The fight to save the Dinky has always been about more than the station location. In two cases to be heard before NJ Appellate Division judges on October 19 in Mt. Holly we argue that NJ Transit is legally obligated to hold meaningful public hearings to show that transfer of valuable rail property to a private developer is in the best interests of NJ Transit riders. If we prevail, riders and taxpayers across the state will benefit.
One appeal (I/M/O Princeton Branch Railway Property Transfers to Princeton University, A-006009-12) challenges the last minute decision by NJ Transit’s Board in June 2013 to authorize a transfer of NJ Transit’s interest in the in-town Dinky station and surrounding land to Princeton University. We argue the decision was invalid because it made without any public hearing or evidence that the transfer would benefit NJ Transit’s riders. Also at issue in this case is whether Governor Christie should have recused himself because of a conflict of interest between his role as final decision-maker for NJ Transit and his role as ex offiicio trustee of Princeton University. The Governor has been an outspoken supporter of the University’s development plans.
Our other appeal (Save the Dinky, Inc. v. Trustees of Princeton University, A-002574-13), also concerns NJ Transit’s hearing obligations. Throughout the debate over the Dinky relocation, NJ Transit claimed that it was not required to hold a public hearing because the 1984 contract gave the University a legal right to ask for the move. The trial judge agreed with us that the University did NOT have this right and that NJ Transit retained to the power to say yes or no. However, the trial judge ruled that a letter from NJ Transit’s Executive Director was sufficient to authorize the move with no need for any public accountability. We are challenging this ruling and also challenging the judge’s conclusion that the 1984 contract permitted relocation of the train stop away from the in-town station.
The University has destroyed the defining features of the station and the Dinky stop has been moved. However, these cases are not moot since the University told the courts it would pay to restore NJ Transit’s facilities if NJ Transit were founded to have acted unlawfully.