Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 19
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors



Advertise in Town Topics

Iris Interiors


Advertise in Town Topics

Weather Forecast


Mailbox

Editor’s Note: All letters that address the Arts and Transit/Dinky Debate are titled as such.

The Arts and Transit/Dinky Debate Continues to Engage Community

Anita Garoniak [Harris Road, Borough]
Carlos Rodrigues [Moore Street, Township]
Alain Kornhauser [Montadale Circle, Township]

The Arts and Transit/Dinky Debate Continues to Engage Community

Peter Marks
Moore Street

The Arts and Transit/Dinky Debate Continues to Engage Community

David E. Cohen
Terhune Road

The Arts and Transit/Dinky Debate Continues to Engage Community

Anne Waldron Neumann
Alexander Street

Commission Should Vote Against Consolidation, For Shared Services

Phyllis Teitelbaum
Hawthorne Avenue

Did the State Fish and Wildlife Office Order the Killing of Two Beavers?

David M. Goodman
Duffield Place

Mayor Goerner Demands Investigation Into Killing of Beavers in Pettoranello Gardens

Chad Goerner, Mayor
Princeton Township

Public Should Know Why No Effort Was Made to Relocate the Beavers

Kathleen Hutchins
Duffield Place


The Arts and Transit/Dinky Debate Continues to Engage Community

To the Editor:

We are writing to thank Mayor Trotman and Mayor Goerner for giving us the opportunity to present our views last week to Borough Council and Township Committee.

More than 600 people in the Princeton community from all walks of life have signed our petition asking the University to reconsider its plan to move the Dinky. We believe that the University can build its arts campus and still accommodate the Dinky in its current location, a location that we believe is vital to its survival. It is clear that this is not an issue in which a vocal minority is thwarting the will of a “silent majority.” The University’s transit plan will have an impact on every Princeton resident who walks or drives to the Dinky as well as anyone who will ever drive down Alexander Street, and we are pleased that our governing bodies are proceeding cautiously.

We feel it is incumbent on our elected officials to consider carefully the substantial implications of the rezoning request currently under review, which goes well beyond the area around the train station and includes the entire Alexander Street corridor. To date, the rezoning being considered is not based on a comprehensive planning analysis and is not grounded in the community master plan. To consider an ad-hoc rezoning of such a magnitude runs counter to sound planning principles and is contrary to the process provided for in the Municipal Land Use Law. It is therefore vitally important that the University’s timetable not dictate the community’s decision-making process. We strongly feel that the University’s threat of withholding future payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) if it does not get what it wants should not cow our elected officials into submission.

With respect to the University’s threat to move the Dinky, even if it builds its Arts campus somewhere else, the community should stand strong. First, the University doesn’t own the Dinky, nor does the 1984 sales contract allow it to pay for once again moving the Dinky terminus. Read for yourself: http://savethedinky.org/a/PU-NJ_Transit-Contract.pdf. Second, if there is to be re-zoning, then the area around the station should be zoned for uses that complement this unique asset and cornerstone of environmental sustainability and specify that the only permitted use of the Dinky right-of-way is for transit. Finally, the community should simply reacquire, by its rights of eminent domain, if need be, the Dinky lands inappropriately sold by NJT in 1984. This would preserve this irreplaceable right-of-way for future generations and correct a horrendous NJT public policy mistake.

Anita Garoniak [Harris Road, Borough]
Carlos Rodrigues [Moore Street, Township]
Alain Kornhauser [Montadale Circle, Township]

The Arts and Transit/Dinky Debate Continues to Engage Community

To the Editor:

Borough Council’s discussion of the draft Memorandum of Understanding regarding the Dinky was illuminating. The University conceded virtually nothing. In exchange for truncating the town’s existing rail link to Princeton Junction and snarling traffic on Alexander Road, we are promised (i) an invisible and inaccessible train station; (ii) bus service along Borough streets that are already choked with cars; and (iii) a smattering of insultingly small financial incentives: $10,000 per year for 2 years to subsidize the FreeB, a $250,000 initial contribution to a “mass transit trust fund,” and a promise to pay 50 percent of the cost of a future transit study – which will be launched only after the most important transit decisions have already been made.

Alain Kornhauser sensibly observed that the only certain means of preserving our rail link is for the town to buy the two existing brown stone stations. He suggests that the purchaser be a newly created public/private entity, and that the purchase be accomplished through an eminent domain proceeding.

I agree that the town should buy the two stations — at a price that will give the University a fair compounded return on its original ca. $900,000 investment. I would encourage the town, if at all possible, to acquire the stations and the related ca. 2.7 acres of land without litigation and without initiating condemnation proceedings. I would encourage the town simultaneously to enter into negotiations with NJ Transit to acquire the remainder of the right of way (to Princeton Junction) and all of the rolling stock. If the operating losses are in fact ca. $3 million per year (as advertised by NJT), the State should be delighted to unload the line for $1 million to a responsible entity that is willing and able to commit itself to preserving the link at its own cost.

