What do Montclair’s downtown Starbucks (whose workers just voted to unionize) and Montclair’s Municipal Building (whose future was the subject of a recent Planning Board vote) have in common?


Traits Avenue

The coffee chain is named after “Moby-Dick” first mate Starbuck and our Municipal Building is The Great Beige Whale.


As Captain Ahab follows this conversation on social media, I have to ask: Is that building really beige or is it more, um, beige-ish?


Langston Hues

The color’s hard to identify but it’s as unattractive as the structure itself. Not surprising that our burg’s emblematic photo is Edgemont Park rather than its governmental center and that Edgemont Pond’s geese never had a Township Council majority.


The 1969 building suffers from various problems — structural and otherwise — despite being a not-ancient 53 years old. Was it constructed weakly?


Large Shoddy of Work

Perhaps the architect never listened to the 1969 Jerry Butler song “Only the Strong Survive.”


Not our town’s fault, though, because it wasn’t until 1980 that Montclair took over the edifice from a private company and converted it into the Municipal Building.


’80 Heir Before ’80s Hair

True, but some maintenance has seemingly been neglected since then. A governmental building needs TLC from its TC (Township Council). Or, as Einstein noted, “Eek equals TC rectangled.”


Einstein said no such thing. Anyway, the Planning Board voted 6-3 on August 9 that the building and two adjacent properties owned by the township meet the criteria for redevelopment. What does that mean for the future?


Rhea Development

The building could be upgraded or replaced by another structure, something else could move there, or Martians with crooked teeth could land in the parking lot to visit the orthodontists across the street.


So, as infamous Iraq War pusher Donald Rumsfeld said, “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know…”


George W. Bush Buddy

But we don’t know what will happen with the Municipal Building. And if Rumsfeld had been Montclair’s mayor in 2003, he might’ve invaded our western neighbor in an action called “Operation Verona Freedom.”


Rumsfeld continued, “There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things we know we don’t know…”


Donald, Duck

That makes more sense. And don’t forget Verona’s weapons of mass distraction — the various things to do in massive Verona Park.


“But there are also unknown unknowns,” Rumsfeld concluded. “There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”


Donald, Muck

Give it up. The George W. Bush Presidential Center is NOT moving from Dallas to 205 Claremont.


Whatever’s done with the Municipal Building, lots of money would be needed for it. Is that as important an expenditure as what’s needed to fix and upgrade Montclair’s mostly much older public schools?


Future Hock

The schools are absolutely more important, even as some elected and non-elected Montclair officials also offer an education (in problematic leadership).


Returning to where we started, what do you think of the Starbucks employees at 40 South Park voting unanimously to unionize?


Caffeine and Bean

Thrilled! Of course they’ll face continued pushback from the coffee chain’s national leaders, who feint progressive while actually being anti-union autocrats. Maybe Starbucks should’ve been called Ahabs.


Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.



16 replies on “MontClairVoyant: Column Unites a Union and the Municipal Building”

  1. I hope the town will look seriously at renovating & expanding the existing Township building. Unlike almost all 3 & 4 story buildings built today, this building is a masonry clad, steel frame building. Built in 1970, it’s “bones” should be good and offer better value than demolishing/building anew. Also, contrary to the current Council’s mindset, there are diminishing justifications to have all municipal offices centralized. Hence, we should look at our needs & facilities holistically. Unfortunately, Areas In Need of Redevelopment designations tend to place blinders on the range of potential solutions to our needs.

  2. Thank you for the comment, Frank. Yes, many older buildings do have better “bones” than many cheapo newer buildings. If fixing and giving a better look to the current Municipal Building can be done, I’d be okay with that. As you allude to, probably much less expensive than razing it and constructing an entirely new building. That said, I think Montclair’s schools should be first in line to be fixed, before the Municipal Building. Hopefully money for school improvements will be on the ballot this November, and approved by Montclair voters.

  3. Speaking of unions, hard to believe the Township Mgr. was unaware that his own employee is in one and requires compensation for added duties/responsibilities necessitated by the continuously (and mysteriously) missing Director of Senior Services (who is apparently still on the payroll?)

