February 22, 2017

To the Editor:

Earlier this month, all Princeton homeowners received a green postcard in the mail listing their property assessments for 2017 as well as their assessments from last year for comparison.

Property owners in some neighborhoods — approximately 1000 households total — will see changes to their assessments. This reflects changes in home values as determined by the Princeton Tax Assessor.

Residents may remember the community distress caused by the 2009 revaluation, in which many properties experienced significant changes in their assessments resulting in dramatic increases in their tax bills. A fundamental cause of the giant swing was the fact that the former Princeton Borough and Township had gone 13 years without revaluations, while the housing market had changed significantly over that period.

In order to avoid another devastating revaluation, since then our tax assessor has conducted an annual “compliance plan.” Each year, the Assessor’s office reviews sales from the entire town, looks for trends, and whether assessments match market activity. In neighborhoods where sold homes are selling for 15 percent or more outside the range of current assessments, global assessment changes are made. These changes are reviewed and approved by the Mercer County Tax board. We should note that Princeton’s tax assessor reports directly to the Mercer County Tax Board, and not to Princeton’s governing body.

If you feel your home is assessed incorrectly, we encourage you to make an appointment to meet with the Princeton Tax Assessor to discuss your property. You also can file an appeal. Information about how to appeal can be found on the Princeton municipal website: www.princetonnj.gov/tax-assessor.html. Appeals must be submitted by April 1.

Liz Lempert, 

Mayor

Jenny Crumiller, 

Council President

To the Editor:

I was biking down Cherry Hill Road, on Friday, February 17, at 1:50 p.m., when my bike skidded and I found myself flying over the handlebars and landing face down onto the asphalt. While struggling to disentangle myself, I was aware that a car had stopped opposite me and a lady with a pleasant East European accent was offering her help. “Oh,” I said, “it’s only superficial,” intending to get back on my bicycle and continue the trip downtown. At this moment, a black SUV drove up, and a tall gentleman with an authoritative manner came out, saw me, and told me that I would be taken to the Princeton hospital. I was not pleased by this news, of course, but at the same time was becoming aware of the drip-drip of blood onto my face and clothes. I repeated several times that I would be most grateful if someone could call my wife saying, in a manner of speaking, that I would not be home for supper. At this moment a car with an Emergency Medical Service logo pulled up, apparently by chance, and the driver who was to be most extraordinarily kind and helpful, soon did indeed make the call, telling my wife that I was about to be taken to the ER for a “bloody nose.” When I asked this gentleman what would happen to my bicycle, I was told that, pro forma, it would be taken to the police station, but a moment later, he volunteered to simply put it in my backyard, if I preferred. How kind!

Now it was time for the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad to pull up. I was lifted (for the first time in my life, and I am not young) onto a stretcher — Gor! — and lodged in the ambulance, where a kind helper discussed with me the pitfalls of bicycling with a light, aerodynamically up-to-date bicycle on treacherous roads. I was dimly aware that a young woman helper also in the back was staring at me in a sort of muted horror. Apparently, I was drastically bloodstained in face and clothing and looked, as someone at the hospital was to remark, like Dracula with acid reflux.

At the ER I was treated with customary kindness, alacrity, and skill, where it was now determined that aside from a two-inch gash alongside my nose; a nasal bone fracture; a suspected broken rib; a black eye; and the predictable medley of bruises and contusions, I was fit to be sent home, somewhat the worse for wear, with pending appointments with an ENT physician and — glorious to hear — a plastic surgeon: “It’s the nose, stupid!” (it had never been a thing of beauty). And so, a bit like Hotspur’s oath in King Henry IV, Part One, “Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety,” I emerged battered but exultant. The event has allowed me to appreciate the extraordinary goodness of our fellow citizens — how lucky I am to live here! — and with no mean pleasure, which I share with my family, the prospect of a new and better nose.

