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Hurlock Discusses Street Improvements, Affordable Housing, Senior Services at Community Meeting

Montclair First Ward Councilor William Hurlock addresses constituents at his May 28 community meeting.

Montclair First Ward Councilor William Hurlock addresses constituents at his May 28 community meeting.

Montclair First Ward Councilor William Hurlock held his latest community meeting at the Montclair Public Library’s Bellevue Avenue branch on May 28, and the meeting was mostly more settled than previous First Ward meetings due to the biggest bone of contention in the ward – the Master Plan – having been settled itself.  Councilor Hurlock said he was pleased there would be no six-story buildings constructed in the business district, with only the A&P lot left open for possible development in the future.

The First Ward’s streets and avenues remained an ongoing issue, as many residents voiced the need for their streets to be redone. Councilor Hurlock said that the township has been trying to catch up with the backlog of streets that need work.  Councilor Hurlock said that the street projects were on a two-tiered system, with some streets rebuilt through what Montclair Public Works and Parks Superintendent Rob Bianco, who was present at the meeting, called a “design and build” program, with the recently redone Fernwood Avenue and Glenwood Road cited as recent examples, and others where basic curbing and/or paving is being taken care of, such as on Cooper Avenue.  The councilor said that part of the problem was that many First Ward streets have not qualified for community development block grant funding, so resources have not been readily available.

The postwar dead-end side street Skytop Terrace, however, sparked the most concern.  Residents asked about when that would be addressed, and both Bianco and Councilor Hurlock had to explain the difficulties of rebuilding it.  Bianco noted that the street had been poorly constructed from the start,  made too narrow with a sidewalk on one side, with a circular island at the cul-de-sac  added after the fact to beautify the area.  One resident complained about garbage and delivery trucks tearing up the curbless street edge, and a frustrated Bianco responded that the street was too narrow for any such vehicles to successfully navigate it.  He added that the island, which has not been adequately taken care of, limits turning radii for vehicles as well.  Bianco added that Skytop Terrace didn’t meet any proper street width regulations implemented by the state Department of Transportation.  Councilor Hurlock told Baristanet that an engineer has been hired to study the problem and make a recommendation of hat should be done. The report is not ready as of this writing.

The island at the cul-de-sac of Skytop Terrace, a poorly constructed Montclair First Ward street awaiting an engineer's review. Image courtesy of Google.

The island at the cul-de-sac of Skytop Terrace, a poorly constructed Montclair First Ward street awaiting an engineer’s review. Image courtesy of Google.

Affordable housing came up as well, with one resident asking about progress on that issue. The councilor said that he worked with a local church, whose denomination he declines to identify, and HomeCORP, to make a housing unit affordable, but the attempt fell through when he was told at “the twelfth hour” that it wouldn’t be affordable under the relevant statutes.  Councilor Hurlock said he has had to get “creative” in devising affordable units in the First Ward because of opposition to development there, and that he remained committed to producing affordable housing in the First Ward.  The resident brought up the possibility of the Wildwood Avenue properties, saying that HomeCORP could possibly help with affordable housing by developing it there, which the resident said is big enough for three separate units.  Councilor Hurlock, however, had said that there has been opposition to development in the First Ward and that he has had to get “creative” in devising affordable units in ward as a result.  He did, though, re-iterate his commitment to affordable housing, citing the work he had put in on the failed unit he had mentioned.

The new nonprofit group Aging in Montclair, the subject of a recent editorial in the Montclair Times, was also brought up.  The new group has been formed in response to the lack of the small-scale housing and limited  transportation, and a representative for the group advocated the establishment in Montclair of a senior center, which other towns nearby have been able to provide for their older residents, where senior programs can be centralized.   Councilor Hurlock addressed the issue, noting that the township had wanted such a place at the site of the old Social Security Administration office on Bloomfield Avenue in the Third Ward but had been unable to negotiate a purchase of the property from the federal government.   He said that the council was in no position to bid for the property against interested private developers.  The fate of the property is to be the subject of another community meeting, to be hosted by Third Ward Councilor Sean Spiller and attended by Planning Director Janice Talley at 7:30 at the municipal building on June 3.

Councilor Hurlock also reported that the township has bought a new senior bus,  and he also noted that the delisting of the Upper Montclair railway station from the national and state registers of historic sites had been prevented, with NJ Transit withdrawing  the delisting request before it was to be subject to a hearing.   Also at the meeting was Sergeant Tyrone Williams of the police department’s community service unit, who responded to a resident’s concern about the need to issue tickets for cars illegally parked on College Avenue near Montclair State University by explaining that the Montclair Parking Utility was assuming control of ticketing.  Sergeant Williams said that parking tickets were becoming a low priority when police officers are responding to other goings-on.  He said that the residents could contact Tina Iordamlis of the Montclair Parking Utility about the problem so she could deploy resources to enforce the parking ordinances there.  The sergeant also let residents know that they could contact Officer Glenda Rivera, the liaison officer for the  First Ward for the Community Service Unit.  The liaison officer for each ward can be reached by telephone at 973-509-4775.