MONTCLAIR, NJ - Local resident, Daniel Cruz is organizing a protest at Lackawanna Plaza on Sunday, May 5. At 1p.m., Cruz plans to protest what he feels are the lack of solutions to the closing of the local grocery store that used to be located on the property.
Cruz identified himself as a grassroots activist and says that he has been working with a small group of others to let their voices be heard.
Cruz is primarily concerned about the abrupt closing of the Pathmark shopping center and lack of other food options in the area. Although the Township of Montclair and Fourth Ward Councilwoman Renee Baskerville have held discussions during planning board meetings and community meetings on the issues Cruz raises, he admits to not having attended any meetings or had any conversations with elected leaders to voice his concerns, until now. Just two weeks ago, community leaders toured the area for an update on construction.
His literature states that he is protesting "Pinnacle," who is the developer who owns the property. However, his conversation states that he is more concerned with bringing in viable alternatives while the residents wait for construction to begin and conclude.
He says, "This is a demonstration for residents who have been affected by the closing of Pathmark. The goal is to raise awareness about food insecurity since the closing and a means to connect individuals who would like to organize in the future to lobby the companies and elected representatives to resolve this problem."
Nevertheless, Cruz has expressed that he wants answers as to how long the delay in construction will take and has offered possible solutions that have already been explored by the township. Though unaware of any township solutions, Cruz states that it is not enough and he feels that two years without a community food source is unacceptable. He stated, It could be 3-5 years before there is a replacement."
He added, "I want to protest the lack of transparency and communication and to organize the people who care about this issue."
Cruz also added that he is not looking to place blame, but to come together for solutions. "My intention is to bring awareness to the issues. I'm not trying to place fault or aggressively call anybody out, but to voice our concerns and raise awareness."
Cruz, who is also a college student, had pulled petitions to run for councilor-at-large during the 2016 Municipal election. He says that he did not submit the petitions on time to be placed on the ballot, but continues to want to be involved in the community.
Cruz mentions that he hopes that his protest will help him and other residents to begin getting more involved in understanding what is happening to the Lackawanna Plaza property. It is his anticipation that the protest will bring together like-minded residents to begin to get some answers about the duration of the project and to gather some solutions in the interim.
Cruz says, "On Sunday, May 5th at 1 p.m, we will meet inside Lackawanna Plaza to protest the lack of solutions regarding food insecurity since the closing of Pathmark in 2015."
He added, "18 months without a grocery store or grocery store alternative is unacceptable and needs to be addressed."
After organizing the protest, Cruz has begun to make his rounds to the local elected officials. he stated that he spoke to Councilor Baskerville and plans on meeting with Deputy Mayor Bill Hurlock and Councilor-at-Large Robert Russo.
Some members of the community were pleased to see someone take an active role in getting answers, while others have inquired as to why Cruz hasn't been visible at any of the presentations or walkthroughs held over the past two years, since the announcement of the Pathmark closing. Nevertheless, many have expressed that they will support his cause, since getting food to the area is a concern for many.
Cruz is proposing a Farmer's Market on the property, a ride-share program, and more communication to residents who may not have online access.
Cruz is not alone in his efforts, though. He expressed that his co-organizers are Mary Z of 73 Gallery and Trina Paulis of Cornucopia Network of New Jersey. He is also circulating an online petition that has 20 supporters, this far.
"This is a means to gather community members who want to organize for future action and assist on creating solutions. The protest will show a physical presence and face to this problem in the hopes that collaboration with the township and other existing organizations will either resolve this problem entirely or at least alleviate the burdens borne by those most affected," Cruz continued.
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