February 15, 2012

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.

BARBARA W. FREEDMAN

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.

RACHEL GRAY

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

To the Editor:

Last Thursday night we attended the third Planning Board meeting on the application of The Institute for Advanced Study to build 15 much-needed faculty residences on their land adjacent to Princeton Battlefield Park. It was a tedious continuation of the efforts of the Princeton Battlefield Society to prevent approval through delaying tactics and obfuscation, raising issues not relevant to consideration by this governing body.

This project meets the requirements of our zoning regulations without the need for variations. The IAS development plan carries out the intent of our Land Use Ordinance by accepting cluster zoning options. The application of these guidelines minimize land disturbance, reduce utility runs, limit storm water run-off by reducing impervious surfaces of roads and walks, and create large areas of commonly-owned open space. This is an excellent example of a creative land-use ordinance at work.

In our opinion the current nearly 65 acres of Battle Field Park, more than a third of which was obtained from The Institute for Advanced Study, is more than adequate to commemorate, and to exhibit the scope of, this important battle. In fact the proposed plan will enlarge the park by the inclusion of 13 acres of public-access open space adjacent to the park as well as extend visual access by the relocation the bordering tree line some 200 feet back from its present location.

It is sad to contemplate the extent to which visitor appreciation of the battle could have been enhanced through better interpretative signage, pathways, interactive dioramas, and the like had the Princeton Battlefield Society spent their money for such facilities rather than for attorney and witness fees.

Tom and Peggy Fulmer
Hunt Drive

To the Editor:

Historian John Shy was quoted on the IAS website that “the battle proper was about fifteen minutes of intense fighting in the area of the present park.” So by IAS standards, for the land to be preserved it would have to be part of the “battle proper.” Indeed, the contended IAS land is in the area of the present park and in fact it borders it. The IAS-hired historians have harped on the location of the Sawmill Road to cast doubt on the Milner Report’s finding. However, what is not in doubt is that the target of the American attack was the area around the William Clark farm. Simply put, to attack that area the U.S. forces had to cross, while fighting and dying, over Institute land. The Princeton Battlefield Society is not asking for anything but the promise of no development on a very small tract of land. The limited amount of archaeology done by both parties strongly suggests that the contended IAS land was the site of the counterattack and that further archaeology will prove this. Instead of building on this tract, why can’t the IAS either subsidize the mortgages of faculty or better yet, swap out IAS-owned and conserved land that is not in dispute? Finally, the Institute’s housing proposal will not only ruin forever a part of the Princeton Battlefield, but will also ruin the historical landscape of the existing park and that is unacceptable.

Matt White
Sewell, New Jersey

To the Editor:

In Pixar’s movie Cars, Lightning McQueen rescues the town of Radiator Springs from economic devastation caused by the nearby freeway bypassing the town. NJDOT is implementing a “trial” bypass of Princeton to severely limit access to Princeton from the rest of Mercer County via Route 1. This directly impacts Princeton merchants as well as Mercer’s Route 1 merchants who have customers that return home via Route 1 and Princeton. In the recent NJDOT town meeting on the Princeton Route 1 bypass trial, it was made clear that NJDOT is only interested in measuring an improvement in how many more cars could bypass Princeton, when the measurement test really should be whether the economic harm to Mercer’s Princeton and Route 1 businesses outweighs any improvement in traffic flow. If NJDOT is not interested in coming up with a way to measure the economic harm to Mercer’s local businesses, maybe businesses can use the courts to help with generating metrics to measure Mercer’s economic harm during the “trial” period. After all in the children’s story Cars, it took a judge who cared about local small businesses and a court order for Lightning McQueen to realize the economic harm caused by the bypass before he could rescue the town.

Donald Cox
South Harrison Street

January 25, 2012

To the Editor:

People for Princeton Ridge, Inc., wishes to thank Sustainable Princeton and its nominating committee for honoring us with one of its awards for 2011. We also wish to thank the hundreds of Princeton residents who supported us during our negotiations.

We have been part of a remarkable collaboration between private citizens, municipal officials, and business people. We thank our co-recipients — Township attorney Ed Schmierer for his hours of text-work and advice; we thank developer Bob Hillier not only for his donation of 17 acres of land for open space but for his eagerness to redesign his plans with the public interest in mind (using more clustered buildings, thus leaving fully 80 percent of land as open space). Together, we all reached a common understanding: a healthy environment is an economic as well as civic benefit to the welfare of our habitat and all its creations, including the trees, the rocks, and the eastern box turtle — who cannot speak for themselves, whose languages we must learn. The Princeton Ridge Preserve, adjoining the property we all worked so hard to achieve an environmentally smart use of land, testifies to the power of collaborative efforts, needed now more than ever.

