February 12, 2014

Witherspoon/Jackson Residents Share Safety Concerns, View Video Criticizing Hospital Plans

Some 25 residents of Princeton’s Witherspoon/Jackson neighborhood met Saturday at the First Baptist Church of Princeton to address local concerns. The meeting in the church basement was chaired by former Princeton Township Mayor Jim Floyd.

Among those attending were Lance Liverman and Bernie Miller of Princeton Council, Princeton Engineer Bob Kiser, and members of the Association for Planning at the Hospital Site (APHS), Paul Driscoll and Harris Street resident Areta Pawlynsky, both of whom presented a video documenting their efforts to sue the developer AvalonBay and the Princeton Municipality (see related page one story) with respect to plans for residences on the site made vacant by Princeton hospital’s relocation to Plainsboro.

Mr. Floyd, who chaired the meeting, spoke briefly about changes in the  neighborhood. “Absentee landlords and overcrowding are a recipe for future blight,” he said. “When I first came to Princeton, building codes and zoning laws were enforced, but not now. Why is that? It’s one of the ways of expediting the exodus,” he said.

Plans for the redevelopment on the hospital site came under attack by members of the APHS in their nine-minute video, featuring documentary evidence in support of the group’s suit against AvalonBay and the municipality.

Ms. Pawlynsky expressed regret that fellow APHS members Hank Pannell and Shirley Satterfield were unable to attend the meeting as she opened with a slide quoting Harvey Milk: “The American Dream Starts with Neighborhoods.”

The video claimed that the approved scheme for the hospital site does not comply with site ordinances; that environmental concerns regarding contamination of the site and demolition hazards have not been addressed; and that the impact on property taxes has not been properly looked into.

After the video, Ms. Pawlynsky and others from APHS responded to questions from the audience and announced the hearing by Judge Jacobs in Trenton, Court Room 4, 400 South Warren Street, at 2 p.m., tomorrow, Thursday, February 13.

For several in the audience, the question of subcontractors being hired by AvalonBay to remove items such as old tanks and hazardous asbestos from the building brought to mind municipal and Princeton University responses after last year’s collapse of the Dinky Canopy, a job for which subcontractors were brought in. The APHS video included footage from municipal meetings and can be viewed at: www.aphsllc.com.

Snow, Scams, and Safety

Sergeant John Bucchere of the Princeton Police Department’s Safe Neighborhood Bureau described upcoming neighborhood events such as Community Night Out and the Wheels Rodeo, which will be bigger and better this year. He also announced that the Department of Public Works (DPW) will be trimming trees on John Street as soon as weather permits, in an effort to increase the visibility of one way and speed signs.

Sgt. Bucchere also brought up the problem of telephone scams that have been victimizing people during the cold weather. Callers purporting to be from PSE&G tell residents that their bill has not been paid and that their heat and light will be cut off if they do not make payment. They then offer to take payment by credit card. “Given the dangers of living without light and heat in this cold weather, scammers are scaring people into sharing credit card information, which they then use to go on a spending spree,” he said, urging residents to be vigilant and to tell their friends and neighbors.

Witherspoon Street resident Minnie Craig spoke from personal experience in recounting one such scam call. Because she had been forewarned by a brief announcement in Town Topics and on Facebook, said Ms. Craig, she simply told the caller she was perfectly satisfied with her service, thank you, and hung up.

The issue of snow removal was a hot button topic. The executive director of the Princeton Nursery School on Leigh Avenue, Wendy Cotton, requested that a better job be done on clearing snow from the road and sidewalks on Leigh Avenue where high piles of snow had impeded access for children and parents in contrast to nearby Birch Avenue, which was clear of snow. Why does the town not recognize that Leigh is as important as Birch, especially with the presence of so many children attending the school, she asked, adding that there was a need for a sign alerting motorists to the school’s presence. Sgt. Bucchere said he would pass her remarks on to the DPW.

Sgt. Bucchere said that the police department had received several calls about residents not fulfilling their obligation to shovel snow from walkways in front of their homes. He said that the department was doing its best to work with homeowners, but pointed out that the recent ice conditions had been “unprecedented in his career.”

One other warning was made in the context of foot patrols and businesses in town. Sgt. Bucchere noted a number of counterfeit $100 bills being used.

Cabs and Parking Meters

Sue Nemeth of Bayard Lane asked about regulations for taxi cabs operating from Princeton Junction. She reported that an elderly friend had felt intimidated after arriving at the Junction late one evening and engaging a cab to Princeton. Sgt. Bucchere said that he would send out a message for spot inspections to make sure cabbies posted their licenses clearly. But Ms. Nemeth felt that more needed to be done in order to make sure there was no price gouging. She suggested the police should consider sending in undercover testers at various times of the day to explore the issue.

Among other concerns was the safety of children on (one way) Lytle Street where cars had been observed speeding and even driving the wrong way. Since many young children live and walk to school on this street, it was suggested that a stop sign or even a traffic light be installed to prevent a possible future disaster.

Parking issues came up too, with residents complaining that many non-residents consistently park beyond the two-hour limit on Lytle, John, and Clay streets. It had been observed that parked cars belonged to people working in town who use the non-metered residential streets in preference to metered spots on Witherspoon. “The municipality is losing revenue,” said one resident, “in addition to enforcing existing regulations, the town needs to consider changing parking regulations on these streets.” Sgt. Bucchere nodded his agreement. “I know that you are right and this is something we need to work harder to address, the two-hour zoning must be enforced.”

Don Preston of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO)also spoke at the meeting to announce two seats on Princeton Council up for re-election this June. “So far there are three candidates for these two positions and the door is open to anyone who might want to step forward.”