November 14, 2012

A week after Princeton Borough and Township residents elected Democrat Liz Lempert mayor of the newly consolidated town, Ms. Lempert and her opponent, Republican Dick Woodbridge, reflected on the race that earned Ms. Lempert 6,093 votes to Mr. Woodbridge’s 3,939. Drawing more than 10,000 voters to the polls in the wake of one of the worst storms in New Jersey’s history speaks of the importance of the race to the local population.

“It was a difficult week for pretty much everyone in town,” said Ms. Lempert. “And there were many people who had their polling places changed twice С first because of consolidation and redistricting, and then a second time because of [Superstorm] Sandy. We were worried that there would be mass confusion and frustration, but by and large things seemed to go relatively smoothly. People came out to vote even though there was a lot of storm clean-up to do. It just shows that Princeton is a community that cares and that takes its voting seriously.”

Mr. Woodbridge, a previous mayor of Princeton Township who served on Borough Council for three years, is no stranger to political campaigns. He is pleased with the way this one unfolded.

“I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “I think we ran the best campaign we could. This is the ninth time I’ve run in 36 years. I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. There are things we could have done better and things we did pretty well. What I really liked about this one was the broad-based, non-partisan nature. We showed you can run a non-partisan campaign. Clearly, there was a strong sense that this town should be non-partisan, if not in political composition at least in spirit. We saw that all across the board, and that was the biggest takeaway for me.”

Compared to some races in Princeton’s recent past, this one was “relatively clean,” Mr. Woodbridge added. “There was no real mud-slinging. We tried to stay to the arguments, and it never got personal. I have no negative personal feelings against any of the people I ran against. This is a small town and you’ve got to live with people.”

There were more supporters than Mr. Woodbridge could list in the campaign ads he ran in local newspapers. “We had a number of endorsements we couldn’t add,” he said. “It was a really nice cross-section of people representing the entire town who were supportive of my kind of campaign. What can you say? You do the best you can. And the hurricane didn’t do anybody any favors.”

Even before she takes the oath of office, Ms. Lempert is planning to meet with staff and Council members of the consolidated Princeton. “We checked with lawyers and found that it’s okay for the new Council members to start meeting before being sworn in,” she said on election night. “I would like to have a goal-setting session before the end of the year.”

Expanding on those plans this week, Ms. Lempert said she hopes this type of session will become an annual exercise. “I’ve talked about it with [Princeton administrator] Bob Bruschi, and we both think it would be a useful idea to have what is essentially a brainstorming session,” she said. “There is a lot of excitement about consolidation, and there are certainly a lot of opportunities. Eventually we have to get to every good idea, but we want to be strategic about what we try to tackle in the first year because we don’t want to pull the staff in so many different directions so that nothing gets done.”

The first order of business is likely to be ensuring that the promises of consolidation are met. “We have to do a good job tracking the savings of consolidation, and make sure that we’re looking for ways to enhance services wherever possible,” Ms. Lempert added. “One of the things that I think is going to be really important in the coming year is having excellent communications — making sure we are using all forms of media to get our message out in terms of any changes there might be. We want residents to know how to get what they need from the government in the most efficient way possible.”


At an open forum this past Monday evening that focused on the search for Princeton University’s next president, members of the local governing bodies and a handful of community residents made clear their hopes for a leader with a heightened sensitivity to town/gown relations.

While all who spoke to eight representatives of the 17-member search committee expressed gratitude for the opportunity, few minced words when describing outgoing president Shirley Tilghman’s interactions with the local community. Ms. Tilghman, president of the University since 2001, announced her intention to step down at the end of the current academic year.

“Fear and intimidation has become a common theme on and off campus with the present administration,” said resident Joseph McGeady. “Tilghman apparently views the community only as an obstacle to the University’s plans.” Mr. McGeady was among the speakers who referred to a contentious Borough Council meeting in January, 2011, when Ms. Tilghman requested approval of the University’s plans for its Arts and Transit neighborhood. David Goldfarb, a former member of Borough Council, urged the committee to view a videotape of the meeting.

Led by University trustees Laura Forese ’83 and Kathryn Hall ’80, the forum was designed to hear input from local residents rather than to answer questions. Earlier in the day, the search was the topic at a gathering of the Council of the Princeton Community. Further meetings on the search are scheduled with members of the University faculty, staff, and students this week.

Resident Linda Sipprelle suggested that the new president come from the business world rather than academia. “An ideal candidate could be found among the many accomplished alumni of Princeton who have contributed to the success of business or finance,” she said. “A president with experience in the real world can best lead the University successfully into the 21st century both locally and nationally.”

Borough Council member Kevin Wilkes, who entered Princeton University in 1975, described the town of that time as very different from today. “The equilibrium has changed,” he said, referring to its metamorphosis from quiet college town to an “extraordinarily hyper” destination. “The new president should be aware and open to issues of growth,” he said. “Friction has developed as the University has grown. I would hope the new president would be open to mutual planning strategies.”

Borough resident Chip Crider, also a graduate of the University, said, “We need a new president who is the kind of guy who you’d invite over to your house if you were grilling. And we don’t have that.” He added, “The case can be made to get a president who didn’t come from an academic background. It should be someone who can get respect.”

Princeton mayor-elect Liz Lempert said she hoped the new president would be someone “interested in working on this relationship in earnest.” Princeton “could be a model for town/gown relations,” she added. “To have someone interested in engaging in that partnership is something I’d like to see.”

Borough Mayor and Princeton graduate Yina Moore described Ms. Tilghman’s attitude toward the community as “nothing but destructive” and said she “has expressed only a disdain for elected officials and the democratic process.” Ms. Moore was referring not only to the struggles over Arts and Transit, but also to a pending Assembly bill that would allow private universities and colleges to expand without municipal approval. A president who is “not dictating to the town, but in a relationship, a partnership, is much more what the community needs,” she said.

About 25 people attended the forum, which was held in a room in Robertson Hall. Bob Durkee, University vice-president and secretary, said the committee was prepared to move to a larger room if an overflow crowd had attended. While future forums are a possibility, the University is urging the public to express their views on the selection of a new president by logging onto the website princeton.edu/presidentialsearch.

“We’ve already had members of the community who have found their way to that website, and we hope more will,” he said Tuesday. “If we don’t see comments coming through, one option would be to have another conversation of this kind, or a more general one where community members and others will participate. Yesterday’s were the first. We’re just getting started and we’ll see how things go.”


Responses to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy range from official initiatives at the Federal and State level,Кto more home-spun, locally-based collections of supplies for hard-hit families in shoreline communities around the tri-state area.

In recent days, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that it had added Mercer and Hunterdon counties to its major disaster declaration that already included Monmouth, Middlesex, and Somerset counties, enabling residents and business owners in these communities to apply for Individual Assistance program assistance to help recover from Hurricane Sandy.

FEMA encourages those who have suffered loss to apply for aid over the phone at 1-800-621.3362 (FEMA), or online www.disasterassistance.gov or www.fema.gov.

Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) was instrumental in getting Mercer and Hunterdon on FEMA’s list. “Just after Sandy hit our region, I sent a letter to President Obama requesting such a declaration,” he reported. “When I toured affected areas with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on November 4, I re-emphasized the need for speedy action on the declaration. I’m pleased FEMA has responded.”

FEMA assistance for affected individuals, families, and businesses may include rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable; short-term lodging assistance for evacuees who are not able to return home for an extended or indeterminate period of time following the storm; grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary, and functional; and grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation, and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.

Filling out the paperwork for FEMA may be daunting for some, and Mr. Holt said that those requiring assistance should call him at (609) 750-9365.

With area blood supplies down more than 6,000 units from hurricane disruptions, New Jersey Blood Services (NJBS), a division of New York Blood Center (NYBC), is asking for post-hurricane emergency blood donations. “We anticipated some of the potential effects of Hurricane Sandy, and delivered blood in advance to our 200 partner hospitals,” said NYBC Vice President Rob Purvis. “Our first priority remains getting them whatever they need for the care of patients, including the surgeries that had to be delayed last week. Plus — with the holiday season right around the corner — we’re in a tough spot.” The need for blood is constant, whatever the weather or holiday, noted Mr. Purvis. The shelf life of platelets is only five days; the shelf life of red blood cells is 42 days. About one in seven people entering a hospital needs blood.

To find out how and where to donate blood, or for information on how to organize a blood drive, call (800) 933-2566 or visit www.nybloodcenter.org.

Locally, area chefs Max Hansen of Max Hansen Catering; Josh Thomsen from the soon to be opened restaurant, Agricola; Manuel Perez from The Peacock Inn; Mark Silverman from the Bedens Brook Club; Scott Anderson of elements; and The Bent Spoon’s Gabby Carbone, will be preparing food and providing services for a cocktail party fundraiser at the Bedens Brook Club in Skillman on Sunday, November 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. To attend, contact co-organizers Teresa Danko at TMDanko@aol.com, or Holly Schade, at holschade@aol.com. The event is $250 per seat for “red level” participants, and $150 per seat for those at “white level.”

Also locally, the online resource Princetonscoop.com has embarked on a program to “RestoreOurShore.” Initial efforts focused on collecting supplies and food for the approximately 200 first responders on Long Beach Island who were without water, gas, or power. Drop-off sites and more target areas will be described at the site in the coming days.

Donations from Princeton residents enabled D’Angelo Market representatives to transport a truck full of donations to St. Francis de Sales Church in Rockaway, N.Y. last week. “Folks and volunteers at the Recovery Center were praising the quality of the donations with emotion,” they reported. Donated items included heavy coats, blankets, socks, underwear, scarves, and gloves. Baby supplies included wipes, diapers, bottles, formula, and baby food, sorted for distribution to areas of Rockaway, Far Rockaway, and Broad Channel. Princeton residents also remembered the elderly, donating adult diapers and vitamin fortified products like Ensure.

PSE&G advised that they expected almost all of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township Residents to have power restored by the end of Saturday, November 10. Area residents who are still without power should call PSE&G at (800) 436-7734.

