Letters to the Editor, Jan. 23


Polarization blurs the big picture
To the editor:
Princeton’s current debates about the expansion of The Arts Council and the hospital would benefit from being put into a larger context. Without broadening the way some think about planning in Princeton, the needs of hospitals, schools, libraries and other nonprofits can easily overwhelm the needs and character of the neighborhoods in which they reside. It’s not so much that such institutions intend to become insensitive or menacing neighbors, but often their legitimate impulses to expand are so intensely driven by internal needs that consideration of neighborhood impacts are lost. Historically, when such tensions have arisen in Princeton, power struggles have ensued that make each side seem to the other like an adversary to be defeated, rather than a neighbor with whom to work things out.
   It is unfortunate that the intrinsic value of neighborhoods and the public good they serve do not seem to be recognized as readily as those institutions that operate in the public good. But a defining characteristic of downtown Princeton is that it is surrounded by vibrant, stable neighborhoods, rich in history. The greater good served by these neighborhoods may be less tangible, less public and less measurable than the services provided by institutions, but I would argue that it is as important to the vitality, health and well-being of the larger Princeton community.
   As a community, we need to be careful not to take for granted the in-town neighborhoods that help to define who we are. Those who live outside these neighborhoods will no doubt always outnumber those who live in them. These numbers can easily be used by the shortsighted to argue for the subordination of neighborhood needs to those of institutions. This, however, can lead to the slow, incremental degradation of such neighborhoods until they are lost. In any planning process, it is therefore essential that the protection of neighborhoods be placed on an equal footing with the requirements of institutions wanting to expand within them. Each and every major decision needs to be considered in the light of both.
   To some, vibrant neighborhood cohesiveness defended in public sounds like narrow self-interest. To others, public demand for institutional growth sounds like a declaration of war. But to me, such strident reactions indicate a process gone wrong. Unfortunate history has spawned polarized positions between some institutions and some neighborhoods in Princeton. What is lost in maintaining these positions is the possibility of learning what we don’t know about the other side that might make it possible to find solutions that benefit both sides and the community as a whole. As we move forward in this adventure together, it is my hope that we will put aside polarized positions and learn better how to work toward consensus and equity for neighborhoods and institutions.
Susan Ewing Jefferies
Jefferson Road
Councilman pledges to be good listener
To the editor:
I just wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank everyone who participated in the selection process to fill the vacancy on Princeton Borough Council. I think the Princeton Borough Democratic Committee and its vice chair, Shirley Kauffman, as well as Mayor O’Neill and Borough Council, are to be commended for their efforts to involve the community in this important choice. I also think our local press did a good job informing the public on the details of the somewhat bewildering process required by state law.
   I want to especially thank the able people who also sought appointment to the vacancy: Mark Freda, Jenny Crumiller and Anne Waldron Neumann. The "mini-campaign" was, I believe, a very good race — friendly and focused on the issues. I think I learned a great deal from the discussion. I know all three will remain active in this community, and I very much look forward to working with them.
   My goal as a member of Princeton Borough Council is to be a good representative. In my mind, a good representative devotes his time and energy working together with the people of this community on the problems that face us all. I believe it is essential for a council member to be a good listener. I believe that the best policy decisions are arrived at through thorough and open discussion, with all points of view fully aired and considered.
   So please, if you have a concern or question about any issue, do not hesitate to give me a call. I can be reached by mail at 70 Spruce St, Princeton 08542, at my home phone at (609) 252-0264, or at my e-mail address, andykoontz@aol.com.
   I’m looking forward to serving this community, and I want to hear from you.
Andrew Koontz
Spruce Street
Township officials respond to problem
To the editor:
It happens all too often that our township officials hear negative comments about their performance. I would like, however, to offer some positive feedback and words of appreciation to our township’s Traffic Safety Committee and Council.
   As president of the Riverside Neighborhood Association, an organization of over 100 households dedicated to preserving the safety, nature and character of our community, along with our vice president, Cheryl Marx, and RNA board member John Denny, I recently had the opportunity to meet with the committee, and later to participate in a council meeting regarding what we believe to be unsafe traffic conditions in our neighborhood.
   At the committee meeting, we were afforded ample time to enumerate our concerns and given each member’s complete attention, while the issues raised and our suggestions for mitigation were met with respect and open minds.
