TRENTON – The Senate Environment and Energy Committee heard testimony today on Assemblyman Reed Gusciora’s (D-15) pet project: keeping the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton from building on land adjacent to the Princeton Battlefield State Park.
According to Gusciora, the hearing was effective in that it gave the “issue a public airing.”
“The DEP should really reconsider giving them the green light in light of the testimony,” Gusciora said, referencing a testimony from hydrologist Amy Greene. The assemblyman made it his mission to prevent the building on the historically significant site of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Princeton. Additionally, he stressed the site’s ecological significance due to the presence of wetlands on the proposed building site.
According to Gusciora, opponents of the proposed faculty housing building are currently waiting for a court case on the issue.
“Right now it is in the DEP’s hands to either reconsider their permit or we will have to wait for the court case to resume in the appellate division,” he said. “There could be a scenario where the appellate division rules with the plaintiffs and could actually institute the dismantle of whatever building structures there are. I would just imagine that the institute’s position is ‘Well you can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.’”
Chair of the Senate Environment and Energy Committee Senator Bob Smith also agreed that he hopes the DEP will reconsider, citing a letter he sent (along with Senator Linda Greenstein and Senator Kip Bateman) to New Jersey DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. According to Smith, there is some doubt about whether the wetlands determination is accurate for the location.
“We think that any activities on the Princeton Battlefield site should be held until a discussion between the battlefield people and the DEP to make sure they are, in fact, protection the environment, one. And two, to get them into the mindset that this is a national historic treasure,” Smith said. “We need their help.”
As of now, no court date is scheduled.