Stanley Corngold

Ridgeview Circle

To the Editor:

I was grateful for the letter to the editor (“With Increased Size of Developments Fire Can Spread,” Feb. 15) from Grace Sinden expressing fire safety concern over light-weight wood construction of multi-unit residences. Having been exposed to two large industrial fires, I could not pass by the multi-story multi-dwelling piney-wood skeleton which was taking form at the AvalonBay construction site without apprehension. In my experience, the codes which are influenced by builders in a substantial way are consensus based and not entirely insensible to considerations of immediate economics. Of course less stringent codes can reduce construction cost and increase profit but clearly at a greater safety risk. It seems to me one might ask the question “what is the value of the present codes?” A starting point??

James Manganaro

Dodds Lane

To the Editor:

On February 10, the Princeton Charter School (PCS) leadership sent a letter to the New Jersey Education Commissioner in which they describe their current financial difficulties. Citing both rising healthcare and PARCC testing costs, the school states that they will not be able to sustain current operations without the expansion currently under review. They argue that the expansion solves their financial concerns through the economies of scale that it would achieve (page viii, PCS Final Submission). Despite the fact that this seems quite central to PCS’s motivation for expanding, they did not include this in their expansion proposal, which they call the Access and Equity Plan.

While everyone can appreciate the challenges posed by rising healthcare costs, this is not a good reason for expanding PCS. In fact, all New Jersey schools, including Princeton Public Schools (PPS), are facing rising healthcare and testing costs. Just as adding scale aids PCS’s bottom line, the transfer of funds from PPS would harm our district’s schools when they, too, are facing cost pressures. Nor is expanding a long-term solution for PCS. The forces that led to their current financial situation are not abating. As the cost of healthcare and testing technology continue to rise, PCS will again feel constrained by their fixed revenue in a few years. Will they seek another expansion then? Where does it end?

Rather than asking PPS to pay its bills, PCS should make changes within their school if they wish to compensate their teachers better. Policy changes that make the school more attractive to low income and English learning students would increase their revenue and address their demographic issues. The fact that they chose instead to look to PPS is disheartening.

I encourage PCS to withdraw their application and make those changes or, better yet, look for ways to consolidate our schools. Rising fixed costs at both schools means that Princeton is paying a higher and higher price for school choice. Consolidation would eliminate redundancies and lower costs. Then all of Princeton would benefit from the economies of scale.

Amy Craft

Poe Road

To the Editor:

There’s an interesting Princeton back story to the movie Hidden Figures, which has been showing at the Garden Theater and is nominated for three Academy Awards. The back story centers around the movie’s main character, Katherine G. Johnson — one of three extraordinary black women mathematicians depicted in the film. Despite racial prejudice at NASA, respect for Johnson’s mathematical mind grew to the point that John Glenn refused to climb in the rocket until Johnson had verified the math behind the flight’s trajectory.

On a hunch, I traced the mathematical lineage of Katherine Johnson, and found that the string of mentors and advisors leads four generations back to Oswald Veblen, the great mathematician and visionary who played quiet but decisive roles in building Princeton’s math department of the 1930s, and bringing the Institute for Advanced Studies and luminaries like Einstein and Von Neumann to Princeton.

Another connection to the movie shows Veblen’s vision and courage, not only in helping Jewish scientists escape Nazi Germany, but in his early efforts to bring black scholars to Princeton. Johnson’s college professor, William Claytor, was the third African American to receive a PhD in mathematics, but had been forced to take a position that allowed no time for research. Veblen, aware of Claytor’s limited opportunities to exercise his brilliance, sought to bring him to Princeton University, but the University did not accept “coloured persons.” Four years later, Veblen offered Claytor a position at the IAS, which was not subject to the University’s exclusions based on race. But by that time, Claytor had apparently grown disillusioned, and turned down the offer.

Hidden Figures also tells the story of Dorothy Vaughan, who in the movie teaches herself Fortran and figures out how to run a new computer that was otherwise baffling staff at NASA. It was women “computers” who figured out how to actually operate and program the early computers men built. A similar story was told locally this past week, when two local computer societies collaborated to host a talk on the ENIAC, a World War II-era creation that “was the testbed on which the human race learned how to build and program computers.” Though not mentioned in the talk, it was the visionary Veblen who gave the go-ahead to fund construction of the ENIAC in Philadelphia.