Borough and Township officials sounded a cautious note by reporting that while “the majority of the town has received power, we are not backing down in our communication with PSE&G to get power to those that still are without. In fact, we share our residents’ frustration as we have tried to get specific areas in which PSE&G projects a longer duration for power restoration so that residents can be notified so that they can make alternative plans and we can also better direct our resources.”


November 7, 2012

Democrat Liz Lempert will be the new mayor of consolidated Princeton. At press time the unofficial vote count was 6,093 for Ms. Lempert, and 3,939 for Republican opponent Richard Woodbridge.

“I’m thrilled,” Ms. Lempert said last night when the numbers came in. “It looks like there was a really strong turnout. We were worried that with the storm, there would be a lot of confusion. But it looks like things went more smoothly than expected.”

Township and Borough votes were counted together in this election. Consolidated Princeton now has 22 voting districts.

In the Presidential election, Princetonians overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama with 7,903 votes. Republican challenger Mitt Romney received 2,474 votes.

The six Democrats running for Council seats were all elected: tentative vote counts were Bernie Miller with 7,114; Patrick Simon with 7,090; Heather Howard with 6914; Jo Butler with 6,903; Lance Liverman with 6,861; and Jenny Crumiller with 6,807. The Republican challenger, Geoff Aton, received 3,533 votes.

Democratic Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) won handily over his Republican challenger, Eric A. Beck, with 7,964 votes to Mr. Beck’s 2,071. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez defeated Republican candidate Joe Kyrillos with 7,474 votes to Mr. Kyrillos’s 2,554.

Princeton voters endorsed an open space tax of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Because the Borough and the Township will cease to exist as separate entities on December 31, it was necessary for this year’s ballot to include a question authorizing the joint tax. The new tax will enable a united Princeton to continue stewardship of its recreation and passive open space and make key acquisitions contemplated by the joint Master Plan.


Some semblance of normalcy was restored by the beginning of this week as Princeton residents continued to assess and respond to the property damages and electrical outages caused by Hurricane Sandy.

By Monday, schools and local government offices had reopened, and Princeton Community TV was up and running after storm-related closures. Superintendent Judy Wilson advised children and staff returning to buildings that had been without heat for some days to bring sweaters and sweatshirts “in case schools are chilly or we lose power again.”

The New Jersey Education Association officially cancelled a convention originally scheduled for November 8 and 9 in Atlantic City; schools, which had previously been scheduled to close on those dates, will be open on November 8 and 9 for full days of classes. While acknowledging that this scheduling change may be a hardship for families who had planned a long weekend vacation, Ms. Wilson noted that “with five days lost already and winter still ahead of us, capturing two full November days is critical and far better instructionaly than late June.” A Board of Education Meeting, already rescheduled for Thursday, November 1, was rescheduled again for Tuesday, November 13.

“Our schools were spared much damage,” Ms. Wilson reported. “The buildings and grounds fared well and what needed to be addressed in terms of downed trees, generators, etc., was taken care of right away by our exceptionally dedicated custodial, grounds, and maintenance staff. They prepared well, covered the buildings throughout the storm, and have been on double duty since.”

Township administration has announced that the due date for taxes has been extended until November 20.

At the beginning of this week, Governor Chris Christie announced the availability of a “health hotline” that will answer hurricane-related questions about food/water safety, and cleaning and mold removal. A 2-1-1 human services hotline is open 24/7, he said, and public health officials are available to take calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends at (866) 234-0964.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved funding for counties throughout the state. “Across New Jersey and all the impacted states, we are continuing to deploy people, assets, and resources in response to this storm,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano during a weekend visit to New Jersey to survey Sandy’s impact and to meet with state and local officials, first responders, and volunteers to discuss ongoing response and recovery efforts.

In the meantime, President Obama and the U.S. Department of Transportation released $10 million in emergency highway funding to help get New Jersey’s highways and roads back in working condition. The funding will be distributed to the New Jersey Department of Transportation to help restore traffic services, establish detours, and perform emergency roadway repairs on federal-aid roads and bridges that were damaged.

Locally, Princeton University had about 50 trees come down on campus as a result of the hurricane and Director of Communication Martin Mbugua noted that there were “dozens” of reports of “blocked roads, damaged vehicles, fences and other property.

“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, about 800 University employees worked in shifts to provide services for undergraduate and graduate students who remained on campus during fall recess, and to keep other critical campus functions running,” said Mr. Mbugua. No injuries were reported as “hundreds of employees worked through the night Monday to switch most of campus to power from the University’s cogeneration plant, clear roadways, check buildings, and provide general security.”

Even before officials had cancelled the New York City marathon, Princeton Borough and Township Police Departments and administrators decided to postpone the HiTOPS Half-Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, November 4. “The safety of the runners, volunteers, officers, and all others involved in making this event a success is the highest priority,” officials noted.

The Princeton Arts Council’s “Dining by Design” has been rescheduled for December 1. Executive Director Jeff Nathanson reported that a number of Arts Council programs and events will be rescheduled, and some will just have to be cancelled. Until Monday morning, the Arts Council building was without power, including phone and internet service. “We did everything we could to communicate with the public,” said Mr. Nathanson. “Staff used the Conference Room at the public library. The library’s support was fantastic, and we really appreciate it,” he added (See page 5 article). To check on Arts Council updates, visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.com.

Although electricity has been restored, the Princeton Senior Resource Center in the Suzanne Patterson building was still without heat at the beginning of the week, and classes were cancelled.

The Princeton Family YMCA got power back Sunday around 3 p.m. CEO Kate Bech reported that the building would be open “on a limited basis,” and that child care programs and after school programs are running. “The pool should reopen by Tuesday,” she said, and the cardio room is available to members. “We welcome anybody from the community to use our locker rooms if they are in need of a hot shower,” she added.

At Infini-T and Spice Souk on Hulfish Street, co-owner Mary Fritschie reported that one of her regular customers organized a drive and asked to use the location to drop things off. She described the response as “massive, just wonderful,” noting that a steady stream of non-perishables including diapers, foam mattresses, warm blankets, canned foods, and cleaning supplies have been dropped off in front of the cafe since 7 a.m. on Saturday.

D’Angelo Italian Market on Spring Street in Princeton is also collecting contractor trash bags, work gloves, batteries (all types), flashlights, winter jackets, kleenex, Clorox wipes, toilet paper, candles, matches, and baby supplies (diapers, baby wipes, etc,) to help residents of Breezy Point and Rockaway, two areas badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. On Monday, a member of the D’Angelo family transported a truck full of donations to St. Francis de Sales Church in Rockaway, New York. Additional information on shelters, the application process for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and social service is available at www.nj211.org/hurricane.cfm. Additional information about hurricane and flood recovery is also available at www.state.nj.us/health/er/natural.shtml.

The storm also caused The Historical Society of Princeton to reschedule its 2012 House Tour for this Saturday, November 10, instead of the originally scheduled date of November 3. The tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will include five properties.

Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath did not prevent fans of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra from attending a concert Sunday afternoon at Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus. On the contrary, there was a full house for the performance led by Music Director Rossen Milanov, who revised the program when some rehearsals had to be canceled and many musicians could not get to Princeton [see music review page 26]. Last-minute tickets at $25 were offered to brighten spirits, and they were quickly sold.


More than 1,800 people crowded into Nassau Presbyterian Church last Saturday to pay their respects at a memorial service for Princeton investment banker William Sword, Jr., who died tragically during Hurricane Sandy. Spilling out of the sanctuary, mourners moved into three additional rooms and the church’s hallways to hear the Reverend David Davis’s eulogy urging them to take inspiration from the way Mr. Sword lived his life.

“I have never seen an outpouring of love and grief and celebration of that magnitude,” Mr. Davis said on Monday. “Given the weather challenges, it’s just remarkable that so many people were there. But anybody who knew Bill knew that he lived every day with gratitude, and tended to his friendships and relationships in a way that allowed all of them to thrive.”

Mr. Sword, 61, died on Monday, October 29 after being struck by a falling tree outside his home during the storm (see accompanying obituary, page 41). According to Princeton Township Police, Mr. Sword was trapped beneath the tree, which fell on him as he cleared debris from his driveway.

Making the tragedy all the more uncanny is the fact that Mr. Sword survived a brutal knife attack in 2003. An emotionally disturbed student from the University of Maryland, Jelani Manigault, crashed his car near the Sword family’s house on the Great Road, and asked to enter the home. Mr. Sword let him in, and an apparently distraught Mr. Manigault ran into the kitchen, grabbed a 12-inch knife, and stabbed Mr. Sword numerous times.

“It is not a cliche in this case to say that in the aftermath of that situation, Bill made the decision to live life to the fullest,” said Mr. Davis. “And he did that for 10 years.”

Mr. Sword graduated from The Lawrenceville School in 1969 and Princeton University in 1976. Several of his family members have attended Lawrenceville, where Mr. Sword was an honor student and a lacrosse player, according to Alumni Relations Director John Gore. “We heard about it Tuesday from alumni who called to let us know,” he said. “Several of his classmates attended his memorial service. This is a lovely family, and we feel very badly for them. It’s very tragic.”

Among Mr. Sword’s Lawrenceville friends was Princeton resident Mark Larsen, who was a freshman when Mr. Sword was a senior. “He was my study hall monitor, and we ended up being roommates at Princeton because Bill took a couple years off to work in Washington,” Mr. Larsen said. “We became close friends. We were in each other’s weddings. Our families were close.”

Mr. Larsen was among those who attended a reception at the Bedens Brook Club following Mr. Sword’s funeral service. “We had a chance to speak about Bill, and what I said about him was that this man was a giver, not a taker,” Mr. Larsen recalled. “The most wonderful thing about Bill Sword is that he realized that in life, every day counted — especially after he was stabbed nearly to death. He lived every day fully. The way he engaged the community, his friends, and his family, was such a great example to everyone. He touched so many lives in a quiet, humble way.”

