January 30, 2013

To The Editor:

I’d like to say to the new Princeton Planning Board that when dealing with a new developer for the hospital site, the developer must keep the neighborhood in mind: the height of the apartment buildings, the green space, and that there be no private pool because the tenants could enjoy and support our new Community Park pool that’s right down the street. Not having a private pool could allow more space for low, low income rental units within the affordable units. Remember, “affordable” is not affordable for all Princeton citizens. There should be some more low, low income units with rents below $1,000 per month. There’s a long list of people waiting for low income housing in Princeton, which still shows the need for it.

After sitting through many long planning board meetings listening to the AvalonBay presentation, I hope AvalonBay will completely disappear from the hospital site developers’ list because I don’t trust them. The arrogant, bullying attitude of the AvalonBay developer was unbelievable and we don’t need that kind of unneighborly attitude in Princeton.

Minnie Craig

Witherspoon Street

To the Editor:

I enjoyed reading in last week’s paper about the new appointees to the Princeton Public Library’s Board of Trustees (“Ringing in the New, Library Board Welcomes Six New Members,” Town Topics, Jan. 23). As we welcome them to their new positions and wish them all luck, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank the trustees whom they replaced (in addition to the former mayors): Alison Lahnston, Ira Fuchs, and Richard Levine. During their years of dedicated service, Alison, Ira, and Dick brought impressive skills, careful and creative thinking, and sound judgment to the job of governance, working always to nurture the library’s innovative spirit while helping to ensure its financial stability.

I would also like to thank Director Leslie Burger for her gifted leadership, her unparalleled fund-raising vision and abilities, and her inspiring commitment to the highest levels of excellence for the library and all its programs and services. It was a privilege and an honor to work with Leslie, and with all the trustees, over the last ten years, and I thank them for both enriching my time there, and for their longstanding service to the community.

Katherine McGavern

Past President, Princeton Public Library

January 23, 2013

To the Editor:

It’s great to be living in a united Princeton!

I note that there’s concern about the possible re‑naming of Borough Hall and the Township Municipal Building (or complex). There’s even been talk of a contest for consideration of the best names for the old buildings.

Here’s a serious and sensible suggestion: In our new united Princeton, the former Borough Hall should retain its name, that is, Borough Hall. The former Township Municipal Building (or complex) should retain its name, that is, Township Hall.

There are two major and cogent reasons why this is a good idea: (1) Everyone will know where to find a particular department or service. For example, Administrator, Court and Violations, Tax Collection, and Police in Township Hall; and Public Works, Recycling and Refuse Collection, Vital Statistics, and Fire Safety in Borough Hall.

And (2) preservation of the old names honors and memorializes our history. The 200-year history of the Borough of Princeton and the 175-year history of Princeton Township deserve to be commemorated and preserved in our collective memory.

Retaining the names of these historic (albeit modern) buildings does not lessen our acceptance and recognition of, and pride in the new united Princeton. I hope that this suggestion will be considered seriously by the mayor and Council and others concerned with the matter.

Harvey Rothberg (MD)

Bertrand Drive

To the Editor:

Nelson Mandela insightfully noted, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Last year over 500 of our Mercer County children were living in a place other than their own home. When the child welfare agency determines that child abuse and/or neglect has occurred, a child is removed from the home and placed in out-of-home placement i.e., foster homes or group homes or residential facilities.

The plight of the child after being removed from an abusive situation and placed in the child welfare system turns into a difficult journey, one impossible for a child to navigate through on his or her own.

Fortunately, that is where Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) steps in. CASA recruits, screens and trains volunteers in the community to advocate in court for children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect and are now in out-of-home placement. The mission of CASA is to find safe and permanent homes as quickly as possible so the children don’t languish in the child welfare system.

Through regular visits with the child, in addition to interviews with caretakers, teachers, therapists, and child welfare workers, the CASA volunteer provides up to date information on how the child is doing and includes it in a comprehensive written report, along with recommendations for services that are disseminated to all of the legal parties, including the Family Court judge.

In Mercer County, we greatly need more volunteers. There are many good souls in the area who want to protect all of our children and judge it a basic human right to have a home and family of their own. Visit our website at www.casamercer.org or call (609) 434-0050 to become a CASA volunteer.

Lori Morris

Executive Director, CASA of Mercer County, Inc.

To the Editor:

Princeton is in a unique position within the surrounding region as the one place that can provide a car-free lifestyle. While residents of West Windsor or Montgomery face the daily requirement to fight traffic on Route One or Route 206, the historic core of Princeton, built before the advent of the automobile, provides a critical density of employment and amenities built for walking rather than driving. Many in the heart of town live without owning a car and many others only drive once or twice a week for groceries.

