MONTCLAIR, NJ – Councilor Renee Baskerville opened the Fourth Ward Community Meeting with an introduction of newly appointed Deputy Township Manager Brian Scantlebury to about 60 people who attended the Tuesday night meeting.
"I am privileged and honored to introduce you to our new Council Deputy Manager, Brian Scantlebury," said Baskerville, who added that the purpose of the Deputy Manager is "....to help you get resolutions to your concerns." She added that one of his primary responsibilities will be to resolve residents' complaints among other things such as communications within the township departments.
Scantlebury approached the podium to a round of applause. I have one goal, to be an asset to the Township Council team. He stated that his primary goal is to "help the council with their issues. …a one stop shop.”
"My goal and plan is to send them back an expeditious and well-thought-out response," he said of addressing residents' concerns.
Born and raised in Montclair, Scantlebury served on the Montclair Township Council from 1992 to 1996 and has served on a number of boards in the Township. He told the crowd that he has experience in public management, having worked for the Whitman administration. Scantlebury spoke of having built a number of relationships within the community over the years as an asset to his position.
Other agenda items included presentations from the Sustainability Department, Police Department, traffic safety committee and community concerns.
Gray Russell, Montclair Township Sustainability Officer spoke of farmer’s market that will open on June 6. He added that bringing healthy, locally grown food to the community is essential. Five farmers and 15 specialty artisans will be at the Saturday market each week. He called the Montclair Farmer's Market a blueprint for other communities around New Jersey and a “sustainable asset for Montclair."
As a result of a grant made possible from Partner's for Health, Russell said the Farmer's Market was able to offer more bang for their buck to the residents. "This year for the first time, we are going to be able to accept the SNAP card. Thanks to this grant, not only are we able to accept these cards, but we are able to double their value.” He added that for $10 worth of vouchers, the consumer will get $20 worth of food. "We are the first town that will be able to do the double bucks program, aside from Newark." The Farmer's Market will begin on Saturday, June 6 and Tuesday in June 9 until the Fall and now accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cards, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) vouchers, and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) vouchers.
Sgt. Tyrone Williams spoke of the Community Safety Day event held at Livingston Mall this coming Saturday. He also mentioned that National Night Out will be held in Montclair on the First Tuesday in August. “A plan is in place to go to different wards…and just engage with the community.” He stated that the Coffee with a Cop program will begin again soon at Trend Café and information will be forthcoming.
Councilor Rich McMahon spoke of a parking study taking place throughout the township. He serves as the Council Liaison to the Transportation and Parking Advisory Commission. “We are determined to get a better handle on the parking issue in the town,” McMahon said. He spoke of some concerns of transit commuters and business owners to find parking.
McMahon also invited residents with concerns to the monthly TPAC meeting. "We want to stop Band-Aid fixes and we are looking for a long term solution. Feel free to bring concerns to the committee." The TPAC committee meets at 9 a.m. on the second Wednesday of the month.
Open discussion included resident concerns regarding area businesses that may be selling drug paraphernalia near schools and residences.
Debra Leal, a resident of the fourth ward and board member of Partners for Health raised a concern about the 'head shop' in Montclair's South End. She says that it sells paraphernalia for smoking illegal drugs and is concerned about having this type of business in a drug free zone.
Baskerville says it is a glass gallery and went to visit the store to express the residents' concerns. "They sell bongs in the store," she added.
Deputy Mayor Robert Russo, who was also present, echoed Baskerville and the residents' concerns with having a store of this nature in the community near a school, “I am concerned that this should not be in an area where there’s schools and residential areas....We are a no smoking advocacy council.”
A discussion ensued where numerous residents expressed the same concern and discussed addressing the issue through picketing or petitions. If there is not one, we can make an ordinance against selling paraphernalia near a school.
After brainstorming ideas on how to address the concern and residents calling for foot patrol near the area on a regular basis to discourage customers. Williams suggested that "we do what is legally correct." He cautioned against harassing the business owners or customers.
The intersection of Oxford and Grove Street was labeled a treacherous intersection by many people in the room. Baskerville expressed that the Township has a pedestrian plan to make the town more friendly for bikes and walkers. Residents expressed concerns and they wanted something done. “ This plan that you see is the proposed plan....to place a blinking light at that corner and four striped crosswalks," Baskerville said as she held up the diagram.
Norma Tassey of Bike/Walk Montclair spoke on the progress of the Pedestrian Safety Committee findings. She said that Bike & Walk Montclair was sponsoring a pop-up bike lane on Wednesday, May 6 on Elm Street. Arrival and dismissal from Lincoln St. to Washington St. will be blocked off four hours each day. For more information, visit Bikewalkmontclair.org.
There was a mention of the Pathmark Shopping Center. Baskerville told the group, "I want everyone to pay attention to and to stay awake." She spoke of future plans to have architects come to the table and have different people suggest designs and ideas for the location. She added that the unofficial word was that the pizza store and Dunkin' Donuts are supposed to be leaving. Baskerville encouraged the crowd to have their voice heard and to be involved. "There is no plan and nothing concrete yet." Baskerville mentioned that the Board of Education and Police Department are some suggested buildings that are supposed to be there.
Audience member, William Scott spoke of additional developments, displacement of residences, displacement of businesses in that location and near HackensackUMC Mountainside. “These things are on a fast track,” he said.
"We want to make sure that if we are displacing people, then we put in place replacement housing." Scott continued, "I am keeping and eye on affordable housing."
Scott added, "Next Monday, May 4 is the Master plan finalization." Scott says that there is a 20% commitment from the developers that has been added to the Master Plan which will add affordable housing from now on. In reference to the Bay Street area near the hospital, Scott said, "We want to press the Town Planner to not allow any more homes to be demolished in that particular area."
On May 19, Baskerville invited the public to address concerns with the developer from the Lackawanna Plaza development area.
The meeting closed with residents mingling with Scantlebury over refreshments.