The reason I happened to research these Princeton connections is that Veblen also championed another poorly treated entity whose contributions have long been downplayed — nature. Veblen essentially founded Princeton’s movement to preserve open space. He worked to acquire 610 acres that became the Institute Woods, and in 1957 the Veblens donated the land for Princeton’s first dedicated nature preserve, Herrontown Woods.

As president of the Friends of Herrontown Woods, I have the good fortune not only to research Veblen’s remarkable legacy, but also to lead efforts to restore Herrontown Woods and the house and cottage the Veblens donated along with the land. Recently, we submitted to Mercer County an official proposal to rehabilitate these long boarded up historic structures. The Veblens, and the public, deserve an honest effort to repurpose these structures for the benefit of all.

Stephen Hiltner

North Harrison Street

HISTORIC DEBUT: Princeton University men’s lacrosse player Michael Sowers eludes a foe last Saturday as Princeton hosted NJIT in its season opener. Freshman attackman Sowers tallied two goals and five assists to help trigger the offense as Princeton rolled to a 22-8 win over the Highlanders. Sowers’s assist total broke Ryan Boyle’s school record for assists in the first game of a freshman year (four in his 2001 debut). The Tigers have a busy week coming up as they are slated to host Marist on February 21 and Hofstra on February 25. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Ending up with a swollen right eye and a bandage covering a nasty gash on his temple, Michael Sowers took some lumps as he made his debut for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team last Saturday. more

SENIOR MOMENT: Princeton University women’s hockey player Molly Contini (No. 9), center, battles for the puck in game this season. Senior star forward Contini scored two goals as Princeton defeated Union 4-1 on Friday and then assisted on the winning goal as the Tigers defeated Rensselaer 4-2 a day later on the program’s Senior Day to clinch home ice for the upcoming ECAC Hockey playoffs. The victory improved No. 8 Princeton to 18-8-3 overall and 14-6-2 ECACH as it finished fourth in the league standings and will now host fifth-place and 10th-ranked Quinnipiac (20-8-6 overall, 13-6-3 ECACH) in a best-of-three quarterfinal series starting on February 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the Princeton University women’s hockey team trailing Rensselaer 2-1 in the third period last Saturday, and its hopes of earning home ice for the upcoming ECAC Hockey playoffs in serious jeopardy, the Tigers’ stellar group of seniors wasn’t about to be denied. more

HAPPY ENDING: Hun School boys’ hockey player Blake Brown controls the puck during the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Friday evening. Senior star forward and co-captain Brown had two assists to help seventh-seeded Hun defeat top-seeded Princeton High 4-3 and win their fourth straight county crown. The Raiders finished the season with a final record of 8-16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

As a special show of unity heading in the Mercer County Tournament, the players on the Hun School boys’ hockey team shaved grooves into the sides of the hair on their heads. more

IN PLAY: Princeton High boys’ hockey player Justin Joyce goes after the puck last Friday against Hun in the Mercer County Tournament title game. Junior forward Joyce tallied a goal and an assist as top-seeded PHS fell 4-3 to seventh-seeded Hun, giving the Raiders their fourth straight county crown. On Monday in state tournament action, Joyce scored a goal as the ninth-seeded Little Tigers defeated 24th-seeded Ridgewood 6-3 in the opening round of the state Public A tourney. PHS plays at eighth-seeded Southern in the second round of the Public A tournament on February 23. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Battling three-time defending champion Hun in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Friday, the Princeton High boys hockey team suffered a 10-second lapse in the first period. more

BLUE BLOOD: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Zahrion Blue dribbles the ball up the court in recent action. Last Monday, senior star Blue scored 26 points in a losing cause as 10th-seeded PHS fell 78-50 to second-seeded Nottingham in the quarterfinals of the Mercer County Tournament. The Little Tigers, now 11-12, host Hillsborough on February 23 and play at Wall on February 25 before starting action in the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional where they are seeded 13th and will play at 4th-seeded Marlboro in an opening round contest on February 27. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Getting routed 85-42 by Notre Dame in its regular season finale last Wednesday wouldn’t seem to be the ideal way for the Princeton High boys’ basketball team to get ready for postseason play. more

