With cheers, applause, speeches and sparkling cider toasts, several hundred Princeton residents and politicians celebrated the official consolidation of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township today and the more than five-decade effort that finally brought the two towns together as one Princeton.
The consolidation of the two Princetons is the first in New Jersey in more than half a century. Previous Princeton efforts failed in 1953, 1979 and 1996. As of today, the state now has 565 municipalities.
No one was beaming more today perhaps than Anton Lahnston, the chairman of the consolidation study commission, who has worked over the last two years along with other volunteers to make the united Princeton a reality.
“It’s a historic day,” Lahnston told the standing-room-only crowd that packed the town hall. “A lot of people worked very hard to get us here, going back to the 1950s when people first started to work on consolidation.”
Lahnston thanked all the volunteers, officials, municipal employees, commission and transition task force members who have worked on implementing consolidation, which the voters of both municipalities approved in November of 2011.
Mark Freda chaired the transition task force, which held hundreds of hours worth of meetings over the past year.
“Today we crossed a threshold, and there are a lot of people who got us here, pro and con,” Freda told the crowd. “Without the vigorous discussion, I wonder if we would have done as good a job. Thank you to the staff for juggling the needs of the community with the heavy workload over the last year. Everyone has been working so hard, so long. And to all the people who worked on consolidation over the past several decades, thank you for laying the groundwork for today.”
Freda called on the new governing body of Princeton to not hang on to old ways and instead look to the future and put aside anything that hinders progress. He also urged the new government to balance cost savings with providing quality services to residents.
“You have been handed a golden opportunity, a fresh start, and a clean slate,” he said. “Be bold, be progressive, be fair, be open minded. Be what we all hoped for when we decided to become one town.”
Administrator Bob Bruschi thanked the 250 employees of the united Princeton for all their work and said the town has a solid staff that will serve the community well for the next decade.
“Today ladies and gentlemen, the eagle has landed. I can’t think of any better way to spend the last couple of years as administrator, getting this process off to a start,” Bruschi said. “On behalf of all our staff, let me be the first one to welcome you to the new Princeton.”
Several elected officials attended the celebration, including State Senator Kip Bateman, Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, Assemblywoman Donna Simon, Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, several Mercer County freeholders, and County Executive Brian Hughes. A letter from U.S. Rep. Rush Holt was read and so was a proclamation from Gov. Chis Christie.
After the speeches were done, residents lined up to get a piece of consoli-cake. McCaffrey’s created several Princeton-themed cakes for the party, shaped like well-known Princeton buildings and people. And then it was on to official business again as the new council held its reorganization meeting.