We have all benefitted from the direction and enthusiastic oversight that Sustainable Princeton has been providing. The sheer number of awards made this year shows the important work being done by all our citizens, many of them representing civic collaborations. But there is more work to do.

Princeton is virtually built-out; few properties remain to develop. One of them is a 98-acre parcel on Herrontown Road (Block 1001), more or less across the street from the new Westerly Road Church site that is soon to be unwisely decimated. This tract is part of the environmentally sensitive Princeton Ridge: heavily wooded, with steep slopes. We hope that any developer will honor both the natural habitat land and the public interest of the community by setting aside as much open space as possible, respecting the area’s natural features (not interfering with the steep slopes), and by using clustered development to achieve these ends.

PPR hopes that the present owner and the likely developer will heed the splendid collaboration between municipal, civic, and business interests that enabled us to achieve the creation of the Princeton Ridge Preserve — and will, by proper consultation with municipal officials, choose to respect the public interest.

Let us all collaborate in preservation and recycling. Let us end the habits of waste and unnecessary destruction.

Daniel A. Harris, Jane Buttars

People for Princeton Ridge, Inc.

To the Editor:

This is a “thank you note” to our wonderful Princeton community — from the children enrolled in Princeton Young Achievers (PYA). Thank you all for your generosity and thoughtfulness in providing holiday gifts of books for all 85 of our students. Each one of our children spent the winter break with a new, and special, addition to his/her home library! Sincere thanks to all our “Book Angels” contributors and to Randi Katzman, “Book Angels” founder and organizer.

Special thanks, too, to Bobbie Fishman and her colleagues at Labyrinth Books for their kindness and help in searching for, and finding, just the right book for each child. The care and consideration they gave to each gift was remarkable! PYA is most grateful to have Labyrinth Books as our partner in our “Book Angels” program.

On behalf of the children, teachers and volunteers of PYA, we wish everyone a Happy New Year!

Connie Ban

The Great Road

To the Editor:

I have received word that my son, Christopher Reeve, has been selected to the 2012 New Jersey Hall of Fame. Other winners in the Arts & Entertainment Category are Michael Douglas and Sarah Vaughn. Princeton author Joyce Carol Oates is the sole winner in the General Category. Formal induction will take place June 3 at the New Jersey Arts Center in Newark.

This is a great honor, and I wish to express my deep appreciation and gratitude to the many friends to whom I mentioned the fact of his nomination and invited their vote on line before the December 31 deadline, as well as to the readers of Town Topics who read my earlier letter about his nomination and took the time and trouble to vote for him.

Chris’s roots in New Jersey are deep and varied. He began school in kindergarten at the Nassau Street School, transferring to the former Princeton Country Day School (PCD) in fourth grade, graduating in 1970 from Princeton Day School (PDS), where he sang with the Madrigal Group and was goalie for the varsity hockey team. He played Pee-Wee Hockey and Little League baseball as a youngster here, had his first horseback riding lessons at Hasty Acres in Kingston, learned to sail a boat on the Manasquan River in Bay Head and to fly a plane at Princeton Airport. At age eight he asked for piano lessons and began studying piano with the late John Diehlenn, a near neighbor of ours when we lived on Campbelton Circle.

His earliest acting experience seems to have been playing the Prince in a first or second grade classroom rendition of the Cinderella story, but his love of acting was nurtured in leading roles in just about every play or musical produced at PCD and at PDS, all directed by his great mentor, the late Herbert McAneny. The summer after his ninth grade year, he attended a theater workshop for teenagers held at Lawrenceville School, which brought in professionals from New York to teach technical aspects of acting and stagecraft.

Well before he left for college at Cornell, Chris was drawn to McCarter Theatre and occasionally given bit parts in its productions. He also played roles in musicals staged at McCarter by PJ&B (Princeton Junction and Back), founded and directed by the late Milton Lyon, whose aim was to give amateur thespians in Princeton the experience of working with professionals in a professional setting.

Much later it was the Kessler Rehabilitation Center in West Orange to which Chris was sent following hospitalization in Virginia for the neck injury he sustained in a horseback riding competition that rendered him a paraplegic.

I am very grateful to Princeton, as was Chris, for the important role this town and its institutions and organizations played in his development. I thank everyone who voted for him for this honor, which seems especially fitting. Chris would have been pleased.