A town that thinks nothing of spending $6 million on a swimming pool should not hesitate to spend $3 million or more to acquire an important transit link. Were we willing to eliminate union pay scales and substitute turnstiles for conductors, the cost of operating our new rail link could be reduced to a level that could easily be covered by reduced ticket prices. The benefits to the town are obvious, as are the benefits to the University, which should welcome improved access to its campus.

Should the University continue to stone wall, the Borough should increase the stakes by freezing all future construction on its portions of the University campus (i.e. by down zoning all University lands lying within the Borough). Borough Council and the University would both be wise to recognize that the balance of power is not nearly so one sided as they appear to suppose – and that the University and the town will flourish together or wither together. We have already lost our hospital, our free parking, and many of our open spaces. I would like to think that there is a point at which all of us would stand up, dig our heels in, and say no more. Restoring the original train station and improving our rail link seem to me to be a good place to start.

Peter Marks
Moore Street

The Arts and Transit/Dinky Debate Continues to Engage Community

To The Editor:

Thanks to our municipal officials who served on the negotiating team which put together the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the future of the Dinky and mass transit in our community. I believe the document makes a good beginning at resolving the impasse over the Arts Campus Expansion Plan, but must be modified in order to satisfactorily address the needs of the community. I have three concrete suggestions:

1) The MOU states that most of the provisions contained within it, designed to maintain the viability of the Dinky, will take effect when the Arts Campus Expansion is approved by the Planning Board. But positive supports for Dinky ridership will be needed if the station is relocated, whether the Arts Campus is approved or not. The University has indicated both their support for the Dinky, and their intention to relocate the station with or without the Arts Campus expansion, so all aid promised by the University to the Dinky should be predicated on such a move, not on approval of the Arts Campus.

2) The University undertakes in the MOU to reopen and operate the old Dinky Station for a period of six months, but according to their 1984 agreement to purchase the Dinky from NJ Transit they committed to spend $400,000 at that time on upgrades to the station area and to “provide, as part of these general improvements, certain station-related facilities.” They also agreed to maintain the station facilities in perpetuity. The improvements were never made, the station never re-opened, and I believe the University owes a debt to the residents of Princeton for 27 years of waiting in the rain, cold, and snow for their trains. The present value ($3,655,822.13 if invested in a Dow Jones–indexed mutual fund) of the dollars they saved in 1984 by not implementing the upgrades to the station should be enough to operate the station for more than 6 months. The agreement should require the University to provide a functioning station in the current or future location, for as long as the Dinky continues in service.

3) Many of the University’s responsibilities under the MOU are nebulous and unenforceable. How are we to judge whether they have made a good faith effort to induce NJ Transit to increase the frequency of Dinky service? Who is to determine whether the passenger drop-off and pick-up arrangements at the new station are convenient? The University should have an explicit financial stake in the future success of the Dinky – they should agree to make up any shortfall in receipts experienced by NJ Transit due to decreased ridership. This will both add incentive to their efforts to promote Dinky ridership, and mitigate any failures on this score.

I hope the University’s negotiators can step back from their adversarial stance long enough to realize that these suggestions are meant to advance our common interest in viable mass transit into the foreseeable future, and only ask that they live up to former agreements and bear the true costs of any changes they propose.

David E. Cohen
Terhune Road

The Arts and Transit/Dinky Debate Continues to Engage Community

To the Editor:

How can you know that a proposed development is absolutely out of keeping with the neighborhood it’s proposed for? From the existing buildings it can’t make room for, no matter what their esthetic or historic value.

Take Alexander Street and Princeton University’s monolithic proposed arts “Neighborhood.” The Steadman homes at the Mercer Street end of Alexander are celebrated. Less well known are the mid-nineteenth-century houses between the WaWa and Soonja’s. Those houses form a pleasant transition to Alexander Street’s purely residential section, but they would have to make way for arts classrooms.

So, of course, would the Dinky. A proposed development doesn’t suit a neighborhood when that neighborhood’s most functional and publicly beneficial asset must give way.

After the disastrous January 31 meeting, and after the University threatened to withdraw its PILOT, it promised to build its arts classrooms elsewhere. Let those plans continue. Let the University develop its holdings between Alexander and the Dinky tracks for more of the office buildings it owns there now. Such development could incorporate both the attractive old houses and the Dinky.

