and MARTY HOWARD
and MICHAEL MAHONEY
To the Editor:
After each snow, the Arts Council snowplow man comes to plow the lot, usually at 4 a.m. As it is thus impossible to sleep with the pavement being scraped beneath my bedroom window, I often get up to watch the progress. After December 5, he pushed the snow directly out of the Arts Council driveway and across Green Street, leaving it in front of my Green Street home and across my elderly neighbor's driveway, leaving a depth of snow across the drive about a foot high, with considerable rubble.
My neighbor couldn't possibly have been driven out in the event of an emergency.
DOROTHY TURNAGE DIEHL
To the Editor:
I am writing this letter in support of the Arts Council's need for a new building. As a teacher and volunteer, I can see many of the problems that exist in this aging building.
Back in 1936 when the building was designed and constructed as an after-school social center, it met the needs of the neighborhood children. In the past ten years since I have been here, the building has been called upon to support a variety of programs, including ceramics, painting, drawing, photography, dance, and theatre. There are after-school programs (some scholarship) for the children who live in the Princeton area and for the Home Front children who live in the Trenton area.
In this Dogpatch of a building, volunteers, teachers, and staff members are doing the best they can. We and the students deserve much more. At present, the building space is stretched beyond its limits. We need larger storage space for our equipment and supplies. We need adequate working space for teachers and classes. We need better office space for staff members to run the Arts Council.
These improvements are necessary for the survival of the center in this neighborhood. In the long run the children of the neighborhood have more to lose than the Arts Council, if it decides to move to another location.
To the Editor:
In all the discussion of the renovation of the Arts Council building, I believe a crucial point has gotten mislaid: The Arts Council is the place where everyone can see himself or herself reflected and where our entire populace can see each other. We seem to have lost sight of the common goal of learning about ourselves and others through the arts.
When the Arts Council sponsors a trip to Harlem or Crossroads Theater, the African-American community can enjoy programming that may mirror some of their own interests. But equally importantly, other parts of the community can learn more about African-American history and culture. The Arts Council's myriad projects from those commemorating El Dia de Los Muertos and Chinese New Year to the Halloween parade and Christmas caroling, not to mention Communiversity have been created to promote artistic development, appreciation for the arts, individual creativity, and positive community identity among all elements of Princeton's population.
The arts foster both individual expression and community cohesion, as was clear last summer (and repeated this fall) when the Arts Council and Princeton Young Achievers sponsored an instructional program taught by Charles Phox, a professional photographer. The children, many from the John-Witherspoon neighborhood, took pictures all over Princeton, learning not only photographic principles but also life skills among them self-discipline and goal-setting. The children's accomplished photographs of their town were glorious. Through the children's eyes, the whole community saw both the young photographers' individual visions and a shared depiction of where we all live.
The Arts Council is a showcase for everyone's art. With the arts as our common denominator, the Arts Council can provide education and joy for all of Princeton's residents. It's the place where everyone in Princeton can come, and grow, and really see ourselves and each other at our creative best.
To the Editor:
It happens all too often that our township officials hear negative comments about their performance. I would like, however, to offer some positive feedback and words of appreciation to our township's Traffic Safety Committee and Council.
As president of the Riverside Neighborhood Association (RNA), an organization of over 100 households dedicated to preserving the safety, nature and character of our community, I recently had the opportunity, along with our vice president Cheryl Marx and board member John Denny, to meet with the Committee, and later to participate in a Council meeting regarding what we believe to be unsafe traffic conditions in our neighborhood.
At the Committee meeting, we were afforded ample time to enumerate our concerns, while the issues raised and our suggestions for mitigation were met with respect and open minds. On behalf of the entire RNA, I would like to thank our Township engineer, Bob Kiser, who presides over the Committee, and our traffic safety officer, Sgt. Michael Henderson, for their thoughtful consideration and willingness to take prompt and decisive action.
As a result of Mr. Kiser's leadership, the Committee's recommendation to Council, and the Council's recognition of and willingness to solve a serious problem, we now have a 4-ton gross weight limit on trucks utilizing Prospect Avenue, making our neighborhood significantly safer.