The loss of Mr. Sword is felt by the charitable organizations in which he volunteered his time, as well as his personal relationships. “Bill was an unusually caring and giving person,” said Republican mayoral candidate Dick Woodbridge, on Monday. “We have known the family for years, and our oldest daughter used to babysit for his children. What I especially liked about Bill was that he was ‘old school’ in that he gave quietly and generously to the community. He also possessed a keen sense of humor balanced with genuine intelligence and humility. The fact that the church was packed to overflowing in the aftermath of the worst New Jersey storm in recent history says all you need to know.”

A board member of Centurion Ministries, Mr. Sword worked frequently with Jim McCloskey, its founder and executive director. “Bill and I were good friends. We both belonged to Nassau Presbyterian Church, and I asked him to join the Centurion Board. He asked some very good questions, as he usually does, and I felt honored and privileged that he would serve us,” Mr. McCloskey said. “After the memorial service the other day, a number of people came up and told me how much of a real advocate he was for Centurion. I didn’t know he was doing that around town. We all lost a very, very good friend. It’s just incomprehensible and horrendous. Those of us who knew him well knew he was a special human being who cared for people, especially the disadvantaged and forgotten.”

Mr. Sword also served on the board of the Princeton Area Community Foundation. “We knew him to be the same lovely person that everyone else in this community thought of him as being,” said Nancy Kieling, PACF president. “He had a generous spirit. We have a long relationship with the Sword family, because Bill’s father was on our founding board. He’s been a friend of ours for a long time, so we are deeply saddened.”

Lee Gladden shared office space with Mr. Sword for the past decade. “We’ve done a lot of business projects together. We saw each other every day in the office, or in Dillon gym, or golfing at Bedens Brook, or on the Centurion Board,” he said. “I feel so privileged and grateful that I not only got to know Bill so well, but got to spend so much time with him. I learned a lot, and really enjoyed every minute of it. It’s a huge loss not to have Bill in our lives anymore. He was such a wonderful person, and an example of how to live a good life. We should all learn from that. He was an inspiration to us all.”


November 6, 2012

Borough and Township police have been acting as a single entity in responding to storm-related conditions. At noon Monday, after consultation with the Borough and Township Police departments and administration, Borough Mayor Yina Moore and Township Mayor Chad Goerner declared a state of emergency in the two communities and authorized the opening of an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the Princeton Township Police Department. This will be in effect until further notice. All declarations that have been issued by the Federal, State and County are in full effect.

In collaboration with Borough Captain Nicholas Sutter, Township Sergeant Michael R. Cifelli advised area residents that:

Any communications from the respective Departments about the storm or emergency services activity during the storm would be sent out jointly to ensure that all information that is sent out is consistent. Mr. Cifelli emphasized that here is no need to contact both departments for information as they will be together during the duration of the storm.

The joint Emergency Operations Center (EOC) includes the Princeton Fire Department (PFD) , Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, Princeton University Public Safety, and both Township and Borough Department Public Works departments.

Princeton Fire Department noted that they will be unable to pump basements during the storm, so residents are asked not to call them.

Social media are live streaming for the duration of the storm via the Township PD Facebook and Twitter accounts. This includes road closures and other activities that need to be posted in the interest of public safety. These postings also include road closures and activities that occur in Princeton Borough. Known power outages will also be posted. Residents are asked not to call the police departments with reports of power outages. Calls should be directed to PSE&G at (800) 436-7734.

Both the Princeton Borough and Princeton Township government websites are being updated periodically with storm related information.

Hoping to have their say, residents opposed to AvalonBay Communities’ plans for development of the former University Medical Center of Princeton site turned out in force at the Thursday, October 25, special meeting of the Regional Planning Board. But there was no time for public comment at the hearing of site plan applications, as the Board took on the complicated issue of jurisdiction.

The standing-room-only meeting began with a response by Board attorney Gerald Muller to a nine-page letter from the attorney for the group Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods. The letter says that AvalonBay needs to have one of two site plan applications it submitted approved by the Township Zoning Board of Adjustment rather than the Planning Board, because it involves a section that is zoned commercial.

“It is my opinion that the [Planning] Board does have jurisdiction,” Mr. Muller said in response to the letter. “I don’t believe a use variance is necessary.” Rob Simon, the attorney for the citizens’ group, argued otherwise. Asked by Planning Board member Bernie Miller whether he has dealt with this type of issue before, Mr. Muller said, “This is very unusual.”

AvalonBay, which is under contract to build a 360,000-square-foot complex of 280 rental units where the old hospital building stands, had requested two site plan applications: A minor application for the parking garage, a portion of which lies in the Township, and a major application for construction of its new buildings, which would be in the Borough. Representatives for AvalonBay were asked to combine the applications into one, but they declined.

The deadline for the Township application was about to expire on October 26, while the Borough portion expires December 15. Mr. Muller expressed concern that the Township application could be legally eligible for automatic approval if the Board didn’t act on it by the end of the meeting. The Board then voted to consider both applications rather than just the one for the Township portion.

The letter from the citizens’ group also asserts that there are environmental issues that AvalonBay has not sufficiently addressed. The Planning Board meeting came a day after a meeting of the Princeton Environmental Commission, which voted to recommend that the Planning Board consider hiring an environmental engineer to determine whether sufficient testing has been carried out at the former hospital site. More soil and groundwater testing, either before or during construction was also recommended.

Planning Board member Marvin Reed commented during the Thursday meeting that AvalonBay’s application is “deficient.” He recalled chairing a special task force in 2005 on whether the hospital should expand at its Witherspoon Street location or move to a new site [the hospital moved to new headquarters in Plainsboro last May]. Mr. Reed said there were numerous meetings involving hospital administration and members of the community, and that the hospital agreed that at least two parks would be established at the site, similar to Hinds Plaza outside Princeton Public Library. While AvalonBay’s plans do include one public and one private courtyard, they do not reflect those original plans, Mr. Reed said.

“I submit to you that somewhere along the line, the good will of the medical center seems to have disappeared,” he concluded, to applause from the audience. “The proposal we’ve seen today is a very scaled-back version, particularly in the way to bring people together. That’s what we should try to achieve.”

Mr. Reed then handed copies of documents for the proposed park to AvalonBay Senior Vice President Ron Ladell, Mr. Simon, and Mark Solomon, who is attorney for the medical center.

Mr. Ladell, attorney Ann Studholme, and Jeremy Lang of Maser Consulting, which carried out studies for the development firm, testified at the meeting about the minor site plan. Also speaking were members of the Princeton Environmental Commission and the Site Plan Review Advisory Board, each of which recommended certain limitations to AvalonBay’s plan.

Testimony on the minor site plan was not complete by the end of the meeting, and Mr. Ladell ultimately agreed to extend the deadline to November 15, which is the date of the next Planning Board meeting.


Princeton Borough and Princeton Township will vote as a consolidated municipality in the General Election on Tuesday, November 6. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m.

Residents who want a mail-in ballot must now apply in person at the Mercer County Clerk’s Office by 3 p.m. on November 5.

Consolidated Princeton now has 22 voting districts. To find your consolidated voting district and polling place, follow the links from www.princetontwp.org/election1.html.

At the local level, Princeton voters will select either Democrat Liz Lempert or Republican Richard Woodbridge for mayor. Candidates for six new Council seats include Republican Geoff Aton, and Democrats Heather Howard, Arden (“Lance”) Liverman, Patrick Simon, Bernard (“Bernie”) Miller, Jenny Crumiller, and Jo Butler.

Vying for three Freeholder seats are Democrats Marie Corfield, Ann M. Cannon, Pasquale “Pat” Colavita, Jr., and Samuel T. Frisby, Sr.; and Republicans David G. Mayer, Richard Urbani, and David Walsh.

Nominees for a single General Assembly seat are Republican Donna M. Simon and Democrat Marie Corfield.

Republican Eric A. Beck is challenging Democratic incumbent Rush Holt in a race to represent the 12th Congressional District, and Republican Joe Kyrillos has challenged incumbent Democratic Senator Robert Menendez.

While the ballot will include the names of nine Presidential aspirants, as well as a “personal choice” box, that race presumably comes down to incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama against Republican Mitt Romney.

Statewide, voters will determine whether or not New Jersey should provide $750 million for certain types of new construction at specified New Jersey colleges and universities, and whether or not to amend the New Jersey State Constitution to redefine justices’ and judges’ salary and pension benefits.

Locally, Princeton voters will have an opportunity to approve an open space tax of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

October 24, 2012

“As of January 1, we will be collecting refuse in both communities,” said Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi at a joint meeting of Borough Council and Township Committee on Monday evening.

Currently, Borough residents receive free trash pick up, while Township homeowners must pay for private collection. With two bids and a “loosely worded” challenge in hand, the governing bodies opted not to reject any bids at this time. Township residents will receive free trash pickup after January 1, despite the fact that a contract has not been finalized for the newly-consolidated municipality.

Noting that “we have been trying to get a clarification with the bids problem,” Township Attorney Ed Schmierer recommended tabling the motion to reject the current trash collection bids. With a December 2 deadline, a decision on a plan can easily be postponed, he noted, while input from the county is sought. He also suggested the value of having the newly-elected government be involved in the decision-making after November 6.

After promising that there is an ongoing “internal dialogue for a backup plan” to ensure free Township pickup after January 1, Mr. Bruschi suggested that the “real dialog is what we want a future program to look like.” He reported that the preparation of two memoranda is underway: one will describe a “preferred method of collection,” while the the other will address a “mechanism for getting the word out” to Township residents about arrangements through February 1.

Residents who want to continue private, “back door” collection are free to do so, Mr. Bruschi added. He also noted that he was not aware of any discussion about discontinuing the current food waste program.

