Anyone seeking a crash course on the Lackawanna Plaza redevelopment plan might consider listening to the roundtable discussion that Radio Free Montclair hosted last week. The program was recorded and is available on the station’s website.  I thought it was balanced and well done. 

I’d like to comment on the petition that was cited as evidence of strong community opposition.  While discussions will continue on building height, entrances and traffic studies, much of what is called for in the petition has already been resolved.  The opposing camps may be closer than it seems.  

  1. 1. The petition demands a “new supermarket.”  This demand is already guaranteed in the plan, which requires a 40,000-square-foot supermarket.  
  2. 2. The petition demands “guaranteed affordable housing.”  William Scott, Montclair’s leading advocate for affordable housing, noted that this plan is the single largest addition to affordable housing in Montclair history.  He implored: “Let’s not miss this opportunity.”
  3. 3. The petition demands that the development be “walkable.”  One neighbor, whose professional life involves evaluation of the effects of real estate development on pedestrians at street level, voiced his support for the project. 
  4. 4. The petition suggests that the plan will have an “unknown impact on townwide infrastructure.” There is a built-in process that will bring this project to a full stop if the infrastructure question is not fully satisfied. After (and only after) the Township Council gives a provisional approval for the plan can a site plan be submitted to both PSE&G and Essex County to determine infrastructure needs.  It is assumed that there will be a need for infrastructure improvement.  The cost will be borne by the developer. It is in the plan. 
  5. 5. The petition argues that there is “unknown impact on public schools.”  This developer, to his credit, has agreed to not seek county subsidies for affordable housing.  He will absorb all of those costs.  By agreeing to bear the full cost of subsidized apartments he is permitted to avoid going to the Essex County list of eligible tenants and limit all affordable apartments to people already living in Montclair.  The upshot is that all children in reduced-rent apartments already live in Montclair and therefore already go to school here.  Moreover, given the demographics of other new township developments, market-rate tenants are anticipated to have few if any additional school kids. 

Our national housing shortage calls for new housing initiatives. Governor Murphy has established a policy of building housing near public transportation. While the aesthetics are debated, let's not lose sight of the comments of neighbors who noted that the site contains a desolate, littered parking lot that is currently used for out-of-service food trucks and tractor-trailers.  Significantly, the site is the subject of frequent nuisance calls to the police.  The Township Council can and should make this plan work.  Any further start-overs would be insufferable.  


Stuart Rubin