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April   3

Montclair: You Got A Problem With Us?

Is the bloom off Montclair's rose? After all the mileage the town got off this article, now comes a major "dis" by New Jersey Monthly, who not only ranks Montclair 191 out of a possible 566 best places to live in the state (Maplewood trumps us at 39 -- we think the pool had something to do with it), but also lumps Montclair in the "Worth It?" category. Here's what they had to say...

Montclair is known for supporting a diverse population that includes writers, media types, and business leaders. In recent years its housing market, buoyed by the introduction of NJ Transit’s Midtown Direct service, has become one of the most competitive in New Jersey, no longer within the reach of the average buyer. Even Joseph M. Hartnett, the town manager since 2003, has come up dry in Montclair; he and his wife, Georgia, who have been house-hunting in town for two years, have lost out on eight bidding rounds. Montclair’s side-street colonials and Victorians go for about $800,000, and some of its more modest fixer-uppers will cost you a half-million dollars—that is, unless builders snap them up first to remodel and resell at breathtaking prices.

Thanks a lot, Joe Hartnett. Way to discourage those buyers. Baristanet personally offers to find Joe a house (just tell us your budget), so we no longer have to hear this sad story play out in the press. Meanwhile, how much is the tear-down trend costing us?

April 3, 2006 in Buzz | Permalink


Where'd they get this:

" Montclair spends $10,899 annually per student."

If you take the budget and divide by the number of students you get $16,000.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 3, 2006 11:22:43 AM

Which town got #1?

Posted by: Miss Martta | Apr 3, 2006 11:31:36 AM

The high prices and "encouraged" buyers are what fuels the "tear down" market.

So, if you don't want tear downs, you should be thankful for the "discouragement", no?

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 3, 2006 11:32:31 AM

I concur: Montclair real estate is overvalued, especially considering its suburban status, inflated taxes, and lowly school system. Diversity indeed: from the estate section to the "south montclair" section ... once again, the middle class gets squeezed-out ... who wants a $600K+ fixer-upper? ... there's charm, and then there's sub-standard living conditions ... and unlike NYC, "Montclair" is not the holy grail address to be had in the 'burbs, so that is why many buyers are looking to other towns for their needs.

Another trend that didn't help Montclair: Manhattanties that move to Brooklyn and then to Montclair, thanks to rave press from New York magazine. The character of the town has changed in the past 5-6 years....

Posted by: Jim | Apr 3, 2006 11:45:26 AM

Joe - come to Watsessing Heights in Bloomfield!

Posted by: Anne Prince | Apr 3, 2006 11:57:05 AM

The village of New Paltz, NY today is what Montclair used to be like.

Posted by: Jim | Apr 3, 2006 11:57:32 AM

I feel for Joe ... I've been actively house hunting for over a year now ... houses in Montclair and Verona I like are out of my price range (above $600K) and anything less is a major fixer-upper not worth the time/money ... Montclair taxes are too high, school system is poor compared with Verona ...

Posted by: Jim | Apr 3, 2006 12:06:08 PM

I concur, Jim. It's like finding a jewel of a restaurant and then having a big article about it appear in a very prominent publication. The irony is that once the hordes start coming, the things that made it special no longer hold true.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Apr 3, 2006 12:08:51 PM

Hey, I put in my good 2 cents in the NY Times, Jersey Section, yesterday, as a 15+ year resident.

Posted by: Sharon Gill | Apr 3, 2006 12:09:15 PM

nah, Montclair just has too much smug.

Posted by: Right of Center™ | Apr 3, 2006 12:12:33 PM

Miss Martta, NJM does this "survey" every year. They sell ads very heavily against it. And then realtors attempt to wield the issue as a club against potential buyers. It's all very carefully set.

For what it's worth, the "top" town in the state was Roosevelt with around 900 inhabitants. But unless you have those Jewish-Socialist leftie roots that hark back to the wonderful days of Stalin and Ben Shahn, you might not want to (or be able to, I don't think too many properties are ever available) move there. NJM's favorite town, however, remains, as was evident in the issue, Moorestown.

And Jim, I don't know about the New Paltz comparison. That place, along with its SUNY branch, is a lot funkier in some ways than Montclair and MSU can ever be. (It's definitely had bigger drug busts, by the Feds even.) It also has, in the surrounding area, several religious communes, including one Hutterite offshoot (and you know how bad such groups are for the local restaurants, even if they do help support health food stores). Whereas Montclair, since the Bhagwan's people moved out decades ago, hasn't had anything terribly interesting in this vein other than BlueWave NJ-type Unitarianism.

