On Monday, March 14, University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 joined the Princeton Town Council meeting to give an update and field questions regarding University-town relations. The Council also introduced its 2022 budget and discussed updates to Graduate Hotel construction.
In his address to the Council, Eisgruber emphasized the shared vision and cooperation between the University and the municipality.
“We are fortunate to live in a tremendous community that is defined both by the town and by the University,” Eisgruber said.
“That community has continued in many ways to get better over time,” he added.
Eisgruber also reflected on the challenges of the past couple years.
“We [the town and the University] needed to partner with one another in constructive ways. We knew one another and that element of trust was there. We have shared interests, but we’re also going to disagree sometimes,” Eisgruber said. “But even there, I think if we're able to have those constructive conversations, we're going to be able to find good solutions.”
Council members also commented on the town and gown relationship.
“People should be aware of all that the University does, whether it's through financial support of many organizations or whatever,” Mayor Mark Freda said.
“All during COVID,” the mayor added, “the University was helping us a lot behind the scenes as we were working with and, at times, putting pressure on county and state officials and staff to do the right thing, to help roll out vaccines, and do as much as possible.”
Eisgruber outlined Princeton’s contribution to the municipality in his annual report to the Council. This includes nearly $8.5 million given to the municipality in 2021 and 2022, as well as $11.3 million in taxes in 2021, of which about $6.2 million were “voluntary tax payments for properties that are eligible for exemption from property taxes.” The University also established a $1 million Princeton University Relief Fund to “provide direct support to community organizations and businesses.”
“The whole theme is about joint planning, joint initiatives. I think the word ‘joint’ is the key word there, and we are looking forward to exploring how we could do more things together,” Freda said. “I'm very encouraged for the future and all that we can do together for this town.”
Next in the meeting, Mayor Freda and the Council introduced the 2022 budget, totaling to nearly $68 million. The Council will hold a public hearing about the budget on April 11, 2022 to discuss matters including whether or not to exceed the municipal budget appropriation limits.
The Council also heard updates on the Graduate Hotel construction, which revolved around safety concerns that will make parts of Chambers Street one-way during construction. This came as a surprise to Council members, who said that, when the project was approved, they were promised that Chambers Street would remain a two-way street for the entirety of construction. While Council members are still excited about the project, many, including Councilmember Mia Sacks, expressed worries about this early retraction.
“We’re just at the beginning of this. This is a really long project and this is not a good start,” she said.
Councilmember Eve Niedergang GS ’85 shared similar concerns.
“How can we trust your [Graduate Hotel representatives] word on anything else?” she asked.
The Graduate Hotel representatives explained that there were safety concerns that forced this decision. Many of them, like real estate attorney Christopher DeGrezia, were not part of the first meetings.
“We have constraints that, unfortunately, we're stuck with. We're trying to find the best course by taking advice from fire, police, and emergency services and coming up with something that is safe and minimizes any type of disturbance the best we can,” DeGrezia said.
With this new situation, Council will now talk with their administrators and staff about next steps, and Mayor Freda hopes they will readdress it in the next council meeting, which will be on Monday, March 28 at 7 p.m.
The full meeting can be viewed here.
Charlie Roth is a Staff News Writer for the ‘Prince,’ focusing on local town coverage. He can be reached at email@example.com or @imcharlieroth on Twitter or Instagram.