February 29, 2012

To the Editor:

The Princeton Regional Schools needs to “do the right thing” and let the http://savevalleyroadschool.org/Home.html rehab the old Valley Road School.

Picture this, Princeton and Central New Jersey. Affordable non-profit office space in the heart of Princeton, with convenient parking. A community center with a gym, theater, rooms for rent for toddler birthday parties. Close to the Princeton Shopping Center if you need some office supplies or food. This can all be done with out costing a dime to the beleaguered taxpayer. No bond referendum needs to be fussed over. This seems to be an inspirational future. But the PRS is too busy with other issues and will not let “Save Valley Road” do the job.

Picture this, Princetonians, a dilapidated Valley Road School with a hurricane fence around it. Just sitting there unused, while some commission is looking for a consensus, having endless meetings on how to raise money to be able to tear the building down. As time marches on.

The Save Valley Road School non profit already has donors lined up. Tenants who want to occupy the building. I ask the PRS to have the courage to lead. Make the right choice and let Valley Road Reuse Committee get on with the business of recycling Valley Road for future generations.

Right now, at least let the VRC fund spot repairs to the Valley Road roof with no cost to you and no obligation.

The future is NOW.

Adam Bierman

Grover Avenue

To the Editor:

As mayor, I have received numerous letters for and against the proposed housing development for the Institute for Advanced Study. As many may know, the Battle of Princeton was not just a battle at what is today’s Princeton Battlefield park. It was a battle that moved through a number of sites all the way to Nassau Hall. It is clear to me that the most value in interpreting many revolutionary era battles, as they typically spanned large areas of ground and consisted of various skirmishes, is to do so through interpretive signage, archaeology, historical tours, and of course, preserved land.

To that end, I agree with the two esteemed historians, Jim McPherson and David Hackett Fischer, in their proposed compromise regarding this development. They have put forth a compromise that would allow for the housing project to move forward with the ability to preserve a large area of the overall site from development through a permanent conservation easement. The size of the land preserved would be about double the footprint of the Institute’s housing project.

In addition, the Institute will provide for archeological work on site before and during construction, access to a path through the preserved land and public interpretive signage upon completion of the project, and potential coordination with historical agencies for historical tours, thereby enabling the public to learn more about the Battle of Princeton.

Compromises inevitably leave both sides with perceived gains and losses. However, in this case I believe the right balance presents itself. We will enable many generations to more fully understand the Battle of Princeton and its importance through interpretive signage, historical tours, archaeology, and preserved land. We will also see to the housing needs met for the talented and creative faculty at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Chad Goerner

Mayor, Princeton Township

To the Editor:

Recently several people claiming to be “independent observers” have said that the Princeton Battlefield Society has been unfair in challenging the Institute for Advanced Study’s proposed faculty housing project. Please note that the Battlefield Society was founded as the Princeton Battlefield AREA PRESERVATION Society, with the express mission of preserving and protecting the battlefield, much of which lies outside the park.

A number of people are under the impression that the Institute had a major role in founding the park. Untrue. Governor Edge approached the Institute about contributing to the park in 1944, and he provided a map showing his plan. The IAS indicated to the governor that they were “interested,” but they did nothing to contribute to the park until 1973, almost 30 years later. At that time they finally sold two pieces of property to the State, many years after the park was founded. Further, it could easily be argued that the IAS undermined formation of the park by purchasing property that Governor Edge was expressly seeking for the park, much of which, to this day, is still not a part of the park. This includes the site of the winning counterattack, the very property where the IAS wants to build its housing project.

A recent letter to the press claimed that the State assured the Institute that it could build on the location it now proposes. This statement only represented the perspective of a single individual at the time. Further the State of New Jersey does not have authority over determinations of local land use.

Hopefully the IAS isn’t saying that it doesn’t have to meet the requirements of local land-use laws and environmental regulations. To qualify for Cluster Zoning, the developer must show that its project meets the standard 1-acre zoning required for this property. The Institute has not done this. In addition, there are wetlands that were identified on the property in 1990 and again in 2011 that were somehow not included on maps submitted by the IAS to DEP.

The “compromise” that was offered to the Battlefield Society was essentially what the IAS was proposing all along as a cluster development. Furthermore, Professor McPherson clearly confirmed at the Planning Board meeting that the counterattack that won the battle occurred on the site the Institute wants to develop. This is something the Institute has always denied.

