Two giant rats have joined the protests against the redevelopment of Princeton’s old hospital as apartments. The 15ft-tall inflatable rodents were unveiled by demonstrators from a labor union. “Don’t ask me, I just blow up the rat,” was the response from one of the protestors when asked what it was all about. Another union man pointed out that they were objecting to the use of non-union labor for stripping the old hospital of asbestos. The rats came out to coincide with a Princeton Council meeting, which was expected to decide the exact terms by which the demolition and redevelopment could occur.
The rats of Local 78 are picking up the fight where local residents’ group ‘Association for Planning At Hospital Site’ left off. At the end of February, Judge Mary Jacobson threw out all the APHS legal claims against the planning process that led to the approval of the redevelopment. (This ruling came in the middle of an busy spell for Judge Jacobson, during which she also legalized gay marriage in New Jersey and fired corrupt Trenton Mayor Tony Mack.) Another group, ‘Princeton Citizens For Sustainable Neighborhooods’ had previously opposed the redevelopment, but last summer withdrew their objections, noting the advantages of bringing affordable housing within walking distance of the downtown.
The redevelopment looks set to go ahead, although municipal officials are keeping a careful watch on the demolition proceedings. This is not the first time that Princeton has dealt with a controversial redevelopment of a semi-industrial site. Construction of the new Princeton Public Library, and the garage and apartments around present-day Hinds Plaza was held up because of a need to remediate contamination from coal tar (and the usual litigation). That site is now one of the most unique and productive spaces in town. Hopefully in years to come, we will be able to say the same about the old hospital site. Despite the court cases, the controversy, and the giant rats, the new apartments will increase housing choice and allow people to live in walking range of many stores and workplaces, making it easier to live in Princeton with less dependency on cars.
Did you see the giant rats around Princeton town hall? Should the developer get an inflatable cat to go after the inflatable rat? What other inflatable beasts would you like to see around town hall? Or should we maybe hold back on the whole inflatable animal thing? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.