January 20, 2021

By Stuart Mitchner

It’s transcendent, you feel it. It’s there, the vanished transcendence and insistence of chance, action and fortuity. It’s there and you can’t unfeel it.

—Walker Evans (1903-1975)

Walker Evans is talking about the impact of the moment he encountered “a visual object” he knew he had to photograph. If you read those words after wading through the tide of raw imagery unleashed by the January 6 storming of the Capitol, you know what it means to feel a force so insistent that “you can’t unfeel it.”

In the opening chapter of Walker Evans: Starting from Scratch (Princeton Univ. Press $39.95), Svetlana Alpers refers to poet William Carlos Williams’s review of Evans’s groundbreaking 1938 book, American Photography (“the pictures talk to us and they say plenty”). Focusing on the poet and photographer’s shared “passionate belief in American art as they made it,” Alpers quotes from a poem by Williams: “It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.”

The idea that poetry and photography have the power to enhance or sustain or even save a life resonates on January 20, 2021, whether in relation to the Capitol riots or the inauguration of the 46th president, who found therapy for a childhood disability by reciting the poetry of William Butler Yeats. The “news from poems” in this tumultuous month ranges from the “terrible beauty is born” of Yeats to President Biden’s campaign mantra by way of Seamus Haney: “Make hope and history rhyme.” more

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Board and members of the Sourland Conservancy, I would like to thank the many community volunteers, partner nonprofits, and teen leaders of Hopewell Gives Back (HGB) for observing the Martin Luther King Day of Service by volunteering on January 16-18. 

This year, the HGB teen leaders planned a virtual event to invite families and individuals of all ages to pick up a project “kit” to complete at home. Each project will benefit one of four local nonprofits: I Support the Girls (feminine hygiene packs), Seeds to Sew International (decorating paper bags/boxes), The Rescue Mission of Trenton (making no-sew fleece blankets or face masks), and the Sourland Conservancy (assembling native seed packets).  more

To the Editor:

I am writing to voice my objection to aspects of the newly passed ordinance permanently changing a portion of Witherspoon Street to a one-way street.

I realize that this is a challenging issue with many parties having different hopes and needs. We are all struggling to cope with the effects of the COVID crisis, but adaptations that work for some may be a hindrance to others. While I appreciate that there was an impetus to move quickly on this plan because, according to then Mayor Lempert, “Delaying it would mean we’d lose the grant funding for this project,” I do not think the implications of this ordinance have been well-considered. Many of the merchants that will be strongly affected, myself included, have been overwhelmed trying to weather the busy Christmas season during this pandemic and were not able to focus on this complicated topic.

I will leave aside the larger issue of whether Witherspoon should be one-way, although for the record I am against it, and focus on the part of this plan that directly affects my store. According to the Town Topics article on December 23 [“Council Vote Finalizes One-Way Traffic on Witherspoon,” page 1], South Tulane Street will be changed from one-way going north to south to one-way south to north. more

To the Editor:

During the past 10 months of the pandemic, residents who live in homes built and managed by Princeton Community Housing (PCH) have been the recipients of generosity by many organizations and food markets in Princeton. The challenge of making food available to those in need has been met by our community partners and we are very grateful for their initiatives.

Arm In Arm has provided 70 bags of food for 70 households, twice a month, at Elm Court (EC) and Harriet Bryan House (HBH), PCH’s senior developments on Elm Road. Princeton Community Village (PCV) residents have also received food deliveries. The YMCA has delivered 60 boxes of fresh produce every week, and over 100 households at our senior residences took turns receiving these food boxes. The YMCA also delivered weekly fresh produce boxes to 45 households at PCV and 30 households at Griggs Farm. The Jewish Family and Children’s Service mobile food truck delivered a reusable grocery bag to 90 residents at EC and HBH. The bag included fresh produce, chicken and non-perishables. The first delivery was on December 30 and hopefully will continue quarterly in 2021. The mobile pantry also delivered food to 20 residents at PCV on the same day. more

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Arts Council of Princeton, I am writing to thank everyone in our community who made a gift of support during our winter appeal. The response was overwhelmingly generous. Over the past nine months, the Arts Council of Princeton’s response to the pandemic has been to offer free programs and creative ways to address the social isolation and the diminished sense of togetherness that characterized so much of 2020.

Your support was an affirmative signal of support for the Arts Council’s hard work and continued commitment to keeping our community vibrant and connected. We will emerge from this pandemic stronger and more resilient as a community, and your support ensures that the Arts Council will be offering art-filled opportunities to come together and celebrate the creativity in each of us. On behalf of the entire Board, I offer a heartfelt thanks to all.

