February 22, 2012

To the Editor:

The swearing-in of Assemblywoman Donna M. Simon to the seat vacated by the late Peter J. Biondi now completes the delegation for the 16th Legislative District, which includes Princeton Borough and Princeton Township. With that, we would like to say we are honored to represent the citizens of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township in the state legislature.

As your state representatives, we are committed to providing leadership that is honest, independent, principled, and determined; we are committed to reforms that make our state government smaller, less expensive, and smarter; and we are committed to addressing the tax burdens New Jerseyans face, especially specific to property taxes. Not before our state government fulfills these commitments can we expect the private sector to create jobs, grow the economy, and return New Jersey to prosperity.

Nothing serves the public good more than an involved citizenry — we ask that our constituents publicly engage as we endeavor to provide them with the quality representation they deserve.

Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman

Assemblyman Jack M. Ciattarelli

Assemblywoman Donna M. Simon

Editor’s Note: Legislative District 16 includes Delaware Township, Borough of Flemington, Township of Readington, Township of Raritan, and Borough of Stockton in Hunterdon County; Borough of Princeton and Princeton Township in Mercer County; Township of South Brunswick in Middlesex County; and Township of Branchburg, Hillsborough Township, Borough of Manville, Millstone Borough, Montgomery Township, Borough of Rocky Hill, and Borough of Somerville in Somerset County.

To the Editor:

I was astonished by information contained in a February 15 Town Topics article (“Public Input Is Integral to Task Force Mission”), which publicized a call for volunteers for the Transition Team focused on sub-committee tasks. My first question is who directed or authorized this posting?

As one of the volunteers and being familiar with the lists of both those chosen and those not, my second question is who decided that those volunteers not selected were not asked to serve and new candidates recruited? Within the long list of volunteers published in print media were several individuals known to me with outstanding credentials, some of whom were not even interviewed by those involved in the appointments process.

As I see it and as it is clearly revealed by the selections alone, the primary consideration in the culling process was support for the status quo politically and a clear commitment to continuing current ways of doing business, including organization and staffing models and otherwise.

Although I’m not one of Roger Martindell’s political compatriots, his letter in the February 15 Town Topics (“Consolidation Transition Task Force Can Re-Invent Delivery of Municipal Services”), has merit. It frames succinctly how the consolidation effort should be conducted and by whom, especially as regards the Task Force serving as the “linchpin” to “aggressively re-invent local government” and “deliver municipal services.”

Two of the three “main groups “ Martindell describes, municipal staffs and the two existing municipal governing bodies, have far too much baggage to carry, including their own self-interest to plow any new ground. As to the Task Force, in my view the individuals already listed as selected to serve on the working groups’ sub-committees of the Task Force are not the hoped for “core group of volunteer residents” to get done what needs done! They are already set up with controlling membership from the first two groups.

One could easily predict the outcomes will be that neither the Transition Team nor the sub-committee working groups will reinvent anything and just resolve to do the same functions the same way on a modestly larger scale. This also will result in cost savings less than those thought initially achievable and, more importantly, lost opportunity for synergistically magnifying consolidation benefits through innovative changes.

Informally, I have already heard that activities and organizations that are already consolidated are not to be addressed. This is transparently due to a control and status quo perspective based on an unreasoned assumption that they are already performing in a collaborative and effective manner. This preordains that any seminal changes in key areas of public interest will not even be on the table.

John Clearwater

Governors Lane

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to Councilman Roger Martindell’s baffling letter that appeared in the February 15 issue of the Town Topics. (“Consolidation Transition Task Force Can Re-Invent Delivery of Municipal Services”)

Perhaps Mr. Martindell did not read the resolution that he voted for establishing the Transition Task Force (TTF) because it clearly states that: “the general mission of said task force shall be to propose implementation of the recommended municipal consolidation of the Borough and Township, using the Joint Consolidation Study Commission Final Report date June 2011 as a guide.”

The Joint Shared Services and Consolidation Commission made specific recommendations that will result in an estimated annual savings of 3.2 million dollars upon full implementation. This serves as the basis for the voters’ expectations when they voted for consolidation. The final report issued by the commission is to serve as the guideline for the Transition Task Force. While the TTF will review and analyze the nuts and bolts of the recommendations from an implementation perspective – even potentially varying from certain recommendations, it does not exist to re-invent the wheel as Mr. Martindell implies in his letter.

For example, Mr. Martindell cites the new police department and asks “Should the new Princeton retain all 60 [police], or reduce that number, and by how many?” If he read the report, he would have been aware that the commission already studied these questions and recommended a police force reduction of 9 personnel — ultimately resulting in a staff of 51.

The TTF comprised of 4 elected officials, 4 citizen representatives from each municipality and both administrators serving as ex-officio members) has a significant amount of work ahead of it in the next 11 months, but it must also prioritize. It will certainly have an opportunity to ‘re-invent’ our operating budgets (potential for additional cost savings), but it must review the recommendations of the Joint Shared Services and Consolidation Commission with the goal of making structural staffing recommendations that will realize the savings that have been promised to the voters. Furthermore, it will review existing employee benefits and union contracts in detail (as there are differences in both municipalities) and recommend how it will be best to manage these benefits and contracts moving forward. These are just some of the many tasks that lie ahead and I have full confidence that the TTF is up to the task. Finally, the TTF is an advisory body. The real decision making authority will continue to rest with the governing bodies. While Mr. Martindell questioned the ability of the governing bodies, it is important for the reader to know that Mr. Martindell has been a Borough Councilman for the last 22 years. It is up to us as elected officials to lead and make the hard decisions about staffing, benefits and services, and maybe Mr. Martindell is uncomfortable making those decisions. However, it is our job and we answer to our residents. It is time to stop the grandstanding, work together, and put ourselves on a path for a single municipality in 2013.

