Many people pushing for approval of the current Lackawanna redevelopment plan argue that it will help to preserve our town’s diversity.

The opposite is more likely true.

This project of five massive, bulky buildings as tall as many eight-story towers will significantly harm the quality of life for residents of some of Montclair's oldest and most diverse neighborhoods.

And its impact will be felt not just near the Lackawanna site but throughout much of our town.

The enormous buildings will block sunlight for much of the year, casting surrounding areas in shadow. The project will also exacerbate our town’s parking problems through an unrealistic estimate of the parking spaces needed for 375 apartments, a supermarket, offices and other retail. And that will lead drivers to search for parking on nearby residential streets, adding to traffic and all its attendant pollution where many people now live.

But that is only one small part of the huge increase in traffic from this grossly oversized development. The intersection of Bloomfield Avenue and Grove Street, two of Essex County’s main thoroughfares, is already a blocks-long traffic gauntlet with a bottleneck of cars stacked and idling.

The 375 new apartments will add approximately 1,000 new residents, most of whom will have cars. Add to this the traffic from the supermarket, offices and other retail. The result will be a traffic bottleneck that will undoubtedly lead drivers to find other routes along residential streets on both sides of Bloomfield Avenue, causing a wide spillover in traffic problems and increased pollution.

Residents of the Fourth Ward need a supermarket. They don’t need more pollution, blocked sunlight, and more traffic congestion.

And what are we promised in exchange? Twenty percent of the apartments will be affordable, an assurance that in the present plan is itself ambiguous. You see, the plan also says that up to 15% of units will be short-term rentals, which it says can be classified as affordable housing. Does that mean only 5% of the units are guaranteed affordable?

Additionally, 10% of units would be “workforce housing” for employees of our town and school district. But this could be a mirage. In another recent large development downtown, there were no takers for workforce housing. 

Look at the big picture.

Even if 20% of the new apartments are indeed affordable, is that worth sacrificing the quality of life in long-established neighborhoods that are already among our town’s most diverse?

How will that protect Montclair’s diversity?

And, with the other 300 new apartments all priced at market or even luxury rates, wouldn’t that also hasten our town’s loss of diversity?

Our Township Council must substantially scale back this plan and take the time to get it right. Too much is at stake.

The current redevelopment plan may be the developer’s dream, but it stands to become our nightmare.

Maia Davis