NJ Chancery Judge Paul Innes handed down his order on Dec. 23, granting the defendants' request for summary judgement. Innes ruled that Princeton University was within its rights to move the Dinky station approximately 500 feet south because it had received the necessary approvals from NJ Transit.
The Dinky, which runs between Princeton Borough on University Place and the Princeton Junction train station in West Windsor, has been running since May 29, 1865. It takes four minutes for the train to travel 2.7 miles and is popular among daily commuters to New York, university students and residents.
University officials announced plans to move the station south to make room for its now-under-construction Arts & Transit Neighborhood.Members of Princeton's "Save the Dinky," a local grassroots organization, filed suit in October of 2011 against Princeton University, the Trustees of Princeton University and NJ Transit, claiming there was no legal basis to move the train station and seeking a court judgement to stop it.
The lawsuit argued that the university had no right to move the Dinky based on an Oct. 30, 1984, agreement between Princeton University and NJ Transit.
But the judge said his reading of the 1984 agreement and a subsequent amendment in 1996, allowed for a move with the permission of NJ Transit. That approval was given, he said.
"The court finds the terms of the agreements are facially clear," the decision read in part. "Under the terms of the 1984 Sales Agreement, as amended by the 1996 Agreement, Princeton University is permitted to propose, and NJ Transit is permitted to approve, a plan to relocate the train station and rail terminus 460 feet south within the Dinky station property."
According to a press release issued by Save the Dinky on Jan. 1, the court decision is important because it confirms that the decision to move the Dinky was a decision by the state, not the University.
“NJ Transit has said again and again that the contract obligated it to agree to the University plan to move the terminus, and the University has said again and again that the contract gave it the 'right' to make a second move," Save the Dinky President Anita Garoniak said in the release. “The court ruling clears away the dust. The Judge said that the buck stops with NJ Transit.”
Save the Dinky is expected to decide whether to appeal the ruling by the end of January.
Garoniak said the Chancery decision is a helpful step for her group’s efforts to obtain a reversal of the decision to abandon Princeton’s in-town station.
“Transit is obviously not a strong point of the Christie Administration,” she said. “We have said all along and continue to believe,” she said, “that the University can build its arts buildings and parking access without robbing the community of its mobility. The station is not just a mass transportation asset but also a beloved Princeton landmark.”