November 7, 2012

To the Editor:

In the words of Bill Sword, Jr., thank you for all of your tender mercies.

In the midst of the chaos and devastation that our community experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, our family was embraced with extraordinary love, care and thoughtfulness.

On behalf of our entire family, we want to thank the Princeton Police and the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, who risked their lives in the storm to come to Bill’s aid, our incredible Princeton community of friends, and especially our Nassau Presbyterian Church family for the warmth that you brought to all of us during this very difficult time.

With our deepest gratitude,

The Sword Family

To the Editor:

The residents of the Bouvant/White Oak/Stuart neighborhood would like to thank PSE&G for all they have done to restore our power. We realize that this was the worst storm in their history and their task was monumental. Yet under these extreme circumstances, they quickly prioritized what needed to be done and then carefully, safely, and expeditiously started bringing power back. Everyone that we dealt with at PSE&G, from the people working in the streets to those manning the phones, to management, were nothing but helpful and professional during this catastrophe. We also appreciated the status reports, even when we weren’t happy with what we heard. Job well done.

Faye and Hamed Abdou, Amy Borovoy, Jonathan Morduch, Sherri and Vic Garber, Ruth and Rob Goldston, Mary Anne and

Don Greenberg, Adam and Irina Irgon,

Susan and Ashok Kapoor, Sheila and Suresh Kumar, Indrani and Rajiv Malhotra, Carol and Myron Mehlman, Jill Morrison, Greg Peel, Karen Ohringer,

Henry Echeverria, Reba Orszag,

Candace and Marvin Preston,

Carol Rosenthal, Helene and

Paul Shapiro, Sheila Siderman, Jerry Palin, Ann and Rudy Skalka, Naomi Vilko,

Sid Goldfarb, Hui and John Weihe.

The Bouvant/White Oak/Stuart neighborhood

To the Editors:

My children and I were among the lucky beneficiaries of the Princeton Public Library’s generosity in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. I am writing to extend my deepest thanks to every one of the staff who worked tirelessly and selflessly (long hours without breaks and food) to provide a comfortable, fun, clean, and supportive environment for all of us camped out there. You were no doubt personally affected by the storm yet you managed to not only get to work but to show those of us gathered there remarkable compassion, patience, and kindness. I will never forget — and will always be inspired by — you.

Liz Erickson

Howe Circle

To the Editors:

I am writing to thank the Princeton Public Library for its generosity in the days following the storm. I imagine that in many other communities there was really no place to go, but in Princeton we could come down to the library, recharge our cell phones, check email, warm up, read in the light, and even have a cup of coffee. In fact, I’m still here at the library writing this letter a week after the storm. Thank you to the library staff for your patience and kindness amidst the hordes of people and to the administration for making the generous decision to open your doors wide, not just to Princeton residents, but to the greater community as well.

Susan Danoff

Clover Lane

To the Editor:

Princeton has survived yet another storm, and this was one for the record books. We’re grateful for the tireless efforts of our first responders and utility crews, who had their hands full. In addition, we would like to acknowledge the special contributions made by a few local institutions and businesses that went beyond the call of duty to make this ordeal more manageable: the Princeton Public Library, whose staff graciously accommodated the multitudes that descended on the library to study, to commune with their fellow townspeople, to recharge their batteries and to seek that elusive wi-fi; McCaffrey’s, whose giant generator allowed them to keep us supplied with food and ice, as well as another refuge for charging batteries and staying warm; Smith’s Ace Hardware, whose flashlight-wielding sales personnel led us through the darkened shelves to find needed supplies; and WWFM whose staff managed to keep the station on the air, providing beautiful music to accompany our candlelight dinners. Thank you.

Bill and Joanne Dix

Snowden Lane

To the Editor:

AvalonBay demands a building for 324 units (to maximize profits) for the bonus of 44 over 280 originally planned. They want only 17.3 percent affordable housing units, seeking to override the Master Plan and Borough Code, which admirably stipulate 20 percent. They want more floors than the International Fire Code permits.

AvalonBay wants to do less in other areas: less sustainable building than the Master Plan’s (MP) goal for new or remodeled buildings as “models of environmental, economic and social stewardship” (2006 MP, page 39). They’ve committed publicly only to using EnergyStar appliances, stating that they’ll discuss other green, sustainable measures “at the appropriate time” — unnamed: a refrain echoed March 2012. And almost zero public open space, despite Borough Code requirements.

Aggressive withholding of information has been an AvalonBay method. At the SPRAB meeting on October 10, 2012, they provided so few documents that SPRAB Board member Harry Cooke remarked that “given the fact that items such as reports requested by the PEC and engineer, use of the garage and traffic studies are not complete, and particularly that the design does not meet the established Princeton Design Standards, he could not, in good conscience recommend that the Planning Board approve this application” (SPRAB Report, 10/20/12, pp. 4-5). Ron Ladell, for AvalonBay, said all questions would be answered in a “letter”; he did not say when.

Probably not in time for municipal staff or committees to consider the responses. People should know that AvalonBay turned in replies to Borough and Township engineer’s reports so late that staff could not review them before the first Planning Board meeting on October 25. The replies that came in are refusenik: everyone should hang tight until formal “testimony” before the Board — including issues about parking calculations, ADA — compliant parking spaces, fire protection information (for this all-wood building), the physical connection between the garage and the apartment complex, etc. Right now, there’s still no accurate Environmental Impact Statement (requested by Derek Bridger at PEC on October 10), and no complete Traffic Impact Study.

