December 12, 2012

Emeritus Professor of Art History Wants Architects to Correct the Transit Design

To the Editor:

My credentials are those of a longtime Princeton resident and of an emeritus professor of Art history. Since 1965 I have walked to the Dinky and, like the students of the Graduate College two blocks up from my house, I pull my suitcase(s) to the present station, when travelling to Newark Airport. In my old age I do not want to stumble half way down Alexander Road and climb stairs late at night or under icy conditions.

As a scholar of architecture, I have witnessed how not only wars and fires, but also indifference irretrievably destroys historic contexts. I am aghast that the Planning Board wants to dispose of one of Princeton’s few landmarks. The present Dinky station embodies a long tradition of Princeton life. Whether you return home from overseas or only from a day in New York City, you feel welcomed by the beautiful campus, scenes of loved ones being picked up at the adjacent “kiss and run” parking space, a few sleepy taxis, and across the street the entrances to our two theaters. What “Gateway to Princeton” would the sight of an ugly parking-garage be?

At the Township Hall meeting on November 29 I was impressed by the questioning from attorney Bruce Afran, who extracted only evasive or no answers from the officials. I was also mesmerized by the power-point presentation of Mr. Kornhauser. As he emphasized over and over again, that the Arts Center can be built without moving our Dinky station! You don’t even need to eliminate the tracks in order to turn the abandoned station building into a restaurant (great idea!). While the proposed use of Dinky land by the University is legally challenged, since when is the Dinky itself run by the University and not by N.J. Transit? By definition “public transportation” belongs to the public! We, the public, who ride the Dinky to or from New York and Philadelphia to get to our jobs, our doctor’s, lawyer’s, etc. appointments or museum/opera visits, do not want to be forced into inconveniences, unsafe access, and time-consuming detours for the sake of the University’s employees garage. Would you not think that our town officials would protect the welfare of their tax-paying citizens instead of letting themselves be pressured by the tax-exempt University? I do not know the terms of the million dollars gift by Peter B. Lewis, but I hesitate to believe that his vision of an Arts Center was intended to benefit an existing parking garage, and surely Mr. Lewis did not mean to hurt the NJ Transit riders, seniors, commuters, the Princeton population at large (not 50 percent of the passengers are connected with the University, as Mr. Durkee has maintained). If Penn Station functions with a multi-purpose indoor arena on top, a gifted architect should be able to find a solution for how to integrate our beloved little Dinky Station into an Arts Center. Come to your senses and correct the design!!

Gerda Panofsky

Battle Road