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November  19

Casting a Shadow

At the 11th hour and 59th minute, architect prof Petia Morozov sends her own rendering of the Siena, the planned replacement for the Hahne's building... which will enter into history today. (The demolition ceremonies get underway at 11 am.) This image is actually part of a larger document that she sent to the Montclair Times this morning. Morozov charges that the developer's rendering of the 7-story mixed use tower to replace the Hahne's building is misleading. The actual tower, she says, will eclipse the church tower and cast a long shadow over downtown Montclair.

The full text of her letter to the Times (and us) follows:

Dear Mark:

This week's Montclair Times coverage of Hahne's Redevelopment is highly provocative: on the one hand, the front-page article seems to make light of the environmental issues that many churches, schools, businesses and residents in the area will be subjected to during demolition. On the other hand, the side-by-side images of the building and rendering (on page A5) cleverly demonstrates the very same concerns that Planning Board member Sally Ross entered with her "no" vote, in opposition of the redevelopment project. She pointed out the discrepancies that the developers' rendering depicts, perhaps because she is trained in design. To think that this was the only image that was submitted in Herod's application that attempts to put the proposed building in context!

I am a practicing architect and professor of architecture and urban design, teaching at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. I also teach at Mayor Ed Remsen's and Manager Joe Hartnett's alma mater, Fordham University, where I am also artist-in-residence. Your articles prompted this academic exercise: using the plan and elevation drawings that were submitted to the Planning Dept, I wanted to test the implication of your side-by-side photos, so I built an accurate computer model of the proposed development, and I set up the same views of the building. It's astounding what I discovered.

Attached is a compilation of images that begin with a simple analysis of your side-by-side images. The church tower is an excellent reference common to both images that helps illustrate this inaccuracy. It effectively outlines the implausibility of the rendering. Then, I carefully aligned views in the computer model to help create the same snapshot as the one in Herod's rendering; I offer the accurate version of the building they plan to build. Finally, the model allows me to study shadows based on summer and winter sun positions, to illustrate how long and prevalent these shadows on Church and South Park Streets will be throughout the year.

Your spread is very effective in proving Sally Ross' point so clearly, and now I wonder: given the conflicting tones of the two articles, what common ground does the paper stand on with regard to this project?


Petia Morozov

Adjunct Assistant Professor, Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation

November 19, 2004 in Controversy | Permalink


here we go....

Posted by: onthesly | Nov 19, 2004 10:00:16 AM

Reminds me of the "artist's rendering" for the Plofkerville planned for the site of the Marlboro Inn, which ran some months ago in the Montclair Times. In the drawing, the site was the size of Central Park, and the houses were small and cute. There was no way that drawing had any connection to the reality-to-be.

Posted by: martin | Nov 19, 2004 11:20:15 AM

I *simply* cannot *imagine* why the town has a hard time keeping developers interested in these kinds of projects...

Posted by: Right of Center | Nov 19, 2004 12:15:56 PM

good god! Shadows!

Posted by: Right of Center | Nov 19, 2004 12:18:12 PM

stop the bulldozers.

we dont need the tax revenue anyway.

let the old building continue to the eyesore that it is.

down with progress.

Posted by: sean | Nov 19, 2004 12:52:41 PM

The developer's rendering was presented to the Montclair Planning Board under oath.
Is it wrong to expect the truth in that situation?
Montclair officials should be outraged that they were duped.
Or, was it just the public and media that had to be deceived for the town council to change the height (+2 floors), density (+40 units) and parking (-35% and the 100-space annexing of the Crescent Deck) laws for this connected developer?
Garrett Morrison
Committee for Montclair Parking

Posted by: Garrett Morrison | Nov 19, 2004 1:37:21 PM

Mr. Morrison -- Our maven of outrage.

How do you keep it up? Vitamins? Coffee?

Posted by: Right of Center | Nov 19, 2004 1:45:09 PM

I would think that TRUTH would be high on your list of values. Why so sarcastic?

Posted by: cshel924 | Nov 19, 2004 2:17:49 PM

It is, but do we know the truth here? I know that all renderings lie a bit.

