BARBARA L. JOHNSON
To the Editor:
The Arts Council of Princeton is an invaluable resource to the community. It provides "art from the inside out;" low-cost classes for children, teens, adults, and seniors; summer camp for children; and numerous art-centered events for families. In planning the renovation and expansion of the Paul Robeson Building, the Arts Council has reached out to its immediate neighbors as well as to the larger community for advice and guidance, and has adapted the building designs accordingly.
Throughout the approvals process for the renovation and expansion, there have been some misperceptions that need to be corrected.
Property taxes will not go up as a result of this renovation. The Arts Council is funded by private donations and grants. The renovation and expansion will be paid for entirely by funds raised by the Arts Council.
The Arts Council is an organization that is open to all.
The Arts Council provides programs and classes at a very modest cost, and there are scholarships for those who cannot afford the tuition. No one has ever been turned away from a class for lack of money. Among the students at the Arts Council are homeless children who benefit from instruction and field trips. For many years, the Arts Council has had a neighborhood committee that focuses on programming of particular interest to the immediate neighborhood. There are also activities of particular interest to teens and summer camp for young children. This is one place where people can come and get their hands dirty making art, all in the spirit of good, clean fun.
Renovation and expansion of the building are necessary to keep the quality of programming high.
One problem with the current building is lack of space, particularly for the ceramics studio and the photo studio, which are heavily used, especially since they are the only such facilities in the area that are open for public use.
Our town center now has a magnificent new library, and I look forward to a new Arts Center in the Robeson Building being another anchor of family activity in our vibrant town.
To the Editor:
I grew up in the Paul Robeson Place, Witherspoon Street neighborhood. I own a home in the neighborhood. I am also a member of the Arts Council's board of directors and support the renovation of the building.
The Arts Council recently hosted a community event inviting members of a long-standing Princeton African-American family to participate in a discussion of their experiences in documentary filmmaking. The presentation included a film about a black military battalion in World War II. Some of its members were also members of the Princeton African-American community. I saw many current and former neighborhood residents.
The building has some uneven floors, a curtain acting as a door to the loft, peeling paint on the ceiling, and old hot water radiators. The sound system was unreliable. The loft is also used for dance classes, painting classes, and Tai Chi. As it has no storage space, items such as chairs or stage production material are simply pushed to the side during the class.
On the first floor, a room was the studio for Princeton's local community access TV channel. Both mayors use this channel to communicate with the Princeton public. The word "cramped" would be generous to describe the space I called a room. It seemed to be more like a modest sized storage closet. I am sure that adequate space is one of the reasons that the television station left the building. Generally, it appears that everything from the offices to the classrooms to the galleries is competing for space.
The building is out of date because it was constructed in 1939. Building codes have long since changed. No one could or would construct this same building now. Despite its shortcomings, the Arts Council bought the building from the Borough in 1983 and has worked within the current space for 23 years.
The Arts Council has already demonstrated its willingness to compromise. The new building will not require a height variance. The loft will be renovated instead of being converted into a 200-seat theater. A very large part of the new space is devoted to code compliance. Also, it will be named after Paul Robeson.
As part of the original purchase of the building, the Arts Council accepted Princeton Borough's condition to form a neighborhood committee. It has formed partnerships with the Princeton Nursery School and the Young Princeton Achiever's Program at the Hank Pannell Learning Center.
In addition to its actions demonstrating a commitment to both the neighborhood and the larger Princeton community, we should remember that the cost of the renovation would not be borne by the neighborhood or taxpayers. The new building will also have a permanent neighborhood exhibit in the new gallery.
The building renovation presents an opportunity for more activities such as the documentary film discussion. I believe that the renovated building will present the residents of the neighborhood with an opportunity not only to participate in Arts Council activities but also to sponsor its own activities if the neighborhood chooses to take advantage of the renovated building.
ALVIN J. McGOWEN
To The Editor:
As an enthusiastic fan of our new library I want to bring to your attention the performance of several professional photographers covering the dedication and ribbon cutting. They were to the right of the front door and the guests and speakers.
