November 24, 2021

To the Editor:

There has been a lot of misinformation circulating regarding the Permit Parking Task Force’s (PPTF’s) intended purpose and goals. We’d like to set the record straight.

Our main goal is to give residents the ability to park on their streets in neighborhoods that are particularly impacted by competing pressures: homes that lack driveways, and businesses with patron and employee parking needs. In order to tackle this problem, we hope to have one type of resident permit, allowing for overnight parking, and be a uniform price throughout town, instead of the patchwork of different rules and different fees we have now. 

Our secondary goal is to better manage employee parking. We need to locate this parking on streets not subject to pressure from customer parking, while limiting the number of employees, so that residents and their guests can still park on their street. We would allow, in streets closest to commerce, some interspersed three-hour parking for patrons, but employee parking would not be allowed in these locations. Balancing the needs of the residents, patrons, and employees is no easy task — but the PPTF, after several years of research and work, has come to some recommendations which we have been sharing in community discussions.

The employee permit we are looking to offer would not be a “commuter business subsidy,” rather we intend to replace existing free employee parking with paid employee permits.  “Detrimental spillover to residential communities,” which opponents fear, is in fact already there. Our goal is to improve the balance to allow more spaces for residents to park on their own streets. more

To the Editor:

Sustainable Princeton is excited to announce that we have launched a Landscaping Equipment Transition Fund. The fund will assist small landscaping businesses operating in Princeton overcome the upfront capital costs of replacing their gas-powered equipment with less harmful, battery-powered equipment.

We aim to raise $35,000 and begin distributing reimbursements to landscapers by January 1, 2022. If you are interested in contributing to this effort, please make your contributions via the donate tab on our website. We have raised nearly $13,000 so far and need your help to reach our goal.

Over the past year, we have worked with many community partners on the Changing the Landscape: Healthy Yards = Healthy People/Cambiando el Paisaje: Jardines Sanos = Gente Sana project. The project was spurred by community pressure to eliminate the use of gas-powered landscaping equipment. Two-stroke gas-powered engines, which power most landscaping equipment, emit excessive emissions. These emissions are detrimental to landscapers’ health and contribute to poor local air quality and global climate change. The most egregious gas-powered equipment used by landscaping companies is leaf blowers. more

To the Editor:

On the evening of September 1 Hurricane Ida was approaching. My husband and I were to meet good friends for dinner in Rocky Hill at 6:30. Around 6:15 we called our friends to cancel. As fate would have it, they were at the restaurant already. We live a short distance away, so we decided to go forward. We felt our big SUV could handle the rain.

By 8:30, we asked for our check, overhearing various conversations about road closings, flooding, detours on Route 206, and general growing concern over the torrential rainfall. Route 518 was wet, but not flooded in the least. When we approached Route 206 we made the decision to continue going straight. 

As we neared Bedens Brook, the water was about a foot high. Driving slowly, it became higher rapidly and we decided to turn and go back toward Route 206.  At that precise moment a tsunami of water came crashing against the side and bottom of our car, causing the engine to die. The water was halfway up the doors of the car, preventing us from opening them. Our next thought was to open all the windows (just in case). Keep in mind it was pitch black and all this happened in less than 3 minutes.  more

To the Editor:

Having lived in Princeton for 40-plus years, I have felt and seen the growing encroachment of traffic and parking into in-town residential neighborhoods. Some residential streets have become commuter thoroughfares and some have become clogged with “overspill parking” from the business district. The intensity of these changes comes not only from growth, but also from the lack of compensatory infrastructure to handle growth effectively.

To address some of the parking issues in town, a task force was formed and charged with improving parking for residents in the Tree Streets and John Witherspoon neighborhoods where, for far too long, the streets have been clogged with “overspill parking” from downtown businesses and additionally, in the Tree Streets, from University graduate students.  more

To the Editor:

I became friendly with Liz Fillo about six years ago while exercising on an adjacent bicycle at the gym. We had friends in common and I knew of her reputation as a singer and performer.

