We in journalism operate in one of those worlds where you generally hear from your customers (the readers, in our case) when you make a mistake, not when you get it right.
This week we had several exceptions to that rule, one of which was doubly unusual. One exception came from Kate Somers of the Bernstein Gallery at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, where the woodblock prints created by the “Assembly of Revolutionary Artists of Oaxaca” (ASARO) in Mexico are now on display (U.S. 1, February 8).
Somers E-mailed the writer, Ilene Dube: “Thank you so much for a wonderful article on ASARO. Kevin McCloskey [a professor who has helped bring the artwork to the public’s attention] was thrilled with it (you ‘got it’) and took home half a dozen copies of the paper. We had a wonderful panel discussion.”
Our inbox received a letter in a similar vein from SAVE, the small animal rescue shelter that was featured in our annual Helping Hands issue (December 21). See the full text on page 4.
Then came the doubly unusual thank you note concerning the letters to the editor section in our February 8 edition. It was unusual first because it appeared in an online posting (where the comments are almost always negative) and second because it praised action that for most of us in this business should be an after-thought:
“Thank you so much for the footnote after Rachel Gray’s letter, listing her affiliation with the Institute for Advanced Study. Ms. Gray also has a letter in this week’s Princeton Packet in favor of the Institute housing plan — no mention of her connection. There is also a letter in the Packet from Peter R. Kann. Mr. Kann razzes our community as not being ‘sensible’ in opposing the Institute plan. What Mr. Kann doesn’t tell you is that he is a trustee of the Institute. How is that for intellectual honesty?”
(Editor’s note: Gray’s letter included no affiliation, but one of our editors recognized her name as a former Institute employee and she cheerfully provided the details of her role there when asked. Kann’s letter was not sent to U.S. 1 so we do not know if his affiliation was mentioned or not in his original submission.)
The author of the complimentary post was Michael Littman, an engineering professor at Princeton, who added that he had not yet decided “whether the Institute Plan is sensible or not. But I am sorely offended by Institute cheerleaders who forget to tell you their bias or their conflicts of interest.”
Meanwhile, the debate over the housing plan (U.S. 1, January 25) is expected to continue at the Regional Planning Board on Thursday, February 16.
#b#The Battlefield’s Historic Context#/b#
It might be useful to take a step back in understanding that the site of the Battle of Princeton counterattack was envisioned from the beginning to be a vital part of Princeton Battlefield State Park.
In 1944 C.S. Sincerbeaux, a well-respected civil engineer, prepared a map for the American Scenic and Historical Preservation Society showing Washington’s counterattack at the Battle of Princeton. He showed the Counterattack to be on what is now the proposed faculty housing site. He was amazingly accurate. We know now that he placed the Continental Army attack line just a little west of where archaeological and original account evidence now place it. But Sincerbeaux’s map clearly shows that this line crossed the site.
This map then became the basis for Governor Walter Edge’s park boundary lines, and his parcel-by-parcel determination of what needed to be acquired to establish the park. He persuaded the state legislature to pass the necessary appropriation. His representative, George Brakeley, then approached the Institute for Advanced Study and asked the Institute to contribute 36 acres to the project. Governor Edge also sent a copy of the Sincerbeaux map to the Institute. The Institute, at that time, indicated that it was favorably disposed to working with the governor in putting the park together. Then in 1945 the Institute purchased 129.99 acres from Robert Maxwell including the site of the counterattack — a site that Governor Edge passionately wanted to be in the park.
It is not clear whether Mr. Maxwell knew at that time that Governor Edge was acquiring properties for the park, but Maxwell did retain ownership of a small parcel where it was believed that General Mercer had fallen. Later he sold that property to the state for $1 for the park. I have a copy of the telegram that Maxwell sent to Governor Edge from West Palm Beach offering the property in a quick response to the governor’s 1946 request. Agnes Pyne Hudson also gifted property to the park in 1947. Other parcels were purchased, some acquired under the threat of eminent domain.
