The Friends of Wildwoods, a community group that supports the preservation and restoration of the Wildwood Lot off of Brookdale Park, announced they are splitting their support in the May 8 election, and endorsing a mix of candidates from both the Real Progress Montclair and the Montclair 2012 slates:

  • Karen Turner for Mayor
  • Peter Zorich for Councilor At-Large
  • Bob Russo for Councilor At-Large
  • LeeAnn Carlson for Councilor At-Large
  • Rich Murnick for 1st Ward Council
  • Robin Schlager for 2nd Ward Council
  • Chris Swenson for 3rd Ward Council

The group issued a statement noting that those candidates “have pledged to keep Wildwood Green Forever.” The statement continued: 

… We must all work together to protect Montclair’s open space whether it is natural woods like Wildwoods or Kerry’s Woods, and parkland like Edgemont Park and Nishuane Park…(These candidates) have not only shown a tremendous interest in preserving open space such as Wildwoods, but also in restoring that space by getting Green Acres Grants and other grants and donations to restore the damage done by over fifty years of neglect. The poor condition of Wildwoods with the systematic destruction of trees and other natural plants and shrubs has been a blight in the Montclair landscape. When visitors from out of town come down the Park Drive to beautiful Brookdale Park, a county park, they pass by what looks like a dump. There are dumpsters and piles of debris spread out along the 2.5-Acre site. The site has been stripped of trees and greenery so it looks like a barren field in an otherwise picturesque drive. Montclair can and will do better than this travesty.

The statement concluded: “It’s time to stop pretending we are a Green Community. We need to act like one.”  

Meanwhile, Real Progress Montclair issued a statement outlining its stand on environmental issues:

The Real Progress Montclair (RPM) team knows that clean public parks, recreational areas and conservation of our community’s precious natural resources, such as undeveloped open spaces, are essential to maintaining Montclair’s unique character, and preserving its environment and quality of life for future generations. However, several recent decisions, including cutbacks to shade tree funding, indefinite postponement of Edgemont Pond dredging and the current council’s decision to sell and develop the Wildwood Avenue parcels, are threatening to erode adequate access to quality parks and open areas while also diminishing the town’s available natural resources and even property values. The RPM slate believes that, despite the economic downturn, Montclair residents living in the nation’s most densely populated state should remain enthusiastic about and committed to land preservation. “We are in difficult economic times but I don’t believe, and I don’t believe voters do either, that preserving open space and maintaining our parks should be sacrificed in favor of short-sighted development projects,” said RPM mayoral candidate Karen Turner. “In acting boldly and decisively to preserve open land areas, the Township would be satisfying the mandate of its own Master Plan to protect open space, nature and wildlife against suburban sprawl for the benefit of current residents and future generations.”

RPM believes that while there are many cogent arguments for possible alternative, developmental uses of Montclair’s open spaces, such as housing on the Wildwood property, there are also many other options that should be considered which would have the greatest overall positive benefit to greatest number of people in the community, such as community gardens. RPM At-Large candidate LeeAnn Carlson said, “Friends of Wildwoods community group is comprised of energetic and committed residents who have suggested a clean-up effort funded by a combination of Green Acres funding, environmental grants, and private donations. Montclair can realize long-lasting benefits from both conservation and thoughtful use of our open space. Some in the Friends of Wildwoods have suggested that the preserved Wildwoods space could include a community garden component that could be enjoyed by residents from all areas in town who don’t have space for their own gardens.”

“Outdoor recreation is a huge growth industry in New Jersey right now, so it makes both environmental and economic sense to support Montclair’s precious public lands and provide access to them for our residents,” said RPM At-Large candidate Peter Zorich. “Open spaces are a vital part of what makes Montclair attractive to residents and businesses and it’s an important part of the legacy that we leave for our children and grandchildren.”

“As a longtime advocate of athletics and outdoor recreations, I have always applauded setting aside any available land or open space for use by Montclair’s children,” said RPM Third Ward candidate Chris Swenson. “The health benefits of sports and other organized outdoor recreational activities are well documented, and the more land areas that can be utilized and made accessible for this purpose, the better.”

Roger Paradiso, a founding member of the Friends of Wildwoods community group, applauded RPM’s thoughtful and innovative approach to environmental issues. “The Friends of Wildwoods support land preservation wherever and whenever possible, and we believe that politics should not be put ahead of open space, which is precious and scarce. Preservation has always been a bipartisan and popular issue across New Jersey, but we still have much unfinished work to do if we are going to succeed in protecting and preserving the last large tract of Montclair’s open space on Wildwood Avenue,” said Paradiso. “The commitment of the entire Real Progress Montclair slate to open space preservation is commendable, and they clearly understand the connection between it and protecting Montclair’s unique character and quality of life, which is a critically important issue for many voters in the upcoming municipal election.”


15 replies on “Friends of Wildwoods Endorses Candidates”

  1. Next endorsement coming from:

    “People That Don’t Wipe Their Sweat Off The Stair Master At The YMCA”

    Stay Tuned.

  2. Its important to know who the grassroots groups who are working on preventing bad development endorse otherwise we will have elected officials who were affiliated with the Remsen and Fried terms in office who are responsible for the demise of the Marlborough Inn and for other bad development like the Siena, all of the bash & builds and the sale of the Grove Street School and the building of the Washington Street School.