  4. Thank you for the comment, Jussi. The performance of, and attention-to-detail of, Montclair’s township manager seems far from excellent. 🙁

  5. jussi,

    I have no problem with pseudonyms here except when those using them to insinuate improprieties, without supporting information. To be clear, I have no problem with you denigrating someone’s character or competency. It just seems you want us to believe it is more than that. May I asked what are your credentials (that you can reveal without revealing your real name)?

  6. Dave,
    Your 8/18 4:34pm comment about school improvements reminded me of this from Montclair Local article on Wed, Aug 3, “The Montclair Board of Education expects to hear back from the state this week about what percentage of a proposed $188 million capital improvement plan to repair and upgrade district facilities will be eligible for reimbursement.”

    As I recall, the BoE Finance Subcommittee was hoping for $63MM reimbursement as middle case outcome. I have not heard anything. Have you?

  7. Frank, I also haven’t heard anything about the percentage of state reimbursement for Montclair’s proposed school fix/improvement costs. Approximately one-third would be great, and more would of course be even better.

  8. Frank, I’m just a citizen and participant in LifeLong Montclair activities (not “Deep Throat”!) commenting on what was said at the latest Council meeting (@ c.13:00) and wondering if we are paying a salary to someone who hasn’t worked since last year.

  9. Oh…a citizen, AND a senior.

    I prefer you left out the senior citizen association. It is giving us a bad name and quite frankly who wants to build a senior center for a cohort of cranky complainers who don’t overextend themselves.

  10. And speaking of Downtown, has anyone gone past Hampton House…on The North Fullerton side? As the Planning Board knows, no good deed goes unpunished when it comes to Mr Grabowski.

    This is another reason why the Council is underperforming. I know, you don’t get the connection. The connection is the Council both contorts itself and bends over backwards when it comes to developers and development. This was another project going down the road of easement over public property. The Planner didn’t know, which means the Planning Board didn’t know. Which means no one knew or…the building department knew. Yes, that quasi-State entity that gave you the delay on the midtown Parking Deck.

  11. The North Fullerton stretch next to the Hampton House is indeed currently a mess, Frank. Hopefully the mess will be worth it in the long run. Do you know what that former furniture store might become? All I remember is the mention of unspecified future tenants.

  12. I’m talking about the elevated sidewalk that is a 7-figure, personal injury liability claim just waiting to happen. I pray it was NOT approved by the Planning Board’s Revisions Subcommittee. Regardless, it need to be addressed.

    We all know what a cluster this intersection is like during the day & sober. It is a pedestrian nightmare. The developer is trying to lease it as, among other things, restaurants space. He is holding one of his liquor licenses in his pocket, courtesy of the Council. The space is directly across the street from the Fullerton Deck and down that new sidewalk to the Chase Manhattan’s parking franchise lot – natural locations for patrons to park. And it goes without saying the use would get a parking variance/waiver so patrons could walk home using that sidewalk. I believe the new, quite large restaurant in the former Mtc Social Club space has a liquor license, too. And the property owner can’t legally increase the lighting above code, so it is like every other flat sidewalk to code. The only saving grace is the BID property owners will likely share in any liability exposure (because of their charter). The Planning Board and the Building Dept would be exempt.

  13. Thanks for that information, Frank. Yes, not the safest area at the moment. And…hmm…possibly yet another restaurant in Montclair? Meaning our town will go from a gazillion eateries to a gazillion-and-one eateries. And the company or person that/who owns the surface parking lot just south of the Chase bank is overcharging drivers.

  14. No, Frank, the elevated sidewalk was not approved by any arm of the Planning Board. It’s dangerous and, to the best of my knowledge, illegal. How anyone let it be built, I don’t know. It appears as though the town is making the owner fix it—although not fast enough, in my view.

  15. Thank you, Jeff, for the comment and that information. It’s sobering what some landowners/developers feel they can get away with. I hope things are made safer soon at the former Hampton House site.

  16. Thank you Jeff. There is a learning point with this application. The PB allowed the applicant to bifurcate the North Fullerton work to the HPC. This created 2 sets of plans and the latter set shows an elevated sidewalk.

    The applicant is still wrong, but hopefully the board will not make this mistake again.

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