Letters to the Editor: Feb. 15, 2012
Improving the University’s relationship with the community
As both a Princeton graduate and former elected member of Princeton Township Committee, I find it unfortunate that the relationship between the University and the community has become more strained than at any time in memory.
As the more powerful party to acrimonious negotiations, I respectfully suggest that the University should act first. President Tilghman could repair this relationship with the following statement:
“Having witnessed the deterioration in the relationship between the citizens of Princeton and the University, and upon further reflection, Princeton University has changed course.”
First, the University commits to preserving and enhancing the Dinky in its current location, now and forever. Not only do the citizens of Princeton want the Dinky to remain in its historic location, but the faculty, alumni and students support this view. There is no reason to inconvenience our own students and faculty — or citizens — by moving the Dinky. Princeton will also take the lead in installing an additional field of solar panels to power the Dinky and commission a contest open to students, faculty and architects to recreate Dinky cars based on the trains that were part of Princeton’s past. Additionally, those trains will display the art of Princeton students. Princeton cannot set a negative example for its students by diminishing mass transit in the area; we must lead by example.
Any other position would mean years of litigation and massive traffic disruptions that may shut down the Dinky forever. Eliminating or moving the Dinky would unlawfully violate Princeton’s Master Plan directive to “maintain a ‘sense of place’ and small town quality that is distinctive to this community.” To this end, the plan proposes: “Maintain the scenic and historic gateways and enhance those that are less attractive.” Any effort to eliminate or move the Dinky — unquestionably a historic gateway — would violate the plan that makes Princeton unique.
I have spoken to Peter Lewis ’55, who generously gave money to the new Arts Council, and he does not want his gift tarnished by the ongoing Dinky controversy.
Second, Princeton University has rethought its contributions to the Township and Borough in lieu of taxes. Until today, Princeton has had the dubious distinction of making payments in lieu of taxes on the low end of the scale compared to other Ivy League institutions on a per capita basis. The University now commits to leading the Ivy League on a per capita basis and shall amicably settle litigation filed by the citizens of Princeton demanding tax equity.
Such a renewed vision would burnish President Tilghman’s already impressive record of far-sighted leadership.
Carl J. Mayer ’81
Saving the battlefield
This Thursday Feb. 16 at 7:30 p.m. will likely be the last meeting of the Princeton Regional Planning Board at 400 Witherspoon Street to decide the fateful go-ahead for the 15-unit housing facility that the Institute for Advanced Study wishes to build. The central disagreement seems to be about 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 I have found that one argument sticks out. An 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 counterattack,” did in fact take place on this IAS land. An IAS supporter came forward to say that he was 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 Jan. 3, 1777?
The IAS is pushing to develop this land. To date, it doesn’t even have all of the necessary approval regarding wet lands, zoning, variances, engineering issues and a 1992 resolution on cluster housing which one would surmise would be presented 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