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Residents Take Over Montclair Township Council Meeting with Concerns About Noise

Natalie Heard Hackett

Thursday, July 24, 2014 • 4:25pm

MONTCLAIR, NJ – Tuesday night’s council meeting addressed several residents’ concerns on issues of animal safety and park maintenance.

There was also a resolution passed to rename the Nishuane tennis courts after James Firebrace and the acceptance of a seating gift for Edgemont Park from friends of the late Carl Maurits Hudig. A common theme that dominated and continued to come up throughout the meeting was the issue of noise.

Stephanie Wood spoke of animals being left in the car and the need for people to be given harsh penalties. She also raised other concerns about a broken traffic light as well as noise.  “I have made ongoing noise complaints and safety complaints,” said Wood, who then told a story of her experience in going to the police station to file a noise complaint about the noise from a YMCA event.  

William Scott, member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, said, “As a Member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee I have been requesting repairs of the retaining wall around the tennis courts.”  He congratulated the council on voting to rename the tennis courts after James Firebrace and then continued, “Before we do any presentation or ribbon cutting, I am wondering whether the township manager can do anything about repairing that retaining wall.  It is absolutely a liability for the township.”

Township Manager Marc Dashield informed Mr. Scott  that he will have them take a look at it. 

Scott, a resident of Cedar Avenue, then added, “It was brought to my attention that there was a meeting this past Friday.  There were some current concerns about the parking and noise from this past weekend.” “I just want to get in front of that and I'd like to understand what some concerns of my fellow residents are.”

Councilor Renee Baskerville responded to noise concerns by saying, “The meeting that we had was not specific to the All Class Reunion event in any way.  It was not specific to any particular event.  The meeting was a meeting of two residents from the Brookwoods, myself, Manager Dashield and Pat Brechka.”   The Brookwoods is located near Nishuane Park. 

Baskerville continued, “This was a meeting to come to the table to discuss would it be possible for us to bring residents together to discuss noise concerns during festivities in the parks, not just Nishuane Park.”

“I don’t want for the All Class Reunion group to think that this was targeted against their specific event, because it wasn’t.  These concerns were raised before that, because of the number of activities that are going on in that park that appear to be increasing to some of the residents there, because of the hours that are permitted there and because of the permits that seem to be issued to larger and larger numbers of groups,” Baskerville added. 

Scott continued, “I think the reason people are here is because they want to participate in any discussion regarding noise ordinances, noise meters…  We just want to have a heads up and we want to be involved.  We also want to work with our fellow residents to make sure there are no issues moving forward.  I understand the level of activity that goes on in that park.”  “Nishuane is a very heavily used park and I’m very proud of it because it is also well maintained.”

“As stewards of all of the parks, what we have to do is work together.  We as a body, have to weigh all the pros and cons and find a balance,” added Baskerville.

Michael Norman, one of the residents who launched the complaint addressed the council, “I’m here to pick up the theme of the evening, which is noise.  I want to talk about the excessive and deafening noise.  I was one of the two residents from the Brookwoods that attended the meeting with Councillor Baskerville, Manager Dashield, and Pat Brechka.”

Norman expressed that they discussed long-term resolutions and then asked the council for short term resolutions.  “The event in the park this past weekend is a prime example.  We ask that maybe three things are possible: ‘Will the event folks simply lower the volume of the sound?’,  ‘Was there a way to reposition the speakers so that they do not face the Brookwoods?’,  We were hoping for some more police presence to monitor the traffic,” he added.  “We are advertising over 5000 people for a Jazz Fest in Nishuane Park, that seems a little excessive for a park in a residential neighborhood.”  Norman mentioned that he felt the noise reached ‘dangerous levels’. 

Mayor Robert Jackson responded by expressing that the number of events had decreased considerably since the Wednesday music in the park event no longer takes place.  Jackson responded at length.  He questioned whether the nature of the complaint had other unspoken reasons.  Jackson added, "Do we have an issue with just who and not what?"

Jackson then added, “The number of events that occur at Nishuane Park have been reduced quite a bit by the parks department.  I'm not in any way minimizing what you're saying.“  “We've had less events than we've had in the past in the park.  Right now we have three major events that go on at Nishuane.  We have the African American Heritage Festival, we have the All Class Reunion, and we have the Montclair Jazz Festival.” “…. and the all class Reunion is only done every other year, ” Jackson added.