Chad Goerner

Mayor, Princeton Township

To the Editor:

For the past eight years I’ve been proud to serve as a trustee for the Princeton Battlefield society and help further the cause of preserving an important piece of American history.

During the overnight of January 2-3, 1777, George Washington led his rag-tag army of patriots from Trenton on a daring all-night march in an attempt to outflank the far superior British army by attacking the garrison in Princeton. Upon arrival, a portion of Washington’s army was routed by the British. In response, General Washington personally led his army on a successful counterattack, sweeping the British from the field.

The Battle of Princeton is widely recognized by historians and writers, such as James McPherson, David Hackett Fischer, Tom Fleming, and David McCullough, as one of the most important engagements in the American Revolution. The British had claimed that Washington’s victory at Trenton a week earlier was a fluke won only because they faced the poorly led and inferior Hessian mercenaries. The victory at Princeton over British Regulars, made possible by the courage, foresight and tenacity of Washington and his men, destroyed the myth of British invincibility and firmly established Washington as a master strategist and revolutionary leader. The victory at Princeton inspired Americans everywhere to challenge the British and ultimately led to the liberation of New Jersey a few months later.

The site of the proposed development is Maxwell’s Field, the exact location where Washington led the successful counterattack that won the battle.

In 2009 the Princeton Battlefield was named one of the Ten Most Endangered sites in New Jersey by Preservation New Jersey, and prior to that in 2008 the National Park Service named the Princeton Battlefield a ‘Priority I Principal Site’ in its Report to Congress. The Princeton Battlefield is among just 29 Revolutionary War sites with that status.

John Milner Associates (JMA) completed a thorough mapping project which was accepted by the National Park Service in 2011 as having satisfied the high standards of scholarship, technique and analysis. The conclusion that this is the site of heavy fighting is supported by an archeological study showing the military artifacts, mostly musket balls and cannon shot found on the Institute’s development site as well as by JMA’s analysis of the eyewitness descriptions of the action recorded by both British and American participants and witnesses. The study directly contradicts the Institute’s stated position that nothing important happened on the land earmarked for development.

Up until recently they have denied that any part of the battle was fought on Maxwell’s Field. Despite the overwhelming evidence and admissions by some witnesses for the IAS of the significance of the field, they claim that it is irrelevant because the town no longer has a right to block their plans.

A victory at the planning board may force the IAS to finally reconsider their ill-advised development and perhaps open the door to renewed negotiations which our experts have offered for many years to relocate the development to an alternate site.

Bill Spadea

Ewing Street

To the Editor:

All your readers who have been following the sturm und drang of the Institute for Advanced Study’s (IAS) housing proposal and the Princeton Battlefield Society’s (PBS) opposition should be aware that it did not have to be so contentious. I am unaffiliated with either the IAS or the PBS, and as an area resident I believe both institutions contribute greatly to making Princeton a wonderful place. I’m dismayed that one of these parties appears absolutely unwilling to work with the other party — a party that historically has been one of the greatest supporters and certainly the largest contributor of land to the battlefield. I see that one party has gone overboard to find a solution that works for both institutions, while the other is obstreperous and is playing political games.

I do not doubt the noble purposes of either body, nor their sincere intentions to do what is right as they see it. To bridge the gap, our own Congressman Rush Holt entered the fray behind the scenes to try to broker (in the best sense of that word) a compromise. It was at his urging that two eminent historians — Princeton’s own James McPherson and Brandeis University professor David Hackett-Fisher — attempted to bring the parties together over a series of suggestions that they made to find common ground. Alas, the Battlefield Society would have none of it and refused to be a party to any proposed compromise. And here we are: weeks and weeks of hearings at great public and private expense, with little, if any, public benefit. In fact, a negative benefit, as this infighting has certainly tarnished the reputation of both institutions. And the money and energy spent obstructing progress could have been much better deployed improving the battlefield — which is in dire need of improvements — rather than lining the pockets of lawyers and consultants.

The Institute has agreed to abide by the McPherson/Hackett-Fisher suggestions and the Battlefield Society has taken an all-or-nothing approach. Under the compromise, not only is even more open space preserved, but educational signage is improved (it is in  deplorable shape currently). During the last hearing, the Battlefield Society’s own historical witness, having heard the essence of the compromise which commits the Institute to yet more archeological excavations, indicated he could live with the compromise! And Professors McPherson and Hackett-Fisher are themselves staunch preservationists.

What more need be said? The Institute, with no obligation to negotiate and with no party with which to negotiate, and at no small cost, has done the right thing and more. I still hope the Battlefield Society will see reason.

But in any case, I would hope that the planning board approves the IAS proposal at its next meeting; it is the only right thing to do.

