by George Vogel)
LET THE LENDING BEGIN: A group of Princeton
High School students performed a Chinese Lion Dance at the ribbon-cutting
ceremony of the Princeton Public Library in April. Many local
dignitaries were on hand for the event, including, from left:
Eric Greenfeldt, the library's assistant director; Princeton Township
Mayor Phyllis Marchand; former Princeton Borough Mayor Marvin
Reed; and library donor Estelle Sands. The opening also included
a day's worth of activities ranging from author readings to children's
Princeton: A Small
Town Plays Big Roles
However different 2004 may have been from the years
that preceded it, there remains one constant we are consistently
reminded of: Princeton is changing.
And it's changing in
its own special way, with residents and local legislators alike
constantly working to sustain a progressive, forward-thinking
community while simultaneously doing their utmost to keep Princeton's
roots intact. In this sense, Princeton is very much a small town.
In another sense, Princeton is quickly turning into its
own style of urban center. In the last year alone, virtually every
major institution in our community has discussed, is planning,
or has completed major changes. Princeton University, the University
Medical Center at Princeton, the Arts Council, the Princeton Public
Library, and the Princeton Regional School District, to name a
few, are all involved in the process, not to mention the five-story
building that Princeton Borough is about to build on the surface
parking lot at Tulane and Spring streets. As a result of all these
developments, Princeton has become a major regional destination
along the Northeast corridor.
Among some of the nationally
known figures who visited Princeton in 2004 were former President
Bill Clinton; Secretary of State Colin Powell; former Secretary
of State George Schultz; Delaware Senator Joseph Biden; 60 Minutes
Correspondent Mike Wallace; former counterterrorism czar Richard
Clarke; and of course all the world-famous entertainers who performed
at McCarter Theatre. As a result, Princeton has become a major
national destination. But in 2004, despite its continued growth
and its highlighted spot on the national map, Princeton behaves
as any small town would. What made headlines in the past month?
A contentious 1,300-foot stretch of sidewalk on Snowden Lane.
The Arts Council
In June, the Princeton Regional Planning
Board approved the expansion of the Arts Council. Residents of
the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood had been concerned that a
16,740-square-foot, Michael Graves-designed building on the current
site of the Arts Council at 102 Witherspoon Street would set a
precedent for future expansion in that neighborhood, one of the
oldest in Princeton, and historically home to Princeton's African-American
community. The Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Association (WJNA),
which led the opposition to the Arts Council's plans, argued that
the process was largely conducted without regard for the historical
integrity of the neighborhood.
But members of the Arts
Council Board of Trustees, several of whom live in the Witherspoon-Jackson
neighborhood, said they felt that improved facilities and programming
would result in a more neighbor-friendly institution. "If
it makes a difference for the kids, then I support it," said
Dana Hughes, Green Street resident and Arts Council board member
at the time of approval. "If it helps the children and helps
the community then I support it."
Crime in Town
Bias crimes and student shootings headlined the news this year
in Princeton, much to the dismay of residents and local officials.
The most violent incident came in September with the shooting
and killing of former Princeton High School student Jean Mario
Israel, 19, in Trenton, followed by the news that he belonged
to the nationally-known Bloods gang and had been shot by a member
of a rival gang.
In December a current PHS student and
a forward on the basketball team, Richard Wilson, 17, was shot
in the back in Trenton, and is now undergoing treatment at a rehab
center in Philadelphia for paralysis in his lower body. The shooting
has not yet been related to gang violence.
in the Borough this fall caused concern among residents and school
officials, particularly in early November when a warning that
a student was the subject of threats from a Trenton-based gang
forced Princeton High School to be put under lock-down for a day.
While nothing came of that particular incident, the same period
saw two separate attacks on Hispanic residents by black youths,
also residents, one of whom was involved in both attacks. Further
alarming the community was a Halloween incident at the corner
of Bayard Lane and Hodge Road involving upwards of 50 youths making
gang-related hand gestures at one another.
Called in response
to these acts of violence, a November meeting of the Princeton
Human Services Commission on race relations attracted many concerned
members of the community. A gang violence forum hosted by police
and the Princeton Regional Schools later the same month alerted
the public to gang symbols and language. An investigator assured
parents that gang violence was not prevalent in Princeton.
