July 17, 2019

FAMILY TRADITION: “We’re set apart by our service, quality products, and long history. Customers know they can rely on our extensive knowledge of the products.” The father and sons team at Gasior’s Furniture & Interior Design includes, from left, Todd, Dick (Dad), and Gregory. They are shown by a Hancock & Moore Austin leather tilt-back chair.

Not many furniture stores are found in a school house. That, however, is the unique setting of Gasior’s Furniture & Interior Design at 2152 Route 206 South in Belle Mead.

Opened in 1918, the Harlingen School accommodated kindergarten through 12th grade until 1972. Six years later, Gasior’s moved in.

“It was a good location for us,” explains founder and owner Richard (Dick) Gasior. “My wife, Donna, and I lived in West Windsor, and we had seen the school house. It provided a lot of nice space.”

The opening of Gasior’s was a continuation of Donna Gasior’s family history, continues Dick Gasior. “My father-in-law had a furniture store in northern New Jersey, and Donna had grown up in the business. We decided to start a venture of our own, and we thought being near Princeton was a plus for the store.” more

To the Editor:

As a Princeton resident, and vice chair of the board of directors for the Princeton YMCA, I was pleased to read the article on the ACE (Accept. Complete. Excel.) program [“ACE Program Seeks to Reduce Chronic Absenteeism at PHS,” July 10, p. 8]. We were incredibly honored to have received a grant from Princeton Area Community Foundation, so that we could create ACE and help kids in our community overcome chronic absenteeism, and thrive in school. I had the pleasure of meeting our first and second cohort of students, and their mentors, a few weeks ago at an ACE kickoff event. The students were enthusiastic to meet their mentors, and one could see that they appreciated that so many community leaders, including Princeton Superintendent Steve Cochrane, were present to show their support. We look forward to growing the program, with the help of mentors and volunteers from throughout the Princeton community. more

To the Editor:

The Planning Board should vote against the Lanwin development. It is environmentally unsustainable; it pulls Princeton into economic discrimination against those who can only afford “affordable housing,” not the estimated $1.5M for a stand-alone house in what was once woodlands.

The plan’s disregard for environmental sustainability is dangerous and contrary to the goals of Princeton municipality. It destroys trees, which store carbon monoxide, eliminates root systems that filter water and lessen the impact of global warming and the increased frequency of Hundred-Year Floods evident to all. Lanwin’s plan foolishly builds outward, not up, contrary to all best building practices to lessen environmental hazards. It disregards the model set by Bob Hillier [a Town Topics shareholder] when he chose to develop the Copperwood site on 4.5 acres, not the 18.5 acres allowed him by earlier site plan approvals. Both the ruin of diabase and the need for retaining wall infrastructure to keep this sprawling cluster intact will further damage this wooded acreage. No plans for geothermal heating have been announced. more

To the Editor:

Many of us welcome the good weather, more relaxed attitudes, and less crowded commutes that summer in the tri-state area brings. However, for those of us who are educators, it is hard to enjoy the benefits of summer without feeling uneasy about its other implications, especially for our community’s most vulnerable children.

With the months-long summer breaks that many students in the United States enjoy, the summer months are a long stretch of time where children can either be actively engaging in learning, or not. This is different than the school year, when all children are expected to be learning both in school and through school-based extracurricular activities.  more

To the Editor:

The numbers are in! This year, Morven Museum & Garden experienced record-setting attendance. Thanks to your support over the past fiscal year, Morven welcomed 18,288 attendees and 2,400 guests to this year’s 4th of July Jubilee.

This year has been full of changes and growth. Last June, we opened the Stockton Education Center, hosting many classes and events in this large open space. In August, we opened our new permanent collection, the reimagining of our first floor exhibition, Historic Morven: A Window into America’s Past. Pairing with it, we hosted New Jersey’s first ever Slave Dwelling Project, bringing together historians and the public to discuss the history of enslaved peoples at historic sites like Morven. Our winter show, Masters of Illusion: The Legacy of John F. Peto, presented a new look at trompe l’oeil art in New Jersey and welcomed many school and art groups. Our current special exhibit, New Jersey Baseball: From the Cradle to the Major Leagues, 1855-1915 looks at New Jersey’s place in the early history of baseball. more

To the Editor:

I am writing on behalf of Princeton Community TV as a former intern. Without my experiences at PCTV, I wouldn’t have made it to my current position as a producer for CBS News in the top media market of New York City.