Sev Onyshkevych

Bayberry Road

To the Editor:

We thought the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, but apparently not in Princeton. We have followed the accounts of the Princeton Battlefield Society’s attempt to stop the Institute for Advanced Study’s Faculty Housing Plan for lo these many months. We are confounded by the ability of a small group of “historians” to thwart a plan that not only undermines the good of an internationally renowned institution; but also undermines the preservation and enhancement of the Princeton Battlefield itself.

The Institute consulted with noted historians James McPherson of Princeton University and David Hackett-Fisher of Brandeis, both leading preservationists. They proposed amendments to the Institute’s plan, which the Institute adopted. Moreover, both historians agree that the Institute’s faculty housing plan, as amended and presently before the Regional Planning Board, is a good compromise — one that respects the Battlefield.

It bears noting that Professors McPherson and Hackett-Fisher are among several historians who, over the last several decades, have restored balance and credibility to the written history of our country. Both men were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history. Mr. Hackett-Fisher’s prize was for a book he wrote, which included a detailed account of the battle of Princeton. Their opinions are entitled to great weight and deference.

The housing plan provides for a 200-foot buffer zone alongside the Battlefield Park, which will now be permanently preserved as open space. Further, the Institute believes that it is important to enhance the interpretive materials provided for visitors to the Battlefield Park, and is ready to be a partner in realizing this objective. The Institute has also agreed, yet again, to survey the archaeology of the site before and monitor it during construction.

We support the Institute and its Faculty Housing Plan and urge the Regional Planning board to approve it at its next meeting.

Robert O. Cohen

Mary Robinson Cohen

(former member,

Princeton Regional Planning Commission)

Clover Lane

To the editor:

The Princeton Battlefield Society has done much to honor its mission, but it seems to be reacting unreasonably to the Institute for Advanced Study’s sensible and accommodating proposal for its much-needed faculty housing. The Institute has hardly ignored legitimate historical concerns. As the Battlefield Society’s own historical witness conceded at the last hearing when properly informed of the Institute’s plans to yet again survey the archeology of the site before and during construction, the Institute’s plan was something even he could accept. That would appear to conclude the issue. Newly-minted claims by the Battlefield Society about wetlands and stream corridors appear to be a distraction. The planning board should approve the Institute’s plan without further delay.

George L. Bustin


To the Editor:

The ten days of the Trenton and Princeton Battles were arguably the most important of the Revolutionary War and were certainly key to enabling General George Washington to keep a Continental Army in the field during the winter of 1777. This was the battle, and the ground in question, the ground that George Washington personally led his staff forward on rallying the broken troops of General Mercer, stopping the advance of the British 55th Foot under LTC Mawhood, and forcing them back on to the grounds of the College of New Jersey.

In June 2008 The National Park Service declared the Princeton Battlefield a Priority 1 Principal Site requiring immediate preservation action. To claim previous maintenance failures at the current park as a reason to build on the disputed land is a smoke screen designed to obscure the fact that the construction of the houses the IAS wants to build will forever alter the look and feel of the battlefield and will destroy and displace artifacts critical to an understanding of the Battle of Princeton. There are no eyewitnesses to the battle alive today, but advances in technologies and the study of battlefield archaeology allow trained professionals to reassess what we know of battlefields across the width and breadth of recorded warfare. The National Park Service is in the middle of reassessing the positions of several of the markers indicating the location of the Continental Lines of battle at the Guilford Courthouse Battlefield in NC based solely on the findings and analysis of battlefield archaeology. What we do know is that once the construction starts we will never be able to know what actually happened on that specific ground and a piece of history, potentially important history will be forever destroyed.

Just because this battlefield and the disputed parcel of land are in the northeastern United States, where the cost of property is astronomical, does not reduce the historical significance of it or relieve us of our obligation to preserve it for future generations; at a minimum in its current state and preferably in better condition and more accurately as new information comes to the fore. Surely the IAS realizes this and can find 7 acres somewhere else on their property to build on. George Washington proved himself a leader and a general capable of dealing with the best the British could put in the field, Lord Charles Cornwallis. I’m hoping the IAS will exhibit some leadership worthy of their esteemed reputation and withdraw this proposal. If they do not then it is up to local government to do the right thing and block proposal. I live in Kansas and the word of the fight to preserve this sacred land has reached us here. It is about to become a national debate. How does the town of Princeton and the University want to be seen in this, on the side of history or the side of development? Please do the right thing!

Thomas B. Lyles, Jr.

Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (retired)

Leavenworth, Kansas

February 15, 2012

To the Editor:

I fully support the Institute for Advanced Study’s plans for faculty housing, which are currently before the Princeton Township Planning Board.

I attended the last meeting, and was amazed at the many barriers and irrelevant arguments mounted by those associated with the Princeton Battlefield Society, especially given the Institute’s carefully thought out and accommodating proposal. The Institute has been very mindful of minimizing the impact of the housing on the Battlefield Park, and it has also diligently addressed preservation concerns by conducting archaeological surveys of the whole site. In fact, the Battlefield Society’s own historical witness, Dr. Babit, conceded at the February 2 Planning Board meeting (when properly informed of the Institute’s plans to yet again survey the archaeology of the site before and monitor it during construction) that, with that commitment, the Institute’s plan was something even he could accept. To now try to undermine the proposal with claims about wetlands and stream corridors only dishonors the mission of the Society. I have been involved with and followed this project for years during my tenure as mayor and as a member of the Planning Board. It is now time for the Planning Board to acknowledge that the IAS has not only the legal right to build on this site but also has presented an application that merits approval.

