PRESIDENTIAL DESIGN: Woodrow Wilson and his wife had an active role in the design of this house on Library Place, where they lived during his tenure as Princeton University president. To honor the 100th anniversary of the conclusion of World War I during Wilson’s U.S. presidency, the home’s current owners are holding an event to benefit the nonprofit Give Something Back foundation. (Photo Courtesy of the Historical Society of Princeton)
By Anne Levin
Woodrow Wilson has been the focus of numerous events that Robert Carr has held in his home at 82 Library Place. It was Wilson, after all, who designed and built the house in 1896, during his tenure as president of Princeton University.
But the “Party of the Century,” planned for Sunday, November 11, is the first time Carr is using his historic home for a fundraiser. The event will benefit Give Something Back, which provides scholarships and mentoring to students facing economic hardship and other adversities. Carr founded the nonprofit in 2003, the same year he bought the house. more
BLOSSOMING CAREER: Princeton University biochemistry postdoctoral researcher Melanie McReynolds has been selected as a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna Gray Fellow, with an award of up to $1.4M in funding for her research on aging. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky)
By Donald Gilpin
She came from rural Mississippi to a special Bridges to the Doctorate Program and a PhD at Penn State University, then a postdoctoral research position in biochemistry at Princeton University, but Melanie McReynolds is not resting on her laurels. Last week, she added to her achievements with an award of $1.4 M in funding over the next eight years from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI).
McReynolds was named one of just 15 postdocs across the United States who was selected by HHMI as a Hanna Gray Fellow, gaining “the freedom to follow her curiosity, and the support of the vast community of HHMI scientists, a stellar group that includes the world’s leading biomedical researchers,” according to the HHMI announcement. more
Sponsored by the Sourland Conservancy and the Stoutsburg Cemetery Association, the third annual revival reenactment is on Saturday, September 29, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Skillman Park. Featured are the Capital City Gospel Singers of Trenton, with special guests Bertha Morgan and East Amwell historian Jim Davidson. Bring a blanket or chair, beach umbrella, and picnic lunch (or purchase one while supplies last). Tickets are $25 adult ($30 at the gate); $10 children 7-12; children under 7, free. Proceeds benefit the Stoutsburg Sourland African American Museum. For more information, visit www.sourland.org/2018-camp-meeting-revival.
BEST BEVERAGES: The staff at Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlet in Lawrenceville is proud of the store’s new renovation, offering an even more convenient shopping experience for customers. Its excellent and comprehensive selection of wine, beer, and spirits and its knowledgeable staff have ensured the store’s success for nearly 17 years.
By Jean Stratton
Joe Canal’s, the popular discount liquor outlet, has a new look! It has undergone a major renovation offering more open space, wider aisles, more convenient accessibility, new lighting, and easier checkout options.
“We’ll be open for 17 years this November. We felt it was time for an upgrade, as the store was beginning to look dated,” says Mark Hutchinson, managing partner of Birchfield Ventures, which owns Joe Canal’s.
“Our focus is always to improve the shopping experience,” he continues. “We opened up the entry and made check-out easier. The additional space we created also enabled us to add more than 500 new wine, beer, and liquor items.” more
To the Editor:
I find it puzzling and inaccurate that you chose to use the term “resistance” in the headline of the page one story [“Schools Face Resistance to Referendum Plan,” Sept. 12] to describe how many citizens in our community are reacting to the fact that an attempt is being made to “railroad” a variety of public school enhancements at a proposed cost of $130 million which these very citizens would have to help fund. more
To the Editor:
I attended the evening public schools board meeting (the portion open to the public) on September 4 in the comically cramped room provided at the Valley Road building (where the Board members spread out comfortably at tables at one end of the room, while the public made-do with a shamble of available chairs at the other end — sharing space with several video cameras and a sound board engineer with a large table full of equipment, resulting in spill-out of attendees into the hall — some leaving in disgust. It does make one wonder if this is done by design, to deter a larger turnout. As the previous meeting had an identical situation (although this time, more so), you would think that arrangements would have been made to accommodate a larger gathering, as the school referendum is very clearly a hot topic at present.