I was organizing evenings for The Friends of Princeton Public Library that would be auctioned at our yearly gala, “Beyond Words.” I asked Liz if she would do a cabaret act with music from The Great American Song Book. She readily agreed and it was a wonderful evening. Two years later, she did one for Valentine’s Day which was a riff on traditional love songs, called “Love Actually.”

What was so extraordinary about these evenings was both Liz’s incredible talent and her generosity in giving her talent to benefit the Library.

She was an amazing woman and will be missed by all who knew her.

Audrey Egger
Co-Chair, Evenings and Events
Friends of Princeton Public Library
Coniston Court

To the Editor:

While we had plenty of close elections earlier this month, voter participation was disappointingly low. How can we motivate more voters to participate in our municipal elections?

One answer is to use ranked choice voting which provides opportunities for more diverse candidates, allows voters to have real choices (without fear of a wasted vote), and ensures election winners receive a majority of the votes (over 50 percent). New Jersey towns, including Princeton, should have the opportunity to use ranked choice voting if they choose.

We can make this happen by calling on our New Jersey legislators to support the “NJ Municipal Instant Runoff” bills (A 4744 and S 2992) and by asking for committee hearings to improve the bills. For example, we should increase the number of towns that qualify and apply them to many offices, not just mayoral races. I would love to see our local citizens and elected officials, too, join me in contacting our legislators. Here is an easy way to do it: https://p2a.co/Hgw6nE7.

Susan Colby
Bunn Drive

To the Editor:

Recently, a “community organization” named Sensible Streets has been spreading half-truths, misinformation, and heavily edited videos that aim to scare Princetonians into rejecting our Permit Task Force’s recommendations to town Council. Sensible Streets’ false assertions and dirty tactics are par-for-the-course into today’s politics, but I hope fellow residents will see through the group’s well-heeled interests.

Sensible Streets claims that, “adding commercial parking creates narrower driving lanes with more traffic congestion and obstructed sight lines for cars and children.” However, parking on public streets is legal on almost every street in central Princeton. There are simply limits to the amount of time cars can park. By Sensible Streets’ reasoning all street parking should be eliminated. No birthday parties, church services, family gatherings, or funerals as the additional cars would make for an unsafe streetscape. In fact, some residents aligned with Sensible Streets argue for the elimination of all on-street parking for public safety and environmental reasons.

Sensible Streets also claims that parking in front of your residence would be leased to companies like Lululemon and Starbucks, and even suggest on their website that there will be dedicated spots with signs. This claim is an outright falsehood! The folks behind Sensible Streets (they don’t publicly state who they are) want you to believe that the big corporations will benefit from the parking plan and pay their employees less as a result. However, limited low-cost parking permits would primarily help employees of local businesses like Labyrinth Books, Small World Coffee, jaZams, Olives, Mediterra, Corkscrew Wine Shop, and many others. All of these businesses are locally owned and operated and their owners pay significant taxes to the municipality (some for both their businesses and homes alike). more

To the Editor:

The Princeton Cannabis Task Force (CTF) is holding a meeting on November 30 and plans to propose an ordinance to opt-in to allowing up to three retail cannabis dispensaries in town, possibly in areas where kids walk past and cycle to school. If a majority of town Council members vote for the ordinance, it becomes our town’s decision. Three members of the Council are on the CTF and have voiced support for an opt-in ordinance.

I am one of many parents in town who have questioned the CTF’s rush into this program. There are several reasons we as town residents should all be concerned. First, according to a recent August survey in Princeton Perspectives, 60 percent of Princeton residents polled don’t even want dispensaries in town. Enough said. Shouldn’t we be sure that a sizable majority of residents want dispensaries in their neighborhood before rushing in? There is a petition from another local parent on Change.org against Princeton’s opt-in ordinance that received over 500 signatures from Princeton residents. The CTF has avoided mentioning this petition in their public statements.    

