May 16, 2012

To the Editor:

Princeton Hospital (Princeton HealthCare System, PHCS) must honor and fulfill its commitments to Princeton and the Witherspoon neighborhood, which it leaves behind next week.

So far it has not done so. Hospital representatives, including Barry Rabner (now CEO of PHCS), participated in two years of discussion with the Witherspoon community and the municipal Task Force — and arrived at a consensus for a “unique opportunity” to recreate the vacated acreage: 280 apartments in exchange for specific design standards, a large public plaza (like Hinds), public passage “crossing the site,” and development in physical scale with the neighborhood.

PHCS has unaccountably selected a buyer, AvalonBay (AB), which has so far refused to acknowledge the 2006 Master Plan and Borough Code Design Standards in which that consensus was embodied. True, the AvalonBay monolith (two squares side-by-side, uniformly five stories high) is permitted by “Bulk Regulations” in the Borough Code. But did PHCS perform due diligence in selecting a buyer who would agree to honor the hospital’s commitment to neighborhood revitalization? Why not?

The selling price for the property, reputed to be $36 million, was only $4 million higher than another bid from a qualified, distinguished developer who takes pride in customized architecture that fits the environment. For $4 million less, PHCS could have had good design and maintained its good faith agreements with Princeton. No one tosses off $4 million. But that $4 million is less than one percent of the hospital’s total costs for moving to Plainsboro and building a new facility ($537 million, as reported in Town Topics). For less than one percent, PHCS could have given Princeton what they agreed to foster: a socially smart and architecturally sensitive neighborhood building, not the “gated community,” explicitly prohibited in the Master Plan, that we are in great danger of getting.

It is time for PHCS, at the highest levels of administration, to step forward and inform AvalonBay of commitments that must be observed. Yes, Princeton values the hospital that has served our community since 1919, and we applaud the effort expended in creating the new health campus. But not at any price shall we value PHCS any longer if it does not actively push AvalonBay to propose excellent, not mediocre, designs that serve the neighborhood. Greater Princeton contributed over $100 million to the new hospital site: so far, in return, we have been abandoned.

Last week an overnight letter was sent to Mr. Rabner and all 35 PHCS trustees, from Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods. The letter expresses a sense of real betrayal because the hospital is selling its buildings to a conventional developer apparently lacking capabilities to customize development to specific needs.

Online, all Princeton residents are invited to sign a petition requesting PHCS to intervene: go to www.change.org and type in (beside “Browse Petitions,” at top) “To the University Medical Center at Princeton.”

Princeton is special, the Witherspoon area is vital to Princeton, the Master Plan is specific in its guidelines for rebuilding. The hospital has no excuse. We are disbelieving and angry.

Jane Buttars

Dodds Lane

To the Editor:

The hospital (the University Medical Center) has an important moral responsibility to the Princeton community. Unfortunately, the hospital is not living up to it.

The hospital’s moral responsibility dates to 2004-06, when the hospital, Princeton Borough, and the neighborhood surrounding the hospital’s Witherspoon Street site had lengthy negotiations about what could be built on the site when the hospital vacated it. The goal was to make the site attractive to potential buyers so that the hospital could get a good price for it, while still safeguarding the neighborhood. The neighborhood and the Borough made great concessions — among them, much higher density than any other site in Princeton, and the retention of two seven-story buildings. The hospital agreed, among other things, to include a public park, walkways crossing the site, and mixed retail and office use.

Unfortunately, the Borough did not codify these agreements in a way that is legally enforceable. Perhaps Borough officials didn’t think this was necessary, since they were dealing in good faith with the hospital — a fine, honorable institution.

But now the hospital has tentatively decided to sell the site to AvalonBay, which has shown total disregard for the agreements. Indeed, AvalonBay’s previous developments demonstrate that it is probably incapable of building the kind of development envisioned in the agreements.

Why did the hospital choose AvalonBay? We can only guess. Perhaps it forgot about its agreements and simply chose the highest bidder. AvalonBay reportedly bid $36 million. A very reputable builder who would most likely adhere to the agreements bid $32 million. The $4 million difference may sound large, but in fact it is less than 1 percent of the $527 million that the new hospital will cost.

Barry Rabner (the hospital’s CEO) and the hospital’s trustees need to demonstrate to the Princeton community that of course they recognize the hospital’s moral responsibility and will adhere to the agreements, whatever the legal situation. They should withdraw their tentative acceptance of AvalonBay’s bid. They should sell instead to a buyer who will support them in living up to their moral responsibility to Princeton. And they should work with the new buyer, as it goes through the approval process, to make certain that all of their agreements with the Borough and the neighborhood are kept.

Phyllis Teitelbaum

Hawthorne Avenue

To the Editor;

As the development of the Princeton hospital site moves forward — re: recent Borough Council approval to amend MRRO zone as requested by the developer AvalonBay — it is important that we as a community understand the scale of the proposed development in relation to the adjacent neighborhoods and the town at large. After all, zoning laws are meant to constrain development to conform to community values and to preserve the character of a community.

Three measures can be objectively examined; overall size; height; and length.

