Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 14
 
Wednesday, April 4, 2007
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Abandonment of Free Library Parking Breaches Trust in Local Governments

ROSALIE FRESCO
Hartley Avenue

Unanswered Questions Dog Promise of Redevelopment Project Viability

MARK G. ALEXANDRIDIS
Princeton Avenue

76th Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale a 'Resounding Success' Once Again

MARY COOPER, MARIANNE GREY, VIRGINIA KERR, MAXINE LAMPERT, BETH OGILVIE-FREDA, FRAN REICHL, YASMINE SANDERSON, MARIETTA TAYLOR,
Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale Committee

Candidate for Regional School Board Presents Her Reelection Credentials

JOANN CUNNINGHAM
Mulberry Row

Historic Designation of Neighborhood Would Have Unintended Consequences

NICHOLAS R. KARP
Boudinot Street

Spring Peepers, Silent, Nevertheless Sound Alarm About Our Environment

K.T. RAYMOND
Cherry Valley Road


Abandonment of Free Library Parking Breaches Trust in Local Governments

To the Editor:

As a longtime Township resident who has always enjoyed the benefits of the Princeton Public Library, adding my voice to the letters of Mr. Gabriel (Town Topics, March 7) and Ms. Weiner (Town Topics, March 14), I write to express my strong disappointment that those of us who are not within walking distance of the Library are now being charged for parking.

When the library was in its planning stage, I was one of many who signed a number of petitions to Township officials asking that a library branch be kept in the shopping center where parking was plentiful and readily accessible.

Finally we were pacified by the promise of Borough and Township officials that there would be no charge for the first two hours of parking in the Spring Street Garage. This promise has now been broken, which I consider a breach of trust.

I hope that the many Township residents who feel as I do will raise their voices so that the powers that be will reconsider their new decision and restore our faith in our local governments' word.

ROSALIE FRESCO
Hartley Avenue

Unanswered Questions Dog Promise of Redevelopment Project Viability

To the Editor:

The Downtown Redevelopment Project has been heralded as 'turning the corner' by the Borough Administrator in a recent review. An impartial examination, however, is not so sanguine.

The current report card reveals the following: 1) the project is nearly two years behind schedule, 2) a meaningful portion of the parking garage has been underwater and unusable for the last three years, 3) the condition of the basement and recent repairs to stem the intrusion of groundwater and stabilize the floor is wont to reduce materially the life of the structure, 4) operating costs are 50 percent above original estimates, 5) the differential between the expected revenues and the actual revenues reveal a deficit of $1.96 million over the last three years, and regrettably, 6) Borough taxpayers have contributed $1.24 million in additional taxes to keep the project afloat.

The project was sold to the public on the basis that it would be self-funding. That is, it would produce revenues equal to or in excess of the revenues generated by the two surface parking lots. When I queried Borough Council in 2002 regarding the sensitivity of the analysis to small perturbations in the prevailing assumptions, I was informed, with metaphysical certainty, that the projections were so conservative that it was incomprehensible that the taxpayer could be at risk.

The covenant of revenue neutrality has been shattered. Both Borough Council and the developer are at fault. The documentation (Redevelopment Agreement) for the project is rife with ambiguous language (e.g., 'equitable share' and 'economically feasible'), it lacks specific milestones and consequential performance penalties (hence the $1.96 million deficit), and the economics of the project have always generously favored the developer. The flawed design and/or construction of the garage coupled with the myriad of lawsuits with the developer's subcontractors have crippled the project and the developer, who needed to sell a controlling interest in the firm to stem a financial crisis in mid-2005.

It is not even clear that the first phase (three are proposed) is complete. Where is the pergola for the plaza and has anyone seen the representations and warranties on the new work to secure the basement floor? Completion of these line items was waived inexplicably by Council so that the developer could obtain a temporary Certificate of Occupancy. Why?

It would behoove Borough Council to take a more commercial approach to managing this endeavor as significant taxpayer capital is at risk. I suggest that they focus on one phase at a time, have regular appraisals of progress, and elicit help from the public when available.

MARK G. ALEXANDRIDIS
Princeton Avenue

76th Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale a 'Resounding Success' Once Again

To the Editor:

We have just completed the annual Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale at the Princeton Day School in Princeton, and we wish to express our appreciation to all those involved in making it a great community event. This is the 76th consecutive year of the sale. It contained some 80,000 books, tapes, videos, and DVDs, and drew book/film/music lovers from our community and the whole East Coast. The proceeds are used to help students attend Bryn Mawr and Wellesley colleges.

The sale would not be possible without the expansive space provided by Princeton Day School for the entire two weeks of its Spring Vacation. We give particular thanks to all those who contributed books, and to Sarah Ferguson who manages our warehouse with grace and efficiency throughout the year. This year, we received an extra boost from a fine group of student volunteers from area schools and many new community volunteers. We thank them all. And the sale would not be a success without the customers who flock to it each year.

Your books make our sale possible, and we like to think that our sale provides a welcome home for your books. We accept book donations throughout the year on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon at our warehouse on 32 Vandeventer Street, and we provide tax receipts. Donation criteria can be found on our website (princetonol.com/groups/brynmawr). For more information about donations or about the sale, call (609) 921-7479 during warehouse hours.

Again, we thank all who helped make this year's sale a resounding success.

