The impact of a teacher can be unmeasurable

Sometimes the wheel of life makes itself so noticeable you can almost hear it turning.
Twenty-four years ago, Sandra Fine, Nishuane second-grade teacher extraordinaire, had our daughter Julia Phillips in her classroom.

After reading the 7-year-old's first story assignment, she asked, "Did you do this yourself?" When told yes, she pointed to Julia and proclaimed, "You are a writer." Julia had no reason not to believe her. Her path was set.

And Ms. Fine never let up. She was an indefatigable cheerleader, assigning nearly nightly writing assignments and then celebrating them, reading the children's stories to the class. She made writing seem like a magic carpet of empowerment.

On Tuesday, May 21, Julia is coming to Watchung Booksellers with her debut novel, "Disappearing Earth" on a 20-city book tour.

This one's for you, Sandie. You saw that gift and nurtured it and we are forever grateful.




In jest? Planning board comments on bikes rankle

I sincerely hope that the statements by planning board members included in the “Sharing the Roads” article published on May 9 were said in jest or were missing context revealing them as sarcasm.

Member Martin Schwartz was quoted as saying “People are not taking their bikes to shop or pick up their kids.” and “How large is this biking community to substantiate these costs?”. Member Carmel Loughman was quoted as saying that “Maybe Montclair is not the town for bike lanes.”

These are shockingly naive statements for these two planning board members to make revealing a lack of knowledge on the issue that should disqualify them from being decision makers on this important topic.

Some brave people do currently bike to shop and pick up their kids. And many more would do so if the infrastructure existed providing safer routes.

The data is clear. Numerous studies prove that bike lanes, particularly dedicated and protected lanes, benefit not just cyclists. They increase visibility and safety for pedestrians, increase property values, attract visitors who contribute to the local economy and promote a healthier community. These board members need to read the data from numerous studies on this topic on towns across the United States and approve a plan to expedite the construction of SAFE Streets.




To keep your church open, invest

Thomas Russo's letter in the May 9 issue of Montclair Local covers a number of topics, but I would like to respond specifically to his concern about a feared closure of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church.

I, like many, take pride in claiming that the beautiful churches we worship in were built by our ancestors. Sometimes it was with actual physical labor (my wife's grandfather helped dig the foundation of St. John's Church in Orange) but more often with significant contributions from their often meager incomes. In the coming years many of these churches are at risk of closure due to the increasing costs of maintaining them and the shrinking pool of parishioners willing and able to contribute to their upkeep.

Mr. Russo, it appears, would like the Archdiocese of Newark to pay for repairs to OLMC Church. But since the bulk of the income of the Archdiocese comes from its member parishes this means that the repairs would in effect be paid for by parishioners of other churches in the area. A better model would be the recent experience of Immaculate Conception High School. Once closely linked with Immaculate Conception Church, but for years a fully separate institution, it was slated for closure by the Archdiocese due to the school's financial losses. Alumni of the school put together a plan to turn things around and raised sufficient funds to convince the archbishop of the plan's viability. With enrollment now on the upswing the future of the school is much brighter than it was a few short years ago.

While Mr. Russo casts blame on "the powers that be" it is worth noting that the original plan to close the church was conceived by the former archbishop and laid in the lap to the former pastor who, given his vow of obedience, had no say in the matter. The current pastor, the Rev. Benny Prado, with the concurrence of the archdiocese, has spent considerable funds on the repair of the OLMC boiler and roof in order to allow the church to remain open for liturgical celebrations. He is now in a position to figure out where that money will come from.
Those of us who are concerned about our churches being closed should follow the example of our ancestors and invest the physical, financial and intellectual capital required to keep them open.




Milling and paving: what you need to know

Many Montclair residents are now familiar with the paving and curbing notices Department of Community Services (DCS) workers place in mailboxes to provide a heads up about forthcoming roadway improvement work to be done on their streets.
When road work is about to commence on a particular street, notices will be hand-delivered to homes on that street, with instructions to remove cars from the roadway and out of driveways by 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. for the days when work will take place.
Since 2013, DCS has paved and curbed more than 45 miles of roadway. This year, Council budgeted for 10 additional miles of paving and curbing to be completed throughout the township, which means more road work notices will be distributed.
In the past, DCS frequently responded to the question “when will my street be done?” Nowadays, because of the great number of road improvement projects taking place, the more frequent question is “why is there such a delay between milling (existing roadway removed) and paving my street?”

The time gap between when a road is milled and when it is paved is due to a number of factors:

Inclement weather or colder temperatures preclude paving work.
Post-milling inspections. Milling creates severe vibrations. The paving operation is delayed for some days to ensure that no water or gas line breaks will occur. In fact, the Township has PSE&G inspect gas lines within milled roads with “sniffer” trucks before paving.
PSE&G will often use a milled road as an opportunity to install new underground cable for streetlights. This work delays paving but the result is a more resilient grid.
The Department of Community Services makes every effort to minimize disruption to normal routines and schedules while work is being performed. The inconvenience is temporary, the improvement is long-term.

If residents have any questions regarding street improvement work, contact DCS at 973-509-5711. For questions regarding PSE&G activities in the project areas, call 1-800-436-7734.



Montclair Township director of communications


Invite to my vegetable garden

Everyone is invited to see my garden at 56 Gordonhurst Ave., Montclair this coming Saturday, May 18, from 9:30 to 11 a.m., where I have raised most of my vegetables year round for decades with no poisons, power machinery, or commercial fertilizers.

I enjoy doing it, my health has improved amazingly, and I love sharing it with others.
You will be able to see the end of the “Chinese cabbage” (definitely not cabbage, and reputedly not from China) that I harvest all winter and is coming to its annual end now. In the same spot I have begun harvesting kale and collards, and you can see bean plants; soon I will sow corn. Hopefully, you will see lettuce if the competition doesn’t win. You can see broccoli, basil, tomato, pepper, and eggplant plants, some covered with mini-greenhouses.

Unless someone comes for them this week, I will have broccoli, celery, sweet-100 tomato, and basil seedlings for visitors to take. I will definitely have a large supply of left-over seeds free for taking.

Come, it’s fun, and you might learn something useful.