Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 25
 
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
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Did Township Committee Even Consider “Zero Increase” Budget Like Borough’s?

JOEL S. GREENBERG
Parkside Drive

Second-Class Status for Borough Seen in Consolidated Municipal Government

RONALD C. NIELSEN
Humbert Street

Members of Environmental Commission Add Comments on Synthetic Turf Fields

(Two Letters)

Littlebrook School Teachers Salute a Generous Ceramist at Elm Court

JOANNE RYAN
KAREN LARSEN
ROSE SALTIEL
Littlebrook School Second Grade Teachers

Walk to Cure Cystic Fibrosis Raised $130,000 Thanks to Many Participants

MARY, PAUL JOHN, JANAE, MEGHAN, MATTHEW, and DAVID GERARD
Talbot Lane

Storm Water Runoff Safeguards Needed at Proposed Development on Lowe Tract

MERV HOLLAND
SUZANNE NASH
Governors Lane


Did Township Committee Even Consider “Zero Increase” Budget Like Borough’s?

To the Editor:

In May the Township Committee unanimously adopted the 2009 Township budget that predictably had an increase of three percent over last year’s budget. Bernie Miller, Township Mayor, asked if anyone in the audience had any comments before a vote was taken. I was the only person to venture forth with a question. I asked if during the budget considerations a zero increase over last year’s budget scenario was considered. Chad Goerner, Deputy Mayor, responded with a long lecture on how difficult it was to achieve a budget with the “minor” increase of the proposed budget over last year’s budget. I responded by again asking if a zero increase budget had been considered. Again I did not receive an answer to my question.

At this point Mr. Miller pointed out that the major line items in the operating budget are related to the library and safety, and obviously we must maintain Princeton Township as a nice place to live, the implication being that these budgets could not be reduced any further, all of the “fat” having been removed. I raised the issue of the $150,000 that had previously been approved for the park on Harrison Street that I understand is little used. I understand that these funds came from the capital budget and were not part of the operating budget. But if all of the fat was removed, then I guess funding an upgrade of a park is not fat. Whether the park funds came out of the capital budget or the operating budget is of less concern than the fact that it came out of the taxpayers’ pockets.

An article in the June 17 issue of Town Topics indicates that the Borough approved a zero increase budget. Therefore I come to the conclusion, referring to Mr. Miller’s comment, that either the Borough is not a nice place to live or the Borough is more concerned with the careful use of taxpayer funds than is the Township. I am sure that the latter is the case.

I am still waiting for an answer to my question relating to whether or not a zero increase budget was considered during the budget process, and if it was, what were its consequences.

JOEL S. GREENBERG
Parkside Drive

Second-Class Status for Borough Seen in Consolidated Municipal Government

To the Editor:

Election of Council officials by districts cannot overcome the loss of local rule that Borough residents would experience in the event of consolidation. Borough Council and Township Committee now have equal rank, with neither able to dictate to the other, and each able to use its political skills to get the best result for its constituents. Since Township voters outnumber Borough voters by almost two to one, as outlined in Mark Killingsworth’s letter (Town Topics, June 3), Borough residents would elect by district only two members of a six-person combined governing body in the event of consolidation, assuming equal-population districts. The four-member Township majority could then approve anything they wanted.

This has real-world implications. Does the Township need infrastructure such as curbing or road resurfacing? No problem, the Borough taxpayers would have to pay for some of it without any quid pro quo, especially since the Borough already has complete curbing and well-maintained roads. Does the Township majority not want something constitutionally permitted but of dubious value, such as an adult bookstore or a halfway house? No problem, put it in the Borough. And there would be nothing the minority Borough members could do to stop it. Consolidation would demote the Borough residents to second-class citizens regardless of what sweetener its advocates use to trick or bribe us into believing otherwise.

Mr. Killingsworth’s letter also floats the idea that election by district would permit election of at least one Republican who would “help keep Democrats honest.” Lone Republicans have been on Borough Council twice in the last quarter century. Neither man reported any malfeasance by the majority Democrats, nor did they have much influence on significant legislation.

The Princetons are de facto one-party towns, and many people who understand this truism join that party so their varied viewpoints can be heard. In espousing the “big tent” concept, most Democrats are prepared to tolerate dissent among the ranks. One-party governments, including those in Princeton, tend to work this way; they are not monolithic unless a totalitarian ruler or an unthinking membership makes them so.