Second, opting in and promoting cannabis consumption in town goes against the town’s sustainability goals. The more cannabis we consume as a town, the more cannabis must be produced through an energy-intensive process that emits a surprising level of CO2 emissions. Cannabis is the most energy-intensive crop grown in the U.S. The CO2 emissions created to cultivate a single ounce of cannabis is equivalent to burning an entire tank of gasoline, per a March 2021 article in the journal Nature Sustainability. The reason for this is the 24-hour lighting, ventilation, and temperature control required for the product, which is largely grown indoors. The energy consumed is a big reason why cannabis costs over $300 an ounce.    more

November 17, 2021

To the Editor:

These days it can seem like there is not much to be excited about. But, here is some very good news:  N.J.’s new Plastic Pollution Reduction Act to help control the mountains of plastic that (after food waste) dominate our landfills and cause such destruction in our oceans: over 1 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean (UNESCO Facts and Figures on Marine Pollution). A suite of new laws to cope with plastic waste is being rolled out in N.J. over time. The first of these to take effect is the law regarding plastic straws.

N.J.’s new law for plastic straws took effect November 4, 2021. As of the 4th, restaurants and other food service businesses may give plastic straws to customers only upon request. Food service businesses include all restaurants, convenience stores, and fast-food businesses. The plastic straw law does include penalties for non-compliance. Violators are subject to a warning for the first offense, may be fined up to $1,000 per day for the second offense, and up to $5,000 per day for the third and subsequent offense.

This is real progress. Recycling only gets us so far, and that’s not very far at all. For example, did you know that that the Delaware River dumps more than about 280,000 pounds of plastic into the ocean every year? (Science Advances, Vol. 7, Issue 18, 2021) Scientists estimate that we’re adding 80 million tons of plastic to our oceans each year. That’s about five grocery bags full of plastic waste on every foot of every shoreline around the world (Stanford Earth Matters magazine, 2018). more

To the Editor:

We are writing to comment about future development plans for Princeton and their impact on parking. The Princeton Council has approved new housing to be built; a new hotel to rise in the center of Princeton and ongoing construction, including new restaurants.

These developments will be good for Princeton. They do, however, put pressure on parking resources. The Permit Parking Task Force has proposed to direct spillover parking into residential neighborhoods. This plan will create narrower roads for thru-traffic, likely more dangerous conditions for bikers, and potentially less safe conditions for children who walk to school and town.

As concerned residents near downtown Princeton, we ask that the Princeton Council think more fully about a plan that considers how these new developments will be supported by our parking infrastructure. Directing spillover parking to residential streets will change the character of the many graceful, quiet neighborhoods that surround our downtown area.

Lillian ChIang and Thomas Shenk
Boudinot Street

To the Editor:

We have lived in Princeton for 21 years and strongly support building a dog park, or several small dog parks, in our town. Onyx, our 7-year-old Labrador, loves playing off leash with other dogs, but we often don’t have the time to drive the 30-40 minutes round trip to dog parks in neighboring towns.

Building a dog park(s) in Princeton would not only be great for pups, but for their owners too. The parks would serve as additional public spaces in Princeton where residents can meet one another and build new friendships. This would increase the inclusiveness and tight-knit feel of our community.     

Given the large number of Princeton residents who own dogs and the value of building a cohesive community, building a place(s) for our four-legged family members to play should be made a priority.

Suki and Matthew Wasserman
Meadowbrook Drive 

To the Editor:

Barbara and I have either worked or lived in Princeton since 1974. Now that we have Geno, our 97-pound, very mellow, Rhodesian Ridgeback, we would love to have the option of exercising him off leash in a local dog park and meeting other local like-minded residents and their dogs.

Currently Princeton is the only town in the area that does not have a specified, fenced-in place for locals and their dogs to meet and greet. Plans have been presented several times since 2013, and on November 8 a detailed PowerPoint presentation was given to the Princeton Council listing multiple in-town available parks and surrounding larger peripheral Princeton parks that would be ideal for future dog parks. Now is the time to fulfill this widely popular concept.

Bruce, Barbara, and Geno Berger
Franklin Avenue

To the Editor:

Since it was established, Princeton has never tried to re-invent itself, but has never been afraid to re-shape itself over the years. The success to its longevity has been remaining true to its core, recognizing and celebrating that it is in essence, a wonderful, university town.