As they did at last Wednesday’s Transition Task Force Meeting, the Finance Subcommittee announced that they anticipated savingsКof $2.6 million as a result of Consolidation, at least 40 percent more than the Consolidation Commission’s estimated savings of $1.6 million. The main focus of the Subcommittee’s report was on estimated savings; transition costs; identifying funding sources and offsets; and taking an initial look at 2013 operating budget.

The total in projected savings includes $700,000 relative to the combined budgets of both municipalities, as a result of personnel who have left and are not being replaced. This figure will offset the difference in anticipated separation costs, which the subcommittee estimates will be $300,000 higher than the Consolidation Commission’s projected $1.7 million. State consolidation-related payments and $500,000 promised by Princeton University enhance the picture.

Finance Subcommittee Chair Scott Sillars noted that, thanks to consolidation, there will be more opportunities to save money in the coming years. Looking ahead, he reported, the Subcommittee came up with a preliminary estimate of $350,000 to $400,000 in additional savings for 2013. With this in mind, he said, department heads are being asked to review budgets to justify expenditures that are unrelated to salaries and benefits.

“The Consolidation Commission positioned us for a great start,” concluded Mr. Sillars. The numbers reported on Monday evening will be posted on the Task Force’s website: www.cgr.org/princeton/transition.

Upcoming transition-related events include a December 3 public forum at the Princeton Public Library that will include Transition Task Force members and representatives from both governing bodies.


Princeton University’s controversial arts and transit proposal was the topic of the Regional Planning Board’s meeting on October 18. This was round one of the discussion, which will continue on November 1 and allow members of the public an opportunity to voice their opinions about the project.

What makes it controversial is not the ambitious arts complex, which most members of the community favor. It is the aspect of the plan that involves moving the Dinky train station 460 feet south and turning the existing buildings into a restaurant and cafe. Planning Board and Borough Council member Jenny Crumiller’s frequent criticism of the move caused her to recuse herself from the proceedings last Thursday, a move which elicited debate at the start of the meeting.

Ms. Crumiller recused herself under the doctrine of “pre-judgment,” and on the advice of planning board lawyer Allen Porter. She expressed regret that she would not be taking part in the discussion. Planning Board members Marvin Reed and [Borough Mayor] Yina Moore questioned the decision. “I don’t know how we can be engaged in the public process as public officials or volunteers without the clash of opinions,” Mr. Reed said. His statement was applauded by members of the audience.

Attorney Bruce Afran, who represents members of the community opposed to the Dinky move, also protested. He suggested that the board take a vote on the question, but they did not. “This process taints the record very severely,” he said, eliciting more applause.

Once the University’s presentation got underway, details of the project’s four interconnected arts buildings, landscaping, new train station and Wawa buildings, traffic studies, sustainability, and other aspects were laid out. University Vice President and Secretary Bob Durkee introduced “a carefully engineered and highly integrated project,” saying it “attempts to address a number of community needs, as it also attempts to address one of the University’s highest priorities.”

Opponents to the move of the Dinky station fear that it will decrease ridership and cause the eventual phasing out of the service. Mr. Durkee said the plan “will enhance the Dinky experience and encourage more riders. The Dinky station is right in the middle of this plan and we have no intention to move it again,” he said. “More than half of Dinky riders are associated with the University, so we have a major stake in its viability.”

The four inter-connected buildings that are the core of the $300 million arts project were designed by Steven Holl, who called the effort “the most important project we have ever been involved in.” As described in detail by his colleague Noah Yaffe, the 139,000-square-foot Lewis Center for the Arts, which will include spaces for performances, rehearsals, and teaching, is “a very porous set of buildings” which will surround a new performing arts courtyard. “The space between the buildings is almost more important than the buildings themselves,” he said.

Matt Luck of Rick Joy Architects, which is designing the new train station and Wawa market and renovating the existing buildings into a restaurant and cafe, said the new building “is like the front porch of Princeton. It’s the first view they’ll have,” he said of those arriving at the Dinky terminus. The firm is trying to use local materials for every part of the new building. As for the new cafe in the old station building, he said very little work is planned. “I don’t even think we’ll have to repaint. When you have a resource like this, why would you mess with it?” he asked, causing more than one member of the audience to mutter, “Good question.”

Traffic engineer Georges Jacquemart said the project will create better traffic flow and a safer environment for vehicles and pedestrians. He estimated that the peak demand for parking spaces will not top 980, despite the fact that area venues could draw as many as 5,000 people if all were operating at one time.

Time was made at the end of the meeting for public comment by those who would not be able to return on November 1. First up was Emily Mann, artistic director of McCarter Theatre, which sits on the edge of the proposed project. Responding to questions she has been asked about how McCarter views the project, she described it as “an absolutely thrilling, exciting, awe-inspiring vision of what the arts can be.” She added that the project would be favorable even if it only meant that the train station buildings would be converted to a restaurant and cafe. As it stands, the project is a “gorgeous gift,” she said. “This is the confluence of arts, education, and community. It is a map for the future of this country and the arts in America.”

The only other speaker from the public was resident William Moody of Jefferson Road, who praised the arts project while expressing sadness that the Dinky would be moved as part of it. “Our ideas were not taken advantage of,” he said, complaining that the University did not listen to suggestions and reservations expressed by members of the community over the last few years. “Keeping the tracks where they are does not interfere with a single building you want to build,” he said. “Ninety-eight percent of what you want is fantastic …. I am really worried that this move is putting us into unnecessary jeopardy.”

The discussion ended at 11 p.m. It will continue on Thursday, November 1 at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building, when more members of the public will have an opportunity to voice their views.


When the University Medical Center at Princeton moved from its longtime home on Witherspoon Street to new headquarters in Plainsboro last May, thousands of items were left behind. This inventory of furniture, office equipment, kitchen appliances, artwork С just about every non-medical item in the building С will be up for grabs this weekend at a giant sale on two floors of the old hospital.

“We shrank the footprint of the building so it’s not a free-for-all,” said Eric Tivin, the CEO of Centurion Service Group, the medical auction house handling the event. “Everything will be consolidated on two floors. But we’re still talking about 4,000 to 5,000 items. It’s a lot of stuff.”

While Centurion usually holds auctions, this weekend’s event is more like a giant garage sale. “I have a guy who has been on the site every day for the last four weeks,” Mr. Tivin said. Every item will have a price on it. Everything is cash and carry, and nothing will be held for later pickup. There is no bargaining.

“You won’t need to. These are rock-bottom prices,” he said, estimating that office chairs will go for $5 to $20, file cabinets $10 or $25, and computer monitors $20. “We have a whole bunch of computer boxes — 400 of them — minus the hard drives, but with monitor, keyboard, and mouse, for $40.”

Centurion bills itself as the world’s largest medical equipment auction house, with offices in Chicago, Las Vegas, and London. The company works with hospitals, health centers, radiology centers, and other medical facilities to sell surplus medical equipment and other assets.

The object of this weekend’s sale, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, is more about cleaning out the building than making a profit, which is why prices are low. Asked whether the hospital had considered donating items to local non-profits before holding the sale, spokesperson Carol Norris-Smith, vice president of Marketing and Public Affairs, said she was not able to determine if that was the case.

Mr. Tivin said people may be surprised at what they find at the sale. “When you think about a hospital, you forget about things like heaters, printers, clocks on the wall, artwork. There is a lot of kitchen stuff — countertops, ovens, refrigerators. When you start gathering it all up, you say, ‘Oh my God, this is an amazing site.’ We’re expecting a lot of interest.”

The sale comes amid continuing controversy over the fate of the former hospital site. Area residents opposed to plans for a rental complex by AvalonBay Communities, which is contracted to purchase the site and plans to tear down the existing building to make room for new construction, have hired attorneys to represent them. They are expected to air numerous environmental concerns at meetings of the Princeton Environmental Commission and Regional Planning Board this week.

Mr. Tivin said his company has no connection to the site’s future. “All we’re doing is emptying the building out of all the movable equipment, so the next step can be taken by the hospital, whatever they so choose,” he said.


October 17, 2012

Two weeks short of the projected finish date, New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) officials responded to the growing chorus of complaints from motorists stuck on ancillary roads, and from area residents who feared for their children’s safety as more cars used their driveways to make U-turns to correct routes interrupted by jughandle closings.

NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson announced the end of the Route 1 “pilot project” in an early Saturday afternoon appearance on Washington Road (CR 571), where West Windsor residents had gathered to demonstrate their opposition to the program.

“I am announcing that NJDOT will end the trial program and restore all previous traffic movements within a week,” Mr. Simpson said. “We told local officials, residents, and other stakeholders in the Princetons, West Windsor, and Plainsboro that we would terminate the trial prior to its scheduled 12-week duration if we became convinced that unintended consequences could not be satisfactorily mitigated. We are making good on that promise today.”

“The DOT said they would cancel the trial if it was a disaster, and we’re all thankful Commissioner Simpson listened to the public outcry, kept his word, and pulled the plug,” said Township Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert.

“NJDOT crews will remove all barricades, barrels, and signage associated with the trial in the coming days,” reported DOT spokesperson Joe Dee. All traffic movements that were permitted prior to the trial will be restored, including right turns from Route 1 northbound onto Varsity Avenue and Fisher Place, and left turn movements from Route 1 southbound at Fisher Place and Washington Road.К

While the trial had reportedly eased traffic flow on Route 1, Mr. Simpson acknowledged the “unintended consequences” that had occurred as a result of eliminating left turns for Route 1 northbound motorists at Washington Road and Harrison Street.

“Unfortunately, the trial disrupted the Penns Neck neighborhood with additional traffic and created safety concerns. Our efforts to resolve those issues and guide motorists to the Scudders Mill interchange were unsuccessful,” Mr. Simpson said. “Increased congestion along Alexander Street in Princeton was also a concern.”

“We will be exploring value-engineered solutions involving a buildable project or projects to fight congestion in this corridor,” Mr. Simpson said. Mr. Dee concurred, noting that “the department will work with county and local governments, residents and other stake holders toward longer-term solutions to the traffic congestion along this stretch of Route 1.”

