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O'Neill, Marchand Outline Visions for 2004; Mayor O'Neill Cites Borough Concerns

Candace Braun

University growth, the possible move of the University Medical Center at Princeton, overcrowding in the Borough, and affordable housing were the key points Mayor-Elect Joseph O'Neill pinpointed in his first mayoral address at the Council's reorganization meeting on Sunday, January 4.

Addressing a standing-room only audience in Borough Hall, Mayor O'Neill's speech focused on the changes that will be taking place in the Borough over the next several years, and how the Council intends to monitor each change as it becomes an issue for the community.

The University Medical Center at Princeton was cited as a possible problem for the Borough in the near future, if it decides to move its facilities outside the Borough. Mayor O'Neill said that he has agreed to work with Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand on appointing a task force on health care in Princeton, which will attempt to assist the hospital in long-range planning.

Another issue addressed was the growth of the University. Mayor O'Neill said that the University's growth over the years has impacted the Borough in many ways, including the hurting road conditions and parking availability in town.

"In the half century or so since the end of World War II, the University has added, on average, a million square feet of new buildings each decade," he said.

Mayor O'Neill cited the recent Planning Board approval of another half-million square feet of space for the new Whitman College and Gehry Science Library, and suggested that the University's contributions to the Borough be entirely dedicated to capital infrastructure projects.

Taking office at the end of a 13-year feud between the Borough and Palmer Square Management, Mayor O'Neill said he anticipates construction to continue for the next several years if the 97 to 100 housing units along Paul Robeson Place are built.

Both Mayor O'Neill and Mr. Reed met with the developers in recent months and came to a settlement on the housing, which will be voted on by Council at its next meeting on Tuesday, January 13.

Assuming the settlement passes, Mayor O'Neill warned the Borough that, "despite the euphoria that greeted the Palmer Square developer's agreement, we must face the reality that our downtown will be a construction site for the next several years."

The mayor also promised to keep abreast of the overcrowding issue, and said he would not let the Borough push for action that would cast residents out with no place to live.

He said the community must remember that it is largely the people in overcrowded conditions that work the minimum wage jobs in town.

"We know in our bones that a society that does not respect the plumber as much as the philosopher will be one whose pipes leak and whose theories do not hold water," said Mayor O'Neill.

Farewell Words

Closing words from former Mayor Marvin Reed also highlighted the Council meeting on Sunday.

Mr. Reed, who served in elected office for 19 years and as mayor of Princeton Borough for 13 years, stepped down from his post into retirement at the beginning of the meeting, wishing well Mayor O'Neill, who won 1,041 of the Borough's votes last November.

"I think [Council] has been making a difference over the past 13 years, and will continue to make a difference under the leadership of Joe O'Neill," said Mr. Reed.

Mr. Reed thanked the community for his retirement ceremony, held at Princeton University in late December. He also thanked the Council members for their time and effort.

"It has been my pleasure to work with a magnificent staff," said Mr. Reed. "They're dedicated to getting things done and making sure everyone is well-served."

Mr. Reed is one of only four mayors in the last 40 years, following the leadership of Mayors Henry Patterson, Bob Crawley, and Barbara Sigmund.

Councilman David Goldfarb noted that Mr. Reed will continue serving the community, as he was voted by Council into a five-year term on the Princeton Regional Planning Board. He will represent the needs of Princeton Borough with Gail Ullman, who was also elected into a seat.

Mayor O'Neill, who has already served a term as a Council member, said he was not only thankful for the 13-year leadership of Mr. Reed, but also Council members Mildred Trotman, Roger Martindell, and David Goldfarb, who have served on Council for 20, 14, and 13 years respectively.

"Wendy Benchley, Peg Karcher and I, who are so junior to you in years of service, salute you for the work you have done," said Mayor O'Neill.

Both Ms. Benchley and Ms. Karcher were sworn into office at the meeting, taking on their second terms on Borough Council.

Ms. Trotman was also elected by Council to continue as Council president for 2004.

"I look forward to working with our new mayor and Council on [Borough] issues," said Ms. Trotman. "Teamwork is one our greatest strengths."

Others were also sworn into office, including Patrick McAvenia, who will serve as chief of the Princeton Fire Department for the next two years, and Carl Peters, who was elected to serve another three-year term as Borough Engineer.

Law firm Herbert, Van Ness, Cayci and Goodell was reappointed as Borough Counsel for 2004, and Michael J. Herbert was reappointed as Borough Attorney.

Representing the Borough on various community committees will be Joyce Sykes Fitch for Affordable Housing and Bruce Topolsky for Board of Health, both three year terms, and Andre Yokana for the Shade Tree Commission, and Charline Johnson for the Public Library Board of Trustees, both five-year terms.

Looking Ahead

Now that Mr. O'Neill has been sworn in as mayor of Princeton Borough, a Council seat remains vacant. At present, there are four candidates prepared to fill the seat: Andrew Koontz of Spruce Street, Jenny Crumiller of Library Place, Mark Freda of Fisher Avenue, and Anne Waldron Neumann of Alexander Road.

The Princeton Democratic Committee will choose three of the four candidates by Wednesday, January 7. Soon after, these candidates will be presented to Council, and one will be chosen to sit on Council for the duration of 2004.

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