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Letters: Princeton Deserves a Better Neighbor Than AvalonBay

Keep the Neighborhood in Mind When Developing the Former Hospital Site

To The Editor,

I’d like to say the new Princeton Planning Board that when dealing with a new developer for the hospital site, the new developer must keep the neighborhood in mind as far as the height of the apartment buildings, the green space, and having no private pool because the tenants could enjoy and support our new Community Park pool that’s right down the street from the hospital site. Not having a private pool could allow more space for low, low income rental units within the affordable units.

Remember, “affordable” is not affordable for all Princeton citizens. There should be some more low, low income units with rents below $1,000 per month. There’s a long list of people waiting for low income housing in Princeton, which still shows the need for it.

After sitting through many long planning board meetings listening to the AvalonBay presentation, I hope AvalonBay will completely disappear from the hospital site developers’ list because I don’t trust them.

The arrogant, bullying attitude of the AvalonBay developer was unbelievable and we don’t need that kind of un-neighborly attitude in Princeton.

Minnie Craig

Princeton Deserves a Good Neighbor

To the Editor,

After this year of shenanigans (2012) that we endured at the hands of AvalonBay, the former UMCP and their collective leadership, Princeton needs to find a good neighbor who will be open and honest in their business dealings to develop a world- class addition to OUR town. Why these two selfish and self serving entities attempted to take advantage of a lovely little neighborhood in the heart of Princeton is obvious: money.

Almost as obvious is the need for the Planning Board to formally memorialize the wise 7-3 vote to reject Avalon Bay’s proposed monolith cast by former Board members. This is a procedural matter, but it has to be done the right way. The former members still on the new Planning Board must send a clear message to AvalonBay that it is not welcome to return under any circumstances, even if it submits a new site plan. Their corporate practice stinks. So does their mismanagement of both property and tenants after construction: too many high fees for new renters, too many fees for daily tenant life (especially in a development with a 20 percent affordable housing component).

A lot of effort—hundreds of hours—went into the discussions that formed the decisions of each individual Planning Board member. Even the 3 members who voted in favor of the proposal did so with reservations and out of fear of legal repercussions and the potential costs of a lawsuit to the municipal budget. The public didn’t rebel against AvalonBay for nothing, and they didn’t hire lawyers for nothing (pun intended). The Planning Board should make sure the memorializing document is worded strongly against AvalonBay.

Princeton desires and deserves a world-class addition to a beautiful town. Not some cookie-cutter design that is dumped on us out of fear of a vacant hospital property and potential law suits. As Ron Ladell (senior vice president of AvalonBay Properties, a New York Stock Exchange traded REIT worth over 16 billion dollars) said himself “this is a once in a generation opportunity.” Right. But it has to be done by a developer who takes the time to understand Princeton, the hospital neighborhood, and the mistake of adding 540 people to only five-plus acres.

The future of a very important and valuable piece of central New Jersey is at stake the way I see it Princeton has dodged a bullet. Please make sure that we now remove the gun from the hand of the potential killer and, first, memorialize the overwhelming vote to reject AvalonBay as a potential “neighbor” with vigorous language. Princeton Council is already working to create a new ordinance that will make it impossible for any developer to come in and thumb their nose at OUR Master Plan or our need for reasonable, not irrational, density. The Planning Board should support the Council in keeping AvalonBay away.

We deserve better!

Joe Bardzilowski

Keep AvalonBay Out of Princeton

To the Editor:

Princeton citizens who want to help ensure that AvalonBay doesn’t submit a new application to build “AvalonPrinceton” should contact Planning Board members right away.

On February 7, the Planning Board will adopt a Resolution that “memorializes” their 7-3 vote against AvalonBay (Board attorney Gerald Muller is drafting the Resolution). Current Board members who voted against AvalonBay (Jenny Crumiller, Wanda Gunning, Bernie Miller, Marvin Reed, and Gail Ullman) have full legal rights to modify any and all language in the Resolution so that it accurately reflects their positions.

Voting members should take care that the final Resolution banishes AvalonBay from Princeton—not simply, Princeton doesn’t like AvalonBay’s specific site plan, but more: Princeton doesn’t want any mark of AvalonBay here at all.

AvalonBay has shown they won’t partner with our community, no matter what the design. As Jenny Crumiller lamented about Avalon’s refusal to negotiate reasonably with the Borough’s ad hoc committee, “The overriding theme was, ‘AvalonBay is a brand and that’s what you get’” (Princeton Packet, December 20, 2012).

Here are other reasons why Planning Board members should make sure the Resolution closes the door on any attempt by AvalonBay to reapply.

Avalon refused to consider local retail stores, desired by many (“We don’t do retail in midrise developments”), and refused to participate in Princeton’s recycling and composting program (“We’re not in the composting business”). Avalon lags its competitors in sustainable building practices and rejected a push by 48.6% of their shareholders to commit resources to significant green measures; any building they did would be already “obsolete,” as Heidi Fichtenbaum noted (PB hearing, 12/19/12).

Avalon cannot be trusted. They tried to cover up difficulties with hospital site remediation—matters of public health. Their urban planner plagiarized work from their architect (who also misrepresented the size of the sliver of park by cropping the illustration). The Avalon team cheated in representing their open space, claiming as “theirs” portions of land they would not even own! Their architect deliberately misunderstood Borough Code so that he could falsely compare Avalon’s “superior” megablock to the existing hospital towers—and chose not to show the monolith in relation to neighborhood buildings so that no one could really grasp its gargantuan scale. Their “plan” for  solid waste involved using both the garage and the Franklin Avenue service drive in ways not legally permitted by Borough Code.

Avalon’s legal representation was “barely legal.” Ron Ladell played both attorney and witness (an “inappropriate” straddling of roles). He tried to halt cross-questioning of their urban planner by the environmental attorney for Princeton Citizens (an unprofessional and almost malfeasant intervention). Attorney Studholme whispered advice to the urban planner while he was being cross-questioned by PCSN’s land-use attorney—virtually a forbidden practice.

With behavior like this, for over a year, who needs AvalonBay at all? They have squandered trust and credibility. Other developers will serve our community better. The Planning Board must insist that their Resolution fully reflects their outright opposition, and the community’s, to AvalonBay’s presence.

Jane Buttars

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.

  • SFB

    Minnie, you are right that there is a long list of people waiting for low-income housing in Princeton. The reason why housing is expensive in Princeton is because there is much more demand for housing than there is supply of available units. We need to choose either to build lots more units, or exclude that long list of people who want to live here. To build lots of units, we either build up, or we build out. If we build out, we must pave our few remaining green spaces. The solution is to build up. Not up like the Empire State Building, in fact something smaller than the existing hospital building. But a building that will offer a home to people of moderate income to join us as neighbors.

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