Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora are urging the Institute of Advanced Study to halt plans to destroy Maxwell’s Field. IAS has refused to grant a meeting with the legislators to discuss alternative housing construction plans.
Earlier this month, we wrote to Dr. Charles Simonyi, chairman of the Institute for Advanced Study’s Board of Trustees, and requested a meeting to discuss alternatives to the Institute’s destructive plan to build 15 faculty housing units on the historic, 22-acre Maxwell’s Field tract. On this site, Gen. George Washington personally led a counterattack that won the 1777 Battle of Princeton and helped turn the tide of the American Revolution. Our goal in seeking this meeting was simple: get reasonable people together to find a solution to the current controversy that benefits the state, the battlefield and the IAS.
In response, we received a letter from IAS Director Robbert Dijkgraaf, who rejected our offer to meet, reciting the same tired excuses the Institute has been utilizing for the past four years. It is an unfortunate tendency of the Dijkgraaf Administration that they consistently reject offers to sit down with those of us seeking to save them from themselves.
Undeterred, we followed up with a second letter, again calling on the leaders of this highly respected international center of research and knowledge to meet with us and join in taking a new step forward for the community and the IAS.
Preserving the small, tremendously historic piece of land at the center of this controversy — and keeping it open like the Princeton Battlefield State Park adjacent to it — will properly honor the sacrifices of the tough young men of Washington’s Continental Army, including some of the first U.S. Marines to fall in combat. These heroes were among the first of many millions of American fighting men who went to war to protect the rights and freedoms we enjoy today.
This is a preservation fight that should not be happening. It is obvious that this land should be preserved. The IAS persists in pushing ahead with a residential development project that has already tarnished its reputation, and that ignominy becomes permanent if the homes are built.
The bulldozers are parked on the battlefield even now, ready to finish the job. Recent news involving the IAS is dominated by the negative turmoil rooted in this fight. Instead of spotlighting the Institute’s many advancements and accomplishments, the focus remains on this draining, self-defeating controversy.
If the IAS applied its own high standards to this issue rather than the tactics of a typical developer blind to history, the bulldozers never would have arrived in the first place. When confronted with the overwhelming evidence of the historic legacy of Maxwell’s Field, the Institute time and again rejects its usual intellectual rigor and scholarly discipline, damaging its own reputation as construction moves forward.
In its effort to refute the weight of evidence of the history made at Maxwell’s Field, the IAS hired a historian, Mark Peterson — who does not specialize in military history or the American Revolution — for the purpose of disputing the widely accepted facts. Peterson blatantly exposed his bias, concluding his findings with pure political rhetoric. The historian-as-pundit argued that to save Maxwell’s Field is “to fetishize space” and falsely claimed that preserved, historic land “as often as not tends to become neglected, ignored, and forgotten, removed from the world in which life is lived.”
Peterson provided no scholarship to back up this assertion, and that’s because none exists. It’s simply not true.
In our first letter to the Institute, we named the numerous government agencies and organizations which assert that Maxwell’s Field is historic. From the National Park Service to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to our own New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, the conclusion has been the same: Maxwell’s Field is core battlefield ground, the significance of which has been confirmed over and over again.
Let the words of some of the nation’s leading historians underscore this point:
“The Institute for Advanced Study seems utterly indifferent to what occurred on Maxwell’s Field,” author and historian Thomas Fleming has written. “In my 50-year study of the American Revolution, I have come to regard it as one of the most important moments in our eight-year struggle for liberty and equality.”
“This land is as central to the Battle of Princeton as the field of Pickett’s Charge is to Gettysburg and as Omaha Beach is to D-Day,” Pulitzer Prize winning historian David Hackett Fischer, whose book Washington’s Crossing won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for history, has emphasized.
“Princeton is one of the few battlefields where Washington commanded the Continental Army that we have any hope of preserving. Without preservation of Maxwell’s Field, the battlefield will be forever compromised, and an opportunity to create something great for the American people will be lost,” Jack Warren, Executive Director for the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati, stated.
The battlefield preservation efforts at Princeton span many generations. More than a century ago, Moses Taylor Pyne, who was most responsible for transforming Princeton University into the preeminent institution it is today, helped defeat plans to build a trolley line at the storied site and purchased the core of today’s battlefield park to save it.
Longtime Princetonians are well familiar with the community’s seemingly endless struggles against the Institute’s dreams of being a developer. From 1969 to 1973, the IAS sought to develop another part of the battlefield, the Weller tract. And from 1983 to 1997, the IAS fought with Princeton over planned development of other Institute lands, arguing then against any development at Maxwell’s Field. In both struggles, the IAS and the community worked together to find suitable solutions. Every acre was saved, and the IAS was well compensated for its contributions.
Today, the struggle over Maxwell’s Field has dragged on for 13 years. As time passes, the calls to preserve the land become ever stronger. Little public support remains for the Institute. Our constituents frequently ask, “Why is the IAS doing this?” We simply do not have a good answer for them. It doesn’t make sense on the surface, and makes even less sense when you examine the facts.
Other housing alternatives exist. The money is there — more than $4.5 million — to compensate the IAS well above the appraised value of the land. We hope the Institute’s leadership will see fit to meet with us. And we hope the IAS, as it has done before, will heed the call of the community in which it thrives, honor its history and save Maxwell’s Field.
