February 21, 2024

Newly Adopted Master Plan Puts Princeton on New Path Forward

To the Editor:

A small, but very vocal group of residents has decided to launch a lawsuit against Princeton’s newly adopted Master Plan. Their group’s name? The Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development. Their objection? The new Master Plan modestly expands the number of neighborhoods where small-scale multifamily housing can be built. This lawsuit is nothing more than NIMBYism cloaked in legal jargon, and it threatens to stall Princeton’s progress at a crucial juncture.

Today, affordable housing advocates from across New Jersey point to zoning, adopted decades ago, as a textbook example of de facto segregation. The map designates the vast majority of neighborhoods as “off-limits” to missing middle housing types like duplexes and townhomes. The stated justification may have been “preserving neighborhood character,” but the intent was clear. As Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman described in a piece last year, “By limiting the size and type of buildings that can be built in a particular locality, exclusionary zoning limits the ability of lower-income people and people of color to reside in certain communities. This is nothing short of racial segregation by proxy.”

The newly adopted Master Plan, by contrast, puts Princeton on a new path. By expanding the areas where multifamily housing is legal, it’s an essential first step to attracting young families, fostering diversity, and addressing our critical shortage of more affordable housing options. The Planning Department deserves recognition for the collaborative process that led to the new Master Plan. And the Planning Board should be applauded for adopting it unanimously.

This lawsuit is not just about lines on a map; it’s about our future. Can Princeton be a vibrant, diverse community that welcomes all, or will we succumb to the forces of exclusion and stagnation? The new Master Plan gives me hope that our best days lie ahead. We must not let progress be thwarted by a few who seek to maintain a privileged status quo.

Danny Tenenbaum
Hibben Magie Road