The meeting had a signup of over 30 speakers (with each having an allowance of two minutes to speak — I was one of them.) While the tone and approaches to the subject at hand varied, the concern and opposition expressed to the $129 million school referendum was palpable and unanimous. more
To the Editor:
We were pleased to see coverage of the Princeton Civil Rights Commission on the front page of the September 5 issue of Town Topics [“Civil Rights Commission Seeks Improvements”]. Last night, the commission began reviewing Princeton Council’s recommendations for procedural changes as submitted by special subcommittee. This committee was appointed by the mayor and Council to review the commission’s first year and conflict resolution proceedings, as called for by guidelines, policies, and procedures adopted by resolution at the time of the commission’s reinstatement by ordinance. Our monthly commission meetings are the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room at Witherspoon Hall. more
To the Editor:
I’m wondering what is happening with the recycling and composting programs in Princeton. As I walk around town, I see more and more “non recyclable” items in the yellow bins such as styrofoam, plastic shopping bags, and pizza boxes. We know this pollutes the stream and often necessitates that a greater percentage just gets rerouted to the landfill. Also, I see fewer and fewer new green composting bins on the street and realize that I haven’t received anything in years asking me to join the composting program or reminding me of what can and can’t be recycled and composted. I know this information is available on the township website, but judging from simple observation I don’t think many residents are even aware of that.
I know that the management of the programs has changed hands and I wonder if whoever is in charge of them now even cares about the results or the value of these programs to the community and our environment. I know for a fact that their predecessor did, because I volunteered my time and worked with her to increase awareness and expand participation. more
To the Editor:
A community is built by focusing on people’s gifts, and diversity among community members makes this approach all the more important. With “Welcoming Week” just around the corner [Sept. 14-23], it is a wonderful time to come together to recognize all of the opportunities to connect with and learn from one another.
As recent transplants from Missouri to the Garden State, my wife and I were delighted to eventually connect with a reclusive neighbor through a hibiscus tree. It was evident from viewing her prolific garden that our neighbor must be a master gardener. One of the stereotypes about people in Missouri is that they won’t hesitate to look you straight in the eye, introduce themselves, and hold a full-fledged conversation whether or not you’re interested. Yet for several years I struggled to figure out how a guy like me from the Bible belt could “break down the middle wall of partition between us” in relation to this seemingly reclusive neighbor. more
To the Editor:
Ms. [Niki] VanAller’s says her organization “favor[s] diplomacy, not war, with Iran and North Korea.” [Mailbox, Aug. 29]. Well, so does everyone else, most of all, anyone in harm’s way. But good intentions do not excuse serial misstatements. “Iran has no nuclear weapons to date,” she claims, despite abundant evidence of Iranian-North Korean collusion to transfer nuclear weapon and ballistic missile technology between the two countries. Iran drew on North Korean expertise and used cutouts to construct a defense infrastructure to protect and conceal its military nuclear program. It rejects the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime, and actively schemes to acquire, develop, and deploy a broad range of ballistic missiles and space launch capabilities.
Nor is it true that “the U.S. has over 7,000 of them,” i.e., nuclear weapons. The correct number is 1,350 warheads says the Arms Control Association, slightly less than Russia’s 1,444. Whether 1,350 is the ideal number “useful for deterrence” is unknowable, but the deterrent effect is indisputable, for which Ms. VanAller should be immensely grateful. more
To the Editor:
The upcoming November election is one of crucial importance to our nation at the local, state, county, and national levels. Progressive values are under attack. Gains in health care, in environmental safeguards, and in protections for our most vulnerable citizens have been rolled back. We need representatives who advocate for a compassionate society, not a nation governed by fear.
