W. HOSKINS, LCSW
To the Editor:
Princeton's current debates about the expansion of the Arts Council and the Hospital would benefit from being put into a larger context. Without broadening the way some think about planning in Princeton, the needs of hospitals, schools, libraries and other non-profits can easily overwhelm the needs and character of the neighborhoods in which they reside. It's not so much that such institutions intend to become insensitive or menacing neighbors, but often their legitimate impulses to expand are so intensely driven by internal needs that consideration of neighborhood impacts are lost. Historically, when such tensions have arisen in Princeton, power struggles have ensued that make each side seem to the other like an adversary to be defeated, rather than a neighbor with whom to work things out.
It is unfortunate that the intrinsic value of neighborhoods and the public good they serve do not seem to be recognized as readily as those institutions that operate in the public good. But a defining characteristic of downtown Princeton is that it is surrounded by vibrant, stable neighborhoods, rich in history. The greater good served by these neighborhoods may be less tangible, less public and less measurable than the services provided by institutions, but I would argue that it is as important to the vitality, health and well-being of the larger Princeton Community.
As a community, we need to be careful not to take for granted the in-town neighborhoods that help to define who we are. Those who live outside of these neighborhoods will no doubt always outnumber those who live in them. These numbers can easily be used by the short-sighted to argue for the subordination of neighborhood needs to those of institutions. This, however, can lead to the slow, incremental degradation of such neighborhoods until they are lost. In any planning process, it is therefore essential that the protection of neighborhoods be placed on an equal footing with the requirements of institutions wanting to expand within them. Each and every major decision needs to be considered in the light of both.
To some, vibrant neighborhood cohesiveness, defended in public, sounds like narrow self-interest. To others, public demand for institutional growth sounds like a declaration of war. But to me, such strident reactions indicate a process gone wrong. Unfortunate history has spawned polarized positions between some institutions and some neighborhoods in Princeton. What is lost in maintaining these positions is the possibility of learning what we don't know about the other side that might make it possible to find solutions that benefit both sides and the community as a whole. As we move forward in this adventure together, it is my hope that we will put aside polarized positions and learn better how to work toward consensus and equity for neighborhoods and institutions alike.
To the Editor:
It seems every few years I feel the need to write a letter on the subject of dog droppings. I hope you will publish this.
Fellow Dogwalker: You walk a dog every day on Shady Brook Lane and the roads leading off of it. His marks are evident. Perhaps you are new to the area or the snow and ice have kept you from removing his droppings. Understandable.
Those of us in the neighborhood who walk our dogs have tried over the past few years to take a plastic bag along to pick up their droppings. Maybe when the weather grows a little warmer you will take a bag on your walk and do the same. It will improve the scenery and make outdoor life more pleasant for all. Thanks.
MARY-ALICE LESSING Marion Road East
To The Editor:
In his recent letter to the Editor (Town Topics, January 28), Bert Wohl raised a concern about the lack of proper approvals for the new library building now under construction. He took Township Committee to task for this oversight and requested amends be offered in the form of a branch facility at the shopping center.
Mr. WohI maintained that state law requires a referendum prior to the construction of a new building. This was done back in the 1960s when the two Princetons simultaneously established the joint library and constructed the now demolished building at 65 Witherspoon Street. The physical building, contends Mr. Wohl, was an integral part of the initial approval creating the joint library.
Mr. Wohl's statements are inaccurate.
New Jersey state statutes do require that voters approve a proposed agreement between two or more municipalities to establish a joint library. Such approval was obtained in 1960. At the time, the newly formed joint library was located at Bainbridge House and continued at that location until 1965, when the newly constructed 65 Witherspoon Street building became the library's home. The relocation from Bainbridge House was unrelated to the formation of the joint library and a referendum on the new site was neither required by statute nor held.
As for the new building now under construction, all the proper approvals have been obtained. Both Township Committee and Borough Council passed resolutions selecting the site and authorizing the funding. The Regional Planning Board reviewed and approved the design. Local Bond Law was strictly obeyed, with public hearings held after proper notice and with active citizen participation.
