July 14, 2021

Suggesting It’s Time to Stand Up To PU and Just Say No to Plan

To the Editor:

I have lived in Princeton since my family moved here in 1955. That’s 66 years.

It became obvious very soon that there were two very special streets in Princeton. One was, of course, Nassau Street, and I include Palmer Square in that description. And the other was Prospect Avenue. Any time we had friends come to Princeton for the first time, those were the two “must see” places on our tour of the town. Nothing defines Princeton the way those two streets define the community in terms of its character and beauty.

Week after week, Town Topics has been filled with letters to the editor that eloquently describe why the University’s variance request relating to Prospect Avenue plan should not be approved, as does the report of the Historical Commission. There is no need to repeat those reasons at this point. (And in terms of the letters, I thank the authors for writing them.)

What concerns me more than anything else at this point is the attitude of our proverbial 800-pound gorilla, Princeton University (a university, I might add, that is not overly generous in terms of its payment in lieu of taxes). Please don’t get me wrong. I have had some great associations with the University over the years, most recently as the head coach of the Princeton University Mock Trial team. But in this case, not only is the University our 800-pound gorilla, it is also a bully.

It doesn’t come to negotiate, it comes to threaten. Grant this application, it says, but if you don’t, we’ll just bring in our bulldozers and tear down the Court Club. Listening to residents is not on its agenda. The truth is, it doesn’t care what the community thinks, it’s their way or else. They snub their nose at the invitation of Princeton Future, a group founded 21 years ago by residents, including a former University president, to engage with the community as a partner, not an adversary. But no, they have no interest in a dialogue because they are a bully, they are bullying the Planning Board, because they can.

I suggest that it’s time to stand up to the University and for once, just say no. No, you can’t always have what you want. No, your power in this town is not unlimited. No, this proposal might be in your interest but it’s not in the overall interest of the community. In fact, the opposite is true, the plan is contrary to the interest of the community as a whole, a community of which the University is a significant part, but not the only part.

Until the Princeton Class of 1970 demanded change, FitzRandolph Gate, the main entrance of the University on Nassau Street in front of Nassau Hall, remained locked except at Commencement, symbolic of the University’s exclusion of the local community. But the 1970 class demanded the gate remain open as a symbol of the University’s openness to the local and worldwide community. It now appears that the gate has been shut once again.

Alan Y. Medvin

Longview Drive