Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 40
 
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
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Literacy Volunteers in Mercer County Thank Library for First Literacy Day

FAYE ABDOU
LYDIA FRANK
Board of Trustees
Literacy Volunteers in Mercer County

Princeton as a Tourist Destination Risks Traffic, Noise, Litter, Crowds

RICHARD TRENNER
Province Line Road


Literacy Volunteers in Mercer County Thank Library for First Literacy Day

To the Editor:

On behalf of Literacy Volunteers in Mercer County we would like to thank the Princeton Public Library for hosting the first ever Literacy Day, held on September 20. With the help of Princeton Public Librarian Mary Lou Hartman, Connecting to English library volunteer Marilyn Shteir, Literacy Volunteer board of trustees president Glenn Moore, ETS Vice President Eleanor Horne, testimonials from students and tutors and our honored guest speaker, Rep. Rush Holt, we were able to put together an informative agenda to highlight the need for greater awareness of literacy education in Mercer County.

An estimated 60,000 adults in Mercer County read at fifth grade level or below. The lack of basic skills strongly correlates with a wide range of problems — poverty, unemployment, crime, loss of productivity in the workplace, and lack of parental involvement in children’s education. Research shows that as a parent’s literacy level increases, so does the child’s educational success.

Princeton Public Library, along with the participating organizations and Rep. Holt, deserve recognition for their efforts to combat this problem. We would like to offer our sincere appreciation to them for their leadership in such an important matter.

FAYE ABDOU
LYDIA FRANK
Board of Trustees
Literacy Volunteers in Mercer County

Princeton as a Tourist Destination Risks Traffic, Noise, Litter, Crowds

To the Editor:

The article on the benefits-without-costs of turning Princeton into a tourist destination (Town Topics, September 17) ought to have included “implementation tactics” like these:

• Get unemployed i-bankers to emulate Princetonians of historic eras by paying them to wear tweedy costumes from Langrock, The English Shop, Harry Ballot, and other shops of autumns past.

• Market Princeton souvenirs, including toy replicas of the eating clubs, eyewear modeled on Wilson’s pince-nez, snacks with names inspired by such writers as Fitzgerald, Wilder, Oates, and O’Neill (“Tender is the Bite,” “Wilder-Oates Cookies,” and “The Ice Cream Man Cometh”), and a fashion line inspired by Einstein, Godel, and Oppenheimer labeled “Look Smart.”

That’s right: these are dumb jokes. Yet not long ago, I was stopped in Palmer Square by a man who asked, “Where can I buy souvenirs?” I suggested the Princeton Historical Society, which sells Einstein souvenirs. As I walked along Nassau Street, I was reminded how few downtown shops today sell anything (light bulbs, vegetables) that Princetonians need.

Now visitors are fine. But the article said nothing about the costs of Princeton’s promoting itself as a tourist attraction, an irreversible process. The article quoted Phyllis Oppenheimer of the New Jersey State Department’s Division of Travel and Tourism as saying, “Name recognition can assist in drawing more visitors to the area, which would be a boon to the Princetons, the region, and the state.” To which I respond, “How would it be a boon?”

Yes, getting lots of tourists to check out Princeton might bring money to some local merchants or, more likely, to the owners of the chain stores that have been proliferating. But what about the costs in terms of traffic, parking, noise, litter, loitering, and crowds? And what about the loss of our sense of place? Princeton is famously “special” because it combines preeminent academic institutions with the high degrees of beauty, charm, comfort, and security that come from two centuries of wealth and nurture. By trying to profit from tourist dollars, would residents want to accelerate the town’s decline into McPrinceton, a sad self-parody?

Moreover, what honest value will visitors receive as we entice them with advertising, whether paid for by taxpayers or businesses? Will they only get a day of gazing at students and spires, buying stuffed tigers, and posing their kids on Henry Moore’s Oval with Two Points? Or will they get something substantive — perhaps a few hours of learning about aspects of culture and history in a place made famous by learning?

Princetonians should resist turning our town into a tourist attraction. But if we fail and carloads of tourists do arrive, let’s give them more than snapshots and souvenirs to remember us by.

RICHARD TRENNER
Province Line Road

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