February 19, 2020

To the Editor:

We need to clarify several points in response to the mayor’s recent comments regarding Princeton Community Television [“Mayor Lempert Responds to PCTV’s Jan. 29 Open Letter,” Mailbox, Feb. 5].

It is worth reminding the mayor that PCTV has provided a valuable service to residents and community groups for three decades — one that is all the more worthwhile in this era of cable-dominated and social media news in which the public’s voice has faded and local community news coverage has been disappearing.

Numerous residents and organizations have attested that PCTV is a tremendous asset to them. It brings the community together, provides opportunities for nonprofits, extends internships to students, and offers valuable opportunities to highlight important community issues. To suggest that PCTV can easily be replaced by individuals producing their own media on phones is to take away all the community and educational aspects of the station that make PCTV so special. more

To the Editor:

Last April, Princeton Council focused on recommendations made by the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA) for revisions to the parking system in place at downtown meters and kiosks. A month later, in May, Council established the Permit Parking Task Force focusing on two residential neighborhoods.

One, the Tree Streets, has no walk-in business places. It consists of more than 200 houses, many of which are multi-family and home to almost 1,000 people. On seven streets, they are between Nassau Street and Hamilton Avenue with one, Spruce Street, parallel, that runs from Moore to Quarry Park, a dead end. Council maps color this high density area as part of the downtown business district. more

To the Editor:

Mr. Slee concludes his letter with the sentiment that “Residents need to know why their community was chosen for expansion of parking regulation when the problem obviously is the enforcement of the existing rules.” The Tree Streets were chosen for inclusion in this pilot program precisely because we have heard from residents that the current rules are unsatisfactory: on-street spaces fill up early in the day and remain occupied all day, leaving no on-street parking available for residents or their guests.

The fact is that most of these streets, with the exception of Pine Street, have no parking regulations at all, other than an overnight ban. It is hard to see how better “enforcement of the existing rules” will solve the parking needs of residents when there are no existing rules. The goal of the pilot is to prioritize the needs of residents, while also recognizing the importance of local businesses, which need parking for customers and employees (and also pay taxes).  more

To the Editor:

I am writing in support of my dear friend Dina Shaw’s candidacy for Princeton Council.

I’ve known Dina since my freshman year in college, and I can say with confidence that there could not be a better candidate for our town. She’s intelligent, hard-working, and creative. She’s been an inspirational community activist, devoted mother of three, and successful entrepreneur. She has demonstrated her accomplishments in the many different roles that she’s held, from being the head of the PTO at the elementary and middle schools to being chief operating officer of her own successful business.

She knows how to get results. Dina has a special ability to come up with creative solutions that others have not considered. She makes every organization she works with the absolute best it can be. She has many personal and professional connections which she generously shares to the benefit of all involved; connecting others is one of Dina’s great gifts.

I strongly support Dina for Princeton Council. We need her energy, intellect, and ability to get things done in Princeton!

Jill Barnett Kaufman
Fisher Avenue

To the Editor:

I’m writing this letter in support of Mark Freda’s candidacy for mayor of Princeton.

My perspective on Mark is different from that of the many others who I am sure will endorse him in that it’s informed by more than 10 years as Mark’s next-door neighbor.

Over that decade I was a daily witness to Mark’s character, work ethic, sense of community, and deep love and respect for the town of Princeton. more

To the Editor:

On February 8, 150 members of the community came together at Beden’s Brook Country Club for Princeton Nursery School’s (PNS) Starry Starry Night Gala to benefit the schools early education and hunger prevention programming. Because of the overwhelming generosity of individual and corporate donors, we were able to double our fundraising goal for the evening, which will provide scholarships for children of area families in need.

PNS, a nonprofit organization, is located on Leigh Avenue and was founded in 1929 by Margaret Matthews Flinch, a wealthy Princeton resident, who saw the need to provide working families with affordable child care. Along with a quality preschool education, the school also provides a hunger prevention program that includes breakfast, hot lunch, and snack. PNS also participates in the Send Hunger Packing Princeton program, which provides nutritious meals for the children over the weekend, and a weekly food pantry for our families. more

DESIGN PLUS BUILD: “What if you were an architect and you knew how to build well, too. Wouldn’t that be a powerful combination? We’re an architectural design-build company, and we have on-site product capacity. We fabricate every piece here on-site. All the woodworking and metal work is done right here.” Kevin Wilkes, AIA, award-winning architect, founder and managing partner of Princeton Design Guild, is shown in his Belle Mead workshop.