Working at PCTV not only introduced me to what it takes to produce high-quality television programming, but also taught he how vital the service is to the growing and diverse Princeton community. I’ve met and worked with several passionate and hardworking staff members at the station. Their dedication to telling stories and producing quality content with limited resources showed me the power of how the television medium can greatly benefit the community. These members come in on their own accord and share their knowledge for the benefit of others. Cutting resources to an effort like this is antithetical to the Princeton I know. more

July 10, 2019

To the Editor:

Princeton’s Witherspoon-Jackson Development Corporation (WJDC) is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt corporation. Its mission is to preserve, restore, and sustain the historic character, diversity, and quality of life of the Witherspoon-Jackson (WJ) neighborhood.

WJDC received funds from a settlement with Princeton University to help economically disadvantaged residents in and from the WJ neighborhood with their housing and related needs.

The WJDC Board currently has 12 directors. A majority are required by WJDC bylaws to be from the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. WJDC is a public purpose organization that, by virtue of its tax-exempt status, does not endorse political candidates and does not represent the neighborhood. more

To the Editor,

We’re Princeton Community Television veterans of long-standing who have a few words to say about the disturbing news that the lights may go out in the studio.

Let’s be frank: Princeton Community Television is not necessary. It’s not a school, or a bridge, or a municipal building. If it didn’t exist tomorrow, Princeton Township would not dry up and blow away. But as we’ve come to realize during the 21 years we’ve been producing and hosting A Fistful of Popcorn, our movie-discussion show, this small station has been a large part of the cultural mélange that makes Princeton unique.

Our main focus has been the small-budget independent features that are the bread and butter of the Princeton Garden Theatre and other local art cinemas. But we’ve also featured guests: local and international filmmakers have sat with us to talk about their work, discussions that had no other platform. We’ve promoted film festivals on the Princeton campus and in town, as well as the Trenton Film Festival, which has a growing worldwide reputation. In addition, we’ve been excited to promote each year several of Princeton Public Library’s film festivals, including its acclaimed Environmental Film Festival and its Student Film Festival. more

To the Editor:

The Princeton Theological Seminary proposal for expansion at its in-town campus has been pulled back for reconsideration in the face of considerable distress from citizens. I would urge that the Seminary use the summer period back at the drawing board to consider a solution which would satisfy a major concern of unhappy neighbors and of lovers of Princeton open space. It is a solution which in the long run could greatly benefit the Seminary by freeing up considerable land for other appropriate uses.

The beautiful, historic Green on the Tennant Campus has been targeted by the Seminary’s architects for construction of a four story dormitory. I would urge everyone to drive past the Township’s two-story building under construction at Terhune and Route 206 before endorsing the Seminary’s plan for the Green. The monstrosity being built is like some vulture hanging over 206. It is much lower than the Seminary’s proposed edifice on the Green. Its clone on the Green would destroy a splendid streetscape. See the HPC Subcommittee report to the Planning Board of February 4. more

To the Editor:

I was very pleased to read the letter from Princeton’s mayor and council about the dumping at the River Road site [“Mayor, Council Legally Constrained from Commenting on Criminal Investigation,” Mailbox, July 3].

The letter spoke clearly and directly to residents, without obfuscation or euphemisms. It gave us all the information that could legally be shared with us. It told us what has been done and what will be done. It encouraged us to share our concerns with mayor and council.

After reading the letter, I am confident that Princeton’s governing body has taken the situation seriously and is taking appropriate actions to deal with it. I am proud that we have a mayor and council that are honest, direct, and responsible.

Phyllis Teitelbaum
Hawthorne Avenue

July 3, 2019

To the Editor:

As someone raised in the Jewish tradition, I was taught to view those who turn a blind eye to atrocities as complicit with the perpetrators. Growing reports about the detention of immigrant families — with rotting food and no hygiene, sleeping on concrete floors, belongings discarded, essential medical treatment withheld — suggest that the border crisis has evolved into something monstrously akin to concentration camps. Additionally, most of these facilities do not permit public scrutiny and include Army bases and for-profit facilities across the country, including right here in New Jersey. Many of these detainees are legally seeking asylum from conditions in their country of origin so appalling they have risked their lives to escape.