With immigration raids already increasing throughout the country,
including one mid-October incident in the Borough where nine men
were taken away in handcuffs by immigration officials, the Borough
passed a resolution in November calling for immigration reforms
in the federal government. Responding to distrust in the Latino
community after immigration officials identified themselves as
police while raiding a Witherspoon Street residence, the police
assured Hispanic residents they did not need to be afraid to come
forward and report any criminal incidents. Princeton Township
Committee, however, denied requests to adopt a resolution, pointing
out that such an enactment was not necessarily applicable in the
Township. According to Mayor Marchand "a piece of paper is
not going to specifically make [immigrants] more comfortable."
In February, Secretary of State Colin Powell
visited Princeton University's Richardson Auditorium to accept
the Crystal Tiger Award, a new prize presented by Princeton undergraduates
that recognizes an individual who has impacted lives, communities,
and values. His appearance was one of the highlights of the week-long
100th birthday celebration of historian and former Ambassador
George F. Kennan.
Mr. Powell also defended the use of force
in Iraq, saying the U.S.-led war is "justified, and [is being]
fought skillfully and is bringing a new dignity to the Iraqi people
and to the entire region."
Mr. Powell's speech took
place as 30 to 40 people gathered outside at Tiger Park to protest
the war and to call for peace.
Flu Shot Shortage
When the U.K.-based Chiron Corporation announced in the early
fall that its license had been suspended because of sterility
concerns in its product Fluvirin, communities all over the country
felt the impact of the flu vaccine shortage. The shortage placed
strains on local pharmacies forced to administer the vaccines
to a limited number of residents. At the time, the vaccine shortage
shut down area flu clinics administering free shots. As a result
hundreds lined up outside pharmacies like Eckerd Drug Store at
the Princeton Shopping Center to purchase flu shots that would
have otherwise been dispensed at clinics.
The Princeton HealthCare System (PHCS), which comprises
several care facilities including the University Medical Center
at Princeton on Witherspoon Street, released its strategic plan
calling for widespread expansion and improvements to existing
facilities. The prospect of expansion also entailed potential
relocation to a campus within 15 to 20 minutes of downtown Princeton.
PHCS has indicated that if it were to move, it would ideally acquire
between 35 and 50 acres of land to house the various factions
of PHCS, including Princeton House Behavioral Health, Merwick
Rehab Hospital & Nursing Care, Princeton HomeCare Services,
Princeton Fitness & Wellness Center, and the Princeton Surgical
This relocation/expansion question spawned a community
dialogue led by the Princeton Health Care Task Force, a body of
municipal planning, zoning, and elected officials specifically
created to address the hospital issues. The task force has recently
completed a series of public forums exploring the hospital's options.
The hospital has yet to indicate whether it will stay or leave,
but a decision is expected in the near future.
The $81.3 million construction and renovation
project for all six schools in the district made a lot of headway
this year, as all four elementary schools opened on time this
fall, with only punch-list items still needing to be completed.
John Witherspoon Middle School opened with a brand new science
wing, and its new pool was completed in late November. Construction
and renovation projects are still continuing at the school.
Construction work on Princeton High School was delayed until the
end of 2003. New construction is now expected to be completed
sometime next summer. Contractors fell approximately seven months
behind due to delays in approval of construction drawings and
a gas leak at the school at the end of April, according to representatives
of Ernest Bock & Sons, the school's contractors.
problems at the high school were finally addressed this year,
beginning with discussions in late February and concluding with
a parking plan that was in place when school started in September.
Approved by the Borough, Township, and school board, the plan
allotted 70 parking spaces per semester for students on roads
surrounding the high school. The plan still has flaws, with many
parents and residents asking that the permit hours end at 3 p.m.,
rather than 6 p.m. This and other issues with the parking system
will be addressed between the district and the municipalities
early on in the new year.
the Princeton Regional Planning Board approved plans for developer
Nassau HKT to embark on the second phase of the downtown redevelopment
project. Phase I was the building of the Spring Street municipal
garage and the open square adjacent to the newly-built Princeton
Public Library. The construction of the new structure is slated
to begin sometime in the spring on the current site of the surface
lot at the corner of Tulane and Spring streets.
known as "Building C," the L-shaped structure will also
include 10 affordable housing units, a courtyard, and two public
walkways. One pedestrian-only walkway will connect Spring Street
with a 13-foot-wide, two-way delivery corridor running between
Building C and the Princeton Record Exchange.
approval preceded the end of Concerned Citizens of Princeton's
unsuccessful attempt to halt the downtown development. In late
October, Concerned Citizens lost its bid to re-open a legal case
against the municipality, thus ending its lawsuit, which declared
that Princeton Borough Council had moved forward with the $13.7
million downtown redevelopment project despite clear opposition
The two-year battle was resolved at the
Mercer County Superior Court level in June, and dismissed by the
Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in the fall.