The Planning Board should push back against such disrespectful shenanigans and repudiate AvalonBay’s attempt to intimidate the community. AvalonBay claims that, because it has finally consented to build 20 percent affordable housing (Code requirements), every moment lost before an approval is granted is somehow a communal violation of an “inherently beneficial use” of the hospital site (for affordable units). This is nonsense. So is Avalon’s calculated withholding of information necessary for Princeton staff and Planning Board members to conduct a responsible review. Yes, 20 percent affordable housing is beneficial; and yes, Princeton will follow its own Code, and any developer will have to provide it.

But of course AvalonBay’s Princeton is not our “Princeton.” Its “private community” would be named “AvalonPrinceton.” Are we ready to have the new consolidated town’s name absorbed into a monolith that defies years of intelligent urban planning?

Helmut Schwab

Westcott Road

To the Editor:

Princetonians should know that AvalonBay has rashly misrepresented plain facts about the Borough Code related to the old hospital site. At the Planning Board meeting on Oct. 25, 2012, Jeremy Lang (for AvalonBay) stated that “The garage has nothing to do with design standards.” He was seconded by Anne Studholme, attorney for AvalonBay.

Both people are incorrect. The garage will abut seamlessly against the new apartment complex (if the Planning Board votes to approve the application). The “location” of the seamless join is in Princeton Borough; it is consequently governed by Borough Code. That Code stipulates that “the development shall have an enhanced system of public open spaces and pathways that provide linkages between and through the development” (17A-193B.d.4; see also d.1).

As the SPRAB report of 10/10/2012 indicates, the seamless abutment of residential complex and garage in fact eliminates the present public walkway from Witherspoon Street to Harris Road. If AvalonBay insists on closing off this public linkage, it must surely consent to provide others — and thus break up the monolithic cubes. Because the garage would become an appendage to the residences, enlarging the total overall footprint, the Planning Board needs to understand that the AvalonBay site plan is a direct and unacceptable violation of the Borough Code.

A development designed to be fully open to public access “crossing the site” is what the 2006 Master Plan envisages. Countless individuals spent hundreds of hours (and meetings) contributing to the plan. Barry Rabner, president and CEO of the Medical Center, through his architect-consultant Robert Hillier, “signed on” to the plan (as transcripts of Planning Board hearings show), in exchange for an excessive density of 280 units.

The design standards for the site define any development on this property. A stipulation such as the public’s ability to “[cross] the site” can be demonstrated by eye, hand, or foot. Either you can or can’t walk through and between the buildings. The design standards are written in such a way that a single monolithic building is not allowed — unless the present seven-story towers are sustainably retained.

The Planning Board must understand that the garage cannot be evaluated without reference to design standards in Borough Code and that there should be only one application.

The Planning Board must also follow these principles: 1) Design standards are not “vague” or “subjective” (as some have carelessly stated) — “crossing the site” is very specific. 2) The burden of proving that a design standard is “vague” or “subjective” falls on the developer, not on the municipality in whose code the standard is embodied. 3) The only legitimate venue in which a developer’s claim of “vagueness” or “subjectivity” can be upheld or denied is a court of law. 4) The only person who can sustain or dismiss such a claim is a judge.

I call upon the Planning Board to honor its responsibilities to Princeton, to invoke design standards wherever appropriate, and to deny the AvalonBay application completely.

The next Planning Board meeting falls on November 15, 2012. Please come and speak.

Cecil Marshall

Moore Street

To the Editor:

Between 2010 and 2012 the Township’s tax rate remained flat but the County tax rate increased by 5.6 percent and the Regional School tax rate increased by 9.13 percent. We just heard (Packet of 10/19/12) that the Consolidation Task Force revised its estimate of 2013 savings up to $2.2 million. Should we go out and celebrate? Absolutely not.

Future taxes in the new Princeton will continue to go up even if the new mayor and Council will find a way to keep the future tax rates unchanged. That is because we have no say in what the county does, nor have we any jurisdiction over the schools’ budget. We have a history of past Township Committees failing to exert pressure on the Board of Education to reduce expenses and lessen the burden imposed on the middle class of Princeton.

Lest we forget Princeton University, and all other federally tax exempt institutions, that own about 53 percent of all land in Princeton, where we go to every year, hat in hand, begging for a few kopecks with scant results.

Just look at the numbers, the school bond cost of carry in 2013 will be more than $1.2 million and the rise of normal school expenses due to contractual obligations (salaries, pensions, etc) may probably go up close to a million dollars, wiping out all the savings that consolidation worked so hard to achieve.

Yes, the new mayor and Council have no jurisdiction over the School Board, the county and all federally tax exempt institutions that are part of Princeton. But unless they are willing to exert great pressure on all these entities. Unless the school system will reduce its annual 3 percent tax rate rise. Unless the University which has about a $17 billion endowment fund will find its way to increase its annual PILOT payments to about 25 percent of the estimated $28 million tax bill they would have had if not for the federal exemption. If nothing changes, the middle class in Princeton will be forced to either reduce their standard of living or sell their houses and move to another town.

We should be aware that for middle class senior citizens and retirees the average property taxes in Princeton are larger than their average Social Security payments. We can not increase their taxes year after year.

The new mayor and Council must address this problem with the same urgency as they will address consolidation. In ten years, if we continue as in the past, the tax rate will be up another 50 percent and Princeton will be a town without a middle class. The time to act is NOW.

