August 24, 2016

It would be an understatement to say that Dwaine Williamson, the recently announced chairman of the joint campaign for Princeton Council candidates Jenny Crumiller, Tim Quinn, and Mayor Liz Lempert, has been around. The Princeton resident, who serves on the town’s Planning Board, was born in Jamaica, raised in Trenton, worked on Wall Street, and made music videos for rap groups before becoming a lawyer and opening his own office back in Trenton. more

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A PASSION FOR GEMOLOGY: Hope Mouko, service coordinator at Hamilton Jewelers, has won a scholarship to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). She is pictured with, at left, Hank Siegel, Hamilton president; and his father Martin Siegel, right, the company’s chairman. Ms. Mouko will study at the GIA while continuing her work at the Nassau Street store.

After living in New York, modeling for Donna Karan and other high-end designers, Princeton native Hope Mouko was ready to move back home and try something new. She had always been interested in jewelry and design. So when she noticed an ad last year for an opening at Hamilton Jewelers on Nassau Street, she decided to apply for the position. more

August 17, 2016

The Williams Company, which installed a natural gas pipeline last year on the Princeton Ridge, is proposing to build a compressor station along an existing natural gas pipeline, possibly inside Trap Rock Quarry in Kingston.

Residents of the area who are worried about the environmental impact and noise of such a project attended a special meeting August 10 of the Franklin Township Council to air their concerns and hear from the Texas-based Williams firm. more

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THE GREAT OUTDOORS: Campers at the Princeton Blairstown Center’s Summer Bridge Program count canoeing as a favorite activity. Now in its second summer, the program serves kids from Trenton, Newark, and New York City. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Blairstown Center)

Pam Gregory has worked for several organizations that give underserved urban youth a chance to spend time in peaceful, bucolic settings. But none have impressed her as much as the Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC), a 107-year-old summer camp on 264 acres of wilderness in New Jersey’s Delaware Water Gap. more

August 10, 2016

After hearing from some members of the community and municipal staff, Princeton Council opted Monday evening to extend a public hearing on an ordinance that would alter the rules about cutting down trees in town. The meeting’s light agenda allowed for an extended discussion about the ordinance, which has been reworked by Princeton’s Shade Tree Commission and Code Review Committee. The measure will be taken up again at the Council’s next meeting on September 12. more

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HAPPY CAMPERS: These youngsters from the Princeton Family YMCA Specialty Camps were all smiles after enjoying lunch at Eno Terra in Kingston. The restaurant’s owners Carlo and Raoul Momo, who are second and third from left in the back row, treated the kids to lunch after accompanying them to the nearby farm where the eatery grows its own vegetables and herbs. (Photo by Luke Momo)

Telling children to eat their vegetables is one thing. Showing them where their vegetables come from, and letting them pluck them off the vine and yank them out of the ground, is something else altogether. more

August 3, 2016

The afternoon rain storm that soaked the Princeton area last Saturday paralyzed traffic and closed roads in several areas of town. But by Tuesday, most everything was back to normal.

More than seven inches of hard-driving rain flooded Hinds Plaza and sent water rushing into the Community Room of Princeton Public Library, raised water to unprecedented levels at Princeton Junction train station in West Windsor, and flooded Princeton High School’s boiler room and the orchestra pit in its performing arts center.  more

Concerned about trees being removed when houses are torn down to make way for new construction, Princeton Council introduced an ordinance July 29 that would change the rules about cutting down trees that are under municipal protection. more

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FROM URBAN BLIGHT TO FARM: Planting is ongoing at Trenton’s Capital City Farm, a joint effort of several non-profit groups that has turned a trash-strewn lot into a verdant space designed to provide fresh produce and more to the local community and beyond.