Local and regional governments act as a pipeline to, and bulwark against, the divisive tactics at the federal level that have set religious, ethnic, and cultural groups against each other. more
The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) hosted its annual Fall Open House on Saturday afternoon, which included an opening reception for the “Members Exhibition” in the Taplin Gallery. Participants share their favorite art forms in this week’s Town Talk on page 6. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)
To the Editor:
In about eight weeks the voters of Princeton will have the opportunity to cast their votes for candidates seeking national, state, and Mercer County offices as well as for two candidates for Princeton Council. In light of recent events, our attention as Democrats has been drawn to the need to support Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate and House to create a bulwark against the actions of a president who upholds neither his oath of office nor the rule of law. However, the quality of the people that we elect to Princeton Council is also important as our local elected officials make the decisions that affect the everyday lives of Princeton residents. Two current members of Princeton Council, Heather Howard and Lance Liverman, both progressive Democrats, will retire from elected office at the end of this year. Eve Niedergang and Dwaine Williamson are the two progressive Democrats who are running to succeed Lance and Heather, and they have been endorsed by the Princeton Democratic Party following their convincing win in the Democratic primary election. Both Dwaine and Eve have participated in the life of the community as volunteers and have the knowledge, the experience, and the commitment to be effective members of Council. They are committed to achieving smart, sustainable growth, being fiscally responsible stewards of our public funds, and strengthening the core values of our welcoming and inclusive Princeton community. As members of Princeton Council they will provide a voice for all members of our community.
I ask you to join me in voting for Eve Niedergang and Dwaine Williamson, progressive Democrats for Princeton Council, in the general election on November.
To the Editor:
In recent weeks, white supremacist stickers have appeared in Mercer County and their message was disturbingly clear: “Reclaim Your Nation. Reclaim Your Heritage.” We at YWCA Princeton want to reiterate that we remain dedicated to our mission – to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.
Like any agency with a nearly 100-year history, we have endured and weathered the changing attitudes of society as a whole. We have also been witness to the effects that racism has had in the communities we serve. We do not and will not tolerate racist messaging, as it is in direct odds with the advancement of our mission.
In 2007, with the now-dissolved YWCA Trenton, we cofounded Stand Against Racism (STAND), which is now a signature campaign of YWCA USA. The STAND’s purpose is to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our communities. This year, we innovated the STAND to make it meaningful for all of our community members throughout the year, through a range of civic engagement activities. As part of the STAND, this summer we proudly hosted an open-for-all summer series featuring three distinguished speakers who held discussions around difficult and often-times ignored topics such as racism in higher education, racism and mental illness, and the Black immigrant experience.
We will not let these racist stickers overshadow the hard work of our staff, supporters, allies, and most importantly, children and families served by our programs. We have an English as a Second Language program that serves over 300 students each year, including free United States Citizenship classes for individuals undergoing the naturalization process. Our Child Development Centers promote diversity and inclusivity in the classrooms and our Bilingual Nursery School in Princeton supports bilingual preschoolers. Our Breast Cancer Resource Center has an initiative to provide support and services for women of color recently diagnosed with breast cancer as well as breast cancer survivors of color.
We are committed to any and every person that walks through our doors, to always stay true to our mission, and we urge our community to STAND with us.
CEO, YWCA Princeton
To the Editor:
This fall Princeton residents will vote on a crucial referendum for our schools and our children, as some of the cramped, aging school facilities have become an impediment to teaching, learning, safety, and wellness. At PHS for example, anxiety-producing school shooting drills now occur regularly, but guidance space and security remain inadequate. Classrooms are often sweltering or frigid due to HVAC problems, even during tests. Classroom and cafeteria space are insufficient, while three large, unused outside atria remain frustratingly inaccessible. And as more multi-family dwellings are built and new families continue to move to town, utilizing such capacity becomes even more necessary. Students, staff, teachers, and administrators do a truly fantastic job, but they know that critical repairs, updates, and expansion are needed right now. Referendum questions 1 and 2 address these and other pressing issues.
Some residents assert that facilities don’t matter in student outcomes, citing excellence in our schools. Teachers, parents, students, and demographics contribute to these strong outcomes, but they do not obviate the need for safe, sound buildings and adequate room for the people inside them. I am curious if those who say facilities don’t matter would choose to tolerate similarly poor heating, cooling, or crowded conditions in their homes.