Personally I don't see a hugh difference between the sketches. Not enough to be *outraged* about.

Make no mistake there are many agendas present in this situation - especially political.

If Remsen and the council get this building built and the eyesore removed, even with (god forbid) a shadow at certain times of the day, I will be happy.

How many more years of an eyesore are we willing to take? Should the project be stopped because of a rendering?


I hope the chattering, nattering nippers of delay and further decay are completely ignored.

Posted by: Right of Center | Nov 19, 2004 2:36:12 PM

I don't think anyone wants to stop it. It's a question of process. Someone expected reality but was presented "an idea."

Process is important. It's why we do a study before we implement a solution. Its why the Council approves a proposal before contracts are let out, people are fired, or whatever. Process is rules. It makes life easier.

Posted by: cary | Nov 19, 2004 4:25:58 PM

I can't wait til' I build my first skyscraper. I'm going straight residential zoning, baby! Bring the fight!

Posted by: Tom | Nov 19, 2004 4:36:39 PM

You're right... Process IS important. But why do the words "long and drawn out" also come to mind whenever ANY project has to get off the ground in Montclair?
Shadows!?!? Are you freakin' kidding me? To be really sure, before The Siena is built, let's do a year long study, covering all four seasons, to determine if these "shadows" cause an increase in SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) among shoppers on Bloomfield Avenue.

Posted by: onthesly | Nov 19, 2004 7:56:37 PM

I am just so S.A.D. thinking about it!

actually, I am thrilled that this miserable eyesore is finally gone! having lived on Church Street for 2 years, every day I walked out of my building I had to look at the World's Ugliest Building sitting there, loads of potential wasted, as the enemies of progress stopped ther natural order of capitalism. A pig-melting factory would be an improvement over what was there.

I only wish I could see the pile of rubble and hear the wailing of the crybabies coming from beneath it.

Posted by: Mr. Frank | Nov 19, 2004 11:05:09 PM

I went by the building today and the spot when they made the big hole was all boarded up. What is up with that?

Posted by: Miss Martta | Nov 20, 2004 4:08:46 PM

The company doing the demo wanted to make sure no debris fell from the opening and no one would be tempted to "explore". Later in the day they did more demo in the back. The whole job will take 60 days so they can systematically demolish and remove everything.

Posted by: Ed Remsen | Nov 20, 2004 4:40:18 PM

The company doing the demo wanted to make sure no debris fell from the opening and no one would be tempted to "explore". Later in the day they did more demo in the back. The whole job will take 60 days so they can systematically demolish and remove everything.

Posted by: Ed Remsen | Nov 20, 2004 4:41:02 PM

If given a cursory glance, I can understand the impression that people have that I am trying to stop the project. However, when meeting with Mayor Remsen, I made it clear to him that I generally supported the project, and had only wished that the town would've held a higher standard of design to reflect better, more sustainable building practices. In fact, my office is in the process of designing a 50-unit mixed use project for a town half the size of Montclair, with half the planning resources, and we aim to achieve a LEED rating of PLATINUM on the project. (For more information on what LEED means, and how our town officials could draw innovative and sustainable development to Montclair in the future, go to http://www.usgbc.org/leed/leed_main.asp )

So consider the debate closed about my resistance to the project so that we can return this discussion to my original issue: Montclair Times pointed out the descrepancy better than anyone - including myself - could have done, by the simple decision they made to photograph the building as it exists today, from the exact same angle, and exact same spot on the street, and then put it directly alongside the developers' rendering. The church's tower is positioned exactly in the same place in both images; even to the layperson, it is unmistakable to see that Hahnes building stands only slightly shorter than the Herod rendering. When you consider that the Hahne's building is only 2 stories while the Herod project is actually 7 stories, one has to question why the Herod rendering is falsely presenting the project. It is yours to examine more carefully for yourself when you turn to page A5 of this week's Times.

