December 28, 2011

Councilman David Goldfarb Is Lauded by Colleagues As Term Comes to a Close

After more than two decades of dedicating many of his weeknights to the workings of the Borough of Princeton, David Goldfarb is about to experience a new phenomenon: free time. Borough Council’s reorganization meeting on Tuesday, January 3 will mark Mr. Goldfarb’s last time on the dais. While he will remain involved in selected activities, he is stepping down from the governing body he joined in 1990. His seat will be filled by incoming Council member Heather Howard.

“I’m ready,” Mr. Goldfarb said during an interview last week. “I’m looking forward to finding out just what I want to do. I have limited my commitments and built a lot of leisure time, and I’ll see what comes along.”

Mr. Goldfarb was nine years old when, in 1963, his family moved to a house in Princeton Township at the corner of Balsam Lane and Riverside Drive. “My parents still live in the house I grew up in, near the border of the Borough and the Township,” he said. “So it always seemed kind of odd to me that we had this border in place. When we first moved here, and my brother and I were in public school, the people who lived right across the street from Riverside School couldn’t send their kids there. That changed soon after.”

Mr. Goldfarb became especially familiar with the question of merging the Borough and Township while serving as a member of the Joint Consolidation Study Commission. Residents of the Princetons voted for the measure last November. “I didn’t favor it,” Mr. Goldfarb said. “But it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.”

Despite his determination to take a back seat in local government, Mr. Goldfarb will clearly be watching closely as several issues unfold. He has chaired the Borough’s Finance Committee, has been an active member of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) for many years, was an active volunteer firefighter in Princeton, and is now Borough Fire Commissioner and treasurer of the Princeton Hook & Ladder Company. He has also served on the boards of the Princeton Senior Resource Center and The Jewish Center of Princeton.

Reflecting on the past two decades, Mr. Goldfarb counts his work on regulating the repair and replacement of the many miles of pipes in Princeton’s sewer system among his most important, if unexpected, contributions.

“I came on Council filling the seat of Marvin Reed, who had just been chosen to replace Barbara Sigmund as mayor,” he recalled [Ms. Sigmund died in 1990]. “Marvin had been a member of the Sewer Operating Committee, so this most undesirable position went to the new guy. But I found it to be interesting. If our roads were in the same shape as our sewer pipes had been 21 years ago, people would have been screaming.”

Mr. Goldfarb’s work on the Sewer Operating Committee led to his appointment representing the Borough on the board of the Stony Brook Regional Sewerage Authority. As a member of that body, he realized that a lot of money was being spent on repairing the extraordinarily leaky Princeton system.

“I became aware that there was a formula in place where a significant reduction in our flow would result in not only saving us money, but getting back money we had invested in the system,” he said. “So it became a challenge to convince others that we had to spend a lot of money, but that it would produce large dividends, and I was able to do that.” Mr. Goldfarb intends to continue his work on these issues. “There is a lot more to be done,” he said.

As a legal assistant at the firm Drinker, Biddle & Reath, LLC, Mr. Goldfarb specializes in trust and estate administration and tax preparation. It is in fiscal matters that he has taken a special interest while on Council, and his colleagues have valued his contributions.

“David has encyclopedic knowledge of the Borough’s finances, he’s fiscally prudent, and his work for the Borough has been to the great advantage of Borough taxpayers,” wrote Roger Martindell in an email. “He’s shared responsibility for the Borough’s Finance Committee with me for his entire 21 years with the Borough, and I’ll miss his quick mind, insight, and wisdom in protecting the interests of our taxpayers.”

Mr. Reed, who is currently a member of the Regional Planning Board, concurs. “If you talk with David Goldfarb about any two numbers, you’d better make sure they add up to the total you claim,” he wrote. “He’ll catch you every time they don’t. In all my years as mayor in the Borough, David was our stickler for accuracy. That was especially true when we worked on the reconstruction of the library, the Spring Street garage, and the mixed-use development that went with it. With David, it wasn’t a question of how many spaces you might need. David zeroed in on whether they paid their own way. Once convinced that they did, you could not ask for a stronger advocate for innovation.”