Ralph Perry

Random Road

November 6, 2012

To the Editor:

It is very important for Princeton citizens to vote ‘yes’ on November 6 on the ballot question about continuing our open space tax (OST). The Township first passed its open space tax in 1997, with the Borough following in 2001. The tax has been instrumental in preserving at least 289 acres of open space, as well as helping to develop recreational facilities at Smoyer Park and to maintain existing parks. The preserved lands include Coventry Farm on the Great Road (92 acres conservation easement, 50 acres purchased in fee); Greenway Meadows Park on Rosedale Road (53 acres purchased); Tusculum Farm on Cherry Hill Road (35 acres purchased, 6+ acres conservation easement); the Ricciardi property between Terhune and Bunn Drive (14+ acres purchased); and the Gulick property between Princeton-Kingston Road, River Road and Herrontown Road (27.5 acres purchased, 11.6-acre conservation easement).

The proposal would authorize a “consolidated” tax of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation, which would keep funding level to what it is now with the two separate taxes. We need these funds to be eligible for Green Acres 50 percent matching grants, as well as to match grants from the County. These funds will be critical for acquiring over 350 acres of additional lands and trail linkages identified for protection in our joint community Master Plan. Importantly, the OST gives Princeton the financial flexibility to be able to strike while the iron is hot, to acquire tracts that are needed to maintain our clean lakes and streams, for protection from flooding, and for the preservation of critical habitat.

The 1.7-cent Open Space Tax was recommended by the Transition Task Force and is supported by both mayoral candidates. It will help maintain the quality of life we treasure in Princeton for the future. We urge everyone to vote “yes” for it on November 6.

Wendy L. Mager President

Friends of Princeton Open Space

Dear Editor:

What wonderful open spaces we in Princeton have preserved over the years. We have protected natural habitats and critical wetlands, sweeping meadows and pristine woodlands – Mountain Lakes, The Institute Woods, Coventry Farm, Greenway Meadows and Barbara Smoyer Park to name just a few. Our many successful preservation projects in the 21st century have been realized thanks to our municipal open space taxes and partnerships with D&R Greenway Land Trust, the Friends of Princeton Open Space, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, Mercer County and the State of New Jersey’s Green Acres program.

On November 6 we have an opportunity to make certain that open space preservation continues in Princeton. As a current board member of the D&R Greenway Land Trust and a former mayor of Princeton Township, I urge voters to vote “yes” on the Open Space ballot question in the upcoming election. I’m also a long-time resident who so enjoys the open spaces that we have successfully preserved over the years. Let’s continue the good work of Princeton Township, Princeton Borough and our nonprofit and government partners in preserving open space in our community by voting “yes” on November 6.

Cate Litvack

Laurel Road

To the Editor:

Princeton residents have an important opportunity to protect clean water and the environment on Election Day. A “yes” vote for the Princeton Open Space Trust Fund public question will continue Princeton’s long, successful tradition of land preservation. The Princeton Community has made great strides in preserving a variety of types of lands to protect clean water and the environment and provide both active and passive recreation for residents. For that to continue, voters must act.

The job of preserving land in Princeton is not complete. In fact there are several hundred acres that are neither developed nor protected. Building on these areas would cause more congestion, more traffic, and require more costly services, while preserving land protects our water and our quality of life.

A “yes” vote for the Princeton Open Space Trust Fund public question will continue the open space levy after consolidation of the new Princeton is complete. All residents of the consolidated town will pay the same rate of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed property value, about $1.60 a week on a $500,000 home. Under the ballot measure, roughly the same amount of funding will be available for open space protection and management as is currently collected by the Township and the Borough.

The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is pleased to have had the opportunity to partner with Princeton on a number of preservation efforts and with a “yes” vote on November 6 is eager to continue that partnership. We are proud to have supported the establishment of the Princeton Ridge Preserve to further protect the mature forests, abundant wetlands, steep slopes, and boulder fields, the Princeton Ridge, among the most important and sensitive environmental features in central New Jersey. We are eager to help continue that effort and to help protect additional lands along the town’s streams, an important strategy for protecting clean water and protecting against worsening flooding.

The Watershed Association has worked to protect clean water and a healthy environment in central New Jersey region through conservation, advocacy, science, and education since 1949. Learn more about us at thewatershed.org.

Jim Waltman

Executive Director, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association

To the Editor:

I write this letter in strong support of Dick Woodbridge for Mayor of our consolidated Princeton. As a former Democrat Councilman, I worked with Dick on Borough Council, and I have known him for many years after that.

It’s fair to say that Dick has much more government experience and community involvement than his opponent, and this expertise is very important if we’re going to be successful in making consolidation work.

But I want to underscore an equally important fact about Dick — his ingrained sense of fairness and inclusion. In my view, these have not been the hallmarks of the politics we’ve had in the Princetons over the past several years.
I encourage your readers to take very seriously Dick’s proven ability to listen to and work with folks of diverse backgrounds and different views.

A mayor’s term is four years. We need to get the right mayor who can get us through the transition to a well-adjusted, highly-functional consolidated Princeton. Dick’s the best candidate to be the right mayor.

Gus Escher

Governors Lane

To the Editor:

In any election season when voters are often drawn to support their choice of candidates solely on the purported political promises or positions of the candidate it seems that the issue of character may often be overlooked either completely or given lesser importance than the politics.

Accordingly, Richard Woodbridge deserves strong consideration by voters if only by the quality of his character.