As we prepare for the 4th of July, a celebration of the freedom upon which our country was founded, what better time to ask: what are our values? How do we demonstrate our commitment to the fundamental democratic principle that all human beings have the right to life, liberty, and dignity? We must not stand by. History, and our children, will judge us by how we respond to this humanitarian crisis. We cannot allow these atrocities to occur in our midst. more

To the Editor:

As Princeton Mayor and Council, we would like to take this opportunity to update residents about the alleged dumping of hazardous materials at the Sewer Department site on River Road. We are deeply concerned and distressed by this apparent violation of the public trust. There is an ongoing criminal investigation, so we are legally constrained in what we are able to say about the situation, but we would like to give residents as much information as possible. We will post updates on the municipal website as new information is available.

Here’s what we can tell you: to date, three employees have been terminated. The municipality may take further administrative action as warranted. The municipality is also reviewing the organizational structure of its sewer operations and tightening oversight procedures. more

To the Editor:

A proud member of Princeton Community TV, The Arc Mercer Inc. is writing to support the station, which continues to provide a valuable service to the disabled community, not only in Princeton, but throughout Mercer County.

PCTV has given the population of the developmentally disabled an outlet to which they have never had access; an outlet to share their visions while educating the people of Princeton about the disabled community.

With help from PCTV’s staff, these individuals have also learned technical skills in television production such as proper equipment usage, interviewing techniques, lighting, and sound amongst many other tricks of the trade. more

To the Editor

When I grew up in the country outside Princeton, some of my best moments were bringing my bicycle to town, visiting friends whose families lived in Frog Hollow, on Hodge Road and nearby streets. These were lively neighborhoods, with kids on bicycles and regular games on the field at the corner of Hibben Road and Mercer Street.

Over time, these streets have become an area (I would no longer call it a neighborhood) of wealthy, increasingly elderly people. It’s unusual to see a child here. more

TEAM WORK: “All our dishes are made from scratch, hand-done, and are fresh every day. Each day, we offer a different menu — simple, nourishing, and well-balanced.” The team at the new The Blue Bears Special Meals restaurant is pictured from left: Chef Anne-Renee Rice-Soumeillant, Michael O’Brien, Chef Eric Wimmer, Megan Cloyes, and Emmanuel Yver.

By Jean Stratton

memorable dining experience awaits visitors to the new The Blue Bears Special Meals restaurant in the Princeton Shopping Center.

Just opened in mid-May, it is already attracting enthusiastic diners for breakfast, lunch, and takeout.

Not only does it offer an intriguing menu — often with an international flavor — but its underlying concept of encouraging and enabling young adults facing intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to find opportunities for learning and meaningful work sets it apart as a unique dining establishment.

Founders Eric (president and chef) and Marie (vice president, outreach) Wimmer and Antoine (chairman) and Gaud (vice president) Yver wanted to start a new business that would be significant in a number of ways. They decided on a nonprofit restaurant, explains Eric Wimmer. more

June 26, 2019

To the Editor:

Princeton’s Inaugural Pride Parade was truly the historic moment we all hoped it would be, as significant as it was fabulous! Thousands of us marched, sashayed, and rolled up the beautiful Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood and then were all at once empowered and entertained at the wonderful after-party at the Y. Thank you to the Princeton Family YMCA for allowing the community to use your green space. 

Thank you to our town Council members Leticia Fraga, Eve Niedergang, Tim Quinn, Dwaine Williamson, and David E. Cohen; to our Mayor Liz Lempert; to Assemblyperson Andrew Zwicker; to Maplewood Councilperson Dean Dafis; and to our Governor and First Lady Phil and Tammy Murphy for putting boots on the ground and sharing inspirational remarks before and after the Parade.  more

To the Editor:

I used to think that more than anyone in the recent past, Edgar Palmer changed the town of Princeton the most. He changed it from being a one-horse town to a European style town with a central open space known today as Palmer Square. I still tip my hat when I go past his home at one Nassau Street.