1. Overall Size: The scale diagram compares the proposed Avalon Bay development with Princeton stadium and to an entire street in the adjacent neighborhood.

2. Height: The proposed development will be five stories tall along most of its Franklin and Witherspoon Street façades. A to-scale diagram compares a portion of the proposed development’s façade along Franklin with: the Princeton library; the new Palmer Square housing along Paul Robeson; and with some typical homes along Witherspoon and Harris.

3. Overall length: the proposed façade along Franklin will be a continuous building length of 480 feet. There are few buildings of that length anywhere in Princeton. A to-scale comparison shows the proposed length of the Avalon Bay development with a portion of the Library and a portion of Palmer Square housing.

The existing hospital is a very large building. But much of its size is concentrated in a tower form that mitigates its bulk. By any measure the proposed AvalonBay development will be a very large building, if not the largest in Princeton. Although the building will be in the middle of residential neighborhoods, it will be far larger than any building even in the central business district.

I am not opposed to redevelopment of the hospital site. I want everyone to decide for themselves on the appropriateness of having a stadium-sized building along Witherspoon in the middle of Princeton and amidst two vibrant residential neighborhoods.

Joseph H. Weiss

Leigh Avenue

 

 


May 9, 2012

To the Editor:

Recent news coverage of the Dinky issue has raised concerns in some minds about potential costs to taxpayers from efforts to preserve the Dinky right-of-way. From the vantage point of Princeton’s future transit needs, however, the Princeton community will lose if the right of way is not preserved for eventual use for light rail.

The light rail option to be studied under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is wasteful, environmentally problematic, and not cost-effective. The MOU option involves building a rail link from a relocated Dinky station along a new east-west easement to Alexander Street. Tracks would then be installed on Alexander for a “big dipper” route that would go north and then snake around and up University Place to Nassau. There are three obvious problems with this option.

First, it would not be feasible to connect light rail to Alexander from the location the University proposes for the new Dinky station. With the Arts Complex shifted to the south, as is shown on the current plan, the turning radii required for light rail to get to and up Alexander Street would be well below standard. In order to accomplish this shift to Alexander Street, the transition would have to occur much further to the south. The new state-of-the art station the University proposes would have to be abandoned, and the orphaned WaWa would not survive, hidden from Alexander Street, without passenger traffic, university traffic, and local support.

Second, tax dollars — local, state or federal — would be unlikely to be forthcoming for a light rail plan involving tracks on Alexander St. There are too many obvious drawbacks. Even in flush times, a circuitous route up an already congested road is suspect. Light rail would have to share the street with commuter traffic and would increase, not ease, congestion. Traffic to the Lot 7 garage via the University’s new access road would also have to cross the light rail tracks.

Third, in the University’s currently submitted plan for the Arts Complex, a direct pedestrian walk is shown from their new Lot 7 Rail Station to the current Dinky Plaza. As a future light rail line, this converted walkway would be an ideal location and make this walk unnecessary. Preserving this right-of-way for mass transit would require little if any change to the University’s current design.

On balance, if we are to be guided by sound fiscal, transit, and environmental policy, we would all be much better off with a plan for the Arts and Transit campus that accommodates the Dinky in its current location and preserves a viable future light rail option.

If we don’t preserve what is the Right Way, future generations will question how we could have been so shortsighted.

Michael Landau AIA

Patton A

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Board of Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS), I write to thank all those who responded quickly and effectively to the fire that broke out in Mountain Lakes North in Princeton Township on the afternoon of April 14. The responders included the Princeton Fire Department, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, and firefighters and equipment from Hopewell, Lawrence, West Windsor, Princeton Junction, Blawenburg, Ewing, and as far away as Morrisville, Pennsylvania.

Due to the extremely dry conditions and the fact that this is parkland, the fire could have consumed much more than the approximately 3.5 acres that ultimately were affected. Fortunately, the dedicated and skilled personnel who responded prevented that from happening.

FOPOS has already consulted with Dr. Emile DeVito, manager of Science and Stewardship of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and Leslie Sauer, a respected expert on forest restoration, about the consequences of the fire, since FOPOS has “adopted” Mountain Lakes North through the adopt-a-park program (along with Mountain Lakes Preserve, for which FOPOS holds the conservation easement). Fortunately, the principal victims of the fire were low-growing invasive species and there was not a great deal of damage to larger trees. We expect to bring ideas for restoration of this area to Township staff and Committee in the near future.

Again, thanks to all who helped protect our park and nearby areas from the flames.

Wendy L. Mager

President, Friends of Princeton Open Space

To the Editor:

I am a very happy user of the Princeton curbside compost program, and want to encourage all Princeton Township and Borough residents to sign on. While I do my own yard compost, the curbside allows me to include so much more. I love composting pizza boxes! And meat scraps, dairy waste, Kleenex, all things that used to go in my garbage. We are left with very little throwaways, and it is a great feeling knowing we’re adding so little to landfills.

This is a pilot project, the only one of its kind in New Jersey; it will only continue if more people sign on. For $20/month you get weekly compost pick-ups with containers included; for $30 you also get weekly garbage collection.

