Those of us who live in Princeton truly value open space and trees. The proof is all around us. But lately, when the subject comes up, we are referred to Princeton’s “emerald necklace” which is well outside of town. While preserving this land, and hopefully adding to it, is laudable, it should not come at the expense of preserving our old-growth, in-town trees.
Those who drafted our new master plan are looking at our town with an obvious appetite for infill development. The plan calls for rezoning so that each home could be replaced by four. What will we lose when density is gained? Trees and natural beauty.
A recent study conducted by the U.S. Forest Service finds “Urban trees are an essential part of our public health infrastructure, and they should be treated as such.” There were increased cardiovascular and respiratory illness deaths in counties, from Minnesota to New York, that lost trees due to the emerald ash borer.
The number of days in NYC hotter than 90 degrees is expected to triple by 2050. Heat-related deaths and emergency hospitalizations are expected to increase by over 50 percent in the next 20 years. Increasing tree coverage is a natural solution to reduce extreme heat in cities, and our government has allocated $1B to add trees nationwide to reduce heat and improve air quality. Why is Princeton headed in the opposite direction?
The proposed PTS redevelopment plan for the TRW property at 106 Stockton (a property described as, and known to be, environmentally sensitive) asks our town officials to approve removing over 25 magnificent, 100-plus-year-old trees, and to attempt mitigation of the guaranteed resultant flooding by adding underground storage tanks. This feels representative of our town’s future: remove a natural gift that prevents flooding, creates and cleans the air we breathe, cools our air in the summer and adds to our well-being, and replace it with a man-made mechanical solution that will fail over time.
People want to live in a healthy ecosystem but, if this master plan is approved, we will embark on a plan to pave paradise. And once our beautiful trees are removed, it will take decades to bring them back, but only if there is any space left for them to grow.