Nassau Hall says the Dinky will move with or without its arts “Neighborhood.” But imagine the political uproar if the Dinky moves 460 feet and two flights of stairs farther from Nassau Street without the promise of small theaters in some distant phase of development. Moreover, several legal remedies others have raised look promising. Does the contract by which the University acquired the Dinky really permit moving the terminus farther? Could Borough Council exercise its right of eminent domain to achieve a public good, helped by a railroad entrepreneur who stands ready to buy and operate the Dinky?

The University doesn’t want a train running through its campus, but its Alexander Street holdings aren’t campus yet. Let Borough Council explore every possible remedy before rezoning this site as the University insists — or at least hold out till Nassau Hall’s leadership changes.

Anne Waldron Neumann
Alexander Street

Commission Should Vote Against Consolidation, For Shared Services

To the Editor:

Most Princeton residents know that Borough residents will have little or no representation if we consolidate. But most of us assumed that the financial savings would be equal for Borough and Township homeowners. New data from the Commission’s Finance Subcommittee reveal that this is not true. Instead, Township homeowners will save more than three times as much on their property taxes as Borough homeowners, annually. The disparity in savings cumulates to several thousand dollars over five years. And the principle of equality that is being violated is clear.

Without including the costs of consolidation itself (which have not yet been calculated), if we consolidate, the annual savings will be: Township homeowners will save $673. Borough homeowners will save only $217. Over five years, the savings will be: Township homeowners $3365. Borough homeowners only $1085.

Shared police services would provide about two-thirds of the savings that consolidation would provide. Moreover, shared services would not cause inequities in representation and in savings. For these reasons, the Commission should vote in favor of shared services and against consolidation at its meeting on May 25.

Phyllis Teitelbaum
Hawthorne Avenue

Did the State Fish and Wildlife Office Order the Killing of Two Beavers?

To the Editor:

I was outraged to learn that our Animal Control Officer shot and killed two beavers in the pond at Pettoranello Gardens, Friday night, May 13. Supposedly, this action was taken on orders from the State Fish and Wildlife Office. If this is true, the first thing we need is a Freedom of Information request to see written proof of this order. Unless these beavers were rabid or otherwise posed a danger to public safety, we need to hold our officials - both in Princeton Township and in Trenton - accountable. Was “shooting” the beavers and hiding behind what may be general purpose regulations simply easier and more convenient than tranquilizing and relocating them? Presumably, the latter could have achieved the same purpose, though admittedly requiring a little more effort and expense. So, I ask, what is going on? And, when it comes to responsible action and public safety, what business does anyone have firing live ammunition in a public park so close to residences and pedestrians? I think some serious questions need to be answered.

David M. Goodman
Duffield Place

Mayor Goerner Demands Investigation Into Killing of Beavers in Pettoranello Gardens

To the Editor:

As a frequent walker in Mountain Lakes Preserve and Pettoranello Gardens, I have been enjoying the walk around dusk to hopefully catch a glimpse of the beavers that I recently saw in the pond of Pettoranello Gardens. To my shock and dismay, I learned from my neighbors that beavers had been shot this past Friday while people were present in the park. This action was undertaken without the consent of myself nor of any other members of Princeton Township Committee. This is completely unacceptable. Not only is this a safety issue, it is an occurrence of utter disregard for the humane treatment of these animals. I have demanded a thorough investigation into this event from the Township Administrator. I am outraged at this act and will see to it that this never happens again and that appropriate action will be taken.

Chad Goerner, Mayor
Princeton Township

Editor’s Note: At press time numerous elements about this incident had not been verified. As information becomes available, a more detailed account will be given in a future issue.

Public Should Know Why No Effort Was Made to Relocate the Beavers

To the Editor:

This evening, Friday, May 13, two beavers were killed by order of the Department of Fish and Game. I met the Animal Control officer who told me that the Department had not allowed the beavers to be relocated. I would like to know why no effort was made to relocate them. I think the public should know how the beavers were killed. There is a rumor that they were shot. It is hard to comprehend why shooting two beavers in a public park, at any time of day or night, is the best way to deal with the issue. I am attaching web sites which certainly raise the question of whether removing them at all was necessary. The sites certainly don’t advocate killing them: www.beaverdam.info and www.ces.ncsu.edu/forestry/pdf/www/www23.pdf and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/beaver.

Kathleen Hutchins
Duffield Place

For information on how to submit Letters to the Editor, click here.

Return to Top | Go to Obituaries


Town Topics® may be purchased on Wednesday mornings at the following locations: Princeton — McCaffrey’s, Cox’s, Kiosk (Palmer Square), Krauszer’s (State Road), Olives, Speedy Mart (State Road), Wawa (University Place); Hopewell — Village Express; Rocky Hill — Wawa (Route 518); Pennington — Pennington Market.
Copyright© Town Topics®, Inc. 2011.