Barbara L. Johnson

Wilton Street

To the Editor:

The IAS plan to build faculty housing on land that includes the Princeton Battlefield may seem like a local issue to Princeton, but it is not. Historians, both local and international, recognize that the Battle of Princeton was pivotal to the American Revolution. The actions of Washington at this battle added to his reputation and aided in his ability to lead the war effort. The sacrifice of the men who gave their lives was deemed heroic by their contemporaries. Those contemporaries went on to form the Republic we now enjoy.

A local issue it is not! The Institute would make it seem so, as if it were a question of neighbors disagreeing. The IAS has a local attorney and local architect representing them, but the Trustees of the Institute want that local impression because they are from Manhattan, Washington D.C., Chicago, California, Florida, London, Frankfurt, Geneva, Stockholm, Cambridge, and Budapest. This is a national issue  of respect, pride, and heritage.

I hope the Planning Board will deny approval.

J. Carney

Trustee, Princeton Battlefield Society

To the Editor:

I have been following the dispute between the Princeton Battlefield Society and the Institute for Advanced Study with great interest. I have written many books about New Jersey’s Revolutionary history, including 1776: Year of Illusions, which deals with the battle. In 2007 I received the Gov. Richard Hughes award for lifetime achievement in writing about New Jersey.

There is no longer the slightest doubt in my mind that the Institute is ignoring fundamental facts about the battle. They are planning to build housing on a part of the battlefield that is vital to understanding the event — the site of George Washington’s climactic counterattack. This is like asking people to enjoy a famous play, minus the last act.

I am disturbed by the IAS’s cavalier and arrogant attitude toward the convincing evidence that the Princeton Battlefield Society has presented. It is especially troubling to discover they have space for the housing elsewhere on their acres, but they are simply not inclined to use it.

Thomas Fleming

New York City

To the Editor:

With all the furor being created by the Princeton Battlefield Society about “preserving” for posterity a 22-acre parcel of land contiguous to the existing acreage of the Princeton Battlefield Park, you have to wonder where the Society’s members have been all these years while the Park’s infrastructure has been steadily decaying before their eyes. Have they added any additional land to the Park’s boundaries, as has the Institute (32 acres)? Have they provided any historical markers to better explain the progress of the actual battle? Have they helped maintain the existing infrastuctures in the Park itself?

As an example of constructive involvement, I can refer them back to the year 1957 when the Park’s Portico/Colonnade was about to be dismantled from the nearby Mercer Manor, a private home nearby, on Institute land. At the time, my father, Sherley W. Morgan, was dean of Princeton’s School of Architecture and president of the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Because he felt the Battlefield lacked a focal point to direct visitors to the Unknown Soldiers’ graves which lie on the Park’s northwestern boundary, and because the portico was designed by Thomas Walters, the first president of the A.I.A., he set about raising sufficient funds to move the columns to their present location. In this effort he was greatly helped by congressman Frank Thompson, Governor Robert Meyner and the architect members of NJ’s Chapter of A.I.A., and by the Institute.

I think everyone today will agree that his goal has been achieved and the portico is what people remember when they recall a visit to the Battlefield. Unfortunately, both the portico and the grave area behind it, are in urgent need of cleaning, repair, and consistent maintenance.

Instead of hiring expensive “experts” to worry about how many musket balls may/may not be found under the land which the Institute owns and has every legal right to build on, or wasting everyone’s time in endless public meetings, I believe the Battlefield Society’s efforts would be more productive if they hired the appropriate experts to take care of what we already have in place for the public’s edification and enjoyment.

Arthur Morgan

Springdale Road

 

To the Editor:

I am a retired professor at the Institute for Advanced Study. I have enjoyed the beauty of our Battlefield Park and the memory of its history for more than 50 years. To serve as a fitting memorial of the battle, the Battlefield Park does not need to include the whole area over which fighting took place. Fighting extended over a wide area and into the center of Princeton, including the Institute buildings. Nobody suggests that the town or the Institute should be demolished in order to include the whole area of the fighting within the park. So I find it strange that the building of 11 houses for Institute faculty on Institute land should be opposed, just because this little piece of Institute land was included in the area of the fighting. The building of these houses will do no damage to the beauty and solemnity of the Battlefield Park. They will be as harmless and as respectful to our history as the existing Institute buildings.

Freeman Dyson

Professor Emeritus,

Institute for Advanced Study

 

To the Editor:

The Institute for Advanced Study is seeking approval to build faculty housing on its campus. I am writing to express my strong support for the project.

