You say ‘gentrification.’ I say more opportunity for Montclair’s future
I wanted to respond to Richie Chevat's "On the Other Hand" column on the increased development activity around Montclair's Bloomfield Avenue.
In short, I think it's great.
I think it's great as a trained economist. I think it's great as a Montclair resident. I think it's great as someone who cares about inequality and the environment. And I think it's great as someone who wants small businesses to succeed.
Longer answer: Mr. Chevat clearly cares about Montclair deeply, as he has made his home here for 30 years. However, it seems Mr. Chevat has fallen in love with what Montclair used to be, and not what it currently is, or will be in the future. Mr. Chevat is happy to signal his progressive credentials. He uses the words "diversity," treats "gentrification" and "urbanization" as dirty words, all without providing any data to back it up. Has development reduced diversity? Why are gentrification and urbanization bad?
At the beginning of his piece, he states that climate change is a worry of his, so we'll start there. More urbanized areas are better for the environment. They reduce greenhouse gas emissions (more walking, more biking, small living spaces, etc.). He cares about the poor people in the area. Urbanized areas offer more jobs. I'm sure he has an opinion on the rent control issue in Montclair. How do we slow down rent increases? By building more housing.
Mr. Chevat, while signaling a progressive stance, falls victim to the same small-C conservatism that afflicts many a woke person in San Francisco, one of the most liberal, hardest-to-build places in the country. Is San Francisco a wonderful community? Perhaps for those who already have a house. But it also ranks as having the highest inequality, a terrible homelessness problem, high rates of drug addiction, etc.
One constituency remained unmentioned in Mr. Chevat's opinion piece: people younger than him. It is well and good for baby boomers, who own houses and nest eggs, to want to see their property values rise by impeding property development. But why should the deck continue to be stacked against younger generations? Boomers have left millennials and gen-Zers their legacy of environmental degradation, high housing costs, poor career prospects, the first time in American history that the next generation is making less than the previous one, Medicare that is financed only through 2035 and more. First homes have become unaffordable to people in their 20s and 30s. Why not build apartments that would allow young people to move to Montclair and enjoy the vibrancy of the community, support local shops, restaurants, artists and newspapers, and promote a low-carbon lifestyle?
While I can sympathize with the feeling of loss Mr. Chevat feels as his beloved town changes around him, I believe it is shortsighted, and though he professes he has the best wishes of all sorts of people in mind, that his ideas mainly benefit a small constituency: people who have owned houses in Montclair for 30 years. I also recognize his feeling of loss in a constituency whom he probably abhors: Trump voters. The world changes regardless of whether white, male boomers want it to change.
Look at all the great things Montclair has to offer: an active arts community, public transit to New York City, jobs, great restaurants, great libraries, a farmer's market and more. Why wouldn't Mr. Chevat want to share that with more people?
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