Other measures to enhance safety and solve current and potential traffic congestion are being considered, again thanks to our Township officials' accessibility, attention, and action. On behalf of the entire Riverside community, the RNA commends and thanks you.
JODI M. TOLMAN
To the Editor:
Members of the Princeton Township Committee knew, or should have known, that it was illegal for them to support a big, new library in the Borough without first obtaining a vote from Township residents.
A joint library can be established by law only when "the question of such undertaking shall be submitted to the legal voters of each such municipality" (N.J.S.A. 40:54-29.6). In 1960, the voters of Princeton, prior to voting, were informed regarding the cost, nature and location of the library being proposed. It was to be a two-story, conventional-type library, located in the Borough and served by an adjacent ground-level parking lot. The voters approved, and the library was built.
In 2001, this library was not remodeled, updated or expanded. It was torn down completely. A new, very different library is being constructed on the same site. It is frequently described by library officials as a "new world-class library." It will be almost twice the size of the 1960 library, and will serve as a cultural center, a conference center, an art gallery, a sales center, a coffee house and a computer software lending center. The ground-level parking lot has been replaced by a four-story parking garage. Due to its extra size, the cost of library operations will be greater than it was in the past.
When voting in favor of a "joint library" in 1960, Princeton residents were voting in favor of the particular library that had been proposed. They were not giving local or library officials a blank check to put up any sort of library these officials happened to like. Thus, when that voter-approved library was torn down and a new, very different library was proposed, the former vote in favor of a joint library was no longer valid and, to conform to New Jersey law, a new vote was needed.
In 1960, residents of Princeton Township had every reason to vote in favor of having one library located in the Borough. Princeton was then a small town where the Borough had the larger population and contained most of its important facilities. Since 1960, everything has changed. Princeton now is a far bigger place where the Township has the larger population and includes what amounts to Princeton's second downtown. Its Shopping Center contains ¬Princeton's only supermarket, only hardware store, only pet supply store, and its largest exercise center, largest beauty salon and largest drugstore/pharmacy, plus 35 other stores, offices and restaurants.
Parents in the Township saw in the Shopping Center an ideal place for a branch library one offering their children ground-level facilities and a spacious, traffic free mall where children's events and concerts are held. Next door is Grover Park with its playing fields, playground equipment and picnic tables. The Shopping Center is close to four schools, making it easy for students to walk or bike to the library. Children, now, will be compelled to travel from their homes or schools two or three miles to the heart of the Borough, going from a safe, enclosed, child-friendly environment to a library in the most traffic-ridden part of Princeton.
Thus, Township residents, had a proper vote been held, would certainly have voted for a branch library in the Shopping Center. The least the Committee can do now to compensate for their "error" is to create in that part of the present library not yet rented a small branch library. It will consist of 3,000 square feet between the cafe and the front door and will include shelves, tables, chairs, desks, older computers and hundreds of books not wanted in the "new world-class library." It could later be expanded into the larger branch Township residents would have chosen if they had not been deprived of the vote to which they were legally entitled.
To the Editor:
We read with interest Dorothea Baum's letter (Town Topics, January 21) advocating parking amnesty during the construction at John Witherspoon and Princeton High Schools. We live directly across the street from Princeton High School. In general, traffic and increased activity, especially during the week, is a small price to pay for the privilege of living in town and the quality of life that it brings.
Unfortunately, student parking has led to problems threatening that quality of life.
If cars were parked and left during the school day, clear of driveways and off the grass, there would be no issue. Problems result from many students congregating in and around their cars and engaging in activities not tolerated on campus: playing loud music, smoking cigarettes, hanging out on neighbors' lawns, and leaving much trash behind. Houghton Road has become the smoking lounge for Princeton High School. Walking to or from our home on a school day, especially when the weather is nice, has become an obstacle course. Student parking in the neighborhood would be tolerable if the cars, and our neighborhood, did not also serve as lockers, lunchrooms, and lounges.