As a faculty member who lives on campus and a former member who spent his postdoctoral years at the IAS I can attest to the importance of the residential nature of IAS. Living on campus greatly facilitates my work, substantially increasing my interactions with IAS members and faculty. This residential nature makes the IAS unique and benefits members and faculty alike.

I believe that through the years the Institute has been a model citizen of this community. As a current neighbor of the Institute I deeply value the Institute’s commitment to preserving open spaces that include the wonderful “Institute woods,” nearly 600 acres of woodlands available to public use, and a substantial fraction of the Battlefield Park. The proposed project will add 13 acres of new land that will be permanently preserved as open space next to the Park.

During the last meeting of the Township’s planning board, Prof. Mark Peterson, a specialist in the American Revolution and early American History at the University of California at Berkeley, gave a very interesting presentation about how different localities preserve their historical heritage. Prof. Peterson helped towns in the Boston area develop plans to better preserve their historical sites and enhance the experience of visitors. I moved to Princeton from the Boston area, so I am very familiar with the sites he described, having enjoyed them on multiple occasions. As I heard him speak, I could not help but think that the current discussion surrounding the Institute’s project presents a perfect opportunity to improve the experiences of visitors to the Battlefield Park and their connection to this area’s past. I was glad to learn that the Institute has stated that it was ready to be a partner in trying to enhance the experience of visitors to the Battlefield

Park, for example by improving the interpretive materials provided in the site.

The Institute is by now also an important part of Princeton’s history. It has housed as faculty and members a large number of Nobel-prize winners, Field medalists, and the intellectual leaders of many fields of study. In my own area, astrophysics, the contributions of scientists who spent time at the IAS can be found almost everywhere and have shaped our current understanding of such diverse topics as cosmology and celestial mechanics.

I am convinced that this project will not only benefit the IAS community but also the Princeton community at large. It will help maintain one of its vibrant academic institutions; it will add permanently preserved open land and can create the opportunity to improve the way the area’s residents can interact with its history.

Matias Zaldarriaga

Battle Road

 

To the Editor:

The Battle of Princeton is surely a remarkable moment in the history of Princeton as well as the United States. In January of 1777 Patriots battled for American Independence and to protect the rights of future generations.

It is important to commemorate and memorialize the Battle of Princeton, and that has been done with the Battlefield Park. The Institute for Advanced Study, another great historical institution in Princeton, has been a vital partner and supporter of the Battlefield Park. In fact, the Battlefield would not even exist in it’s current state, without the generosity of the Institute. The Institute donated the Portico that stands in Battlefield Park and commemorates the common grave of American and British soldiers. In 1973, the Institute conveyed 32 acres of land to the State which more than doubled the size of Battlefield Park. This conveyance was completed with the express understanding that the Institute could and would build housing on some of the remaining land. The Institute for Advanced Study has also preserved all of the land surrounding the Battlefield, and has made it accessible to the public.

The Institute for Advanced Study owns the tract of land on which they are proposing to build faculty housing. They have met every requirement of the planning board and the historical preservationists that would allow them to build the site plan currently proposed. In fact, they have gone above and beyond what was asked and have made sure the project has minimal impact on the Battlefield Park.

To suggest that the Institute should be prohibited from using their property, simply because it was a site upon which some of the battle took place, is exactly the type of oppression the Patriots were trying to eliminate. We are a country that values the rights bestowed upon us by law. Property rights are certainly one of the oldest and most treasured rights. Those trying so desperately to restrict those rights, by waging a battle against the Institute, should consider whether they value their own property rights. Surely the Patriots did not expect future generations to use the battle as a means of restricting the rights they were fighting for.

Shari Black

Allison Road

 

To the Editor:

I write in strong support of the Institute’s proposal for more faculty living on its campus, maintaining its walkable community. It would provide landscape screening along its border with the Battlefield Park; and build a memorial pathway as conceived by distinguished historians James McPherson and David Hackett Fischer. Altogether, the Institute’s proposal commemorates our historic past, and sustains our living community.

Robert Geddes

Dean Emeritus, Princeton University

School of Architecture

 

To the Editor:

It is vitally important that any new construction at the Institute for Advanced Study not detract from the dignity of the Battlefield Park. The faculty and friends of the Institute (of whom I am one) understand the importance of honoring our history. The proposed new faculty housing at IAS meets this test. The proposed housing consists of a small cluster of single family homes and townhouses located over two hundred feet from the edge of the park. A row of evergreens will stand between the housing and the park. The housing will barely be visible from the park, much less intrusive.