Please join in this easy, affordable, and satisfying project. Call Janet at Princeton Township, 688-2566 or sign up online at www.princetontwp.org and click on Princeton Composts Curbside. Help keep Princeton green!

Liz Cohen

Terhune Road

To the Editor:

As part of our ongoing effort to listen to the needs of our customers, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) will be implementing Skip the Trip, the latest in a long line of positive changes the Christie Administration is making to improve customer service and convenience.

Beginning July 1, customers born on or before December 1, 1964, who need to renew their driver license or ID will be allowed to Skip the Trip and renew by mail. No trip to the MVC, no waiting in line. Customers can simply drop their payment and renewal notice in the mail and within two weeks a new driver license or ID will be mailed directly to their home.

Mail renewals will also help to further reduce wait times, which is important as the MVC phases in new federal identity requirements to customers beginning May 7.

The new federal requirements, regulated by the United States Department of Homeland Security, will require a compliant driver license or ID to be presented when used for any federal purposes such as boarding a domestic flight or entering a federal facility. The good news is that enforcement will not begin for customers born on or before December 1, 1964 until December of 2017, which is why we have offered the convenience of renewing by mail now.

All other customers who apply for a driver license or ID at an MVC Agency from May 7 on, including those who decline to Skip the Trip, will be required to meet the new federal identity requirements we have named TRU-ID, which replaces the 6 Point ID Verification standard currently in use and streamlines it to three simple steps without worrying about calculating points.

Once a customer meets TRU-ID requirements, the MVC will issue a driver license or ID that is valid for eight years, allowing him/her to Skip the Trip four years later. The document will also be federally compliant, which is necessary by December 2014 for customers born after December 1, 1964. For a full list of TRU-ID requirements, visit our website at www.njmvc.gov/tru.

Skip the Trip is only the start of a number of exciting, new conveniences the MVC is working on for its customers. Stay tuned for yet more coming your way soon.

Raymond P. Martinez,

Chairman and Chief Administrator

New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission

To the Editor:

As a tax payer, concerned citizen and transportation professional, I would like to try to alleviate some fears that have been expressed in the local media that Princeton tax payers may be incurring a financial burden associated with the various efforts to retain passenger service to the historic Princeton Train station.

Let me try to make clear the reality of the current situation. In 1984 NJ Transit (NJT) and Princeton University entered into a contract (http://savethedinkyorg/contract) in which NJ Transit received almost $1M from Princeton University in return for:

1. allowing Princeton University the right to pay NJ Transit’s expenses incurred in abandoning passenger service between the former terminus in front of the passenger building to its current location in front of the freight building, a length of about 170 feet and width of about 12 feet or 0.05 acres, and

2. ownership in a 2.564 acre parcel of land, encumbered by a public transportation easement (http://orfe.princeton.edu/~alaink/Dinky/Easement.pdf) retained by NJ Transit. The land includes the historic station buildings, the rail right of way and a parking area.

This means that NJ Transit, an agent of We the People, currently owns the perpetual right to the use of all but 0.05 acres of the 2.56 acres for only public transportation service so long as passenger service continues. NJ Transit, acting for the public, retained those rights forever, or for five years after the abandonment of passenger services, whichever comes first.

NJT stopped passenger service on the 170 x12 foot segment in about 1988, so the University may own that portion of the land free and clear and may thus do what it wishes on that sliver of land. However, on the rest of the property, the public retains the clear right to continue public transportation service from now and forever, irrespective of any zoning, MOU or back-room deals.

This is a very valuable right when one considers that Princeton University paid almost one million in 1984 dollars for the right to obtain free and clear title to a 0.05 acre sliver of land. Since today’s dollar is worth essentially half the 1984 dollar, the value of this public transportation easement owned by We the People in current dollars is at least $40 million per acre, or $100 million for the remaining 2.5 acres. That’s what a private entity would owe New Jersey taxpayers for the right to vacate the easement five years AFTER cessation of passenger service, whenever that might happen.

The price for the giving up of that asset earlier than May 9, 2017 would be much greater than $100 million. So, who is liable to owe whom a lot of money? The public transportation easement retained by NJT for the benefit of the public is an extremely valuable asset that either needs to be kept and used for its public purposes or sold for all of its value if the public good is better served by abandoning its public transportation use.

Alain L. Kornhauser

Montadale Circle

To the Editor:

Friday, April 13 was a very lucky day for our organization, People and Stories/Gente Y Cuentos. Our annual benefit on that date brought the gifts of Chang-rae Lee and C.K. Williams to the Nassau Club for our annual reading, which benefits our ability to bring the written word and the power of literature to many of our fellow citizens. We thank the Nassau Club, our Benefit Committee, our authors, our sponsors, and our audience, who made it — and continue to make it — possible. On behalf of the Board and staff, with gratitude to them all,

Co-chairs: Pam Wakefield

Prospect Avenue

Claire Jacobus,

Cleveland Lane

To the Editor:

I am writing to thank all of those responsible for the first ever recycling effort at Communiversity. With the cooperation of The Arts Council, Sustainable Princeton, Woodrow Wilson School students, The Mercer County Improvement Authority, the Public Works Departments of the Borough and the Township, and many others, we were collectively able to recycle approximately 920 pounds of material that otherwise would have gone to the local landfill. This effort has demonstrated that we are a community and we can work together. Consolidation will work! And, it further demonstrates that we care about and can act on sustainable issues. My hat is off to everyone who made this happen. Thank you! As the event helper’s T-shirts said, “Change a Habit, Change the World”. Let’s do it together and let’s do it again next year. Thank you one and all.

