February 15, 2012

Save the Dinky Opposes NJ Transit Application to Abandon Public Rights in Historic Station

The citizens’ group, Save the Dinky, announced Tuesday that it opposes New Jersey Transit’s request to State historic preservation officials for permission to remove the track and abandon the public rights in the station. New Jersey’s Historic Sites Council will consider the application this Thursday, February 16, at 10 a.m., in the DEP Hearing Room at 401 East State Street in Trenton. Anita Garoniak, president of Save the Dinky, said that the application should be denied approval because it “will strip the Dinky station complex of its historic essence as a functioning passenger railway station.” She said there is no justification for this. “The University can build the arts complex without it, and it is self-evident that moving a train to create a road to a parking garage does not make sense.”

New Jersey’s Transit’s application to remove the track states that the project was “anticipated” and “permitted” by its agreement with the University in 1984 when it sold the station complex to the University. The transit agency kept ownership of the railroad infrastructure and reserved a public easement in the station complex and tracks. Save the Dinky contends that the contract only allowed a move of the terminus from the north end to the south end of the existing platform and that New Jersey Transit, at the University’s request, has already made this move. The group and several individual plaintiffs, filed a lawsuit last year seeking a court ruling that the University did not receive a right to make yet another move of the terminus.

The Princeton railroad station, including the buildings, track, and infrastructure to operate the train service, was placed on the state Register of Historic Places in March 1984. State preservation officials found that the project constituted an “encroachment” on the historic site and referred the proposal to the state’s Historic Preservation Council for review. The Council can approve an encroachment if the benefit to the public justifies it and if there are no feasible alternatives. Ms. Garoniak said that these factors weigh against approval because the project serves the private goals of Princeton University. “The Dinky tracks are in the way of a parking garage,” said Ms. Garoniak. “This is not a reason to abandon the historic train station. It is a reason for the University to rethink its plans.”

Save the Dinky, which originated as a Facebook group to oppose plans to replace the Dinky with a Bus Rapid Transit system, is now incorporated as a New Jersey non-profit to advocate for the preservation of the historic station. It is now actively raising funds to support its mission.

New Jersey Transit’s application, the 1984 contract, and more background information can be found at the group’s website SavetheDinky.org.