The Planning Board should decide that this project with its multiple violations of land use and environmental regulations does not meet the requirements of the town’s ordinances and master plan.

Daniel Thompson

Dempsey Avenue

Member, Princeton Battlefield Society

To the Editor:

It was good to see a creative and thoughtful discussion regarding affordable housing at the hospital site during the February 14 Council meeting. This discussion should be part of a larger conversation on Princeton’s housing policy. Future policy decisions must be informed by good data and should ultimately be driven by identified needs.

The rezoning of the UMCP site has always called for a 20 percent set-aside for those making less than 80 percent of the area median income. Avalon Bay has requested that they be allowed to both build more units and reduce the percentage of affordable units. If Princeton wishes to grant the developer a density bonus, it should only be done in exchange for a commensurate benefit to the town. One possibility worth considering is that they be required to provide additional units for a slightly higher income range — so-called ‘workforce housing’.

Princeton has been losing its middle class residents since the 1970s. According to the 2010 census, households earning between $75,000 and $100,000 now make up only 7 percent of the population of the Borough and Township while a quarter of our households have incomes over $200,000. This imbalance is neither healthy nor sustainable.

The affordable range (paying no more than 30 percent of earnings) of housing costs for area median-income households is between $1,714 (for a one bedroom) and $2,376 (for a three bedroom). According to Avalon Bay, rents in the development will range from $1,600 for a studio to $3,200 for a three-bedroom unit. This indicates an affordability gap — the three bedroom units will be affordable only to those making 135 percent of the median.

The 2010 census also shows us that existing gaps in housing affordability range widely. 100 percent of owner-occupied households in the Borough earning less than $20,000 are paying more than 30 percent of their income. Significantly, an average of 69 percent of all households making below $75,000 are paying more than 30 percent of income towards their housing costs.

Because the biggest need for affordable homes exists in low-income families, it makes sense that we continue to provide units for that population, even in the absence of state mandates. We should also be encouraging a greater diversity in our town by making units affordable to residents whose incomes fall outside of the range that typically benefits from housing subsidies.

For the developer to request both a density bonus and a reduction in the required affordable percentage is audacious, to say the least. Avalon Bay should be compelled to provide 20 percent of the total number of units as set-aside for traditional affordable units and 20 percent of the bonus units should be designated as affordable to households earning between 80-120 percent of the area median.

I hope that the current negotiations with Avalon Bay will lead to a discussion about overall goals for affordability and diversity in our housing stock and what can be done, on a policy level, to reach those goals.

David Schrayer

Spruce Street

To the Editor:

When Princeton Hospital moves to its new site in May 2012, it is widely anticipated that AvalonBay, the nationwide developer of residential rental housing, will sign on to develop the present site: Princeton surely needs rental units.

But it’s critical that AvalonBay (www.avalonbay.com) generate designs that represent to the fullest extent possible the real future needs of the new consolidated Princeton. This site is possibly the last large tract to be developed in our downtown: its effect upon Witherspoon Street and surrounding neighborhoods will be dramatic. Princetonians are entitled to know what AvalonBay plans to do; we are equally entitled to have our voices heard as plans evolve.

Important issues include the following:

First, the site plan itself should be compatible to the fullest extent with present neighborhoods and their future needs; this matter includes both the height and the appearance of the buildings that will have frontages on Witherspoon Street and Franklin Avenue.

Second: AvalonBay must commit to a full complement of units (20 percent) to be marketed to/for low- and lower-middle income housing. It is essential that Princeton be able to draw into the community a truly diverse population that includes the young, the non-affluent, seniors, and others who contribute to our local workforce. Present zoning calls for 20 percent affordable housing on 280 units; I understand that AvalonBay will seek a variance to build 40 additional units WITHOUT affordable-housing constraints. AvalonBay’s likely request for such a variance should be scrutinized carefully.

Third: AvalonBay must “build green” to the fullest extent possible. AvalonBay’s website advertises that its headquarters is LEED-certified at the Silver level — no mean achievement. The developer should feel equally responsible for making comparable commitments to meeting these or similar standards (e.g., Energy Star) in the development project itself. Building green includes managing storm water, developing an integrated approach to optimizing energy and water use, installing renewable energy sources including solar panels, using non-toxic materials, and installing the most advanced infrastructure for managing construction waste and the waste produced by occupants. (AvalonBay will then of course be able to advertise itself as a “green developer” when it seeks to develop projects elsewhere: Princeton can be their first exemplar of the green intelligence in city planning that we all need.)