Barbara Trelstad

President, Princeton Borough Council

To the Editor:

I would like to submit this letter of appreciation of the Princeton Borough Public Works Department.

At Communiversity I foolishly placed my sweater with my wallet in the pocket by the sidewalk near the cotton candy booth I was working at. I kept my eye on it most of the time except for the very end of the event when I had to go to the end of the booth’s customer line to stop it. At that very same moment, the street cleaners were doing their job in order to re-open the streets and without their knowledge, they picked up my sweater, along with all the garbage around it and threw it in the dump truck. It was only a matter of minutes before I realized this and I ran down Nassau Street to plead with them to let me look myself so that I could recover my wallet. Of course, they could not allow this, but they were very sympathetic to my situation and asked me for my name and number, and said that they would look for it themselves on Monday morning.

I gave them my information, but honestly thought that they were just being kind to me that day and that they really would not go through all the garbage to look for my lost belongings. That weekend, I was stressed, thinking of how I was going to have to replace all of my credit cards, drivers license, not to mention losing all the cash and gift cards my kids had just received for their birthdays. But that Monday, by 9 a.m. I received a call saying they had found my wallet!

I can’t say how thankful I am to all the guys, especially the young gentleman who dug through all the mess to find it. These men are truly appreciated. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you — you are truly a credit to this community, and you went above and beyond the call of duty to find my wallet amidst the mountain of Communiversity garbage!

Stephanie Nazario

Red Oak Row

To the Editor:

On behalf of the board and staff of the Arts Council of Princeton, I would like to thank everyone — including the close to 40,000 visitors, 200 vendors, and 40 performance groups — who helped make the 42ndannual Communiversity Festival of the Arts such a spectacular event on a beautiful day.

When the Arts Council and students of Princeton University plan Communiversity Festival of the Arts, we envision a town meets gown celebration with something for everyone: diverse music and dance performances, outstanding artistry and crafts, creative children’s activities, delicious food, and participation from numerous local merchants, nonprofits, and campus groups. I would like to thank all of the Arts Council staff and volunteers who gave their time and energy to make the overall event a triumphant success.

I would also like to express my heartfelt thanks to: Princeton University; Princeton Borough: Mayor Yina Moore, Bob Bruschi, and Delores Williams; Princeton Township: Mayor Chad Goerner and Linda McDermott; Princeton Borough Police Department; Princeton Township Police Department; Princeton Fire Department; Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad; Princeton Regional Health Department; Princeton Borough Public Works Department; Princeton Township Public Works Department; Diane Landis, Stephanie Chorney, Barbara Trelstad, and the recycling crew; Palmer Square Management; Bank of America; Grayson Bridge Meeting & Event Planning; and all of our generous event sponsors (the complete list can be found at www.artscouncilofprinceton.org).

Jeff Nathanson

Executive Director

May 2, 2012

In responding to a letter from Peter Marks (Mailbox April 25), the Editor’s Note incorrectly assumed that the reference to Council member Barbara Trelstad’s comment about “incivility” referred to Princeton University vice president and secretary Robert Durkee as well as to Mr. Marks. This was not her intention. Concerning incivility, it is Town Topics policy to either edit or omit any letter that indulges in uncivil language, i.e. name-calling. Submitted letters should be primarily concerned with issues of local interest.

To the Editor:

As we look ahead to a consolidated Princeton, we are grateful for the extremely competent pool of candidates who have stepped up to campaign and run for leadership roles.

One such person is Liz Lempert, who is running for the position of the first mayor of Princeton. Because of her many strengths and her extensive experience, Liz has our strong support.

The first mayor of a consolidated Princeton will need to be a particularly gifted listener who is available and accessible. Our next mayor will need to bring people together, to sort out common concerns and solutions, to seek consensus, and then bring Princeton’s most important issues before us in a timely and reasonable way.

We will need a mayor who balances a sharp intellect with practical common sense, and who is committed to enhancing Princeton and strengthening its neighborhoods. We need a mayor who will help Princeton move forward in a positive way. We believe Liz Lempert embodies all these characteristics, and is the gifted leader Princeton needs at this time. She is committed to making consolidation a success on every level — from financial savings to a responsive government.

We urge you to join us in making Liz Lempert our first mayor in a consolidated Princeton.

