The sound of leaf blowers

As long as the soundtrack of outdoor Montclair continues to be the drone of the leaf blower, why not build an Indy-styled motor raceway?

We could have the thrill of watching a car race, as well as enjoying the nonstop sounds and smells of the internal combustion engine.

Location? I suggest razing Brookdale Park. You can't hear the birds anyway.




Lackawanna not over

The planning process to redevelop Lackawanna Plaza has now moved from the farcical to the dangerous as the planning board considers input from their traffic expert. Don’t adopt the City Council’s “no left turn from Grove” ordinance, testified Mike Dannemiller of NV5; instead take a wait and see approach. “If there is a crash history or an observation queuing or gridlock, at that time, reconsider.” Can we please agree now on how many accidents must transpire before we can reexamine this policy? Is one child fatality enough? What about an elderly shopper trying to navigate the 40-foot wide driveway without any sort of crossing signal?

The planning board has greenlit every preposterous request from this developer: a 50 percent reduction from required parking? Sure! Making a public walkway private without verifying the “missing” easement? Absolutely! Tear down a federal, state and locally-designated landmark without even attempting to creatively reuse it? OK! So why not take the advice of a paid traffic expert “and wait and see” if there are accidents from left turns on Grove Street?

Anyone sketching a development plan on the back of an envelope would first ask themselves how shoppers could legally and safely enter and exit the parking lot, without imperiling the throngs of pedestrians in the area. Not this developer. Pinnacle Construction has shown enormous hubris, and utter disregard for the public’s safety, in creating a plan — which again, sailed through the planning board with only two “no” votes — which didn’t consider ingress or egress from the overcrowded parking lot. The developer should go back to the drawing board now using this as the primary design consideration — not the final detail to be hammered through the hapless planning board. There is certain to be a ferocious appeal with a complete redesign as a goal, and based on the dozens upon dozens of irregularities documented throughout this arduous process, this is sure to be a protracted fight. The developer can save time, money and community goodwill by returning to the drawing board now.

The biggest question is why the township council is promoting this ordinance at this late hour, four years into the planning process. Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renée Baskerville said she was clear from the start that Grove would not be turned into four lanes to support left turns into this shopping center. And the law was already in place that there were not to be left turns from Bloomfield as there is a painted island in place. So why was the developer so cavalier about getting both left entrances? What kind of stupor does this developer hold over our local government?

The mayor and all six council members ran unopposed and were re-elected in 2016, with fewer than 5,000 votes each in a town of 45,000. This is not good for democracy, and it’s not good for Montclair. We need an informed electorate choosing candidates in May 2020 who best represent the community’s interests, not developers’. And we most urgently need a new town planner who will make pedestrian safety and livability the top priority — not rubber stamping developers’ every wish. Contact Mayor Robert Jackson’s office now and demand a new plan for Lackawanna Plaza that will attract a supermarket and not imperil the public: 973-509-4928;




For human rights

It has been painful for people of conscience who care about human rights, to see the disdain of the current administration in the White House regarding human rights, whether on the U.S.-Mexican border, in the cruel “Muslim ban” that has abandoned Syrian refugees in massive camps, or in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, North Korea, Guatemala, or numerous other places.

As we commemorate March 30, the one-year anniversary of the Great March of Return, a non-violent mass protest by Palestinian people in Gaza, the human rights violations suffered by the two million people of Gaza after years of being blockaded within their narrow borders, with devastating bombings by Israel of their homes, water treatment plants, food growing and processing, medical facilities, schools, many of us who are Jewish have felt that we must speak out against such violations being done specifically in our name. After 200 deaths, and over 25,000 wounded in the course of these weekly protests in Gaza, the urgency is even greater.

In 2015, several of us who are Montclair residents, along with people from other towns, formed the first New Jersey chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). There are more than 70 chapters across the US. In the years since, our chapter has grown and has held a series of well-attended educational events, as well as protests and lobbying, in coalition with other groups. Since that time, a second JVP chapter has been started in central New Jersey. Jewish Voice for Peace opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim and all forms of bigotry. We seek an end to Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, with security, democratic rights and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians. We are for peace and justice for all peoples in the Middle East.

We in Northern New Jersey Jewish Voice for Peace are honored to report that, in recognition of this work for peace and justice, New Jersey Peace Action has chosen to award our chapter the Sylvia And Oscar Ackelsberg Peace Award at its 62nd annual dinner on April 28. We invite interested people to check out the Northern New Jersey JVP Facebook page, with more information on our activities.




Thanks for the peaceful demonstration

My wife and I were walking from our home to the YMCA via Chestnut and Park streets on Friday, March 15. I inquired of a Montclair High School student about all the activity going on at MHS. He informed me that it was a student walkout to protest the lack of initiative by the federal government to address the threat of climate change seriously.

Immediately I thanked him and the MHS students for their stand. Little did we know that it was part of a worldwide movement to address what is needed to obviate climate change.
I want to thank students around the world for showing courage to save our planet. I especially want to thank our MHS student body for its peaceful and orderly demonstration.

Their future is at stake and hopefully some of the students send notes to their representatives in Washington.




ICE must go

During the ’70s and ’80s, U.S.-backed dictatorships in Latin America used to have paramilitary forces to kidnap political dissidents from the streets, their homes, their workplace, everywhere. They took people to clandestine detention center where they were held for days, months or years, where they tortured them and finally and, in most cases, killed them and got rid of the bodies. The dead bodies were rarely given back to their families. They were called “disappeared” or desaparecido as we say in Spanish.

During the Trump administration, ICE is working in a scary similar way to the paramilitary forces described above. They “take” people from the streets, workplaces, homes, with force and dubious “warrants,” taking advantage of people ignorance of the law and their rights. ICE tactics looks more of a “hunting” for undocumented immigrants than anything else. In the Trump era we seem to be in open season. They have been breaking all international law standards on refugees’ rights. They can take you, forcibly separated from your child indefinitely without any explanation nor to you neither your child, and even they can send you back to your country without your child.

There are plenty of cases of children being abused in the detention centers, given psychotropics without parental consent to “calm them down.” Teenagers that were raped on the way to the U.S., are purposely not offered abortions or psychological support of any sort. There is not oversight at all from the Congress, the hearings seem a joke, and there are plenty of judicial processes that do very little to deter ICE from behaving in a reckless way.

ICE is terrorizing immigrants and now, because of the chaotic way they act, they are arresting green card holders and even U.S. citizens in some cases.
Once Trump is gone, who is going to be held responsible of all these families that have been damaged forever? There is no space for an ICE reform. ICE must go.
Please call your congressman/woman to let him/her know your opinion and ask to stop increasing ICE budget. Mikie Sherril: 973-526-5668. Donald Payne: 202-225-3436