The need to preserve the dignity of the park should not be used as a reason to block all development in this part of Princeton.

Lewis Maltby, President

National Workrights Institute

Wall Street, Princeton

 

To the Editor:

Based on decades of experience we have long believed that controversies such as the current one involving the Institute’s proposal to build faculty housing near the Battlefield can be resolved in such a way that everyone comes out ahead, especially where people of good will are involved, as is the case here.

If you stand in the middle of the present Battlefield site and look up toward the land in question, what do you see? Well, what you don’t see is the Institute’s land. What you do see is a rather unattractive angled slash of tall trees impeding the overall perspective of the Battlefield site.

Now let’s look ahead around two years and what will you see? First, you will see another row of trees but these, replacing the ones currently there, will be set back some 200 feet and will screen the new housing. What you will also see is another 13 acres of unimpeded land which will greatly open up the visual experience. This land

will have been donated in perpetuity to the Battlefield by the Institute.

We had the privilege of living virtually across the street from the Institute for 21 years and found them to be outstanding neighbors and citizens. It is our great pleasure to strongly endorse their proposal, an outcome where everyone wins, the Battlefield, the Institute and the community.

Harriet and Jay Vawter

Constitution Hill

January 18, 2012

To the Editor:

The fact that the Township and Borough are selecting their own consolidation team representatives separately seems odd. Given that the residents have already voted for consolidation, why isn’t the team being formed jointly? It would appear that our elected officials continue in the mindset of separatism. It’s time to move forward!

Barry Goldblatt
Andrews Lane

To the Editor:

Mr. Durkee’s accusations notwithstanding (“Latest Lawsuit Filed Against University,” Town Topics, January 11), the Eleanor J. Lewis Fund’s support of the legal challenges to the recent revaluation of Princeton real estate, the tax exempt status of several University properties, and the zoning change allowing the University to move the Dinky are not a try for publicity, but rather a challenge to the old Princeton tradition of its public officials abdicating their civic responsibility whenever Mr. Durkee’s employer, the Trustees of Princeton University, asks for a tax reduction, tax exemption, or zoning change.

The laws of the State of new Jersey can protect the public only if they are followed and enforced. When our public officials refuse to do so, the only recourse is the courts. In our legal actions, we do not seek publicity, only redress.

Jane DeLung, President
Ken Fields, Secy/Treasurer
The Eleanor J. Lewis Fund for Public Interest Research
Linden Lane

To the Editor:

The 2011 holidays were made brighter for persons with disabilities in our community thanks to over 100 generous individuals, groups, businesses, congregations, and schools who donated gifts, non-perishable food items, and food store gift cards to 247 individuals with disabilities and their families during the season of giving. Many others made monetary donations, delivered gifts, wrapped presents, and sorted gift items. This annual outreach conducted by Enable, Inc. would not be possible without the help of caring citizens who make this effort a success. On behalf of all who benefitted, we extend our heartfelt thanks to them.

Enable is especially grateful for the support of employees at Bloomberg; Hopewell Valley Community Bank in Princeton; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; NRG Energy, Inc.; the law firm of Pepper Hamilton, LLP; and Petco in Monroe Township. Students from Rider University; The Hun School of Princeton; Rutgers Empowering Disabilities; and West Windsor Plainsboro High School South’s National Honor Society played active roles along with members of congregations at Pennington United Methodist Church; Rutgers Community Christian Church; St. David’s Episcopal Church; St. David the King RCC; and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton. Special support was also offered by associates from Kohl’s in Hamilton; Boy Scout Troop 5700; Girl Scout Troop 971; Kingston Women’s Chorus; Montgomery Moms Club; and Miss Barbara’s Schoolhouse in Hamilton. We extend our thanks to the many other individuals and groups too numerous to mention.

For many recipients, the gifts are immeasurable in value. The significance of the generosity shared was expressed by the mother of a son who received a new pair of shoes for use with his foot braces; by the woman who was recently robbed and now has a coffee pot once again; and the mother of a neurologically impaired daughter who received pajamas and slippers. “It felt like whoever the donor was, they knew what I was going through. I loved every one of the gifts,” a caregiver handwrote in a special note of gratitude.

On behalf of the entire family at Enable, we thank you and wish you a blessed new year.

Sharon J.B. Copeland, MSW, LSW
Executive Director, Enable, Inc., Roszel Road