But, today, I just changed my mind. After a walk in Herrontown Woods, to attend the 139th birthday celebration of Oswald Veblen, I realize that he had changed my town even more. Veblen, who recruited many of the original great minds at the Institute of Advanced Study (IAS), made sure that the greatest part of Princeton remained open land that was not developed, an unusual thing in Central New Jersey. more

TREE MAN’S HOLIDAY: Princeton Arborist Taylor Sapudar admires an eastern redbud while on vacation in London. Sapudar, who has been on the job in Princeton for just 14 months, has been in love with the outdoors ever since growing up in the Groveville section of Hamilton, near the woods that border Crosswicks Creek. (Photo courtesy of Taylor Sapudar)

By Donald Gilpin

As it develops its Climate Action Plan, the town is asking, “What can Princeton do to protect our natural environment?” One man with an answer to that question is Municipal Arborist Taylor Sapudar. His answer is “trees.”

In little more than a year since he was hired, Sapudar and his crew of six have planted more than 220 trees, with another 200 planned for the coming year. In a speech last week at a Sustainable Princeton forum at the Princeton Public Library, he noted the many ways in which trees can fight climate change and enhance the environment.

Sapudar pointed out that trees provide oxygen and clean air; can reduce asphalt temperature by nearly 36 degrees; can each absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year; reduce storm water runoff; reduce A/C costs by nearly 30 percent; improve health and reduce stress levels and community violence; increase property values nearly 15 percent; and create an area that encourages people to shop more and spend more. more

June 19, 2019

To the Editor:

We take issue with a number of unsubstantiated and inaccurate statements that Mr. Cohen has made.

“Recently, a few neighbors came forward to express their dissatisfaction with the current design.”

The reality is that almost all neighbors have opposed the scale of the development being out of context with the residential neighborhood and the massive disparity with what would be allowed under current zoning guidelines.

“Further benefits to public storm water management and our Affordable Housing Plan are expected if the project moves into the next stage of a Redevelopment Plan.”

The contribution to storm water management is as much a function of the impact of mitigating the impact of 180-plus people. There is a substantial concern that the level of local traffic will increase significantly. If built as proposed the benefits of reduced short term commuter traffic benefits are more than outweighed by relocating 35 families and 41 children to Princeton from West Windsor.

“It is also true that the Redevelopment Statute permits the municipality to require financial contributions in connection with a Redevelopment Plan, an important tool that many municipalities use to benefit the public interest.”

The issue in question is that the town has not been clear on the importance and size of financial contributions related to the approval of this project. It is of substantial concern that the current taxpayers of this area are being overridden in terms of their concerns for a short term, one-time contribution to help the fiscal status of Princeton. Mr. Cohen is also involved in negotiating the Affordable Housing settlement and there is an inherent conflict for him to be driving the zoning decision, and negotiating a payment to an affordable housing fund that is directly tied to the density ultimately approved.

“In light of recent concerns raised by these letter-writers and others, the Seminary has proposed a hiatus in the ad hoc committee process to allow them to redouble their efforts over the summer to find creative solutions which will satisfy the broadest cross-section of Princeton residents.”

It is clear from Mr. Cohen’s last statement that he lacks impartiality and a sense of the interests of the taxpayers of Princeton. His reference to voters and taxpayers as ‘letter-writers’ is simply unforgivable and reflects his dismissive approach in public meetings and his bias toward development over community-sensitive changes that better respect established neighborhoods.

At a minimum, to restore confidence in this process, Mr. Cohen should consider stepping down from his role of chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee. His role, negotiating the COAH settlement, creates an inherent conflict.  This may jeopardize thoughtful planning and result in a payment from PTS to help the town deal with their obligation, at the expense of neighbors and tax payers. We need a person leading this process that will embrace the genuine feedback from residents and is seen to be impartial, to fairly consider this development proposal from PTS. 

John and Ruth Sayer
Library Place

Caroline Cleaves
Edgehill Street

Rakesh & Sophia Kumar
Campbelton Road

Anita Wu
Armour Road

Christopher Rice
Library Place

Lee Hagan & Mimi Mead-Hagan
Armour Road

Michael and Susan Head
Hibben Road

Jim and Jo Butler
Hibben Road

Doug Palmer and Christiania Foglio
Mercer Street

Steve and Shirley Kern
Mercer Street

Justin Taffer
Stockton Street

Dean & Jill Mitchell
Hodge Road

Dorothy and Charles Plohn, Jr.
Hodge Road

To the Editor:

I am not going to respond point by point, as I find arguing in public just tends to heighten emotions and entrench peoples’ positions. In the aftermath of last week’s Council meeting, I reached out to this group on Saturday to request a meeting to try to find common ground, and am hopeful that they will be willing to work together to improve the plan, as have so many of their neighbors, rather than close off dialogue and leave us to plan without their input. We have already taken steps to extend the area in need of redevelopment, per Jo Butler’s suggestion at the May 31st ad hoc committee meeting, and slowed down the process to give the Seminary’s designers an opportunity to creatively address the neighbors’ concerns. I remain optimistic – while no one is going to get everything they want in this process, everyone can get more than they thought was possible at the outset, if we all work together.

