Letters: The Role of Affordable Housing at the Downtown Princeton Hospital Site

To the Editor:

It is time to understand the role that affordable housing and rental housing are playing in the conflict over the development of the old hospital site.

I am a very strong supporter of affordable housing. I believe that Princeton should be a place where people of many different income levels can all afford to live. I think that Princeton’s 20 percent affordable housing rule, higher than the usual 15 percent, is commendable. My husband and I have for decades contributed considerable sums annually to an organization that creates affordable housing. I also recognize that Princeton needs more rental housing.


It is an unfortunate fact that builders exploit New Jersey’s regulations on affordable housing to avoid complying with towns’ Master Plans and building codes. These Master Plans and building codes are very important.

AvalonBay, the probable buyer of the old hospital site, is using the legal situation and Borough Council members’ commendable support  for affordable housing and for rental housing (which AvalonBay would provide) to persuade Borough Council to accept a development that ignores the Princeton Master Plan and Borough Code. In order to obtain the zoning it wanted, the hospital agreed to a large park, a pedestrian zone, thoroughfares, and environmentally sound construction for the old hospital site. These items were written into the Princeton Master Plan and Borough Code. AvalonBay’s proposed development does not include these items.

Current secret negotiations with AvalonBay may restore a few of the agreed-upon items. But the negotiations are unlikely to result in the kind of development that was envisioned by the people who granted the hospital its desired zoning. It is likely that the AvalonBay development would be bad for the surrounding neighborhood, bad for Princeton, and bad for the environment.

Ultimately, it is the hospital’s responsibility to prevent AvalonBay from using affordable housing as a battering ram to avoid complying with the Master Plan and Borough Code. If AvalonBay will not accept the agreements that the hospital made with the neighborhood and the town, it is incumbent upon the hospital to cancel its arrangement with AvalonBay and to find a buyer who will respect the Master Plan and Borough Code.

Affordable housing? Yes. Rental housing? Yes. But not at any price.

Phyllis Teitelbaum