Letters to editor: Nov. 21, 2019
Something much better for Lackawanna
The 7.5-acre Lackawanna site is our only opportunity to make a big difference in downtown Montclair. Lackawanna Plaza could have a destination market inside our most important town historic site. It could have green space along an exposed Toney’s Brook, enhancing the whole neighborhood and providing a pleasant and calmer walk for commuters, shoppers and neighbors. The Lackawanna tunnel under Grove Street could continue to provide a safe welcoming access to Plaza shopping for the public it was built for, not as planned now to be accessible for only the tenants of new luxury apartments. We could have the required parking to attract and support businesses by bringing residents and visitors back downtown if we had a plan suitable for the existing acreage.
Strategically the developers prolonged the review process by making minimal requested changes after each review to wear down the planning board and any opposition. In addition, by not allowing a temporary grocery in the empty market space, they pitted local residents needing a supermarket against those fighting for a better plan. Consequently, local residents pressured the Planning Board and Council to approve what the developers wanted.
A beleaguered Planning Board did their due diligence through months of proposal reviews but under pressure, in the end accepted changes minutes before the vote. The approved plan allowed for half the required parking and partial destruction of the town’s most important historic site for an unknown supermarket chain smaller than previously proposed so consequently space for other undisclosed tenants.
The developer can propose a better plan at any time, instead they like to claim a “few” residents are preventing the neighborhood from getting their supermarket and argue that 190 of the 201 plaintiffs should not be allowed on the appeal. ABetterLackawanna.org is trying to get a better downtown for all of us with this appeal. Anyone who values honoring our history and culture, those who contributed to it and understands how a well planned development can improve a town, should help and support them.
Montclair is home to one of the richest collections of historic homes, many built for some of the most influential citizens in our country's history. Maintaining an attractive historic downtown attracts visitors and new residents who maintain this history. Influential leaders in science, medicine, social reform, business and philanthropy, education, arts and entertainment built these homes when the railroad provided easy commutes to New York. By the 1930's more than 130 Montclair residents were listed in each issue of Who’s Who In America. Are we so shortsighted as to destroy an irreplaceable piece culture for temporary retailers rapidly becoming obsolete.
Go to https://abetterlackawanna.org/ to help with legal fees to continue the appeal. Educate yourself about the lawsuit on the site. Come to events this Saturday as seen on this site.
Write to your mayor and council representatives and ask what they are doing to support this effort. This is Montclair. Get something much better.
The writer is the founder of SaveMontclair.org.
Montclair thrives when you shop local
Everyone knows about the amazing dining and the incredible gifts and services you can buy in Montclair. But shopping locally is a reinvestment into our own community, with as much as 2/3 of every dollar staying in the local economy.
Shopping locally is really a gift to everyone.
To help this effort, the Township has approved free two-hour parking at all Montclair meters from Nov. 29 to Dec. 26. And, as an added bonus, the Montclair Center BID will be giving out 200 free one-day parking permits to shoppers who present their same-day receipts to us on Church Street on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30, starting at 10 a.m.
The Montclair Center BID is proud to be a part of Small Business Saturday, a national initiative to encourage everyone to support their local retailers. In a recent study from American Express, every dollar spent in a small business creates an additional 50 cents in local business activity, from employee spending and businesses purchasing local goods and supplies. Shopping locally enriches our community and keeps Montclair vibrant.
On Nov. 30, the retailers and restaurants of Montclair Center are ready to kick off the holiday season with a scavenger hunt for prizes, lunch specials, and even a visit from Santa. You can even help one of Montclair Center’s ArtConnects mural artists, Jhonattan Arango, paint his mural at 50 Church Street (come ready to get dirty!). I would like to personally invite everyone to join us on for the kickoff on Church Street to help kick off the holiday shopping season. Please check out our website, Facebook page and Instagram feeds for all the specials and details this season.
One of the best parts of my job at the BID is working with the rich diversity of shops, restaurants, spas and services available to all of us downtown. I can tell you that all of your local retailers and restauranteurs are proud to be part of the fabric of Montclair, with its reputation for world-class arts, music, energy and so much more. With a shorter holiday season ahead of us, I urge everyone to show your Montclair pride and shop locally.
I look forward to welcoming you this season.
The author is the acting director of the Montclair Center Business Improvement District.