The popularity of apartment living in dense, walkable neighborhoods has skyrocketed in recent years. Those of us who grew up in isolated suburban homes and spent half our youth in the car being driven from one activity to the other are very attracted to a life with fewer parking lots and highways. Access to this lifestyle in Princeton however has been frozen in time. According to the census, the population of the former Princeton Borough is lower now than it was in 1950. While enrollment and employment at the University and in town has exploded in the past 60 years, the supply of housing within walking distance has remained essentially the same due to the effects of restrictive zoning. Instead of greater population density we’ve seen an exponential rise in the number of cars commuting into town with the attendant need for ever more parking and roadwork.

What’s the solution? Princeton needs apartment buildings like the one from AvalonBay so recently rejected by the Planning Board. The only solution to un-met demand is to increase the supply of housing. The solution to our traffic problems is to enable the hundreds and thousands who would prefer to live in walking distance to do so. The best thing to do for sustainability is to allow apartment living in town. The answer to our water runoff issues is to allow population growth to be accommodated at greater densities in town rather than amidst the suburban, car-dependent sprawl. The best thing we can do for our tax base is to encourage these many single and childless households to locate in Princeton rather than only allowing single-family homes which bring far more children to the schools. Opponents argue that four- and five-story apartment buildings aren’t in keeping with Princeton’s neighborhoods. Right in the heart of town, at Nassau and Witherspoon, the First National Bank built a five story office building as far back as 1902. That building covers the entire lot and the historic core of town has many similar structures. It’s that very density of population, employment, and amenities that makes Princeton something other than just a commuter suburb. We should welcome increased population density in town, or else we will continue to live with increased density of traffic and asphalt.

David Keddie

David Brearly Court

To the Editor:

If Princetonians want to see something sad, they should drive down Alexander Street. Between the WaWa and Skillman Furniture, opposite the golf course, Princeton University is demolishing the pleasant mid-nineteenth-century houses that grace this major entry into Princeton.

These houses were considered for historic preservation some years ago, but protection was never granted, Why? Sometimes municipalities don’t get around to doing things they should do. And maybe historic preservation seemed less urgent for houses that already have gaps between them.

In contrast, northern Alexander Street’s 1834 houses remain intact within the protected Mercer Hill Historic District. But isn’t protection nearly as urgent for the few remaining houses below the WaWa that suggest how beautiful this streetscape also was?

And isn’t it cynical of the University to begin making way for arts classrooms by tearing down houses? Yes, the University owns those houses, and, yes, it has every legal right to destroy them. But, although the University’s arts classrooms recently received Planning Board approval, the development is still the subject of litigation. No fewer than three lawsuits seek to enjoin the University from building arts classrooms and moving the Dinky.

Shovels in the ground would be met with an injunction. Demolishing history and charm is a cheap way to create a fait accompli. Must Nassau Hall destroy an authentic gateway to its historic campus and our historic town, especially when a new University president will soon be appointed, one who may know better what our university owes itself and us?

Anne Waldron Neumann

Alexander Street

January 16, 2013

To the Editor:

Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods (PCSN) wishes to thank the entire Princeton community for its help in rejecting AvalonBay’s application to build a fortress-megablock on the old hospital site that would have destroyed all chance to return the site to appropriate neighborhood scale. The Planning Board’s 7-3 vote to deny the application was a firm announcement that the new consolidated Borough will not be bullied into submission by a national corporation. Among those to be thanked:

The Planning Board (PB): for its tireless review of the application, its commitment to the Master Plan and related documents going back to 2004 — that is, its commitment to public policy and the public interest as attested by citizens working on urban planning for nearly a decade. The Planning Board upheld Design Standards, stating that they were not all “subjective” and could not be tossed out; two members asserted that AvalonBay had essentially ignored Design Standards. They also defended the fundamental commitment to publicly usable open space. They scorned the monolith. They told outside corporations they could not take over our Princeton. Even those members who voted to approve the application publicly stated that they disliked the design (but were swayed either by the 20 percent affordable housing component — required of any developer — or by concern that AvalonBay would appeal).

Municipal staff: for its long-term wrestling match with complex site plans and related documents, often inconsistent or lacking required information, and for its final memorandum to the PB firmly stating how much information AvalonBay had not provided as of December 19!

Our public citizen-activists: no fewer than 36 speakers argued against the application with passion, exactitude, and deep understanding of the site plans and their dangers to the community. They spoke eloquently. Their visual presentations had outstanding value in showing the Planning Board how destructive to neighborhood values this development would be. The Planing Board heard quotations from testimony dating back to 2005, as PCSN has recovered and transcribed Planning Board hearings.

The PCSN legal team and urban planner: Robert Simon, after questioning the Planning Board’s legal right to judge the application, systematically exposed problems of “permitted use” in AvalonBay’s case. Aaron Kleinbaum probed issues of environmental safety and has notified the community that an ad-hoc “see or smell” method of evaluating possible carcinogens, among other contaminants, is not sufficient. Peter Steck showed that AvalonBay did not meet the bulk requirement for 20 percent open space for “both public and private use” and was actually over 25 percent under the legal requirement.