In addition to meeting all legal requirements, the Library Trustees, Borough Council, and Township Committee held many public meetings, offered numerous studies conducted by citizen committees, sponsored dozens of focus groups and surveys, and brought the decision about a new building to the public's attention over a period of years.
More importantly, the new building construction is rapidly coming to completion. Any casual observer can see our progress from day to day. Inside, exciting surprises await our patrons. I can barely wait for the next two months, after which we will open for all to see the wondrous space that will become our new home.
To the Editor:
The Princeton Senior Resource Center wants to publicly thank all the individuals and businesses who contributed to making our first Chinese New Year party a fantastic success. Individual volunteers contributed their talents in transforming the Suzanne Patterson Center with festive banners, lanterns, calligraphy and posters to celebrate the Year of the Monkey. Local restaurants shared their culinary talents by providing a wide variety of entrees, as well as soup and dessert. Those in attendance were entertained by a range of performers of all ages performing Tae Kwon Do, Chinese Yo-yo, Kung Fu, Chinese Opera, Umbrella Dance, violin, piano and zither.
After the traditional Lion Dance which culminated in the mayors' appeasing the lion with gifts of red envelopes, all those present joined together in a final song. The mood was festive as we honored the rich diversity of our community.
Special thanks to: Asian Food Markets, Euro-Asian Food, Hunan Restaurant, Ivy Garden, King's Castle, Sunny Garden, Supper Star East Buffet, Tiger Noodles, World Buffet, Tzu Chi Foundation, and Wan Lin Chyan and friends.
SUSAN W. HOSKINS,
To the Editor:
I was delighted to see a healthy neighborhood response to the letter from Dorothy Baum (Town Topics, January 21) concerning parking around Princeton High School. As a resident of Walnut Lane, I walk to work in town and pass by the High School four times every day. I've often thought of writing just to vent my frustrations with conditions created by high school student who congregate on the Westminster Choir College sidewalks. Everything noted by the residents responding in your January 28 issue is accurate, only to an even greater extent along this stretch. The students' uneaten lunches, bottles, cigarettes and such are left to blow all over the neighborhood. They block the sidewalks and make no effort to let pedestrians pass. I realize these are not our best students, but isn't their behavior during school hours the responsibility of the school administration?
My second point is to express surprise that no one in this discussion mentioned the new Walnut Lane parking lot which was installed on the corner of the middle school playing fields over the New Year break. This is a huge, lined, fenced parking lot only one block from the high school. Since it was installed, surely at great expense to the taxpayers, it has never been even close to half full. If there really is a parking space shortage, surely many people must be unaware of this new lot. Fully utilizing this lot would alleviate the need for any parking on the residential streets.
If school administrators find themselves unable to take responsibility for the actions of their "charges" during the school day, they simply cannot expect additional cooperation from their neighbors.
I have read Ms. Baum's letter to the Editor (Town Topics, January 21). Although I certainly support the needs of teachers, I found myself wondering why so many students drive to school? There is no doubt that some have legitimate reasons. However, over the years I have heard students who live within walking or biking distance of the high school say that they drive to school. I have also heard students who have adequate bus access say that they drive to school. I wonder why residents are being asked to take on this unnecessary burden of cars being driven to school and parked in their neighborhood? Would it not be possible for the school to limit the number of students driving to school and in the process solve the parking problem that Ms. Baum describes?
Three years ago I found myself driving one of my children to school on a daily basis even though this practice was in no way consistent with my belief that, for the sake of the planet, we need to depend less, not more, on automobiles. As much as I was inconvenienced by the ever intensifying rush hours in Princeton, for quite some time I didn't see myself as part of the problem, because of course there were reasons why driving my son to school was justified. I also think that teaching our children good stewardship of our community and respect for others is an essential lesson for them to learn, but for the year that I drove him to school, I believed one thing but taught him another, because of course there were reasons why my behavior was justified.