I don’t especially like tax increases. But I stay informed and involved, and I feel confident in the capabilities of those entrusted to manage our schools. I have found the elected Board, administration, and teachers to be generally accessible, wise, and willing to answer questions thoughtfully. I also see with my own eyes that critical HVAC and security improvements, and capacity expansions, are necessary NOW, and would urge anyone in doubt to request a tour of the high school as a case in point (PHStourguide@ gmail.com). This wonderful high school, which Princeton takes great pride in, was built in 1927. Although there have been additions, much of that building is just plain old and it shows; it needs updating.
Some have noted that other towns require less expensive updates — but most neighboring schools are much newer than ours. I would also add that the vitriolic Cranbury discussion appears to be a bit of a red herring, as the needs being addressed in the referendum are not changed by the presence or absence of a small, declining number of students from Cranbury, while their tuition payments contribute meaningfully to the district’s operating budget.
It would be unwise to vote no on the referendum in hopes that a future analysis will result in a meaningfully better, cheaper plan. Waiting will almost certainly result in increased maintenance, construction, and financing costs, while leaving our children in sub-par facilities for longer. As Princeton residents, we’ve signed on to vote, pay taxes, and most of all to live in a community where the safety and education of children are consistently top priorities. I encourage you to vote YES on the referendum this fall and help the schools fulfill their mission for our children.
Stuart Road East
To the Editor:
I served as a member of the Princeton Regional Board of Education over 30 years ago (1981-1987). We had a very hard time dealing with declining enrollment and faced tough decisions about which neighborhood elementary schools to close. This experience does not qualify me to answer the current question of how to deal with increasing enrollment, especially at the high school. However, I learned one lesson that may be of use today: don’t lose sight of our mission to provide the best education to the town’s children within the financial constraints of the community’s resources. It would have been easy, but wrong, to keep all four schools open and simply bill our taxpayers for that luxury.
Today, I have serious misgivings about how our Board of Education is working through the knotty issue of enrollment changes. Specifically, I am disappointed that the current Board appears to have renewed a ten-year sending-receiving relationship with Cranbury prior to deciding how to address significant expansion of the high school. The renewal decision removes one major means of reducing the enrollment problem that necessitates such expansion. Was this a backdoor attempt to force approval of the bond? Did the Board simply presume that the community would approve the construction program before public discussion? Why wasn’t the Cranbury decision delayed until after the community voted on the proposed bond? The order in which these two major issues are being addressed seems backwards at best and raises a concern about the Board’s sensitivity to the financial constraints of our citizens.
To the Editor: We have been Princeton taxpayers for nearly three decades and stand vehemently opposed to the proposed Princeton BOE referendum.
As retirees on fixed incomes, we are now ruthlessly being driven out of Princeton after nearly 30 years of residence here. Without the sewer fee, the taxes on our very modest, obsolete home are now approaching $14,000 annually, an outrageous sum in exchange for the very poor level of municipal services that we receive and a rapidly aging and inadequate infrastructure in comparison to other communities with much, much lower combined taxes.
We have examined the school budgets of a dozen high performing school districts with similar demographics in the northern half of the state, including neighboring West Windsor-Plainsboro and Montgomery. Having lived in North Jersey for much of our lives, we know for a fact that the cost of living is consistently higher there than in this part of Central Jersey, yet the per pupil cost for Princeton even without any proposed increases far exceeds that of any high performing district that we examined. The results of our comparative analysis have been widely distributed throughout the community and have been updated earlier this year based on available NJ DOE data.
We respectfully request that the Princeton Board of Education NOT increase our already burdensome, if not impossible, property taxes with additional costs that provide no apparent benefit to the public school students of Princeton.