New Paltz also has greater isolation. It's a hike from anywhere except, I guess, Woodstock or Kingston. So there's no real commuter feel to it, never has been. To me, it's kind of like someplace in Marin County, lacking a shoreline with but old, hard to heat stone houses.

Posted by: cathar | Apr 3, 2006 12:13:25 PM

I got those "I'm Moving to Red State Because I Can't Afford a Blue State Blues."

Posted by: Miss Martta | Apr 3, 2006 12:19:53 PM

The Bhagwan had an outpost in Montclair? That kinda figures.

Moorestown - Wasn't that where a kid sued her school district over being denied sole valadectorian honors, onlt to have it backfire in her face when news media exposed the resume padding help that she had from her wealthy parents ? It also exposed the "keeping up with the Jones" general mentality of that town's residents.

Posted by: have a nice day | Apr 3, 2006 12:24:28 PM

You can keep beating that NJM-is-biased-by-advertising drum, but 99% of its readership will trust the data and make relocation decisions based on whats on those pages. Rather than criticize, why not publish your trusted facts (not opinon) and let us decide which data set to trust?

Similarly, their Best Restaurant list is predictably same from year-to-year (votes are from readers, but readers look to the "best" list for their recommendations, so this is a closed-loop cycle), I think the magazine's editors owes its readers some new discoveries by sending its staff to newly-opened establishments.

Posted by: Jim | Apr 3, 2006 12:26:12 PM

I saw that issue in my chiropractor's office and it's hard to take it seriously. Montclair may be over-rated, but it beats the hell out of Jersey City, which got a glowing plug in the NJM article. I've lived in Jersey City and no amount of granite in the kitchens of Port Liberte is going to turn JC into a functional city.

Posted by: cheaplazymom | Apr 3, 2006 12:28:33 PM

Jim, it is not a "drum" of any sort. I also doubt very much that "99%" of NJM's readership will trust the data. Did you in fact yourself check NJM's listings? The complicated "formula" even includes how students do on GEPA tests, violent crime rates, etc. But the fact is, the "ratings" are clasped close to the hearts of realtors, however accurate they are. The selling point to NJM's advertisers is invariably that, simply put, the annual issue will be full of, well, selling points for others. So I neither dismiss the ratings or embrace them, even as I do have a strong experiential "feel" for how and why they exist. That also doesn't even mean I necessarily disagree with the data (although I disagree with its import).

These things come and go in waves, too. One month it's US News and World Report's list of best places to live, another it's some other magazine's similar claims. In this sense, to go by this site, Montclair much overrates itself. Would there be outrage if, say, Lodi or Harrison someday surpassed Montclair in NJM's ratings? Why worry (as the Dire Straits song goes)?

have a nice day, yes indeedy, the Bhagwan's red and orange and saffron-clad followers were all over Baristaville during the 70's. I believe that corporate hq was what used to be called "Kip's Castle" on the Verona line, now demolished (I think).

But as for Moorestown being a keeping up with the Jones sort of place, be serious here, how does that make it much different from Glen Ridge or Montclair?

Posted by: cathar | Apr 3, 2006 12:39:52 PM

I live in Morris County and think the New Jersey Monthly rankings are dead on:#2 Chatham Township #8 Madison #11 Chatham Borough.

Posted by: patagonia100 | Apr 3, 2006 12:43:08 PM

Kip's "Castle" is decidedly not demolished, or else I'm delivering to ghosts in a spectral mansion. It's now inhabited by lawyers.

Posted by: crank | Apr 3, 2006 12:52:24 PM

Who cares what NJM says about Montclair? We don't need the NJ transplants. Keep the good articles coming in the NY Times. It's those Brooklyn Heights people we want to keep interested in paying exorbitant housing prices.

Posted by: BeanCounter | Apr 3, 2006 12:53:39 PM

Spectres of a different sort, then, crank. Maybe even more malevolent, too.

Posted by: cathar | Apr 3, 2006 12:56:29 PM

The Chathams ahead of Summit ?? That can't be right.

Posted by: anon | Apr 3, 2006 12:56:29 PM

Kips Castle is definately not demolished

picture of Kips castle

Posted by: badd_patti | Apr 3, 2006 1:00:29 PM

I had the same thought, but since they tip me for the deliveries, I was playing nice.

Posted by: crank | Apr 3, 2006 1:00:57 PM

oops- I'm ms butterfingers today- sorry

picture of Kips castle

Posted by: badd_patti | Apr 3, 2006 1:01:35 PM

LOL, Cathar...that place is absolutely gorgeous.

Posted by: Miss Martta | Apr 3, 2006 1:08:13 PM

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