September 22, 2021

Should Princeton Remain a Town, or Become a Metropolis?

To the Editor:

Last week, U.S. News & World Report released its annual ranking of the best colleges in the country, from large research universities to small liberal arts schools.

Once again — and for the 11th consecutive year — Princeton University ranked first. This means that Princeton has now ranked either first or second in the country for 29 out of the past 30 years.

That is an impressive accomplishment. And it should be noted, the University achieved this throughout by being a moderate-sized institution in a charming, historic college town.

In fact, the first line of U.S. News’ review is: “The ivy-covered campus of Princeton University is located in the quiet town of Princeton, New Jersey.”

And this ingredient of success is a key reason why so many students, faculty, and residents have been drawn here.

But, all of this could change very soon. As this newspaper has reported, the University is on a massive expansion push — and its chief architect, Ron McCoy, is calling Princeton a “city” rather than a town.

“Successful cities evolve,” Mr. McCoy insists, as he proposes to replace longtime residential neighborhoods with new departmental buildings, and much more. His projects include two new dormitories in the form of eight six-story gray towers with the capacity to house 1,000 additional students, the new East Campus with a 1,560-car parking garage and a sprawling 15-acre engineering complex that needlessly runs over the Princeton Historic District on Prospect Avenue, and up to 200 acres of further development of a new Lake Campus.

Is the University at risk of losing sight of what made it so successful over the years? Is our town at risk of the same, as its largest player seeks to turn it into a city?

Cities face many serious problems: traffic, noise, pollution, crowds, housing, parking, infrastructure, and the list goes on.

Obviously, from so many years of top rankings, it’s clear that success is not tied to getting big. So what type of place would you rather live in? Do you want Princeton to remain a town or become a metropolis?

We do have some say in the matter. Tomorrow night, our town Planning Board will hold a public Zoom meeting to decide the fate of the University’s proposal to impose their engineering complex onto the historic Prospect Avenue neighborhood, with a site plan so vast that it “dwarfs most projects on Route 1,” as another resident wrote.

Please tune in Thursday at 7 p.m. (link at and tell the Planning Board whether this is in the public interest on our public street, as they request our input to make their final decision.

Barbara Parmet
Harrison Street