Unfortunately, there were four or five rude and inconsiderate photographers who stationed themselves on the edge of the sidewalk and managed to obscure picture taking by the audience.
They could have taken seats in the front row or sat on the pavement in front of those seats. They could have shot their pictures from the side as others were doing.
Professional photographers have become increasingly thoughtless as they wield their self-importance in public. At the University, visiting speakers are bombarded by a multitude of flash photos taken during their talks. This is discourteous to the speaker and the audience.
At the Borough statue ceremony during Memorial Day activities, and on Veterans' Day, there always seem to be some photographers who feel their photos are more important than the prayers and observances of others. Manners and respect for the occasions seem to be crushed beneath the hubris of some photographers.
I suggest that we should not countenance such behavior at our public ceremonies. I urge Princetonians who manage these things to let it be known that we expect courtesy and sensitivity on these occasions.
To the Editor:
Whatever happened to "Delight"?
I'm writing in response to Matthew Hersh's informative article on the cicadas in last week's issue (Town Topics, May 19). In the article and the caption below the picture of a cicada, I found the following words to describe the arrival of these insects: "pester, annoy, distract, unwelcoming human ears". While this may ring true for many people, I, for one, am delighted at the arrival of "Brood X", and there may even be others like me out there.
Why do we tend to look upon natural occurrences as a nuisance and a pest? This earth is a magical place, and the creatures on it amazing in their diversity. I have seen many children wide-eyed in fascination and squealing happily as the cicadas walked up their shirtfronts. Perhaps we should feel honored that we get to experience this earthly visitation four or five times in our lives. Could cicadas be beautiful? Could their gossamer wings astound us? Could their song take us into a soaring daydream? Could beauty be in the eye of the beholder?
I vote that we shift our perception of the world around us and stop looking at anything that is non-human as an annoyance that makes it hard to focus on the TV. We are dependent on the plants and animals with whom we share the planet; most of them were here first. Let them delight us as we share our lives. What a concept.
To the Editor:
The McCarter Theatre production of My Fair Lady in its Berlind Theater was the most scintillating evening of theater that I have experienced in a long while.
I recommend it to all, especially to those who may be hanging back because they don't want to dislodge the images of Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison in their minds. I guarantee they will be every bit as enchanted with the performances of Kate Fry as Eliza Doolittle and Michael Cumpsty as Henry Higgins, as they will be by Michael McCarty as Alfred P. Doolittle, Simon Jones as Colonel Pickering, Jane Connell as Higgins' mother, and indeed everyone in the excellent ten-member ensemble cast.
For me, however, the real star of the evening is the director Gary Griffin, whose work with the musical director Thomas Murray was profiled last Saturday in a long article in the New York Times. In my view, McCarter productions in recent years had become overly reliant on elaborate sets, scenery and costumes the so-called "production values" that can bedazzle an audience and overpower the acting. Here, at last, was a production in which the acting and the directing shone forth with clarity, simplicity and directness. It was breathtakingly wonderful.
When Eliza "got it," enunciating "The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain," the entire audience rejoiced with her. On one level My Fair Lady is about language and how words are used. Here the Lerner-Loewe words, whether spoken or sung, came across in a new and distinctly felt way. I think of "Show Me," Eliza's heartfelt demand for Freddie to do more than tack declarations of his affections on lampposts, and "Get Me to the Church on Time," Doolittle's swan song to a life of carousing before he is ensnared in marriage.
Like others I was puzzled at the announcement that McCarter was going to stage My Fair Lady in the new Berlind Theater. My Fair Lady is so well loved and has such a storied past in film and on stage; surely McCarter would want to give it the full treatment in the main stage of the much larger Matthews Theater. The decision to stage it in a smaller venue was both bold and imaginative, and Emily Mann deserves full credit for having enlisted Mr. Griffin and Mr. Murray to work their magic in the intimate but handsome confines of the "jewel box," as the Berlind Theater is being described.
I urge everyone to go see this gem in the "jewel box."
To the Editor:
As a candidate for Princeton Borough Council, I am walking our neighborhoods and speaking to voters. Everyone has one good question: what are you going to do about my property taxes?
Princeton Borough is in a fiscal crisis. Our already overburdened taxpayers will pay a projected 14 cent increase in their property taxes this year. Worse, for 2005 the Borough Administrator is projecting a 12.5 cent increase. That's a 26.5 cent increase in two years. The effects of these increases are already being felt. Longtime residents are moving out because they can no longer afford their property taxes.
There are many ideas about what to do. Some advocate asking the University to give us more money. Others hope that the state will send us more municipal aid. I think both ideas are good. The University should provide more fiscal support. The state should raise income taxes to offset regressive property taxes.
But I also think we, the members of Borough Council, need to do what we can to reduce the Borough's budget.
Borough Council has already taken a number of steps. We have instituted a hiring freeze on all Borough departments. We are moving all Borough employees to the state health care plan, which will provide real savings over the current plan. Council members will now receive quarterly reports of revenues and expenses, allowing us to spot potential problems. But we need to do more.
I propose that we move to multi-year budgeting, looking out as far as three to five years. This will allow Borough Council to better prepare for future problems, and prevent sharp rises in property taxes.
I support a merger of the Princeton Borough and Princeton Township police dispatch systems, and I call on both municipalities to begin exploring this idea immediately. But negotiations for a potential merger, not to mention training and relocation, will require time. Borough taxpayers are hurting now. I think Borough Council needs to take immediate steps to reduce expenses this year.
At the May 25 Borough Council meeting, I will introduce a resolution that calls upon Borough Council to make a number of spending cuts to reduce the 14 cent property tax increase. Let me outline three of my proposals here.
First, we need to scale back road reconstruction. We can no longer afford the current, aggressive program. I am not calling for a halt to road maintenance, but we do need to adopt a new schedule that is better suited to our current fiscal situation. This would lessen the work load for our Engineering Department, allowing Council to reduce staff in that office.
Second, I think we need to take a careful look at the size of our police force. While I cannot stress enough that we have a wonderful, highly professional force, I believe that we cannot afford to maintain the force at its current size. Several years ago, the force was increased from 32 to 34 with money from a federal grant provided by the Clinton Administration. After George Bush took office, that grant was discontinued. Without the federal money to support the additional officers, and with no real prospect of federal or state money in the future, I believe we have no choice but to return the force to its former level, preferably through attrition.
Third, we must also look to share services with county government. Borough residents pay a great deal of taxes to the county, and get very little in return. We need to change that. I strongly advocate turning over the maintenance of Harrison Street and Mercer Street to the county. There are other services, such as welfare, that the county could provide, and I think we should actively pursue those options.
I have made property tax relief my top priority as a member of Princeton Borough Council. Why? Because I believe we all want to preserve the essential character of our town a place where many people of different backgrounds and different means can afford to live. Keeping Princeton vital and diverse will require difficult decisions and hard work. But I have found Princetonians to be capable people. It has been a real pleasure to serve the people of this community as a member of Princeton Borough Council. And I will continue to visit the neighborhoods, asking for support.
To the Editor:
I serve on the committee that has been working to acquire and erect a statue memorializing Albert Einstein in Princeton, which is expected to be unveiled in the park adjacent to Borough Hall in April, 2005, the 50th anniversary of Einstein's death and the 100th anniversary of his theory of relativity.
While all of Borough government has been extremely helpful in working with the committee, Borough Councilman Roger Martindell embraced the initiative from the beginning and has helped negotiate the administrative and legal hurdles any such project entails.
Through his steadfast support and work with his Council colleagues, we are well on our way to bringing a historical statue to Princeton so that not only tourists, but generations of our own children, will learn about Albert Einstein, the brilliant, peace-loving man who lived among us. And the acquisition of the statue, which has a substantial value, will cost the Borough nothing.
As a taxpaying resident of the Borough, I also appreciate Mr. Martindell's sole vote against the recent tax increase and his proposals to reduce our property taxes.