Robert and Betty Fleming
Riverside Drive

 

To the Editor:

I am writing to support Liz Lempert in her quest to become the first mayor of a consolidated Princeton. I’ve gotten to know Liz through the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) and through the Friends of the Library Board, of which we are both members. In both organizations, I’ve been impressed with Liz’s skills as a leader and a listener. My experience has been that Liz listens carefully to the input of others, studies the subject at hand until she is knowledgeable, and then works hard to achieve consensus. She is smart and articulate and is able to zero in on key points that need to be debated and decided. I’ve been impressed with both the depth and breadth of her knowledge on many of the important issues in Princeton. Next year will be a momentous and no doubt challenging year for the new Princeton. I feel confident that Liz will be the leader and team player that our new municipality needs to move forward to meet those challenges. Please give Liz your vote in the Democratic primary on June 6.

Eve Niedergang
Forester Drive

To the Editor:

I encourage the Borough Council to reconsider incorporating LEED as a requirement for the 2012-08 MRRO Zoning Ordinance. Green building need not be more expensive if the design team is experienced. For example making a highly insulated and sealed exterior wall (which needs to be built anyway) can reduce the size of mechanical equipment. Making sure there is enough daylight can reduce the number of light fixtures. So one cost is traded for another but in the end it does not cost more. This is what is meant by integrated design. Integrated design along with the most basic green building principles such as the orientation of the building, and solar access are both no cost items that I would like to see adopted. Solar access is the ability to incorporate renewable solar energy technology now or in the future. I realize that something like solar panels can be expensive but this is not required to have a LEED certified building — it is only an option. I assume that the Borough Council attorney, Mr. Chou, who advised the Council that LEED is very expensive and would be seen as cost generative for inclusionary housing based in the Mount Laurel decision, has never designed a LEED building.

Furthermore, while Mr. Chou cited a buffer strip and patterned paving of examples of cost-generative items that were unconstitutional with the Mount Laurel decision, they are clear examples of aesthetic improvements. The Mount Laurel decision clearly states that only costs that can be attributed to the “public health and welfare” can be mandated. LEED has nothing to do with aesthetics and is clearly about public health and welfare. Landfills pollute our ground water and produce methane, a green house gas; fossil fuel burning heating and air conditioning equipment produce CO2; volatile organic compounds in glues, paints, carpets, and sealants pollute indoor air; excess storm water pollutes our streams. These are all issues of public health and welfare.

It is interesting to note that Mount Laurel occurred in 1983. The Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change produced its first report in 1990. The EPA finding on CO2 as a threat to public health and welfare was in 2009. Things have changed since 1983 but somehow we are stuck in a time warp, one that is risking our planet. Finally, the purpose of the Mount Laurel decision was to end discriminatory zoning practices. It is time for us to take a stand against housing discrimination and include the health and welfare benefits of the LEED rating system for affordable as well as market rate units in Princeton.

Heidi Fichtenbaum
Carnahan Place

To the Editor:

Official consolidation of the Princetons will not occur until January 1 of next year, but we are already facing our financial future as one community because we are now irrevocably bound to one another. What the Borough does will directly impact the Township taxpayer and vice versa. As such, Borough Council and Township Committee should be acting in even closer consultation when making decisions that have a long-term financial impact.

Borough Council is now independently considering an ordinance that would create a new right-of-way on that portion of the Dinky tracks that are to be removed when the University moves the station 460 feet south. If the right of way is formalized, it will probably require the immediate payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the University from the Borough, and potentially millions of dollars if the small tract of land is to be acquired. All of this will do nothing to prohibit the University from moving the terminus further south.

I count myself among the many who don’t like the University’s plan to move the Dinky further from the downtown, but I also think that the Borough and Township negotiated a very reasonable compromise with the University as outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU was agreed to by the Borough Council, Township Committee, and Princeton University. It should thus be honored in good faith.

It is time for our municipal legislators to step up the level of coordination and cooperation — especially when it comes to decisions that could have a large financial impact on the entire community. It is also time for our elected officials to find ways to create a more professional dialogue with Princeton University and I aim to do that as a member of the new council in 2013.

Scott Sillars
Democratic Party Candidate for Council, Battle Road

To the Editor:

Your reviewer, Nancy Plum, is to be commended for her laudatory comments about Mozart’s The Magic Flute, as presented by Boheme Opera N.J. on April 22. There is one area, however, that is misleading in her review, and as the first president of the board of directors and now a member of the board of trustees of the company, I feel it is important to correct this misunderstanding.

Ms. Plum mentions that the company has performed in many “school auditoriums,” but now is fully ensconced in Kendall Hall Theater on the campus of The College of New Jersey. All true, but the comment about where it has performed previously makes it sound as if Boheme has not quite been on a professional level, only now performing in a fully regarded theater.

Quite the contrary. Boheme Opera N.J. performed in Trenton at the War Memorial Theater, now called Patriots Theater at the War Memorial, for over 13 years, hardly a ‘school auditorium.’ During the five years when the theater was being remodeled, the company did perform at local auditoriums, but still managed to keep up the quality of its performances and its loyal audience. Boheme only left the Patriots Theater at the end of the 2010 season when the venue became financially out of the company’s reach.

