Leighton Newlin, Princeton
Last week an open letter was written to Princeton’s mayor and council from a neighborhood consortium comprised of residents who live on Jefferson Road, Franklin Avenue, Harris Road, and Carnahan Place.
The letter was written and signed by no less than 47 people, and seems to imply that residents of the Witherspoon/Jackson (WJ) community are in support of particular aspects of the letter regarding the development of affordable housing sites referenced in its content.
Nothing could be further from the truth and what is more startling is that the letter makes a veiled attempt to both speak for and represent the people and the opinion of the WJ community without one attached signature from anyone who lives here, and a pre-emptive warning strike to mayor and council that the decisions made with regard to the development of the Franklin Avenue lot site will be met with strong opposition and impact future electability.
Since when did any consortium or group of people speak for the WJ community other than those of us who live here? Certainly not in 2010 when property taxes doubled and tripled in some cases, forcing families to sell, and negatively impacting racial diversity and the socio-economic mix of a proud neighborhood.
While those who live within close proximity to the AvalonBay development share concerns on the impact it will have on the neighborhood, the Franklin Avenue parking site is situated in the center of town and in the only area that historically has promoted affordability and cultural diversity.
The fact that the letter also recalls that Jackson Street (where only people of color lived) was replaced by Palmer Square residences is laughable for two reasons — it’s not near the Jefferson Road and Moore Street neighborhood, and it happened over 50 years ago — and while absolutely relevant to the African American community, has not now or ever held any significance to those who live on Jefferson Road, Moore Street, Harris Road, or Carnahan Place.
Mayor and council have responsibility for all of the citizens of this town, and the decisions they make must represent a broad consensus of all the people who live here. To bend, bow, or break for the wishes of a few, who no matter how packaged or presented want only to promote their own agenda would be unfair and discriminatory.
In the coming months, Princeton along with other towns in New Jersey will receive their “fair share” affordable housing obligation. It will be up to leadership to insure that what comes after, will allow people of low income, immigrants, and the disadvantaged the ability to live and work here, educate their children here, and not be victimized or negatively impacted by exclusionary zoning.
Leighton Newlin, Princeton