For years, the two-acre lot next to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) was an eyesore filled with weeds, trash, and debris. But thanks to the efforts of several non-profit groups including Princeton’s D&R Greenway, the sprawling lot is now home to wildflowers, berry bushes, beekeeping, raised vegetable beds, and a farm stand. more

July 27, 2016

Princeton HealthCare System’s newly announced partnership with the University of Pennsylvania Health System could lead, eventually, to an expansion of the four-year-old campus on Route 1 in Plainsboro. But for now, the focus of the shared future is on things like ambulatory care and expanded clinical capabilities. more

Route 518 is one of the busiest roads in southern Somerset County. Between Rocky Hill and Franklin, the bridge on that roadway over the Delaware and Raritan Canal has been closed for replacement since late last month, causing frustrating traffic tie-ups and concerns about safety among residents of Rocky Hill.

The July 8 order by Governor Chris Christie to suspend work on all “non-essential” road projects С in response to a Senate stalemate over which taxes should be cut in exchange for raising the gas tax to fund road work С has halted the construction work, making matters worse.  more

Princeton Council passed a resolution Monday night that will enable residents of the 60 affordable housing units at the Washington Oaks community to obtain low-interest loans that would help pay for replacement of emergency fire sprinkler heads. Washington Oaks is located on Route 206, opposite the Jasna Polana golf club. more

July 20, 2016

Mercer County’s project to replace a bridge on Carter Road in Lawrence Township, stalled last week as a result of an order by Governor Chris Christie halting roadwork across the state, has not resumed despite appeals from lawmakers. more

No tenant has been named yet for the empty building on Witherspoon Street that housed the Princeton Army & Navy Store from the 1960s until the store closed early this year. But developer Jeffrey M. Siegel, whose company ML7 Construction & Design owns the building along with the those on either side occupied by Small World Coffee and the accessory store Lisa Jones, has definite plans to reimagine and redesign the long, skinny space. more

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MAJESTIC MUSICAL MACHINERY: Ornate, elaborate organs like this are among the ten or so restored instruments scheduled to be on display at Palmer Square and other Princeton locations the weekend of August 6 and 7. It’s all part of an annual event known as a band organ rally, and it follows a week-long convention of organ enthusiasts at the Nassau Inn. more

July 13, 2016

First, in 2004, there was Writers Block, an empty lot on Palmer Square transformed into a garden honoring the contributions of notable Princeton University professors. Two years later, there was Quark Park, a sculpture garden on Paul Robeson Place that referred to the research of Princeton scientists.

If fundraising goes according to plan, the third collaboration of architect Kevin Wilkes and landscape artist Peter Soderman will be in place by Labor Day. Design at Dohm Alley, or DaDa, aims to transform the alley between Starbucks and the Landau store on Nassau Street into a kind of multi-media art gallery with rotating programs and exhibits on display through spring, summer, and fall. more

Governor Chris Christie’s order to halt $3.5 billion of “nonessential” road and rail projects across New Jersey went into effect at midnight last Friday. Concerned about delays to a key bridge replacement project on Carter Road, Mayor Liz Lempert is supporting Mercer County in its efforts to get the state to make an exemption and let work on that bridge continue. more

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WARMER, SAFER, DRIER: That is the motto for these volunteers from Princeton United Methodist Church who recently spent a week working to improve houses and trailers in Appalachia. The church has been sending volunteers to the region for four decades as part of the national Appalachian Service Project.

Each summer, 14,000 volunteers from across the country travel to Appalachia to help improve living conditions for those less fortunate. Two local churches, Princeton United Methodist and Nassau Presbyterian, have sent groups this month. Their goal, and the slogan of the Appalachian Service Project (ASP), is to make trailers and other dwellings in the mountain region “warmer, safer, and drier.” more

July 6, 2016

Once Kean University’s School of Public Architecture settles into the former residence and studio of the late architect Michael Graves, plans are for the intimate salons Mr. Graves often held inside the iconic building known as The Warehouse to be revived. And these programs, with key leaders of the architectural profession, won’t be limited to Kean students.

“Some of these will be by invitation, some by request,” said David Mohney, the Dean of the University’s Michael Graves College. “We have to develop a full program and gauge interest. Some will be geared toward neighbors and residents of Princeton. The important thing is that our board was strongly supportive of reaching out to the Princeton community.”
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PRINCETON ABBEY: That is the new name for the former St. Joseph’s Seminary on Mapleton Road. A new plan to create a cemetery and cremation niches for people of all faiths is well underway. The chapel on the campus dates from 1934.

