Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 18
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
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Consolidation Will Disenfranchise Borough While Damaging Lifestyle

Phyllis Teitelbaum
Anthony Lunn
Hawthorne Avenue

Polarizing Petitions Represent Threat To Harmonious Town-Gown Relations

Donald Cox
S. Harrison

Finance Advisory Committee Chairman Corrects Quote Involving Flat Tax Rate

Scott Sillars
Chairman, Citizens’ Finance Advisory Committee,
Princeton Township

Community of Parents and Residents Thanked for Supporting School Budget

Joanne Ryan
President PREA

Moving to Manhattan, Resident Bids Farewell to Princeton After 40 Years

Michael Lewis
New York, N.Y.

FAA’s New Holding Pattern Putting Heavy Wide-Bodied Jets Overhead

T. Jeffery Clarke
Balcort Drive

Bring Your Own Bag Campaign’s Combination of Fun and Activism

Bainy Suri
Sustainable Princeton


Consolidation Will Disenfranchise Borough While Damaging Lifestyle

To the Editor:

We recently attended a meeting of the Commission that is considering consolidation or additional shared services for Princeton Borough and Princeton Township. The Commission members are thoughtful and hard-working. Unfortunately, they are leaning toward a recommendation to consolidate. Consolidation will disenfranchise Borough residents and damage the Borough lifestyle, without saving taxpayers any significant amount of property taxes. Instead, the Commission should recommend shared services, which would produce some savings without adversely affecting Borough residents.

Most Princeton residents who favor consolidation believe that it will result in a substantial decrease in their property taxes. This is not true. Commission members themselves admit that the savings will be small. Since the municipal budget is only of the property tax bill, any tax benefit will be negligible.

Consolidation would adversely affect the Borough because of the municipalities’ different populations. The Township’s population is several thousand larger than the Borough’s. Moreover, half the Borough’s population is university students, who rarely vote in local elections. As a result, in a consolidated Princeton, in local elections there would be two Township voters for every one Borough voter.

Most of Princeton Borough is a town — dense housing, walk to everything. Most of Princeton Township is a suburb — large lots, drive to everything. There are similarities and overlap, but the Borough and Township do have two distinct lifestyles. The municipalities’ ordinances reflect this. The Borough’s ordinances fit a town. The Township’s ordinances fit a suburb.

The Borough and Township also differ on major decisions — for example, the location of the library. It is the jewel in the crown of the downtown. But it was almost moved to the Princeton Shopping Center because of pressure from Township residents whose primary focus was easy parking and who didn’t understand the importance of locating the library in a vibrant downtown.

Currently, Borough Council can uphold the Borough perspective in joint Borough-Township decisions. But if we consolidate, there will be one Princeton Council whose members will be elected at-large. Current Township Committee members will almost certainly be elected in preference to current Borough Council members because of the 2:1 voter ratio. As a result, changes in ordinances and major decisions will reflect only the Township perspective.

This would be tantamount to a takeover of the Borough by the Township, damaging the Borough lifestyle. It would be a major loss to a consolidated Princeton, because the Borough perspective is what distinguishes Princeton from a New Jersey suburb.

The Commission welcomes residents’ feedback about consolidation versus shared services. Simply go to www.cgr.org/princeton and click under “Feedback.”

Or come to the Commission’s very important next meetings:

Wed., May 11, 7:30 p.m., Township Hall, Township Committee Room. Public Forum. The Commission will discuss possible recommendations and solicit audience feedback. Wed., May 25, 7 p.m., Township Hall, Community Room. The Commission will vote on whether to recommend consolidation.

Phyllis Teitelbaum
Anthony Lunn
Hawthorne Avenue

Polarizing Petitions Represent Threat To Harmonious Town-Gown Relations

To the Editor:

I am concerned about the polarized atmosphere surrounding the Arts and Transit Center discussions. There are threats to cut-off PILOT and not build the center, lawsuits to end the tax free status of McCarter, and petitions being used to polarize our neighborhoods. I agree 100 percent with perhaps a silent majority in linking redevelopment to a commitment to save the Dinky, with the idea that ongoing efforts will be made to extend service so that improved Dinky service runs from near Nassau Street to Princeton Junction. However, I cannot sign either of the polarizing petitions currently circulating that seem to make the arts center development and the Dinky station mutually exclusive to each other. When a 7-story library was needed, Firestone Library was built underground to accommodate zoning for building heights and the desire of the townsfolk to maintain the sunny look and feel of Nassau Street. On Communiversity when we celebrate that beautiful and sunny avenue that is Nassau Street, a cherished annual ritual that I personally view as a nod to Woodrow Wilson’s desire to maintain harmonious town and gown relations, I believe a better approach can be achieved if parties on both sides put away their polarizing petitions, stop the saber rattling, and instead work toward a harmonious accommodation like the Firestone Library compromise.

Donald Cox
S. Harrison

Finance Advisory Committee Chairman Corrects Quote Involving Flat Tax Rate

To The Editor:

In last week’s front page article concerning Princeton Township’s $36.6 million operating budget (Town Topics April 27), I am quoted as saying that 2011 represents the third consecutive year of a flat tax rate, which is not correct. While there will be no increase in the Township tax rate in 2011, there was a 3.7 percent and 1.4 percent increase in 2010 and 2009, respectively. What I meant to convey is that the Township’s total revenues from the tax will be flat for the third consecutive year. That is good news in the sense that the Township is managing its affairs without needing to ask the taxpayers for more.