Driving my child to school was not an easy habit to break. It meant adjusting our thinking and our schedules so that he could do it. It was helpful that the school routed a bus closer to our home than it had the year before, but it was only our attitude that made the previous bus assignment seem impossible. In a year or two, when my child asks about getting a car and driving himself to the high school, "No" will be a difficult stance to take. But the civic and personal lessons he will have a chance to learn about living responsibly in relationship to the earth, our community, and to others will hopefully make the effort worthwhile.
I would like to address a recent reader's response to a teacher, Ms. Baum, that her complaint/concern about the parking situation at the High School (or lack thereof) was essentially groundless, as the student drivers involved got to school previously before they could drive and that is the way they could still do so. I am glad to have the opportunity to address what I think is a shameful municipal issue given the high taxes we pay for our Princeton Regional Schools.
Princeton High School students got to school previously when the mass transit loop bus still existed, but with great inconvenience to working parents' schedules, or with great difficulty, hazard and importuning of other drivers. Princeton needs to solve the larger problem of transporting its students safely to school as opposed to transferring the burden to the public with chaotic and dangerous effect. Other districts give parents the option to buy tickets onto municipal school buses. As one of a two-working-parent family I can attest to the worry, inconvenience and struggle to see our children arrive safely at their schools which at 1.9 miles from our home did not qualify for public transport.
For many years we wrestled with schools with two different start times, and auto transport necessitated by freezing rain, unshoveled sidewalks, commuter traffic and backpack weights sometimes 40 percent of total body weight. I was particularly taken aback by the breezy assumption that riding a bike to school in all kinds of weather, early or late, over all kinds of terrain/traffic was a reasonable solution to the municipality's responsibility to provide safe transit to their schools.
It is outrageous that instead of coming up with an organized and rational solution to safe student transport, the municipalities seem determined to penalize and outlaw one of the few convenient, safe avenues open to working parents. (My son now also transports his younger sibling to school as well.) Can we make this a governance issue as soon as possible? What do other parents feel?
AMY FERSHKO ELLIS
My name is Theo Ellis and I am a Princeton High School senior. Recent letters to the Editor regarding the "parking amnesty" issue have belied the acuteness of the situation. Since construction began on the high school over our Christmas break, causing the loss of dozens of student and faculty parking spots, the Princeton Borough Police have taken up a campaign against student drivers at the high school. There has been wholesale ticketing of students who park in two-hour parking areas around the school. (Two-hour parking comprises more than 50 percent of the limited parking spots within a five-minute walk of the school.) In the perception of students, many of whom have accumulated hundreds of dollars of tickets already, this appears to be predatory police behavior. The police, as a matter of policy, did not ticket students in these parking zones before construction fenced off many school parking lots.
I respect the concerns of the residents of PHS's surrounding streets. However, many seniors and the underclassmen who come in carpools have no way of getting to school other than student-driven cars. The bus system does not cover students who live fewer than two miles from the school and trudging through January cold and snow is not a comfortable alternative for students who may be carrying 20-pound backpacks and may live 1.9 miles from the school. Furthermore, the parking spots in front of nearby residents' houses are not private property; they belong to the Borough and as such the interests of the hundreds of area children who need them should come before the desire of neighbors to make room for "the workpeople they employ" (as a recent letter to the Editor put it).
A minority group of students may be loitering and littering around parked cars; there is also the danger of reckless driving. It does not make sense, though, to attempt to solve this problem by forcing high school students to repark their cars every two hours. If anything, the commotion caused by shuffling cars around would increase these dangers and disrupt PHS's learning environment (not to mention that moving cars from spot to spot does not reduce the total number of parked cars). If there are enough police available in the vicinity to ticket 50 cars a day, surely there are enough police available to deal with loiterers on an individual basis, as they would with any other misconduct.
The solution to the problem would be changing all the two-hour parking zones into all-day parking, thereby accommodating a growing student population until more parking is provided on campus when the construction is complete. The police could turn their attention to curbing illegal activities on private property around the school instead of ticketing kids who are busy learning in class.
Finally, I would like to note that most seniors at PHS will be old enough to vote in the next local elections; it is also a relevant issue for our voting parents. The neighbors of Princeton High School should not be considered the only enfranchised group in this situation. I, for one, promise this will be the deciding issue when I cast my votes in years to come.