By Jean Stratton

At the age of 9, Kevin Wilkes knew exactly what he wanted to do. And it has all gone according to plan.

“When I was 9, I had Lincoln Logs and erector sets, and I was always building things. My dad was an engineer, my mom was an interior designer, and I just knew I wanted to design and build things.”

While still a senior at Princeton University, he began building a house on the corner of Harrison and Sycamore Streets all on his own, and it still stands today, a testament to his skill and determination.

Also at Princeton, he was able to target his love of the theater by designing sets and costumes for campus shows, and he also studied scenic design. He took time off between sophomore and junior year to work full-time at McCarter Theatre as scenic artist and assistant to the technical director. He also worked in Manhattan as a scenic designer, as well as creating interior designs, such as a new lobby and a second stage for various theaters. more

February 12, 2020

To the Editor:

I am writing in support of Mark Freda’s candidacy for mayor of Princeton. Those who know this lifelong Princetonian appreciate his quiet intelligence, his broad and nuanced understanding of how our town works, and his humbling commitment to making Princeton an equitable and better home for all.

His many years of public service to our town, from the 13 years on the Borough council (five as president) to his long tenure as a volunteer firefighter, which he began at age 18, are proof that he does the hard work. We need only consider the fortitude and determination it took to bring the glorious new PFARS facility to fruition to understand his commitment to our town.

As a member of the executive leadership in the Princeton Community Democratic Organization, Mark listened first and then asked questions. He’s running on a platform of transparency and improved communication between municipal leadership and residents. I know we can trust Mark Freda to lead that effort. Mark is a true public servant — honest, a consensus-builder, and a leader. If you don’t already know him, take the opportunity to.

Caroline Cleaves
Edgehill Street

To the Editor:

One hundred years ago, after a long and difficult fight, women in the United States were given the right to vote with the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. That centennial is being celebrated wide and far this year. But you may not know that another milestone for women’s rights happened that year. On February 14, 1920, the League of Women Voters was created by the leaders of the suffrage movement. They wisely recognized that the 20 million new voters would need help to carry out their new responsibilities.

The enfranchisement of women was one of the largest peaceful revolutions in history. Women were finally recognized as full citizens. The League of Women Voters was created with a mission of ensuring that the new voters were educated and informed about issues and candidates. The League encouraged women to use their new power to participate in shaping public policy. They believed that maintaining a nonpartisan stance would protect the fledgling organization from becoming mired in the party politics. more

To the Editor:

Public Access, Educational Access, and Government Access are the three autonomous non-commercial cable channels dedicated to Princeton by Comcast and Verizon.

Mayor Lempert writes [Mailbox, Feb. 5]: “… the reality is that the municipality continues to operate a channel that airs Council, Planning, and Zoning Board meetings … the school district operates its own channel that airs its Board meetings… ”

What is not acknowledged is that if Princeton Community Access Television ceases operation the public’s voice will be denied the freedom of expression accorded the Princeton Council and the Princeton School Board.

Mayor Lempert writes: “PCTV is a local nonprofit … it produces local programming, primarily interview shows. It also provides video production training…”

What is not acknowledged is that PCTV produces videos and podcasts to bolster fundraising efforts for Princeton-based nonprofits including the Witherspoon-Jackson Development Corporation, Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Coalition For Peace Action. more

To the Editor:

We are writing as parents, as engaged community members, as former Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) presidents, and as current leaders of the PTO Council.

Princeton Public Schools (PPS) are, and should be, a source of pride; but our school district faces significant immediate and long-term challenges related to rising enrollment and aging facilities. The PPS administration and Board of Education are committed to working with all sectors of the community to design a plan for current and future growth. We know from experience that the most successful solutions include input from the community as a whole. We encourage everyone in Princeton to engage in these critical conversations over the next several months to understand the challenges and to provide feedback and ideas.

A high level of community participation will help ensure that we, as a town, can come to a solution that will benefit Princeton’s children for years to come. For more information, visit www.princetonk12.org/district/future-planning.