I urge the Planning Board to vote for the approval at its next meeting.

Phyllis Marchand
Former Mayor Princeton Township

This Thursday February 16 at 7:30 p.m. at 400 Witherspoon Street will likely be the last meeting of the Planning Commission on deciding the fateful go ahead for the 15-unit housing facility that the IAS wishes to build. The central argument seems to be whether or not there was a battle on this IAS land. In the past several months I have attended all of the planning meetings and have been following articles in the newspapers and one point sticks out. The ABPP Study along with testimonials of published historians clearly states that about 60 percent of the battle or what many like to call Washington’s counter attack did take place on this IAS land.

An IAS supporter came forward to say that he is tired of hearing about this so-called sacred land. What else can we call ground where over 500 American and British soldiers died or were wounded on January 3 1777?

The IAS is pushing to develop this land and to date they don’t even have all of their approvals, including wet lands, zoning, variances, engineering issues and a 1992 resolution on cluster housing that one would surmise would be put forth before going to the Planning Board. I join many others who are passionate for history and its preservation in a biodegradable society that cares more about tearing down and building up.

History is becoming an endangered species!

R. Iain Haight-Ashton
Site Director, Wyckoff- Garretson House, 
Somerset, N.J.

To the Editor:

Kudos for the excellent Princeton Environmental Film Festival held over the past three weekends in the Princeton Public Library. Special appreciation and thanks to the library, its director, Leslie Burger; to Susan Conlon, the library’s director of the Film Festival since its inception six years ago; to Sustainable Princeton; the Princeton Environmental Commission; and the library staff and volunteers who made this wonderful event possible. The films were of high quality, very interesting and educational for all on the various aspects and inter-connectedness of environmental issues facing us personally, in our communities, nation and globally. I hope this community event will continue for many years. It is a triumph of good planning, choices and implementation.

Grace Sinden
Ridgeview Circle

To the Editor:

On behalf of The Princeton Merchants Association and the business community of Princeton, we would like to thank Commissioner James Simpson and the Department of Transportation for meeting with members of our board and those members representing Princeton University last Tuesday. The discussion regarding the Trial Experiment on Route One was both informative and constructive. We appreciate your efforts in working collaboratively with us and agreeing to move the trial period to a later date this year. The mutual understanding between the PMA and the NJDOT is recognized and appreciated.

Carly Meyer
President, Princeton Merchants Association

To the Editor:

The newly appointed Consolidation Transition Task Force has the opportunity to do more than merely smooth the way to a consolidated Princeton. It has the chance to re-invent how Princeton delivers municipal services. We residents and taxpayers should ask no less and should enthusiastically support that effort.

There are three main groups of leaders who will influence the course of municipal consolidation before it occurs on January 1, 2013. But the Task Force serves as the linchpin.

First, there are the two municipal staffs. They will forge consolidation because that’s what they are employed to do. But they also have understandable incentives to protect the status quo and their own jobs and perquisites. For that reason, they cannot serve as the principal architects for re-inventing local government.

Second, there are the two existing municipal governing bodies. But governing body members have relationships with staff and personal and parochial interests that will inhibit them from taking the initiative in re-inventing local government.

The third group, the Task Force, is a 15-member panel, the core of which is comprised of volunteer residents. In that body lies the best hope for making long-term structural changes to reinvent local government.

If consolidation were only a question of mechanically joining together two governments (e.g., who will become the new Police Chief), the Task Force would not be needed.

But the Task Force has a far more important responsibility to consider: long-term structural change. In contrast to the municipal staffs and current political office holders, the Task Force expires on January 1, 2013 and therefore should not be constrained by the prospect of a job or future office in how creatively it approaches its work.

For example, each of the two Princetons has 30 police officers. Should the new Princeton retain all 60, or reduce that number, and by how many? As the police budget is the largest departmental budget, meaningful reduction in local taxes can be achieved only by substantial cuts in police personnel. The Task Force is better suited to considering those cuts than current office holders.

Should the new Princeton retain both municipal buildings? There will be tremendous pressure for the new municipality to move its operation to the present Township Hall and to retain Borough Hall for additional municipal government functions. The Task Force might ask: what is the best alternative use for Borough Hall, and did Princetonians vote for consolidation with the expectation of not reducing the size of the municipal footprint?

Indeed, the re-invention of local government will depend more on the Task Force, not the other two players in the drama. Residents and taxpayers must actively encourage the Task Force to aggressively re-invent local government and, in addition, provide the Task Force with all the support it needs to accomplish that goal. A brighter Princeton future depends on it.

Roger Martindell
Patton Avenue
Member, Princeton Borough Council

To the Editor:

I have always been a supporter of the Institute for Advanced Study. When I served on Princeton Township Committee I voted to appropriate $14 million in taxpayer money to preserve the Institute Woods by purchasing a conservation easement from the Institute. I still believe this is the largest amount ever spent to preserve land in Princeton history.

