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Borough Approves Plaza Expenditures; Cost of Furnishings Falls Under Budget

Candace Braun

Furnishings for the Borough's new plaza outside the Princeton Public Library will total approximately $85,000, more than $15,000 under the Borough's original budget. Passed unanimously at Council's meeting Monday night, the budget will pay for chairs, tables, wooden benches, planters, trash receptacles, bicycle racks, and tree grates.

As a tribute to Albert Einstein, the 12 tree grates, totalling $57,000, or $4,750 per grate, will be in the shape of the carbon atom. The Plaza Art Committee chose to purchase these specially-designed grates after Princeton University donated $150,000 to enhance the quality of the plaza's furnishings. Originally the Borough had set aside $102,500 for plaza furnishings, along with an additional $4,000 in contingency funds. The University's donation replaced this money.

"I think the tree grates will bring a fascinating feel to the square," said Wendy Benchley, Council's liaison for the Plaza Art Committee. "In my opinion that was money well spent."

Some of the leftover money will go toward a $13,000 bus shelter to be constructed in the plaza. Council members suggested using a portion of the remaining money for future repairs and replacement of the plaza furnishings.

Councilman David Goldfarb noted that the tables and chairs, which will be purchased from Smith and Hawken, will come to the Borough unassembled.

Ms. Benchley said that the furnishings are "quick and easy" to assemble, and suggested using some of the leftover furnishing money to pay someone to assemble them.

She added that the committee should be acknowledged for its hard work in planning the layout of the plaza, along with keeping purchases under budget.

"This plaza has changed so dramatically since the first concept," she said, adding that the preliminary plans only included the purchase of benches that would be bolted down in the square.

The tables and chairs that were purchased will not be bolted down or locked up, so that they can be moved to the side or reconfigured for special events in the plaza. If there are incidents of theft, they will be chained down at night, said Ms. Benchley.

Soon after the opening, the library hopes to begin holding outdoor lectures and events in the plaza, Nancy Russell, president of the library's Board of Trustees, said in an earlier interview.

The bike racks, which will cost approximately $9,000 for the 50 U-shaped racks holding two bikes each, were debated by Councilman David Goldfarb, who asked that he and other bikers be consulted about their placement. He said. that having that many racks could take away from the plaza's aesthetic appearance.

"If we're spending money on expensive tree grates I don't want a bunch of bikes everywhere," he said.

Some Council members suggested placing the bike racks near or in the garage, along with the area behind the library where they wouldn't be as easily seen.

Council agreed to make a decision on the placement of the bike racks at a future date.

The yet-to-be-named plaza, which is part of the Borough's downtown redevelopment project, will be launched with an opening ceremony on Saturday, October 30.

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