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March  16

A Real Cliff Hanger On Myrtle Avenue


What started out as a plan to solve drainage problems has put residents of Myrtle Ave. in Montclair over the edge – literally. Four foot deep trenches  - with huge drainage pipes and a massive stone riverbed - have replaced what was once gently sloping historic cobblestone swale gutters.

“I have a four foot cliff in front of my home, a moat around my castle,” said resident Pam Satran, standing atop the freshly laid cobblestone ditch.  “This is so dangerous – for cars, children, parking. This size drain would look terrific on an English estate in the Cotswolds, but it doesn’t belong on our street.”

On Monday, outraged residents bombarded town officials with e-mails demanding that construction be stopped immediately. Tuesday morning, workmen continued carefully laying stones in cement under the hostile watch of neighbors.  When Baristanet checked out the scene, we ran into third ward Councilor Jerold Freier who promised the curbs will look good when they're done. "This cost a lot more than underground drains," he said. "This is what they wanted.”

Satran disagreed: “This was not what we wanted. The plans do not show this drop off from the street or the sidewalks.”


The town has temporarily stopped work on the project. Picture (left) shows gutters before "improvement." Picture (right) shows gutters after.

March 16, 2006 in Controversy | Permalink


A sequel to "Rattled", perhaps? What on earth was the town thinking? They're gonna have to erect safety fences to stop the little ones from falling in. A right royal mess!

Posted by: Spelling Bee Fan | Mar 16, 2006 10:34:05 AM

Our Tax Dollars at Work (once again) .

Posted by: anon | Mar 16, 2006 10:41:39 AM

Yes, anon, why should they get expensive gutters instead of cheaper underground ones?

p.s. looking at the pictures, the obvioius answer is to slope the ground for 4-6 feet back from the new gutter. What's the big deal?

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Mar 16, 2006 10:43:57 AM

ROC: I think the big deal is that the "resloping" should have been carried out as part of the renovation....now it appears that the contractor is gonna have to rip up the just laid cobblestones and pipes -- get the bulldozers back in to reslope the ground -- then re-install the stones and pipes in new cement. All do-able I'm sure, but for big $$$$$$

Posted by: Spelling Bee Fan | Mar 16, 2006 10:53:13 AM

Depends on the plans. If (as the story makes clear) the drop off is not on the plans, then the "big $$$$" are on the contractor, no?

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Mar 16, 2006 11:00:37 AM

Those rocks don't look like cobble stones to me. They are stones that haven't been cobbled.

Posted by: Byron | Mar 16, 2006 11:22:07 AM

Wow! If that's what they do with a street, can't wait to see what happens to healthcare if/when the gov't gets all control over it

Posted by: stealth | Mar 16, 2006 11:30:22 AM

It looks like Glen Ridge!

Posted by: Krys O. | Mar 16, 2006 11:31:08 AM

and today's "Frankie" award for the longest "stretch" goes to...

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Mar 16, 2006 11:32:41 AM

Next time, please let's just put in the cheap underground drains.

Posted by: walleroo | Mar 16, 2006 11:43:24 AM

ROC: You are probably right about the $$$ being on the contractor -- one hopes that the finger pionting about who is wrong doesn't drag on forever, and those folks on Mrytle don't live with a half finished job for too long.

Posted by: Spelling Bee Fan | Mar 16, 2006 11:43:50 AM

I'd prefer the "McMansion" of gutters myself. PVC, plastic, ugly "prefabed" curb shape (sans Belgian block, the horror!).

I have always liked the gutters in NYC. Steel! Even concrete isn't tough enough for the big city.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Mar 16, 2006 11:48:54 AM

Maybe the conservatives are right. Everything government touches seems to turn to dung. Though frankly dealing with my bank lately, this seems to be true of all institutions. Maybe what we need is to return to the agrarian past we never had. We can all tend sheep; let the water flow where it may.

Posted by: walleroo | Mar 16, 2006 11:49:29 AM

Well, it looks like mess and it needs to be fixed ASAP. Perhaps its time to crack the whip toward the town and contractor that caused this problem.

Government has its place.... down on its knees serving.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Mar 16, 2006 11:57:02 AM

I would also like to add that dumping the work performed by the public sphere (government) to the private sphere (corporation) solves nothing. We need to focus on improving services in the public sphere and that may mean that we have to get tough.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Mar 16, 2006 12:00:15 PM

I nominate lasermike026 to be Montclair's commissioner for cobblestone gutters!

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Mar 16, 2006 12:06:44 PM

Am I the only one who thinks the new gutters are OK?
The drop can actually be protective for kids--letting them know the boundary. My child thinks our yard flows right into the street.

Posted by: njholdem | Mar 16, 2006 1:34:29 PM

It's a slippery slope . . .

Posted by: glee | Mar 16, 2006 1:49:58 PM

Is it MOntclair or is it New Jersey? Why can't anything be done right here? I cannot believe how poorly things are executed and how much money is lining some idiot's pockets. Makes me sick: the town slogan, the high-jersey style watchung gazebo, the anderson park debacle, the ongoing cobblestone curbing, ugh.

Posted by: inwoodave | Mar 16, 2006 1:57:32 PM

Roc, nice. You'll respect the need for gutters when yours fail.

Really, this 4 foot ditch in front of people's homes is not what they asked for.

Civil government appears to have a history of not running effeciently. Either the public is too demanding and the government agency can't meet the goals put before them. Or the government agency is mismanaged to the point of ineffectiveness.

The public needs to demand and recieve Service Level Agreements (SLA) from all government agencys. When SLA's are not meet, action needs to be taken either by the politians in office or the courts. Also, there needs to be a focus on hiring and civil employee standards. We can't kill civil employees but they have to meet some minimum standards.

In any case, if they get the job done, leave 'em alone. If they don't, analyse and make effective changes.

Posted by: lasermike026 | Mar 16, 2006 2:12:54 PM

That picture is confusing. It makes it look like a long drop but that is just the bottom of the drainage and there is a pipe, more rocks and a finished curb that goes on top right?

If so, it looks okay to me, expensive maybe but ok.

People twist ankles on curbs all the time but does that mean we should take them all out and make it all slopping directly to the street?

Posted by: Max | Mar 16, 2006 2:13:41 PM

I'd like to reaffirm my nomination. SLA's, action by courts, "civil employee standards", ("killing" civil employees?) I think lasermike026 would be the prefect commissioner.

I would love to attend his first union negotiation where his "linuxed" sense of order meets up with "Lenny" the shop steward.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Mar 16, 2006 2:20:54 PM

The town seems to make more than its share of mistakes when it comes to projects like these.

How about the pitted concrete walks on Watchung? It started to go bad less than a year after it was poured and the town said the contractor used "bad" concrete.

They apparently tried to sue the contractor, but what happened?

I wouldn't bet on the town getting a refund when a vendor doesn't deliver.

And where was the town inspector when these drains were being put in? Why isn't someone overseeing the work?

Posted by: Pennypincher | Mar 16, 2006 2:22:21 PM

Don't the gutters have to be big enough to sleep in?

Posted by: Bitpusher | Mar 16, 2006 3:33:53 PM

the town inspector was probably on a coffee break. regardless, this is an epitome of the "not my job" type mentality.

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