Contributors who have helped fund our professional team: many have stepped up, in difficult economic times, to protect Princeton’s future. They have realized that, while we need both rentals and 20 percent affordable housing, we must not have them at the price of destructive development.

Princeton can do better. We are committed to returning the site to human scale. If AvalonBay sues, we believe the Planning Board will prevail. We know that you will continue to support our efforts. We thank you deeply.

Robin Reed

Member, PCSN, Leigh Avenue

To the Editor:

I attended the January 3 open meeting of the new Princeton municipality. The meeting was advertised as setting priorities. For the first hour, Joseph Stefko of the consulting firm, Center for Government Research, gave a generic textbook lecture about setting priorities. The only specific he mentioned was a pie chart representing the answers to a survey of council and staff members, ranking the importance to them of various issues. The largest slice of pie showed that 47 percent ranked as most important the category called, “Preferences.” In other words, 47 percent had ranked the quotidian details of life as most important. Without any further specifics available, I thought, “Yes, they’ve got that right. Preferences are about the individual quality of life issues around town.”

Then Mr. Stefko disparaged that 47 percent by downgrading “Preferences” to bottom priority in importance. He urged the Council members and Mayor Lempert to shelve those “preference” items in favor of larger policy issues.

During his talk, Mr. Stefko repeatedly stressed tackling the large, overwhelming policy issues first and letting the simple, easily resolved problems fall to bottom priority.

He strenuously advocated listening without acting on the citizens’ concerns as a way to rob them of their urgency. At that moment I felt the hopes of the citizens in the room deflate as if pricked by a very sharp pin.

When the microphone was opened to the public, we heard about storm debris blocking side streets, frequent power outages, and the eruption of an unwanted cell booster tower in a residential area. These are the so‑called smaller issues, those “preferences” that affect the daily lives of the citizens.

In contrast to Mr Stefko’s admonitions, during 25 years running my own business, I learned that taking care of the small problems clears the deck for then dealing with the large ones. And from the sum of those myriad decisions will emerge the long‑term vision of the new Princeton government.

While it is important to set priorities, we think the new Princeton government has been advised to set them the wrong way. On behalf of its citizens, I urge the new government to put its priorities where its initial instincts lay — with the residents.

A longtime Princeton resident,

NL Tatz

Snowden Lane

To the Editor:

Yina Moore’s term as mayor of Princeton Borough was short, but distinguished. That it was distinguished should surprise no one.

Yina is uniquely informed, both by an intimate, first hand knowledge of our town’s history and by decades of training in the disciplines of architecture, urban planning, engineering, and transportation. Few of our recent mayors and elected officials have been blessed with her generations-long associations with Princeton, its neighborhoods, and its institutions. No mayor in recent memory — of either municipality – was remotely her equal in evaluating large scale development proposals and anticipating the often adverse consequences of proposed zoning changes.

Yina put her knowledge to good use in her twin roles as the most outspoken member of the Planning Board and the last mayor of our historic Borough. Recognizing the risks inherent in the process of combining two municipalities with very different priorities, she has been in the habit of taking courageous, far-sighted, and often lonely positions — in the process making herself a reliably effective advocate for the core neighborhoods and traditions that have long defined our lovely town.

Thank you, Yina, for persevering in the face of smears and denunciations that seemed to this resident often to be slanderous. Would that your term had been longer and your initiatives less overwhelmed by the exigencies of consolidation. I hope you remain actively engaged. We need your wise counsel now more than ever.

Peter Marks

Moore Street

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Princeton Human Services Commission and department, we extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the 52 individuals/families and 17 community/University organizations for their generosity during our 13th Annual Holiday Gift Drive for Princeton youth.

Thanks to the generous participation of these donors, 164 children were adopted and had at least one of their holiday wishes come true. It is indeed wonderful to be a part of a community that provides such a spirit of caring, compassion, and support.

Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous New Year.

Cynthia Mendez

Director, Princeton Human Services Commission and Department

January 9, 2013

To the Editor:

Princeton has gained a second chance for a smart, sustainable development on the old hospital site, now that AvalonBay’s plan was rejected by the Planning Board. Our new Princeton Council can now work on a fresh ordinance to ensure that community goals are met by any developer, even if AvalonBay re-applies with a “substantially” different site plan.

What should a new ordinance include? The primary aim has always been to reintegrate the entire hospital block back into the physical scale of the neighborhood, making it suitable for ordinary human living, as opposed to the extraordinary functions of a hospital.

First, let’s exclude a swimming pool. Our new Community Park Pool is three blocks away.

Next, sustainable building is imperative. Energy conservation measures must be specified. “Obsolete” new construction — as Heidi Fichtenbaum told the Planning Board — must not be allowed, whether at the hospital site or throughout the entire municipality. As a simple matter of social justice Princeton Council should seek lower utility costs for low-income tenants. Princeton must move forward into the 21st century and continue to set an example.