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean said that Senate and Assembly voting sessions newly scheduled for Thursday, May 26th present the perfect opportunity for the New Jersey Legislature to give final legislative approval to long-delayed Port Authority reforms.
Kean is the sponsor of S-355 which provides governance, transparency, and accountability reforms at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“I truly believe that Republicans and Democrats have been working toward the same goals with Port Authority reform,” said Kean. “We all want to make the Port Authority more accountable and transparent and eliminate opportunities for abuse. I hope that Senators Gordon and Weinberg will join me by helping to push this important effort over the finish line this week.”
All public bodies under the Open Public Meetings Act would be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and to display the United States flag at the beginning of meetings under legislation prime-sponsored by Senator Christopher J. Connors.
The legislation, S-308, was approved by the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee on May 23. Assemblyman Brian E. Rumpf and Assemblywoman DiAnne C. Gove have requested to join as cosponsors on the Assembly companion version, A-777, which has been referred to the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.
“Under current law, public bodies are not required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance or to display the U.S. flag,” said Senator Connors. “While the overwhelming majority of public bodies do both voluntarily, I have joined with Senator Jeff Van Drew in a bipartisan legislative effort, to statutorily require that these patriotic acts be carried out as part of the public hearing process.”
Public school teachers, bus drivers and camp counselors would be subject a Child Abuse Record Information check under a bill sponsored by Senators Anthony Bucco and Steven Oroho. Currently, these employees and job candidates only undergo a criminal background check, which unlike a CARI check, does not show substantiated claims of child abuse. The bill was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee.
“How many teachers, camp counselors, bus drivers and school employees are child abusers? Under current New Jersey law, we simply do not know,” Senator Bucco (R-Morris) said. “What we do know is that child abusers are falling through the cracks in the system and putting innocent children at risk. Ensuring all current and potential employees have a clean CARI record can end this pervasive threat to our children’s health and welfare.”
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean said that Governor Chris Christie’s action today on pending legislation reaffirms that the approach taken in S-355 represents the only path forward on Port Authority reform legislation:
“The governors of New York and New Jersey, both parties in both houses of the New York Legislature and Republicans in the New Jersey Legislature are on board with my Port Authority reform legislation,” said Kean. “It’s time for New Jersey Senate Democrats to get with the program and stop delaying the adoption and implementation of these critical reforms that represent the only workable path forward.”
The Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee passed a bill sponsored by Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman (R-Mercer, Somerset, Middlesex, Hunterdon) that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
“Thanks to this act, we’ve had a chance to preserve countless structures, districts and other properties with historical significance so future generations can enjoy and learn from them,” Senator Bateman said. “The 50th anniversary of the act gives us a chance to celebrate its success, as well as refocus our efforts to continue our fight to protect more of our historically important places.”
The Senate Higher Education Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) to support the Citizenship Rutgers immigration law project at Rutgers University which helps legal permanent residents to attain citizenship.
The measure, S-1558, would make a FY2016 supplemental of $200,000 from the General Fund to Citizenship Rutgers to support the organization and naturalization assistance events across the state.
“Many of New Jersey’s 600,000 permanent legal residents have lived here for decades and dream of citizenship, but they have not move forward due to the complexity and cost of the naturalization process,” said Beck. “Citizenship Rutgers provides those who choose to follow the legal process to attain citizenship with the direction and support they need to understand how to become naturalized.”
Legislation sponsored by Senator Christopher “Kip” Bateman requiring school nurses to meet additional training, clinical experience and education requirements has cleared the Senate Education Committee.
“A school nurse’s responsibilities extend far beyond placing a Band-Aid on a scraped knee,” Senator Bateman (R-16) said. “For a child living below the poverty line, a school nurse may be the only health professional they see. They are truly on the front lines of protecting a child’s health and welfare. Increasing training and clinical experience requirements will ensure all school nurses are fully equipped to identify the early signs of serious health problems and provide the highest level of care for kids with diverse and complex needs.”
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean has announced plans to sponsor a state budget resolution to expand funding for the New Jersey Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) by $1 million over FY 2016 levels.
The $3.565 million resolution would fully restore a $2.565 reduction of EOF in the proposed FY 2017 state budget, and further expand the program’s funding by $1 million in the upcoming fiscal year.
“Senate Republicans understand that education is the single greatest pathway to economic opportunity for New Jersey residents,” said Kean. “For the aspiring young students who aren’t sure how they’ll afford tuition or succeed in a college environment, the EOF represents a critical support structure. Our funding proposal will ensure that the EOF can continue to serve those who need it.”
Senator Steven Oroho, a member of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, reiterated the need for the enactment of significant tax reform to help stimulate the New Jersey economy and ensure the future ability of the State to meet its obligations.
“New Jersey is trending in a dangerous direction, with the outmigration of residents, income and wealth accelerating in recent years to lower-tax states,” said Oroho. “We all share the goal of strengthening the New Jersey economy, but we must push forward with tax reform efforts if we hope to retain and attract capital which will strengthen our ability to meet our financial needs.”
Oroho noted that certain naysayers always claim the sky will fall if tax cuts are enacted, pointing to opposition to business tax cuts in recent years.