Montclair celebrates its 150th anniversary ending the year with a gala ball.

By Jaimie Julia Winters
winters@montclairlocal.news

While Montclair celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2018, the town was moving forward creating an urban hub. Multi-use development proposals kept the planning board busy.  While the MC Hotel is expected to open soon, the Seymour Arts District development broke ground and the Lackawanna proposal months into testimony battling the need for a supermarket over historic preservation. Residents concerned with rising rents, fought for rent control. A rise in population allowed the town another liquor / bar license. Parking becomes an issue as residents see the closure of two parking lots to make way for the Seymour Arts district. The community also saw three domestic violence deaths. The school system welcomed a new superintendent, Kendra Johnson, who has been charged with fixing an aging infrastructure. School opened with staircases at the high school being closed off leaving no access to 31 classrooms, with repairs being scheduled for May. At year’s end, staircases at Nishuane Elementary School were in need of repairs and reinforcements. Facility inspections continued.

January

The year opened up with just one of many winter storms that would leave residents with broken pipes, stuck vehicles and no electricity throughout one of the worst winters in a decade.

Hampshire and Pinnacle developers unveiled a much smaller plan for Lackawanna Plaza proposing 154 housing units, retail and a supermarket, but with ShopRite pulling out of the downsized plan.

Lackawanna

Hearings would go into 2019, as residents fought the proposed razing of the mall, for better pedestrian access, more parking and even daylighting the brook that runs under the plaza.

The board of education announced it began the year with the lowest fund balance in 10 years at $9.2 million. Parents voiced concerns over a report that stated students of color were more likely to be suspended than their white counterparts.

February

Kendra Johnson

The Board of Education approves a $3.4 million upgrade to Wood and Fortunato fields and pushes for publicly funded Pre-k. Three candidates are named as superintendent of schools: Rachel Goldberg of Passaic Public Schools, Ross Kasun of Freehold, and Kendra Johnson, Montclair’s assistant superintendent for equity. Both Goldberg and Ross pulled out in March and Johnson would be named superintendent in April.

March

Residents plea for a Washington Avenue senior’s plan to subdivide his lot to sell to a developer in order to afford to stay in his home goes unheard and the planning board denies the application. After residents continue to rally, the planning board later approves the subdivision under an amended application.

A 26-year-old au pair from Israel living with a Montclair family is killed when she is struck by a DeCamp bus seconds after disembarking on Grove Street, spurring area residents to lobby for lowering the speed limit on Grove. By year’s end the speed limit is changed from 35 to 30.

April

Montclair Public Library

Library officials unveil a $16 million proposal include updating the exteriors with more glass to bring in natural light, adding an extension to the third floor of the main library, a large extension to the Bellevue Library, the addition of a grand staircase to the main library, and ridding the libraries of stacks to give way to large, open public spaces while providing more classrooms and private study areas.

Parents lobby the BOE for longer and more consistent recess for their children.

Portions of the $900,000 Edgemont Park upgrade are not met with the approval of seniors who frequent the park house and contend they were not consulted on the plans to overhaul parking. Plans for an S-shaped driveway, that seniors were concerned with parking along, are eventually changed to a U shape.

Ahighah Broomes, 21, of Orange, is arrested and charged with the fatal stabbing of Akirah Townes on April 27. Townes, 20, of Orange, was stabbed outside of a home on Hartley Street as she readied for a vacation.

May

The council passes two ordinances regulating affordable housing with the goal of keeping the quota of 20 percent within any new Montclair development, creating flexibility of where affordable housing would be constructed and invoking a local preference for those who live or work in Montclair.

Town council passes a resolution, after months of Lackawanna development meetings, in support of the project saying the fourth ward is need of a supermarket sooner than later.

Aubrey Lewis Estate

After being up for sale for $10, the former home of African American sports hero and business leader Aubrey Lewis was razed, making way for eight single-family homes in the South End of Montclair. The mansion itself was for sale with a $10 price tag, but with the caveat that the new owner would have to move it within a quarter mile of its original 2.7-acre site at 44 Pleasant Ave. No one took the developer up on his offer.

Toni’s Kitchen releases a video of a man leaving the soup kitchen and stealing their delivery van. It is later recovered in Newark.

June

Franklin Turner

A resident files a complaint against the BOE and member Franklin Turner claiming Turner does not live in town and therefore does not meet the residency requirement of members. Turner eventually resigns from the September after purchasing a home in another town.

The Montclair Animal Shelter reopens complete with kennels two years after fire.

High School Principal James Earle resigns to take a job in West Windsor-Plainsboro. In October, Glenfield School Principal Anthony Grosso becomes his replacement.

Town proposes limiting heights to four stories in the downtown area. In July, town planner Janice Talley presents plans to remain at a six-story limit.

July

Community mourns over the drowning death of 7-year-old Terry Demming on July 4.

Although met with heavy opposition from neighbors, an 11 unit apartment building is approved for Park Street.

Township, business district push for a plastic-free Montclair lobbying supermarkets and restaurants who serve take out.

BOE reports that students owe $98,000 in school lunch debt.

Another liquor license

A population growth of 200 residents allows Montclair another bar license. The $1 million license receives no bids in November and remains in the hands of the town.

August

Waterways are arteries in the Alonzo F. Bonsal Wildlife Preserve, Saturday, Aug. 26.

The New Jersey District Water Supply Commission cuts down 70 trees in 48 hours at Bonsal Preserve contending the roots were a threat to its water lines, but without a Department of Environmental Protection permit. After being cited, the commission remediates the area with low lying bushes and also plans to put up a fence in 2019.

A flash flood causes major damage to businesses and Gov. Phil Murphy declaring a state of emergency. Studio Playhouse and Montclair Film are two of many with flood damage.

The zoning board unanimously approved Steven Plofker’s site application for offices and retail on the corner of Grove and Walnut streets replacing a current car wash and rent-a-car center.

September

Montclair High School

High school students experience a stairwell collapse the first week of school. An inspection requires the closure of two more stairwells and the loss of 31 classrooms. Repairs are pushed off until May of this year.

Montclair’s first home football game left attendees standing after half of the Woodman Field bleachers were deemed unsafe. The bleachers were repaired and reopened for the next home game.

Residents fight for parking after the Seymour Street development closes down South Willow and South Fullerton parking lots.

October

Angela Bledsoe

Angela Bledsoe, 44, is shot to death in her Upper Montclair home by James Ray, the father of her child on Oct. 23. Ray flees to Cuba, is detained and brought back to the U.S. to face charges of murder.

The landlord/ Tenant Housing Committee sees a surge in complaints after new complex owners are raising rents some as high as 38 percent. At year’s end, Montclair still has not implemented rent stabilization.

Dog owners wanting to let their dogs run propose relief from leash laws during special hours at Edgemont Memorial Park.

In response to an increase in the demolition of older homes, the planning board discusses bringing back a no-knock down ordinance.

November

Mikie Sherrill

Montclair’s Mikie Sherrill wins the Democratic congressional seat.

Plans are announced of 74 housing units to rise from the Hahne’s parking lot.

The community mourns the loss of Joan Juengling, 28, who is killed by a train on Nov. 13.

On Nov. 12, Tameeka Johnson is fatally stabbed by Kenneth Jones at Union Gardens. Jones was still at large at year’s end.

December

Seymour Street

Crews break ground on the Seymour Street Arts District Redevelopment to be completed by 2020.

A 46-unit housing development is proposed for Ferrara’s Auto Body and service station on Orange Road.

Three staircases at Nishuane Elementary School were found to be in need of repairs and reinforcements in December.