  3. @frankgg—don’t worry about explaining things to breitbart jr—as long as folks are free to drink and party outside all night, he’s cool…

  4. Interesting that you’ve chosen to endorse not 1, not 2, but 3 candidates with poor past records serving the town. Mr. Murnick might have been the best of a poor bunch but he was not particularly effective. However endorsing Russo and Schlager indicates severe memory loss. I’m not bashing anyone, I’m simply asking that candidates past records be considered.

  5. “as long as folks are free to drink and party outside all night, he’s cool…”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  6. OMG! I can’t wait until you all have the next block party…you all sound like lots of fun!!!

  7. I can agree with most of the Wildwood group’s endorsement. I’ve attended numerous events and spoken with all the candidates. I trust this group to lead Montclair:

    Mayor: Turner
    Montclair’s future will be better with Karen Turner as Mayor. Her open-minded approach will allow her to consider all the options. She’s organized, focused and has the work ethic needed to lead a reinvention of town hall. A well-run Montclair, like a strong foundation, will attract the ratables we need for property tax relief. Robert Jackson might have delivered ratables but a well-run Montclair seemed less likely. Harvey Susswein had too much baggage with the influence of former Mayor Ed Remsen and others included in his “brain trust.”

    At Large (two picks): Carlson and Zorich
    LeeAnn Carlson is thoughtful, open minded and caring. She’ll help solve Montclair’s problems by identifying the best practices other towns use with success. Her only agenda appears to be making Montclair a better place. The rest of the Council will come to trust her analysis.

    Peter Zorich is the kind of homegrown leadership we want on the Council. He knows the schools as a parent and as a former student. He can relate to Montclair life up on the hill, down off Grove, and in a multi-family where many in town rarely get a voice. He understands that taxes are an affordable housing issue. Expect him to be a creative problem solver and be careful with our tax dollars.

    1st Ward: Murnick
    Rich Murnick should get another term. He made mostly good votes over the last four years. Unfortunately, others blocked progress on the Council. His Council experience and financial background will benefit a mostly new group. Bill Hurlock was a quality candidate, but we need Murnick’s sound experience for a smooth transition. It helps that he seems to love serving.

    2nd Ward: Avdicevic
    Selma Avdicevic is not easily satisfied. We’ll get more for our tax dollars with that attitude. Her small business, finance and real estate backgrounds will benefit the next Council. She’ll work well with other careful spenders. I hope Walter Springer lands on the Board of Education. Robin Schlager struggled during her previous time on the Town Council (2004-08).

    3rd Ward: Swenson
    Chris Swenson had me at the Bullock debate when he said he hoped the new school superintendent would raise the bar. Like Turner, I don’t think Swenson is satisfied with the status quo. Most importantly, he has a relationship with the Board of Education president, which gives him the edge over the other candidates. The town and the BOE need to work together. Swenson can make that happen. Jeff Jacobson and Sean Spiller made this the toughest race to pick.

    4th Ward: Baskerville (no choice)
    Dr. Baskerville will have to raise her game if the above group gets on the council, and that would be a good for the Fourth Ward.
    (thank you for all the suggestions)

  8. hold up… you guys are endorsing Murnick and Schlager who are running with Jackson who (to the best of my knowledge) has not pledged the same….seems odd to me

    where does their allegiance stand at the end of the day – the property developer that helps them get elected or you?

    just a question

    all the best

  9. Paine,
    I live in the 1st Ward. I would like you to reconsider your 1st Ward choice in light of the Town & Gown issue. Admittedly, both candidates have disappointed me on talking about this issue. I feel MSU’s recently introduced plans for growth accelerated the urgency in building a better relationship among the 1st Ward residents and the Township. I would also like the new Council to reconsidered the idea of a tri-town committee to focus on common issues. Here is the kicker – I think we need a new face and a new approach, so I will vote for Mr. Hurlock.

  10. I thought I was a friend of Wildwood, too, but I would never endorse Rich Murnick. With all due respect to Paine, Murnick did not make mostly good votes over the last four years! If he voted at all (remember when he was at the World Series of Poker instead of voting for the budget?!), it was often against the people he was supposed to be representing!

    While Murnick seems like a nice guy and he is certainly all over town shaking hands and giving candy to children, he is a completely ineffectual elected representative.

    I’m in the first ward and when I had a problem he never answered a single email or phone call. I had to go to at-large candidates and to the mayor to get any help. He also voted against his constituents on several resolutions (particularly Resolution181-09, intended to allow community groups to work with the Council to provide feedback about development projects).

    If you want someone who will actually listen to you and get something done do NOT vote for Murnick.

  11. skeptical – agree

    i have no skin in the game for the 1st ward, but his Chicago-politician behavior is really getting on my nerves. last night, at the friends of Edgemont meeting he had the gall to tell not only the volunteers, but also the candidates for the 2nd ward what they should do with Edgemont park and how to do it. it wasn’t even good advice. wtf, dude?

    took all the will power I had not to take him outside and show him the pond…

  12. Paine,

    I’m sorry I couldn’t convince you, but you know I agree that the Third Ward has some excellent choices. When you run in a three-way race, the winner will take office knowing that more than half the voters preferred one of the other guys. In any event, I’ve very much enjoyed our exchanges during the campaign.


    Jeff Jacobson
    Third Ward Candidate
    For Montclair – Line C

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