RONALD C. NIELSEN
Humbert Street

Members of Environmental Commission Add Comments on Synthetic Turf Fields

To the Editor:

The June 17 edition of Town Topics included a letter from Thomas Zucosky, Mike Finkelstein, and Richard Nosker, all of the Princeton Joint Recreation Board, on the use of synthetic turf on Princeton’s playing fields. The undersigned members of the Princeton Environmental Commission, although pleased to see that our consideration of this issue has come to the Recreation Board’s attention, are compelled to correct one statement in that letter.

Messrs. Zucosky, Finkelstein, and Nosker stated, “The Princeton Environmental Commission’s positive vote for a synthetic turf field was about safety, health, and environment, and was based on a multitude of studies and information.” This is not an accurate representation of the PEC’s position.

With 15 members of the public present at our May meeting, the PEC conducted a lively and frank discussion of the issues involved in the use of synthetic turf. At the end of that discussion, the PEC voted 5-1 not to oppose the use of synthetic turf. We used this language to signal that while we do not oppose installation of synthetic turf to expand the usefulness of playing fields, we have not endorsed its use.

We want the members of the Princeton community to understand that we did not cast a “positive vote for a synthetic turf field.”

Should synthetic turf be installed on our playing fields, the PEC will continue to monitor independent research on its environmental and health effects.

PETER WOLANIN
MATTHEW WASSERMAN
EMILY REEVES
MARIAN BASS
Members, Princeton Environmental Commission


To the Editor:

In the June 17 issue of Town Topics, Thomas Zucosky, Mike Finkelstein, and Richard Nosker from the Princeton Joint Recreation Board wrote about using synthetic turf on two of Princeton’s playing fields. As a member of the Princeton Environmental Commission, but writing only for myself, I wish to thank them for their thorough and judicious letter.

Messrs. Zucosky, Finkelstein, and Nosker wrote that “the Princeton Environmental Commission’s positive vote for a synthetic turf field was about safety, health, and environment, and was based on a multitude of studies and information.” I would have worded that sentence slightly differently.

My vote was indeed based on many independent scientific studies, which I read and summarized for the PEC. In my vote I did consider the safety and health of both our children and the natural environment.

I also took into account that, in a small, built-up community like Princeton, space for new playing fields is hard to find. Recreation Board members told the PEC that they were two to three fields below the community’s needs, and that synthetic turf allows a field to be used in all weather.

Grass fields, in contrast, are damaged when played on after rain or in periods of extreme drought, and may require months to repair, during which time they cannot be used. Studies also show that when compacted by heavy use and drought, natural turf fields can cause worse injuries than synthetic turf. Synthetic turf fields, on the other hand, are carefully constructed and cushioned to reflect the sport played on the field. Football fields, for example, are made more resilient.

Here is where I differ with Messrs. Zucosky, Finkelstein, and Nosker. In my view, the PEC’s resolution was not exactly a positive vote on synthetic turf. Our resolution says that we do not oppose its use in Princeton. I agree with John Roberts, Recreation Board Director, that, in a perfect world, we would all prefer natural to synthetic turf.

But, for those concerned that synthetic turf playing fields look like billiard tables, let me just add that the new generation of synthetic turf can be ordered with “grass” in a customized mix of colors to match adjacent fields.

ANNE WALDRON NEUMANN
Member, Princeton Environmental Commission

Littlebrook School Teachers Salute a Generous Ceramist at Elm Court

To the Editor:

It was such a pleasure to read about Andy Prokopetz, a resident of Elm Court (Town Topics, June 3). For the past 15+ years, Andy has poured, baked, painted, and glazed more than 60 ceramic pieces, anticipating the annual visit from Littlebrook School’s second graders. Each student is thrilled with his gift!

Thank you for recognizing Andy Prokopetz’s fine talents and accomplishments. His generosity and kind spirit is appreciated by all.

JOANNE RYAN
KAREN LARSEN
ROSE SALTIEL
Littlebrook School Second Grade Teachers

Walk to Cure Cystic Fibrosis Raised $130,000 Thanks to Many Participants

To the Editor:

A great thanks to the generous people of Princeton, Cranbury, West Windsor, Hamilton, Montgomery, Pennington, and Ewing for the success of the May 9 Great Strides Walk to Cure Cystic Fibrosis at Mercer County Park. The generosity of our community is demonstrated by the prayers, the concern, and the $130,000 raised by the participants. The entire amount will be used to fund research efforts to treat and cure this fatal disease. Thank you!

We especially acknowledge County Executive Brian Hughes, Congressman Rush Holt, the Distler family, the Caricato family, the McQuaid family, Futures and Options for Kids, the Witten-Nappi family, the Huber family, the Hartman family, the Wislar family, and the Vacarro-Everman family.