Your reviewer also refers to the “professional opportunities” Boheme offers to national and local performers. Indeed, Boheme is a company with great impact on emerging singers; world-class, and well-known artists in debut roles; and talented stage directors and designers. Throughout its history, Boheme Opera N.J. has collaborated with many New York management agencies that respect its reputation for integrity and casting. Not the least of its accomplishments is the major impact it has exhibited in public education and community outreach, building high-end careers and offering countless opportunities to teens and college singers with a passion for opera theater.

Boheme Opera N.J. looks forward to continuing to bring first class opera to the region for many years to come.

Francine Engler
Tuscany Drive, West Windsor

To the Editor:

We are concerned citizens who have been closely following the redevelopment of the hospital block since 2004, the beginning of two years of meetings between the neighborhood, hospital representatives, and the community. The result was zoning created specifically for the site.

The new zoning designated a density for the hospital site much greater than that in the surrounding neighborhoods — up to 280 units for the 5.63 acre site. The density was premised on maintaining two seven-story portions of the hospital. In return, residents were to benefit from the improvement of the “pedestrian environment” along Witherspoon Street, “new construction compatible with surrounding buildings”, an “enhanced system” of “public open spaces and pathways that provide linkages between and through the development as well as the surrounding neighborhood,” and green LEED construction. Retail was to be encouraged on the first floor fronting Witherspoon. (Master Plan, 2006/ Borough Code).

We ask that no developer be granted any changes to zoning (including signage and a leasing office) until they have met these requirements for public open space, a design compatible with the neighborhood, and LEED construction. AvalonBay, the prospective developer in a contingency contract with the hospital, has disregarded both the Master Plan and Borough Code.

We also request that no changes to zoning be made until a fiscal impact analysis is performed to see whether the redevelopment will bring a net increase or decrease to property taxes. Ratables and costs due to the redevelopment mentioned at the April 19 meeting of the Planning Board indicate that an analysis is essential. Councilwoman Trelstad mentioned $1M a year in property tax revenue, but Mayor Moore estimated over $1million per year in costs to educate schoolchildren (additional costs are police, fire, sewer, housing inspections, health department, municipal administration, and roads). AvalonBay states in their annual report that “we aggressively pursue real estate tax appeals,” and they use a national property tax assistance company (PTA) to negotiate lower taxes. PTA boasts of AvalonBay that they have reduced their property taxes by nearly 30 percent.

Finally we request that no changes to zoning be made until due diligence is performed on AvalonBay to investigate their extensive record of alleged OSHA violations, tenant complaints, safety issues, and violations of wage laws. AvalonBay uses non-union subcontractors and has been issued serious citations by OSHA for job hazards. They settled a civil rights lawsuit brought by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office for housing discrimination. When an AvalonBay apartment building was destroyed by fire in Quincy, Massachusetts, a report by State Fire Marshal Stephen Coan attributed the cause to an attic that did not conform to building code. He was quoted in the Boston Globe as saying, “I am extremely concerned when so many units of housing are lost in a single fire, especially when the building is sprinklered” (Nov. 11,  2011).

We therefore consider AvalonBay a risky developer for Princeton, We urge all municipal officials, as well as Princeton hospital, to think twice before allowing this project to go forward without proper safeguards for our community.

Joe Bardzilowski, M. Evelyn Bardzilowski,
Henry Avenue
and 11 others

To the Editor:

Child abuse and neglect affects children of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds. Many of these children suffer physical and psychological traumas, which can lead to homelessness or behaviors that result in incarceration. More than 60 percent of persons incarcerated at any point in time have been abused as children. According to The United States Justice Department, 1 in every 5 experience child abuse or maltreatment by the age of 18.

I am writing to make readers aware of an organization that makes a difference in the lives of abused/neglected children, Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA. Our advocates are trained to legally speak for children in court. Although they are appointed by the county court, their training and supervision is funded primarily by private donations to CASA.

April was National Child Abuse Prevention Month and April 20 was declared CASA Advocate Day by Governor Christie to recognize the difference our volunteers make in the lives of the children. It is CASA’s mission to be able to provide an advocate for each child who needs one. Unfortunately, in 2011, over 900 Mercer County children were in out-of-home placement due to abuse and/or neglect. We had advocates for only 214 of them.

You can help by visiting CASAMERCER.org. We invite you to watch our two-minute video to see how you can make a difference in the life of a child.

Debbi Roldan
Foulet Drive

To the Editor:

The Center for Disease Control has published its latest statistics on the incidence of autism in the United States and the figures are quite alarming. The incidence has increased to 1 in 88 children. While some of the increase may be attributed to improved awareness, better diagnoses, or diagnostic substitution, these new figures present a good case for a true increase in the number of children with autism.

Among the most pressing concerns for parents and educators of children with autism is the lack of attention given to the needs of these children once they become adults and continue to require support and specialized services. While research on causes and cures for autism is vital and will make for a better future, services for those who live with the disability are essential today.

More than ever, families, school districts, and human service providers are searching for information on how to best support individuals with autism. Armed with these alarming figures and more than 35 years experience in education, employment, residential, and outreach programs, Eden Autism Services encourages readers to learn more about organizations like Eden and the important role they play in improving the lives of children and adults with autism.