Board Of Trustees, Arts Council Of Princeton
Sarah Collum-Hatfield, President
Rock Road East, Hopewell

To the Editor:

The kindness of strangers. I want to publicly thank a very kind woman who stopped to help me and a friend on Hamilton Avenue on Wednesday, January 13.

In this frightening time of social distancing she attempted to help a total stranger. I don’t know her name, but I think her middle name is Angel. Thank you so much.

Kathryn King
Linden Lane

To the Editor:

A heartfelt thank you from the Friends of the Princeton Public Library for the support of our amazing community for our Beyond Words 2020 fundraiser. On January 9th, we concluded our three-part speakers’ series with Kate Andersen Brower, the author of Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump, in conversation with Princeton University Professor Kevin Kruse.

Considering recent events and the upcoming inauguration in Washington, D.C., our timing was impeccable.  Kate Brower’s insights into the presidency, past presidencies, and life in the White House could not have been more timely and relevant. Coupled with the highly engaged participation from our patrons that we have grown to expect (and love), the event was proof again of the central role the Princeton Public Library plays in cultivating the curiosity of our community.  more

To the Editor:

When those $600 stimulus checks arrive, let’s all consider their purpose, and whether we can just pass ours on to someone who needs it now.

You may already have donated to one or more of the great relief organizations in town, yet find yourself looking for someone specific to give to, someone you would not embarrass by asking. 

Could it be the couple who have for years faithfully shoveled snow from your sidewalk, or helped you with gardening? Neither job is available now. Or a single parent, unemployed because a business you normally patronize has cut its hours? Maybe the home health aide, grocery checkout person, or crosswalk guard who’s missing because he or she has caught the virus — there must be a way to find that person.

Once found, how to frame your gift? A tip? Pay for personal days off? Sick or vacation pay? 

Once you find the person, giving gets easier. Talk to that person. Think of what you can give, and do your best. Every gift counts.

Mary Clurman
Harris Road

January 13, 2021

HANDSOME HOMES: This splendid townhouse is one of the 45 homes available at The Townhomes at Riverwalk, a 55 + active adult community in Plainsboro.

By Jean Stratton

Every detail has been carefully thought about. Every amenity is provided, and everything can be customized to personal taste.

The Townhomes at Riverwalk, a group of 45 homes located at One Riverwalk in Plainsboro, are now ready for occupancy. An active adult community for those 55 and older, this is a unique opportunity featuring a club membership program, which offers shared amenities and services with the neighboring rental community, Ovation at Riverwalk.

“Sharing the clubhouse amenities is a new concept in New Jersey,” explains Anna Shulkina, realtor at Re/Max of Princeton, who is the listing agent for the Riverwalk Townhomes, “This is really a special benefit of living here. As club members, residents can enjoy the restaurants, gym, swimming pool, library, game room, etc. The monthly maintenance fee includes access to all these club amenities.”

Owned by MVB Riverwalk Urban Renewal LLC, which is headquartered in Philadelphia, The Townhomes is a grouping of eight buildings, including four different home models. They offer owners opportunities for customized materials, a variety of cabinet and countertop colors, and floor plans. more

To the Editor:

This year, as the pandemic closed down indoor destinations, many people turned to Princeton’s nature preserves for diversion, renewal, and exercise. Coinciding with this surge in what is often called passive recreation has been an acceleration in several projects along the Princeton Ridge where people take a more active, restorative role in nature. Initiatives by the Friends of Herrontown Woods, the Friends of Princeton Open Space, and the Ridgeview Ridge Trail Blazers have all gained momentum, benefiting from an influx of volunteers.

On the eastern side of town, our relatively new nonprofit, the Friends of Herrontown Woods, founded in 2013 to make Princeton’s first nature preserve once again accessible after years of neglect, has overseen the rapid evolution of a space we now call the Princeton Botanical Art Garden. It began three years ago as a small loop trail through a former pine grove decimated by windstorms. As invasive species took hold among the fallen trees, we saw the opportunity to create a rare habitat — a sunny forest opening. Removing rampant invasive growth and planting sun-loving native wildflowers and shrubs, our first goal was to create a space where people could come to learn about native flora. 

But the botanical garden took a cultural turn this year as artists and students displaced from school began building structures amidst the wildflower beds. A boy made a fort. Several high schoolers built a yurt. A chainsaw virtuoso cut planks and handrails from fallen trees to build a whimsical but sturdy bridge over a small wetland. Using massive upturned root balls as backdrops, a spiritual gardener created a meditation garden, and a daughter and mother created an exhibit of wildlife bones.  more

Dear Editor,

I am writing this letter for two reasons. One, because Yes We CAN! Food Drives is so deeply appreciative of the community support we have received this past year in collecting food to help our neighbors overcome food security. Through our food drives at supermarkets and farmers markets, our volunteers have collected an astonishing 14,000 pounds of donations, or seven tons!