Many speakers at the hearings, and others, have stressed a required minimum percentage (3-4 percent) for local retail shops (dry cleaners, laundromat, drugstore, etc.), and stores that invigorate the neighborhood economically, encourage people-flow, and keep tenants from wasting time and gas driving elsewhere for shopping.

The current megablock must be broken into livable building areas. New public streets or pedestrian/bicycle pathways should truly “cross the site” to connect with already existing streets such as Carnahan Place, Franklin, and Leigh Avenues.

The hospital promised Princeton and the neighborhood a sizeable park (35,000 square feey). The new ordinance should mandate a park as part of the minimum required public open space. Let’s hope for public open space for a neighborhood playground (architect Robert Hillier proposed two).

Density: “up to 280,” not 280 flat. Princeton Council should find incentives to lower a density that many people consider outrageously high, especially since Mr. Rabner on behalf of the hospital and its trustees contracted with a developer known by historical practice to do everything except build according to the Master Plan and Borough Code.

Our municipal leaders must incentivize more “very low income” units than the 13 percent of affordable units required by law. Princeton needs to mandate social justice for the sake of a thriving community.

Let’s remember that the ordinances resulting from the 2005 concept plan won two awards: 1) Sustainable Bronze accreditation from Sustainable Jersey, for permitting recycling of the hospital “towers” (not their destruction, which Pam Hersh, hospital spokesperson, called “a travesty” [Borough Council, July 11, 2006]); 2)The Delaware River Valley Smart Growth Award, 2006, for the ordinance provision, “A new neighborhood street is envisioned” — smaller blocks, human scale, more bikes and feet.

Janice Hall

Park Place

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Princeton Transition Task Force and the Consolidation Commission, I want to thank residents who came out on New Year’s Day to celebrate the official merger of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township.

The spirit of unity was fantastic. Though a lot of hard work still lies ahead, Princetonians rightfully took time to enjoy our merger milestone — culminating more than two years of intensive efforts. Hats off to all of our neighbors, elected officials and municipal employees who made this day possible.

Princeton businesses also helped celebrate our consolidation. Local merchants provided the wonderful Consoli-Cakes, drinks, refreshments, and prizes. We’d like to recognize and thank the following merchants and organizations for their donations and support:

Arts Council of Princeton, Black Squirrel, Dunkin’ Donuts (Princeton Shopping Center), elements Restaurant, HG Media, Joe Teti, McCaffrey’s Supermarket, McCarter Theatre Center, Palmer Square Management, Princeton Printers, Princeton Recreation Department, Princeton Tour Company, Princeton University Athletics, Princeton University Conference Services, Small World Coffee, Smart Card/Princeton Parking Operations, Terhune Orchards, Terra Momo Restaurant Group.

What a wonderful way to ring in our new town and a New Year.

Linda Mather

Dorann Avenue

Chair, Transition Task Force Communications

and Public Outreach Subcommittee

To the Editor:

I just read the notice of General Norman Schwarzkopf’s passing and it brought back a flood of childhood memories. Is there anyone else in town who remembers Mrs. Baum’s fifth grade class in 1945? It was in the old Nassau Street School, upstairs on the back side of the building.

Two new boys joined the usual kids that year — Norman and someone named Joel. I think they both lived near Hibben Road. Norman and I struck up a friendship. We were assigned to make the scenery for a play the class was putting on; each class was responsible for two assemblies a year. Our play was Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. We got big orange crates from the Acme Supermarket across the street and cut out paper jugs to put on the vertical standing crates so the thieves could hide behind them. There were great rolls of brown paper in the halls that you could roll out, cut and paint on. We were allowed to make the scenery by ourselves in the hall. I remember that we laughed a lot and got to know each other. I had a part in the play — Cassim’s wife — and had to pretend to cry when Cassim was killed. Norman would stand in the wings and make funny faces at me.

Norman was a large boy. He was well liked by all the kids even though he was new and bigger than most but always gentle and modest. When good weather came in the spring, he started waiting for me after school and walked me home. It was about a mile and we laughed a lot. He wouldn’t stay, just said good‑bye and walked on home. I liked him a lot and when the year ended, I looked forward to sixth grade when I’d see him again. Sixth grade came but Norman didn’t. I heard he was going to a military academy in Bordentown. I was sad.

Barbara Brickley Dollard

Elm Ridge Road

To the Editor:

As a member of the Princeton community for the past 17 years, I want to commend the staff, teachers, and volunteers who work with the English as a Second Language (ESL) Program of the YWCA Princeton. Over the years, both as a student and volunteer in the program, I have come to realize how important the program is for adults who want to improve their English and who want to become more productive members of their adopted home country. The ESL Program offers more than 40 courses to more than 400 students each year, as well as free Citizenship — and GED preparation courses by the 25 teachers. One feature that distinguishes this program is its capacity to offer enrolled students free additional sessions conducted by community volunteers. These 40-50 volunteers provide an “immersion-type” atmosphere in which students can practice their English skills beyond the classroom. Also, varied cultural events and field trips are organized for the students, including productions at McCarter Theater, visits to the State House, State Museum, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University campus, Princeton Public Library, and Grounds for Sculpture, just to mention a few.

