Lay of the land: Unlike cookie-cutter Levittowns built after World War II and designed around the automobile, leafy and architecturally eclectic Montclair is a “railroad suburb,” which first began attracting commuters in 1856, the year train service was introduced. That means most houses are close to commercial areas. “There are three ice-cream shops you can walk to!” reports Kyle Dowd, 12, who recommends Emack & Bolio’s Ice Cream on Bellevue Avenue. With its century-old trees and pedestrian-friendly Main Street shopping areas, the town is a perfect Hollywood backdrop. The NBC series Ed set scenes at Montclair High, and Analyze This and The Devil’s Own were shot here. And New Jersey’s favorite family show, The Sopranos, is “always” filming around town.
Meet the neighbors: “Everyone around here seems to work on some TV show or writes for some paper,” said Alma Schneider, 34, who moved with her family in January from their East Village walkup to a four-bedroom Colonial. The town is famously well integrated. Most popular cliché: Montclair is the Park Slope of the suburbs.
Needful things: Residents do not need to leave Montclair to find culture, food, or shopping. The Clairidge Cinema and the Screening Zone on Bloomfield Avenue feature Angelika-grade art-house and independent films. The town has its own art museum and four local theater companies; the week The Elephant Man opened on Broadway, the 12 Miles West Theatre Company offered its own rival production. There are eighteen public parks and two nature preserves within the town borders. Ask anyone to choose their favorite local restaurant (there are more than 35 of them), and chances are they’ll say Leone’s, a family-run Italian joint.
School report: Montclair spends $10,899 annually per student. SAT scores at Montclair High School average a 1037, and 73 percent of students move on to four-year colleges. But some residents still drop big bucks—upwards of $19,000— s ending their progeny to the rigorous pre- K-through-twelfth-grade Montclair Kimberly Academy or the sixth-through-twelfth-grade Newark Academy. There are a host of well-priced nursery schools to choose from. (Annual fees at the Shomrei Emunah Synagogue, starting at $2,000, are less than half those charged at the YMHA on East 14th Street.)
Commute: The new Midtown Direct train service, set to begin this week, will mean a 29 minute commute to Penn Station. There are also numerous commuter-bus stops throughout town; buses take about an hour each way during peak times. Length of wait for parking permit at train station: twelve to eighteen months.
See also: Montclair web guide