In 1947 Governor Alfred Driscoll replaced Governor Edge in the State House, and continued to work with Brakeley in developing the park. Extraordinarily Governor Driscoll also continued to coordinate closely on park development former Governor Edge.
Governor Driscoll sent another copy of the Sincerbeaux map to the Institute. Negotiations with the Institute dragged on for 25 years. Finally, in 1973, the Institute for Advanced Study agreed to deed two parcels to the park. One, a parcel of 12.264 acres, was sold to the state, not gifted, for $335,000. This site bordered the Friends’ Meeting property and was the site of a previously proposed housing development. The other, in the amount of 19.38 acres, was on the east side of the park between the Clarke House and the Institute. Since that time, however, there has continued to be interest by the state in adding additional pieces of the Battlefield to the park. The public record includes a letter addressed to the Institute in 2002 from Alvin Payne, acting director of parks and forestry, who stated: “ I would like to request that the planning board and the institute reevaluate this proposal to develop this land.
I would like to recommend the institute work with the state’s Green Acres program and allow the state to purchase these parcels.” When an issue is as charged as the proposed Institute faculty housing project is, it is important to get as clear an historical understanding as possible.
Princeton Battlefield Society
Thursday, February 16, will likely be the last meeting of the Planning Board to decide the fateful go ahead for the 15-unit housing facility that the IAS wishes to build. The central argument seems to be whether there was a battle on this IAS land. In the past several months I have attended all of the planning meetings and have been following articles in the newspapers and one point sticks out.
The ABPP Study along with testimonials of published historians clearly states that about 60 percent of the battle or what many like to call Washington’s counter attack did take place on this IAS land. An IAS supporter came forward to say that he is tired of hearing about this so-called sacred land. What else can we call ground where over 500 American and British soldiers died or were wounded on January 3, 1777?
The IAS is pushing to develop this land and to date they don’t even have all of their approvals including wet lands, zoning, variances, engineering issues, and a 1992 resolution on cluster housing, which one would surmise would be put forth before going to the Planning Board. I join many others who are passionate for history and its preservation in a biodegradable society that cares more about tearing down and building up. History is becoming an endangered species!
R. Iain Haight-Ashton
Site Director, Wyckoff-Garretson House, Somerset
The hearing for the IAS application to build affordable faculty housing on a portion of the Princeton Battlefield is scheduled on February 16. So many people have written in on both sides of the issue and there is still much confusion and sadly, division.
The IAS application concerns land that was part of the battle in 1777. It has survived all this time relatively untouched, used as farm fields. The land was the focal point of Washington’s counterattack. The parcel of land is owned by the IAS.
To use the land in question requires permission for a zoning change . The Institute indicates that they have complied with all the regulations associated with the change and should be granted permission.
The Princeton Battlefield Society had attorney Bruce Afron check whether the Institute complied with the regulations. Afron examined the application and asked experts to review. The cluster regulations require a certain amount of land be used to meet the unit requirements and that land be free of wetlands. The IAS did not meet the minimum requirements free of wetlands. For the IAS to pursue this application would be a waste of money and increase the cost associated with their wish to provide affordable faculty housing.
I do not know who wrote “let us be judged by what we leave behind,” but it applies to this situation. I know the IAS wishes to build and I know the Battlefield Society and our neighbors have offered alternatives. I would rather aid the IAS to find an alternative, than continue down this destructive path. What we leave behind could be “judged” a greater good and that would be welcome by all.
#b#SAVE’s Good News#/b#
I am reaching out to let you know how impressed I am with your remarkable staff! Back when SAVE was interviewed for the December 21 cover article, I had the pleasure of working with editor Jamie Saxon, writer Euna Kwon Brossman, and Mark Czajkowski (your freelance photographer). They did an amazing job.
The end result was very positive for SAVE and to this day I continue to receive the nicest compliments about the U.S. 1 write-up. Further, SAVE has received many donations as well as numerous inquiries about the shelter’s adoption and volunteer programs. This would not have been possible if it weren’t for your talented and dedicated staff.
Piper H. Burrows
Executive director, SAVE, A Friend to Homeless Animals, 900 Herrontown Road