But it is also bad news because property tax appeals and the Township’s Compliance Plan are causing a modest degradation in the aggregate assessed value of taxable property. Delinquencies are also rising, likely caused by the weak economy and the inability of some to cope with dramatic changes in their tax bills arising from the reassessment. These negatives are offsetting both the small 2009 and 2010 tax increases and the revenues from new properties coming onto the tax rolls for the first time. If continued, declining property assessments will ultimately place extreme pressure on everyone’s property tax bill as towns, schools and counties seek to offset shrinking tax bases with higher rates.

I know this is all dry and technical, but precision when dealing with the publics’ money is always a good thing.

Scott Sillars
Chairman, Citizens’ Finance Advisory Committee,
Princeton Township

Community of Parents and Residents Thanked for Supporting School Budget

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA), I would like to thank our community of parents and residents for its overwhelming support of the Princeton Regional School District’s budget. Your support shows that the majority of Princeton voters view education as a long term investment in the future of children’s education while maintaining a sensitivity to the needs of taxpayers in Princeton. The continued support of our parents, students, and community members is greatly appreciated.

Joanne Ryan
President PREA

To the Editor:

The Princeton Regional Schools Board of Education thanks the community for its overwhelming support of the district’s 2011-2012 budget. We are delighted for our students and are looking forward to another successful year for our six excellent public schools. We sincerely appreciate your approval of a realistic spending plan that carries a manageable tax impact for residents and businesses. We will continue to seek greater efficiencies while cultivating outside revenue sources to support the district’s mission: That all of our children have the tools they need to succeed, and that our faculty and staff have the supports required to produce the kind of vibrant learning environment seen in our schools every day.

On Behalf of the Board,

Rebecca Cox. President
Tim Quinn, Vice President

Moving to Manhattan, Resident Bids Farewell to Princeton After 40 Years

To the Editor:

My first visit to Princeton was to attend a meeting called by Frank Kaplan, the President of Creative Playthings. I flew into Princeton Airport through an operating flight from JFK. This meeting, in the latter 1960s, involved the few of us studying infant development with the aim of developing a line of toys for their use. At that point in time infants were seen as having few sensory abilities and because of this their cribs were surrounded by white sheets and few toys, certainly no mobiles hanging over their heads.

I moved to Princeton in 1968 with my just born son, Benjamin, and his mother, to start a Senior Research Student position at ETS to continue my studies of infant development. The birth of my daughter, Felicia, in 1970 completed my family and we moved into a new home on Linwood Circle, where my children’s mother still lives. In 1982, I accepted a Distinguished Professorship at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School where I started the Institute for the Study of Child Development. My children completed their primary and secondary education in the Princeton Public School system where they spent much time in the Princeton Public Library before going off to Brown and Yale. In 1997, I moved to a home on Cherry Hill Road, a home which I have just sold to move into Manhattan with my wife, Susannah Falk Shopsin, a psychoanalyst. We now live in the Village where I commute to Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Thus, ends a journey of over 40 years in Princeton.

I write this letter to a wonderful town full of beauty and intellectual vigor, to all my dear friends, and to acquaintances who have enriched my life. With care and friendship, goodbye Princeton. Please come and visit with me, I am only a short drive across the Hudson.

Michael Lewis
New York, N.Y.

FAA’s New Holding Pattern Putting Heavy Wide-Bodied Jets Overhead

To the Editor:

So it’s finally warm enough to spend some real time outside in our yards after a tough winter — only to discover that the FAA has arranged for a lovely spring gift just for central New Jersey in the form of a new holding pattern that puts heavy wide-bodied jets on approach to Newark Liberty, La Guardia and JFK airports right over Princeton.

This is not a new FAA aircraft routing but rather a new holding pattern that has been increasingly used in the last few months. Nonetheless, if you are trying to enjoy a nice dinner on your terrace and you have noticed noisy, low-flying heavy jets directly overhead, this is the reason.

Given the already noisy corporate helicopter traffic and Princeton Airport overflights this is just one more noise overlay that we, as local residents, should not stand for.

Please take the time to email the FAA at 9-aea-noise@faa.gov (this is a noise complaint email and they will likely respond to you) and let them know that this new holding pattern is not acceptable over densely-populated suburban areas like Princeton.

Evidence for this new pattern, which seems most apparent overhead around 7 p.m., can be seen directly at any time on the Port Authority sponsored aircraft monitoring websites — www4.passur.com/ewr.html for Newark Liberty, www4.passur.com/lga.html for La Guardia and www4.passur.com/jfk.html for JFK. You’ll need to back out the view to 40 to 90 miles depending on the airport.

As a community we need to stand together to let the FAA know that we do not want heavy wide-bodied jets flying directly over our town.

T. Jeffery Clarke
Balcort Drive

Bring Your Own Bag Campaign’s Combination of Fun and Activism

To the Editor:

Sustainable Princeton’s Bring Your Own Bag Campaign gained momentum this month with a successful flash mob held in town on Friday, April 29. People of all ages gathered to sing and dance in an event of planned spontaneity in order to draw attention to our community’s plastic bag use. The ultimate goal of the BYOBag Campaign is to educate the residents of Princeton about the environmental dangers of plastic bags and to encourage behavioral change. In particular, the BYOBag Campaign asks that Princetonians bring their own reusable bags with them when shopping rather than accepting single-use plastic or paper bags. The campaign’s dynamic combination of fun and activism is key to popularizing this new environmental movement and hopes to create a collective consciousness surrounding the single-use bag issue.

For more information about Sustainable Princeton or the BYOBag Campaign, please contact Sustainability Coordinator: Diane Landis at dlandis@princeton-township.nj.us.

Bainy Suri
Sustainable Princeton

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