A lawsuit will be filed contesting the Princeton Planning Board’s approval of Princeton University’s Arts and Transit Project, lawyer Bruce Afran confirmed in a phone interview yesterday.
Half a dozen citizens, including journalist Chris Hedges, are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The project was approved in December. Once a planning board approves a project, objectors have 45 days to file a lawsuit in court. Today marks the 45th day of the planning board approval.
Lawsuits have previously been filed challenging the rezoning for the project and disputing the University’s interpretation of a contract with NJ Transit. While residents have no problem with the arts component of the project, many oppose the plans for a new Dinky train station about 460 feet farther from the center of town.
“It’s quite clear that the planning board will roll over for University, but jump on outsiders like AvalonBay,” Afran said. “There is a double standard, and the approval was rammed through.”
The planning board was given a 45-page document to memorialize the approval 2.5 hours before the meeting, Afran said, questioning whether the board had jurisdiction over the entire plan because of an easement. He also said the board failed to do fact finding about the historic train station buildings and some houses. Traffic and transit studies are planned for the future.
“That study study needs to be done now,” Afran said. “The exit ramp to a large garage is planned to go right through the center of a transit plaza.”
Afran also challenged Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller’s recusal in the matter and said the lawyer who first said she must recuse herself had a conflict of interest because his firm also represents NJ Transit. Crumiller has been critical of the plan to move the Dinky station.
“That is part of her normal role as an elected official, to ask questions and raise concerns if she has them,” Afran said.
Princeton University officials have argued that the station move is necessary in order to build a second access road to a large University garage and have said they don’t want a train cutting through the campus. They have rejected several alternatives proposed to them, including putting the station underground, moving it half the distance, moving it up to Nassau Street, and leaving it where it is, but adding an at-grade crossing so cars can still access the garage from University Place. University officials have claimed that no alternative is feasible.
“The University has sold some people on the idea that this is going to be a mini Lincoln Center, but it’s not. It’s going to be classrooms and space for students to perform,” Afran said. “But it is going to be detrimental to a large part of the community.”