The fear that the Lackawanna Plaza plan will cause the Fourth Ward to become more unaffordable is not only speculative, it misses the fact that hardly any millennials who grew up in Montclair can afford the house they grew up in. 

Yes it’s true: PILOT programs don’t contribute to schools. But Lackawanna Plaza will nonetheless pay plenty of taxes. Police, fire, sanitation and all other municipal expenses will be huge beneficiaries. Turning down the town’s biggest ratable is irresponsible. Montclair needs the money whether it is earmarked for schools or the township. 

The Planning Board is a workhorse with great intentions. But their lengthy discussion of view sheds didn’t mention the current view shed. Two tire shops, an empty lot and a neglected historical train station that we will live with in perpetuity unless this council moves forward on this plan. Or until some REIT buys the whole parcel and follows the zoning law with no other accountability. 

The argument that Montclair is losing quaintness suggests that quaintness could ever be found at the intersection of Grove and Bloomfield avenues. Montclair is big enough for the jazz festival, and picket fences, and two-family houses, and mansions, and middle-class housing and luxury apartments.

One “good government” advocate,  who claims a mantle of leadership, recently argued that the proper process would be for the township to purchase the property; create a development plan; then choose a developer to implement the plan. Great idea! Let’s find the money and get this council all working together on this ASAP.  One member of the Planning Board compared this plan to Starrett City, a Brooklyn complex with almost 6,000 apartments in 20-story buildings on 140 acres. This council must move beyond the hype, the negativity and the current unrelated conflicts. If each council member honestly balances the positives and the negatives, I’m confident they would vote to implement this plan. 

Kicking the can down the road on Lackawanna Plaza will miss a huge opportunity for all of Montclair, including and especially the FourthWard. A supermarket. More than 50 affordable units. A way to stay in the neighborhood after retiring and selling an appreciated house.  Aspirational walk to everything housing for millennials. In my view, a fantastic design. Mayor Sean Spiller, Deputy Mayor Bill Hurlock, and all council members: Please, wake up. This plan is as good as it’s ever going to get!

The train is definitely leaving the station for this iteration of the Township Council to do something positive. The claim that Montclair residents will be hurt by this project is based upon fear mongering and is far outweighed by the positives. Like the school bond issue, Lackawanna Plaza is an opportunity to do something positive in Montclair.

Stuart Rubin