Local politics often become identified with state and national party positions at the expense of electing a representative who genuinely qualifies as the best local candidate. Richard Woodbridge is one who understands Princeton and has the experience as a longtime resident and business person in the community; and more importantly has been and will be an elected official who is willing and capable of compromise and honest dialogue among those of opposing views while keeping in mind the long term benefits due the community as a whole.

The integrity and honest forthrightness that Richard Woodbridge has demonstrated in the past as mayor of Princeton Twp. and a successful business resident in the community clearly identifies him as one who can be trusted to do what is best for the community as a whole disregarding private interests and those with absolute uncompromising ideologies.

I am pleased to present this opinion of Richard Woodbridge as a 35-year resident of the greater Princeton area community, former New Jersey teacher, school superintendent and director of various nonprofit public service organizations in our area.

Robert A Freda, Ed.D.

Andover Drive

To the Editor:

We are running for Council in the consolidated Princeton and strongly support Liz Lempert for Mayor. We have worked closely with Liz and seen her leadership, commitment, and vision for Princeton. We believe she has the right experience to lead Princeton and together, we can achieve the promise of consolidation.

As Deputy Mayor of Princeton Township, Liz has an unsurpassed record of results for taxpayers. The Township has had two consecutive years of no tax increases, and is one of the few municipalities in New Jersey to maintain a AAA bond rating. She also has promoted sustainability and environmental protection, spearheading efforts to preserve the Princeton Ridge. And she was a leader in the effort to approve consolidation last year and since then has worked tirelessly to ensure a smooth transition.

Time and again, we have seen Liz work to find common ground on contentious issues by listening and developing solutions that work for the community. She has the right experience to lead us in the new Princeton. We hope you will join us in supporting her for Mayor.

Jo Butler,

Hibben Road

Jenny Crumiller,

Library Place

Heather Howard,

Aiken Avenue

Lance Liverman,

Witherspoon Street

Bernie Miller,

Governor’s Lane

Patrick Simon,

Harriet Drive

To the Editor:

We in Princeton are very fortunate to have such a hard-working and decent Assemblywoman as Donna Simon. In the few months she has represented the 16th Legislative District, she has established an outstanding record of accomplishments:

• Route 1 Corridor: Donna successfully worked behind the scenes to reverse the NJDOT closure of the jug-handles.

• Consolidation Relief: Donna is a prime sponsor for consolidation relief, easing the costs of transition for the people of Princeton.

• Earned Income Tax Credit: Donna is a prime sponsor of a bill that raises the Earned Income Tax Credit back up to 25 percent. This bill will greatly help working families make ends meet- many of whom are working two or more jobs.

• Tax Rebates: Donna is a prime sponsor for a property tax rebate on your state income tax.

• School Funding: Assemblywoman Simon is asking tough questions about school funding, “Where’s the money going with our schools, because it isn’t reaching the classrooms.” She’s fighting hard for students and teachers alike.

• Economic Growth: Donna is outspoken in her support for smart growth, championing economic development on the municipal, county, and state levels.

• Pro Business Groups and Unions Endorse Donna: Donna has earned the endorsement of PENPAC, NEW JOBS, Operating Engineers, and IBEW.

• Donna is a “big tent” Assemblywoman who serves ALL the people of her district: Donna readily reaches out across the aisle for the benefit of her constituents and the people of New Jersey.

Donna Simon is decent, dedicated, delivers and has thus earned our votes this November.

Bonnie and Mark Scheibner

Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

Anyone who has contacted Liz Lempert during her tenure as a Committee Woman and Deputy Mayor, knows that she is accessible, open-minded, knowledgeable, hard-working, and thorough. We have approached her about several issues and have found her to be a thoughtful, engaged listener who addresses concerns with well-reasoned responses supported by facts, explaining her reasoning with analysis of all possible solutions. Her skills have served Princeton well as she addressed the highly nuanced and multi-faceted issues facing the township, not the least of which were consolidation and negotiating the first voluntary contribution from the university. Liz has been involved in the consolidation process from the start and is the only candidate for mayor who can hit the ground running during the first year of consolidation, where recent experience and institutional knowledge about the complex decisions made during the process will be most critical.

Equally important, Liz has been a leader and innovator with ideas that have moved Princeton forward in many areas. When we moved back to Princeton 20 years ago, Dick Woodbridge was in his last year as the Republican mayor of the Township, and Princeton was a very different place. For years after our return, we found Princeton to be behind comparable neighboring and college towns in terms of recycling, biking, and sustainability. In the last four years, Liz has been actively involved in moving Princeton forward into the 21st century in these areas—preserving open space, achieving certification from Sustainable Jersey, promoting safe bicycling, and establishing the curbside composting program—while holding taxes flat for the last several years. She has an impressive record of success in achieving environmental, budgetary, town/gown, and technology goals.

Liz has earned our votes, and we hope you will join us in making her unified Princeton’s first mayor.

Ann Summer, Mark Feigenson

Cedar Lane

To the Editor:

I am enthusiastically supporting Geoff Aton for Princeton Council. Geoff’s background in business and finance will help to ensure that the ambitious goals of municipal consolidation will be realized to the taxpayers’ benefit. His open-minded approach to the issues at hand, willingness to listen to both sides of an argument and sound judgment, are just what we need in a climate of local governance which too often seems to get side-tracked by personal agendas and rancor.