Ditch the plastic and the paper
Regarding the Nov. 14 story on the proposed ban on single-use plastic bags (“Plastic begone,” page 1), I have two comments regarding the proposed exemption for small, local businesses based on the value of plastic bags to small business marketing.
First, it was both ironic and representative that the photo of the plastic bag in the article was simply printed with the words "Thank you, thank you, thank you." Most, although not all, small local businesses utilize generic bags such as these and do not print their name or logo on the bag.
Second, I bought a heavy-duty reusable bottle-carry bag from Bottle King for a couple of dollars several years ago. We use it at the local groceries to carry milk, cans, jars, and anything that will fit into the sectioned interior. More to the point, we use it at our neighborhood liquor store, which provides flimsy plastic bags without any store identifier or marketing information. Local stores can sell these heavy duty reusable bags too but choose not to. While an individual plastic bag is cheaper than an individual paper bag, what are the costs when you compare a paid-for reusable bag with scores if not hundreds of single-use plastic bags?
Finally, I applaud the council for working to find a solution to protect local businesses as well as the environment, as well as the many local businesses already offering alternatives to single-use plastics.
Elected officials should listen to constituents
Activists have raised two issues in New Jersey that demand immediate action from our elected officials. The first is ending the ICE contract in Essex and other counties, and our implicit collaboration with the Trump administration to execute unethical policies against immigrants. The second issue is making New Jersey residents eligible for driver’s licenses regardless of immigration status.
The issues are controversial but also connected. The ICE contracts generate millions of profits for the county governments. And shockingly, four out of five ICE detainees either have no record, or have only committed a minor offense such as a traffic violation. So not only are county governments profiting from and enabling ICE policies, local politicians are also enabling a key method for ICE to find more detainees.The driver’s license law would protect these families from the hands of ICE, improve road safety, and coincidentally generate millions in state revenues.
Maybe some of those funds could be used to fill the gap in county revenues once the ICE contracts are ended? Just a thought. Regardless, local elected officials should respond to activists’ continued demands to end the ICE contracts and pass the driver’s license law. It’s the right thing to do.
A pedestrian’s view
Last Saturday, as yet another pedestrian was run down, I thought of my own accident three months ago. I wasn't surprised by my accident, since I've had so many near misses crossing at green lights in Montclair. I was lucky, having only “minor” injuries, including an eye injury, a head injury without a concussion, and a sacral fracture in my lower back. I can't rake leaves yet, and I can't run (I tried). I went overnight from middle age to old age. I became a burden on my friends, family and colleagues, who were all very kind and supportive and helpful.
I got excellent care at St. Joe's trauma center and staggered home the same night. I thought I was lucky, until the bills started coming (totaling over $20,000). What, you don't have car insurance? No, I don't have a car. Well, New Jersey is a no-fault state! Blue Cross, which eats up a large portion of my income, didn't tell me that they wouldn't pay most of the bills, which had to go to NJPLIGA [New Jersey Property-Liability Insurance Guaranty Association]. I had to go to the police station in person, hobbling with a cane, to pick up the police report. Obviously lawyers had picked it up before I had, since every lawyer in the county sent me a letter. Even Blue Cross advised me to get a lawyer to sort through the mess. A colleague recommended a lawyer; I have yet to hear from the lawyer, but I've been dealing with his assistant, and all the attendant paperwork. It feels more like I'm the one at fault than the driver; to date, I don't think their car insurance has paid anything, at least I haven't been apprised of the fact if they have. I'm still out of pocket at least $200 for medical care.
I feel no animosity toward the driver; she was more traumatized by the accident than I was. But I'd like to live in a country where I don't have to worry about medical bills if I cross at a green light at an intersection and get hit by someone making a left turn. I have no car, so I have to walk everywhere, now in the dark, and I wonder: what happens if I get hit again? The accident is only the beginning — pedestrians, prepare yourself for all the mess and fallout that comes after the accident, and beware.
Stop incarcerating immigrants
“Give me your tired, your poor, your struggling masses yearning to be free…”
I am appalled by the amount of money our governments are spending on mass incarceration and the cruelty this imposes on human beings. Repeatedly I read that this is justified in only a small fraction of the cases. Incarcerating immigrants who are seeking safety and an improved life is especially disturbing.
Recently the Trump administration requested $35 million more for incarceration. We have far better ways to spend our money!
Please join me in writing to our legislators and ask them not to grant this request and to cut the amount spent on incarceration, especially of frightened, innocent immigrants.