NET GAIN: Princeton Day School girls’ hockey goalie Annika Asplundh guards the net in the state Prep championship game last week. Senior star Asplundh made 36 saves in a losing cause as PDS fell 2-1 to Morristown-Beard in the February 14 contest as the tournament was revived after an 11-year absence. Last Sunday, Asplundh and the Panthers turned the tables on Mo-Beard, edging the Crimson 3-2 in the WIHLMA (Women’s Interscholastic Hockey League of the Mid-Atlantic) Hengerer Division third-place game. PDS, now 14-11-1, hosts Mater Dei on February 23 to wrap up its season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

With the state Prep girls’ hockey tournament being played for the first time since 2006, Annika Asplundh and her teammates on the Princeton Day School girls’ hockey team were fired up to host Morristown-Beard in the title game last week. more

When novelist/social critic James Baldwin passed away in 1987, he left behind an unfinished work titled Remember This House. The 30-page manuscript assessed the plight of African Americans in the United States and specifically discussed the assassinations of three civil rights icons: Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

I Am Not Your Negro director Raoul Peck (Lumumba), cinematically fleshes out Baldwin’s musings into a searing indictment of the United States as an unapologetically racist nation. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the movie has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary category.

The focus of the film never strays far from Baldwin, alternating between archival footage of him challenging the status quo and Jackson’s readings from Remember This House and Baldwin’s other writings. Again and again, he questions the depth of the country’s commitment toward reversing the damage inflicted upon the black community by generations of slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow segregation.

For example, he asserts that most Caucasians are perfectly comfortable relegating African Americans to a second-class status. He even goes so far as to refer to them as morally blind monsters who see blacks as sub-human. Until that attitude is eradicated, whites will never recognize that “I am flesh of their flesh.”

Baldwin concludes that “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America.” Therefore, with black and white fates inextricably linked, “It’s not a question of what happens to the Negro. The real question is what is going to happen to this country.”

Given today’s precarious state of race relations, the late visionary’s insights prove timely now.

Excellent (****). Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, violent images, and brief nudity. Running time: 95 minutes. Distributor: Magnolia Pictures

Members of the Hun School boys’ hockey team celebrate with their student cheering section after Hun edged Princeton High 4-3 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game last Friday evening at the Mercer County Park rink. It marked the fourth straight county crown for the Raiders. See page 34 for more details on Hun’s win. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Acting State Education Commissioner Kimberley Harrington is scheduled to render a decision by early March on the Princeton Charter School (PCS) request to add 76 students.

Both PCS and Princeton Public Schools (PPS) face related law suits in the state courts over violations of the open public meeting act (OPMA, the sunshine law); both PCS and PPS have filed opposition statements, responses, and additional statements with the commissioner in making their cases, some before and some after the January 31 deadline for public comment; the conflict has raged in the media, with many letters to the editor and paid ads on both sides of the argument; and the commissioner has received petitions and thousands of letters from both sides, as well as a resolution from Princeton Town Council opposing expansion.  more

The beleaguered PARCC test suffered another blow last week when the State Assembly Education Committee voted С 10 yes, one abstention С to support a resolution that would strike down regulations adopted by the State Board of Education in August 2016 that made PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) a graduation requirement.

The standardized assessment has been the target of much criticism from local educators, teachers’ unions, and community members, with many parents in Princeton choosing for their children, particularly at the high school level, to opt out of taking the tests. more

The Peddie community held a special Founders Day presentation in the Ayer Memorial Chapel Friday in honor of the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Peddie in February 1957. Guest speakers Morton Goldfein ’59, Dr. Arthur E. Brown ’63 and the Honorable David B. Mitchell ’63 each addressed the significance of that day and spoke about their own journeys since Peddie. Goldfein and Mitchell were in the Chapel on February 20, 1957, the day that Dr. King addressed the Peddie community on the topic of race relations in the United States. Mitchell was 11-years-old, and had only arrived at Peddie two weeks earlier. He was one of two African-American students on campus.

