Letters to the editor, April 19
Town is getting a free ride on our sidewalks
Lately, Montclair has initiated a program which mandates that residential sidewalks, those that are public walkways, be inspected and if necessary, repaired or replaced by the property owner at their own expense.
Anyone who does much walking around Montclair will soon note that a great many sidewalks used by pedestrians are in need of some sort of work, most often a result of upward displacement by the tree roots growing beneath them. Many times, the tree in question is a so-called “town tree.”
The repair in most instances involves tearing out the displaced sidewalk, so that the offending tree roots can be shaved down, by municipal tree specialists skilled in this sub-category of tree care. After inspection satisfies the municipal authorities that the root problem has been addressed, the property owner is then permitted to replace the sidewalk at their own expense.
I feel that this process of inspection, citation and remediation is unduly and expensively burdensome to the unlucky Montclair homeowners with sidewalks.
The township is getting a tremendous free pass involving the replacement of huge numbers of distressed sidewalks at little or no expense to itself.
I propose that the town immediately cease the practice of replacing roadside curbs, most of them made of solid, intact concrete and many of them steel-reinforced, with Belgian block cobblestone curbs. This to me is a hugely-wasteful, mostly-unnecessary method of using our hard-earned tax payments to prettify our streets.
Gosh, how did we manage, before Belgian block curbs became a road maintenance necessity?
I propose that the municipal funds formerly required to succor neighborhoods plagued by ugly, rock-solid, outdated concrete curbs be redirected to the more immediate issue of rectifying what our town seems to believe is an urgent issue: our crumbling, hazardous public sidewalks.
Leaf blowers: they’re baaack
What a wonderful feeling to have spring weather finally. And how frustrating that this beautiful weather comes with soul and planet destroying leaf blowers. I just opened my windows at 8:30 a.m. this lovely Saturday morning in order to experience the fresh spring air and was once again assaulted by the calamitous noise pollution of leaf blowers. And they are not even very nearby. The sound carries far and wide.
If our civic leaders are not willing to step up and do the right thing on behalf of our environment, one would think that concerned residents would make a reasonable request of their neighbors.
Maybe something like, “You probably are not aware of the damage your leaf blowers are causing to your soil and to your own health but, as your neighbors, we would be extremely grateful if you would consider raking instead of using leaf blowers. The loud noise really rattles our nerves. We hope you will forgive us for making this request. We wouldn’t ask if it were not so adversely affecting the quality of our daily lives. Thank you for your consideration.”
By the way, the leaf blower just stopped. And, in about 30 seconds, another one started up just a short distance away. There is no escape. No relief. Hopefully, one-on-one conversations with our neighbors can start to make a difference.
It was fun, then...
On Friday, April 6, folks from the Montclair History Center came to the First Montclair House to interview people for the “Many Voices of Montclair” oral history project.
Since I grew up in Montclair in the 1950s, I was asked to submit an interview about those early years. I had so much fun doing it, I couldn’t believe it. They would ask me a question. I’d answer it and in doing so I’d think of some off-shoot of the answer and go with it. Those poor people had to reel me in a lot to get to the next question. Thankfully they were very good sports. I really enjoyed it and was sorry when that phase of the interview ended.
Then a photographer and a camera person from TV34 came to join us. They were both very nice people. I was asked a question, one that we discussed earlier, to answer in front of the camera. Then it all went south. Something happened that has only happened in recent years, I struggled in an attempt to retrieve the thoughts of the subject from my mind. I had to cut my answer short, It was embarrassing. I’m hoping they have enough footage for TV34 to use.
If you will please indulge me, I’d like very much to write now what I couldn’t say then.
In the summer in the 1950s we grammar school and junior high school kids living here in Montclair had so much offered to use recreationally, it was amazing. The schools and playgrounds had counselors on hand. Kids could play table tennis, horseshoes, checkers, chess and other games. We also built go-carts to race against people in Montclair in Brookdale Park. We built sailboats to race in Edgemont Pond.
I also went to Candy-mont sponsored by the YMCA. I was a Cub Scout with dear Mrs. Wilkinson, the kindest and most loving den mother a kid could have. I attended Boy Scout Camp at Camp Glen. With all that I still managed to play Little League baseball on the Eureka Dodgers when I lived in the South End. The Dodgers played out of Nishuane Park. When my family moved to Columbus Avenue I played for the Russo Yankees. We played out of what we know now as Fortunato Field.
In those days for kids in summer here in Montclair there was never an idle moment I loved it, and I still love my hometown. I believe it’s where I belong.
History Center please forgive this old man for messing up. Speaking of old, happy anniversary Montclair. Funny, you don’t look 150.
Thank you for slowing down
Bike & Walk Montclair applauds the recent unanimous vote by the Essex County Freeholders to reduce the speed limit on Grove Street to 30 mph following a similar resolution by the Montclair Town Council. We also look forward to future traffic-calming plans.
This is an important traffic-calming measure, which will help reduce pedestrian crashes. But more can be done to make our streets safer and more enjoyable for everyone.
While enforcement is one tool it is not the solution. Despite twice the number of tickets this past year, we have no significant reduction in crashes in Montclair.
More measures are needed that redesign and reimagine our streets in ways that make them inherently safer for all users. There are many communities just like ours that are implementing street designs and infrastructure that have proven to create much safer, more equitable and inviting streets.
Many options for safer street designs are outlined in a plan called Montclair SAFE (Streets Are For Everyone) Complete Streets Implementation that was commissioned by our Town Council in 2015. This plan currently sits with the town Planning Committee and its future is unclear. Incorporating this plan into our town’s Master Plan would allow it to be utilized as a valuable tool.
Bike & Walk Montclair strongly believes that we can create safe streets for all our citizens to use. What is needed is a vision that prioritizes our residents, not their vehicles, where we demand better street designs that lead to a more livable and equitable community for all: children, seniors, mobility-challenged, underserved - everyone. Livability and equity translates into economic vitality, improved access, improved individual health, and a cleaner environment. We should make our most prominent public spaces - our streets - the great asset that they can be and create a safe and more livable community.
The author is the president of Bike & Walk Montclair.
Thank your lineman
April 18 marks National Lineman Appreciation Day. These are the men and women who ensure the electricity is on when customers want it, and make the greatest effort to make certain that any outage is as brief as possible.
Three severe nor’easters brought heavy snow and strong winds our way last March, knocking out power to a number of Montclair homes and businesses. PSE&G linemen worked tirelessly to get the lights back on, at times working 16-hour days to repair damaged electric lines.
We thank all PSE&G linemen for their hard work in making sure power to our residents and businesses was quickly restored. They perform some of the most dangerous jobs in order to protect public safety and ensure access to safe and reliable electricity.
Mayor Robert D. Jackson