FRANK WIENER, VIRGINIA DIACONU
To the Editors:
Let me get this straight: our town is spending about a million dollars on new parking meters, at around a thousand dollars each, but can’t be bothered to save a few old meters so that it can refund the balances on smart cards? That is literally all it would take – just keep a few of the old meters inside one of the town offices, use them to read balances off the old cards, and then give cardholders back their money. If handling cash is the problem, balances could be transferred to the new online app. I have enjoyed the convenience of my smart card, but it would take a significant lifestyle change to use my balance by the end of the year, especially once it becomes usable in only one place. The “use it or lose it” plan sounds like a policy concocted by airline or insurance executives. I would have expected better from elected officials who are my neighbors, but I guess that was naïve. Nobody likes being swindled, even if the amount is small – the town should change this callous, bad-faith plan or invite a class-action lawsuit whose costs will swamp the modest windfall it seems hoping to pocket from smart cards holders.
Editor’s Note: Town Topics received the following response after sharing the letter with Mayor Lempert and Princeton Council: “We recognize that some residents have balances on their Smart Cards that they may not be able to spend down completely before the meters are replaced in October/November. To accommodate these card holders, Smart Cards will still be a valid method of payment at the Spring Street Garage for eight more months, until April 30, 2019. Additionally, we are exploring the feasibility of transferring Smart Card balances onto the new parking app.
“We are switching to new meters as part of Princeton’s effort to make parking in the town work better. These new meters will enable payment by credit card and smartphone as well as coins. Because the old Smart Cards use outdated technology that is no longer supported in the parking industry, they will unfortunately not be compatible with the new system. To avoid any inconvenience going forward, we are encouraging all Smart Card holders to use up the balance on their cards before the meters are replaced in October.”
MAYOR LIZ LEMPERT
COUNCIL PRESIDENT JENNY CRUMILLER
To the Editor:
I would like to thank everyone who contributed to my lemonade stand fundraising events on August 5th at Hill Top Park and on August 9th, 2018 at McCaffrey’s shopping center. And special thanks to Lisa Fulforth, McCaffrey’s administrative assistant. Eighty percent ($144) of the sales proceeds were donated to Princeton Children’s Fund (PCF). For more information about PCF, visit www.prince tonchildrensfund.org.
Again, thanks everyone.
To the Editor:
I appreciate Linda Oppenheim’s letter [Racist Stickers Posted in Princeton Inspire Resident to Call for Action,” Mailbox, Aug. 22]. However, she forgot to include No. 6 in her “We must” list. No problem, I am here to help:
6. Stop the hate of the American white male. He HAS done a lot of positive things for our country.
Bayberry Road, Hopewell Township
To the Editor:
I am a retired senior citizen and I live in Governors Lane.
I have read about the referendum to raise $130 million for the Princeton Board of Education school expansion and improvement. I have asked the following question at the mayor’s office, at a meeting on Witherspoon Street about this challenge, and to a candidate for town council for whom I will vote in November. I understand the average assessed home in Princeton is currently $837,000.
I would like to know, if the referendum passes and the $130 million is raised, how much in dollars will that increase our tax bill each year? $100, $1,000, $2,000? More? I think before all voters in Princeton vote on this issue, they should know in dollars how much we will have to pay. There has to be an accountant, a town official who can calculate that number before the November election and let the voters know. I would like to know.
HOWARD W. SILBERSHER
To the Editor:
In re Donald Gilpin’s article, “Panel Experts Will Discuss Immigration, Provide Information on Multiple Issues” [Town Topics, Aug. 22]: Having attended the panel discussion on August 23, I appreciated the sponsors organizing this public forum in Princeton. I have two suggestions for future panel discussions:
- Try to find panelists with different positions on the issues discussed. Failing that, encourage panelists to acknowledge the merit of positions other than their own. Until I asked them about it, none of the panelists addressed the merits of limiting immigration into the United States or of enforcing immigration law.
- Try to find experts who know the limits of their expertise and are careful in what they say. I was dismayed by three statements in particular:
- In Donald Gilpin’s article, Executive Director of the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF) Adriana Abizadeh is quoted as saying, “All of the immigration policy changes we have seen over the last 20 months have been xenophobic.” That’s quite a claim. It suggests an unwillingness to consider other motives, and a lack of desire to find common ground with those who disagree. Starting from there, how likely is persuasion or reconciliation?