Shock waves continue to reverberate through academic, scholarly, and scientific communities, even though the White House executive order of January 27, 2017, banning entrance to the U.S. for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days, all refugees for 120 days, and Syrian refugees indefinitely, has been temporarily suspended by federal court order. more

FIVE DECADES OF DANCE: Twyla Tharp Dance visits McCarter Theatre as part of the choreographer’s 50th year of creating eclectic work. John Selya, offering his hand to the woman in blue, appears here with the company in “Preludes and Fugues.”

Since forming her own dance troupe after graduating from Barnard College more than five decades ago, Twyla Tharp has continued to challenge the way we think about dance. Starkly modern at first, her style has expanded over the decades to encompass classical ballet while weaving in elements of jazz, slapstick, even boxing. more

Princeton Animal Control Officer Saul Nathan Barson was arrested on February 20 by the Solebury (Pennsylvania) Police Department on charges of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, statutory sexual assault, sexual assault, indecent assault, corruption of minors, and criminal use of a communication facility.

Mr. Barson has been suspended from his job without pay pending further investigation, according to Princeton Municipal Administrator Marc Dashield. more

Cherry Valley Cooperative (CVC), a group of young community-oriented farmers, will hold two Meet Your Farmer Tour & Talks on February 25 and March 25 from 3 to 4 p.m. followed by a community potluck. The farm is located at 619 Cherry Valley Road on 97 acres of land in Skillman. Formerly Sans Suocis Farm, the property contains preserved farmland, woodlands, classified wetlands, a freshwater pond, and residential space. For more information, visit www.cherryvalleycoop.org.

Performances of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast will be held at Stuart Country Day School’s Cor Unum Theatre on Friday, February 24 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, February 25 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. To purchase tickets in advance, visit www.stuartschool.org/beauty.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset (RWJS) became the first hospital in New Jersey to offer specialized primary care services for the LGBTQIA community when the hospital opened PROUD Family Health at the RWJ Somerset Family Practice on January 30.

PROUD Family Health will provide services tailored to meet the unique health care needs of the LGBTQIA community in a safe, supportive environment. Services will include primary medical care for children and adults, hormone therapy and monitoring, HIV care, health education, counseling, support groups, and referrals for specialty services such as behavioral health services. more

On Saturday, March 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, the Princeton University Glee Club and Princeton University Orchestra come together to present one of the most renowned masterpieces in classical music: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, K.626. This performance of the legendary work — the last penned by the great composer — will be conducted by Renata Berlin, and will feature soloists from the University’s Department of Music’s Vocal Performance Faculty: soprano Rochelle Ellis, mezzo-soprano Barbara Rearick, tenor David Kellett, and bass Kevin Deas. more

SEUSSICAL THE MUSICAL JR: Travis Gawason as the Cat in the Hat and Jason Weiland as Jojo in the Downtown Performing Arts Center production of Seussical the Musical Jr.

Celebrate the 113th birthday of America’s favorite children’s author and see his fantastical world come to life in Seussical the Musical Jr. Presented by the Downtown Performing Arts Center (DPAC) and Curtain Up Productions, Seussical the Musical Jr. will be performed at the Little Theatre at Hunterdon Central Regional High School located at 84 Route 31 in Flemington, N.J. Performances are Friday, February 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, February 25 at 3 and 7:30 p.m. more

The Princeton National Rowing Association (PNRA) is teaming up with the Row for the Cure and the Peddie School to host the nation’s only indoor Row for the Cure.  Athletes race each other on Concept 2 indoor rowing machines with all of the proceeds from the event benefiting breast cancer research through the Susan G. Komen Foundation of Central and South New Jersey.  Racing begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday, February 26, at Peddie’s Ian H. Graham ’50 Fieldhouse. more