At the end of its third and final hearing on the University’s Arts and Transit site plan held on Tuesday December 18, 2012, the Planning Board voted 9 to 1 to approve the University plan, including the plan to move the Dinky and to remove many of the character-defining features of the historic station. Less than 24 hours later, at the outset of its December 19, hearing, the Board adopted a 45-page resolution memorializing its decision. The public was not given the opportunity to comment. For a viewpoint on the decision, see see “Princeton University’s Plan to Move the Dinky Station Disregards the Public Welfare.”
Borough Mayor Yina Moore cast the only no vote. Former Borough Mayors Reed and Trotman voted in favor. Moore would have endorsed the arts site plan while requiring the University to go back to the drawing board on the transit proposal. See coverage in Planet Princeton; Trenton Times; Daily Princetonian; Town Topics.
In July, Borough Council passed a resolution opposing the plan to move the station stop. The Township Committee did not follow suit and declined to support Borough efforts earlier this year to preserve the “straight shot” right of way to Nassau Street. The Arts and Transit site plan will narrow Alexander Street and University Place and place a traffic circle at University Place. Some believe the plan will will preclude any light rail extension to Nassau, leaving bus service as the only option.
Nineteen members of the public were allowed to comment. Board Chair Gail Ullman imposed a strict three-minute limit on comments opposing the plan but relaxed the rules for supporters of the University. Most public comment was critical. ” Many objectors, including emeritus art history professor Gerda Panofsky, who read her Town Topics letter into the record, argued that the new transit plaza will be unsafe and not hospitable to seniors who walk to the Dinky. Although the University has repeatedly claimed that the relocated terminus will be only 460 feet south of the current terminus, the University architect admitted that the circuitous gently sloped walking path planned to the train will be longer but was unable to give actual figures at the hearing. Professor Kornhauser has done the calculations: The straight shot walk is 460 feet. The ADA 4.9% slope is 700 feet. The gentle slope, with the circuitous path, is 1,110 feet, for a 141% increase in distance. For the complete analysis, see http://orfe.princeton.edu/~alaink/SaveTheDinky/WalkDistances2MajorVenues_v1.pdf.
A number of objectors mentioned the destruction of the legacy of the late Barbara Sigmund, who was Mayor in 1984 when the University purchased the Dinky and who helped design the “kiss-and-ride” drop off on University Place. Township resident Beth Healey said Sigmund would “turn over in her grave.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, Planning Board member Julie Nachamkin made the motion, seconded by Lance Liverman, to approve the University’s project, subject to conditions suggested by University attorney Richard Goldman that had not been shared with the public. The text of the 45-page resolution, adopted on Wednesday less than 24 hours after the vote, is not yet available.
Updated December 22