To the Editor:
The Town of Princeton is proposing that the property tax be increased by nearly 50 percent for the next 20 years for all properties on “historic” Bank Street in downtown Princeton in addition to the recent tax increase. After nearly 40 years of meetings, discussions and false starts, the Town is planning to replace the rotting infrastructure, improve the street surface and streetscape in this unique historic district after letting it literally fall apart for the past 40 years. The historic commission has been powerless to do anything except make people jump through hoops if they want to improve their property while the public domain falls apart. The real issue is the overhead electric, cable and telephone lines by PSEG, Verizon, Comcast and Suneyes, which continue to hang even more lines without removing the unused ones or needing approval to hang new ones. To place these lines underground will cost, the companies say, $1,940,000, or $ 6,000 to $8,000 per linear foot plus a $5,000 hook up fee for each structure. The 28 structures along the street must cover the entire cost, so says the NJ Board of Public Utilities. The alternative is to leave the poles and the gaggle of wires with the radiation from EMF’s literally feet in front of people’s bedroom windows and forever devalue the street.
There is no other street like it in Princeton and it could be a real architectural and historic gem that could enhance the character and quality of downtown and increase revenues from taxes from potential improvements. If the owners of the majority of the properties along the street do not agree to this massive increase in property taxes to place the wires underground, the Town is proposing an unimaginative, vanilla improvements with concrete curbs and sidewalks- no granite, no cobble stone, no historic lighting, no bollards, no traffic calming just a standard asphalt suburban streetscape with new sewer and water lines.
Is this what Bank Street deserves after paying high taxes with few services for over forty years, to be just another old narrow ghetto street with gaggles of overhead wiring while paying extraordinary amount of taxes for all these years with few, spotty municipal services and no resident parking. If it is to remain as this “ghetto” street, then perhaps the Township can accommodate at least one request- have it removed from an historic district and take the historic restrictions away. Perhaps that will be a way to pay for the undergrounding if a large developer purchased many properties and redeveloped it. We were told that the University paid the utility companies their price for undergrounding the Arts and Transit district, and conceded to the demands of the Board of Public Utilities mandate.
What is happening and has happened to Bank Street is shameful. Even in Princeton, every owner cannot write out a check for $75,000.00 or be taxed for greater value than the house will appraise.
Owner of 13 Bank Street for 38 years
Professor of Urban Planning and Design