March 19, 2014

Superior Court Rules Against “Save the Dinky” Appeal

An appeal by a group of citizens challenging the Dinky train station move was dismissed Tuesday in New Jersey Superior Court. Save the Dinky, Inc. and Anne Neumann were seeking judicial review of the May 2012 final order of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) allowing abandonment of NJ Transit’s transportation easement next to the station on University Place.

The Dinky terminus is being relocated 460 feet south of its current location as part of Princeton University’s $330 million Arts and Transit development. A new station is to be constructed as part of the plan. The existing station buildings are to be turned into a restaurant and cafe.

NJ Transit sold the station land and buildings to the University in 1984. The terms of that agreement, governing actions with respect to the Dinky station property, have been the subject of dispute.

In their appeal, Save the Dinky, Inc. and Ms. Neumann contended that the NJDEP ignored federal law and failed to follow proper regulations in their review. But in its ruling, the Court affirmed the agency’s final decision.

“The record clearly demonstrates NJDEP did not exceed its authority, and acted appropriately while performing its statutory duty with respect to its review of the project application,” the opinion reads, adding that the decision “was neither arbitrary, capricious, nor unreasonable, as it was fully supported by the record.”

Attorney Virginia Kerr, who represented the appellants, does not agree. The group is considering petitioning the New Jersey Supreme Court for a review.

“It’s always an uphill battle to persuade a court that a state agency got it wrong,” Ms. Kerr said. “But we think the NJDEP got it wrong. This is the only case I know of in which a state agency has been allowed to abandon a historic site in near original condition to service a private developer, which the University is. The harm is compounded by the fact that this particular historic site provided walkable mass transit from a public street.”

Three other lawsuits against the Dinky move are still pending. Two are New Jersey cases, while the third is a federal action filed by the National Association of Railroad Passengers and the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers.