Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 33
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
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School Board Showing Calculated Indifference To Pragmatic, Progressive Plans for Valley Road

Adam Bierman
Grover Avenue

Consolidation Planning Districts Would Unite Neighborhoods Split by Municipal Boundaries

Claire Jacobus
Cleveland Lane

Consolidation Planning Districts Would Unite Neighborhoods Split by Municipal Boundaries

Peter Wolanin, Spruce Street
Co-chair, Unite Princeton

To Those Making Valley Road Decision: Why Must It Be All-For-One, None-For-All?

Kevin Finn
Edison Drive, East Windsor


School Board Showing Calculated Indifference To Pragmatic, Progressive Plans for Valley Road

To the Editor

My grandfather, who was born at the end of the 1800’s, used to say, “nothing is more splendid than a great idea that actually works.” VRC-ARC or the committee to rehabilitate the Valley Road School building thinks the time has come to honor his words.

The VRC has a comprehensive plan to reinvigorate the building. Valley Road would become home to much needed affordable non-profit office space. Also it would be a community center that would include a theater, TV station, recreational spaces, party room, and the list goes on. The landmark is conveniently located, at the intersection of Valley Road and Witherspoon St. The rehabilitation of the building would result in more middle class jobs, giving a shot in the arm to an anemic and tumultuous economy. Funds to run the project would come from donations and rents. Already many non-profits in the area are quite interested in moving into the building and you, Princeton tax payers, would pay nada.

However, the Princeton Regional School (PRS) Board stands in the way of the splendid idea. First I have to sincerely say I respect the school board personnel. Civilian politicians, who are working for no pay, juggling career and family, and are trying to master the nuances of complex issues. 

With that said, I feel PRS has consistently shown calculated indifference to the pragmatic progressive plans of the VRC.

At the school board meeting of August 11, the PRS left me perplexed with contradictory statements. Wanting to own the land, not wanting the structure, but on the other hand questioning everything that the VRC proposed. They kept on asking VRC chair Kip Cherry if the building was safe? What is the PRS talking about? Why would they let non-profits who have now been in the building for over a decade stay if the building wasn’t safe? I find this line of questioning irrational and distracting. 

Kip Cherry, Dick Woodbridge, Jim Firestone, Ridge Applegate, Dan Preston, and the rest of the VRC-ARC play to win. They are long-standing members of the community, with key contacts to help make this project a reality.

What is the PRS plan if they do not allow the VRC-ARC to implement rehabbing the Valley Road building? Float a bond issue to try to raise money from taxpayers to tear it down?

Adam Bierman
Grover Avenue

An Open Letter to the School Board On Proposals for Valley Road School

To the Editor:

I write in regard to the two proposals for the Valley Road School:

1. The Rescue Squad Proposal, which squeaks through — barely — with an educational component, and

2. The Valley Road School proposal, which squeaks through — barely — with a building that needs repair.

There has been no discussion of bond issues or public approval for the first; as for the second, we [the Valley Road School group] are offering to take it off your hands and your worry list as soon as possible, with no cost to the taxpayer. Mr. Schmeirer said two years for his project; given appropriate zoning action, ours might be six months.

But there is a much bigger issue here, which some of you mentioned with great seriousness and concern: your mission as members of the Board of Education.

Your mandate — what I want you to think about before you make this decision — is whether you are best serving the cohort you were elected to serve: the children of this community. The Valley Road School group is offering you the opportunity to let us serve as a further expansion of that mission, by providing them with enrichment of all kinds — artistic, literary, musical, dramatic. That kind of enrichment, absorbing and exciting, is hard to come by and in an interactive situation, rare indeed. We understand that the Valley Road School Building has become a kind of exasperating millstone — worrisome, in need of help, needing funds (and heat this fall) — and that you probably want to simply get rid of it. It is clear you would not do this to a child.

Some years ago, a group of volunteers had, as a goal, to raise $75,000 for the Princeton Adult School. We doubled that, making $150,000 in two months. The money came in 5, 10, and 100 dollar increments from open-hearted citizens in this community who knew and understood what the Adult School meant to Princeton. There is no doubt in my mind that that is clearly the case here. Who would not support enrichment and involvement for children — and adults — every day in a building that anchors arguably one of the most important streets in Princeton and would serve many people?

Please think, before you vote or decide, about the worth of helping, enriching, and nurturing children whom we have, in a real sense, put under your care. I ask only that you remember that service, which puts mortar, zoning, parking, even roof leaks in a different perspective.

The protection and refurbishment of this building is one we have already worked very hard for. Its destruction — for that is the accurate word — will leave a scar on the community far uglier than a pile of rubble at the bottom of Witherspoon Street.

Claire Jacobus
Cleveland Lane

Consolidation Planning Districts Would Unite Neighborhoods Split by Municipal Boundaries

To the Editor:

One of the reasons I am strongly in favor of the consolidation of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township is that neighborhoods in the combined Princeton would have a much stronger say in the planning and zoning decisions that affect them. In the final recommendations of the Princeton Joint Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission it describes the advisory planning districts that would be implemented in the consolidated municipality. These districts would be formed based on neighborhoods, and would have formal standing before the planning and zoning boards to participate in the planning process — something that neighborhood groups, however well organized, cannot have today.

These planning districts would be especially important to unite neighborhoods currently split by municipal boundaries, including the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood and the Jefferson-Moore neighborhood, both of which have had a history of controversial development applications that affected residents on both sides of the legal border that splits these otherwise close neighbors.

According to the Commission, “The laws governing municipal consolidation changed in 2007 and made the new planning districts possible.” They were not available as part of previous efforts at consolidation in Princeton. Those who are truly concerned about preserving the historic Borough, the character of Princeton’s downtown, its architectural heritage, and our community spirit in the long term must recognize consolidation as the best choice.

Peter Wolanin, Spruce Street
Co-chair, Unite Princeton

To Those Making Valley Road Decision: Why Must It Be All-For-One, None-For-All?

To the Editor:

With regards to the future of the Valley Road School, I am prompted to ask why must it be all-for-one, or none-for-all? To downgrade such a prized possession to a single-use facility is to spite the needs and opportunities that lie before the community as a whole. At a time when municipalities are hard-pressed for space and dollars, modernizing the Valley Road School is an economically feasible concept that can be achieved for less than half the cost of a brand-new building and that does not require displacing any of the current inhabitants. This is a rare case where vision and viability are equal, and those charged with making the decisions on future use must have the foresight to make the two mutually exclusive. Surely there is a compromise that can meet the needs of all current and future tenants. 

Princeton is rich and growing ever-richer in arts and culture, but the University’s proposed expanded arts district, the Robeson Center, the Library, and all the other arts centers combined still leave the community with a gaping hole: there is no television media or filmic arts center. What if the Valley Road School could fill that void, and still meet the needs of the fire department and other agencies that require space? Could the fire department be expanded to adjoin the VRS, with classroom training facilities and a place to produce safety videos all in one? Could there be full production studios for both television and film, offering classes, community use, and professional facilities to address the needs of Princeton’s blossoming film industry? With the virtual dissolution of the NJN television network, such facilities could take up the reins and replace what never should have been abolished. What of rehearsal space for musicians, bands, dancers, etc. all available for a nominal cost to the user, or a theater for special events that could showcase the films of community residents? Classroom space could also be used for creative writing programs, workshops, literacy campaigns, and so on. The possibilities are endless; the VRS could easily be a multi-use facility that would pay for itself and then some, yet still have space enough to house the various agencies and municipal departments that call it home. 

Kevin Finn
Edison Drive, East Windsor

For information on how to submit Letters to the Editor, click here.

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