Improvements to the historically Black Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood and a sidewalk on Snowden Street were major topics of discussion when the Princeton Town Council met on Monday, Oct. 23.
Jim Purcell, Assistant Municipal Engineer at the Municipality of Princeton, presented a report of actions within the office. One of the notable updates was on a proposal to reallocate $750,000 from the Witherspoon Street Improvement Project to the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Improvements Project that was proposed at the previous council meeting.
The town received the $750,000 in funds, provided by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which would have focused specifically on improvements of Witherspoon Street. However, at a meeting on Oct. 9, 2023, a resolution was introduced to reallocate the money, as the funds could not be used for the Witherspoon Street Improvements Project since that was also being funded by a different grant.
A document accompanying the resolution of the reallocation explained that “improvements to [the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood] are a natural extension of the Witherspoon Street project,” and various residential streets would be affected, including Green Street, Quarry Street, Maclean Street, Lytle Street, Clay Street, Leigh Avenue, and Birch Avenue.
However, Purcell explained that the federal government had blocked the reallocation of funds, saying that “HUD has thrown a roadblock up about [that] and they really want us to use it for the Witherspoon Street improvements project.” He noted that the update would not stop the planned project from occurring, though the municipality would have to look to other sources of funding to continue the project.
The Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, which has historically been a majority-Black neighborhood, working class demographic, is now a plurality white. In the past, it has been subject to various preservation measures due to its historical significance, though the new project would have focused on “roadway, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure” within the neighborhood.
Police Chief Jon Bucchere also discussed the partnership that the Princeton Police Department had formed with Uber to provide a late-night rideshare program, initially launched on May 5, with the intention of eliminating drunk-driving. Bucchere described the partnership as “successful,” saying that they have provided “over 100 free rides to people that have patronized many of the local restaurants and bars in town.”
The public comments primarily focused on concern over a lack of a sidewalk on certain portions of Snowden Lane.
Kristi Cole, a local community member who had started a petition, said that the absence of a sidewalk “prevents children who live half a mile from [Littlebrook Elementary School] from safely walking or biking to school, and the same [is true] for children coming from the east side of town going over to Princeton Middle School and Princeton High School. It’s just not a safe passage.”
Pallavi Nuka, parent of three children in middle and high school, emphasized the need to start development as soon as possible due to ongoing construction projects.
“With the construction that’s going on in that part of town, we think there’s going to be an increase in the people who are using the roads. There will be more cyclists, there will be more pedestrians, and there will be more cars.”
However, Council President Mia Sacks said that construction has faced issues, pointing out that “financial expenditures are quite immense and [we] have to keep in mind how many taxpayers are benefitting from projects and how many taxpayers are paying for it.” She emphasized that the members of the Council were not opposed to the concept of the project. “If we could build a sidewalk there right now easily, we would.”
Steve Hiltner, another town resident, also spoke, saying that “It’s sad to see a charming country road have to be expanded somehow. But times have changed and there’s much more intense traffic along there and it is very dangerous and I’ve seen cars in the ditch as well — I’ve had to try to save one from being lost in the ditch.”
“It’s just dangerous for everybody,” he said.
The next meeting will be held on Nov. 27.
Abby Leibowitz is a staff News writer for the ‘Prince.‘
Christopher Bao is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’
Ethan Caldwell is a News contributor for the ‘Prince.’
Please send any corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.
Correction: A previous version of this piece incorrectly reported Pallavi Nuka's name. The 'Prince' regrets this error.