Elected officials who voiced opposition to the trial in recent weeks included the Mercer County Board of Freeholders, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, and Township Committeeman Bernie Miller. Ms. Lempert, who is the Democratic candidate for mayor of Princeton, was instrumental in mounting an online survey on the Township’s website, documenting motorists’ responses to the Route 1 trial.

In comments made after the decision to end the trial, Ms. Lempert acknowledged that “the Penns Neck citizens’ group deserves a lot of credit for organizing a successful protest.”

Her Republican opponent in the upcoming mayoral election, Richard Woodbridge, similarly noted that “it was really the West Windsor residents that caused the DOT to stop the experiment.

“We should have taken the lead there,” added Mr. Woodbridge. “We need to do a better job of getting ahead of these projects rather than reacting to them. It was such an obviously bad idea it should have never gotten off the ground in the first place.”

In a letter to Mr. Simpson written days after the cancellation, Township Mayor Chad Goerner had a different perspective. “As you know, our community was one of the first to actively voice concerns regarding the trial both in regional mayors’ meetings and also via a resolution expressing those concerns in 2011,” he wrote.

In the wake of the cancellation, Mr. Dee reported that elected officials, members of the business community, and others have “urged that a number of options be revisited, such as extending West Windsor’s Vaughn Drive to Washington Road, widening the Mercer County-owned bridge that spans the Delaware and Raritan Canal on Alexander Road and building an overpass near the intersection of Route 1 and Harrison Street.”


At a public forum focused on a pending Assembly bill that would exempt private colleges and universities from municipal land use laws, panelists warned that passage could set a precedent enabling other non-profits, such as hospitals and private schools, to bypass local zoning regulations. The forum was held at a meeting of Princeton Borough Council last Tuesday, October 8, and attended by about 50 people.

Borough Mayor Yina Moore, who has been closely involved in organizing opposition to the proposed legislation, commented this week that she was encouraged with the response to the event. “I’ve heard from a lot of people,” she said. “I know that a lot of people who weren’t there watched it on TV. It was very informative. Now, we’re ready to act.”

The Senate version of Assembly bill A2586 passed 26-8-6 last June and is now in the hands of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee. A group of citizens and local officials is planning to attend the Committee’s November 8 meeting in Trenton to express opposition to the bill, “whether or not they have the item on the agenda,” Ms. Moore said. “We have a pretty broad representation, including some Princeton University students, though the administration seems less interested. There will be quite a bit of involvement.”

Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman, responding to a letter last month from Ms. Moore asking that the University oppose the bill, declined, saying the University “would never jeopardize the well-being of the community.” Those in support of the legislation say it will speed up the process of construction projects and give private institutions parity with public universities, which currently pursue development without review by local zoning and planning boards.

“They call it a parity bill. We call it a disparity bill,” said panelist Michael Cerra of the New Jersey League of Municipalities. “We don’t accept the argument that it is a parity bill. It creates an unequal playing field. It puts local governments at a disadvantage.” Mr. Cerra called the amount of opposition to the bill by citizen groups across the state “astonishing.”

Charles Latini Jr., resident of the American Planning Association’s New Jersey chapter, said the legislation would exist to promote the partnerships of large-scale universities such as Princeton with developers and could have a “devastating effect” on communities. “You may lose control of your town,” he said. “And for the other towns that do not have colleges or universities: Be concerned.”

Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said large, private universities might not mean to hurt the community, but they might not understand the bill’s implications. What communities should watch out for, he added, are partnerships between the private educational institutions and biotech research firms.

While Assembly member Jack Ciattarelli (R-16) said he is tracking the bill closely and predicted it will be defeated by a slim margin, his colleague Reed Gusicora (D-15), who has a letter in this week’s Mailbox (page 14), was not as optimistic. “I think this is pretty much wired to pass,” Mr. Gusciora said. “I think it’s a power play by developers and private interests. It’s throwing land use out the window. I think we have a long way to go.”

Several local residents spoke at the forum, none of whom were in favor of the bill. Resident Todd Reichert asked whether the universities had been invited to the forum, “because I’d love to hear their arguments.” He added, “Good fences make good neighbors. And the good fence of a municipal land use law provides the kind of protection that I as a non-17-billion-dollar endowed resident would like to have on my side, since I don’t have those dollars and powerful people on my side.”

Ms. Moore said that Princeton University, Rider University, the Institute for Advanced Study, and Princeton Theological Seminary were invited to the forum. Princeton and Rider universities declined the invitation, while the other two institutions did not respond.

Resident Heidi Fichtenbaum, an architect, said that lots of “back of house” buildings have to be built on campuses for storage and other uses. She used the example of a massive book storage facility that Princeton University is building in the Forrestal complex to illustrate what could happen if the municipal land use laws were not being followed. “If something like that went up in the middle of Princeton, people would be aghast,” she said. “We would lose complete control with this law.”

Resident Kip Cherry said there is reason to believe the bill is unconstitutional. Marvin Reed, former Township mayor, said, “Good town/gown relations depend on good planning and good zoning, and that’s what we have to keep in place.”

Ms. Moore urged citizens to make their voices heard regarding opposition to the bill. “If you think taxes are bad now, you haven’t seen anything if this bill passes,” she said, encouraging people to attend the November 8 meeting of the Higher Education Committee in Trenton. But Mr. Tittel urged people to take action immediately instead of waiting for the meeting. “Get to members now,” he said.


Residents of Princeton had two debates to watch last Thursday evening, and timing was all. Before tuning in to see the 9 p.m. vice presidential debate, many people headed over to the Jewish Center of Princeton at 7:30 p.m. to hear candidates Liz Lempert and Dick Woodbridge talk about what each of them believes they would bring to the office of mayor of the “new,” consolidated Princeton in 2013.

The level of discourse between the two candidates remained highly civil during the hour-long debate, and the moderator’s performance could not be faulted. Barbara Trout, a League of Women Voters representative from Burlington County, was poised and congenial as she gave the candidates their instructions and read questions that had been written earlier that evening on index cards distributed to members of the audience. Princeton Community TV videotaped the debate, which has been made available on their website (www.princetontv.org).

As they have on other occasions, Mr. Woodbridge used his answers to emphasize the breadth of his experience as a former Township mayor and Borough Council president, while Ms. Lempert focused on the more recent achievements of Township Committee, where she has served for four years as a member, and deputy mayor.

The candidates differed on a number of issues, including the significance of national elections on local politics; the disposition of the Valley Road School building; and how each of them proposed to keep taxes flat.

Mr. Woobridge suggested that it would be “a mistake” to allow national politics to interfere with local issues that tend toward the more mundane business of doing things like fixing potholes. Ms. Lempert, who coordinated the local campaign for President Obama in 2008, said that national platforms on issues like affordable housing and environmental concerns do “translate at the local level.”

In discussing the Valley Road Building, Ms. Lempert emphasized the fact that since they own it, its future is up to the school district. While she allowed that being directly across from Township Hall makes it a valuable piece of real estate that might work as a community center, she concluded by suggesting that “we need to figure out the finances.”

“Use it or lose it,” said Mr. Woodbridge in his more pointed response. Describing the building as looking “like a crack house,” he faulted the school district for its failure to maintain it and for the Board’s unwillingness to accept a “free offer” that would have turned the Valley Road Building into a community center.

“I can guarantee there will be no new taxes introduced in 2013,” said Ms. Lempert in answer to the question of maintaining flat taxes. “We’ve done it for the last two years,” she said, referring to Township Committee and citing the “invaluable” work of the Township’s Citizens Advisory Group.

Mr. Woodbridge proposed that municipal finances be treated “as a real business,” and noted recent conversations he has had with Borough Administrator Robert Bruschi and Township Acting Administrator and Chief Financial Officer Kathy Monzo. He said that he would look forward to creating budgets that were not based on preceding years, and to ask for other players, like Mercer County and the school district, to seek cost reductions.

In response to Mr. Woodbridge’s frequent references to his experiences with, and desire for non-partisanship in the next Princeton government, Ms. Lempert pointed out that “almost every” current “board and commission has Republican representation.” Both candidates acknowledged the importance of tourism in Princeton, and the need to find new ways to support it. Mr. Woodbridge suggested that town-gown relations have “deteriorated” in recent years. His own recent meeting with University Vice President Bob Durkee and Director of Community and Regional Affairs Kristen Appelget, said Mr. Woodbridge, should be a precedent for regular meetings in the future. In response, Ms. Lempert cited Township Committee’s recent success in negotiating a voluntary payment from the University in lieu of taxes.

While Mr. Woodbridge spoke of his three main credentials for being mayor as “experience, experience, and experience,” Ms. Lempert noted hers: “current experience.”


October 10, 2012

Princeton Borough Council’s unanimous vote October 2 to introduce an ordinance creating the Morven tract historic district comes after more than six years of efforts in support by one segment of the neighborhood, and vociferous objections by another. The latter was represented in force at the meeting last Tuesday, at which Mayor Yina Moore had to bang her gavel more than once to restore order.

The vote, which elicited boos and hisses, sends the ordinance off to the Regional Planning Board. After review, the measure will return to Borough Council for a final public hearing and vote. The proposed district is in the town’s architecturally distinctive western section and spans portions of Hodge Road, Library Place, Boudinot Street, Morven Place, and Bayard Lane.

It was last month that the Borough’s Historic Preservation Review Committee (HPRC) recommended that the designation be pursued, but also advised that Borough Council postpone acting on the recommendation until after consolidation goes into effect in January 2013. The Borough and Township have different ordinances, and the newly merged commission is expected to reflect elements of the existing two when it is formed.

Borough Council’s decision to take the first steps in considering the ordinance last week caused consternation among those opposed to the designation. Chief among other concerns voiced by residents of the district and some who live outside its boundaries were restrictions that would require them to go through a review process before making changes to the exteriors of their homes.