A Dry Fete
To the dismay of Fete organizers, rain had
become a regular factor in the annual day fair, but not this year.
While it did rain substantially, in fact the 2004
"Rocket Fete" was able to keep a drenching at bay by
holding it's 51st Annual event along the concourse of the Princeton
New Library, Garage
Library on Witherspoon Street opened in April, soon followed by
the opening of the Spring Street garage. After some glitches during
the first few weeks, there was a positive move forward, with the
library boasting an attendance of more than 2,000 patrons per
day. The library said goodbye to its board of trustees president,
Harry Levine, in July, and welcomed its new president, Nancy Russell,
shortly thereafter. In the fall the library was the scene of a
remembrance ceremony for Christopher Reeve, a former Princeton
resident, actor, and advocate of stem cell research, who died
on October 10.
Currently underway, the next phase of the
project is the plaza outside the library, and the Witherspoon
House apartments, which will offer a restaurant on its first floor.
The Witherspoon Grill is due to open by summer 2005.
After 17 years, the Brood X swarm of cicadas
crawled out of the ground, providing a turbine-hum soundtrack
to Princeton for about six weeks in the spring. Princeton was
particularly vulnerable to the swarm because of the old trees
whose roots have housed generations of cicadas for hundreds of
The phenomenon of trees teeming and humming with
cicadas caught some residents off-guard. Historically known for
their bad eyesight, the cicadas were perceived to "attack"
some innocent passers-by. But the underground dwellers were simply
looking for a tree, a utility pole, a bush, or anything upright
to latch onto.
In July, the Borough
passed a budget of $21.94 million for 2004, despite hearty complaints
from residents in the months leading up to the vote. Taxes increased
by 12 cents per $100 of assessed valuation of land, two cents
less than originally predicted, as a result of last-minute funding
the municipality received from the state.
To reassure residents,
the Borough passed a resolution promising that it would try to
keep taxes at the same level for 2005. In December, Council was
given assurance that that goal was still possible.
of the Borough losing some of its tax revenue from nearby eating
clubs at Princeton University were recently calmed when Acting
Governor Richard Codey signed a bill into law in December that
will prevent eating clubs such as the Cottage Club from evading
their tax obligations to the Borough. The club pays more than
$50,000 to the Borough each year. Elections
Joseph O'Neill was sworn in as the new mayor of Princeton Borough,
after the retirement of Mayor Marvin Reed. Both men worked together
in January and February to finalize the Palmer Square housing
settlement, which approved construction of the 97 housing units
on Paul Robeson Place after a 13-year struggle over the developer's
terms. Scheduled to be completed within the next five to 10 years,
10 units of affordable housing were part of the agreement.
Later in the year the Borough also approved stacked parking for
the three downtown garages, which would allow for more parking
spaces once the new apartments are built.
Andrew Koontz was sworn in as the new member of Borough Council,
assuming the seat vacated by Mayor O'Neill. Mr. Koontz beat out
former Councilman Mark Freda by a Council vote of 3 to 2.
In early spring, Anne Waldron Neumann, Democrat, Mark Freda, Democrat,
and Princeton University student Evan Baehr, Republican, announced
their intent to run against incumbent Democrats Mr. Koontz and
Roger Martindell for a three-year term on Borough Council. Mr.
Koontz and Mr. Martindell won the June primary and retained their
seats on Council in the November election.
In the Township,
Witherspoon Street resident Lance Liverman was elected to fill
the seat of departing Committeewoman Karen C. "Casey"
Hegener, and Mayor Phyllis Marchand was re-elected to Committee,
a seat she has held since 1987. She has served nine consecutive
one-year terms as mayor and is expected to be voted in again by
her colleagues on Committee at the Township re-organization meeting
Mr. Liverman, the current vice chairman of
Princeton Human Services Commission, also heads up Liverman Associates,
a real estate venture. He is also a trustee on the Princeton Community
Village Housing Board and the Arts Council of Princeton's Neighborhood
members Anne Burns and Charlotte Bialek exchanged leadership roles
in the spring, with Ms. Burns becoming the new Board president
and Ms. Bialek becoming the new vice president. Incumbent Board
candidates JoAnn Cunningham, Alan Hegedus, and Ms. Bialek were
re-elected this year, and the district's $62.3 million budget
passed by a margin of 2 to 1.