Milena Deluca, Mara Franceschi, Jennifer Jang, Trish Ryan, Christina Walden
PPS PTOC Executive Board

TO YOUR TASTE: “We are set apart by our selection, prices, our knowledge and expertise, and our customer service. In a period of 49 years, Bottle King has grown to become the largest New Jersey retailer of wine, beer, and spirits.” Steve Carpentier, general manager of the company and co-owner of the Bottle King on State Road, is shown with Chateau Petrus Pomerol, a very special and hard-to-get Bordeaux.

By Jean Stratton

Word travels fast when something new and exciting arrives in the neighborhood!

To say that Bottle King, the new liquor store at 775 State Road, has made a hit is an understatement. Just opened in December, it already has regular customers, not to mention the new ones who show up every day.

“Best beer selection!” Best prices in alcohol!” “Great selection of everything!” “Terrific layout in the store!”

These are just some of the rave reviews from customers. An additional remark often heard: “The parking is great — no problem finding a space.”

All in all, good news for Bottle King owner Ken Friedman, who founded the family business in Union in 1970. There are now 15 Bottle Kings, including one in Hillsborough and another in East Windsor. more

February 5, 2020

To the Editor:

The recent open letter from members of PCTV erroneously implied that the municipality no longer broadcasts its meetings or posts meeting videos online. The reality is that the municipality continues to operate a channel that airs Council, Planning, and Zoning Board meetings. This channel — 29 on the Comcast Cable system and 44 on Verizon FiOS — has always been completely separate from the channel used by Princeton Community Television (PCTV) — Comcast 30 and Verizon FiOS 45. Additionally, the school district operates its own channel that airs its Board meetings — Comcast 24 and Verizon FiOS 46.

PCTV is a local nonprofit. It operates its cable access channel out of Monument Hall where it produces local programming, primarily interview shows. It also provides video production training and resources for interested residents and non-residents.

For many years PCTV received significant funding (around $250,000 annually) via a pass through of cable franchise fees from Comcast and Verizon through the municipality. Although originally intended to support local broadcasting when this funding arrangement began decades ago, state law now supports the use of these fees by municipalities for taxpayer relief. The vast majority of municipalities in New Jersey use their cable franchise fees to augment their budget. Princeton was one of the very few remaining towns in the entire state to fund a local station.

The truth is that many of those who use PCTV’s facilities reside in municipalities that no longer fund their own stations. These users are demanding that franchise fees be diverted from Princeton’s budget while they themselves benefit from tax relief provided by their own towns. more

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to the article concerning traffic on Edgehill Street [“Residents Urge Fix for Edgehill Traffic, Dangerous Conditions,” page one, Jan. 29].

I live on Library Place. I avoid the light on Library at Stockton and cut through on Hibben or Edgehill when traveling from east to west. Why do I do this? If one takes Library from Mercer Street and is behind a driver turning left, depending on the time of day, one can sit through 2-4 cycles of the light before the driver in front can make his turn.

Simple solution: a green arrow for left turners timed so a realistic number of cars can turn. Even if the town has to get permission from the state because Stockton is a state road, it should have been done yesterday.

By the way, Library Place between Stockton and Hodge is a speedway. Cars travel 40-50 mph. It’s a straightaway with nothing to slow cars down. We need traffic calming devices.

Ruth Sayer
Library Place

To the Editor:

Regarding last Monday’s meeting about parking on the “tree streets” — as a resident of Chestnut Street (who often finds cars blocking his driveway!) I regret not being able to attend the discussion where I would have put in my “two cents worth.”

I have never been able to understand why a very simple plan hasn’t been implemented that would be a quadruple win…a dedicated, frequent, and direct shuttle bus between the shopping center on Harrison Street and Palmer Square, with perhaps one or two or maybe even zero stops along the way.

As a frequent visitor to Hilton Head, South Carolina, I partake of a shuttle that takes visitors, residents and tourists between an off-site parking lot and one of America’s most visited shopping, golf, tennis, and dining neighborhoods — Harbortown — where parking and traffic had become a nightmare. more

To the Editor:

I write this letter in strong support of Mark Freda’s candidacy for mayor of Princeton Council. As a former council member of Princeton Borough, I benefited first-hand from Mark’s leadership as Council president and valued his vision of community and drive for effective and transparent government.