My family has always been a supporter of the Institute. When they first moved to Princeton in the 1960’s, they purchased a house from the Institute after an Institute Trustee let it be known that they wanted the cash flow rather than real estate.

This house was originally owned by Oswald Veblen, the first Institute faculty appointment and the man who brought his friend, Albert Einstein, to the IAS. Veblen, the nephew of noted American sociologist Thorsten Veblen, walked to the Institute from his home on Battle Road, as did Einstein from his house on Mercer Street.

What I am proposing is a “Veblen-Einstein” plan for faculty housing that would have the Institute purchase homes in the Veblen-Einstein neighborhood for faculty housing rather than build new housing on the historic Battlefield. All of these homes are within walking distance of Fuld Hall, the center of the Institute. Many of them are closer to Fuld Hall than the proposed Battlefield housing would be.

The only question becomes: How much would purchasing neighborhood homes be compared to building a new development? Let’s assume that it would cost $750,000 per unit to build new housing compared to $1,750,000 per home to purchase in the adjacent neighborhood. For the 15 units the Institute wants to build, that is a net difference of $15,000,000. How much of a sacrifice is that for the Institution?

According to the latest public tax filing made in 2009, the Institute’s endowment is roughly $550 million. With an operating budget of roughly $50 million per year this does not seem like an insurmountable sacrifice. (In practice, I believe the difference between purchasing houses in the Veblen-Einstein neighborhood and building a new development would be roughly $7,000,000.)

When asked at a Planning Board hearing, representatives of the Institute indicated that they had no financial estimate for their proposed Battlefield housing. But one thing is certain: to build new housing the Institute would have pay cash up front. If instead the Institute implemented the Veblen-Einstein plan they could take advantage of historically low mortgage rates and the Institute would have to spend far less cash than for building new homes.

Purchasing neighborhood homes would be a plus for the community as well, because this would support the tax base.

When the IAS proposed building over 250 housing units on land near the battlefield back in the 1990s, friends of the Institute suggested a different course and a conservation compromise was reached.

The same needs to occur today because sometimes the best friends are those that offer the most direct advice.

Carl Mayer
Battle Road

To the Editor:

It might be useful to take a step back in understanding that the site of the Battle of Princeton counterattack was envisioned from the beginning to be a vital part of Princeton Battlefield State Park. In 1944, C.S. Sincerbeaux, a local well-respected civil engineer, prepared a map for the American Scenic and Historical Preservation Society showing Washington’s counterattack at the Battle of Princeton. He showed the counterattack to be on what is now the proposed faculty housing site. This map then became the basis for Governor Walter Edge’s Park boundary lines, and his parcel-by-parcel determination of what needed to be acquired to establish the Park — I have a copy of that map.

The governor had originally wanted the Federal government to create the Park, but with tight economic times at the end of World War II, and encroachment threatening the Battlefield, he rolled up his sleeves and committed to getting the job done and persuading the New Jersey legislature to pass the necessary appropriation. His representative, George Brakeley, who was also vice president and treasurer of Princeton University, then approached the Institute for Advanced Study and asked the Institute to contribute 36 acres to the project; that was in 1944. Governor Edge also sent a copy of the Sincerbeaux map to the Institute. The Institute, at that time indicated that it was favorably disposed to working with the governor in putting the Park together. Then, in 1945, the Institute purchased 129.99 acres from Robert Maxwell including the site of the counterattack — a site that Governor Edge passionately wanted to be in the Park. Later Mr. Maxwell gave his remaining property to the state, including a small parcel where General Mercer had fallen, which he sold to the state for $1. Mrs. Agnes Pyne Hudson gifted property to the Park in 1947. Other parcels were purchased, some acquired under the threat of eminent domain.

Negotiations with the Institute dragged on for 25 long years. Finally, in 1973, the IAS agreed to deed two parcels to the Park. One, a parcel of 12.264 acres was sold to the state, not gifted, for $335,000. This site bordered the Friend’s Meeting property and was the site of a previously proposed housing development. The other, in the amount of 19.38 acres, was on the east side of the Park between the Clarke House and the Institute. So far I have not been able to find a copy of the deed for this property.

Since that time there has continued to be interest by the state in adding additional pieces of the Battlefield to the Park. The public record includes a letter addressed to the Institute in 2002 from Alvin Payne, Acting Director of Parks and Forestry, who stated: “ I would like to request that the planning board and the institute re-evaluate this proposal to develop this land. I would like to recommend the Institute work with the state’s Green Acres program and allow the state to purchase these parcels.”

When an issue is as charged as the proposed Institute’s faculty housing project is, it is important to get as clear an historical understanding as possible.

Kip Cherry
Dempsey Avenue.
1st Vice President
Princeton Battlefield Society

To the Editors:

I am not an historian nor can I quote prior discussions between the Institute and the State on the Institute’s Planning Application. However, it may be more valuable now to separate the logical arguments from the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric.

Most contributors agree that:

1. The battle of Princeton was a very important part of the Revolutionary War.

2. We want to be sure future generations remember and commemorate the soldiers that found the courage to charge the British lines.

3. The Institute is a valued part of the Princeton community, enriching our lives and raising the town’s profile by attracting world-class scholars.

