May 15, 2019

Alerting Town to “Deplorable” Conditions On Bank Street

To the Editor:

Bank Street is the most deplorable street in Princeton.  The sidewalks are busted, uneven, and repaired with asphalt, the pavement is potholed and pitched. The curbs are deteriorated, the trees have been mauled. It has a mass of overhead wiring and cable hanging from wood poles, that primarily served the downtown, with sodium cobra-head riot lighting from the ’60s. It is the most distressed street in Princeton with some of the most deteriorated and unkempt properties at the bottom end. For years, since Mayor Marvin Reed, the borough, and now the town has promised it would repair and upgrade this street. Now for more than 20 years this street has been allowed to deteriorate while millions of dollars were collected in property taxes by the 28 lots on the street. Since we have owned our house we have paid over $340,000 in taxes.

Recently a plan was prepared to upgrade the street. One feature that the residents and owners wanted was to have the overhead wiring and cables placed underground. We were told that it was not possible for the town to pay, but if we wanted the wires buried it would cost each owner $70,000 in addition to the extraordinarily high taxes current paid. The plan to upgrade the street includes new sidewalk curbs, pavement, new water and sewer lines that the owners will have to pay to be connected.  Given that the overhead wiring and cables will remain, many thought that at least the street could have four or five historic decorative light posts, similar to the ones around the University. The poles and fixtures would cost about $24,000 not including installation. We were told that the sidewalks were too narrow although they exist on Chambers Street in locations were the sidewalk is narrower.

The owners were told by the mayor and engineer that the work to improve the street was to start and be completed this summer. Princeton is dependent on a grant from the state to complete the work. The owners were recently informed that they do not have the grant and therefore the work except for the water main will be delayed yet again. Now there is no definitive time table for these improvements — perhaps in six months. We were told this before and are still waiting.

Many streets in town are looking shabby but none as shabby as Bank Street. Are we the taxpayers on Bank Street getting back something for the millions in property taxes we have paid for the last 30-plus years? The mayor and the Council should be ashamed of themselves for such blatant neglect. Perhaps it is time for more responsible leadership. We all believe that with proper upgrading Bank Street could be one of the most unique, beautiful, historic streets in town.

Is Princeton financially in dire straits? It appears so if you have seen Bank Street.

Tony Nelessen
Bank Street