But Nora Kerr, chairperson of the HPRC, said this week that some of those concerns are unfounded. “The present Borough ordinance says that if any surface has been refinished in the past, you can paint it any color you want,” she said in response to statements during the meeting about paint color restrictions. Changes that require review in historic districts include construction of fences, adding light fixtures, changing or adding awnings, replacing windows, building additions, new construction, demolition, and changes in roof materials. Should a homeowner need to replace a slate roof with materials less expensive, “We try to be reasonable,” Ms. Kerr said. “For a roof, they’d have to come in for a review. But that happens very rarely.”

The restrictions apply only to exterior portions of a property that are visible from the public right-of-way. “People seem to think we would address issues that are interior, which we don’t,” said Ms. Kerr.

Council members Roger Martindell and Kevin Wilkes recused themselves from the meeting last Tuesday because of conflicts of interest. Mr. Martindell, a lawyer, cited legal work he had done for the principal of the firm that drafted a report for supporters of the proposal, while Mr. Wilkes, an architect, said he had a client who lives in the proposed district. Judith Scheide, a Library Place resident opposed to the designation, asked Ms. Moore to recuse herself. Ms. Scheide questioned whether Ms. Moore had met with supporters of the district when she was running for office and promised them she would vote for the measure if they voted for her.

“I did not make any promises to vote,” Ms. Moore asserted, adding that the mayor only votes if there is a tie. “That’s not true. I did not have a meeting with them.” Ms. Moore then warned Ms. Scheide and others in the audience that unruly behavior would not be tolerated. “I can tell you right now that this meeting isn’t going to be like the last one,” she said.

Once the public comment portion of the meeting began, several residents lined up to speak. Kim Pimley, who lives on Library Place, said that about 52 percent of those in the district do not want it to be designated historic. “We’re in the majority,” she said. “We do not want this. Do not over-regulate us.” But her neighbor John Heilner, who has been involved in supporting the proposal since its inception, questioned her figures.

Mr. Heilner, among the few who spoke in favor of the designation, has said that there are others who share his views but are afraid to voice them. Those who support the measure say that the neighborhood’s character is in danger of changing as homes are torn down and replaced with new ones that don’t fit in “This area we are talking about is the so-called treasured western section. It is the most beautiful, historic, most desired neighborhood in Princeton,” said Mary Heilner, adding, “The houses are from a graceful period in time, and are part of what makes Princeton so special.”

But most of the residents who spoke at the meeting were opposed to the designation. B.J. Booth of Morven Place said, “If you add a process that is not needed, you are adding another level of bureaucracy. You’re going to have people fleeing from these houses and it will be very difficult to sell.”

Nick Karp of Boudinot Street said, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should. This isn’t going to be the Wild West if you don’t rezone. There will still be regulations.” Hodge Road resident Scott Sipprelle added that the neighborhood was “overwhelmingly opposed” to the designation. “Put this process to an end,” he urged Council.

Mark Solomon, the attorney for those against the designation, commented, “You’ve heard the people speak. We have, at every step, voiced our opposition … government should not go where it is not required to go.”

Following the lengthy public comment portion of the meeting, Council president Barbara Trelstad, a former resident of the western section, said she is concerned about preserving its character. “A house was torn down on Hodge five years ago, and replaced by a new, modern house,” she said. “There are a couple of others on Library Place. Tough economic times have stemmed the tide of larger tear-downs and huge McMansions going up, but still …”

Her concerns were echoed by Council member Jo Butler, who said she used to live in a historic district in Philadelphia and wished her Princeton house was located in one. “I don’t think the historic designation process is that onerous,” she said. “Trust me. The new government does not want to deal with this.”

Ms. Trelstad, Ms. Butler, Heather Howard and Jenny Crumiller then voted to introduce the ordinance and send it to the Planning Board for review. The audience made their displeasure known.


An interactive survey on the Township’s website, proposed by Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert and the Princeton Township Traffic Safety Committee, has enabled Township officials to collect recent statistics and details of commuters’ experiences on Route 1 that appear to have resulted from the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s (DOT) pilot project. The trial, which restricts left turns and U-turns on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street in West Windsor, began on Saturday, August 4, and was scheduled to last for 12 weeks.

While DOT officials cite reports of improved traffic flow on Route 1, the Township survey gives respondents the opportunity to get down to specifics. The fact that “Faculty Road is much more backed up at Washington Road, Hartley, and Harrison,” has been noted, as have dangers associated with using the DOT’s suggested alternate route on Scudder’s Mill Road.

“The trial is causing significant hardship for commuters into Princeton,” said Ms. Lempert, who is also the Democratic candidate for mayor of Princeton. “The Township has received 55 comments regarding the closures on Route 1 in the time period between September 19 and October 3.” Results of the Township’s survey will be reviewed by the engineering department.

Motorists participating in the survey complain about “illegal U-turns”; “wasting gas and emitting exhaust”; and “doubled and tripped commute times.” Multiple messages confirmed common problems like “Alexander is a parking lot,” and “traffic can be backed up on Alexander all the way to the exit from Route 1.”

The Township survey gives respondents an opportunity to include details on weather conditions; time spent traveling between locations; roadways traveled; and locations. Motorists are also asked how long the same trip took “pre-closure travel time,” in order to provide a basis for comparison.

Users of public transit are also experiencing the effects of the Route 1 limitations. Crossing Route 1 is “seriously impacting Princeton’s attractiveness as a place to live for those who rely on Princeton Junction train station,” said one report. The “DOT has created a public health hazard,” was another, along with “Alexander bridge was not made to accommodate this traffic volume; it is too narrow.”

“A trip from Canal Pointe to Princeton can now take 39 minutes,” complained a motorist. Others take note of the fact that people are “using the gas station on the corner of Route 1 and Harrison Street as a jughandle to turn around and go north on Route 1.”

“We are pressing the DOT to take a holistic approach to their data collection by factoring in the traffic impacts on secondary roads and related safety concerns,” said Ms. Lempert.


The Princeton Environmental Commission has recommended to the Regional Planning Board and the Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB) that AvalonBay Communities, the company contracted to develop a rental apartment complex at the former site of University Medical Center at Princeton, submit information that provides details about how they plan to clean up the site.

“Recent concerns have arisen in the community regarding the potential presence and removal of hazardous waste at the hospital site,” reads a memo dated October 4 from the PEC to the planners and SPRAB. “A grassroots group С The Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods С has requested that AvalonBay’s project not proceed and be declared incomplete until an independent environmental investigation is done to evaluate the presence of harmful substances on the site and, if contamination exists, to address risks to the health and public welfare of the surrounding community and of the project’s prospective tenants. The investigation would include soil and/or groundwater sampling and analysis.”

The memo goes on to say that the PEC recommends that AvalonBay, which is scheduled to come before SPRAB tonight, October 10, provide a reconciliation report as it relates to the two Phase I Environmental Site Assessments, prior to any consideration of the application.

It was at a meeting of the PEC October 1 that the issue of conflicting reports about potential contamination was raised by the Princeton Citizens group, represented by environmental lawyer Aaron Kleinbaum. Mr. Kleinbaum told the PEC that a September 2011 report commissioned by AvalonBay from the company EcolSciences “identifies current and former underground storage tanks and raises serious concerns about potential releases or solvents and other chemicals into soil and groundwater at the site.”

But AvalonBay’s application and its environmental impact statement “misrepresented the EcolSciences report when it said that no underground storage tanks or contamination were found at the property,” Mr. Kleinbaum continued.

The University Medical Center was also mentioned by Mr. Kleinbaum as responsible for “a lack of transparency” regarding the report. At the meeting, the PEC asked AvalonBay, which was represented by attorney Ann Studholme, to clarify whether the developer had followed up on the EcolSciences report’s recommendations. Ms. Studholme said she did not know if they had.

Mark Solomon, the hospital’s attorney, said that any leaks or spills at the former hospital site were reported and remediated in accordance with the proper regulations. “There are not any known environmental conditions on the property,” he said. “What we object to and find highly irregular is [the inference] that the hospital is breaking the law, with absolutely no substantiation. If there’s something real, we’d like to see it.”

Both attorneys said that reports of any incidents were available on the Department of Environmental Protection’s website.

The PEC memo recommends that AvalonBay provide the requested information, which also addresses issues of adequate space for trash management and food waste collection, management of peak sewage flows, and reduction of storm water flows, by October 15.


October 3, 2012

Princeton Borough Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday, October 9 will be dominated by one issue: Concern about a bill pending in the State Assembly that would exempt private universities from municipal land use law. Mayor Yina Moore, who along with Township Mayor Chad Goerner has been active in a statewide effort to prevent the bill known as A2586 from passing, said that a special town forum on the subject is being held to help inform the public about how they can help defeat the measure.

“We’re inviting mayors from other towns who share our circumstance of having land owned by a private college or university,” she said. “During the council meeting, we’ll have [representatives from] the New Jersey League of Municipalities, the American Planning Association’s New Jersey Chapter, who wrote the petition and extensive paper on the problem; legislators, and other organizations who have opposed the bill and therefore support our position that it is not fair to municipalities or citizens.”

The mayors invited to the forum are among 17 municipalities in New Jersey that contain property owned by private universities. Invited speakers include Michael Cerra, senior legislative analyst; and Charles Latini Jr., president of the American Planning Association’s New Jersey Chapter.

The Senate version of the bill passed 26-8-6 last June. The Assembly version has been referred to the Assembly Higher Education Committee. The bill would exempt private colleges and universities from complying with local zoning codes under the Municipal Land Use Law. As of Tuesday, October 2, 956 people had signed a petition on the American Planning Association New Jersey Chapter’s website opposing the measure. A group called Coalition for Safe Neighborhoods has created a flyer that was mailed to local residents, and is currently airing a radio spot expressing opposition to the bill.

While local officials are opposed to the bill, representatives of private colleges and universities have said that it would put them on equal footing with public institutions in the state. Last month, Mayor Moore sent a letter to Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman asking that the University issue a written statement opposing the bill.