- Professor Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, director of the Center for Migration and Development at Princeton University, told the audience that the term “chain migration” was coined by Donald Trump just recently for derogatory use in his presidential campaign. In fact, “chain migration” has been used without negative connotation in immigration studies since at least the 1960s. To suggest that the term is necessarily pejorative needlessly alienates those who use it with no such intent.
- It was thoughtful to include a religious leader on the panel, Brother Christopher McNabb of Trinity Church (Episcopal) in Princeton. I did not find his ideas about immigration policy well thought out, however. When I asked the panelists if they could think of any good reasons for a nation to limit immigration, Brother Christopher said that while nations have the right to secure their borders, most restrictions on legal immigration to the United States are not related to national security. That is plausible. Brother Christopher went on to say that if we would “follow the money” we would find that big business uses its financial (lobbying?) power to restrict immigration into the United States. Odd. U.S. businesses are among the biggest proponents of liberalizing our immigration laws, which would increase their access to workers and tend to keep wages down.
I appreciate the panelists’ willingness to discuss immigration in a public forum. In an effort to understand each other better and reconcile our differences, let’s do our homework and respectfully engage the best arguments of those with whom we disagree.
To the Editor:
In his August 22 letter [“Personal Experiences Lead to Different View of Weapons Used Against Japan”], Mr. Bill McJames of Hillsborough takes issue with the Coalition for Peace Action’s annual gathering to commemorate the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Like many, he believes that the two atom bombs dropped on Japan in 1945 were the primary cause of the Japanese surrender and thus prevented massive casualties on both sides from an otherwise inevitable U.S. land invasion of Japan.
It is worth mentioning that modern historians vigorously dispute this interpretation of the causes for the Japanese surrender. However, the focus of the Annual Commemoration held by the Coalition for Peace Action is not to look backwards in time and decide if the bombings were right or wrong. True, the destruction caused by those two relatively small atomic bombs was horrific. But the detonation of just a fraction of the thousands of today’s immensely more powerful nuclear weapons could essentially end life on our planet. That is the awful future we must strive to prevent.
And that is why we favor diplomacy, not war, with Iran and North Korea. Thanks to diplomacy, Iran has no nuclear weapons to date; and if President Trump hadn’t withdrawn from the Iran Nuclear Agreement, Iran could not produce such weapons for at least a decade. North Korea does have dozens of nuclear weapons. But the U.S. has over 7,000 of them, far more than anyone can argue might be useful for deterrence.
Agreements like the one with Iran have decreased the danger of nuclear weapons. The U.S. should move back into compliance with the Iran Agreement and should pursue a verifiable agreement with North Korea as well. And we should also enter into negotiations that reduce the threat of nuclear weapons for everyone.
In remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki each year, the Coalition for Peace Action calls for the global abolition of nuclear weapons. This is not an impossible dream. After all, our nuclear reduction agreements with the former USSR have reduced nuclear warheads by about 80 percent to date. And a global agreement could be achieved by all nations complying with the UN’s Nuclear Ban Treaty, which was overwhelmingly approved last summer. Instead of rationalizing the past, we must move forward into a nuclear-free future.
Assistant Director, Coalition for Peace Action
HORSE HAVEN: “I learned to ride at Hasty Acres when I was a girl, and I rode Corky,” says Natalie Pontillo (right) owner of Hasty Acres Riding Club. “Corky, a chestnut quarter horse, is now 42 years old and retired. The kids can still groom him, however, and he will always have a home here.” Georgia Elek, Hasty Acres assistant manager, is also shown with Corky.
By Jean Stratton
Hasty Acres has been a special place for horseback riders of all levels for more than 50 years. Located at 121 Laurel Avenue in Kingston, it offers English-style riding instruction as well as the opportunity to learn about equine care.
Longtime rider and award-winning expert horsewoman Natalie Pontillo purchased Hasty Acres three years ago.
“I like being outside and active, and these horses are important to me,” she explains. “I not only learned to ride at Hasty Acres, but I also worked here. I love working with the kids and seeing them develop. It is so beneficial to them. They learn to ride and also to care for the horses, brushing and currying them.” more