The commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection denied citizen group Save the Dinky’s request Wednesday asking the state to temporarily stay the approval it gave NJ Transit last year to move the Dinky station train tracks. But Superior Court Appellate Division Judge Carmen H. Alvarez has agreed to review the application for emergency relief.
Save the Dinky and Princeton University have until late next week to file briefs in the case.
Under state law, if you are seeking a stay of a decision made by a state administrative agency, you must first appeal the decision with that agency. If the appeal is denied then you can file for a stay in court.
Bob Martin, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, wrote in his denial of the stay request that an agency is not required to grant a stay request “simply because its decision is under review by the Appellate Division.” He argued in order to be entitled to a stay, the applicant must demonstrate the threat of irreparable harm, a reasonable probability of success, and legal rights to a claim, and show that the stay is in the public interest.
Martin said harm is considered irreparable if it cannot be redressed adequately by monetary damages. There has been no work on the Dinky train station itself, he said, and NJ Transit has certified that work on the track removal project will not harm the Dinky station. The NJ Transit work relates only to rail infrastructure, he said. The state has no jurisdiction over the project or the adaptive reuse of the station buildings, he said.
“Largely, the appellants complain of inconvenience to the public that will result from longer walking or driving distances to the new rail terminus,” Martin wrote. “In contrast, Princeton University has certified that it will lose millions of dollars int he first 30 to 90 days, with a domino effect of impacts to later construction schedules.”
Martin also argued that a delay in the project will prolong traffic congestion in an areas that will be under construction and would allow the two station buildings to sit idle and unused.
Save the Dinky claims in its Appellate Division filing that the answer to the question “Is the abandonment of the resource in the public interest?” is a resounding “no.”
“The plan to abandon an historic station on a public street and relocate it away from town defies all that is currently known about sustainable development and the importance of accessible public mass transit,” the filing reads. “If the Princeton Railroad Station and the right of way that is critical to its transportation function are destroyed before this appeal can be heard, the public message will be that New Jersey’s history is up for sale to the highest and most influential bidder.”
In a separate court hearing related to the issue, last week Judge Paul Innes denied the group’s request for a temporary stay. Innes will hear the case on October 11. During the court proceeding last week, Princeton University promised to reimburse NJ Transit for the cost to replace the removed tracks if the judge rules against them.