Letter : Rabner's Commitment to the Community

Letter to Editor : Mr. Rabner's Commitment to the Community


To the Editor:

We now know of the Medical Center’s original commitment to the Princeton community—and its breach of that commitment. On May 26, 2005, Barry Rabner (president and CEO of the Medical Center at Princeton) said at a Planning Board hearing:  “It is our intent to do everything we can to work with the community, and work with this board, in developing a plan that has broad public support. Because it is clear certainly to us, I think to anyone who has done any work in Princeton, that unless there is a plan that has that support, it simply won’t be approved . . . When we select a developer we are not going to simply pick the developer that proposes to pay the most. We need a developer that understands and embraces the plan that is finally approved. We need a developer that understands our neighbors, understands Princeton, and understands what it takes to get this project accomplished” (from unofficial transcripts, available from Daniel A. Harris, dah43@comcast.net)

Well said, in friendship with the Princeton community. The plan to which Mr. Rabner refers is one that the Hospital itself commissioned. Its chief features are: retention of the hospital “towers” for 260 housing units, 20 town homes (total density: 280, as agreed with the community), a public green park of 35,000 square feet, with public walkways “crossing the site” leading to public playgrounds (public open space could be as much as 50,000 square feet), a public fitness center and local retail shops along Witherspoon Street. The entire project would have been green, sustainable.       What happened? Mr. Rabner picked “the developer that proposes to pay the most”—a reputed $36MM. There was at least one other bid, possibly more than one, for around $32MM (a number “heard on the street”). For a $4M differential (a smidge more than 10% below the top bid but less than .75% of the reported $537MM cost of the new hospital, Mr. Rabner has done what?—contracted with AvalonBay. 

We know what AvalonBay proposes: a site plan that violates Borough Code and the Master Plan on which Mr. Rabner himself worked so hard in over 75 meetings with community/neighborhood people—a monolith five stories high in a 1- and 2-story neighborhood, an all-wood building (potential firetrap), with no walkways through the site, no green public park, no sustainable green building.  No nothing. AvalonBay contributes to its corporate investor, not to the Princeton community. AvalonBay wants to co-opt Princeton by calling its development “AvalonPrinceton.”           

How will Mr. Rabner rectify his breach of trust with the community? How can he face members of the Planning Board who heard him speak in 2005. What can he do now to push AvalonBay to comply with all of Borough Code? He and citizens’ groups are stakeholders in the upcoming vote of the Planning Board on the AvalonBay application. It’s high time for him to act, and render himself accountable for his words.

Joseph McGeady
John Street

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PrincetonIQ October 18, 2012 at 04:17 AM
Jealous of Princeton's endowment? Well, without that they wouldn't be able to support more than half the undergrads with scholarships and financial aid that is completely color blind, and couldn't provide mostly full funding for graduate students - many of whom couldn't afford to attend otherwise. And, of course, couldn't allow any local citizen to audit courses at NO COST or attend nearly any lecture at NO COST or visit the Art Museum at NO COST. I am not affiliated with the university in any way, but am proud to live in Princeton and thankful for its many contributions. In researching the letter writer (Google is a wonderful thing), I wondered how long before he'd bring up A2586. If the local municipalities would simply do their jobs in a timely fashion, and not listen for months and years to clueless opinion-filled locals instead of deciding what's allowable or not under existing zoning, universities wouldn't be trying to get a waiver for local zoning oversight. Local appointed board officials in many communities have forgotten their role is to decide if a proposed land use fits with existing zoning or land use approaches, and to do so in a timely fashion, not to hear every last argument from every last person. Perhaps a compromise would be to require any person or group that sues to block a zoning or land use request to pay the legal fees of the other side if the person or group loses their suit. That would put some skin in the game beyond a little hot air.
Joseph McGeady October 18, 2012 at 04:20 AM
"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."
PrincetonIQ October 18, 2012 at 04:45 AM
I am 100% supportive of every citizen's right to have an opinion and to express that opinion openly through whatever means appropriate. And to appear at hearings and other public forums to express their opinions and viewpoints. But I also think our elected and appointed officials have a solemn duty to stop hearing repetitive opinions and comments, to move in a timely way to vote on matters that are before them, and to remember they are interpreting ordinances and laws, not making them. If our forefathers were in Princeton writing and debating the Declaration of Independence, based on the way this community operates sometimes, they'd still be debating and listening to every person, one by one, coming through the door and stepping up to the microphone. Perhaps that's why they fled to Philadelphia to get the real work done.
Greta Cuyler October 18, 2012 at 04:55 AM
Two comments deleted for personal attacks. Love the dialogue, but please keep it civil, thanks!
Louis Slee October 23, 2012 at 06:37 PM
People who stop hearing opinions and viewpoints may be deaf to the dangers of political tyranny. Public officials who disobey law may be charged with misfeasance. Private institutions that manipulate public for personal gain may be found guilty of fraudulent practices and deceit in the court of public opinion and perhaps even in a court of law.


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