A suit challenging the University’s decision to move the Dinky station as part of its development of the Arts and Transit Neighborhood went to court on Friday. Judge Paul Innes of the Mercer County chancery court heard arguments from both sides in Trenton and will release a decision later this month.
The University is in the process of relocating the station about 460 feet south of its previous location. The move, which has provoked ire from locals over the past several years, is part of a $330 million complex that will include rehearsal and performance spaces. The Arts and Transit Neighborhood is scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.
Local advocacy group Save the Dinky and several other local residents have sued to permanently bar the University from moving the station. The group has also filed for a stay on the University’s construction until the suit is resolved.
The suit is one of six pending lawsuits challenging the move of the Dinky station. Other suits challenge the various legal approvals that local authorities granted for the project and the University’s process of obtaining them.
The University purchased the Dinky station from NJ Transit in 1984 with plans to move it roughly 100 feet to the south, the location where it stood until this past summer. The purchase agreement requires that the University maintain a station platform at least 170 feet long and states that the University may “move the existing terminus of the rail line southward coincident with the location of the minimum reservation of platform space.” Representatives of NJ Transit have affirmed their agreement with this interpretation.
Philip Rosenbach, attorney for the plaintiffs, challenged this interpretation at the hearing, arguing that the terms of the purchase do not grant the University the right to move the station. He contended that the agreement only allowed the University the right to move the station southward by a maximum of 170 feet, the length of the platform.
Jonathan Epstein, an attorney with Drinker Biddle & Reath, argued on behalf of the University that the contract only requires the University to construct and maintain a new platform of 170 feet in the event of a move. Kenneth Worton, deputy attorney general of NJ Transit, also appeared in court since NJ Transit is named as another defendant in the suit.
Innes noted that the language of the 1984 purchase agreement appears to contradict the contention that the seller, NJ Transit, intended to place limits on the University’s alterations to the property.
The University filed a motion to have the case dismissed this past May, arguing that the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to make their challenge. Innes denied this motion in June. He said at the Friday hearing that he had expected to hear more arguments concerning the issue of parking, as plaintiffs have previously expressed concerns that the University may not uphold its parking obligations in its redevelopment of the area.