In our community, the ESL Program is an essential part of the effort to build self-sufficiency for individuals and families whose native language is not English and whose goals include seeking employment or obtaining better employment, gaining the ability to communicate with officials and social service workers in order to obtain needed services, and becoming more involved in their children’s education. The YWCA Princeton offers partial financial aid through its own scholarship program, and relies on government and private funding for support. In this season of giving, my request is that members in our community contribute to the YWCA Princeton ESL Program by becoming a volunteer or making a contribution to the ESL Scholarship Fund. Please visit the Web site at www.ywcaprinceton.org/esl for more information.

Inkyung Yi

Shady Brook Lane,

Volunteer for ESL Program, YWCA Princeton

To the Editor:

I am looking forward to participating in our new Princeton refuse collection and would like to make a suggestion/request.

When the yellow and green plastic recycling barrels were first distributed it was possible to obtain lids that fit them, first at a town municipal facility and then by driving to the Mercer County facility and purchasing a lid there for $2. Over time it was easy to lose them due to careless pick up practices or windy conditions, so many of us no longer have enough lids to cover these barrels when we also use them for garbage disposal.

It would be a real help if the Department of Public Works could obtain a quantity of these lids for resale to Princeton residents so that they can fully comply with the new disposal regulations. Princeton has been my home for over 85 years and it is difficult for me to drive to the Mercer County facility but a short drive within the town limits would be no problem. Until then, I will have to improvise to provide lids for all my trash receptacles.

Sallie W. Jesser

Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

Now that our consolidated municipality is collecting everyone’s trash, citizens are scrambling to comply with the December 17 refuse collection memo. Unfortunately, there is confusion, especially in the outdoor sections of Home Depot and Lowe’s where trash cans are sold. The memo instructed: “You are allowed a maximum of four 32 gallon capacity plastic or metal containers (with or without wheels), which weigh no more than 50 pounds when full.” After seeing all manner of containers large and small on the streets after our first pickup last week, I called Town Hall for clarification. The confused, defensive response seemed suggestive of a “Municipal Complex.” The respondent didn’t quite know whether the rule permitted 50 gallon containers, or each container 50 pounds, or all containers a total of 50 pounds. “I didn’t write this memo,” she protested. In fact, the memo is confusing. A further clarification would be helpful so that homeowners can readily comply without overinvesting in new receptacles, local merchants can stock exactly what we need, the haulers can attain their efficiencies with the preferred standardization, and the community can be satisfied that compliance is being fairly maintained and that municipal collection is better than private collection.

Tom Pyle

Balsam Lane

January 2, 2013

To the Editor:

The 7-3 Planning Board vote against AvalonBay was decisive.

After chastising AvalonBay for falsely claiming to have presented a concept plan, one member said, “We are as contemptuous of [AvalonBay’s] site plan as the applicant was of [Borough Code] design standards.” Another said, the plan “is the essence of a gated community” and stated that the word “through” — as in public “linkages between and through the development” (Code, 17A-193B.d.4) — was “not a difficult word” to understand; some design standards “are concrete,” the member said, after having received assurances of SPRAB’s “absolute” rejection of the site plan on fourteen counts.

Another criticized AvalonBay’s intransigence during ad hoc discussions (spring 2012) in failing to “provide the openness … the design standards are calling for” and in balking “when we suggested we might support an increased building height if they would go higher in the center of the site” (as stipulated in the design standards), and summarized, “The overriding theme was ‘AvalonBay is a brand and that’s what you get.’”

Another called the plan “monolithic and gated,” not “something that was integrated into the community.” One, also referring to the outsized scale, strongly discouraged in design standards unchanged since 2006, said, “We owe these neighbors … some semblance of a family neighborhood.” Another called AvalonBay “intellectually devious” in frequently using the term “cost-generation” (not permitted in a development that includes affordable housing) to threaten the Planning Board and satirized the developer’s private, “cost-generative” swimming pool.” One, though voting for the application, asked whether the development would be a “destructive unit” (harsh language); another wanted “a better design”; “disturbing” was the kindest word.

Planning Board members agreed: AvalonBay disregarded the design standards. Mr. Ladell audaciously tried to sham his way into an approval. “Not once,” he said, did “staff assert that the project needed any variance or isn’t conforming.” Eyes rolled. Attorney Ladell: you know that no municipal staff can “approve” an application; they “deem” an application “complete” when all preliminary papers have been submitted — and then study the plans for difficulties, ask for clarifications. They don’t vote.

Princeton should know that, just before the final hearing, the planning director, with Borough and Township staff, addressed the Planning Board: “Staff is not able to form an opinion on whether all the [design] standards have been adequately addressed as AvalonBay has only provided the Board and staff with one-dimensional black and white drawings of the building. Many of the design standards require a more expansive approach and we would expect the site designer to discuss the design criteria with the Board using exhibits to demonstrate the creativity, invention, and innovation that went into the design. None of the elevations have been rendered … the applicant has not provided any building material samples … detailing how it has addressed the design standards.”