“On any given day, there can be a parade, or block party, or an event.”  “… it’s actually the reason that our town is so special.”   Jackson continued highlighting positive attributes of Montclair.  “There's going to be kids playing football, there is going to be kids playing soccer, there's going to be concerts, and that's why people are lined up four deep to buy houses here.”  “This is a happening place to be and what makes us Montclair.”    

For as many residents who complained about noise, there were other residents who came to support the events in Nishuane Park and added that the reunion occurs once every two years. 

Deputy Mayor Robert Russo expressed that he went to the Brookwoods during the All Class Reunion.  “I love that reunion. I love that music.  I did go to Brookwood Avenue,” said Russo.  “It may be more difficult to use the county parks because there are some fees so I’m going to call on our Freeholder Brendan Gill to help with that.  I’m going to work with other councilmembers on this and make sure that we do something that is fair to all residents,” added Russo.

Anita Mack, Harrison Avenue resident, expressed her views, “I have a problem with people, complaining about events that happen once a year.  I live near there.  I hear it all the time.  It does not bother me.  It does not bother most of my neighbors that live near me.”  “I don’t see where the problem lies. We need to look at all perspectives.  All the residents in that area, not just N. Brookwood or S. Brookwood, but all the residents in that area should be invited.”  The crowd responded to Mack's comments with clapping.

Over one thousand people gathered at Nishuane Park for the Montclair High School All Class Reunion this past weekend. 

A damper was placed on the success of the Montclair High School All Class Reunion (MHS ACR) event that occurred over the weekend when on Tuesday, Toi Blount, John Mintz and other reunion committee supporters had to attend the council meeting on behalf of the biennial reunion.

Mintz addressed the council on behalf of the MHS ACR, “I am a proud member at the All Class Reunion Committee. We are more than happy to work with the mayor on any future events.”

Blount, member of MHS ACR committee addressed the council saying, “It is the only intention of the Montclair High School All Class Reunion to be an integral part of the Montclair community.  Any efforts that we can make to ensure the event continues to be a positive event celebrating Montclair High School is our greatest desire.  Moving forward, we will gladly comply with any regulations.” 

Blount expressed that she found out about the meeting that took place on Tuesday and asked the council to involve her in future meetings.  “We want to be part of the solution.  If the major concerns are lowering the volume and repositioning the speakers, those are things that are easy fixes.” 

Blount continued, “The whole point of the All Class Reunion is bringing people together.  We don’t want to be ostracized by the community nor do we want any members of the community to feel ostracized or in some way infringed upon because of the event.  That is not the intention.  That was never the intention. We want the body of the All Class Reunion to be reflective of the diversity of Montclair High School.”

Blount agreed to serve on a committee to discuss and seek resolutions that everyone can agree upon.

After Blount’s presentation, Melissa Walker and husband Christian McBride of the Jazz House Kids/Montclair Jazz Festival addressed the council.  Walker spoke of the proposed activities and amenities planned for the Jazz House Kids/Montclair Jazz Festival on August 16.  Walker also outlined positioning of the speakers, as well as usage of delay speaker equipment to ensure that there was surround sound and noise control in the park.   After the presentation that included video footage, Walker volunteered to serve on a committee with concerned citizens to find resolutions to any issues they may have.

It was decided that a committee would be formed to work out any issues that individuals on both sides of the issue may wish to resolve.

Prior to the close of the meeting was a presentation by the Township’s Sustainability Officer, Gray Russell.  As part of the township’s water conservation effort, Russell gave a presentation which included a discussion about the rain water barrels that the township has for sale.  Rain water barrel are being sold by the township at a discounted price of $36 per barrel.  If interested, contact the Office of Environmental Affairs at 973-509-5721 or grussell@montclairnjusa.org.

During the meeting, a resolution was passed renaming Nishuane Tennis Courts after tennis instructor, James Firebrace.  Another resolution accepting a gift and authorizing construction of a seating area in Edgemont Park was passed.   A group of friends of Carl Maurits Hudig, who grew up in Montclair and loved Edgemont Park, but sadly passed away at age 37, has offered to donate the seating area to the park in Carl’s memory.  

The council also passed an ordinace requiring cars to park at least two feet from either side of the driveway.  They further discussed painting lines indicating such in the areas that have high traffic or parking issues.

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