When Bernard “Buzzy” Stoecklein got his first look at St. Joseph’s Seminary on Mapleton Road, he was amazed. The sprawling, 87-acre property, which was purchased by the Vincentian order in 1914 to train young men for the priesthood, was lushly landscaped. Its Gothic stone chapel had beautiful stained glass windows reminiscent of Sainte Chapelle in Paris and Chartres Cathedral. But the property was not being used to anywhere near it’s potential.

Mr. Stoecklein, who heads a company that manages cemeteries in New Jersey and New York, came to Plainsboro to help decide what to do with a small cemetery on the property that is the final resting place of hundreds of Vincentian priests and brothers.

“I was in awe,” he said last week. “It was one thing to see the grounds and the size of the buildings. But when I went into the abbey, I immediately was reminded of Westminster Abbey. I just couldn’t get over it.”
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At a meeting of Princeton Council on June 28, Susan Hoskins, executive director of the Princeton Senior Resource Center, presented a community action plan geared toward addressing the most crucial needs of the town’s older residents in coming years. A community project more than a project of the PSRC, the study was based on focus groups with residents.

Though Princeton is a college town, a large share of residents are over 65 or nearing that age. “Many are active volunteers in community nonprofit organizations and civic organizations,” she said in her report. “They love the opportunities provided by our cultural centers, Princeton University, Princeton Public Library, and PSRC. Older adults who live here want to stay here if they can, but are worried about housing costs and transportation.”

In 2014, Princeton was the first community in New Jersey to be designated by the World Health Organization as age-friendly. Here, as elsewhere, baby boomers are aging.

“Worldwide, one out of every eight individuals will be over age 65 by 2030,” Ms. Hoskins said. “That’s why the World Health Organization encourages communities all over the globe to plan to accommodate this dramatic shift. And it’s why Princeton took the lead here in New Jersey. Participating in this network enables us to share innovative and best practice models from other communities throughout the world to address our priority needs.”

Four priorities were identified in the plan: More affordable and age-friendly housing, transportation, communication, and multi-generational neighborhood associations.

After Ms. Hoskins’s presentation, Councilwoman Jo Butler suggested that senior citizens should be sufficiently represented on the town’s boards and commissions. The report recommended that the Council appoint a monitor to make sure progress is made on the four goals over the next three years, which is the final reporting period with the World Health Organization.

The full report is posted on princetonnj.gov and princetonsenior.org.

 

June 29, 2016

Last year, Princeton passed an ordinance to limit the size and regulate the placement of sandwich board signs outside businesses in town. This didn’t sit well with some proprietors, many of whom are members of the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA).

In an effort to provide recommendations for improvements to that ordinance and others that may be developed as the municipality continues to harmonize documents from the former Borough and Township, the PMA held a workshop last week at the Arts Council of Princeton. The June 21 event was led by architect Joshua Zinder of the firm JZA + D, and attended by some representatives of local businesses and members of the town’s administrative staff as well as Mayor Liz Lempert and Councilwoman Jo Butler.

“We’ve worked on a number of shops in town, and it always seems to come up that people feel the signage [regulation] is very restrictive, without a clear understanding of why,” Mr. Zinder said a few days before the workshop. “It has come up a number of times at PMA, and several people have asked me about it.”

After the sandwich board ordinance went into effect, “Many of the merchants in town were very upset about how it was being approved,” Mr. Zinder continued. “They didn’t feel there was a good dialogue where they were included in the discussion. They felt it was the municipality, and a couple of isolated people in the community, without consulting the merchants in general.”

The PMA had some talks with members of Council, and the ordinance was put on hold. Last week’s workshop was focused not only on the sandwich board signs, but on all of the different types and styles utilized by local businesses. Mr. Zinder gave a presentation that was followed by a discussion. The possibility of installing wayfinding signs, with information about how far and approximately how long a walk it would be to a destination, was proposed.