Anne S. Holmes, M.S., C.C.C., B.C.B.A.
Chief Clinical Officer, Eden Autism Services
Carol Markowitz, M.A., M.Ed.
Chief Operating Officer, Eden Autism Services

To The Editor:

I applaud Governor Chris Christie’s “Employment First” policy and his encouraging of “a change in mindset and a change in approach” to hiring individuals with physical, developmental, and mental disabilities.

Last month’s announcement by the Centers for Disease Control that autism is now diagnosed in 1 in 88 children in the United States and 1 in 49 in New Jersey provides a glimpse of what the future holds for society and adults with autism who will need assistance with daily living skills but are capable of — and empowered by — employment.

My 10-year-old daughter Brielle is one of those 49. She is lucky enough to attend Eden Autism Services, a Princeton-based nonprofit organization that has been improving the lives of children and adults with autism since 1975. One of the things that make Eden so special is its focus on employment opportunities for individuals with autism.

Even at 10, Brielle is already learning life skills such as getting dressed, making her lunch, and loading the dishwasher. With each task she masters, Eden adds another. It is my hope that by the time she is an adult, she will have learned enough skills to hold a job.

We often associate autism with children. But the reality that keeps me and many autism mothers awake at night is that these beautiful, special children will grow up as adults with autism. What will they do? Their future is in our hands.

Stacie Servetah
South Brunswick

April 25, 2012

To the Editor:

Not in Our Town (NIOT) would like to thank the Princeton Public Library, Rep. Rush Holt, Corner House’s GAIA Project, HiTOPS, and Kidsbridge Museum for their support of the second in a series on “Bullying — Changing the Culture” on April 10. More than 150 people came to see and respond to “The Bystanders Dilemma,” which included skits prepared by NIOT (directed by Todd Reichart) and GAIA (directed by Mary Saudergas).

Founded in Princeton 12 years ago, NIOT is an interracial, interfaith social action group committed to speak truth about ‘everyday racism’ and other forms of prejudice and discrimination. Our hope is that Princeton will become a town in which the ideals of friendship, community, and pride in diversity will prevail.

We support the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism Day on April 27. We recommend that individuals and groups observe the occasion by watching the following relevant and thought provoking films, available at the Princeton Public Library and other libraries: Race: The Power of an Illusion (3 parts); Mirrors of Privilege; Traces of the Trade; Light in the Darkness; Prince Among Slaves; The Princeton Plan: 50 Years Later (video cassette only).

On April 27, from 9 to 10:30 a.m., the Princeton YWCA will show the film The Princeton Plan: 50 Years Later about the integration of the Princeton schools.

Please join us in standing against racism today and every day.

For Not In Our Town:

Barbara Fox

Cedar Lane

Fern and Larry Spruill

Bayard Lane

Wilma Solomon

Tee-Ar Place

Marietta Taylor

Hartley Avenue

Joyce Turner

Woods Way

Ann Yasuhara

Pine Street

To the Editor:

It is with sincere gratitude that I recognize the tireless efforts of Fresh Air Fund volunteers in Central New Jersey as the country celebrates National Volunteer Week. Their commitment to helping New York City children is exemplary for all community members and truly embodies the spirit of the 2012 National Volunteer Week theme, “Celebrating People in Action.”

Fresh Air volunteers work in several capacities throughout the year in 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada to help make The Fresh Air Fund’s programs possible. Dedicated Fresh Air host families open their homes and share the everyday joys of summertime with their Fresh Air guests. Our local volunteer leaders — many of whom are also hosts — serve on our local committees, plan summer activities, publicize the program, and interview prospective host families. Additionally, individuals and businesses give generously of their time and resources to make the Volunteer Host Family Program throughout this area a great success each and every summer.

The Fresh Air Fund, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.7 million New York City children since 1877. For more information on how you can help to continue this wonderful tradition of volunteering, please call The Fresh Air Fund at (800) 367-0003 or visit www.freshair.org.

Jenny Morgenthau

Executive Director

To the Editor:

The Princeton Education Foundation is extremely grateful to Eno Terra and the Terra Momo Restaurant Group for supporting the PowerUp! PRS campaign. Over two weekends in March, Eno Terra donated all lunchtime food proceeds to the school district’s technology campaign, raising over $6,000. We would also like to thank everyone who came and enjoyed a wonderful meal while supporting the Princeton Education Foundation and PowerUp! PRS. The success of this event would not have been possible without you.

The Terra Momo Restaurant Group has supported the Princeton Education Foundation’s efforts on numerous other occasions as well. We could not ask for a better partner in our efforts to spur private philanthropy to benefit the Princeton Public Schools. Thanks to the generosity of such donors, the Princeton Education Foundation has to date raised over $1 million for the Princeton Public Schools for capital improvements, educational programs and teacher support. In this time of stretched budgets and dwindling resources, we especially appreciate the Terra Momo Restaurant Group’s firm commitment to quality education for all Princeton public school students.

Barbara Prince, Adrienne Rubin

Princeton Education Foundation

To the Editor:

The April 18 edition of Town Topics, with its one-sided coverage of the continuing controversy over the University’s plans to truncate the Dinky, exemplifies the tendency of our local newspapers to pander to the powerful.