Many residents are aware that we are on the precipice of a new re-shaping. Princeton will expand, and with that comes incredible opportunity for us all. Greater diversity of our town, new neighbors to welcome, and the creation of additional establishments to enhance the existing business vitality and build on the ambiance we all enjoy.

It is actually quite hard to gain a complete picture of the approved development and certainly takes time to piece it all together. It appears that there is approval for approximately 1,000 housing units to be built by 2025; a new hotel offering 180 rooms in the center of Princeton; and ongoing construction with new restaurants, most notably the old post office becoming an eatery offering an estimated 200 seats. more

To the Editor:

The Permit Parking Task Force is proposing a plan enabling employees of Princeton businesses to pay to park all day long on residential streets a half mile or less from downtown Princeton. In turn, the residents of those streets would also have to pay to park in front of their own houses (no matter their need, and despite the difficulty of now finding a space on their own, now crowded, streets). If you wish to raise your concerns about this plan, please attend the virtual community meeting at 12 p.m. on Saturday, November 20. The Zoom link is on the princetonnj.gov calendar.

No one residing anywhere in Princeton should have to pay for the right to park on the street in front of their own house, and that also goes for home repairers, landscapers, helpers, relatives. and visitors. We already pay astronomical property taxes. The Task Force’s proposed plan is extremely unpopular with residents, and there is no need for it.

In 2017, Princeton Council commissioned a professional study of parking in Princeton’s downtown by Nelson-Nygaard Consulting. They recommended against “Overspill” — i.e. parking employees on residential streets. more

November 10, 2021

To the Editor:

Trying to figure out how you will feed your family is no fun, especially with Thanksgiving approaching. To help our less fortunate neighbors, Yes We CAN! Food Drives collects Thanksgiving food items on behalf of Arm in Arm so those in need can share in the traditions of this wonderful holiday. We are asking you to donate Thanksgiving “fixings” for patrons of the three food pantries located in Princeton and Trenton and operated by Arm in Arm.

Our Yes We CAN! volunteers will be collecting holiday items at two locations: the West Windsor Community Farmers Market on Saturday, November 13 and 20, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as at Princeton McCaffrey’s on November 20, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Among the items we are seeking are stuffing mix, canned vegetables, canned sweet potatoes, cream of chicken soup, gravy mix packets, vegetable oil, salad dressing, and seasonings and spices. We will also be collecting fresh vegetables from the farmers at the West Windsor market, which is located on Vaughn Drive off Alexander Road on the way to the Princeton Junction train station.  more

To the Editor:

I am a keen bicyclist. I commend the Bike Advisory Committee for proposing new bike lanes in Princeton. The more people bicycle to work, to school, and to do errands, the fewer cars we will have clogging Princeton streets and spewing out emissions. 

I am therefore perplexed by a plan proposed by the Permit Parking Task Force. They seek to install a bike lane on Wiggins Street and Hamilton Avenue. This would require finding parking for local business employees who park there now. Fair enough. But instead of stopping there, the Task Force has developed a massive plan to park far more cars — all employees of Princeton businesses — and put them on residential streets. Their plan covers all streets that are within 1/2 mile of any Princeton business. This means that all the quiet residential neighborhoods within a 15-minute walk of Princeton businesses would become busy parking lots for employees. more

To the Editor:

Town Topics’ coverage of the denial of Hun School’s application to rezone residential property to educational zoning [Hun School Rezoning Request is Defeated, Attorney Determines,” page 9, November 3] did not fully communicate why there was vocal neighborhood opposition. 

The property in question — the headmaster’s former private residence —currently serves as a buffer between the busy and heavily trafficked school campus and the quiet community that surrounds the school. While most previous discussion has focused on the school’s stated short-term plans to repurpose the residence for educational uses, the school confirmed that its master expansion plan includes replacing the private residence with a school building more than five times its size. One Councilmember warned that granting the rezoning at the present time would effectively eliminate any future opportunity for the Planning Board to have meaningful oversight or input on the design — and therefore neighborhood impact — of any new school buildings on the property.