One issue that concerns merchants is the amount of time it can take to get signage approved, especially if the process involves coordination with the Historic Preservation Commission. Lighting was another focus of the discussion. Newer technology makes it easier to control light bleed from signage, which presents new and different opportunities, Mr. Zinder said.

The challenge is to attract local residents to the downtown businesses while also bringing in people from the outside. “There are a lot of empty stores in town,” said Mr. Zinder. “Unique merchants who would be attracted to Princeton are going to Route 1 and the malls, where there is free parking, and you can have any kind of sign you want. Here, there are controls. We don’t make it easy for merchants to come to Princeton.”

The PMA will take information from the workshop and elsewhere, and come back to Council with ideas for improving the ordinances. “My sense is that Council wants to make this work,” Ms. Lempert said this week. “I’m sure there is a solution in there somewhere.”

 

Two months after hiring a consultant to take a hard look at residential zoning in Princeton, the town has launched a website to keep citizens abreast of efforts to stem the speed of teardowns in local neighborhoods and the buildings that replace them. The site, princetonneighborhoods.org, also invites residents to provide comments on zoning issues.

The website is part of a community planning effort created in response to citizens’ concerns about residential development and the changing character of the town. All of the four candidates in this month’s Democratic primary election stressed these issues as priorities in their campaigns. Republican mayoral candidate Peter Marks has also focused on zoning and preserving neighborhood character.

Princeton Council voted April 25 to hire the RBA Group, which recently headed a similar project in Haddonfield, for the project. It comes at a time when efforts are being made to harmonize the zoning ordinances of the previous Borough and Township. “We see on the ground, in almost every neighborhood, the motivation for why we need to take a step back and review what the laws are on the books,” Mayor Liz Lempert said last month. “We need to know whether they are in line with the vision we have for our community.”

A subcommittee from the town’s Planning Board including Mayor Lempert, Jenny Crumiller, Wanda Gunning, Tim Quinn, and Gail Ullman is leading the initiative with a goal of creating strategies, policies, guidelines, and regulations to shape future development so that it better complements the character of Princeton’s neighborhoods and streets. The fact that each of the town’s neighborhoods has its own character adds to the challenge for those involved. Residents are encouraged to participate by adding their comments on the website.

The site includes a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that links to research on studies carried out in other communities. Questions range from how long the study will take to whether a moratorium on residential development will be considered in New Jersey.

The website indicates that one of the first and most important steps in the project is to collect data in order to understand the geography and scale of residential expansions, demolitions, and development in Princeton. Short-term changes expected to be adopted within the next four months could include “quick fix” revisions to site plan review and zoning standards “that will lead to improved outcomes from the demolition of older houses and the siting, design, and construction of new houses and yards,” the website reads.

Mid-term changes are identified as possible master plan amendments or additional zoning adjustments that set the stage for more significant changes that could be adopted in the long-term, and could be implemented in six to eight months. Long-term, substantive changes, which could go into practice within a year, might include substantive changes to the structure of residential zoning.

The RBA Group, formerly Brown & Keener Urban Design, was previously involved in developing the concept for Princeton’s Hinds Plaza and Spring Street Garage. Architects, planners, and landscape architects from the firm will participate in the project, partnering with Urban Partners. Both firms are based in Philadelphia.

To provide comments, write to the email address contact@princetonneighborhoods.org or mail comments in a sealed envelope to Neighborhood Character and Zoning Initiative, care of Princeton Planning Department, 400 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08540.

 

In his will, architect Michael Graves left three of his Princeton properties, including his Patton Avenue residence and studio, to Princeton University. But the University, where Mr. Graves taught for 39 years and was the Robert Schirmer Professor of Architecture, has rejected the gift due to the expenses involved in its preservation and maintenance.
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June 22, 2016

Come July, you might find Princeton’s municipal engineer Bob Kiser driving a tractor across the fields of a farm he owns in Hunterdon County. Mr. Kiser is retiring next week after 33 years on the job, and he is looking forward to spending time with his family С especially his six-and-a-half-month-old granddaughter С and cutting the grass with that tractor. more