Mr. Martindell clearly demonstrates his commitment to creatively and carefully finding ways to make Princeton more affordable. Because of this, his analytical eye and his deep personal commitment to protecting and enhancing the community, I support his bid for re-election to the Borough Council in the Democratic Primary on June 8.
To the Editor:
As mayors of municipalities near the Route 1 corridor in central New Jersey, we are pleased to see that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued an environmental impact statement which should put to rest any questions about the need for Route 92. The 400-page document, "Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Route 92 Project Proposed by the NJ Turnpike Authority," and its accompanying appendices totaling over 1,000 pages, thoroughly studies the project and its potential impacts and finds that the road alignment proposed by the Turnpike Authority not only meets the project's stated need and purpose, but does so with the least harm to the environment or local communities.
Central New Jersey has long lacked an east-west connector. The absence of such a road has resulted in significant traffic congestion and a threat to local safety and quality of life, as local roads bear the ever-increasing traffic. Studies by the Turnpike Authority, local municipalities, and many credible traffic engineers have demonstrated that traffic congestion on many local roads will be significantly reduced if Route 92 is built. Now, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement confirms this fact.
Those who oppose the road have presented arguments that are not supported by any legitimate studies. The widening of Route 522 does not solve the problem of getting 18-wheelers away from the front yards where our children play. Alternative alignments have been evaluated and most would have greater environmental or socio-economic impact. Despite the fears of communities as far to the west of Route 1 as Hopewell, the Draft Environmental Impact Statement demonstrates that the new road will not increase traffic on local roads, and in fact will generally reduce peak hour traffic volumes on local and secondary east-west roads. Building this roadway will not bring additional traffic to the area, it will merely channel the through traffic directly to the Turnpike without first weaving through local streets.
It's time to get past unfounded fears and look at the facts. We have lived in the region and seen the explosion of development. Each town is able to make decisions about zoning and land use that reflect the nature of our individual communities and how we choose to balance development with open space. Now we can look forward to a Turnpike project that will make our region more livable by taking through traffic off local roads and putting it on a direct link to the Turnpike.
This is what smart growth is really about. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement provides an independent review of the facts, and in the end, it is clear that Route 92 is desperately needed. We urge local residents to review the DEIS at the local library and learn more about this project. We urge the Army Corps of Engineers and state agencies to issue the necessary permits to get Route 92 built now for central New Jersey.
To the Editor:
Since the late 1970s and early '80s, first as a medical student at Duke and then as a pediatric resident in Indiana, I have seen the needless damage to teens' health, happiness and lives by harassment, rape, STD, unwanted pregnancy and abortions. Now as a Princeton pediatrician the last 19 years, I have viewed the relatively frequent tragedy through the eyes of the teens, peers, parents, family and friends. Lack of knowledge, misinformation, a momentary lapse, a careless mistake, an impulsive act, judgment impaired by passion, alcohol or sadness, or just an unfortunate tragedy of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. A parent's fear, one avoidable moment and an entire life devastated I have mourned with the families their loss of innocence, esteem, health and life.
A loss that is often, lamentably, preventable. I still recognize the wisdom of my mentors: primary prevention is always more effective, less costly, and less traumatic than treatment after the fact. And the cost and trauma has only grown. In the '70s, my college and medical school peers fretted about Herpes; little did we anticipate the 2000's HIV/Aids epidemics, resistant gonorrhea, and Papilloma Virus causing cervical cancer. As a society we must educate and protect our children, teens, and young adults. Not the big, one-time puberty talk (which everyone dreads), but an effective lifelong process early proactive parenting, coupled later with comprehensive sexual health classes and peer programs. For this reason, I support HiTOPS (Health-interested Teens' Own Program on Sexuality), an effective, local not-for-profit.