Geoff is a graduate of Villanova University and is a partner with the owners of Princeton’s Ivy Inn. His previous experience was with large firms in the financial field. He is a current member of the Princeton Township Zoning Board. Geoff is deeply involved in his community, a strong supporter of our public schools and believes in having a council that will be the voice of the people.

I urge all my fellow Princetonians to join me in voting for Geoff. I particularly urge my Democratic Party friends to cross over and cast one of your six Council votes for Geoff. With Geoff on a more inclusive, transparent and diverse Council, his fresh perspective can only result in better decision-making and outcomes.

Please give Geoff Aton the opportunity to work for you.

Carol Wojciechowicz

Former Princeton Township Committeewoman,

Herrontown Road

To the Editor,

Having worked with every member of this year’s Democratic slate for the new Princeton municipal council and mayor, we feel lucky to have the opportunity to vote for this stellar group of individuals: Liz Lempert, Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, Heather Howard, Lance Liverman, Bernie Miller, and Patrick Simon. They represent a true cross section of the Princeton community – tradition-embracing long-time residents and energetic, forward-looking relative newcomers; policy wonks and big-hearted big-picture types; wise seniors and engaged parents of school-age children. Amidst all this diversity they have one thing in common – a devotion to our community which boggles the mind. They have collectively logged thousands of hours just over the past year in service to Princeton, and over the course of their lives in public service, many times that amount. Sometimes they agree on the issues, sometimes not, but they always share a mutual respect that allows them to work effectively together and get things done for the benefit of all Princeton residents. We urge you to vote for every one of them, not because of their party affiliation, but because the absence of any one of these gifted and dedicated public servants from our new government would be a grave loss to the community.

David & Liz Cohen

Terhune Road

To the Editor:

Princeton is going through a remarkable transformation as it continues on its way toward becoming a single unified community. There is a lot still to be worked out, and we are fortunate with the Democratic candidates that are running together for the new Council. They may be in a single slate, but it would be hard to find a more diverse group of people. Each one comes with a different background, different experiences, and different interests. Financial experience, management experience, government experience, business experience, it’s all there.

I look forward to voting for Bernie, Heather, Jenny, Jo, Lance, Pat, and, of course, for Liz!

Peter Lindenfeld

Harris Road

To the Editor:

The Friends of the Princeton Public Library Annual Book Sale, held the weekend of October 12-14, was a resounding success and a testament to a community that loves books and loves its library. Thanks to our 80-plus volunteers, the sale had another record-breaking year. Thanks also to the hundreds of community members who donated all the books for the sale; we are so lucky to have such great offerings from this community of readers! And, of course, thank you to the hundreds of people from Princeton and the surrounding areas who came to browse our offerings and who enjoyed and snapped up our tremendous bargains. Not to be overlooked, of course, is the wonderful staff of the Princeton Public Library and particularly the facilities crew, who gave the sale volunteers their wholehearted support. Many others provided valuable help: Johnson Park Elementary School Principal Bob Ginsburg coordinated, and the PPS facilities staff executed, the lending of tables for the sale; McCaffrey’s assisted us by donating bags for the Bag Sale, Jack Morrison donated a delicious dinner for our 20-plus-person clean-up crew, and last but not least, past President of the Friends and devoted behind-the-scenes book sale volunteer, Barbara L. Freedman, sponsored the Annual Sale again this year.

All profits from the Annual Book Sale (and from our used book store, open daily and located just inside the library entrance) go to support the Library. We accept donations year-round, so please think of us if it’s time to winnow your collection or if you’re moving. Our donation guidelines are available at: http://princetonlibrary.org/booksale

Sherri Garber, Eve Niedergang, Co-Chairs

Friends of the Princeton Public Library Book Sale

To The Editor:

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the community for supporting our recent Harvest Dinner. In particular, I would like to thank the area businesses both honored, and those not named, that have been longtime supporters of women in early recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Obtaining and maintaining employment is emphasized by Crawford House’s residential program as a key way to foster self-worth, economic independence and self-sufficiency. We remain grateful to the following community businesses who are giving women the opportunity to lead independent, productive and happy lives: Bon Appetit, Chartwells, Chez Alice, Jordan’s Stationery & Gifts, McCaffrey’s Supermarkets, Nelson’s Corner Pizza, Rawson Group/Wendy’s, Red Oak Diner, ShopRite of Hillsborough, and Smith’s Ace Hardware. We extend our thanks to the community for providing a supportive environment where women can achieve and sustain their recovery.

Linda M. Leyhane, CDA

Executive Director, Crawford House

October 24, 2012

To the Editor:

For those of us who lamented the demise of our venerable Merwick Rehabilitation Center, I am happy to report that it is alive and thriving, shiny and new, but now located next door to our new Princeton Hospital in Plainsboro.

My unplanned multi-week stay at this beautiful new facility was enlightening and rewarding. I found myself on the receiving end of an unusually caring, superior quality staff of both professional and unprofessional status, whose high level of services were delivered with kindness 24/7.

Especially noted is the sensitivity, dedication, and good spirit of their obviously well-trained physical and occupational therapists. The vulnerable patient is in good hands.

One feels welcome, warm, and individually cared for in this sunny, bright, and happy place. Who could ask for anything more?

Thank you Merwick!

R.Frisch

Ridgeview Circle

To the Editor:

If passed, Bill A2586 would exempt private universities and colleges from complying with zoning. This would be a nightmare for Princeton, Plainsboro, West Windsor, and Lawrence, as well as other municipalities with large private university campuses. And, if A2586 is passed, the exemptions likely will not stop there — private secondary schools, hospitals, daycare centers, and a myriad of others with “public missions” can be counted on to demand their exemptions quickly.

