan Residence, could it not be said that these residences possibly reduce the amount of revenue from the business’s in Watchung Plaza?

  29. Kyle,
    This lot is part of any Area In Need of Rehabilitation and has its own zoning overlay of permitted uses. Only the Council can modify it.

  30. Why do we need more retail space? half of the storefronts in town are empty. Montclair is looking more and more like a ghost town with every store closing. And elderly people in walkers wandering around town is supposed to fix this?

  31. I see…

    Where can the designation of such properties be found and who decides on what properties get the “ANR” designation? Is there a list of all the properties that are “ANR”? Where can the rules that govern “ANR” properties be found?

    Thanks Frank!

  32. “Families will visit (and spend), employees will visit (and spend) and there will be retail space on the ground floor.”

    I’ve only had experience with one – very nice – facility in Manhattan. I don’t see it there. Not with the workers, not with the residents, not with the visitors who are far and few between. If the council thinks this business is worthy of the variances and tax breaks, I’d like to see some numbers from similar facilities. I’ll bet they have not even looked elsewhere, but someone on the council just assumes that this will bring in revenue.

  33. I just visited my mother at the assisted living facility where she lives. My timing wasn’t the best and we arrived before lunch (the big meal of the day) was done.We sat with her as she finished and other residents stopped by to talk. Many of these people are starved for interaction. While we were there we saw two other visitors. I doubt very much that the residents and visitors would have a significant impact on the area merchants.

  34. People visit, ROC. I’d like to see the council show stats. I’m going to guess that some residents have few or no visitors, some have frequent visits and the vast majority have occasional visitors. I’m also going to guess that my family is fairly typical, many of the visitors are a pick up for a family function – holidays, birthdays, etc. And I think it’s doubtful that the majority of the people employed there will be able to afford Starbucks, Whole Foods or Raymond’s. I could be wrong, I’m just guessing. What I am asking for is for the council to do the research and show why they believe it’s a great idea – not just because someone “thinks” it will automatically bring additional business to the area.

  35. Kyle,
    You can start with O_11_015 on Township web site. The Master Plan draft probably has a list of all ANRs.

  36. I actually have no problem with an assisted living facility on this site. I also wouldn’t have a problem if this was under a PILOT agreement. The pedestrian-friendly Church and S Park area would be great for the ambulatory residents. Further, the worker pay comments would suggest employees would make greater use of nearby mass transit options which could help to alleviate the limited parking available for this site.

  37. While I think an assisted living facility is a fine use for the space. I would be against a PILOT agreement or other tax abatement. A facility grossing a million per month can pay it’s fair share of property taxes.

  38. I believe PILOTs are most beneficial when selectively used to encourage diversity of ratables. Most agree we should use street-level space for retail and other pedestrian friendly uses to ensure a vibrant streetscape. Once you go above the first floor, there are less choices to allow for diversification from our +90% residential base. Just because PILOTs have somehow become the de facto requirement for development, doesn’t necessarily mean it is not the right thing for this specific plan.

  39. An assisted living development seems to be the best use to avoid competition with the DCH development. Selling or renting 300+ CentreVerde units would be tough enough. They don’t need another developer building 100 new condos or rentals to compete with them in a better location on Church Street.

  40. paine – I believe Pinnacle, the developer of The Siena, is a partner in both Herod (65 Church St) & MAP (CentroVerde).

  41. The bigger competition for the 300+ apartments will be all the ADU’s people will be building on their properties.

  42. Frank,
    Good point. For the CentroVerde development to make the most money they shouldn’t have any new condo/apartment competition when they build. An assisted living development won’t be direct competition. Seems like good business to me, if they can get the town council to give up on the original vision for the site. What was the idea that won the development competition for the Church Street lot? I think Mack Cali was the winner but I can’t remember what they proposed building.

  43. Couple of responses:

    ROC, back on fire, I apologize, but I just don’t understand what I haven’t answered. I’ve said that if we’d lost Glen Ridge entirely, there would almost certainly have been Fire Department layoffs, most likely hitting the Nishuane firehouse. I’ve said I oppose reductions in firefighter staffing (though not necessarily command staffing) — and certainly oppose the closing of any of Montclair’s firehouses unless we know there’s a regional plan that will cover all of Montclair’s residents. I therefore wouldn’t propose canceling the Glen Ridge deal now, as unfavorable as it is, without something better to put in its place. If there’s something left I haven’t said, please tell me what it is.

    On this proposed assisted living facility, what’s the rush? Like Mr. Rubacky, I’m not necessarily opposed to this project — we should all hear more about it. But the proposal is coming out of nowhere and hasn’t been debated by the groups in town, including the Planning Board, that should review it. It’s future Councils, not this one, that will have to deal with the fallout from decisions being made now, without adequate discussion. What’s wrong with following the usual process for a project of this importance?

    To be very clear, this ain’t about me seeking election. I may win, I may lose. Because four of seven Council members aren’t seeking reelection, however, there will be a new Council regardless of what happens on May 8. As a matter of respect to whomever will follow in their shoes, my own view is that the current Council should resist binding their successors unless it’s absolutely necessary for them to act fast. Here, I just don’t see that need.

    Thanks again for listening.

    Jeff Jacobson
    Third Ward Candidate
    For Montclair

  44. Mr. Jacobsen, please refresh my memory.Are you the 3rd ward candidate who suggested low cost housing or subsidized housing for policemen or firefighters? I don’t recall which candidate raised this suggestion.

  45. Mr. Jacobson,

    So “something” is better than “nothing” because it takes no additional manpower to cover all of Glen Ridge? Why the criticism of the current deal? Why is it a “bad deal” for Montclair then? If it takes no additional manpower to cover Glen Ridge, then any money added to the system is a good deal, no?

  46. We staffed up to serve Glen Ridge. We then dramatically reduced the amount of money we’re charging Glen Ridge, such that Montclair taxpayers now are paying at least three times per residence more than Glen Ridge is paying for Montclair-provided fire service. We can’t cut staff while serving Glen Ridge, for the obvious reason that neither Montclair nor Glen Ridge has shrunk. If we weren’t serving Glen Ridge, we could shrink, but that shrinking likely would negatively impact the Third Ward. So we want to find a better solution that doesn’t have us serving a neighbor at a loss but also doesn’t leave any part of Montclair with less protection.

    Howard Beale, I was not the one who proposed providing housing to firefighters. I think I recall hearing that proposal, too, but I do not remember the source.

  47. Frank … I remember Mack Cali being the big winner of the contest but I thought it was condos or a dorm that was the vision?

  48. The Montclair High School Civics and Government Institute will be hosting a community-wide mayoral debate.
    The debate will take place April 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the school’s LGI room.
    The focus of the debate will be on education in Montclair.
    It will be moderated by two high school seniors, Chris Murphy and Gabriella Peterson.
    Residents can submit questions for the candidates via email at or Twitter @CGIdebate.

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