Old Montclair, new Montclair: we’re all neighbors
by Robin Ehrlichman Woods
for Montclair Local
I wasn’t born in Montclair, and don’t have generations of relatives living here. We are first-generation residents, and that will probably stay the same in the future. That’s not important to me. However, it’s extremely important to many of the people I encounter around town.
There is festering anger and frustration over how much the town has changed. Alas, I only have a couple of decades here under my belt so far. I have seen much change since moving here from Manhattan, but not all of it makes me mad. What does hurt me is escalating negative emotions and actions against those of us who chose to live here. Please remember that you had nothing at all to do about being born in Montclair. Perhaps your parents were native born when you came into the world, or they moved here as I did some time before your birth.
My family moved here because we were told about the diversity in town, the welcoming people, and the amazing walkability of the area we chose in the Fourth Ward. Yes, it reminds me a bit of Brooklyn, where I was born and bred before living in Manhattan for 18 years. I enjoy walking on a daily basis, and appreciate the convenience of easily getting to the library, restaurants, Town Hall and businesses. I don’t have to worry about parking because all I have are my own two feet to worry about.
After attending a recent Fourth Ward meeting, I was struck by how much it’s turned into something from West Side Story, with The Sharks vs. The Jets. The native born vs. the newer residents. I never think to announce how many years, months, days or minutes I’ve lived here so far. I’m here, for now and perhaps the rest of my life. For a township that so thoroughly discussed becoming a Sanctuary City, but decided on the designation of a Welcoming Community; well...I’m not feeling so welcome here anymore.
Yes, the seemingly uncontrolled overdevelopment in the Fourth Ward is disconcerting. In the one stretch of Bloomfield Avenue from the Shell Station down to where The Montclair Mews faces, we now have The Montclarion II and the soon to be built The Vestry apartment complex. Many of my neighbors are concerned about having a new building literally against the rear of their homes.
After I was nastily told off on social media about my comments regarding change in town: You might not appreciate my opinions or attitude, but you really don’t know me. Change is inevitable. Some is good, some is bad. My question to you is: What are doing here in town to make it the best place to live? I arrived here running, and sit on a number of township committees I attend just about every Township Council, Planning Board, and Fourth Ward meeting that I can and make my voice heard. I consult and volunteer for various not-for-profit organizations. I am not afraid to get my hands dirty, or lend a hand when needed.
Let’s see if we can use our considerable energy for the greater good. Make sure that checks and balances are in place when it comes to decisions about development, budget, or finding a way to attract new businesses and residents. Go up against the developers and landlords if need be, but don’t attack me. We “newbies” are not the enemy. We are assets to Montclair, and you’re welcome.