Planet Princeton

Letters: Residents Weigh In on Institute For Advanced Study Plans

Maintaining A Walkable Community

To the Editor:
I write in strong support of the Institute’s proposal for more faculty living on its campus, maintaining its walkable community. It would provide landscape screening along its border with the Battlefield Park; and build a memorial pathway as conceived by distinguished historians James McPherson and David Hackett Fischer. Altogether, the Institute’s proposal commemorates our historic past, and sustains our living community.

Robert Geddes
Mr. Geddes is Dean Emeritus of the Princeton University School of Architecture.

Preserve Princeton’s Vital Historic Resources

In 2010, John Milner Associates, under a federally funded commission from the Princeton Battlefield Society, completed a study of 175 original accounts of the Battle, including records of the British Court Martial of Cornet Henry Evatt.  Dr. Robert Selig, a multilingual American Revolution historian working with JMA, analyzed these accounts and drew from them physical features that could be used to map the progression of the Battle of Princeton. Using the Geographical Information System (GIS) and the Global Positioning System (GPS), JMA mapped and analyzed these data points along with the topography and viewsheds of the battle area.  Maps of the progression of the battle were then overlaid with the archaeological evidence.  While much work remains to map the exact location of the now lost Saw Mill Road, and to confirm new information about the first phase of the battle leading to the defeat of General Mercer’s Brigade, all scholars who have carefully studied the Battle of Princeton have concluded that Washington’s winning counterattack took place on property just to the East of what is now Princeton Battlefield State Park. The evidence is overwhelming.

Today, without walking the sloping topography of the Battlefield and understanding the dynamics of the counterattack, you cannot appreciate what happened that day, a day when if the Continental Army had not prevailed, the American Revolution almost certainly would have been lost, and George Washington would have been hunted down and hanged. Just as the Battle of Normandy cannot be understood without seeing the topography of Normandy Beach, this pivotal moment in history can’t be memorialized by a sign or a monument, but must be experienced by walking the battlefield.  Saving the property where the counterattack occurred is not a matter of whether an organization might be a good neighbor.  It is a question of meeting the requirements of Princeton’s Master Plan to preserve the town’s vital historic resources, as the best and highest use.  As a willing seller, funds can be obtained to purchase the property and put it into the public domain.

What is the alternative for the Institute for Advanced Study, whose faculty, we are told, just cannot afford to live in the neighborhood immediately around the IAS.  There are several, but one that I find compelling is the establishment of a mortgage subsidy program, similar to that of Princeton University’s, which would allow faculty to chose the neighborhood and home of their choice, and enjoy the benefits of gaining equity in their homes. I invite faculty with or without a subsidy to check out my own wonderful neighborhood, only about six minutes from the IAS Campus.

Dan Thompson
Mr. Thompson is a member of the Princeton Battlefield Society.

Proposed Institute Housing Meets the Test

To the Editor:

It is vitally important that any new construction at the Institute for Advanced Study not detract from the dignity of the Battlefield Park.  The faculty and friends of the Institute (of whom I am one) understand the importance of honoring our history.

The proposed new faculty housing at IAS meets this test.  The proposed housing consists of a small cluster of single family homes and townhouses located over two hundred      feet from the edge of the park.  A row of evergreens will stand between the housing and the park.  The housing will barely be visible from the park, much less intrusive.

The need to preserve the dignity of the park should not be used as a reason to block all development in this part of Princeton.

Lewis L. Maltby
Mr. Maltby is the president of the National Workrights Institute.

Institute is Vital Partner and Supporter of Battlefield Park

The Battle of Princeton is surely a remarkable moment in the history of Princeton as well as the United States. In January of 1777, patriots battled for American Independence and to protect the rights of future generations.

It is important to commemorate and memorialize the Battle of Princeton, and that has been done with the Battlefield Park. The Institute for Advanced Study, another great historical institution in Princeton, has been a vital partner and supporter of the Battlefield Park. In fact, the Battlefield would not even exist in it’s current state, without the generosity of the Institute.  The Institute donated the Portico that stands in Battlefield Park and commemorates the common grave of American and British soldiers. In 1973, the Institute conveyed 32 acres of land to the State which more than doubled the size of Battlefield Park.  This conveyance was completed with the express understanding that the Institute could and would build housing on some of the remaining land. The Institute for Advanced Study has also preserved all of the land surrounding the Battlefield, and has made it accessible to the public.

The Institute for  Advanced Study owns the track of land on which they are proposing to build faculty housing. They have  met every requirement of the planning board and the historical preservationists that would allow them to build the site plan currently proposed. In fact they have gone above and beyond what was asked and have made sure the project has minimal impact  on the Battlefield Park.