Councilman David E. Cohen

To the Editor:

I am writing on behalf of the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area because, with Council’s recent decision to divert for tax relief the cable franchise fees which originally funded Princeton Community TV, voters are losing a significant public service.

Since 2010, and at the invitation of George McCollough, executive director of PCTV, the League has collaborated with Princeton TV to videotape and broadcast League forums. We have covered all Princeton mayoral races and Democratic primary races for Princeton Council, the contested races for Princeton Council and School Board, the Mercer County freeholder and county executive race of 2011, the 16th Legislative District races of 2011, 2013, and 2015, and the 12th Congressional races of 2014 and 2016. George McCollough not only videotapes the forums — adjusting the sound and lighting at the various venues and zooming in on the candidates — but he adds a title and introductory information and then places the name and website of the candidates on screen as they speak. more

To the Editor:

I salute the Bayard Rustin Center for initiating the Pride Parade coming this Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. at the Princeton Municipal Building. Family and community acceptance are hugely important for everyone, but especially for LGBTQ+ youth, so this is not without consequences. The parade is a shout-out of acceptance and affection. The Rustin Center says on its invitation “All are welcome, all are loved!”

Through moderating the local PFLAG support group for families, friends, and allies of LGBTQ+ people these past four years at monthly meetings, I’ve had direct experience learning about multiple families with LGBTQ+ kids. Suicide attempts often come up and are discussed. One father said of his child, “Alive is what I hope for and am thankful for, alive and happy would be even better.” more

To the Editor:

Full disclosure: I’m a Princeton TV member and I don’t live in Princeton — and I’m one of the reasons Princeton no longer wants to fund the cable access station. Yet by paying membership dues and fees for classes, and providing content without compensation, my use is certainly an asset, not a cost (and in line with the original bylaws; PCTV founders sought an inclusive community).

Eons ago I studied filmmaking in college. At the time, unless you had a wealthy aunt or uncle willing to front you six figures, it was impossible to make a film. After 36 years in print journalism, and being downsized as an editor in 2010, I still wanted to use my skills to make the public aware of cultural issues. PCTV, where I’ve taken professional level classes in video editing, lighting, and documentary production, has enabled me to make numerous short documentaries that have screened at film festivals, arts centers, historical societies, and on the station itself. more

To the Editor:

We are about to lose a remarkable public resource that offers viewers the opportunity to comment on issues, events, and news relevant to the community. Princeton Community Television is going to go dark. As a free community access channel that airs programming created locally, PCTV not only offers Princeton residents an outlet to express their views on local issues, but unlike YouTube, the internet and Twitter, provides a physical space where they can meet, collaborate, and organize. It builds community. Media experts George Gerbner  (“The Cultivation Theory”), Tim Wu (“The Attention Merchant”) and Philip M. Napoli (“What Happens When Your Local News is Coming from Another State?”) concur that public participation is key to keeping democracy strong. The intent was to offset the power of cable conglomerates that often set the national agenda with little or no oversight. more

June 12, 2019

To Mayor and Members of the Council:

I have been a show producer at Princeton Community TV since 2014. Often, this show, Despite the Challenges, has rated among the Top 10 most watched PCTV programs. This show presents local talents who, despite impeding circumstances and challenges, have achieved success and go out in the community to do good things. Although these stories hardly make it to major news media, they must be heard; not only to further empower these individuals but for the inspiration they bring to those watching.

Despite the Challenges is one among many quality shows that my colleagues at PCTV produce involving local talents. Without this platform, these inspirational stories would remain unheard. In addition to quality content production comparable to any other community access network in the state, PCTV has extended its resources as a Community Partnership Program to produce award-winning documentaries on important social issues. Needless to say, without resources available to local producers, these achievements would not be possible.

We hope that Princeton will continue to support funding for Community Television.

Ritu Chopra
Executive Director, Film Producer, Speaker