Jessica Pearson and Jack McEvoy, Montclair Avenue residents who have been leading the opposition to the plan to develop 176 and 200 Bloomfield Avenue, told the August 27 Board of Education meeting that the project had the potential to disrupt Brookdale and Laning Avenue elementary schools.
Pearson and McEvoy noted that even though developer DMH2 had cut the number of apartments in the project to eight from 14, it could still send many new children the schools, affecting class sizes and administrative cost. “We all know what just four more children can do,” Pearson said. F.N. Brown will have a third kindergarten this fall because the BOE was unable to get four families to enroll their children at one of the other elementary schools.
McEvoy detailed the disruption that might occur from the lengthy blasting that will be needed to level the now steeply wooded site. He noted that traffic could be diverted during the work, which could send more traffic close to the schools, and that the blasting could be loud enough to be heard and felt in the schools. McEvoy also raised the prospect that the blasting could cut gas and electricity service in the area, which could extend to Brookdale.
That seemed to catch the attention of BOE President John Quattrocchi. “If utilities go out that’s a problem,” he said. “If we don’t have telephones, if we don’t have water flow, we don’t have school.” And Quattrocchi noted that, while schools could be proactively closed for bad weather, these disruptions would be unscheduled. “Anything that disrupts the school day, especially in an unscheduled way, is a problem,” he added.
Quattrocchi got the board’s assent to send a copy of the meeting’s video and a note on its concerns to the Planning Board, which is now reviewing plans for the development. It’s unclear how the Planning Board will handle this, since the BOE does not have a seat or a representative on that body.
The Planning Board held its first hearing on a new version of the project on August 22. The previous plans, which included more apartment space, were turned down by the Board of Adjustment in March after nine months of hearings.