All that fresh and canned food goes to Arm in Arm food pantries in Trenton and Princeton for free distribution to their clients, a list that includes families, seniors, and veterans.

Due to the health crisis, many more people find themselves unemployed. Is it any wonder that Arm in Arm has experienced a dramatic increase in the number of individuals and families needing food support? more

To the Editor:

The Princeton Board of Education held its reorganization meeting on January 5, 2021, and we are pleased to welcome continuing members, Beth Behrend and Michele Tuck-Ponder, and Jean Durbin who joins us for her first term. Beth Behrend will return as Board president, joined by Dafna Kendal as vice president. Betsy Baglio, Debbie Bronfeld, Daniel Dart, Susan Kanter, Peter Katz, and Brian McDonald continue their service. 

 As we begin 2021, we remain grateful to Dr. Galasso, the administrators, teachers, and support staff for their commitment to our students and professionalism in these difficult times. Despite the hard work of more than 700 teachers and staff, we recognize that the abrupt pivot to remote/hybrid learning has been challenging for many students. We know that some are struggling, academically as well as emotionally.

The Board of Education is committed to measuring and remediating the pandemic’s impact on students. This will include summer tutorial programs and may also include new summer programs for students who have experienced learning loss. These programs, as well as activities to help students reconnect with one another, will be essential as school slowly begins to return to normal this fall. more

To the Editor:

Last January 3rd was the 243th anniversary of the epic Battle of Princeton in 1777, where Gen. George Washington reversed an American retreat, put the British army on the run, and saved the American Revolution. Princeton residents should be justly proud to have the place where this occurred, a unique national historical treasure, in our midst.

Thus, the Princeton Battlefield Society, the Officially Recognized Friends Organization of the Princeton Battlefield State Park, was delighted to participate in a solemn commemoration ceremony on January 3. The January 6th issue of Town Topics published a beautiful front-page photo of a color guard procession marking the event. more

To the Editor:

At the end of an auspicious year for Princeton Future, the private, nonprofit community planning organization can now share good news about Dohm Alley and its future in 2021. 

Dohm Alley, the 10-foot-wide space that runs off Nassau Street between Starbucks and Landau’s store, was transformed several years ago into an arts and performance space, which also offers a quiet and comfortable place to sit – a pleasant discovery for many Nassau Street pedestrians. A team of artists and craftspeople, organized by Princeton Future’s Kevin Wilkes, created the inaugural exhibit dedicated to the Romantic poets. This outdoor space has also been the site of several dance recitals, poetry readings, and lectures.

Now Emma Brigaud, a Princeton resident who is a graduate of the Stuart School and William & Mary, has replaced the alley’s inaugural exhibit with “Winter Wonderland,” a brightly lit installation that creates a warm space in the dark days of winter. Emma, who worked on the project with four other volunteers, was an intern on the original Dohm Alley installation. more

To the Editor:

On behalf of The Salvation Army Trenton Citadel Corps and Princeton United Methodist Church (PUMC), I am writing to thank the hundreds of people who contributed to the 13th annual Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign in Princeton this holiday season.

Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of donors and dozens of PUMC bellringing volunteers in Greater Princeton, The Salvation Army will continue to support a broad array of programs and services to help alleviate suffering to any and all in need without qualification or discrimination. Some of the services have included: assistance with housing and social services; a greatly expanded mobile food truck/hygiene service providing delivery of hot meals and hygiene kits to neighborhoods in response to the COVID-19 crisis; neighborhood picnics with police representatives to build community trust; and safe-space after-school activities and tutoring for students in STEM and reading enrichment. A program for music and drama begins in January due in part to our community’s support. more

January 6, 2021

TEST OF TIME: “I have been involved with the company for 40 years, and it’s great fun! I still have the passion to help someone realize their dream of a new kitchen or bath or a new look with flooring,” says Joe Rossi, owner of Regent Flooring Kitchen and Bath in Pennington. “Our customers know that when they come here, we will be honest and up front, and offer our years of experience and knowledgeable service.” Shown is the company’s spacious showroom on Route 31 North.

By Jean Stratton

Personal attention, a knowledgeable staff, longtime experience, hands-on help and advice, and of course, quality products — these are the ingredients that make a successful business, and one that stands the test of time.

In the case of Regent Flooring Kitchen and Bath, it just gets better and better! The independent, family-owned business will celebrate its 58th anniversary this year.

