Past Newsletters

Burglaries, Lackawanna Plaza, Key Scores and More

I hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving and got out and shopped and dined in town to support small businesses over the busy weekend. Just a few updates on some things going on:

Update on Lackawanna Plaza Redevelopment

This week I, along with Mayor Spiller and Councilor Price Abrams, co-hosted a town hall where we had both our Township Planner and the head of the architecture firm we hired, present our draft redevelopment plan, including for the first time, showing conceptual illustrations of what the site might look like. The plan has been available to the public for a couple of months and this was just one of several town halls I’ve been part of in the past weeks.

Watch the replay of the Lackawanna Plaza Presentation

As the Council Member living closest to Lackawanna Plaza (1,000 feet away), I know what an anchor it is in our community and in my neighborhood. I will acutely feel the impact of whatever is built there. I believe that the redevelopment plan has broadly been crafted to preserve the plaza’s historic integrity while also meeting community needs in terms of bringing in the largest grocery store for Montclair, significant open public space, record-level affordable housing development and more. Yet I am of course concerned about traffic and circulation and that will continue to be where I focus my scrutiny.

Illustration showing the front of Lackawanna Plaza facing Bloomfield Ave., with the planned open public square and roundabout for quick vehicular drop-off / pick-up
Full site overview. Most of the frontage is set back an additional 10 feet from the sidewalks, double what is standard for downtown Montclair, with further step-backs as the buildings rise, to give a “wedding cake” feel. Building height is also concentrated in the center of the eastern parcel where the grade sits below Grove St., to mitigate the sense of height. The site has a maximum of 6 stories in certain spots with the majority of the buildings shorter than the new Wellmont Arts Plaza or the Siena on S. Park. 
A linear park would run parallel to Grove Street, with ample outdoor public space, seating and access to the western side of Grove St. via a redesigned access tunnel.
Looking down at “Station Plaza” from Grove Street. This can be an open public space featuring a historic original Lackawanna rail car, public art, greenery and seating

If the Council advances the plan next Tuesday, Dec. 6th at our meeting; it will trigger formal Planning Board review. The Historic Preservation Commission is also going to be reviewing it in that timeframe as well. Then in Q1 the Council will review the feedback from these bodies, decide whether to make changes to the plan and then either take a final vote or if there are changes, take another first vote followed by the scheduling of a public hearing and a final vote on just the redevelopment plan.

Then comes site plan development, which gets further into the specifics, particularly around parking requirements based on the different use-cases of the space (think grocery store daytime use and restaurant nighttime use for example), materials, circulation and much more.

We’re taking our time and have been intentional and thoughtful about this and there are many steps to go before project approval and even more before a shovel goes into the ground. But we need to start or we’ll never deliver that grocery store a decade’s worth of elected leaders have committed to bringing back.

Advice from the Montclair Police Department

Recently I’ve noticed an increase in citizens reporting of attempted burglaries. Several concerned citizens have reached out to me after experiencing incidents of someone trying to enter their homes and in some cases where the perpetrator was successful. Now is the time to be particularly vigilant. This week I met with some of the impacted residents and members of the Montclair Police Department (MPD) where MPD shared some best practices for keeping yourselves, your homes and your belongings secure. 

Please see these graphics put out by the MPD, who heroically apprehended a suspect this week. I recommend following their advice which includes always ensuring your vehicles are locked, with no visible valuable items left inside. Additionally, when it comes to the home, residents are encouraged to keep porch lights on and ensure doors and windows are locked. According to MPD, it is more common for burglars to attempt to enter homes via back yards. So the installation of items like motion detection lights is also encouraged. Residents who want to go further can also of course install alarm systems and external cameras.

No one wants to live in or create a culture of fear. But I do want to encourage some vigilance right now. The best thing all of us can do is make sure anyone attempting to commit a crime in Montclair isn’t successful. Let us be the place where those attempts fail and let those individuals learn that and leave us alone. At the same time, use this as an opportunity to know your neighbors and look out for each other. MPD also recommends residents join the social media channel Next Door and have contact information for your neighbors so that you can all communicate what’s going on and also perhaps share when you might be away so others may look out for your property. 

Preserve African American History in Montclair

The James Howe House has been an essential part of African American History in Montclair, NJ. The Howe House is one of the oldest properties in Montclair and the first property owned by an African-American, James Howe.  After manumitting Howe, Nathaniel Crane left him this very house, six acres of land, and $400 in his will. This house came to be known as the Freed Slave House! 

The fight to save this heritage is not new, and the erasure of African American History is rampant. Montclair is no different. Home to many African Americans who have paved the way for generations, his home signified the importance of home ownership to the African American community in 1831, and now it’s up for sale. 

Please consider helping the Friends of Howe House purchase the property to ensure the preservation of this treasured piece of our town’s history. We need to raise about another $20,000 to accomplish our goal. 

Learn about and support the Howe House

Two Perfect Scores That Really Matter

I’m really proud to be a town that is now an official Monarch USA city and a place where we have a AAA bond rating and a perfect 100 on the Human Rights Campaign Equality Index. I take protecting your money and our environment and our values all very seriously.

Last year the Montclair Township Council enacted a sweeping LGBTQ+ Equality Agenda that I introduced. That agenda successfully enacted new laws to protect people on the basis of gender identity and expression in township procurement and hiring practices and required that all single-user restrooms in the Township be designated as gender neutral. The effort also included designating a LGBTQ+ Community Liaison at Town Hall, re-affirming the state’s ban on conversion therapy, flying a progress pride flag at Town Hall and supporting LGBTQ+ teens and seniors with public programming.

But we’re far from done. As of today the Township still does not offer transgender specific healthcare to Township employees nor do we offer any kind of direct services to people living with HIV/AIDS or unhoused LGBTQ+ individuals. I also want to see us develop and enact an anti bullying law which would require bullying prevention policy and workforce training standards for entities receiving monies from the Township.