4. The Institute has been a major contributor to the creation of the existing battlefield park and memorial.

The disagreement focuses on the best use of the undeveloped strip of Institute property bordering the existing park:

• Some believe it would add to the commemorative impact of the existing park, preserving what may be the precise spot of Washington’s critical counter-attack.

• Others believe it is important to restoring the residential nature of the Institute, a part of its successful formula for recruitment and collaboration that has been eroding for some time.

Sadly, this is the point at which the rhetoric has become inflamed. Those who find the latter use more compelling have been branded un-patriotic, complicit in the desecration of “sacred ground.”

By one definition of sacred, “entitled to veneration or religious respect,” I believe that every spot where a soldier gave his life to preserve my freedom is sacred. When I run through the Institute woods I think about what a teenage soldier must have felt treading the same ground, wondering whether the next rise would reveal a phalanx of the most powerful army in the world. However, by another definition of sacred,“”devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated” the designation is not appropriate. Were we to consecrate every spot in Princeton where a soldier fell, we would not have a town, we would have a museum.

Some have claimed this specific plot is so historically important that it should have higher preservation priority than any other. Were its historic status that compelling, it should be possible to raise funds to buy it from the Institute for an amount that would purchase private homes in similar proximity to current faculty housing (e.g., Battle Rd, Haslet Ave). That no such alternative has emerged suggests that views on the historical significance remain equivocal —– even the most informed experts disagree on the interpretation of the famous spy map and other historical references.

If the only cost of giving the benefit of the doubt to preservation were to steer a commercial developer across town, the decision would be easy. However, to deny a valued member of our community the right to continue their mission of maintaining a community of scholars, after all they have done to create a commemorative park and to revise extensively their plans to minimize any collateral impact, based on a belief that any chance that one particular war tactic occurred on one specific spot should overrule all other considerations would be a travesty.

Brad Corrodi
Mercer Street

February 8, 2012

To the Editor:

I read your story about Bob Staples, a former director of the Princeton Public Library (although he preferred to be called “Librarian”), with great pleasure. During his tenure, he laid the groundwork for the library as the community’s living room, an objective that Leslie Burger, the current director, brought to heartwarming reality.

Bob was the friendliest person I have known. He would look down on the main floor from the balcony above the checkout desk in the old library building and call, “Yoo-hoo,” to anyone he recognized below.

He knew every shopkeeper along Nassau Street to Harrison, where he walked every weekday to and from his apartment. On the weekends, he returned to his home in Toms River. There he sailed his boat and rode his bicycle to the post office to pick up his mail. When he retired, the Friends of the Library looked for a gift as unusual as he was and gave him a bicycle to replace his old one, much to his delight.

When the Friends celebrated their 25th anniversary with Author! Author!, a free event that attracted more than 500 local people along with 250 local authors, Bob insisted on adding to the festivities by climbing onto the roof above the library’s entrance to tie bunches of balloons over the doors.

We missed him when he left Princeton — we always will.


Valley Road

To the Editor:

I support the plan to build houses for Institute faculty members at the site that was promised for this purpose in 1971 when the IAS donated land that now constitutes a big portion of the battlefield.

If you take the time to have a look at the site map and walk along the battlefield, you will notice that these houses will be farther from the battlefield than other houses in the area. The men honored in this battlefield died trying to build a better government, one that keeps its promises! The institute is an integral part of Princeton and has greatly contributed to its history. In fact Princeton is best known as the location of Einstein’s home, thanks to the Institute,  which is also the site of the first programmable computer, etc. Hopefully, the houses built there will help to attract the best researchers and scholars who will make it an even more historically significant place.

I have been a faculty member at the IAS for the last ten years and I live close to the Institute; this convenience helps to facilitate important interactions with my fellow scientists that I hope the Institute will be able to offer to the new faculty in the future.

Juan Maldacena

Mercer Road

To the Editor:

The time for the Princeton Regional School Board and the Township Committee to turn ownership of the Valley Road School over to the non-profit Valley Road School Community Center Inc. (VRSCCI) is today — not tomorrow, not next year — but now.

The basic structure of the old Valley Road Building is sound but there is a new leak in the roof that is getting exponentially worse. The Township was kind enough to fix the boiler so that Community TV 30 can have heat and the School Board recently passed a resolution to allow TV 30 to stay in the building until Jan. 2013. TV 30 and the VRSCCI appreciate what the School Board and Township Committee have done to date but it appears that neither body is ready to either fix the roof or let the VRSCCI take over the building and convert it into a community

center at no cost to the town. Princeton has a history of converting schools like the Nassau Street School and the Quarry Street School into useful modern buildings. Other towns, like Somerset, have converted schools into community centers. The VRSCCI has a sizable list of local non-profits who are ready, willing, and able to move into the Valley Road School and pay a reasonable rent if the building is upgraded.

While the towns and School Board are mired in the weeds of consolidation they aren’t showing the leadership needed to do the obvious — namely, let a local non-profit take the burden of the Valley Road School off of the hands of the School Board, which clearly doesn’t want the building, and put it into the hands of a group that clearly does.

The time to act is now.

Richard C. Woodbridge

Chairman Valley Road School

— Adaptive Reuse Committee

To the Editor:

Hasn’t the guerilla warfare — the historical obfuscation and relentless obstructionism — of the Princeton Battlefield Society against the modest housing plans of the Institute for Advanced Study gone on far too long?