Mr. Ladell, that’s no “approval”. It’s a rebuff based on the design standards you chose to disregard and your failure to provide information. You lost the vote. You lost community trust months ago. Leave. Do not appeal.

Daniel A. Harris

Dodds Lane

December 26, 2012

To the Editor:

I am greatly disappointed to hear that the Princeton Regional Planning Board has voted to approve Princeton University’s plans for its new Arts Center and the Dinky train shuttle between Princeton and the Northeast Corridor train line at Princeton Junction. I agree entirely that the Arts Center should go forward immediately. But this really has nothing to do with the Dinky, except for the fact that Princeton University has dishonorably and disingenuously tried to package the two plans together, in order to slide a bad project through the public approval process under cover of a good one.

The Dinky terminus at the Princeton end will be moved 460 feet out of town, AND have a long staircase interposed between it and the town, AND have a road interposed between it and the town, AND have drop-off parking moved from the bottom of University Place to a location one traffic circle and multiple street lights and pedestrian crossings further away from town. All for the purpose NOT of enabling an Arts Center, for which none of these physical changes need be made, but instead simply to give the University better access from Alexander Road to one of its parking lots. The Dinky plan is patently awful public-amenity planning, for these reasons and others (it will prevent possible future extension of the Dinky line into town, it will further burden traffic on the Alexander Road route out of town and pin this route between University-controlled land on both sides, etc.). It would be laughed out of any reasonable public policy forum, were it not being camouflaged by the Arts Center stalking horse.

If the Dinky plan is ultimately effectuated, the sad lessons to draw will be that (1) the University is as capable of degrading the public welfare for selfish reasons as any other big, rich, and overly self-satisfied private actor; (2) the University can be quite unintelligent in weighing up long-term benefits for itself (as well as for the town) against minor gains for itself (and losses for the town); (3) our public servants have failed us in not separating the Arts Center and Dinky plans and making sure that the good plan did not come at the high cost of the bad plan; (4) our public servants have failed us in not coming up with a better way to give the University better access to its parking lot (surely something we should be rushing to help the University achieve, without having to rip up functioning electric transportation infrastructure); (5) our local news media have failed us in not seeing through the ruse of an “Arts and Transit” neighborhood and speaking truth to power; and (6) the University and the town are about to vandalize a unique and extremely valuable amenity — an electrified (and extendable) right-of-way from the Northeast Corridor almost to the Princeton town center. So close, and yet so far.

The town of Princeton has only two things that really differentiate it from most other suburbs in the country: Princeton University and the Dinky connection to the nation’s busiest transit corridor. The town has now decided to permit the stronger of these two assets to cannibalize the weaker. It will only make Princeton more of a “one-company town”, and give the University even more power to override the local public good in favor of its private interests in the future.

Richard Baumann

Princeton University Class of 1981,

Rosedale Road

To  the Editor:

I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Princeton Clergy Association for organizing the December 20 Interfaith Gathering of Unity and Hope in remembrance of the victims of the Sandy Hook school tragedy. I’m certain that the large number of attendees who covered Palmer Square Green share my sentiment.

The inspiring messages from leaders representing many denominations and religious faiths beautifully conveyed our sorrow, love and support for the families affected by this unspeakable horror.

Linda Sipprelle

Nassau Street

To the Editor:

“Wow!” was the word used by many as they entered Frick Laboratories, Princeton University for the Arts Council of Princeton’s (ACP) Dining by Design: POP! Fundraiser held on December 1. The ACP would like to thank our event sponsors, dinner hosts, guest artist presenters, auction donors and our event committee, especially the talented and dedicated décor Co-Chairs Dawn McClatchy and Sandy Bonasera and their team. We would also like to thank the over 400 attendees who supported our event and recognize our Board of Trustees for their unprecedented generosity and dedication. In addition, we truly appreciate Princeton University for providing the spectacular event venue.

We are proud to have exceeded our fundraising goals to continue our critical support of important free programs that make the arts accessible to at-risk youth, seniors, and people from all backgrounds. Programs for at-risk youth include: Arts Exchange (for HomeFront of Trenton), Art Reach (for Princeton Young Achievers and Princeton Nursery School), and Kids at Work: Discovery through Art (for Princeton Regional Schools). This funding also supports scholarships to ensure that our classes are accessible to all and for Creative Aging Programming for Seniors and Caregivers. For more information about these and other Arts Council of Princeton programs we invite you to visit our website www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

Thank you again to everyone for your continuing support in helping to achieve our mission of “building community through the arts.”