Although sexual activity among high school juniors and seniors has recently declined to less than 50 percent, and condom use among sexually active high school students has in a decade risen from 46 to 57 percent, more work needs to be done. Approximately one in five students still enter college with a sexually transmitted infection. Many experts, including the American Medical Association and the National Institutes of Health, believe that abstinence-only education and services are unrealistic, ineffective, and insufficient. They persistently advocate for comprehensive sexual health education. Recent national surveys reveal that the majority of parents agree. Locally, we are fortunate that we have HiTOPS, a wonderful resource for teens, their families and schools, that promotes the three R's: Rights, Respect, and Responsibility for all teens. I call on the greater Princeton Community to help HiTOPS help teens.
Last year, a former HiTOPS Teen Council educator returned from his freshman year at Yale and organized the first "Education About Sex for Youth" (E.A.S.Y.) bike ride benefit for HiTOPS. Eighteen riders, many former teen members, biked one hundred miles from Princeton to the Jersey Shore and back, raising $15,000. This year, a cadre of physicians from the University Medical Center at Princeton have formed Passionate about Primary Prevention to support E.A.S.Y., and have committed to join the E.A.S.Y. Riders on their June 26-27 hundred-mile bike ride for HiTOPS. Please consider helping us support HiTOPS; better yet, join us for the one- or two-day E.A.S.Y. Ride.
TIMOTHY PATRICK-MILLER, M.D.
To the Editor:
The New Jersey Unit of Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic held its 10th annual Record-A-Thon from April 19 to 24. During that week 263 volunteers donated 1200 hours to prepare books, read, direct, check, and duplicate more than 400 hours of text ranging from The New Jersey Colony to College Physics. This tripled our usual weekly output and allowed us to complete 21 books.
This year we celebrated poetry and the sciences, as well as our connection to Princeton University through its students, faculty, and staff as authors, volunteers, and borrowers of our recorded material. Shirley Tilghman, president of Princeton University, served as our honorary chair and read for one session. Other celebrity readers added to the excitement of the week: Paul Muldoon, C.K. Williams, Emily Mann, Charles Johnson, Freeman Dyson, Gina Kolata, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Peter Benchley, Wendy Benchley, Steven Schultz, Karla Cook Schultz, Rush Holt, Dr. Margaret Lancefield, and Brian Hughes.
In addition to raising awareness of our services and finishing a large number of books, the Record-A-Thon is our only fund-raiser for the year. We raised $52,000 to support our vital mission of providing accessible textbooks to people who cannot read standard print.
Thanks to lead sponsor Lou Mercatanti of Nassau Broadcasting Partners; studio sponsors Don Tretola of PSE&G and Herb Greenberg of Caliper; booth sponsors Bloomberg, ETS, and Volvo of Princeton; and book sponsors U.S. Trust, Merrill Lynch, Eagle Group, Llura and Gordon Gund, and W. Quinlan, P.C.; and numerous volunteers who donated to this event.
The fund-raising committee, led by Anne Young, included Oriel Quinlan, Sandy Shapiro, Anita Trullinger, and Beverly Mills. Among the donors to the auction were Hyatt-Regency, Princeton, PSE&G, Pivotal Physical Wellness Center, Euporbia of Lawrenceville, Masala Grill, Hands-On Therapy, Sondra's, Pennington Market, Main Street of Princeton, McCarter Theatre, Bowhe & Peare, Forest Jewelers, Creative Memories, La Terraza, Matteo, White Lotus, Chelsea Crimpers, Ashton-Whyte, Go For Baroque, Jennifer's Cup of Tea, Ten Thousand Villages, Caliper, and Orion Jewelry Studio.
Special thanks also to Sandie Rabinowitz, who gathered food and prizes to sustain and reward the volunteers. Area merchants who supported our efforts included Acme, the Flower Market, Landau's, McCaffrey's, Main Street, Nassau Inn, Nassau Street Seafood, Obal's, Passage to India, Olives, P.J.'s Pancake House, Princetonian Diner, Princeton University Store, Shop Rite, Sunny Garden, Wild Oats, Windansea, Americana Diner, Lenscrafters, Sovereign Bank, Bucks County Coffee, and Princeton Hyatt.
We are truly grateful to all the volunteers who donated time, expertise, food, and money in a spirited and productive week.
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