After an announcement in
early spring that the district's superintendent of four years,
Dr. Claire Sheff Kohn, would be leaving her post on July 1 for
a position in Massachusetts, the district launched the search
for a replacement. Dr. Richard Marasco was hired in June as interim
superintendent, and Judith Wilson, current superintendent in the
Woodbury School District, was officially hired as the new superintendent
in October, and will assume her post on February 1. She was named
New Jersey's superintendent of the year shortly after Princeton
SAT Scores, Senior Trip
first place in SAT scores for two years, the district fell to
number three in 2004 behind Millburn and Montgomery. However,
the district moved ahead in other areas of education this year,
after receiving one state grant to begin a pre-kindergarten program
at Johnson Park Elementary School, and another to start a program
that will help individualize student attention on the freshman
level at the high school. Following efforts this fall by PHS class
president Sasha Jean to schedule a senior class trip to Disney
World for the entire student body next spring, the trip was recently
cancelled due to a lack of student interest. With the initial
cost estimated at $700 per student, some Board members had opposed
the trip because it would exclude some students.
Along with the positive actions taken this year
in the Princeton Regional Schools, the district was also faced
with some difficult issues. This fall a lawsuit was filed by parents
of female softball and ice hockey students at PHS contending that
the district was in violation of Title IX, which makes it illegal
for schools to deny educational benefits on the basis of gender.
With the parents' main concern being the need for more and better
fields for the girls' softball team, the Board stepped up to the
plate in late November by passing a resolution that asks the district's
administration to consider providing funds in the 2005-2006 school
budget for two new softball fields, and to update the existing
field at John Witherspoon Middle School. Thus far the lawsuit
has not been dropped.
At the end of November, the district
also learned that two employees of Princeton Young Achievers,
an after-school program for at-risk youths operating out of the
district's Valley Road building, were arrested and arraigned in
connection with the purchase of $6,600 in computer equipment and
office supplies on an unauthorized Staples account. Nichelle Hill,
37, of Willingboro, the former executive director of PYA, and
Beverly Harrington, 34, of Princeton, her assistant, both left
their positions prior to the arrests.
At a town forum in West Windsor in February, New Jersey's Department
of Transportation all but wrote the epitaph to the former Millstone
The proposed $65 million dollar road realignment
had been the cause of much consternation among municipalities
and land owners along the Penns Neck portion of Route 1. Under
DOT's new plan, Harrison Street will end in a cul-de-sac and then
connect drivers through 23 acres of Princeton University land
along an access road toward Route 1.
All parties involved
seem to be pleased with the new planexcept West Windsor,
which had supported an "eastside connector" roadway
that would have run alongside the Millstone River, effectively
diverting traffic from Washington Road, a residential area in
West Windsor. "Of course we are very disappointed,"
said West Windsor Township Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh.
conceded that while an eastside connector would have been an effective
solution to facilitate traffic flow, too many environmental factors
were at play.
"Between disturbing the floodplains
[of the Millstone River], and endangered species, there were just
too many environmental impacts that would have to be addressed,"
said DOT spokesperson Mike Horan.
Talk about urban renewal: in June a team of Princeton architects,
landscapers, and visionaries unveiled their plan to turn a vacant
lot behind Palmer Square into a "literary garden" that
would showcase Princeton's literary and architectural luminaries.
The organizers, project coordinator Peter Soderman, architects
Kevin Wilkes and Alan Goodheart, partnership coordinator Dana
Licht-strahl, and events coordinator Hope Van Cleaf, solicited
involvement from both architects and writers.
brought 10 design teams with local authors to produce something
that many had never seen before: a garden of follies, or garden
structures, where families could visit and various groups could
hold outdoor readings. The highlight of the four-month installation:
Civil War expert James McPherson standing in the early autumn
afternoon light at his Kevin Wilkes-designed folly reading from
his Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom.
garden proved to be somewhat of a financial burden for organizers
when the follies did not attract large amounts of money after
being put up for auction in October, but organizers felt vindicated
when, in November, the New Jersey Chapter of the American Institute
of Architects announced the in-town garden had been issued the
Honor Award for Built Project in 2004. Organizers hope to put
up similar installations in years to come.