February 12, 2020

W-J Engages Public on Multiple Fronts: Planning, Sustainability, Library, Mural

By Donald Gilpin

The Witherspoon-Jackson (W-J) community is working to envision its future, and two public meetings over the next 10 days will accelerate the process towards achieving that goal.

This Saturday, February 15, at the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP), Parking Task Force (PTF) members will discuss plans for a pilot program for parking in the W-J and Tree Streets neighborhoods; and on Saturday, February 22 the W-J Neighborhood Association (WJNA) will sponsor a public engagement workshop at the First Baptist Church featuring presentations on infrastructure led by the Princeton Engineering and Planning departments; on sustainability and emergency preparedness led by Sustainable Princeton (SP); on “more than just books” at the Princeton Public Library (PPL); and an update on the W-J African American Heritage Mural Project.

W-J Neighborhood Association (W-JNA) Co-Chairman Leighton Newlin emphasized the importance of coming together to envision the future of the community. “I’m hoping for more vibrancy, diversity, and inclusivity in Witherspoon-Jackson,” he said. “I hope the discussions are attended by people from all parts of Princeton. I’m envisioning a historic and engaging promenade that’s colorful in every way — with equity, diversity, and inclusivity.”

At the February 15 meeting, to be held at 9:30 a.m., Princeton Council members Leticia Fraga and David Cohen, who are also on the PTF, will discuss plans to address difficulties residents have in finding parking on their streets during the day, as well as the need for parking for employees of local businesses.

Among the topics on the agenda will be residential parking permits, a limited number of parking permits for employees, restrictions on the number of hours parking will be allowed without a permit, and parking lots that may be available for employees.

Newlin applauded the Council for “looking out for the community” and “bringing the message to the community” on a weekend morning rather than relying on just Council meetings, where evening attendance is difficult for many who would want to participate.

The February 22 meeting, also at 9:30 a.m., will be seeking residents’ ideas on pedestrian, bicycling, and transit issues, as well as street lighting, tree and other vegetation additions, public art, seating, and other street furniture. The W-JNA, according to its press release, is hoping to develop a construction timeline “for infrastructure and many other features that will enhance the vibrancy of the Witherspoon Street Corridor and Hinds Plaza.”

Also on the February 22 agenda, SP will discuss “Princeton Prepares,” a voluntary community initiative that will help residents be better prepared and help emergency responders to better serve residents who find it difficult to help themselves in the event of a power outage, flooding, a heat wave, extreme weather, or a major disaster.

Princeton’s Emergency Services, Health Department, and SP have joined forces to lead this initiative and develop a registry of information that can be used to assist Princeton’s most vulnerable residents before, during, and after an emergency situation.

“Sustainable Princeton has been proactive in highlighting and helping residents, and helping first responders to be aware in order to save lives,” said Newlin. “The growth and expansion of municipal services has been helpful. It’s gratifying to see all this in action.”

Newlin went on to praise the PPL and its Community Engagement Coordinator Kim Dorman, who will be providing an overview of some of the programs at PPL. Newlin noted projects during Black History Month that are relevant to children of all ethnicities, and a variety of other PPL programs that “are engaging the whole community and hitting all areas that are important to kids.”

Also at the February 22 meeting, John Bailey, director of the Joint Effort Princeton Safe Streets Summer Program, will update the gathering on the W-J African American Heritage Mural Project at the Mary Moss Playground.

“This African American mural project is a continuation of the 20th Historic District recognition and the ongoing acknowledgement and uplift of the history and legacy of the black residents who currently and formerly lived in the W-J community,” Bailey said. “The mural project is important because our history is important.”

Bailey stated that the mural project has gathered support and ideas from more than 200 current and former residents and is moving forward with fundraising, periodic updates to the community, and ongoing planning. “We hope to have the final mural process and project review completed and approved by the town governing bodies by July and a mural unveiling at the Joint Effort Princeton Safe Streets program in August,” he said.

Bailey also announced that a Joint Effort Princeton Safe Streets W-J Black History Month Celebration Reunion and Reception would be taking place on February 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Witherspoon Elks Lodge on Birch Avenue.

Bailey noted the timeliness of these discussions and events taking place during Black History Month. “Our history celebrations and our heritage memorials are guideposts for our young people and are important indicators in our community for remembering where we came from,” he said.