As mayor, Mark will bring to the position a sensibility that comes from intimately knowing Princeton. Having grown up in Princeton; serving as a local fire fighter from a young age; and rising to leadership positions in the fire department, with the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, with community groups like Spirit of Princeton, as well as on the town’s governing body, Mark’s heart, vision and initiative are all-in to ensuring Princeton’s vitality as a quality town. more

January 29, 2020

MADE TO ORDER: “We are set apart by our hospitality and great customized pizza. Customers know that the owners are always here. We answer the phone ourselves, and we customize each pizza to every person’s taste. I am very hands-on — whether I’m out front helping the customers, or in the kitchen.” Aginah Maltabes co-owner of Pizza Den, is shown getting a pizza all ready to go to a happy customer.

By Jean Stratton 

The personal touch is on display at Pizza Den. Owners Aginah and Costa Maltabes are always on hand to be sure that customers receive their favorite pizza, made to order to their taste.

“Pizza is the number one food in the world,” says Aginah Maltabes. “Everyone likes it. It tastes good. It is a kind of comfort food. And at Pizza Den, we make sure it is exactly the way you like it.

“At Pizza Den, we believe a good pie should be personal,” she continues. “The dough is made in-house, using organic, unbleached flour. You can taste the difference in every bite. We also offer a gluten-free crust.”

Opened in 2018 at 242 1/2 Nassau Street, Pizza Den is tucked in next door to Hoagie Haven. Small in size, it is large in flavors and hospitality. Primarily a takeout establishment, it does have small tables for eat-in, and is also available for private parties. more

To the Editor:

A well-attended community planning session at Princeton High School on Saturday, January 25, was an important step for our school district. The Board was pleased to welcome over 160 community members, who heard from our planners and provided input on the future of our public schools. The solutions to balancing community growth with great public schools remain an open question, subject to months of work and continued conversation. The Board is looking forward to working closely with the community to define a future that reflects our mission and the community’s values — preparing students for lives of joy and purpose while respecting affordability, equity, and sustainability. It’s a tall order that will require all voices and a collaborative spirit.

For those who couldn’t attend Saturday’s initial forum, data on enrollment and school capacity are available on the PPS website (princetonk12.org). Community members are also invited to join the conversation by completing a survey, found on our website, by February 10. Additional opportunities for engagement will follow soon. We are grateful for this community’s strong support for our public schools.

Board of Education
Princeton Public Schools

To the Editor:

The PHS cafeteria was packed. The 90-minute presentation by the BoE’s consultants, MacBroom & Milone (M&M), focused specifically on establishing a need for school expansion. Other questions on the public’s mind — exactly how and where to expand, the cost, staff cuts, Westminster, any future referendum — were not addressed.

The breakout did not allow for open consideration of alternatives to expansion. It included no formal public discussion. We could only ask a few questions of individual consultants or write questions on stickies, postcards, and easels. more

To the Editor:

While attending the college commencement ceremony for my daughters a couple of years ago, a respected Princeton University professor addressed the graduates and suggested that we get involved in our local government to ensure that it sets the example for how we want our institutions, services, and communities to operate. With this advice in mind, I am pleased to learn that Mark Freda is a candidate for mayor of Princeton.

We are seeing in real time that elections matter. At this critical time, I’d like to suggest that here in Princeton, where much is going well, we also need to be focusing on the improvement of the basic blocking and tackling of our local government services.

I first came to know Mark as a fellow Littlebrook parent many years ago at a time when all of our schools were undergoing major renovations. With construction difficulties mounting, we were both concerned parents. At community meetings, Mark was a positive, constructive, and calming representative for parents who had concerns about the condition and the safety of the schools during the construction period. I specifically remember that procedure modifications suggested by Mark were significant in addressing many of the parents’ safety and environmental concerns. more

January 22, 2020

To the Editor:

We would like to correct some misunderstandings contained in Phyllis Teitelbaum’s letter [Mailbox, January 15] regarding the recommendations coming out of the Permit Parking task force to be presented at the January 27 Council meeting.