“Princeton Borough strongly believes that no developer in Princeton should be exempt from the salutary controls established by the State Legislature in the Municipal Land Use Law,” she wrote. “Those controls include land use planning procedures and law designed to protect communities from a wide variety of threats, including to public safety and health, to the local economy and quality of life, and to the environment. Exempting institutions from those controls could seriously damage the interests of Borough residents in neighborhoods adjacent to a proposed developer as well as the interests of Borough residents as a whole.”

Ms. Tilghman responded in a letter: “Given Princeton University’s 250-year history of being both a responsible developer and a very good community citizen, I was astonished by the belief of Princeton Borough that the adoption of Assembly Bill No. 2586 could subject the community to ‘a wide variety of threats, including to public safety and health, to the local economy and quality of life, and to the environment.’ Princeton is our home and will always be our home, so whether this legislation is adopted or not, we would never jeopardize the well-being of our community. If the legislation is adopted, we would continue to consult with local officials and residents before proceeding with any major project, and would continue to try to address community needs as well as university needs as fully as we can.”

The October 9 forum will be divided into four segments: Short, prepared remarks by speakers, statements by a panel of representatives from impacted communities, and questions from the audience concluding with drafting of an action plan “to more vigorously oppose the legislation,” according to a press release issued by the Borough this week.

Ms. Moore hopes members of the public will attend to ask questions and offer comments. “We have a core contingent,” she said. “We hope to get a good showing, and we want to hear from the public. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get a couple of mayors or representatives from towns that already have public colleges and universities, so we can understand what that experience is about.”


Police investigations are ongoing into two incidents that took place last month on the Princeton University campus. One involved a student allegedly taking explicit photographs of another student while he was sleeping. The other concerned an employee at the University Place Princeton University store who police say was visited by a prostitute and took part in paid sexual acts at the store after hours.

But Jim Sykes, president of the store, says it isn’t clear that the incidents involving employee Eric Everett and a prostitute actually took place after the U-Store’s 4 a.m. closing time. Mr. Everett, who worked in the U-store’s campus location, was arrested and charged with prostitution and shoplifting after the store manager discovered money was missing when he audited the safe.

Revelations about the sexual acts came to light only after Princeton Borough police were informed of the missing funds. Also arrested was Brittany Smith, 20, of Keyport, who was not an employee of the store.

“From our perspective, all we were aware of was an employee theft,” Mr. Sykes said Monday. “We had no idea of the other part of it until a release came out from the Borough Police. What we can’t confirm is that this happened after hours. I mean, we’re open until 4 a.m. We’re just not sure of when it happened.”

It was on September 20 that the U-Store manager checked the safe and found that it came up short. “He asked everyone about it, and then Mr. Everett started to tell him about having his ex-girlfriend there,” Mr. Sykes said. “That started a sequence, and we informed the police.”

Mr. Everett, who was arrested September 24, apparently met Ms. Smith on Craigs list and arranged for her to visit him at the store on at least three occasions. The pair allegedly helped themselves to several items from the shelves. Borough Police learned of the sexual acts while investigating the thefts. Ms. Smith was arrested on September 25 and found to be in possession of a marijuana pipe and Adderall tablets.

Both Ms. Smith and Mr. Everett were charged and released without bail. Ms. Smith was charged with prostitution, possession of a controlled and dangerous substance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Mr. Everett, who is 23 and lives in Bordentown, was sent a letter terminating his employment at the store.” We hired him when he was 20,” said Mr. Sykes. “He lives at home. He seemed like a fairly normal guy. It’s a shame.”

Richard Charles Tuckwell, a 20-year-old Princeton University student from Australia, was charged last month with one count of invasion of privacy after allegedly taking photographs of another male student after he drank alcoholic beverages and fell asleep. Borough Police said the incident occurred on September 16 after Mr. Tuckwell met the other student at a party at one of the University’s eating clubs. The two went to a campus dormitory. The student, who fell asleep, awoke to find Mr. Tuckwell photographing him.

Mr. Tuckwell surrendered voluntarily to police on September 21. He was processed and released. The investigation, which also looks into whether Mr. Tuckwell sexually assaulted the other student, is continuing, according to Borough police.

Last May, Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi took his own life after his roommate broadcast video he took of him engaged in sexual activity with another man.

“It’s not that we’re really comparing this case to that,” said Borough Police Captain Nicholas Sutter of the Princeton University case. “But it is a serious incident, and we’re treating it as such.”


The municipality that will be created on January 1, 2013 as a result of the consolidation of the Borough and the Township will be known as “Princeton, N.J.”

“What’s in name?” asked Township Attorney Ed Schmierer before he described the criteria that he, Borough Attorney Maeve Cannon, the transition task force lawyer, and a representative from the state Department of Community Affairs used to come up with the suggestion, which was unanimously endorsed at a joint meeting of Borough Council, Township Committee, and the Transition Task Force on Monday evening. Noting that “the law is silent” on what a new government would call itself if it becomes consolidated, Mr. Schmierer pointed that “we’re probably first to be consolidating two major municipalities in 100 years.”

With that in mind, the group focused on “what the voters voted for” when they endorsed consolidation, and the answer was the name that appeared on the ballot: “Princeton, N.J. to be governed under a borough form of government,” or, simply, “Princeton, N.J.”

Ms. Cannon reported on the attorneys’ suggested creation of a “small committee” to go through the list of existing ordinances in the Borough and Township in order to identify conflicts and make recommendations to the two governing bodies. Township and Borough unanimously endorsed this proposal, and the committee will consist of municipal administrators, lawyers, and two representatives from each governing body. Administrators were charged with convening the first meeting. Ms. Cannon estimated that there are “quite a few conflicts,” especially regarding fees, although construction fees will be considered separately.

Gary Patteson presented the Transition Task Force’s final recommendations on boards, committees, and commissions in the new municipality. These included consolidating the two existing Human Services Commissions into a nine-member body; adding one member to the 8-member Joint Recreation Board, and keeping the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee as a separate from the Traffic and Transportation Committee. Consolidation of the two municipalities’ Affordable Housing groups and Shade Tree Commissions was suggested, and, in all instances, cross-pollination from existing groups was encouraged.

Other recommendations included using the Township’s Citizens Advisory Committee, which has focused on financial concerns, as a model for a new group, and following the Borough model for a Public Safety Committee. It was also suggested that an ordinance may be in order the establish the presence of a member who is “expert in animal biology” on the Animal Control Committee.

A discussion of leaf and brush collection was postponed until the next joint meeting, and it was announced that the consolidation celebration originally scheduled for December 31 has been moved to January 1 at Township Hall to dovetail with the swearing-in of new officials.

At a separate meeting that preceded the joint meeting, Township Committee endorsed an ordinance to pay an amount not to exceed $129,504 to the Yedlin Company, Construction Management Services for overseeing construction in the two buildings being refitted for consolidation. Township Mayor Chad Goerner, who had earlier expressed doubt about the need for this contract, reported on Monday night that he had met with the engineering staff and reviewed building plans, and was satisfied that transition expenses are not going to be as much as he anticipated. Renovations to accommodate Corner House in the Monument Building account for the lion’s share of the work, Mr. Goerner noted.

During the meeting’s “announcements” section, Chief Financial Officer Kathy Monzo reported that the completion of the 2011 audit marked the second year in row “with no recommendations or comments of note.” Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert urged area residents to report long or difficult commutes resulting from the Department of Transportation’s changes on Route 1, to the Township website.


September 26, 2012

The announcement last weekend of Princeton University President Shirley M. Tilghman’s impending retirement has prompted local government and University officials to express appreciation for her accomplishments during her eleven-year tenure. Ms. Tilghman will depart at the end of the academic year in June and will return, after a year off, to teach.

“President Shirley Tilghman has made many contributions to enhance student life, campus development, and the academic experience that have and will continue to elevate this great University and expand its impact on the world,” said Princeton Borough  Mayor Yina Moore, in a statement. “On behalf of the citizens of the Borough of Princeton, I wish President Tilghman well as she returns to her role as Professor Tilghman.”

Township Mayor Chad Goerner praised the “very constructive, professional dialogue” between the Township and the University under Ms. Tilghman’s watch. “As I look back at the last several years, I see a significant amount of accomplishment, and part of that is due to the relationship we have with the University,” he said. “We negotiated the first significant voluntary contribution [the University’s payment in lieu of taxes] for Princeton Township, and I have to say that a lot of that is due to the fact that we have had that level of professionalism and dialogue” with the University.

Mr. Goerner added, “I think it’s a good thing that next year we will start with a new governing body and a new University president at the same time. Having that fresh start will be important.”

Ms. Tilghman will step down as Princeton’s nineteenth president at the close of the academic year in June. In a letter e-mailed to students, faculty, staff and alumni, she revealed her plans. There is a “natural rhythm to university presidencies,” she said in her letter, and with “major priorities accomplished or well on their way to being realized, and the [recently completed $1.88 billion Aspire fundraising] campaign successfully concluded, it is time for Princeton to turn to its 20th president to chart the path for the next decade and beyond.”

A Canadian by birth, Ms. Tilghman came to Princeton in 1986 as the Howard A. Prior Professor of the Life Sciences. She was one of five winners in 2002 of the L’Oreal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science. The following year, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Developmental Biology. In 2007, she won the Genetics Society of America Medal. She was a member of the National Research Council’s committee that set the blueprint for the U.S. effort in the Human Genome Project. She was also a founding member of the National Advisory Council of the Human Genome Project for the National Institutes of Health.

Ms. Tilghman’s accomplishments during her tenure as president include a large increase in the number of students on financial aid and more than double the average aid they receive; a master plan focused on architecture, landscaping and sustainability; the additions of Whitman College, Lewis Library and Sherrerd Hall; creation of the Lewis Center for the  Arts and the new Princeton Neuroscience Institute; and an expanded global perspective.

The University’s Dean of the Faculty, David Dobkin, commented, “It has been a remarkable pleasure to be able to work with Shirley for the past nine years. She has been a superior president of Princeton. Though Princeton has a tradition of excellent leadership and there is every expectation that the next president will be as good, Shirley’s leadership has raised the bar for that next person.”

