Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 46
 
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
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Completion of Rosedale Road Bridge Raises Questions About Its True Cost

TIM PITTS
Christopher Drive

Renovation of Harrison Street Park Is Seen From a Different Perspective

DONALD J. COX JR.
South Harrison Street

Princeton Nursery School Thanks All for Drumthwacket Anniversary Party

DIANE SANDAHL
President, Board of Trustees
Princeton Nursery School

Environmental Commission Is Seeking Wiser Approach to Collecting Leaves

WENDY KACZERSKI
Chair, Princeton Environmental Commission


Completion of Rosedale Road Bridge Raises Questions About Its True Cost

To the Editor:

The news is good! The Rosedale Bridge project is complete and months of commuter anguish have come to an end. Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes and Township Mayor Bernie Miller attended a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday. According to reports, they were delighted with the outcome of the project, as well they should be. After all, not only is the much-maligned project complete, it was completed nine days ahead of schedule. Detractors, be damned!

But wait, just how momentous was this accomplishment?

The surface area of the new bridge, which took just over four months to build, is approximately 2500 square feet or about the size of twenty municipal parking spaces. Let’s compare this to other noteworthy projects. The Empire State Building, which was also completed ahead of schedule in 1931, took thirteen and a half months to build. That’s thirteen and a half months to build a 102-story skyscraper in Manhattan whose area at the base is approximately 80,000 square feet or almost two acres! Then there’s the Pentagon, the largest office building in the world. With its 17.5 miles of corridors covering nearly 29 acres, it was completed in an astounding sixteen months in 1943. I ask, is it unreasonable to wonder why the bridge project took so long by comparison?

Without a doubt, all who have been inconvenienced by the project are delighted that Rosedale Road is open once again. However, our leaders should consider the unintended consequences of their ill-considered project. It would be interesting to know the true cost of the bridge. How much did Princeton Borough suffer in lost revenues? How much extra expense did Township and Borough residents bear in unnecessary fuel costs? As time itself has value, how much was lost when Route 206 was backed up as far as Province Line Road? And while we’re talking about traffic, what was the true cost to the environment when our major arteries became parking lots? Taking all this into account, a less imposing yet durable and attractive replacement that took less time to build would have been far more desirable.

TIM PITTS
Christopher Drive

Renovation of Harrison Street Park Is Seen From a Different Perspective

To the Editor:

This letter is intended to provide an alternative perspective to Stephen Hiltner’s about the design process for renovating Harrison Street Park (HSP) (Town Topics, October 14). I disagree with Mr. Hiltner’s characterization of the park renovation in comparing it to other parks as being unfair to both the landscape design firm and the nature of the job that combines a park rehabilitation effort with a municipal storm drain project.

Mr. Hiltner’s letter is somewhat misleading by omission as he is not only a taxpayer but also a lobbyist for naturalistic causes, and was himself a paid Harrison Street Park contractor. From my perspective, the plan Mr. Hiltner sold to the Borough five years into the rehab effort would have made HSP more like a nature museum, when the Riverside neighborhood really needed to maximize its only municipal park by providing kids with play equipment and recreational space. Edgewater was brought in a mere two years ago after Mr. Hilter’s plan was unable to secure full community support.

But Mr. Hiltner’s vision was one of many conflicting visions for the park. For example, Mr. Hiltner knows inexpensive plastic play equipment could never pass the high naturalistic aesthetics standards demanded. Edgewater played a significant role in unifying those many conflicting visions into a harmonious design, often by introducing new structures such as the bridge. Even the wildflower garden, seen by some as an attempt to inject elements of Mr. Hiltner’s nature museum at an odd location within the park’s only field (used for soccer and Frisbee games) remains, thanks to Edgewater’s efforts towards inclusion of differing visions.

As far as comparing costs, Mr. Hiltner didn’t mention that sloping park terrain and man-made commercial parking lots buffering the park from Nassau Street create a flood nuisance for downhill homes. About half or more of the money being used in the park is being used to address this municipal storm drain problem and is not being used for park recreation at all. I believe when that expense is stripped away from the budget, this park then becomes much more economical in comparison to other recent park investments and even more so when also considering its size and the limited municipal park space found in the Riverside community it serves.

DONALD J. COX JR.
South Harrison Street

Princeton Nursery School Thanks All for Drumthwacket Anniversary Party

To the Editor:

The party is over and the post-event responsibilities are nearly complete. The time has come to take a moment to reflect on the evening and to say thank you.