Jeff Nathanson,

Executive Director

Jeniah “Kookie” Johnson,

Director of Community Relations

December 19, 2012

To the Editor:

One of my students [at the Hun School] participated in a debate last week in which she argued in favor of gun control. Although she had the stronger argument, she lost to a more experienced debater. In the wake of the events at Newtown I sent her the following message: “Given what happened at Newtown yesterday, I think your debate should be revisited. All you need to say is ‘Twenty babies in Newtown.’”

How terribly sad: how utterly unnecessary. I can’t even imagine.

There comes a time when an argument against rational good sense must run into a wall of public indignation. Vietnam was one such case: this is another. By allowing themselves to be held captive by a minority, our elected officials are working at cross-purposes with the public good. There is a difference between firearms for sport and machines developed for no better purpose than to kill human beings. There is a reason for background checks and extended waiting periods. That is, firearms kill 10,000 Americans every year.

It is estimated that in any given year, seat belt laws save the same number of lives that firearms take. The states and federal government justify curbing our personal right to be stupid because doing so benefits the greater public. How can the same people who pass seat belt laws continue to ignore the systemic violence, which they effectively endorse by not passing laws: laws, which restrict gun ownership as well as the kinds of guns available to the public? By continuing to elect these people, we are no less guilty.

Look into the eyes of the mothers who lost their children yesterday and explain to them how seat belt laws make more sense than gun control.

The time for debate is over.

Tim Pitts

Ettle Farm

To the Editor:

I was happy to read that Dr. Carl Hoyler rides a brightly-painted bicycle around Princeton (“After 44 Years and Many Memories, An Old-Fashioned Doctor Calls It Quits,” Town Topics, Dec. 12). However, I was dismayed to learn that he thinks wearing a helmet is dangerous. Dr. Hoyler is mistaken. In case of a fall, a bicycle helmet, rather than his head, would absorb some of the force of the blow.

Wearing a bicycle helmet is like wearing a seatbelt or having an airbag in a car: they all protect you in case of an accident. Dr. Hoyler worries about his peripheral vision. However, the Mayo Clinic says, “If the bicycle helmet straps block your vision — even a little bit — choose another helmet.”

“What’s the first lesson in bike safety?” asks Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation. “Always wear a properly-fitting bicycle helmet.”

Also, please remember to use lights so that you can be seen. Helmets are only part of the safety equation.

Sandra Shapiro

Advisor, West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance

Wycombe Way, Princeton Junction

To the Editor:

Incredibly, the plan for the former Princeton Hospital site proposed for development by the AvalonBay corporation that will be put before the Planning Board once again on Wednesday December 19 has no alternative energy and very limited sustainability features. The company has flatly refused to use solar energy to lessen its carbon footprint. This plan is disturbing also because of the issue of social justice in the higher cost of fuel to residents, including those in “affordable” units. This is tantamount to giving the blessing of affordable housing with one hand but placing the burden of increasingly higher energy costs on tenants, especially those less able to pay.

The building would be the largest residential development in Princeton. It is unconscionable to build a 280 unit apartment building for about 500 people and not have alternative energy, thus relying totally on fossil fuels, especially when AvalonBay has used such sustainable features in its corporate headquarters in Arlington, Va., the company’s website states:

“At AvalonBay Communities, Inc. green living is more than a philosophy, it’s our commitment …. At the core of green living is our understanding that a sustainable approach to living benefits all — our residents, our associates, and the communities where we are located.”

In spite of those nice p.r. words, it is difficult to consider AvalonBay a good corporate citizen given its current site plan. Alternative energy is an “Inherently Beneficial Use” which should not be put in the category of “cost generative,” a legal term AvalonBay throws around with abandon. Actually, in the long term, alternative energy will save money as well as improve the environment, but AvalonBay has short term interests.

Apparently Princeton is not an isolated case. An April 11, 2012 memo from the Office of the New York City Comptroller to AvalonBay’s shareholders on sustainability urges them to vote in favor of “A request that the board of directors of AvalonBay prepare and make available to shareholders by September, 2012 a sustainability report addressing greenhouse gas emissions, water conservation, waste minimization, energy efficiency, and other environmental and social impacts … in operations and maintenance as well a design.”

Almost all of the things that socially responsible developers do these days are called “cost generative” by AvalonBay because this proposed development will have some affordable housing. Are we to conclude that people living in affordable housing should be subjected to more pollution and its renters pay more for energy use because they have lower incomes? The fact that the state allows this lesser standard does not mean that AvalonBay must follow it instead of choosing to be a good corporate citizen.

If the Planning Board should vote to approve this problematic site, with many other serious issues, I hope it will consider making a condition of approval the inclusion of solar panels “to the maximum extent possible” because of its “inherently beneficial use,” which also carries some legal weight.

Grace Sinden

Ridgeview Circle

To the Editor:

The day after Thanksgiving our home on Moore Street was badly damaged in a freak fire that started in the back yard and spread to the house. In a short period of time, while we were shopping, our entire life changed. Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire, and even our two cats escaped major harm.

