Not the Last Train: Legal Battle Not Over & University Says It Will Pay NJT’s Costs to Restore Train Service If the Plan is Illegal

The University announced a few days ago that the last Dinky train on the August 23d schedule (1:27 a.m. 8/24) will be the last train ever from the historic Princeton Branch Station.  We don’t think so.   We still have not had a court hearing on the merits of our legal claims, and the University is now saying that it will pay NJ Transit’s costs to undo the damage and restore the service if a court rules that the plan to abandon service to the Station is illegal.   Here is a brief update:

(1)   Historic Site Case  On August 16, we applied to Commissioner Robert Martin to put a hold on the okay DEP gave to NJ Transit to agree to a project that will destroy the Princeton Station as an historic operating station.  Our appeal from that ruling is pending in the Appellate Division.   We still have had no answer from the NJ DEP on our stay request.

(2)  Contract Case    Yesterday morning  (August 23),  we  filed papers asking the Chancery Judge presiding over our contract case (Paul Innes)  to issue temporary and preliminary relief  preventing further work to destroy the Dinky station as an operating train station.   The Judge  turned down the  request for a  temporary order, but he agreed to hear our request for a  preliminary injunction and set a date of   October 11.   So, while we did not get the Judge to order NJ Transit and the University to immediately stop the work that will permanently end service to the station,   the Judge is willing to consider this in October.     

Right now,  the University and NJ Transit can move ahead with the work that has already damaged the historic station compex:  A huge gash has been cut in the platform just below the passenger building.     However, as we said above, the University now claims that this work and the work to follow does not add up to “irreparable harm”  because the University will pick up the bill and pay NJ Transit’s restoration costs if a court finds that New Jersey Transit has violated its legal obligations.

As taxpayers, we hope that NJ Transit has an airtight guarantee and is watching out for its obligations to passengers more carefully than it watched out for its trains  before Hurricane Sandy.  If NJ Transit can’t enforce the University’s agreement or the University’s agreement doesn’t really cover all of the potential costs, taxpayers will foot the bill.

In the interim, beginning on Monday, access to the Dinky will be by auto or by bus.   There will be no effective pedestrian access to Princeton’s train link to the Junction for the first time since the 1860’s.

As for the arts, we wonder  how, in the name of the arts,  a major Ivy League University, with all sorts of writers and poets on its faculty, can be serious about a plan  to decommission a functioning train station that was immortalized by J.D. Salinger in Franny and Zooey,  that figures in Fitzgerald’s Tender as the Night,  and also figures in many other other lesser known works of literature.  Einstein took the Dinky from the University Place Station.  Richard Nixon took the Dinky from there.  The list is long.  The cultural associations are deep.

When  NJ Transit sold the Station property to the University in 1984,  the Princeton community (both town and gown) celebrated.  The late Barbara Sigmund was Borough Mayor then.  In the 1970’s, she was an active member of the first Save the Dinky Group.  In the 1970’s, the fear was that the line would not be continued after the Penn Central bankruptcy.  In 1984, the hope and the belief were that our in-town train link to Princeton Junction was secure unless the service proved economically infeasible to NJ Transit.  Now,  we are faced with the reality that Princeton University and NJ Transit–perhaps in deference to the arts–are reading their 1984 Sale Agreement by the book of Orwell and Ayn Rand and not in accord with the rule of law.

We are still counting on the rule of law.  Please consider a contribution to  help us defray our legal costs.

Dinky Admins

(Revised August 24)


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