Two Councilmembers abstained from voting because of the lack of clarity about whether a “yes” vote was a vote for a 14,000-square-foot as-of-right school building. Inexplicably, two other Councilmembers acknowledged the ambiguity in what they were being asked to vote on, yet voted to support the position of the school over the needs of the neighborhood.

Arthur Eisenbach
Russell Road

November 3, 2021

To the Editor:

For 20-some years, Princeton dog owners — literally thousands of us — have been asking for a dog park.

Why not?

Will a dog park be noisy? No, you’d be surprised to see how peacefully a dog will play once allowed to “talk” to its neighbors and meet up with friends.

Unsanitary? Not an issue. A dog park has doggie bags. You’ll be impressed with how nicely we keep it. And if an occasional owner doesn’t think to scoop up, another will — a dog park is a community thing.

Unsafe? A dog park encourages safety. It’s organized to help with behavior training and communication among owners. The result is better neighbors for all.  more

To the Editor:

The Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development (PCRD) would like to share the good news we received from the municipality of Princeton regarding the redevelopment of the Tennent-Roberts-Whiteley campus on Stockton Street (Route 206) and related properties currently owned by the Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS), all of which have been designated by our town Council as an Area in Need of Redevelopment under New Jersey law.

From the beginning, PCRD has advocated for an open, transparent and inclusive process regarding the redevelopment of these important and historic properties, a process that incorporates meaningful input from all significant stakeholders.

The municipality recently sent a letter to PCRD indicating its support for this approach, writing that, “any redevelopment of the [PTS property] must be the result of a collaborative effort between the Contract Purchaser, [PCRD], the neighborhood, and [PTS] as appropriate.” more

October 27, 2021

To the Editor,

I fully endorse Mara Franceschi for election to Princeton’s Board of Education and invite you to take a closer look at her candidacy.

If you want to minimize tax increases and care about the judicious management of funds, financial expertise is one of her strengths. Mara holds an MBA from Columbia and is a CFA charter holder. While serving on the Johnson Park PTO, Mara demonstrated her ability to manage finances well, building important reserves for the PTO. 

If you care about the environment, Mara is very concerned about the environmental footprint of the school buildings and operations and is aware of the long-term savings of investing in green infrastructure.

If you want a hard-working candidate who will roll up her sleeves, Mara is a great example of someone who will always get the work done. Once, when the composting program was suspended at the schools, Mara brought her own green bin from home in her van to compost food waste from the school events.  more

To the Editor:

Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC) would like to thank all who participated in our virtual Fall Fundraiser on October 16 with Dr. Bernice A. King. PSRC is grateful to all our event sponsors, annual sponsors, donors, participants, and community partners for making PSRC’s Fall Fundraiser a success.

It was a thoughtful discussion and transformative evening with Dr. Bernice A. King at both our virtual VIP and Main Event sessions. Dr. King, the youngest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, spoke dynamically on racial justice, her parents’ legacy, and nonviolence.

We thank the community for supporting a new initiative this year, “pay it forward” tickets, which enabled PSRC to widen our tent of participants by inviting special guests from a diverse group of community partners throughout the area and begin a critical discussion around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Partners included the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society, Civil Rights Commission, CornerHouse Youth Leadership Program, Send Hunger Packing, Every Child Valued, and student leaders from Princeton High School and Lawrence High School. more

To the Editor:

Since securing ballot positions in the June primary, we have been running as Democrats for Princeton Council — Eve as an incumbent seeking a second term and Leighton as a first-time candidate seeking to fill an open seat.  Even though we are unopposed in the general election, we have taken nothing for granted and have been actively campaigning for your votes.  We have walked and talked to voters in all neighborhoods in Princeton to get a sense of what people are thinking and feeling.  We have taken time to be good listeners — no matter the subject.

Over the last few months, as we have gotten to know each other better, we have realized that although we each have a somewhat different focus, we share a similar vision for Princeton and its future. That vision is captured in our campaign slogan, “Smart Growth, Wise Choices.”