MARY COOPER, MARIANNE GREY, VIRGINIA KERR, MAXINE LAMPERT, BETH OGILVIE-FREDA, FRAN REICHL, YASMINE SANDERSON, MARIETTA TAYLOR,
Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale Committee

Candidate for Regional School Board Presents Her Reelection Credentials

To the Editor:

As a candidate for reelection to the Princeton Regional School Board I believe that my background as a professional educator and my four years of experience on the Board equip me to serve our schools and community with increasing effectiveness. I am committed to maintaining excellence, containing costs, and promoting a community of learning that is inclusive of all students. I have lived and parented in Princeton for 22 years and understand both the importance of the schools to our identity as a community and the challenges of ever-increasing taxes for our citizens, especially those on fixed incomes.

I chair the Board's Program Committee and have served on the Personnel and Finance Committees. One of my major interests is developing curriculum that is responsive to the diverse needs of our student population. I am especially proud of my efforts to develop a relationship between the Princeton schools and the W.E.B. DuBois Institute, which has a summer program that develops the academic and leadership abilities of students with high potential.

I am a professor at William Paterson University in the Department of Anthropology. I received my doctorate in the Anthropology of Education and my undergraduate degree in psychology at Rutgers University. An important part of my work is the teaching of student teachers working on certification as public school teachers.

My priorities for the future include strengthening communications among teachers, students and parents, developing initiatives to improve participation in student life, and identifying new non-tax revenue sources to support school programs. I am a strong supporter of the performing arts and athletics as a means for instilling in students the confidence to achieve and for promoting as well a strong sense of community within the schools. I also believe that strategies to maximize the utilization of our new school facilities — the pool, the performing arts center, and state of the art classrooms and laboratories — can be the springboard for creation of revenue-generating programs which serve both the educational and fiscal needs of our schools.

JOANN CUNNINGHAM
Mulberry Row

Historic Designation of Neighborhood Would Have Unintended Consequences

To the Editor:

There has lately been much discussion about historic designation for the Western section of Princeton. 'Historic preservation' sounds nice until a group of strangers is given veto power over the renovation of your house. Be assured however that if you live in Princeton the aesthetics police are coming for you. The Master Plan lists 37 whole neighborhoods for preservation. Yours might be next, and the criteria for inclusion encompass anything from Versailles to a dilapidated outhouse. The criteria for what is permitted in such a district can be so vague that a diligent, professionally-advised homeowner cannot know in advance if a change will be approved. Do you really want to have to wonder if a committee of strangers will decide whether your taste is good enough for the neighborhood? Do you want to have to wonder if that committee (unpaid volunteers) just might have higher priorities than expediting your particular project?

A section of Littlebrook was recently nominated — apparently with a consensus in favor among the affected homeowners, decidedly untrue in the Western section. The survey recommending historic designation contains amusing and cautionary ironies, however. There was a 'public outcry' when these houses were built. In fact, the Township passed an ordinance on August 17, 1954 prohibiting similar construction. So historic preservation is now mandated for houses that have also been prohibited. At least in Orwell's Animal Farm things were either mandatory or forbidden; in Princeton they can be both at once. It seems arrogant and presumptuous to assume that a neighborhood represents the pinnacle of architectural potential and that current 'experts' can foresee the aesthetics of future generations. As the Littlebrook neighborhood illustrates, tastes do change.

Here's another example of the unintended consequence of 'historic preservation' and the officiousness it engenders. Look downtown at No. 4 Hulfish Street, where one of two otherwise attractive signs is now covered with butcher-paper (I kid you not) as a result of some technical violation. The store looks like it's had a tooth punched out. The details are in the HPRC's minutes of October 6, 2006, but clearly good intentions did not have good results.

The proponents of historic designation for the Western district cast themselves as protectors of the community from selfish owners ready to cavalierly cash in on and destroy the Western district. Contrary to innuendo those most strongly opposed have invested vast care, money, and love to enhance and beautify the neighborhood. Ironically, however, if this designation process moves forward some homeowners may decide to get out while they can, maximizing the value of their properties in exactly the ways that the proponents hope designation will prevent.

Some of the houses that have been built or contemplated in recent years are indeed large. So what? There were many exceptionally large houses in the district already. In general, the new construction has received praise for its tastefulness and attention to historic detail. 'Large' does not automatically equal 'McMansion.' Large houses also pay really big taxes, which should count for something to the average Princetonian facing 10 percent tax increases year after year.

NICHOLAS R. KARP
Boudinot Street

Spring Peepers, Silent, Nevertheless Sound Alarm About Our Environment

To the Editor:

I had to drive four miles tonight to find spring peepers. Last year, the Spring of 2006 was the first year in my life where there were no peepers to be heard. It didn't seem to be spring without them.

Where did they go? Does anyone know? With all the development in the Princeton area and all the junk people put on their lawns, I can only guess. Or some disease? Whatever the case, something wiped out the spring peepers.

So I drove around tonight until I found some. But my relief in finding them was tempered by this reality. They used to fill the spring nights where I live to the point you'd never suspect that one day the nights would be a 'silent spring.' So, in listening to the peepers I found tonight, the relief in finding them was tempered with this question: Am I listening to a dinosaur?

Everyone should ask the question because when amphibians are wiped out it says the environment at the most basic level is beginning to be wiped out. The peepers of spring are only canaries in a mineshaft. The silence outside my window tonight is deafening.

K.T. RAYMOND
Cherry Valley Road

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