Opened in 1963 by Felix Rossi and his partners, its initial focus was on flooring, including wood, tile, and carpet.

“My father and grandfather were born in Italy,” says current owner Joe Rossi, son of Felix. “In the early days, the store was a much smaller operation. It basically opened in one room, and now we have expanded into a spacious showroom, including a brand new addition to our kitchen and bath section. We still offer a complete line of flooring, and we also now have window treatments, and an increasing focus on kitchen and bath remodeling.” more

To the Editor:

Thanks to our wonderful community for donating over 2,600 specially chosen gifts to HomeFront’s annual Christmas Wishes Drive. The pandemic didn’t slow Santa down or stop him from keeping his appointment with each HomeFront child who was waiting for him with a heart full of hope.

If you saw the thousands of gifts arriving on the HomeFront dock for our kids during our annual Christmas Wishes Drive, you too would believe in Santa Claus. These gifts chosen with each child’s special wishes in mind delight and entertain children who would otherwise have gotten nothing on Christmas morning. But, most importantly, they also keep a sense of wonder and belief alive in many of them who live chaotic and scary lives. more

To the Editor:

Taking walks in the neighborhood, I have been dismayed at the stuff thrown into recycling bins. I would like to propose a New Year’s resolution for us all: let’s be more careful about recycling.

Not everything is recyclable, and non-recyclable items should just be disposed of in the trash bin, not placed in the recycling bin. The list of recyclable material can be found on the website of the Princeton Township, among other places, at princetonnj.gov/449/Recycling-in-Princeton.

We should take the time to familiarize ourselves with this list and post it in a visible place for easy consultation. From the above website, I also just learned the good news that Mercer County will finally be enforcing recycling contamination by tagging bins that contain contaminants with a red “Recycling Rejection Notice.” This intervention was long overdue, and hopefully will save our recycling program. It would be a pity to lose it, as has happened with the composting program.

Chiara Nappi
Clover Lane

To the Editor:

In response to my neighbor Christopher Monroe’s keen observation of “scouring the entire paved area” around the 7-Eleven with a leaf blower [“Adding a Voice to Chorus of Pleas Against Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers, Mailbox, December 30], let me join ranks to agree on the overuse/abuse of the noisy, messy machines that often just blow things from one unwanted place to another.

Cheers for the occasional downtown merchants I have seen sweeping up and actually depositing the trash into a container! I’m often saddened by all the debris dropped along the sidewalks, especially now with the “opportunity” to drop masks and gloves. Even on side streets in the neighborhoods there is more trash dropped than usual. Princeton trash pickup is timely and efficient. Individuals can make a difference — get the trash in the cans and be more mindful not to drop it on the streets and walks.

Blowing it around isn’t helpful or healthful. Gas-powered blowers are unhealthy for our air and our ears. We need to rethink the whole obsessive blowing it away rather than cleaning it up. Less use of every kind of blower would be advantageous for the community. And, maybe, we don’t really need scorched earth (or parking lot) cleanup habits to begin with!

Kathryn Weidener
Moore Street

To the Editor:

2020 will be remembered as the year that challenged and tested all of us in many ways. So many people couldn’t see their loved ones, spent days in isolation, or tragically lost a friend or family member. Most importantly, we came together to fight the virus as one. This past year has strained us, but the fight is not over. As our frontline and public health professionals are giving it their all in round two of the battle against COVID-19, the arrival of a vaccine is the most welcome news.

During the pandemic, in Mercer County we have administered more than 20,000 COVID-19 tests to our residents. There were bumps along the way, but no resident who wanted a test was turned away from a Mercer County site, and that is a great success. While we have not fully shifted gears away from testing, the vaccination plan is beginning to take shape. more

December 30, 2020

HEALTH AND WELLNESS: “Our philosophy is that it is easier to keep you healthy than to get you healthy after you become sick. So we have a great focus on preventive medicine and lifestyle modification to maximize health. We are also well-equipped and experienced to diagnose and treat illness, and help people restore their good health.” Jerrold S. Gertzman, MD, is a primary care physician and division director for Primary Care of the Capital Health Medical Group.

By Jean Stratton

Staying well and healthy is uppermost on all our minds — probably more than ever before as we continue to cope with COVID-19. Practically no one in the U.S. has experienced a pandemic of this magnitude (very few people are still alive who remember the deadly flu pandemic of 1918). The current ordeal has brought seemingly unending challenges.

All those who have worked hard to help us through this nightmare deserve our admiration and appreciation.

Of course, that includes all the heath care workers who, day in and day out, save lives.