So what, why does it matter? you ask. Never mind that the project lacks any character and doesn't engage the scale of the neighborhood, what was ultimately at stake for this project was community support and engagement. This building stood vacant for so long, and reflected poorly on its many elected officials. There is no argument that something had to be done. But trying to achieve community trust through false representation is fundementally wrong.

Posted by: Petia Morozov | Nov 20, 2004 10:35:37 PM

"When you consider that the Hahne's building is only 2 stories"

2 stories? How'd they get the 3 floors depicted in the Montclair Times picture of the interior into 2 stories?

(since we are all trying to be "accurate" and avoid "false representation")

How high is each story in the old and new building?

(not all stories are the same.)

Posted by: Right of Center | Nov 21, 2004 8:04:36 AM

Thank you for raising this point. You're right, it's better to compare heights than to compare number of stories.

So then, because you raise this point, and it seems important to you, I encourage you to use your persistence toward something productive, like going to the gaping hole in the back of the Hahne's building and counting the number of concrete blocks tall. Multiply it by the height of one block and you have your overall height. Then go to the planning dept and ask to see the drawings of the proposed building, and compare the two heights for yourself.

My guess is that you won't because it's easier to persist in creating your own divide on the real subject than it is to have a dialogue with your fellow Montclarions. As long you you don't care to disclose who you are, your attacks are worthless.

Posted by: Petia Morozov | Nov 21, 2004 10:59:57 AM

If the redevelopment is delayed or thwarted how long will it take to find a new developer? Perhaps not long, since Montclair has proven to be such a development friendly town?

I fear we will end 12 years of this eyesore:


just to begin a period of years looking at something like this:


Your offended aesthetic sensibilities (or for that matter - Ecological Fundamentalism) notwithstanding, I for one, would rather have the 7-Story Sienna (shadows and all) than a derelict wreck or empty lot!

Posted by: Right of Center | Nov 21, 2004 1:31:01 PM

Dear Mayor Remsen,

I'm glad you got the chance to see the real size of the building you approved, even though it may be too late to correct the mistake.

Which of the following is close to your position on the issue of the developer lying to the town council and the planning board:

1) You're angry that the developer committed perjury when testifying under oath and you will have law enforcement investigate. This will show future Montclair developers that the town will not tolerate dirty tactics.

2) You agreed with the deception to help sell the project to the public. That way the council's breaks to the developer for height (+2 floors), density (+40 units), set backs (0) and parking spaces (-35% and a forever tax break of +/-$50,000 yearly) from becoming a controversy.

3) Your're embarrased that you and Deputy Mayor Michaelson were duped by the developer. You'll hope nobody notices. You'll also hope that the rest of the council allows you and Ms. Michaelson to close on an even better deal for Steven Plofker's hotel in place of the Church Street parking lot.

The public deserves your attention on this issue.
And Petia Morozov deserves your gratitude for helping Montclair see the truth.
Garrett Morrison
Committee for Montclair Parking

Posted by: Garrett Morrison | Nov 21, 2004 3:51:42 PM


I will look into the questions you and Petia pose because they raise serious issues and I will be glad to respond when I have looked into the matter but your cynicism, innuendos, sarcasm and righteousness are really getting to be too much. There has been a proper and open process at every level for this project.

Posted by: Ed Remsen | Nov 21, 2004 5:27:06 PM

Developers like the Dursts, Albanese, Millenium and Goldman Sachs would have a field day with your 20th century sensibilities of economic development.

* Four Times Square http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m3601/is_22_50/ai_112986987
* The Solaire http://thesolaire.com/
* 2012 Olympic Village, New York City http://www.nyc2012.com/news_052604_winners.html
* One Bryant Park http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/features/feature_template.cfm?ID=1050

Posted by: Petia Morozov | Nov 21, 2004 8:54:06 PM

I should add that my last posting was directed toward Right of Center.

Posted by: Petia Morozov | Nov 21, 2004 9:52:27 PM

Petia -

Welcome to the internet where psuedonymity means that it is ideas, not number of advanced degrees (though I *am* impressed!), that matter.

I'm no supporter of Richard... I mean Right of Center, but your ad hominem attacks towards him lessen your other, fact-informed, arguments.

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