Adds Council member Barbara Trelstad, “I have enjoyed working with David in my years on Borough Council. David is true to his convictions and will be missed. His memory of Borough issues is encyclopedic.”

Another issue that rates high among Mr. Goldfarb’s concerns is excessive drinking among Princeton University students at the eating clubs along Prospect Street. He brought the matter up at last week’s Borough Council meeting, calling it “the single most significant unsolved problem” facing the Borough.

“The answer doesn’t come from the police, the University, or the mayor and Council,” he said. “It has to be a truly collaborative effort. The students at Princeton University are amenable to behavioral changes. We can deal with them. We have to be a model for other college and university towns.”

In a later interview about the behavior that frequently results from excessive drinking at the eating clubs on Thursday and Saturday nights, Mr. Goldfarb, who lives nearby on Charlton Street, added, “If this was happening on Nassau Street, people would be outraged. There have been sexual assaults associated with this, and all kinds of vandalism. It’s behavior that can’t be tolerated. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people to behave in ways that don’t have these kinds of consequences on others. I have two concerns: one is that the excessive drinking is dangerous to the drinkers. The other is that there are real consequences to others.”

Since Drinker, Biddle & Reath represents the University, Mr. Goldfarb has had to recuse himself from the many Borough Council discussions of the proposed arts and transit complex and the moving of the Dinky to a site 460 feet south of its present location. But he has opinions on the subject.

“Through much of my time on Council, the University felt this strong obligation to get a sense from the community as to how it should proceed on this issue,” he said. “For whatever reason, the University has been completely insensitive to the desire that the Dinky should not be moved.”

Mr. Goldfarb still holds out hope that the University will reconsider, “leaving the Dinky where it is and improving the access and frequency of service. “I’m not optimistic that they will reconsider, but I retain some hope that it might happen, or at the very least that they would move ahead with their arts project without moving the Dinky and then see if having the Dinky here interferes with their plan,” he said. “Most of us who look at this issue think there is no reason why it can’t remain. It might not be ideal from the University’s perspective, but you can’t always get what you want.”

As Mr. Goldfarb’s 21-years on Council comes to an end, colleague Jenny Crumiller reflected on his contributions and his personal, sometimes argumentative style. “David is very direct and he usually has a well-informed opinion and this can lead to vehement debate, she wrote in an email. “But it’s always respectful and in the end, no matter the disagreement, he’s always the same friendly David. This has made him a pleasure to work with and I’ll miss him greatly. He understands the sometimes arcane minutiae of Borough affairs like no other. His knowledge is invaluable. David’s leaving is a major loss for Princeton residents.”

Council member Jo Butler found Mr. Goldfarb especially helpful in her first year of service. “As the newest member of Borough Council, I have been extremely grateful for David’s willingness to mentor and share information,” she wrote in an email. “I don’t think people fully appreciate how much the Council, the administration, and the community will miss his institutional memory. Whether it is the Finance Committee or the Sewer Operating Committee, David has the expertise, experience, and knowledge to ensure that the best possible decisions are being made for our community. I have found David to be forthright, principled, and a person of character. David is always true to his values, but he is respectful of a well-reasoned argument on the other side. He has been enormously helpful, gracious, and generous with his time as I navigated a challenging year on Council. I will certainly miss him, and I hope he will still take my phone calls!”

Ending her own term as mayor of Princeton Borough, Mildred Trotman has been a colleague of Mr. Goldfarb for many years.

“I had the opportunity to have David as my running mate five times between 1993 and 2005 and don’t think we could have made a better team, for a host of reasons,” she wrote in an email. “While we do contrast in some ways, the end result we were always looking for was the same — what is best for Princeton. We have not always come down on the same side of issues, but David has always, without doubt, worked to achieve the best result possible regardless of his personal conviction, and I admire and respect him for that. He has been an invaluable leader in the area of finance while representing Princeton Borough. On a personal note, I have never reached out to David for help in whatever way needed where he did not favorably respond and I appreciate that. I wish him all the best.”