The public and private school students set the course; distributed sandwiches, cookies, and t-shirts; and cleaned up the park. They organized dress down days and managed the publicity by posting signs at Princeton High School, St. Paul’s School, St. Ann’s School, John Witherspoon Middle School, Notre Dame High School, Hun School, Lawrenceville School, Princeton Montessori School, Stuart County Day School, West Windsor-Plainsboro Schools, Mercer County Community College, and The College of New Jersey.

The course was marked in colorful signs sponsored by Louis Russo, DDS, Natalie Caricato-Photographer, The Pediatric Group, Joanne Reiffe Fishbane DMD, Kenneth Goldblatt MD, Lawrence Lexus, Medical Center at Princeton, Nassau Street Seafood, Mark’s Trackside Auto Repair, Omni Environmental Corporation, Cranbury Design Group, The Daughters of Penelope, Princeton Eyecare, Jersey Shore Radiology, The Bank of Princeton, Princeton Global Asset Management, A&L Pool Service, The Mercadien Group, and Taste Appeal Caterers.

The money raised will go to very productive research. There are 20 medicines in the pipeline to treat various symptoms of Cystic Fibrosis; three of them, now entering phase three trials, address the mechanism of the disease at the cellular level. This approach, if it continues to be successful, will present a new model for research in various forms of cancer and muscular dystrophy.

We are confident that the awareness and money raised by this event nationwide will change the meaning of the initials CF from Cystic Fibrosis to Cure Found. Those of us with children with Cystic Fibrosis are deeply touched by the warmth and generosity of the community. Thank you again!

MARY, PAUL JOHN, JANAE, MEGHAN, MATTHEW, and DAVID GERARD
Talbot Lane

Storm Water Runoff Safeguards Needed at Proposed Development on Lowe Tract

To the Editor:

As citizens living downstream from Bunn Drive, we are writing to express concern regarding Robert Hillier’s plans for the control of storm water runoff for the proposed development of 140+ age-restricted units on the Princeton Ridge (the Lowe tract). It is our understanding that Mr. Hillier intends, with the Township’s approval, to adopt the plan submitted in 2005 by K. Hovnanian to renovate and use the large detention basin of the Princeton Community Village (PCV).

Using the Hovnanian plan would be irresponsible and environmentally dangerous. Enlarging the basin, as called for in the Township Ordinance allowing “any builder” to build on the Lowe tract, would be a catastrophe for the magnificent and mature woods surrounding the basin. Nearly 40 acres of these prized lands are soon to be acquired by D&R Greenway from All Saints’ Church and should not be threatened. Enlarging the basin would require the use of heavy machinery and the removal of vast numbers of trees whose root systems currently help stem the flow of water coming off the steep slope of igneous rock on which Mr. Hillier intends to build; huge boulders in the basin would have to be blasted out. The mature trees on the escarpment slope, some 80-100 feet tall, would be threatened. Much surrounding forest would be destroyed.

Improvement of the basin, however, without enlargement, is what all parties should aim for. This can be accomplished by deepening the basin in areas deemed geologically appropriate. By this means as much habitat can be preserved at the same time that sufficient water capacity for runoff from PCV can be achieved — and necessary protections for citizens downstream. Selective deepening of the basin (without endangering the water table 80 inches down) will help resolve this important environmental problem. The solution can be improved by ensuring that the 40 new affordable housing units planned for PCV are designed according to LEED Platinum standards (with further environmental retrofitting of the entire existing PCV development).

The Hovnanian plan should be considered obsolete. New Jersey and Princeton Township storm water regulations advise the use of storm water structures to detention basins only as a last resort.

Ideally, a new plan should be devised, requiring Mr. Hillier to keep his storm water management measures on the Lowe tract itself. Any new agreements should stipulate the deepening, but not enlarging, of the PCV basin. These principles will gain all of us a minimum disturbance to surrounding woodlands. The Princeton community should urge its officials to work with Mr. Hillier, representatives of PCV, and Princeton University (owners of PCV), as well as conservation and environmental groups such as D&R Greenway, to achieve an environmentally sustainable solution to this problem before it becomes a disaster to rectify decades later.

We also need new input from geologists and hydrologists. The environment of the basin and its surroundings must be protected. Citizens downstream must be protected from storm water runoff. We hope this community can show the political will to achieve a sane and environmentally sound solution.

MERV HOLLAND
SUZANNE NASH
Governors Lane

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