   On behalf of the entire RNA, I would like to thank our township engineer, Bob Kiser, who presides over the committee, and our traffic safety officer, Sgt. Michael Henderson, for their thoughtful consideration and willingness to take prompt and decisive action.
   Resulting from Mr. Kiser’s leadership, the committee’s recommendation to council and the council’s recognition of and willingness to solve a serious problem, we now have a 4-ton gross weight limit on trucks utilizing Prospect Avenue, making our neighborhood significantly safer, while maintaining its historically quiet and country-like character.
   Other measures to enhance safety and solve current and potential traffic congestion are being considered, again thanks to our township officials’ accessibility, attention and action. On behalf of the entire Riverside community, the RNA commends and thanks you.
Jodi M. Tolman
Riverside Neighborhood Association
Prospect Avenue
Thanks to jeweler, holiday was a real gem
To the editor:
I would like to tell everyone a Christmas story.
   My teenage daughter had saved up for some time to purchase a silver ID bracelet for her boyfriend for Christmas. After she purchased it, she took it to be engraved. The engravers cut a large chunk into the nameplate, and then said they had received it from our hands that way. Then, when they did try to fix it, they succeeded only in damaging half the silver on the nameplate. They then said nothing more could be done.
   The poor girl was devastated, because now they had ruined her Christmas present. Then we thought to take it to a reputable jeweler in Princeton, Forest Jewelers. The young lady at the counter comforted us, and called Mr. Forest over. He looked at it and said it was badly damaged but he would try to regrind it and shine it. It sounded like a lot of work needed to be done, so with trepidation I asked him how much these repairs would cost. He said there would be no charge, and he restored the bracelet to its original state — it looked beautiful.
   Needless to say, we were very grateful. My daughter was so happy. Her Christmas had been saved. And they did this when there were very busy with Christmas customers.
   So we just want everyone to know that if they need to purchase jewelry, please do business with these nice people.
Dorayne DeMoore
Emerald Road
Kendall Park
Library endorsement was illegal action
To the editor:
Members of the Princeton Township Committee knew, or should have known, that it was illegal for them to support a big, new library in the borough without first obtaining a vote from township residents.
   A joint library can be established by law only when "the question of such undertaking shall be submitted to the legal voters of each such municipality" (N.J.S.A. 40:54-29.6). In 1960, the voters of Princeton, prior to voting, were informed regarding the cost, nature and location of the library being proposed. It was to be a two-story, conventional-type library, located in the borough and served by an adjacent ground-level parking lot. The voters approved, and the library was built.
   In 2001, this library was not remodeled, updated or expanded. It was torn down completely. A new, very different library is being constructed on the same site. It is frequently described by library officials as a "new world-class library." It will be almost twice the size of the 1960 library, and will serve as a cultural center, a conference center, an art gallery, a sales center, a coffee house and a computer software lending center. The ground-level parking lot has been replaced by a four-story parking garage. Due to its extra size, the cost of library operations will be greater than it was in the past.
   When voting in favor of a "joint library" in 1960, Princeton residents were voting in favor of the particular library that had been proposed. They were not giving local or library officials a blank check to put up any sort of library these officials happened to like. Thus, when that voter-approved library was torn down and a new, very different library was proposed, the former vote in favor of a joint library was no longer valid and, to conform to New Jersey law, a new vote was needed.
   In 1960, residents of Princeton Township had every reason to vote in favor of having one library located in the borough. Princeton was then a small town where the borough had the larger population and contained most of its important facilities. But Princeton today is a far bigger place where the township has the larger population and includes what amounts of Princeton’s second downtown — the Princeton Shopping Center. The shopping center contains Princeton’s only supermarket, only hardware store, only pet supply store, and its largest exercise center, largest beauty salon and largest drugstore/pharmacy, plus 35 other stores, offices and restaurants.
   Had a proper vote been held, township residents would certainly have voted for a branch library in the shopping center. The least the Township Committee can do now to compensate for its "error" is to create in that part of the present library not yet rented a small branch library. It will consist of 3,000 square feet between the cafe and the front door and will include shelves, tables, chairs, desks, older computers and hundreds of books not wanted in the "new world-class library." It could later be expanded into the larger branch township residents would have chosen if they had not been deprived of the vote to which they were legally entitled.
Bert Wohl
Randall Road