To suggest that the Institute should be prohibited from using their property, simply because it was a site upon which some of the battle took place, is exactly the type of oppression the Patriots were trying to eliminate.  We are a Country that values the rights bestowed upon us by law. Property rights are  certainly one of the oldest and most treasured rights. Those trying so desperately to restrict those rights, by waging a battle against the Institute, should consider whether they value their own property rights.  Surely the Patriots did not expect future generations to use the battle as a means of  restricting  the very rights they were fighting for.

Shari Black
Allison Road

Institute a Model Citizen

To the editor:

The Institute for Advanced Study is seeking approval to build faculty housing on its campus. I am writing to express my strong support for the project.

As a faculty member who lives on campus and a former member who spent his postdoctoral years at the IAS, I can attest to the importance of the residential nature of IAS. Living on campus greatly facilitates my work, substantially increasing my interactions with IAS members and faculty. This residential nature makes the IAS unique and benefits members and faculty alike.

I believe that through the years the Institute has been a model citizen of this community. As a current neighbor of the Institute I deeply value the Institute’s commitment to preserving open spaces that include the wonderful “Institute woods”, nearly 600 acres of woodlands available to public use, and a substantial fraction of the Battlefield park. The proposed project will add 13 acres of new land that will be permanently preserved as open space next to the park.

During the last meeting of the Township’s planning board, Prof. Mark Peterson, a specialist in the American Revolution and early American History at the University of California at Berkeley, gave a very interesting presentation about how different localities preserve their historical heritage. Prof. Peterson helped towns in the Boston area to develop plans to better preserve their historical sites and enhance the experience of visitors. I moved to Princeton from the Boston area so I am very familiar with the sites he described having enjoyed them on multiple occasions. As I heard him speak, I could not help but think that the current discussion surrounding the Institute’s project presents a perfect opportunity to improve the experiences of visitors to the Battlefield park and their connection to this areas past. I was glad to learn that the Institute has stated that it was ready to be a partner in trying to enhance the experience of visitors to the Battlefield Park, for example by improving the interpretive materials provided in the site.

The Institute is by now also an important part of Princeton’s history. It has housed as faculty and members a large number of Nobel-prize winners, Field medalists and the intellectual leaders of many fields of study. In my own area, astrophysics, the contributions of scientists who spent time at the IAS can be found almost everywhere and have shaped our current understanding of such diverse topics as cosmology and celestial mechanics.

I am convinced that this project will not only benefit the IAS community but also the Princeton community at large. It will help maintain one of its vibrant academic institutions, it will add permanently preserved open land and can create the opportunity to improve the way the area’s residents can interact with its history.

Matias Zaldarriaga
Mr. Zaldarriaga is a professor at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Consider What Would Be Lost If Institute Allowed to Build

Dear Editor:

Mr. Goddard stated that there has been archeological studies performed already on the battlefield. He further says that he is willing to put an archeological protocol in place to save the artifacts. Mr.Goddard has unfortunately made a paradoxical conclusion; claiming that the archeological artifacts have importance (so much so he would save them) but that the  land has little historical importance. They are either both important or both unimportant. By acknowledging that the archeological artifacts have a special value to society and should not be lost then he must also agree that the land has historical significance. The two go hand in hand, indivisible, otherwise he must state that neither the artifacts or the land are important.

Mr. Goddard states that the 20 new houses do not reflect an increase in the Institutions population, but rather a wish to enable more faculty to live closer. I hone in on the word wish. In the hierarchy of needs the use of the word wish indicates that the housing development is not something that is needed to sustain the productivity of the Institute but rather a physical condition that makes the institute more happy. In other words it is not a necessity in order to exist. Mr. Goddard supports my conclusion by his own statement when he says the 20 houses would not reflect an increase in population. The lack of population increase confirms that there is no physical need for more housing other than making people Happy.  What would make me happy is for the IAS to move their development to another location or find another viable option.

In conclusion I offer this: In order to develop the IAS housing,  the IAS would have to sacrifice something of great scientific importance to them, something like the Einstein’s theory of special relativity. They will have to work without its insights, without its mathematical equations and without any of the theories that are built upon Einstein’s ideas. I presume this would cause a major digression in the world of particle physics and physics in general. Consider the loss to a historians work, a country’s traditions, a people’s heritage, before you build on the land. In the same way you would suffer from the loss of special relativity other suffer from the loss of this battlefield.

Please do not build on the Princeton Battlefield.

Brian Kovacs

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • George :Logothetis

    They don’t want to put a McDonald’s or a carwash in. It’s housing for some of the brightest minds in the country. Build it!

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