F. McDONALD JR.
To the Editor:
The Princeton Regional Planning Board really needs to take into serious consideration the concerns of the John Witherspoon neighborhood residents before voting on the expansion of the Arts Council. There's still great concern about the massiveness of the proposed new building. It would just be too big on that corner.
There are numerous other facilities in town that can be used for some of the services that the Arts Council is offering. Outsourcing can be done more than is being done now, which would help eliminate the need for such a huge building.
To the Editor:
As a new staff member at the Arts Council of Princeton and a newcomer to Princeton, I've begun work at a time of numerous meetings with the neighborhood regarding the Arts Council's decision to enhance its facility. In the meetings with the Witherspoon-Jackson Association, neighborhood representatives have elaborated on their concerns about the Arts Council's renovation. One concern that has struck me above all others is the neighborhood's fear that aspects of the rich history of this neighborhood will be lost with the changes made to this building.
That is why it was so gratifying to have been part of the Arts Council's commemoration of Black History Month on February 28 and 29. This two-part program featured an active discussion of Princeton's desegregation of its public schools, led by Princeton residents who lived through it and described what it was like for them. The Arts Council also welcomed local artists and their families, who spoke about their experiences growing up, working, and creating in this neighborhood. We wish to thank all those involved in this program, including the Unity Choir of the First Baptist Church, who sang gloriously, and Wild Oats Marketplace for providing delectable refreshments.
In organizing this event, we hoped to make it interactive and engaging, with the presenters encouraging audience members to share their recollections of Princeton's unique African-American community. That was exactly what happened. Each afternoon program ended with a sincere plea to the audience to sit down with grandparents and elders and record their personal experiences before their history is lost forever.
In a contribution to this effort to preserve the rich history of this neighborhood, the Arts Council is asking residents to donate their time or their old photos to a community effort to craft a quilt reflecting the history of the Witherspoon-Jackson community. We have engaged quilter Gail Mitchell, who specializes in photo-transfer, a method that allows full images to be conveyed on a quilt with no damage done to the photograph, to lead volunteers in making the quilt two evenings a week at the Arts Council during March and April. No experience is necessary, and all are welcome.
The quilt will have its grand unveiling at Communiversity on April 24 and then go on permanent tour of local churches, schools, and organizations. For more information on this project, please call (609) 924-8777. The Arts Council is eager to participate in preserving neighborhood history through the arts, but it can do so only with community participation.
To the Editor:
I have written this letter on behalf of the friends and family of stricken letter carrier Bill Aust. Bill, his friends, and family would like to thank all the people of the Princeton community and the businesses that helped make the December 14 fund-raising benefit for Billy a tremendous success.
So many restaurants and businesses donated door prizes, and nearly 200 tickets were sold. My fellow letter carriers donated food for the event. The Hightstown American Legion donated the use of their facilities and also cooked about six turkeys. The food was so good and plentiful that even the snowy weather could not put a damper on the day.
We would like to thank the people and businesses that assisted in the benefit. The full list is far too long for this letter. Most of the individuals will soon receive a thank you from Billy and Debbie, but as you can imagine they have been a little busy. To Town Topics, who quickly published the announcement letter regarding the benefit date, thank you. To McCarter Theatre, Macaroni Grill, On the Border, TGI Friday's, Borders Books, Charlie Brown's, Hooters, Olive Garden, Eat at Joe's, and KC Prime's, thank you so much. To Otis and Ideal electrical supplies for their many door prizes, thank you. To Mrs. Finzi, who probably has never been angry with anyone until I put her name in this letter, you know all that you did, thank you. To the American Legion of Hightstown, no words could justly express our appreciation for all that you did. I would especially like to thank Billy's and Debbie's families for allowing us to do something at a time that we felt so helpless, to try to make something positive out of this situation.
The Bill Aust Golf Classic will be at the Cherry Valley Country Club on May 10. The proceeds will establish a scholarship fund for a male and female scholar athlete from Princeton High School and the American Cancer Society. For more information please call (609) 560-7268 or (609) 558-5288.
Thank you all again.
RAYMOND F. McDONALD JR.
To the Editor:
News of a potential 28 percent tax increase in Princeton Borough, or $700 per taxpayer, should not surprise anyone in light of the Borough's $13.7 million "redevelopment project" - a sum equal to more than $1,000 per Borough resident. At the one public hearing on the bond issue, Council members were warned of the folly of borrowing so much money for a parking garage that had received overwhelmingly negative reviews in a public opinion survey initiated by Herb Hobler.
Concerned Citizens of Princeton promptly launched a petition drive to obtain a referendum on the $13.7 million bond issue. Despite the cold and snow of January, petitioners garnered nearly 900 signatures from registered voters, three times the minimum needed to put the bond issue on the ballot. But the Borough rejected them, citing its designation of the Park And Shop and Tulane Street lots - which were generating $400,000 a year in Borough revenue - as a "redevelopment area" (the euphemism for "blighted area").
Then, in court, the Borough prevailed upon Judge Feinberg to disregard the absurdity of this designation in part by arguing that the garage was necessary to end a "parking crisis" by December, 2003, when it would be completed. Although the case was then appealed, the Borough plunged into the garage project, thus to complete it before there could be a final judicial ruling. Depending on the outcome, Princeton Borough may find itself wondering what to do with illegally-issued bonds that financed the five-story parking garage.
Now comes the first year of fiscal crisis that was an all but inevitable outcome of this massive development scheme.
The basic problems from the start were twofold.
First, Borough Council members assumed the role of commercial real estate developers instead of seeking bids. Only Councilman Roger Martindale stood against the "groupthink" that propelled this ill-conceived project forward.
Second, the project never enjoyed widespread public support. When pressed to submit the project to referendum or at least to conduct its own public opinion survey (after trashing the Hobler survey), Council members replied that they were elected to make these decisions and didn't need public validation.
Now the cost of this extravagance is being placed at the door of Borough taxpayers. And problems may worsen if the second phase of the redevelopment project is completed, wiping out the Tulane Street lot, or if not enough cars park in the garage monolith that resembles a massive sound barrier along the Turnpike.
Although he went along with these proposals, the Borough's new Mayor, Joe O'Neill, never seemed especially committed to them. Perhaps he will initiate the "top down" review of these issues, thus to consider whether there is an exit strategy after all - to forestall many years of tax increases and public frustration.