The Capital Health Medical Group, an affiliate of Capital Health Medical Center, is committed to providing patients with the best care available. With locations in and around Mercer and Burlington Counties as well as Bucks County, Pa., it offers an extensive network of care, including more than 400 physicians and other providers who offer primary, specialty, and surgical care. 20 of the locations are for primary care, and 85 primary care physicians are affiliated with the Group. more

To the Editor:

I read the League of American Bicyclists awarded Princeton a silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community [“Princeton’s Cycling Status Rises, Most Bike-Friendly Town in the State,” page 1, December 16]. Seems many in town have worked tirelessly to make our town safer to ride a bike. Rewarding this work is more than justified. Still, I thought I’d take a look at the so-called most bike-friendly town in New Jersey.

I found no bike lanes to safely travel to the downtown, the shopping center, or the schools. In fact, I found that riding into town is dangerous and congested, and that riding out of town yields a sigh of relief, that less awarded communities around us seem to care more about safety for all users. It may be that these communities are less dense and naturally more bike friendly, but lanes from these communities end at Princeton’s gates. We occasionally make efforts to install a bike lane where it is needed, but argue it down in public meetings.

Perhaps we harbor the delusion: we truly are bicycle friendly. After all, the League has awarded us. We have lofty declarations in our circulation plans aspiring to complete streets, thoughtful consideration for all users. We have bike paths, bicycle friendly signage, designated routes, bicycle parking, and maps to guide us. more

To the Editor: 

Try to remember back to 2019. It seems like a different lifetime doesn’t it? As a small bakery owner and Princeton resident, I remember what used to be considered retail problems – high rent, power outages, road closures, and the like.   Don’t get me wrong: those were problems, but they were nowhere close to the existential threat facing our small businesses today. What LiLLiPiES has gone through is only one of many stories.

When LiLLiPiES closed last week due to a COVID-19 scare, I had to call our customers and break the news that their holiday orders would likely need to be canceled and refunded. These weren’t just faceless phone numbers I was calling. These were people I’ve known for years; people whose unwavering support made LiLLiPiES into what it is today. I dreaded making those calls. This has been a difficult holiday season for most and there I was taking away one more small beacon of normalcy. 

But as I started making calls, I was overwhelmed time and time again by the generosity and kindness of our Princeton community. Instead of focusing on their own loss of a special breakfast or dessert treat, customer after customer asked how our staff was doing, how the business was doing, how they could help! A couple of days that could’ve been extremely painful became days that I’ll forever remember as feeling most cared for and valued. Those couple of days helped me realize the power that each of us hold as consumers. more

To the Editor:

With 2020 about to be in the rear-view mirror, Princetonians and the nation could use some good news. The Global Child Thrive Act should become law any day now with the help of members of our community and our congressional delegation. The bill requires the administration to integrate early childhood development techniques into all child-focused international aid programs, activities like reading and singing with children, playing with colorful objects, and providing better nutrition. The kinds of things we would do with our own children and grandchildren can make a world of difference for children globally. Here’s where we came in.

In a September 2019 letter published in Town Topics I invited Princetonians to urge Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman to cosponsor the bill and our congresswoman was an initial cosponsor when the bill was introduced the following month. In a November 2020 letter published here, I urged readers to call our U.S. senators and ask them to support the bill’s inclusion in the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Global Child Thrive Act was included and the larger bill passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities. Sadly, President Trump vetoed it on December 23, but Congress is expected to override the veto any day now.  more

To the Editor:

Let me add my voice to the chorus of pleas I have seen in the paper in recent weeks and months to do something about the noise and the effect on our air quality from leaf blowers and, I would add, from other machines driven by the same inefficient and highly polluting small engines. Beyond the noise problem is the air pollution from the exhaust emissions of these engines, with its immediate impact on our breathing and with known effects of air pollution on asthma and lung problems.

Landscaping crews seem to come through in three waves: once with power mowers, once with edger/trimmers, and once with leaf blowers, and all of these machines use the same deafening and highly polluting two-stroke engines. I have seen gas-powered hedge trimmers, too. Any ordinance should ban or regulate the use of all of these machines. 

I find that as soon as I hear the machines of the landscaping crews approaching, I must rush to close up windows and doors or the pollution will have entered my house and become hard to remove. Recently I had the misfortune of needing to walk on the driveway past the 7-Eleven and Post Office while a two-man crew was at work there, blowing precious few leaves away, but scouring the entire paved area and blowing dirt and trash around along with the few leaves. I was holding my ears, but I didn’t think to hold my breath until I had already passed into a dense cloud of pollution and taken in half a lungful. The noxiousness of the dense cloud of dirt and emissions was awful and obvious. more