For those of you who were able to join us at Princeton Nursery School’s 80th Anniversary Celebration at Drumthwacket last month, we extend our sincere thanks. For our supporters who could not make it, it was a joyous occasion. You were certainly missed and we thank you for your generous support.

By all measures it was a huge success, in large part because we were privileged and honored to have our founder, Mrs. Margaret Matthews-Flinsch, in attendance along with her nephew, John Matthews, and his wife, Verna. We were also honored by the attendance of long-time Executive Director Jean Riley. In an evening filled with high points, having Mrs. Matthews-Flinsch — now 102 years young — speak on behalf of the school with such passion was one of the greatest. Our deepest thanks to her for joining us in this celebration, and to John and Verna Matthews for making her attendance possible.

A very special thanks to all our sponsors — PNC Bank, Princeton University, Miele, Inc., Martha Hartmann, Ted and Mary Cross, and Margie and Ravi Ravindranath. The evening would not have been a success without the support they provided.

We’d also like to thank Art Laurenti of ShopRite Wines and Spirits in Hamilton, who organized the wine-tasting event for the evening. And the celebration would not have been complete without the fantastic entertainment provided throughout the evening by the Jubilante Trio, the Revelation Dancers of First Baptist Church of Princeton, the Arts and Education Center Jazz Group, and last but not least, the Ewing High School jazz ensemble Thursday Night Jazz. Thanks to you all for entertaining our guests with your wonderful music and dance.

In closing, I would like to offer a special thanks to Jigna Rao and all the folks at Drumthwacket for their guidance and support, and to Gov. Jon S. Corzine for serving as our honorary chair. It was a special evening for those of us who are dedicated to the mission of Princeton Nursery School and we thank you for letting us celebrate in such an extraordinary setting.

DIANE SANDAHL
President, Board of Trustees
Princeton Nursery School

Environmental Commission Is Seeking Wiser Approach to Collecting Leaves

To the Editor:

Long ago, eastern forests dealt very simply with leaves. The trees dropped them, gravity had its say, and the result was a fine carpet of leaves to protect and feed the soil. The trees are still trying to do things the old way, but we have inserted an anti-leaf ethic and landscape beneath them. The result is an expensive, highly mechanized struggle to rid the town of leaves every fall.

The Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) has been observing this annual purging, has consulted with Township and Borough staff, and has come to some conclusions.

Loose leaf collection isn’t cheap. The Borough spent $230,000 in 2007 to collect and compost leaves, with additional costs for brush collection. While the Township’s exact costs aren’t available, it likely spends even more each year.

Loose leaves in the street present a hazard to cars and bicycles, and block storm drains. Decomposing street leaves increase nutrient pollution in local waterways. The annual export of leaves, by depriving the soil of absorbent organic matter that soaks up rainwater, likely increases flooding in Harry’s Brook and elsewhere. Children, who are naturally drawn to piles of leaves, can find themselves in the path of cars.

Though the Township picks up bagged leaves weekly, its leaf ordinance only allows loose leaves to be put in the street one week prior to monthly pickups. This rule is widely ignored, particularly by landscape crews. The result is a breach of the state’s stormwater regulations, which strictly limit how long leaves can sit in the street. The incompatibility of loose leaf pickup with state regulations can also be seen in the contrasting leaf pickup schedules of Township and Borough, which require careful reading in order for homeowners and landscapers to comply.

Arching over all these drawbacks to the current system is the ultimate challenge of climate change, which compels us to reduce as much as possible the consumption of fossil fuels. Every step of leaf disposal — from blowing them into the street, to pickup, transport, and composting, to redistribution as finished compost — is driven by fossil fuels.

For all of these reasons, the Princeton Environmental Commission is urging the municipalities, and residents, to seek a safer, more ecological, and more economical approach to dealing with nature’s annual gift of leaves. Other municipalities in New Jersey have successfully moved away from loose leaf collection; we can, too.

Many residents have discovered they can mow leaves back into the lawn, pile leaves in a corner of the yard rather than on the street, or compost them with other yard waste and kitchen scraps to make fertilizer for the garden. For residents who cannot or decide not to “recycle” their leaves on-site, the Township offers free bags to residents, providing yet another way to manage the leaves.

The solutions are out there, and in every backyard. More information on managing leaves can be found by googling “Princeton’s Guide to Fall Leaf Management,” which is on the Borough and Township websites.

WENDY KACZERSKI
Chair, Princeton Environmental Commission

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