Finally, AvalonBay should be invited to present one or more public information sessions for all proposals, and the Princeton community should be welcomed by AvalonBay to provide feedback. While the public may provide input at Borough Council and Planning Board meetings when AvalonBay’s proposal is on the agenda, less formal information sessions would be a more community-friendly way for Avalon to learn about and address community and neighborhood concerns. Such sessions might be sponsored and organized by either Sustainable Princeton or Princeton Future (as both bodies are non-partisan). Mayoral candidates should also be asked publicly to state their views of the AvalonBay proposals.

Daniel A. Harris

Dodds Lane

February 22, 2012

To the Editor: 

Having lived in Princeton for decades, I remember less than fondly the traffic backups at the Harrison Street/US 1 intersection — particularly those at rush hour. Recently this situation has been greatly improved as a second lane was added by the DOT. This has effectively alleviated the traffic jam exiting Princeton via Harrison Street. The traffic light timing has been optimized, and there are now two lanes, both of which allow left turns onto US-1 North. Since the improvement, I have yet to wait more than a single light cycle to proceed onto US-1. I am sure there are exceptions, but I have yet to see them.

For those who are concerned that they will be delayed getting to the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro in an emergency, the situation seems much less serious than it had previously. Emergency services vehicles can easily traverse Harrison Street, and the recently announced traffic light override equipment being installed will expedite access to Route 1 and the emergency vehicle access drive to the hospital.

We may be losing our downtown hospital, but the state-of-the-art facility opening soon will still be readily accessible just on the edge of Princeton.

Peter Thompson

Hornor Lane

To the Editor:

My husband and I spent a very informative meeting at the library on Saturday morning, February 18, learning about Emergency Management in Princeton. It’s a much more complex subject than I’d realized, and it was reassuring to hear from the competent panel members who had been asked to speak by Princeton Future, which sponsored the meeting. I think everyone in town would benefit from getting a copy of “Preparing for Emergencies,” published by the Mercer County Office of Emergency Management; it’s a very practical document.

The presentation of Frank Setnicky, Director of Operations of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, was clear and concise, but one of Mr. Setnicky’s slides startled me. It showed that donations to the Squad have been dropping steadily for the last few years. As someone who remembers how quickly and effectively the Squad came through when we had an emergency at our home, I’ve always sent the Squad yearly donations. Now that the hospital is moving and Princeton residents will depend on the Squad even more, I’m concerned that it may not have the funds to continue its excellent work and to meet the increased demand.

So I’m writing two checks this week. The first is to the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, North Harrison St., Princeton 08542 (www.pfars.org). It will reach them at their inadequate, leaky building, which needs replacement. The other check is to Princeton Future, PO Box 1172, Princeton 08542, which continues to sponsor these excellent, community-oriented meetings. Both organizations are 501(C)3 non-profits who depend on our continued support.

Francesca Benson

Bainbridge Street

To the Editor:

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

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

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

Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman

Assemblyman Jack M. Ciattarelli

Assemblywoman Donna M. Simon

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

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Clearwater

Governors Lane

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

Chad Goerner

Mayor, Princeton Township

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Spadea

Ewing Street

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

Sev Onyshkevych

Bayberry Road

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

Robert O. Cohen

Mary Robinson Cohen

(former member,

Princeton Regional Planning Commission)

Clover Lane

To the editor:

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

George L. Bustin


To the Editor:

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

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

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

Thomas B. Lyles, Jr.

Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army (retired)

Leavenworth, Kansas

February 15, 2012

To the Editor:

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

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

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

Phyllis Marchand
Former Mayor Princeton Township

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

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

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

History is becoming an endangered species!

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

To the Editor:

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

Grace Sinden
Ridgeview Circle

To the Editor:

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

Carly Meyer
President, Princeton Merchants Association

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Martindell
Patton Avenue
Member, Princeton Borough Council

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carl Mayer
Battle Road

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the Editors:

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

Most contributors agree that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Corrodi
Mercer Street

February 8, 2012

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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


Valley Road

To the Editor:

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

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

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

Juan Maldacena

Mercer Road