October 13, 2021

Hoping Strong Community Response Will Persuade PU to Rethink Prospect Plans

To the Editor:

I am always glad to see the latest issue of Princeton University’s Community Connections newsletter in our mailbox. The offerings and updates there remind me that Princeton University was an added advantage when a career relocation brought our family to this town in 2003. The University’s beautiful setting and generous offerings to “townies” like ourselves were also one of the reasons why we decided to downsize but stay here after I retired from ETS in 2020. There is a sense in which the community encompasses the University and the University enriches the community.

Therefore, I continue to struggle to understand the move by the University to demolish houses on Prospect Avenue. There was no article on that in the latest issue of Community Connections; perhaps because this move discomfits many residents and seems to violate that spirit of community. In a community, if you are taking an action that would affect your neighbors you go over and have a talk with them to let them know that a tree might be coming down or construction might be occurring. In this case, Princeton University seems not to have attempted that kind of consultation and, from the statements of its officials, appears to believe that such consultation is unnecessary. Such a stance is a mistake in the community, but at this stage it is not irreparable.

I hope that the strong response by the community to an unnecessary demolition that we believe would create harmful change to one of the most beautiful avenues in New Jersey will persuade Princeton University belatedly to rethink their plans. Obviously, such a situation calls for full-fledged communication in which parties do not speak past each other, but speak to each other. Such communication requires not just an expression of one’s existing views, but also active solicitation of the views of others. When a polarity of views exists as in this matter, the first step in such an interdependent situation is to try to understand the other side’s concerns. Such communication leads to compromise that provides a good enough outcome for all concerned.

I sincerely hope that will be the case here in our community as we approach the next meeting of the Princeton Planning Board on Thursday, October 21. I hope that all members of the community will consider attending what could be a turning point in this relationship.

T.J. Elliott
Cedar Lane