This has nothing to do with the respect or affection we may have for these private institutions, but let’s face it — private universities, such as Princeton University, or even Rider University or the Princeton Seminary, are, relative to the surrounding town, mammoth financial institutions with an appetite for development. Zoning exists to protect individual residents and a town’s quality of life, and without it we open our communities to rampant and unconstrained development — not just from large educational buildings, but from ANY type of commercial building that a university might conceive to be a good investment. A2586 allows for local zoning and local master plans to be ignored with total impunity.

Towns with private universities already face tax revenue shortfalls due to the existence of large amounts of tax exempt properties. Private institutions generally make a voluntary payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT). However, the record is that PILOTS are almost never close to the level that a regular taxpayer would have been required to pay. So, if private universities are permitted to expand without zoning review into prime real estate, tax revenues to the municipality may sustain dramatic decreases, requiring major tax increases to other taxpayers, and cuts in services.

The supposed “justification” for A2586 is that state universities “already” are exempt from local land use regulations. Not true. State universities are subject to regulation and oversight through the State budgetary process, which inevitably includes land use considerations. There is no such transparency and public control over the budgets and capital improvements of private universities. The idea that private universities need to have equalized standing is a complete fabrication.

Due to confusion around passing the State budget, the bill quickly passed the Senate and is now in the Assembly Higher Education Committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Celeste Riley. For more information please go to the League of Municipalities website www.njslom.org/letters/2012-0829-A2586-S1534.html. Please send letters to Committee members via e-mail (followed by hard copy by U.S. Mail) expressing your opposition to this bill. The next meeting of the Committee is on November 8. We don’t have the agenda yet, but A2586 could be on that agenda. If you are interested in being informed about when the hearing is scheduled, e-mail to kcherry10@gmail.com or call (609) 924-4232.

Kip Cherry

Dempsey Avenue

To the Editor:

We now know of the Medical Center’s original commitment to the Princeton community — and its breach of that commitment. On May 26, 2005, Barry Rabner (president and CEO of the Medical Center at Princeton) said at a Planning Board hearing: “It is our intent to do everything we can to work with the community, and work with this board, in developing a plan that has broad public support. Because it is clear certainly to us, I think to anyone who has done any work in Princeton, that unless there is a plan that has that support, it simply won’t be approved …. When we select a developer we are not going to simply pick the developer that proposes to pay the most. We need a developer that understands and embraces the plan that is finally approved. We need a developer that understands our neighbors, understands Princeton, and understands what it takes to get this project accomplished” (from unofficial transcripts, available from Daniel A. Harris, dah43@comcast.net).

The plan to which Mr. Rabner refers is one that the hospital itself commissioned. Its chief features are: retention of the hospital “towers” for 260 housing units, 20 town homes (total density: 280, as agreed with the community), a public green park of 35,000 square feet, with public walkways “crossing the site” leading to public playgrounds (public open space could be as much as 50,000 square feet), a public fitness center and local retail shops along Witherspoon Street. The entire project would have been green, sustainable.

What happened? Mr. Rabner picked “the developer that proposes to pay the most” — a reputed $36 million dollars. There was at least one other bid, possibly more than one, for around $32 million dollars (a number “heard on the street”). For a $4 million dollar differential (a smidge more than 10 percent below the top bid but less than .75 percent of the reported $537 million dollar cost of the new hospital, Mr. Rabner has done what? Contracted with AvalonBay.

We know what AvalonBay proposes: a site plan that violates Borough Code and the Master Plan on which Mr. Rabner himself worked so hard in over 75 meetings with community/neighborhood people — a monolith five stories high in a 1- and 2-story neighborhood, an all-wood building (potential firetrap), with no walkways through the site, no green public park, no sustainable green building. AvalonBay contributes to its corporate investor, not to the Princeton community. AvalonBay wants to co-opt Princeton by calling its development “AvalonPrinceton.”

How will Mr. Rabner rectify his breach of trust with the community? How can he face members of the Planning Board who heard him speak in 2005. What can he do now to push AvalonBay to comply with all of Borough Code? He and citizens’ groups are stakeholders in the upcoming vote of the Planning Board on the AvalonBay application. It’s high time for him to act, and render himself accountable for his words.

Joseph McGeady

John Street

To the Editor:

Our neighborhood, Scott Lane/Bainbridge Street, has just gone through an extensive and necessary renovation, involving new sewers, new sidewalks, and new street paving. Like all renovations, it was a sometimes exasperating experience which lasted longer than expected. However, now that it’s finished, I want to express my thanks for the exemplary way in which our Borough Council members and government employees handled this difficult situation.

This renovation was not without neighborhood disagreement, and Borough Council members sat through several hearings in which different views were forcefully aired by neighborhood residents. I was very impressed by the careful way Council members listened to differing opinions, and the calm way in which they responded. I am particularly grateful to Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, Barbara Trelstad, and Kevin Wilkes for their insightful and sensible comments regarding the need for adequate sidewalks, and to Barbara Trelstad for her oversight of the renovation.

The engineering department should be commended for the way in which it handled the renovation. Bob Pagan, assistant borough engineer, spent innumerable hours, often on his own time, to consult with individual homeowners regarding issues such as sidewalk alignment and driveway repair. Mr. Pagan arranged for timely recycling and trash pickup so that there would be minimal inconvenience for neighborhood residents. We were very fortunate to have had the services of such a dedicated Borough employee, and I know I speak for many neighbors in thanking him for his help.