In any sensible community the private property rights of an institution would be recognized and respected, and the property owner, having satisfied innumerable zoning and other requirements, would be permitted, even encouraged, to proceed with its plans.

In a sensible community an institution that over the decades has donated large tracts of woodland and meadow for permanent preservation and public use would be appreciated and applauded, not vilified and victimized.

In a sensible community the interests of people — in this case distinguished professors and other academics — would take precedence over some grass that l8th century soldiers may or may not have trod upon.

A sensible community would place greater value on the interests of a world-renowned academic institution that lends luster to us all than on the carping and sniping of a parochial pressure group. Indeed, a sensible community would look forward, not back.

We all often wonder why our government in Washington seems so dysfunctional, why issues of obvious benefit remain mired in interminable debate and discord, why pressure groups so often block progress and public interest. Perhaps we need look no further than the microcosm of our own community to find the answer.

Peter R. Kann

Cleveland Lane

To the Editor:

I join the many residents of our community who have written and spoken in strong support of allowing the Institute for Advanced Study faculty housing to proceed. The tract of Institute land designated for faculty housing was first agreed to in 1971, and the proposed residences are designed with the greatest respect to the Princeton Battlefield State Park and to the environment.

Critical for this discussion is the 1997 conservation easement to preserve permanently a predominant proportion of the Institute’s land. At that time, in response to a special Green Acres program of grants and loans and just prior to the commercial development of land at the intersection of Route 1 and Quakerbridge Road, the Institute participated in the successful public/private partnership to preserve 589 acres of IAS woods and farmlands. This partnership was led by the D&R Greenway, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Friends of Princeton Open Space and Princeton Township, and was supported by numerous other individuals and organizations including the Princeton Battlefield Society.

These lands, which the Institute maintains at its own expense, are noted for their historical, environmental, ornithological, and agricultural significance. They provide a buffer between the Princeton Battlefield State Park, the Institute and really all of Princeton. The Institute cooperated in the preservation effort knowing that the small tract now being discussed would be the only remaining land available for faculty housing.

Since its founding, the Institute has been a community of scholars – a permanent faculty with visiting scholars from throughout the world – who seek to advance knowledge, pursue innovation, and deepen understanding across a broad range of the humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

The Institute is an absolutely unique institution, one that plays a very special role in the scientific and intellectual life of this country. The work done there provides the well-spring for the creation of knowledge that undergirds our country long term.

It is with the greatest respect for the crucial role the Battle of Princeton played in the development of our country that I trust education about this important role will be enhanced so that visitors to the Princeton Battlefield will have a deep learning experience and lasting understanding.

This is also our opportunity to preserve the productivity of an institution that serves scholars from throughout the world and contributes significantly to our country’s critical long-term needs.


Battle Road Circle

To the Editor:

At the Tuesday, January 24, meeting of the Princeton Merchants Association I learned two interesting facts from a spokesperson for Princeton University. (1) The Tiger Transit busses circulating around town are available to all members of the public. (2) Princeton University is committed to encouraging the use of mass transit, discouraging the unnecessary use of cars, reducing pollution, and making a better world for current and future inhabitants. It seems only logical then that Tiger Transit absorb the Free-B, limited free transit service, and modestly extend Tiger Transit’s routes to encourage the use of remote (from the Central Business District) parking and use of the Dinky. Regular service connecting parking at the vast and under-utilized Jadwin/Football Stadium parking lots, the Dinky, and the Princeton Shopping Center along a regular route with marked stops would seem to accomplish all of the University’s objectives under its announced practices and policies with a very modest additional cost. I hope that the University and municipal representatives on the newly organized and funded transit entities work on this suggestion as a first (and easy) project in a course of cooperative ventures, none of which will be as simple or provide results so quickly.

Since the University has spent the time and the money to make the Dinky station usable, it can hold off on its plan to move the Dinky terminus until the newly formed transit entities can evaluate the use of the Tiger Transit bus service; the consequences (especially vastly increased traffic on Alexander Road) resulting from the state’s plans to reduce incoming traffic from Route 1 on Harrison Street and Washington Road by eliminating northbound access to Princeton by those two routes; and all other local transit and traffic issues in Princeton. The increased traffic on Alexander Road resulting from the changed Route 1 traffic patterns when added to the complex new traffic patterns and increased traffic volume on that same road resulting from the planned construction of the proposed relocated Lewis Arts Center; the proposed relocated Dinky terminus; and the housing complex proposed for lower Alexander Road and Faculty Road are a nightmare in the making. I know the University’s practices can better reflect its principals and wisely announced policies concerning traffic, mass transit, and pollution.

No one wants an Arts and Traffic Neighborhood.

Joseph C. Small

Hawthorne Avenue

To the Editor:

We write to express our profound sadness at the death of Sarah Hirschman, the visionary founder of People & Stories, I Gente y Cuentos. Sarah died on January 15 at Princeton Hospital after a brief illness. Her daughter, Katia, and Katia’s husband, Alain, were at her side. We know you share our enormous sense of loss.