Town-gown relations have been tense at times during Ms. Tilghman’s presidency, particularly in relation to the voluntary tax payments and the controversial decision to move the Dinky train station 460 feet south of its current location to accommodate the University’s $300 million arts and transit neighborhood.

But Borough Councilman Roger Martindell, among those involved in those issues, said of Ms. Tilghman, “I think she’s done a wonderful job for Princeton University. There has been a significant increase during her tenure there in financial support for the municipalities, and I wish her the best of luck.”

The search committee for Ms. Tilghman’s successor will be led by Kathryn A. Hall, chair of the University’s Board of Trustees. The committee will include four members of the faculty who will be elected by the faculty, nine Board members, two undergraduates, a graduate student, and a member of the staff. Ms. Hall said she hope to be ready to bring a recommendation to the Board by next spring.


In an election where less than ten percent of Princeton’s 19,145 registered voters turned out to vote, a school referendum asking for $10.9 million for school improvements was approved on Monday.  The vote was 1,238 to 571 with 58 people voting by mail.

Approval of the referendum means an estimated $150 a year more in taxes for the average Princeton homeowner.

In a September 12 “Princeton Public Schools Report,” Superintendent Judy Wilson described work to be funded by the referendum as “maintenance and safety projects, and a couple of instructional projects.”  This will include “ necessary work” on roofs and windows; drainage systems; “safety work” to improve fields and track; and “energy efficiencies across the system.”

Ms. Wilson pointed out that it has been 11 years since the last school referendum. “It’s time to take care of some of the basics, essential projects that must and will be taken care of,” she observed.  The availability of “great interest rates”  and low construction rates make this a particularly attractive time to do the work, she added.

Proposed projects funded by the additional money at all four elementary schools will include installation of gym air handlers, upgraded playground equipment, and extensions of security and technology systems.  Plans for Johnson Witherspoon Middle School include “repurposing” the old gym into a media center; air conditioning second-floor classrooms; and interior fire-door replacement.  Track, turf and bleacher replacements, “select locker replacements,” and renovations to create additional instructional space are some of the projects slated to take place at Princeton High School.

“Monday’s referendum is relatively small and focused only on needs in those portions of buildings and grounds that have arisen since or were not addressed in prior construction,” noted a statement released by the Board of Education.  Board members noted that “each of the projects identified for this referendum has been reviewed for over 18 months in public meetings of the Board’s Facilities Committee.”  They echoed Ms. Wilson’s comment about this being “an optimal time to take advantage of low construction
bids and capture historically low interest rates,”  and pointed out that applying to state agencies, which are not awarding any new grants for facility projects, was not an option at this time.

The district estimated that all the work will be completed during the next 18 to 24 months.


After hearing presentations from members of the design team charged with creating Princeton University’s $300 million arts and transit neighborhood, the Regional Planning Board of Princeton’s Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB) voted on Monday, September 24, to recommend approval to the planners with certain caveats. Should the Planning Board follow this advice, construction could begin on the first phase of the project this coming spring. The Lewis Center for the Arts, its centerpiece, would be projected for a 2017 opening.

The plan has been a source of controversy among local residents because it involves moving the Dinky train station 460 feet south and turning the existing station buildings into a restaurant and cafe. The project has been opposed by the organization Save the Dinky, and is the subject of two pending lawsuits.

Several university consultants and employees were on hand for the meeting in the Township municipal building. University Architect Ron McCoy led the presentations, which included input from
architects Steven Holl, Rick Joy, and landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh. Mr. Holl, designer of the Lewis Center building, said he sees the project as a “middle gateway” to Princeton, “a place where the community and the University can join.” Having worked on the design since 2007, Mr. Holl said, “We’ve improved, improved, refined and improved, and I’m really excited about where we are now.”

But SPRAB chairman Bill Wolfe expressed several concerns about the project. “Despite being very enthusiastic about the quality of the design, I am very, very unhappy with the overall plan,” he said. The concept of the transit center as a gateway to the town and university is not sufficiently grand, he felt. “This is where important scholars from all over the globe first set foot in Princeton,” he said. “In this site plan, the most important public space to the University and the town should be the transit plaza. But it doesn’t yet look it.” Mr. Wolfe was also disappointed that the proposed arts center was not designed to be closer to McCarter Theatre and that University Place does not run straight to the transit plaza.

Mr. McCoy said the University “has been at this for years,” and had many conversations. “We’re very confident that the solution we’ve arrived at is a good compromise,” he said.

Among the features of the plan described by Mr. McCoy and the design team were parking for Dinky riders, a transit plaza at the new Dinky station site for taxis, jitneys and buses, and enhanced public areas with art that has yet to be determined. A traffic circle at the intersection of Alexander Road and University Place will improve flow, Mr. McCoy said.

The arts complex will include a black box theater, a dance theater, music rehearsal hall, and two studios, to serve the University during the day and be used for public performances at night, he said. Bluestone walkways, green roofs, enhanced plantings and underground wiring and utilities were also detailed.

Trees to be planted will have high canopies in order to keep the buildings “filled with light in winter,” said Mr. Van Valkenburgh when describing the landscaping. The commuter parking lot will be divided with trees. The University Place Green, a major part of the project, will have landscaping modeled after the trees in front of Nassau Hall.

Mr. Joy’s firm will design the new station and renovate the historic Dinky buildings with the assistance of Princeton-based Mills + Schnoering Architects. “This is a great opportunity to give some of the most historic buildings on campus to the community,” he said of the old station building, which will be turned into a restaurant. “We’ve maintained and honored the presence of the original building, and sort of snuck in our addition on the back side,” he said of a planned addition.

SPRAB member Joshua Zinder, who is an architect, suggested that the canopy on the historic building be kept. “The removal of the canopy is too bad,” he said. “That structure, with some clever landscaping, could be the east/west gateway. It’s a big part of the historic character of the station.” Mr. McCoy acknowledged that the canopy was “a difficult issue,” but a new canopy will be built. Mr. Zinder also recommended that a material other than stucco, which is planned, be used.

SPRAB included these comments, as well as those from Mr. Wolfe, with the recommendation to the planning board.


September 19, 2012

The state Department of Transportation (DOT) has no immediate plans to replace the Alexander Road bridge, despite recent attention to its shortcomings.

Officials note that as a result of the current DOT “pilot project”Кthat is restricting left turns and U-turns on Route 1 at Washington Road and Harrison Street in West Windsor, more motorists are using the bridge.К

In addition to weathering heavier traffic, the bridge, which is only 20 feet wide, cannot accommodate two large vehicles moving in opposite directions at the same time.К This becomes of particular concern when emergency vehicles, like ambulances and fire trucks, need to pass each other.КК The bridge’s weight-bearing capacity of 15 tons also poses significant limitations to the number and kinds of vehicles it can support at one time.

“That narrow bridge has been there a very long time,” said DOT spokesman Joe Dee on Tuesday. He suggested that area officials are “raising the issue in the context of this trial.  Traffic is flowing very nicely on Route 1 as a result of these changes.

“Let’s continue to gather data,” he suggested. “This is still fairly new for a lot of people who were on vacation in August when this trial started.” More time, he said, will also allow motorists to become aware of alternatives to Alexander Road.   “Motorists act out of self-interest, and if Alexander becomes inconvenient because of traffic volume, they will seek alternatives.”

The current Route 1 trial was created by the DOT in response to aКstudy along Route 1 indicating, they say, that the existing space for left/U-turns at Washington Road and the left/U-turns at the Harrison Street jug handle is inadequate to accommodate this traffic, resulting in traffic backing up onto Route 1 and impacting traffic operations along mainline Route 1.К The trial began on August 4 and was scheduled to continue for 12 weeks.

At a recent Township Committee meeting, engineer Bob Kiser reported that the need to replace the Alexander Road Bridge was recognized and reported to the county “two or three years and ago.”  In a preliminary survey done in response to the request, Mercer County engineer Gregory Sandusky reported that the right of way at the bridge is only 36 feet wide; 50 to 60 feet would be needed to replace the bridge.  Acquiring the additional land on either side of the current bridge will be difficult from a procedural point of view because the properties involved are designated “green” and “historic”  districts.  Obtaining State House approval, Mr. Kiser said, is “quite a process.” In the meantime, he reported, Mr Sandusky suggested going with plans for replacing bridge with the possibility that the municipality might acquire the right of way.

If NJDOT opts to finalize the trial arrangement, said Mr. Kiser, there will be more traffic going over bridge.  The combination of eventually closing it in order to replace it, and maintaining the current limitations would be”setting ourselves up for a real situation,” he said.

Township Mayor Chad Goerner pointed out that the Alexander Road bridge was “meant to be temporary” when it was originally installed.  In the past, the county defended the safety of the bridge by pointing to the fact that buses and other large vehicles have to stop to make sure there are no vehicles coming in the opposite direction.

At its meeting last week, Township Committee indicated that, if the trial is felt to be successful,  they would ask the state to delay making the left turn bans on Route 1 permanent, until the Alexander Road bridge is replaced.  They are hoping that the Borough, Princeton University, and other parties will support this recommendation in a cosigned letter.

“The University would be very inclined to join you,” said  Princeton University spokesperson Kristen Appleget, who was present at the meeting. “We continue to join you in expressing concerns about the trials,” noting that the University is “taking in a lot of our own data.”

The municipalities will collect additional data, as well, said Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert, and she  encouraged area motorists to use municipal websites to report trip times and bad commutes.   “I don’t think the counters will be out there every day,” she said, referring to NJ DOT monitors.

“An  inconvenience by having  traffic back up is one factor,” observed Committeeman Bernie Miller.  “Creating a situation that could put lives or property at risk is another.  We need to make it clear to the DOT that we have a situation where an emergency vehicle could conceivably not get across the bridge, an unacceptable situation to both University and Princeton community.”