September 3, 2014

AvalonBay to Hear Neighbors’ Concerns

At a meeting tonight, September 3, residents of the neighborhood surrounding the former Princeton Hospital property will have a last chance to voice their concerns about demolition of the old hospital buildings to AvalonBay, the developer planning to build a 280-unit rental complex on the site. The company is holding a meeting from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Witherspoon Hall.

Demolition of the old hospital was scheduled to begin on Thursday but has now been postponed and will likely start sometime during the week of September 15, according to the town’s engineer Bob Kiser. The delay is due to the fact that more asbestos needs to be removed from the site. In addition, the internal inspection of an incinerator drain line must be finished prior to demolition.

Mr. Kiser, Princeton’s land use engineer Jack West, health officer Jeffrey Grosser, and construction official John Pettenati will be in attendance. Mayor Liz Lempert said she will split her time between the meeting and a long-planned party to thank volunteers on the town’s boards, committees, and commissions. Council member Jo Butler said she is planning on attending the meeting.

According to AvalonBay senior vice president Ron Ladell, people will be able to ask questions. “And I am sure we will have lots of them,” he said in an email last week. “AvalonBay representatives will be there along with representatives from the demolition contractor.”

Since Princeton Council approved a revised developer’s agreement with the company August 18, AvalonBay has been anxious to begin demolition of the hospital buildings. Pre-demolition work that did not require the signed agreement has been ongoing this summer. Chief among concerns of the surrounding community are safety and the presence of possible toxins.

The revised developer’s agreement has AvalonBay doing some more environmental testing than was original required by the Council. But some residents still have unresolved issues to air.

“My concerns weren’t addressed by the promise to remove four inches of soil ONLY at unpaved areas,” wrote Harris Road resident Areta Pawlynsky in an email on Tuesday.К“A separately located incinerator appears on a 1948 drawing and a 1963 photo clearly shows the earlier smokestack and completely different unpaved areas С so how can such limited removal based on today’s conditions suffice? The toxins routinely flushed by old hospitals aren’t being dealt with.”

Ms. Pawlynsky, an architect, also has concerns that not all of the lead-based paint will be removed before the scraping of structural demolition begins. “Residents deserve real-time reporting from the five air monitors,’ she said. “The little progress made is due to a huge amount of effort by residents.”

Paul Driscoll, another resident of Harris Road, said, “It is the responsibility of our elected officials as well as all appointed boards and commissions, who have a relationship to AvalonBay’s application, to make every possible effort to protect the health, safety, and property of all citizens (most importantly children) throughout the municipality.”