Speak out to freeholders at Feb. 6 meeting

There is an Essex County Freeholders meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 7 p.m., at the Hall of Records in Newark.

People have been going to these meetings for a number of months to question the Freeholders about the county’s contract with the federal office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We’ve asked them to hold a public forum to discuss the issue.

The county houses ICE detainees at the correction facility on Doremus Avenue in Newark; in return for this service, the county gets a per diem payment for each detainee.

These are not Trump’s mythological “rapists and murderers,” they are people who have been convicted of no crime. Many of them have been in the United States for years, with jobs and families.

The real source of the problem is our government’s ongoing refusal to create a workable immigration system with a path to citizenship. So absent a workable system, we lock them up. Please come speak to your elected freeholders about this. The Hall of Records is at 465 MLK Jr. Blvd; the meeting is in Room 506. There is free onsite parking at the building. Hope you can make it.




Broken promises everywhere

After federal workers suffered for over a month from a government shutdown, we all know that we have a bad, arrogant leader in charge in Washington, who has broken his promises to the American people.

But you don’t have to go all the way to Washington to deal with broken promises. Cory Booker’s “new animal shelter” in Newark? Governor Phil Murphy saying he would not sanction another bear hunt? Those are broken promises, too.

Recently at a town council meeting I was told that a new housing development on Church Street would include more public parking spaces. Instead, like that expensive, stupid Park Street project, in which taxpayers pissed away over a million dollars to move public parking spaces to residential areas, we are going to lose a lot of public parking spaces.

There will be only 20 spaces left for you, folks. See, you don’t have to go any farther than your local town council for bad, arrogant leaders and broken promises.




Street signs and what to do about them

Who is in charge of removing signs in Montclair once maintenance work has been completed on our local streets?

Signs that say work completed by Dec. 14 still remain on the trees lining Oxford Street. They are an eyesore.
Perhaps residents of Oxford Street aren’t sure they have the authority to take down the signs since they are posted by order of the police.

I called the local police station two times and was transferred to the traffic office and spoke to several individuals, one who stated that the signs would be removed that day.

This was two weeks ago and the signs still remain. Will the people who put up the signs please take them down? That’s how I was raised.




Former planning board vice chair: preserve train station, put in a supermarket

Former colleagues and members of the public: it amazes me that the deliberation about this development as proposed continues.

If ever there was a more cut-and-dried case in our town for demanding the preservation of a historical structure, this is it.

Montclair literally exists as the urban suburb that it is because of Lackawanna Station.

It was designed by an award-winning architect. It remains completely intact as a historical structure.

It has been designated as a local, state and national historic landmark and is located within a designated Montclair Historic District. These are matters of law, fact and public trust, not just opinion. We simply cannot conveniently ignore our responsibility to preserve this structure.

For these reasons, both Montclair’s Historical Preservation Commission and the planning board’s own architectural advisor have rejected the developer’s plan currently before this board. Frankly, one could make a very compelling argument that any plan put before this board should have been rejected immediately upon receipt if it did not completely respect and protect Lackawanna Station as an intact historic structure.

However, a high-quality grocery store is very much needed in this area of our town and fellow residents (and the planning board) have had to endure an incredibly lengthy process as the developer has presented what seems like an endless stream of variations on the same theme — lots of residential units, huge required parking variances and a massive grocery store worthy of Route 46 that can only be built if we demolish the majority of Lackawanna Station. Why? Because of a lack of vision and the willingness to employ great design that could turn what would otherwise be another ho-hum, box-store-style development into a true region-wide destination — not because it’s what’s best for our town.

But economics and politics make strange bedfellows and the owner of this property has very shrewdly made it seem that the only way for a grocery store to be built on this parcel is for us to simply ignore the responsibility that we have to preserve what is arguably Montclair’s most important remaining historical structure when in fact the reality is that with thoughtful design, we can easily have both.

Throughout this excruciating process we have collectively allowed ourselves to accept that a grocery store and completely preserving Lackawanna Station must be mutually exclusive. They are not.

This board has the right, and I personally believe the responsibility, to mandate that any development it approves on this parcel (by way of allowing even the most minute of variances) provides that Lackawanna Station be completely and thoroughly preserved in its entirety and that a grocery store of a certain size must be a part of the approved plan. If the owner of the property does not like these stipulations, they can either sell the parcel to someone who will accept them or develop the parcel in a way consistent with local land-use law that does not require any of the rather extreme variances that this owner is requesting of the planning board.

And just to be clear, I am not in favor of relegating the historic train sheds to merely being glorified ornamental parking lot structure. That is historical desecration, not preservation. Build the grocery store within the existing station.

We have seen time and again throughout both our region that high quality adaptive reuse of historical structures can be truly transformative to communities – the Highline, Chelsea Market, and the former Bush Terminal in Brooklyn (now Industry City) just to name a few. In every case, when high quality redevelopment that respects history is undertaken, the benefits to the community far outweigh what would exist were these historic structures razed and replaced with typical run of the mill development.

My personal opinion — and one that I would be fiercely fighting for were I on still on the other side of the dais: stop sending mixed messages and respect the input of both your architectural advisor and our town’s Historical Preservation Commission. Mandate that any plan put forth requiring variances both completely preserves Lackawanna Station and includes a much needed grocery store.



The writer is the former vice chair of the planning board. The letter was presented to the Montclair planning board Jan. 28.