Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 38
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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Forty Years of Affordable Housing Advocacy Goes to the Birds With Upcoming Fund-raiser

Matthew Hersh

For Princeton Community Housing (PCH), you could call an upcoming fund-raiser “One for the Birds.”

The non-profit organization that has played a major role in Princeton as an affordable housing advocate, provider, and manager, is gearing up for a 40th anniversary fund-raiser at the end of this month, and while the idea is to look back and celebrate the organization’s accomplishments, organizers are more focused on the future, in trying to make Princeton more affordable to a wider demographic.

But for the Big Four-O, PCH is having some fun, and you may have already noticed.

Starting this month, artisan birdhouses have sprouted up in Princeton storefronts around town, creating a homey avian feel around town.

“There’s No Place Like Home” is PCH’s September 30 birdhouse auction and reception at ETS with proceeds going toward PCH. Over 100 birdhouses will be auctioned off, and there truly is nary an ordinary design in the auction. PCH found willing big-name birdhouse designers like architects Michael Graves and J. Robert Hillier, as well as local artists like Susan Hockaday, Helen Schwartz, Sally Davidson, and Trudy Glucksberg.

Along with the silent auction, there are plans for a live auction of the “most significant” birdhouses, said PCH executive director Sandra Persichetti, along with refreshments and children activities.

Ms. Persichetti said she was caught off guard, in a good way, of course, on the positive response she received after reaching out to the community looking for birdhouse designers. “We sent out letters — we opened the Yellow Book — to just about every architect, graphic designer, and landscape architect in town, and then we reached out to a couple of artists,” she said. Receiving 100 responses from 300 solicitations, Ms. Persichetti said she then realized there was real potential behind the fund-raising project.

“These are unbelievable. I mean, I was really amazed,” Ms. Persichetti said after reviewing just a sampling, from Mr. Hillier’s ping pong ball pyramid birdhouse, to Realtor Robin Wallack’s piece covered with Princeton-related from Town Topics and Princeton Packet news clippings, to artier pieces like “Casita de los Muertos” by writer and artist Shannon Olin Kresge.

“Basically, we gave them no direction,” Ms. Persichetti said. “We just said ‘do a birdhouse,’ and what we got back were really pieces of art.”

Ms. Persichetti said she hopes that those very pieces of art will help the organization continue its mission. Currently, PCH manages 463 units of low- and moderate-income rental housing through a combination of several legally independent corporations, but all with the identical board of trustees. The PCH umbrella includes Princeton Community Village, Elm Court I and Elm Court II (Harriet Bryan House), and Griggs Farm.

Without question, it’s been an enormous year for PCH. In May, following four years of litigation, PCH opened its Harriet Bryan House, the second phase of Elm Court on Elm Road. The 67-unit subsidized housing facility for low- and moderate-income seniors represented a 44 percent expansion to the already existing 88-unit Elm Court, which opened in 1985.

Further, PCH is looking to increase units at its Princeton Community Village through a partnership with Princeton University. If that deal moves ahead, Princeton University could satisfy a portion of its affordable housing growth share requirement as outlined by the state’s Council on Affordable Housing, and PCH will have furthered its aims by managing additional housing.

PCH has also connected with the community through a variety of community partnerships, including programs affiliated with the New Jersey Affordable Housing Management Association, Princeton Human Services, Corner House, and Princeton Regional Schools.

Another change this year is the pending December 31 retirement of Karl Light, principal of K.M. Light Real Estate, which has worked under contract providing management services for Princeton Community Village, Griggs Farm, and Elm Court. The PCH board voted to become the manager of its own properties through the PCH Development Corporation, though still contracting with KM Light to manage the rental units at Griggs Farm.

“That’s a big step and a huge adjustment for our board,” Ms. Persichetti said. A step taken, she added, that there really is “no place like home.”


Princeton Community Housing will hold its Birdhouse Auction and Reception on Sunday, September 30, from 3 to 6 p.m., at Educational Testing Service on Rosedale Road. Tickets are $25 per person, with free admission for children under 12. For more information, call (609) 924-3822, ext. 15, or visit

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