More enforcement would make town streets safer

I feel the need to comment on the Nov. 16 article on lowering the speed limit on Grove Street (“Driving Forward”, Page A-2) because the topic has generated a lot of steam in local papers recently. As a 30-year resident of Montclair I will start by saying I drive, walk and bike in town all year round.

We are all discussing ways and means of making Montclair a safer town for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers. The latest is to lower the speed limit on Grove Street from 35 mph to 30 mph. This just seems like another bandage to cover up a larger problem. That problem is the pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers in Montclair.

Has anyone actually paid attention to these groups? I walk on Grove Street all of the time and I have almost been killed by motorist traveling upwards of 55 to 60 mph. Cars don’t stop at stop signs, no one comes to a complete stop before turn-on-red corners, I was actually passed on Park Street (a two-lane road) by a teen at night in the rain. Perhaps a little traffic enforcement once in a while would help. I live in the First Ward and the truth is if we see a Montclair Police car once every two months I’d be surprised. A traffic enforcement officer stationed at the island of the intersection of Grove Street and Mt. Hebron Road would pay for itself in a week. What difference does it make if the speed limit is 35 mph or 30 mph when everyone drives 45 mph with impunity.

I am also a bike rider; in good weather, I ride 50 to 60 miles a week; I try my best to be safe and careful … but some of these other riders are just so outrageously selfish it’s a wonder more don’t get killed. They often ride down the middle of the road and if you try to pass with your car they flip you off screaming they are vehicles too and have the right to be on the street. Yeah, right. These are the same bikers that blow through stop signs and red lights because they don’t want to interrupt their pace. Truth is, in a battle between your body and 40-pound bike and someone’s 3,000-pound car, tell me who you think is going to win.

Joggers and runners are no better. I understand they have to run in the streets because of the horrible conditions of most Montclair sidewalks … but do they have to run 8 feet from the curb and give no thought to passing cars as they curve around parked vehicles? As you assume you can be seen at any hour of the day, I assure you, you cannot. How about some reflective gear and staying closer to the curb?

Last are these commuting pedestrians, they get off of the bus at night, wearing their stylish dark suits and black coats and assume they can be seen as they walk along the curbs and cross because they have the right of way. Really? Even on well-lit corners you are almost camouflaged at night.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not excusing drivers; there are some crazy, unconcerned, texting lunatics on our roads, but in this era of people refusing to take responsibility for any of their actions we must all do two basic things: Be on guard and careful and try to do the right thing … obey the traffic laws and work with others on our roads. From the town’s point of view, keep looking for better means to protect most of us from ourselves but how about a little traffic and law enforcement too.

Michael C. Vassallo



The end of a Thanksgiving football tradition

Understandable... but it still breaks my heart. I was born in 1944; Montclair had already been playing football versus Bloomfield on Thanksgiving since 1922. I went all through the Montclair school system, graduating in 1962. I got married in 1967 and divorced in 1974 while still playing Bloomfield on “Turkey Day.”

In ’74 New Jersey installed a partial playoff system, complete in 1975.

Though I was quite pleased with my divorce, honest, I knew in my heart that a playoff system with the Thanksgiving game sandwiched in between playoff games would eventually mark the end of the “Turkey Day” tradition. It has stopped for many teams since ’74.

In the Nov. 22 issue of Montclair Local (“Mounties, Bloomfield to move game off Thanksgiving week,” page B-1) I read that the 2017 game would be the last. The end of a great tradition for us and Montclair High School.

In my youth, the first indication that the game was coming soon was when at an assembly head coach Clary Anderson introduced the MHS student to the Bloomfield head coach and a couple varsity players. Soon after we saw graffiti on the Chestnut Street bridge with slogans like “Go Bengals!” and “Beat Montclair” in bright red paint.

Then game time, cars parked far down Columbus Avenue practically to our house. The grounds we now know as Fortunato Field were a parking lot filled for the “Turkey Day” classic. The stands on both sides were large and made of wood and for big games they erected large end-zone stands with the people standing in the four corners. An overhead view would look like a bowl stadium filled with spectators.

The high school and college students home for the holiday were all dressed up. The Mountie girls wore pompom corsages with blue and white ribbons and Bloomfield girls wore the same but in red and gray.

When I was a little older than them I began to notice how the college students were sore to speak “maturely.” I’d smile from ear to ear. It was cute to see.

As I walked in the door after the game the first thing that hit me was the great smell of Thanksgiving dinner being prepared. Then my mom would say, “I guess Montclair won again. The Bloomfield buses were quiet while driving back home.” We never lost to Bloomfield when I was living at home from K through 12 and up to my marriage in 1967.

Bloomfield made the playoffs that first year in 1974 after winning the Thanksgiving game with MHS 34-7.

Like I said, it still breaks my heart. The playoffs began in ’74, and it was an omen that I realized would eventually come to pass, and it has for Montclair in 2017.

To the 2017 squad: Go get Union City for the championship. 12-0 is the only way to go.

Vincent Tango



On the marijuana debate

This is a follow up to my letter (“Against the legalization of marijuana,” page A-6) in the Nov. 16 issue of Montclair Local.

Psychologists with greater minds than mine have conducted considerable research as to why people smoke pot. They seem to generalize when it comes to the adult abuser but are more direct when it comes to young people, stating it varies from kid to kid.

Psychological or emotional problems tend to lending a way to solve their problems while at the same time it’s simply a matter of group pressure or wanting to try it demonstrating their unhappiness with their establishment.

Let me share with you a story of an investigation I conducted during the 1970s. I arrested a young Montclair girl who was addicted to heroin. In taking a statement from her, she said her mind, body and soul were consumed by drugs. As a result she was basically disowned by her parents, an affluent Montclair couple. When I asked her how she got to this point in her life she said it all started while attending a party with her friends where weed was available. She tried it and did not really like it but felt she was part of the group. She continued to smoke weed for a while and eventually took her first shot of heroin. From that point on she was hooked. Around Christmas time we found this young girl dead in a garage where she had taken refuge from the cold winter night. Sad but true.

Marijuana varies in strength and price depending on the THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) a chemical which produces a euphoric high.

I read in a recent edition of The Star-Ledger that if this legislation is passed a high quality of marijuana would cost $345 per ounce, a lower grade would cost $242 per ounce. I predict if this is correct drug dealers with no federal control would go to Mexico and South America where the climate is warm and labor is cheap to harvest their own brand of marijuana and smuggle it into the U.S.A. selling it on the black market for a cheaper price.

This will give us a society of potheads driving vehicles, operating machinery and even flying airplanes. Marijuana has been known to cause anxiety and panic attacks leading to accidents due to impaired judgment.

If you are willing to gamble on the health and welfare of your children by rolling the dice in favor of legalization I hope you don’t roll boxcars (double sixes) or snake eyes (two ones), you lose. The problems of drug abuse are growing. Parents a well as their children need to know the damage drug abuse can do.

The home is the first step in prevention of drug abuse. Parents must be aware and actively involved in their children’s lives.

It should be noted I’m not politically motivated, not a Republican or Democrat. I’m a registered independent voter. As I mentioned in my original letter marijuana is considered an introductory step to more dangerous drugs. I advise against legalizing recreational marijuana and respectfully hope our incoming governor gives this matter a long hard look.

Thomas J. Russo