Not the town it was when we moved here

We've been living here now for over 11 years, and we've enjoyed the benefits of a vibrant, culturally diverse small city that managed, in many ways, to retain the esthetic appeal of a small town. Until the last few years.

The bad news — appalling things are happening here, from the ongoing “development” that has run amok, turning Montclair into the second coming of Hoboken to the ongoing attempt to push the ill advised Lackawanna plan — again by developers, a recurring theme, down the throats of the local residents.

Oh, and let's not forget the recent and unforgivable betrayal of Dr. Renée Baskerville, yet another back of the hand to the Fourth Ward, the apparent stepchild of Montclair.
The good news? We're leaving the area in a month or so, relocating an hour south with the conviction that we've seen and enjoyed the best of this town, and that the Montclair we knew and loved is well on its way to extinction, if not already dead.

Mayor Robert Jackson must be so proud. We'll miss the Farmers Market, the shops and restaurants, and more. We won't miss the frustration of nonstop construction delays and the destruction of the small town beauty we've enjoyed so much.




Watch your children when at Van Vleck

We join in the public’s thanks to Morten Rose Madsen, who saved the 7-year-old boy who fell through the glass greenhouse at Van Vleck.

The community should know, however, that three similar incidents have happened in the past two and a half years. Our daughter fell through the roof in February of 2017, and another minor fell through in the spring of 2017.

The leadership at Van Vleck tells visitors to watch children while on the property, and that the gardens are not a playground. All true and agreed. At the same time, we feel it’s time Van Vlek take some responsibility as well. Van Vleck is a public space, not a private home anymore.

Newly built greenhouses are made with tempered glass, not glass that shatters creating shards. If Van Vlek doesn't want to use tempered glass because of historical reasons, then we ask that Van Vlek consider adding impenetrable barriers, and more robust signage.

Our daughter came upon the sloped roof accidentally, started sliding and couldn’t stop before she crashed through and fell. Luckily she was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. She was treated on-site by ambulance personnel, and miraculously survived the incident without any major injuries.

If you visit the gardens, especially with children, please be aware of where the greenhouse is, and take precautions to be careful and watch children closely at all times.




Not thrilled with Lidl supermarket

I read the statement from Pinnacle and Hampshire properties concerning the Lackawanna development with interest. I noted that neither Mr. Stolar nor Mr. Schmitt refuted any of the legal points of our appeal.

The Pinnacle/Hampshire statement referred to the appeal as perpetrated by “a small faction of residents.” We now have 190 people who have asked to be named as plaintiffs on the appeal. Does this still count as a small faction? If so, we can certainly gather more. We volunteers with A Better Lackawanna have received a very warm reception in the community. It’s striking how well-informed people are, and how freely they express gratitude for our efforts.

It is heartwarming Mr. Stolar feels for the Fourth Ward being deprived of groceries. However Lidl can hardly be called a supermarket, or the supermarket the Fourth Ward has awaited. On a recent visit to their Union store, at the height of summer, it was notable they did not sell: oranges, cantaloupe, tangerines, watermelon or strawberries. No corn, no cauliflower and no carrots. Can you call it a supermarket if it doesn’t sell carrots? There is no fresh fish, no organic dairy products, no Dijon or brown mustard, no apple cider or red wine vinegar, and only a few name brands anywhere in the store (No: Dannon, Planter’s, Ritz, Heinz, Kleenix, Crest, Vaseline, nor dozens more brands you’d expect to see.)
This week, they are selling revolving shoe racks and weed killer sprayers, but no name-brand cleaning products and no scouring powder at all.

Lidl offers no online ordering, and the Pinnacle/Hampshire design has no dedicated parking for online order pick-up even if they did.

Lidl’s labor relations track record is troubling. I’m doubtful many in Montclair will be willing to cross a picket line to shop; and the giant inflatable rat in the parking lot will take at least two critically needed parking spaces (the crowning touch to the nightmarish approved parking lot). In the plus column for Lidl, they have a rich history of building markets in adaptively reused spaces in Europe, including train stations. They use modular displays that would work perfectly if Lackawanna were adaptively repurposed. It could be a win-win for Lidl to save a treasured landmark, and improve their image. However, we still need to work on getting healthier foods and ensuring fair labor practices.




Defeat Trumpism everywhere

New Jerseyans and people of good conscience everywhere are rightly horrified at the racist, violence-inciting rhetoric of President Donald Trump. We must get rid of him, but we have to do more than get rid of Trump, we have to defeat Trumpism, the radical rightwing ideology that relies on hate and bigotry to enact policies that hurt everyday Americans. We have to do everything we can to drive this poison off the public stage and make it impossible for it ever to be normalized.

While we are riveted by the spectacle of the Racist-in-Chief, we must not overlook the many far-right Republicans who are running for office right here in our backyard, including Jay Webber and BettyLou DeCroce, up for re-election in the NJ26 Assembly District. Webber and DeCroce are GOP Trump worshippers and have voted in Trump-like ways in the assembly, including against sensible gun legislation, marriage equality and women’s rights to control their bodies. Luckily, they are opposed by progressive Democrats, Laura Fortang and Christine Clarke.

If you want to take a stand against hate and far-right policies, this is your chance to get involved, and stand up for American values, and fight Trumpism right here, right now.




In support of Owen’s proposal

As I was reading the July 18 edition of Montclair Local, I was extremely glad to see a Letter to the Editor written by Owen Duncan, a Montclair High School student, titled “Board of Ed should give students a say.”

I fully support his motion to incorporate student representatives to the BOE. Adults decide for children without asking for their opinion. BOE members, and school authorities decide things that affect students’ everyday lives without thinking of asking students. Adults know what is best for children. Do they really?

I see plenty of benefits in having student representatives on the BOE. The best civic education lesson that we can offer them is giving them a seat at the table. They can learn how to advocate for their collective interests. They learn to voice their opinions and build arguments. They have the right to be included in the decision-making process over things that affect them.

There is a recent experience in West Orange township that is worth considering: The BOE Students Liaisons. “The student liaisons are an evolving channel of communication between students and the BOE. A few of the tasks Aarushi and Sessina are responsible for include attending all the BOE meetings, meeting with teachers and Principal Moore, conducting feedback forms, and organizing certain events such as the student culture night.”

We need to make all spaces of government more open, transparent and participatory, and make the inclusion of all voices our main objective. Children can be responsible and are capable of comprehending difficult issues and deserve to be at the table to propose ways to solve their concerns. Give them the opportunity. Give them the space. Trust me, they won’t disappoint you.