Extending parking amnesty could exacerbate this situation. Princeton High School has been ineffective in managing student behavior or cleaning up after school hours, despite numerous requests. We would have no opposition to faculty or visitor parking on Houghton Road by permit. We would have less opposition to parking amnesty if the Princeton High School community would respect their neighbors by limiting loitering and littering. Along with the privilege of parking in a residential neighborhood comes the responsibility to respect the privacy, property, and peace of those neighbors. Traffic and activity is part of living near a school, and an increase in these is to be expected during construction. But increased trash and loitering shouldn't be. Parking policy must protect the quality of life for students, faculty, and neighbors alike.
and MARTY HOWARD
To the Editor:
Dorothy Baum's letter (Town Topics, January 21) proposes a temporary "amnesty" to allow students to park on neighborhood streets surrounding Princeton High School during the current construction. The problem with temporary solutions is that they become permanent. The School Board has repeatedly proposed such street parking as a permanent measure, and the neighborhood has repeatedly rejected the plan. If students take up the available parking on our streets for the better part of the working day, they leave no room for people who come to visit us or to provide various services. Moreover, we have learned from experience that many students do not just park their cars. They use their cars before, during, and after school as gathering places to smoke, snack, and socialize. They throw their litter about, they sit on steps and lawns, and they cut through backyards not all students, but enough to make a difference.
Ms. Baum speaks of the impracticability of teachers and students riding bicycles to work, citing the heavy loads they carry in bags and backpacks. How teachers get to work is not at issue. They and the staff have first call on parking facilities. The question is how students get to school, and the argument is puzzling. Although Ms. Baum speaks of students in general, only seniors and possibly a few juniors are old enough to drive themselves to school. All other students from first through eleventh grade also carry backpacks, and they must walk, cycle, take the bus, or be driven by a parent. If any temporary measure is needed to assure teachers of finding adequate parking, it should be a moratorium on high school seniors driving their own cars to school. They have made it to their senior year without cars; they can make it another year.
Rather than seeking temporary accommodations during construction, it is essential that the School Board come up with a viable long-term solution to a parking problem that the expansion of the High School and Middle School is not only causing while it is going on, but will leave behind when it is finished. So long as the Board keeps its eye on the neighboring streets, the residents will resist even "temporary" measures.
and MICHAEL MAHONEY
To the Editor:
Dorothy Baum wrote recently (Town Topics, January 21) about parking for Princeton High School students. One of the major difficulties in resolving a community conflict is that people on opposite sides don't understand each other's concerns. If Ms. Baum knew why residents of the high school neighborhood oppose students parking all day in front of residences, she might agree that a parking "amnesty" is not workable and that other options must be pursued to meet the needs of students, teachers, and residents.
I have worked on this issue for four years and have heard first-hand from neighborhood residents about the serious problems caused by student parking. Most students behave well, but a significant number behave irresponsibly.
What are the problems? A major concern is safety. Students are young and inexperienced drivers. They are often running late and therefore in a hurry. As a result, many drive unpredictably and illegally, making U-turns, backing up rapidly, stopping suddenly, pulling out of parking spaces abruptly, and driving through stop signs. With small children in the neighborhood, this is an accidental death waiting to happen. Another safety issue is the inability of residents to back out of their driveways safely because students' cars, parked close to the driveway on both sides, block visibility. Students' parked cars sometimes even block driveways completely, making it impossible for residents to get their cars out of their own driveways.
Another important concern is quality of life. Some students use their parked cars as social centers, where they and their friends smoke, eat lunch, and listen to loud music. They routinely leave large amounts of garbage and cigarette butts in front of residents' houses. Some students don't even respect private property; they settle down on residents' front lawns or driveways to eat and smoke. When residents ask them to leave, some students become verbally aggressive. An additional problem is that, as a result of student cars, there is often no street parking available for residents, their visitors, and the workpeople they employ.
It is no wonder that, in a March 2003 neighborhood survey, an overwhelming 85 percent of respondents preferred that students park on nonresidential streets rather than on residential streets.
What is needed is a permanent solution that provides student parking that is not in front of residences. Zoning laws require private schools to provide such parking for their students. Only a legal technicality exempts public schools. ("Amnesty" as a temporary measure won't work, both because student parking causes too many problems, and because temporary measures frequently become permanent.) The Ad Hoc Committee on High School Parking, chaired by Wendy Benchley, has been working towards solutions. There are several good possibilities. They will require some financial support. But providing students with parking while maintaining the safety and the quality of life in the neighborhood around the high school are clearly worth financial investment.