Show vision, encourage Montclair parklets

Montclair is a beautiful town, but it is one that has many problems. One of these is that it is a town that is centered around the car and not people and place.

That said, it is a town that could be and should be a leader in making livable places. We have a master plan designed with broad citizen input and support to make just such a place with bike lanes, traffic calming devices, parklets and other important proposals.

We have great forward-thinking placemaking organizations like Bike Walk Montclair, who, with deep and broad community support, are proposing and developing urban strategies that have been demonstrated numerous times across North America to be highly effective, and follow in the spirit of these master plans.

One of the most critical of these visionary strategies is the issue of parklets. The Walnut Street parklet is a key part of a long term vision; it is not something that can be judged after one year. We need to all be visionary leaders who see how public space is needed in the middle of urban blocks as catalysts for new practices and mindsets. It is not enough to have nearby parks; these are not the same thing. The Walnut Street parklet was a breath of difference, joy, community, and traffic calming in the middle of a busy street. Nor is it reasonable to be stymied by the accusation of it being unfair to certain businesses — that is an easily fixed problem, one solved countless times by other communities.

This parklet matters. It changed people's behaviors, and led to many spontaneous events, music, conversation, hanging out and slowing down. These are qualitative changes that need to be given time and the support to multiply and joining many other endeavors.

As a citizen and professor at Montclair State University who teaches urban placemaking, it is profoundly disheartening to see such visionary actions by communities being censored by the town. Montclair is a place that we the citizens are making better. We call upon the council to show the same visionary leadership as its citizens, and community organizations. Let us all work together using this one parklet and all the other visionary and pragmatic ideas put forth in our democratically developed master plan towards a place we can all proudly call home. Please reconsider your actions in light of the significance of the impact that this parklet can make.



This letter was sent to the Township Council.


Essex County freeholders meeting tonight

The Essex County freeholders are having a hearing on Thursday, March 14 at 6 p.m. to discuss conditions at the ICE detention facility in Newark.

One of their public justifications for maintaining the contract with ICE to house detainees is that the facility is better run than any place else that the detainees might be sent.

The recently released Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General Report documents terrible conditions at the jail.

Until this report came out, Essex County Executive Joseph Divincenzo and the freeholders were assuring everyone who asked that everything was fine. It wasn't and it's not. We need to explore alternatives to detention.

The meeting is at 60 Nelson Place (near the Courthouse) in Newark on the 14th floor.  Plenty of free parking on-site. Please try to make it.




Start time too early for students

As a parent of a fifth grader who will be entering middle school this September, I have been dismayed at the early start time, 7:50 a.m., for the school my son is slated to enter.

I was more or less resigned to it until I saw a NY Times article pointing out the harm to children's health and performance resulting from early school start times. I checked this out on the internet, and discovered that there is a whole body of literature and studies showing this. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and so does the Federal Government Center for Disease Control. There are numerous other links addressing this issue e.g., and, and an earlier NY Times opinion piece, “Let Teenagers Sleep in.”

This information has been out there for several years now. Why hasn't the School District and the Board of Education taken action to move middle school start times to at least 8:30 a.m.? Apparently this proposal has been tied up in a Board of Education committee.

If the impediment is busing schedules, then it is incumbent on the district to work this out to be in compliance with the pediatric and government guidelines. The health of our children is too important to ignore and delay in correcting this problem. The time for action is now.




Raise the state minimum wage

Legislation is pending at both the state and national level to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This would double the minimum full-time income to about $30,000 a year, hardly a luxury income but enough to pay for food under most conditions.
A friend pointed out to me that the Direct Support Personnel taking care of the most vulnerable are often paid less than $15 an hour now. Many of them are extremely devoted and competent, but greatly distracted by financial challenges. This was well publicized to be true at the Wanaque Center with tragic consequences. They clearly deserve more than minimum wage, but too many do not get even that.

Please write or telephone your state and national legislators and Governor Murphy urging them to pass legislation raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.