Sarah led a remarkable life and left an extraordinary legacy. For us, she is an inextinguishable light. She cared passionately about the written word and read widely and deeply. Her belief in the transformative power of literature was equaled by her conviction that no person, regardless of circumstances, should live without its capacity for opening the mind and liberating the spirit. She was determined to make literature accessible to those often thought unable to understand it, and she invented a method and a program to do just that.

The mission of People & Stories, I Gente y Cuentos was central to her life from the day the first participants met in 1972, in a low-income housing project in Cambridge, Mass. Today, the program thrives in prisons, libraries, housing projects, churches, and schools in three languages from Colombia to Paris to Trenton. Sarah has left behind an organization that is strong and committed to her example and vision — to go where circumstances are difficult and offer a program that can lead to measurable improvements in people’s lives.

Our annual spring event, on April 13, will proceed as planned with Chang-rae Lee as our speaker. Sarah’s dear friend, C.K. Williams, will both introduce Mr. Lee and say a few words of remembrance in Sarah’s honor. You will hear more about this event in the coming weeks.

Georgia Whidden

Board President

Patricia Andres

Executive Director

To the Editor:

On behalf of all of us at Princeton Public Library, I want to thank Bill and Judy Scheide for naming the library the beneficiary of the January 27 “Booked for the Evening” concert at Richardson Auditorium. It was a magical evening and the library was pleased to have been part of the celebration of one of Princeton’s leading citizens. Bill’s lifelong devotion to books, music, civic causes and his history of philanthropy are indeed cause for celebration.

In addition to Bill and Judy, I would like to thank the many library supporters who attended the concert; the management and staff of Richardson Auditorium, and University Ticketing, who along with event planner Linda Pizzico produced a flawless event in a beautiful venue. Our thanks also go to Telequest for producing a wonderful video in celebration of the library — view it at http://bit.ly/PPLvideo) — and the many behind the scenes people who made this event possible, including library staff members Lindsey Forden and Tim Quinn. And, of course, we can’t forget the fabulous Wiener KammerOrchester, soloists Jaime Laredo and Sharon Robinson and the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York for their dazzling performances, all under the skillful direction of Mark Laycock.

Bill and Judy Scheide are longtime library supporters. Their lead gifts to the library’s Cornerstone Campaign for our new building and to the Centennial Endowment Campaign for our endowment demonstrate their commitment to this wonderful institution. Their decision to name the library the beneficiary of Bill’s 98th birthday concert was yet another way to help the library raise much-needed funds.

In keeping with the Scheide’s devotion to books, reading, and learning in all forms, the Princeton Public Library will use the net proceeds of this event to purchase books and expand our collection. Funding for our collection comes solely from private donations and grants, not through municipal support. A gift of this magnitude will result in more books on our shelves and more items to download, check out, and be enjoyed by the entire community in 2012.

Thank you, Bill and Judy. Your gift is truly a gift we can all share.

Leslie Burger

Executive Director

February 1, 2012

To the Editor: 

Many in the Princeton community share Borough Council’s frequently stated belief that shortening the Dinky is ill advised and a far greater loss to the community than is the gain of an unfettered pedestrian plaza to the university. A brand new station farther away would hardly lead to increased ridership. Indeed, those who walk to the Dinky would have to walk an additional 30,000 aggregate miles per year.

One fact is widely acknowledged, however: a straight-shot Dinky originating at Nassau Street with increased trips to meet virtually every train at the Junction would increase ridership and, therefore, add to the shuttle’s utility to the community.

The zigzag easement offered by the university is utterly useless. The principal factor leading to greater transit use is reduced travel time. The increased trip time via the zigzag connection would add an additional 40 hours yearly to a Dinky commuter’s time on the train.

Committing municipal resources to help fund a transportation consultant’s effort to craft arguments to support the university’s selfish intransigence seems indefensible. If logical light-rail routing is denied by fiat, the only other legitimate single-vehicle option to reach Nassau Street is the justly maligned BRT.

Concerning the pending suit challenging the interpretation of the 1984 station sales contract between the university and NJ Transit, the contract as written does not allow, nor does it contemplate, any move of the terminus beyond what has already been effected, and that the counter-interpretation contrived by the University and NJ Transit is contrary to the public interest.

So far there are at least two important proposals to save the current Dinky service at no cost to the municipality: The offer by Henry Posner III to finance the re-acquisition of the right-of-way through eminent domain, and my company’s proposal for converting the Dinky to light rail and extending it to Nassau Street under the federal “Very Small Starts” program. Both require that the ordinance to preserve the Dinky right-of-way as a transit zone be reintroduced and enacted quickly. Such a step could moot the suit challenging the contract interpretation by effectively substituting the community’s interpretation for that of the university and NJ Transit.

As for the danger of a light rail vehicle sharing a pedestrian plaza, there is much precedent. Suffice it to say, the charge to the design engineers would be to make it the world’s safest.

A unique aspect of the new Dinky would be its becoming the only rail-transit service in the country to run without an operating subsidy. Perhaps NJ Transit could be convinced to divert a part of the $1 million per year in Dinky subsidy foregone toward enhancing NJ Transit bus service or other transit options in and around town.

Allowing the university to thwart this exemplary opportunity through sheer, self-serving will would diminish Princeton forever.

Rodney Fisk
Birch Avenue