What does “Smart Growth, Wise Choices” really mean?  It means we have a commitment to focused growth, including the development of affordable housing, in a walkable, bikeable town center with access to public transit while working to preserve our existing open spaces. This focus brings with it the opportunity to build community and create energy, beauty, green space, diversity, and sustainability for our future.  We understand that partnership with the University and a shared vision of our future together is a critical component to building world class infrastructure in Princeton. We understand that a greater commercial and business footprint can mitigate the high cost of living in Princeton and its impact on low- and moderate-income residents. We recognize that issues of diversity, social justice, and equity are not buzz words, but necessary pillars of a just society. more

To the Editor:

Mara Franceschi is a listener. At a time where there are so many crosscurrents of concerns and opinions regarding the educational choices and priority of a diverse, ever-changing community, listening ability is a priority for anyone charged with serving the public.

Mara has listened and learned while serving as the Johnson Park Elementary School president for three years and its treasurer for four years. A chartered fnancial analyst with a master’s degree (MBA) from Columbia University’s School of Business, Mara is ready, willing, and able to promote constructive policies that will meet the needs of increasing student enrollment and budget pressures in the aging Princeton schools. She knows how important it is to maintain schools so that our students can thrive in a clean, safe, and healthy learning environment.

Her children have attended Johnson Park Elementary School, Princeton Middle School, and Princeton High School. She has experienced firsthand the importance of a strong parent-teacher relationship. She has been the “new person” in school many times, in places that were culturally different. She embraces the importance of learning new cultures, having lived in three states and four countries.

Mara will listen to diverse perspectives so that students not only welcome others but are welcome.

I heartily support Mara Franceschi for the Board of Education. I will be confidently pulling the lever for her in Column F.

Albert M. Stark
Lovers Lane

To the Editor:

Thanks to the community’s efforts, the expertise of municipal staff, the Historic Preservation Commission’s resolve, and the Planning Board’s openness to community input, the iconic western section of Prospect Avenue will have a better future balancing its historic significance with appropriate changes.

The Princeton Prospect Foundation, dedicated to the preservation of the Princeton Eating Clubs, and the ad hoc Save Prospect Coalition sought a balance of the University’s goals with sustaining the historic streetscape. The Save Prospect Petition that now has over 1,700 signatories, expert and impassioned testimony from local residents, eloquent letters to local media, and the press coverage were all key to convincing the University to alter its plans.

The Memorandum of Agreement we negotiated with the University will have lasting impact. Instead of demolishing the three historic houses on the north side, the University agreed to rehabilitate them following the secretary of the interior’s Standards for the Treatment for Historic Properties. To protect Prospect Avenue from governmental encroachment, six months after moving Court Clubhouse and the house at 110 Prospect, the University will apply to the N.J. State Office of Historic Preservation and the National Park Service to extend the boundary of the State and National Register Princeton Historic District to the north side of Prospect to include the three houses, the relocated Court Clubhouse, and the 1911 Ferris Thompson Gateway and Wall designed by McKim, Mead, and White.  more

To the Editor:

We are writing this letter to express our strong support for the BOE candidate Jeffrey Liao. Ying met Jeffrey through his wife Kelly while volunteering on the Princeton Middle School PTO. Through our interactions with him and his family, we have been very impressed by what an earnest person and a dedicated father Jeffrey is. Once he told us that one of his favorite hobbies is parenting! 

If there is one thing that people who don’t know Jeffrey should know about him, that is, he is a very empathic person. Ying recently asked him: “As a father of two younger children, why did you decide to run for BOE?” He told her that as a son of immigrant parents, he himself benefited greatly from a very good public education. He sees public education as a great opportunity equalizer; every student in our town deserves to benefit from the excellent education that Princeton public schools can provide. When we asked him about his vision on excellence, he said, “you know, I want my kids to be strong and happy learners. Excellence education should include both academic rigor and socio-emotional well-being such that every student can be happy, learning, and excelling to their fullest potential.”

Jeffrey is a very good listener. He often says that not everyone learns the same way, and that the school needs to understand every student’s learning needs in and beyond the classroom. Through his campaign journey, Jeffrey has reached out to many communities in town. He believes that a good model of education should be culturally responsive so students from different backgrounds can all thrive. Watching him from a distance we are often amazed by how eager and capable he is to connect to different people.  more