Though the shock and pain of the loss of our home continues, our lives would be so much worse at the moment if it wasn’t for the incredible actions of the Princeton Volunteer Fire Department and for the amazing care of our friends and neighbors in Princeton, and especially on Moore and Jefferson Streets.

From the very first night, when we were left with only the clothes on our backs, people rallied around, providing everything from food, toiletries, and clothing to kind words of support. We are incredibly grateful and want to recognize and give thanks for the kindness of everyone who helped.

From the Nathan family who let us store some of the few possessions rescued from the fire in their garage, to the Stange family who gave us tickets for A Christmas Carol, there are many people to thank — so many, in fact, that we fear that this letter will not capture all of them. We do, however, want to try and publicly thank a few of them.

Jon and Jenny Crumiller and Darlyn Crum deserve special thanks for letting us stay in their beautiful house for almost two weeks until we found rented accommodation. It is impossible to overstate what their kindness meant to our family.

Community organizer Anita Garoniak, who started the search for temporary accommodation, clothing and so much more, continues to find other ways to support us. Ken and Diana Griebell created an online list to coordinate our search for necessities. Mona and Rob Sgobbo restocked our pantry and washed our smoke damaged clothing. Julie Harrison and Cecil Marshall helped us find a place to live. Liz Sikes found our scared cats and the Esterman-McKeegan and Dutaud families took them in. Miki Mendelsohn, the Marshall-Otto, Villa-Sgobbo, Esterman-McKeegan and Thompson families provided help, support and delicious food to comfort us over and over again. There are many, many names and this list continues to grow daily.

Others who have come to our side in our time of need include:

Susan Jeffries, Virginia Kerr, Jackie Shire, Dan Preston and Maggie Rose, Natasha Haase, Laura and Lindon Estes, Barbara Heck and Rob Nelson, Tom and Amy Onder, Maureen Kearney, Susan Ashmore, Danuta Buzdygan, Merilyn Rovira and Carlos Rodrigues, Advah Zinder, Lieve Monnens-Cash, Susan Osborn, Shawn O’Hara, Tony LaPlaca, and the Impink family.

We now have temporary accommodation on Moore Street from which we hope to oversee the rebuilding of our home as quickly as possible. Despite the trauma of the last few weeks we feel very lucky to live in Princeton and have such wonderful neighbors.

Thank you,

Susanna, Marc, Alex and Isabel Monseau

Moore Street

To the Editor:

The economic consequences of Princeton HealthCare’s contract with AvalonBay include a huge fiscal impact on Princeton municipal government and the taxpayers. The loss of expected tax revenues will increasingly be felt. This deadweight exceeds AvalonBay’s crippling refusal to permit local retail shops along Witherspoon Street and its misguided insistence on building an obsolete structure without solar paneling (and thus passing on, without regard for social justice, higher utility costs to its renters, including those in the 20 percent affordable units).

Why will this happen? Barry Rabner of Princeton HealthCare recklessly chose to sign a contract with the one
corporate developer who was almost guaranteed not to build according to the Master Plan and Borough Code, which prohibit any “private gated community.” AvalonBay, nationwide, builds only “Private Communities,” according to corporate policy. The company has thus run into powerful opposition from Princeton community members who scorn the fortress-effect and deplore the loss of publicly usable open space even while supporting rental housing and 20 percent affordable housing.

The consequence of Mr. Rabner’s deeply misguided choice is that AvalonBay’s application is likely to end up in court, further delaying (for how long, no one can guess) a settling of the contingency contract — at which time the developer will begin paying property taxes. No one can know, today, who will appeal.

That’s only part of the story. As Town Topics readers know from earlier letters to the editor, AvalonBay retains the Property Tax Assistance (PTA) company to represent them in gaining property tax reductions from municipalities. A PTA brochure lists AvalonBay as its chief client and boasts that “Since 1992, we have reduced their tax liability by nearly 30 percent” for AvalonBay properties in California and Washington (document available from Daniel A. Harris). AvalonBay’s projected taxes for the old Princeton Borough were estimated at between $3.7 million and $4 million dollars. Deduct 25 percent (conservatively). You get $3 million dollars in much-needed revenue — from a company that intends to haggle.

Of course the hospital never paid taxes as a non-profit organization. Its taxes since June 2012, if any, are unknown. Though Princeton has survived, any new taxes will be a plus, even if wrenched downwards by AvalonBay’s PTA crew. But the unpredictable delay resulting from judicial appeal is detrimental to the fiscal health of Princeton’s future, and so is any future conflict with AvalonBay as corporate taxpayer. The entire Borough as well as the old hospital’s neighborhood will feel increasingly cheated by Princeton HealthCare and by Mr. Rabner in particular.

Is there a solution to this problem that would preserve the integrity of all parties?

While we wait: since there is no desired revenue stream at hand, the Board should vote for the best urban planning it can get — surely not AvalonBay’s behemoth.

The Planning Board should vote its conscience.

Jane Buttars

Dodds Lane