Francesca Benson

Bainbridge Street

To the Editor:

Making a left turn out of the Route 1/Harrison Street Sunoco Station onto Harrison Street is a hazardous vehicular motion and should be banned.

The recently completed widening of Harrison Street at the intersection with Route 1 has succeeded in improving the flow of traffic turning on to Route 1 from Harrison Street. However, these changes have had the unintended and undesirable consequence of making the left turn motion out of the Sunoco station more dangerous than before. Vehicles exiting the gas station on to Harrison Street going toward Princeton now have to cross three lanes of traffic, often blocking traffic in the two lanes on the gas station side of Harrison Street. Vehicles turning to Harrison Street from Route 1 cannot safely see the vehicles crossing the three lanes of traffic on Harrison Street when they make the right turn to Harrison Street from Route 1. Crossing three lanes of traffic is a dangerous maneuver under any circumstances, but even more so if an ambulance is negotiating traffic on Harrison Street to get to the hospital.

It now appears that Sunoco is proposing major modifications for the station. An early review of the proposed plans by the West Windsor Site Plan Review Advisory Board raised many questions, and it is expected that Sunoco will submit revised plans in several weeks. As gas stations have evolved in recent years, it is likely that the owner will propose some form of a mini-mart and gas pumps to increase the use and profitability of the site.

The function of the Harrison Street/Route 1 intersection is critical to all of us who live north and west of the hospital. The hospital and Princeton University took leadership roles in widening the intersection to help solve the traffic problems that made it difficult to access Route 1 and the new hospital site. This includes the installation of a special traffic signal at the intersection that is maintained by Princeton Township that can be controlled to stop traffic on Route 1 by rescue squad vehicles heading to the hospital. However, the benefits of all of these expensive changes that are meant to improve access to the hospital can be negated by a driver exiting the gas station and blocking all three lanes of traffic while trying to get into the lane of traffic heading north on Harrison Street.

To protect the lives and safety of patients and EMT crews trying to get to the hospital, and motorists using the Sunoco station, I ask the mayor and Council of West Windsor Township to take the necessary actions to place “No Exit” signs at the gas station Harrison Street driveway to deter drivers from blocking traffic and risking an accident by crossing three lanes of traffic when exiting the gas station to head north on Harrison Street.

Bernie Miller

Princeton Township Committeeman,

Governors Lane

To the Editor:

Something very interesting happened on the way to the forum to elect our first united government in Princeton. The six Democratic candidates for Council — Heather Howard, Patrick Simon, Bernie Miller, Jo Butler, Lance Liverman, and Jenny Crumiller — could have run this campaign individually, with each candidate looking out for him or herself. These are confident individuals with varied backgrounds, positions, and constituencies, and it might have been easier to run independently. But that is not what they chose to do. They opted instead to put differences aside and to team up, to work together for a common campaign, just as they have been working together with many members of our community to implement consolidation. Looking for common ground and the greater good for the larger community is what defines this moment in our town’s history and the rationale for forming this team of Democrats.

As a volunteer I worked earlier this year with Democratic council candidates individually. Over the summer as the team formed and solidified, I have been impressed with the sharing, support, and bonding. The backgrounds that these candidates bring to the table is diverse in healthcare, public policy, transportation and logistics, job development, engineering, and real estate. Their experiences and their strengths complement each other. Five of the six currently hold elected positions on the Borough Council or Township Committee, and all six have worked with the Consolidation Commission or the Transition Task Force or on one or more of the subcommittees of those groups. Together these six candidates, along with Liz Lempert, our Democratic mayoral candidate, represent in unity a microcosm of our two communities coming together in consolidation. All six candidates have experience gained through working on current day-to-day issues of municipal government, ensuring that the benefits of consolidation are delivered as promised.

Consolidation is and will continue to be a journey, and its achievement is the defining mission of these Democratic candidates. The new town council will have six seats and I ask you to join me in supporting all six of these candidates for Princeton Council. They deserve our support so progress, guiding the consolidation strategy, will continue into successful implementation with their intelligent and sensitive stewardship.

Doreen Blanc Rockstrom

Maidenhead Road

To the Editor:

We support abstinence education and are writing in response to the Town Topics’ article, “Five Year Strategic Plan Outlined at Sexuality Education Fundraiser” (Town Topics, Oct. 17, p. 7).

The article reports on Elizabeth Schroeder’s rather tendentious and completely one-sided defense of the so-called “comprehensive” sex education approach that has been adopted by organizations such as HiTOPS and Answer. Ms. Schroeder accuses critics of this approach of “keeping young people in the dark” and “making young girls feel worthless.” These are gross mischaracterizations of the abstinence-until-marriage view. We are prepared to prove that in an open public debate.

Because no approach to sex education is value neutral, the tensions between the methods and the ancillary goals of sex education programs result in morally-charged debates about what is best for our teens.

People who support abstinence education often claim that “comprehensive” sex education curricula are not based on scientific evidence and teen sexual health but are used to promote an ideology of sexual freedom that puts teens’ physical, psychological, and intellectual well-being at great risk. Those who support comprehensive sex education often assume that abstinence education is based on an ideological commitment to an outdated and archaic view of virtue and morality that has little relevance to the latest scientific findings or the realities and temptations that teens face in today’s sex-saturated culture. People on both sides of the debate accuse the other side of politicizing, suppressing, and manipulating scientific evidence and peddling medically inaccurate information to unsuspecting and vulnerable teens.

