Odds and ends for a column:
Odd, I thought, that none of the newspapers immediately jumped on the story about the auction of 17 Hibben Road in Princeton’s western section. The Trenton Times had the story first, and U.S. 1 followed with a more detailed story in our February 9 issue. By the time the auction was held last Thursday, February 17, I would have expected all the print media to be on board for the outcome. But none of the other papers printed a follow-up — perhaps not only a sign of the newspaper industry’s current condition but also the cause of it.
For the record (and to satisfy our readers’ curiosity), here’s what happened, according to various knowledgeable real estate sources: The house, purchased by the current seller in 2004 for around $2.6 million, at one point was on the market at $4.2 million. Then came the real estate crash and interest fell off the edge of a cliff.
Enter the auctioneer, who held a “no reserve” auction, meaning that the highest bidder would get the property, no matter how low the bid. Seven bidders showed up (each having anteed up $100,000 to prove their financial mettle). Within a half hour it was over, with a winning bid of a reported $1.75 million submitted by an official in the Christie administration, represented by Valerie Simone of Coldwell Banker.
While the parties involved will not confirm these numbers, the final purchase price — with the addition of auctioneer’s fees, etc. — might be closer to $2 million. Still, does this transaction mean that Princeton real estate has fallen 50 percent in the present downturn? Not really. As one real estate source noted, this transaction says more about 17 Hibben than it does about the market. At the top of the market $4.2 million was too much, even for people willing to buy at the top end. Then the market dropped and the dated interior and somewhat unconventional layout of 17 Hibben turned off prospective bargain hunters. It finally took the auction and its assurance of a true bargain to trigger a deal.
Odd, I think, that some conservatives can be so opposed to government’s “intrusion” into healthcare and gun control and yet simultaneously so resolute in their efforts to intervene in women’s personal reproductive decisions.
Odd, I also think, that some progressives can be so pro-labor but at the same time so adamant about not raising the retirement age for Social Security, not even 30 years from now. If I were a politician I’d trade a few years of Social Security payments for some funding for a program that would give older workers training to become teachers’ aides.
Odd, I think, reflecting on my recent column about the weather, that more companies don’t try to cash in on the public’s hysterical reaction to the prospect of a few inches of snow hitting the ground. In response to that column Dan Zibman of West Windsor wrote that “in the winter snow tires are essential. All season tires, which most vehicles have, are all useless when snow and ice build up on road surfaces, regardless of what kind of vehicle you have (two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive).”
As Zibman points out, “yes, it costs more to have a set (on all four wheels) of snow tires and it can be somewhat troublesome to have them mounted soon after Thanksgiving (and removed after tax day). But snow tires can make the difference when conditions become extreme.”
Only a few of us can recall the ordeal of switching tires with the seasons (I used to buy extra wheels from junk yards so that the snow tires didn’t have to be mounted and then unmounted). But I’m willing to bet that in this you-can’t-be-too-safe-at-any-speed world in which we live, someone could sell a lot of snow tires (along with extra milk and bread) when the next “blizzard” looms.
Some sad ends. The end of the Ace hardware store on Schalks Crossing Road in Plainsboro saddened me almost as much as the closing of Lahiere’s restaurant on Witherspoon Street. You wouldn’t go to either establishment on a regular basis, but when you needed them you really needed them.
Some uncertain ends. Whatever else happens, the controversy over where the tiny rail line linking Princeton Borough with the main line of the railroad at Princeton Junction will end at least focuses some public attention on this little known transit link.
Some have argued that the university’s desire to move the terminus of the Dinky line 460 feet further away from town is no hardship. In fact, wouldn’t most people benefit from an extra 460 feet of exercise? Of course, but that’s not my point. In my mind the move would maintain the progression of locating transit stops on the edge of town, not in the heart of town. No wonder mass transit is marginalized and cars remain the king of the road.
On my last visit to the Dinky station a few weeks ago, I crossed paths with John Nash, the “Beautiful Mind” and recipient of the Nobel Prize, no doubt catching a train for the short commute back to his house in Princeton Junction. If I had had my wits about me, I would have asked him about the efficiency of the proposed new location. Could the “Nash Equilibrium” shed some light on the problem?
At that point he would probably view me as odd, and the discussion — like this particular column — would come to a quick and merciful end.