#b#To the Editor: For Institute Housing Compromise Is Best#/b#
I am a resident of Yardley, PA, but work in Princeton. For many years I have attended talks at the Institute for Advanced Study, walked in its woods, and enjoyed simply sitting and reading by the pond. I would like to think that I am an objective and neutral observer, with no vested interest in the fight between the Institute for Advanced Study and the Princeton Battlefield Society beyond a desire to preserve the ability of this intellectual hub of history, social science, mathematics, and physics to continue and to improve.
But I cannot get past the thought that the Battlefield Society does itself more harm than good by continuing to obstruct what is a historically sensitive, well-reasoned, and ultimately well-within-its-rights proposal, put forth by the Institute.
Let’s look at the facts. The IAS project is on its own land. It seeks only one minor variance, to do away with street lights, which will also benefit its neighbors. The Institute was assured years ago by the state that it could build faculty housing in the location it now proposes. Do we not honor commitments any longer? It is undisputed that the Institute’s contribution of land to the existing Battlefield Park has made the park the large tract it is today. Moreover, the Institute has agreed to a compromise brokered by Congressman Holt and offered by noted historians James McPherson and David Hackett-Fisher that enhances battlefield commemoration. What more can one ask?
And still the Battlefield Society persists in its obstruction, causing endless public hearings and cost. Does it care so little for its reputation that it now turns to challenging the Institute over feigned wetlands issues? Having failed to persuade even preservationist scholars, what’s next, the proverbial kitchen sink? Enough. We are all suffering from battle fatigue.
May the Battlefield Society finally come to its senses and embrace the compromise, lest it snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I encourage the Princeton Regional Planning Board to approve the Institute’s faculty housing plan. It’s time to put this to rest.
#b#For Institute Housing A New Site Is Needed#/b#
Recently several people claiming to be “independent observers” have said that Princeton Battlefield Society has been unfair in challenging the Institute for Advanced Study’s proposed faculty housing project. Please note that the Battlefield Society was founded as the Princeton Battlefield Area Preservation Society, with the express mission of preserving and protecting the battlefield, much of which lies outside the park.
A number of people are under the impression that the Institute had a major role in founding the Park. Untrue. Governor Edge approached the Institute about contributing to the park in 1944, and he provided a map showing his plan. The IAS indicated to the governor that it was “interested” but did nothing to contribute to the park until 1973, almost 30 years later. At that time it sold two pieces of property to the state.
Further, it could be argued that the IAS undermined formation of the park by purchasing property that Governor Edge sough expressly for the park, much of which is still not a part of the park. This includes the site of the winning counterattack, the very property where the IAS wants to build its housing.
A recent letter to the press claimed that the state assured the Institute that it could build on the location it now proposes. This statement only represented the perspective of a single individual at the time. The state of New Jersey does not have authority over determinations of local land use.
Hopefully the IAS isn’t saying that it doesn’t have to meet the requirements of local land-use laws and environmental regulations. To qualify for Cluster Zoning, the developer must show that its project meets the standard 1-acre zoning required for this property. The institute has not done this. In addition, there are wetlands that were identified on the property in 1990 and again in 2011 that were somehow not included on maps submitted by the IAS to DEP.
The “compromise” that was offered to the Battlefield Society was essentially what the IAS was proposing all along. Professor McPherson clearly confirmed at the Planning Board meeting that the counterattack that won the battle occurred on the site the Institute wants to develop. This is something the Institute has denied.
The Planning Board should decide that this project with its multiple violations of land use and environmental regulations does not meet the requirements of the town’s ordinances and master plan.
Member, Princeton Battlefield Society, Dempsey Avenue
#b#Woodbridge for Princeton Mayor?#/b#
A recent newspaper editorial titled “Wanted: Candidates for Mayor” lamented the lack of candidates for mayor and expressed the hope that the only declared candidate “won’t be the last” as if asking, why aren’t there more candidates? A little hard reflection reveals why there aren’t more candidates.
First, the new mayor of the consolidated Princetons will have a full-time job. When I was mayor of Princeton Township the position averaged 5.5 hour per day. If that is added on top of responsibilities for the Borough and throw in the extra problems inherent in the transition period it is clear that the new mayor will have to average 9 to 10 hours a day on the job. It isn’t humanly possible to hold a job, even a part time job, and perform the new mayor’s duties properly.
Second, the new mayor will have to preside over a difficult form of government. It is no secret that the old fashioned Mayor/Council form of government is less efficient than the Township Committee form. The Borough always takes 50 percent more time and effort to do the same tasks as the Township Committee.
As a former Borough Council president I know we went further into the night than the Township Committee dealing with exactly the same issues. It has nothing to do with the smart and hard-working individuals elected.
It had, instead, everything to do with the fact that the Borough Council is seven people and the Township Committee is five. A group of five dedicated people can always get more done than a group of seven. The “Weak Mayor/Strong Council” form of government means that the Borough Mayor isn’t always in sync with the Council — that hurts effectiveness too.
Third, the pool of potential candidates is relatively small. Neither the Borough nor the Township has elected a Republican or Independent (or a Green Party or a Tea Party) candidate for a full generation. As the editorial pointed out “We think that a community the size of Princeton should have a non-partisan election.”
The Consolidation Study Commission missed the boat when it didn’t follow the lead of Trenton and West Windsor in moving to non-partisan elections. Trenton and West Windsor may have their issues, but at least they are politically diverse.
The last line of the editorial stated that “we hope to hear where other potential mayors would lead too.” I have been asked by several friends on both sides of the political aisle to consider running again for mayor. To get the ball rolling, I would be willing to run for the transition term as mayor. If you think it is a good idea (or a bad idea) please share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. Regardless, I hope that more candidates jump into the race and give Princeton some meaningful choices — and maybe even a fun and interesting campaign — this fall.
Richard C. Woodbridge
681 Prospect Avenue, Princeton