We believe that it is important to foster respect and understanding between people who have different viewpoints on sexual morality and sex education. One of the ways to foster tolerance and mutual respect for diverse views is to give parents and students the opportunity to hear the best arguments on competing sides of an issue presented by thoughtful, well-informed people. It is important for all of us to acknowledge that there are intelligent and reasonable people of good will on different sides. Sometimes this acknowledgment requires that we reopen and judge anew a matter that has been treated as if it were settled or beyond dispute.

In the spirit of civil engagement and public deliberation, we propose a public debate focusing on what can validly be taught on the basis of truly sound science between experts on teen sexual health with different perspectives. We respectfully invite Ms. Schroeder and her colleagues at HiTOPS and Answer to work with us on this project. The goal would be to give our community an opportunity to hear two recognized experts who represent different views about the scientific soundness of claims made in competing approaches to sex education in our schools. We are prepared to have our view publicaly challenged by Ms. Schroeder herself or any expert favored by her organization. We hope that she and her colleagues are no less prepared to have their views challenged by an expert on our side.

Wai Far Bazar

Greenbrier Row

Aileen Collins

Guyot Avenue

Sarah Schemmann

Erdman Avenue

To the Editor:

I am licensed by the NJDEP and for ten years have owned an environmental contracting company that I still work for in a consulting capacity. I was asked by Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods to review a Phase I Environmental Assessment report performed by EcolSciences, Inc. as well as some conclusions in an Environmental Impact Study performed by Maser Consulting P.A., both on behalf of AvalonBay. The areas of the reports that I was specifically reviewing were those dealing with Underground Storage Tanks (USTs). The EcolSciences report lists four active UST systems: one 4,000 gallon diesel tank, one 1,000 gallon gasoline tank, and two 30,000 gallon fuel oil tanks. In addition, USTs were removed at 6 and 10 Harris Road and found to be leaking and as of the date of the EcolSciences report, soil and possible ground water contamination remained on both of these sites as a result of the leakage.

The Maser report summarizes the EcolSciences report in one sentence: “Site specific investigations performed for the property by Ecolsciences regarding the presence of underground tanks and possible contamination revealed that no underground storage tanks or contamination were found on the property” (p. 10). I had to read that statement several times. It is astounding to me that Maser could write their report and leave the existence of the tanks and known contamination out of the report. The EcolSciences report is not hard to read and it is not so cumbersome that even a lay person could find the section dealing with the tanks. Not to mention the fact that 30,000 gallon tanks are big — as in 50 feet long and 10 feet in diameter — and there are two of them. The main ways to these tanks are impossible to miss for anyone who walks the site. The only conclusion that I can draw is that Maser was extremely negligent when preparing their report. I do not even want to consider the only other possibility, which is that the information was left out of Maser’s report purposely. I understand that Maser does have a good reputation so I would have to assume that it was negligence. In any case, it calls into serious doubt the conclusions that Maser has drawn in its report and in my opinion, not only the conclusions about tanks and contamination that are known to exist on the site, but other conclusions as well.

Please come to the October 25 meeting of the Planning Board, Township Hall, 7:30 pm, where the Board will be considering the AvalonBay application. Let your concerns be known either by speaking or simply showing up.

Steven Hoffman

Jefferson Road

To the Editor:

The plans unveiled by Princeton University at last week’s Regional Planning Board hearing made it abundantly clear that the Dinky train line to the historic train station terminus does not interfere with the construction of a single building for the Arts Complex. The University nevertheless directed its experts long ago to design plans to move the Dinky terminus a football field and a half (460 feet) farther away from Princeton’s town center. In fact, the Arts complex could have been built (or largely built) by now, with the Dinky terminus remaining safe, exactly where it is — if the win-win approach long recommended by the community had been embraced by the University.

Study after study shows that moving transit farther from town centers leads to reductions in ridership and often ends in the eventual demise of the entire train line. Also, preserving the Dinky line to its current terminus would save this historic gateway to Princeton, which has been on state and national registers of historic places for nearly three decades. It could operate as a cafe as well as the station it once was.

In meeting after meeting during more than five years that the University has promoted its Arts and Transit plan, most of the public has supported the arts component while simultaneously voicing serious objections to its transit component, which has shortcomings and risks that could easily be corrected in cost efficient ways. Public groups have shown time and again how to address these challenges creatively, with expert inputs, so that the Dinky terminus would not have to be moved. Yet, not a single good idea from the public has been embraced by the University with respect to the Dinky transit corridor!

Having much respect for Princeton University, I am disappointed in its treating so cavalierly its community neighbors who have had such a long time collective interest and daily dependence on the Dinky train, a rare passenger transit line that other communities have lost and yearn to have back again. The Dinky has been a beloved public resource for more than 100 years, shared by the entire community including University faculty, students, and staff. It is our link to the northeast corridor and to the whole world.

The plan to move the Dinky terminus farther away from the town center is ill conceived and will place our transit corridor unnecessarily in jeopardy. We deserve better stewardship of our Dinky train and historic station, precious community resources. It is not too late for the University to recognize the public interest in our transit corridor over such a long period and to assimilate the well-founded wishes of the community rather than behaving as the only fountain of knowledge about this transit corridor.

William S. Moody

Jefferson Road