First, we want to explain the general outline of the recommendations coming from the task force, though the specifics are still being finalized. The recommendations are to initiate a pilot program in limited parts of town, specifically the tree streets and the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhoods. These neighborhoods were chosen because we most often hear complaints from the residents of these neighborhoods — the current parking policy in these neighborhoods does not serve the residents well and we want to correct that. All of the policies being proposed are intended to prioritize needs of the residents above other users of on-street parking. Resident permits are intended to be good 24 hours/day. The cost of resident permits will be based on simply covering administrative costs of the program and will not be revenue-generating. A few employee permits will likely be issued on a street-by-street basis, but with the intention to maintain plenty of open spaces for residents and their guests. This is completely in line with the recommendations contained in the Nelson-Nygaard report of 2017. The cost of employee permits will be revenue generating for the municipality, and generally based on market rates for similar privately available parking. Policies will be designed to shift business customer parking to metered spaces, with some added meters in locations with a current shortage. Lastly, the pilot program is intended to improve enforcement of parking regulations in these areas. more

To the Editor:

Happy New Year from the PPS Board of Education. We have reorganized and are pleased to welcome continuing member Debbie Bronfeld, returning member Dafna Kendal, and Susan Kanter, who joins us for her first term. Beth Behrend will return as board president, joined by Michele Tuck-Ponder as vice president. Betsy Baglio, Daniel Dart, Jess Deutsch, Peter Katz, and Brian McDonald continue their service. 

As we begin a new year, students, as always, remain at the center of our work. Often our meetings must focus on the details of buildings, budget and policy — but all of our efforts support the teaching and learning that takes place in our wonderfully diverse and dynamic district. 

We encourage you to visit our board website to see highlights from our work in 2019 — including the expansion of Pre-K and restorative practices, the smooth transition of key district leadership, as well as a strengthened financial position, community relationships, advocacy, and facilities stewardship. Looking forward, we plan to keep our sights firmly set on the mission of our district, “To prepare all of our students to lead lives of joy and purpose as knowledgeable, creative, and compassionate citizens of a global society.” All of our goals for the year support this mission. more

It is critically important that we maintain and expand PCTV as a regional media center.  We don’t have a WHYY, and The Times is but a shadow of the old Trenton Times.  Without public access paid for by cable TV users, we are limiting our options to be well-informed.

PCTV’s free public access is not just a communication media, it is an economic center, and that seems to be the rub. There seems to be a concern by Princeton Council that surrounding towns are not paying their fair share. That Princeton is subsidizing the surrounding municipalities and their viewers. 

Let’s look at this more carefully. First, PCTV is a nonprofit that is run almost entirely by volunteers from Princeton and the surrounding townships — all the hosts and guests volunteer to create programming. It could be argued that Princeton residents are the primary gainers. Maybe Princeton owes the surrounding townships compensation for these volunteers? The fact is that while these volunteers are working in Princeton, they also spend money — pick up some lunch, stop to buy a wedding gift, or tie in a visit to a doctor, all services from local business people who pay taxes. Princeton’s role as a regional economic center is a good thing and PCTV is part of that — financed as it has been by cable TV fees — not by Princeton property taxes, but by cable TV fees. more

January 15, 2020

“PUTTING PEOPLE TOGETHER:” Patty Thel leads the combined choral groups from Trenton Children’s Chorus and Princeton Day School Middle School at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day Event at Princeton University. (Photo courtesy of Patty Thel)

By Donald Gilpin

Patty Thel’s roots in choral music go back to her childhood in the Southern Baptist church.

The Westminster Conservatory Children’s Choir program director and founder and Trenton Children’s Chorus director grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where her parents took her to church three times a week, and at home the whole family improvised at the piano and organ. “Mostly hymns — that’s where their heart was,” she said.

Thel has come a long way from the Fayetteville Baptist Church, but through many years of teaching music, she has remained devoted to choral work and literature, along with an experience that goes far beyond the words and the music.

“The thing for me with choral music over the years is about being truthful and devoted to the work as much as possible and also conveying to the students the message brought to them through the literature,” she said. “In teaching you’re trying to teach music, but also teaching young people how to be well rounded human beings and how to be sensitive to other people. more

To the Editor:

Do you live on a residential street in Princeton that has 2-hour or 3-hour parking or resident permit parking that is within a 15-minute walk of businesses on Nassau Street? If so, be aware — employees of Princeton businesses may soon be allowed to park all day on your street. And if you live near Princeton High School, high school students may soon be allowed to park all day on your street.

The Permit Parking Task Force is planning to present a report to Princeton Council that will propose allowing employees to park on these streets. 

I have been attending Task Force meetings. I have been impressed with the Task Force members’ hard work and good intentions. Unfortunately, in my view, the Task Force is going in the wrong direction. more