#b#WCC without Princeton Won’t Be the Same#/b#

I was never a student or teacher at Westminster Choir College, but over the years I have attended many a concert there and, as a playwright, I have had the pleasure of working with some of its amazingly talented students. The Westminster student body is relatively small, but every student I have ever met has been seriously, passionately devoted to singing or musical composition or the playing of one or more instruments. These fine young people know why they are there and seem to grow and thrive on Westminster’s beautiful Princeton campus. It is rare that a small American college can fit so harmoniously, as it were, into a quiet residential section of a bustling university town.

There is no doubt that Rider University has the right to pull the students and teachers out of Westminster, ship them down to Lawrenceville, and sell the Choir College campus. Some of the students will go, some will not, but the Choir College, even if it keeps that name, will never be the same school.

The quiet and beauty of the campus, not to mention the charming relationship between the College and its neighbors, have had a lot to do with why the College has attracted so many outstanding students. All such benefits will be lost if Rider abandons the Westminster’s campus.

Perhaps the folks at Rider should think about why they wanted to own Westminster in the first place. Surely it was not to make big bucks; rather, it was to acquire a small but enormously prestigious institution that could be a true asset to the Rider family. I gather that there were other schools like Yale and Juilliard that wanted to acquire Westminster, but Rider won out, in part by suggesting that it would keep the Choir College in Princeton rather than move it away. I hope that the management at Rider will remember what was said to the Westminster people at the time of the merger and will honor the spirit in which the merger between the two schools took place.

Marvin Harold Cheiten

#b#Drop Housing Suit; Develop a Plan#/b#

The following is an open letter to the mayor and council of Princeton:

Princeton Community Housing is a non-profit developer, manager and advocate for affordable homes and is the largest provider of low- and moderate-income rental homes in Princeton. Over five decades, Princeton Community Housing has worked collaboratively with the Princeton government and has developed and managed Princeton Community Village, Elm Court and Harriet Bryan House, as well as homes at Griggs Farm and other locations throughout town (See U.S. 1, November 23, 2016).

We have always supported the Mt. Laurel Doctrine – that each community in the state must provide, through its zoning codes, its fair share of a variety of housing options so that persons of all incomes may have an opportunity to find homes in their chosen community.

We were very disappointed to learn that on January 10, a trial expected to continue well into February began in the Mercer County Superior Court in Trenton. The goal of this proceeding, which is being advanced by Princeton and four other municipalities [ West Windsor, East Windsor, Hopewell, and Lawrence], is to obtain the lowest possible fair share housing allocation. Each municipality has appropriated $50,000 to cover the costs. The Mercer trial will be the second attempt to validate the allocations advocated by an expert hired by the municipalities. A similar 2016 trial in Middlesex County resulted in a finding that the municipal methodology failed, in almost all respects, to conform to the methodology ordered by the Supreme Court in 2015.

Far more important than a municipal fair share number is the development of a realistic compliance plan that results in zoning that permits a variety of housing options that can serve persons of all incomes. In Princeton a public process to build consensus on a compliance plan has been at a standstill since mid-2015 while legal maneuvers to reduce the fair share have taken precedence. With respect to low- and moderate-income homes, concern has been expressed that each affordable home must be financed by construction of four market-rate homes. Princeton Community Housing has demonstrated throughout its history that affordable homes can be created without sole reliance on inclusionary 80/20 zoning strategies, and we will continue to create affordable homes without reliance on 80/20 financing.

Every day we see the growing need for affordable homes. The lack of a sufficient number of homes at all price points prevents seniors from remaining in their community, forces workers to commute long distances, discourages employers from locating or expanding their businesses here, hinders economic growth, and limits the socioeconomic diversity that so many in Princeton appreciate.

We urge the Mayor and Council to end the fair share litigation by following the example of more than 90 other New Jersey municipalities: Negotiate a fair share allocation now utilizing the mediation process offered by the court, so that we can move forward together to plan and provide the homes that we all agree are needed.

We look forward to continuing our work to ensure that Princeton will remain an inclusive, income diverse, vibrant community of opportunity for persons of all backgrounds.

Richard Gittleman

Board President, Princeton Community Housing

Editor’s note: The “80/20 zoning strategy” refers to the strategy of building four units of market rate housing to subsidize one unit of affordable housing. Such a ratio concerns many municipalities because it raises issues of density and school overcrowding. But Princeton Community Housing officials maintain that 80/20 is not the only strategy. PCH features communities that are 100 percent affordable, a strategy that is possible because as a nonprofit it has access to federal and state funding sources, as well as grants, loans, and donations that can subsidize the development and operation of such affordable communities.

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