Your story on the Borough’s effort to preserve the Dinky right-of-way [“Ordinance Introduced by Borough Council to Save Right-of-Way”] consists largely of a restatement of the University’s argument. In a nod to balance, you record that I described as “insolent” and “brazen” Bob Durkee’s April 16 rebuke of Borough Council — but you then amplify his rebuke when you conclude with Barbara Trelstad’s lament that the discussion has “risen to a level that has gone beyond civility.”

Your story omitted any reference to Jenny Crumiller’s quietly delivered observation that good relations are impossible if they require Borough Council meekly to approve each of Nassau Hall’s requests.

Your story also omitted the substance of my own argument, namely that Nassau Hall’s plans to truncate the Dinky have little or nothing to do with the “arts” — and everything to do with eliminating inconvenient public rights of way through the University’s rapidly expanding campus. As I noted, there are presently four primary means of traveling south to Route 1 and points beyond: Harrison Street, Washington Road, the Dinky, and Alexander Road. All four are hugely important to our town. The University plainly has the financial resources to unify its campus without impairing the town’s access to points south. Nassau Hall, however, chooses to deploy its resources despotically, seeking to close or constrict first Washington Road (largely accomplished, in no small part thanks to a doting DOT) and now the Dinky and Alexander Road — with no evident concern for the impact of those impairments upon our town.

Like consolidation and the proposed high-density redevelopment of the hospital block, constricted access is a policy choice with transformative consequences, most of them adverse. Our local papers embarrass themselves when they fail both to vet proponents’ claims and to ignore opponents’ concerns. We are fortunate in the Borough to have at least four elected officials who understand the significance of — and have the courage to oppose tenaciously — proposals that threaten the character of our community.

If Town Topics is really concerned about incivility, it might usefully turn its attention to Nassau Hall’s recent proclivity for treating our town as a land bank.

Peter Marks

Moore Street

Editor’s Note: The story in question was clearly devoted to describing the ordinance the University finds offensive. It featured a quote from Roger Martindell on behalf of the ordinance (and a long letter from him expressing that point of view in the Mailbox) in addition to quoting not only Mr. Marks but, as he neglects to mention, Chip Crider, whose long letter was also published in that issue’s Mailbox. The University’s “side” was represented by the quote in response to the ordinance from vice-president and secretary Robert Durkee. Ms. Trelstad’s comment about civility clearly referred to, among others, both Mr. Durkee and Mr. Marks. Town Topics always attempts to present both sides of any issue, as reflected in the Mailbox, which would have run letters supporting the University’s side if any had been sent ahead of the April 18 issue.

To the Editor:

At last Thursday’s Planning Board meeting reviewing AvalonBay’s request to change zoning, Marvin Reed told fellow members of the Board that two year’s of meetings among the community, neighborhood and hospital had resulted in a maximum number of 280-units for the 5.6 acre hospital building
site. The large number of units was much higher than the neighborhood and other town residents wanted and represents a major compromise. Mr. Reed called the 280-unit maximum “a big stretch.” The number would have been much lower if rezoning had been in keeping with the neighborhood character of single-family and duplex homes. As a compromise, Marvin Reed said that a plaza/park was to be provided for the use of the public on the site of one of the medical buildings which was to be torn down. When zoning was set at “up to 280 units”, this higher number set the price for the hospital building site. Before bidding on large-scale redevelopments, national real estate corporations calculate profitability based on purchase price and zoning requirements. AvalonBay put in a bid for the 280-unit site with 20 percent affordable housing requirement, as did the other bidders.

Raising the maximum number of units after a contract has been signed for no other reason than that the buyer requests it, is bad business. It is unfair to the community and to the numerous other potential buyers who are eager to redevelop the property, as well as to the seller. In December of 2010, a nationally prominent firm located in New York City began to market the property as a 280-unit property with a 20 percent affordable housing requirement. (Bluegate Partner website, news release, Dec 13.) Within less than nine months the VP of Marketing and Public Affairs at the hospital was quoted in the local press as saying “there were 125 companies that expressed an interest in the hospital property” (Packet, Aug. 5, 2011). Many potential buyers were identified quickly after a prominent national firm had been hired to market the hospital complex.

AvalonBay can build at 280-units if they wish. Or they should move aside and let one of the other 125 interested parties redevelop the property. Why didn’t Borough Council say “no” to the increased number of units immediately and move this process along? If AvalonBay does build, they need to follow the design standards in Borough code that call for open space accessible to the public (part of the compromise) and for varied architectural design. Given that AvalonBay is a national builder of standardized housing complexes, one wonders if the corporation can construct the kind of customized design that Princeton is looking for. Customized real estate development is not in AvalonBay’s area of expertise nor is it part of their business model. Other options do exist. An analysis presented to Borough Council shows that dividing the hospital building site into individual lots sized in keeping with the neighborhood would result in inexpensive land costs by Princeton standards and would reap the hospital the same or more profit.

Alexi Assmus

Maple Street