September 15, 2021

To the Editor,

The Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale, a volunteer group founded 90 years ago to raise college scholarships for local students, is grateful to the Merck Foundation for its recent $500 donation made through the Dollars for Doers program. The gift was arranged by a Merck employee who volunteers for the Book Sale, sorting donated books and helping at the annual sale each March.

Scores of talented young women from our community have been able to afford an outstanding education thanks to our volunteers and support from area corporations. We are deeply grateful.

Kathryn Morris
President, Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale

Witherspoon Street

To the Editor:

Your reader Dr. Callan (“Dangerous Stretch of Road and Sidewalk on Rosedale Road Needs to Be Repaired,” Mailbox, September 8) is correct about the damage following the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

I contacted Princeton Municipality to highlight the issue ahead of the school term starting and asked whether a stretch of barriers could be placed in the road to allow safe passage for foot traffic, especially families walking and cycling to nearby Johnson Park school. Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton facilitated a fix within 24 hours — an excellent response given the number of post-storm issues the department is currently tackling.

Longer-term repairs will doubtless be addressed in due course and require a greater degree of planning and disruption, but I applaud the response of the Engineering Department and thank them and other municipal workers for their dedication in restoring our damaged infrastructure and keeping all road users safe.

Rob Sloan
Fairway Drive

To the Editor:

The Princetonian Diner went above and beyond kindness when they found out my granddaughter and family lost their home to the storm. They graciously picked up the check for all four adults and two children!

Whoever said that there not wonderful people left on our planet was wrong. Thanks Princetonian!

Lisa Watson
Wood Village Drive, Henderson, Nev.
Formerly of Princeton

To the Editor:

The impact of some types of commercial development in a single New Jersey town can have enormous consequences for neighboring towns. That’s why the New Jersey Legislature is considering a bill (S3688) that would require a town that wants to build a large warehouse to provide timely notice to all adjoining towns, allow those towns to adopt a resolution of concern about the proposed warehouse, and mandate submission of a “regional economic and land use impact report” to the State Planning Commission.

Because new warehouses have regional repercussions, it’s important for residents of Princeton to know that the West Windsor Planning Board and Township Council have approved an ordinance that rezones approximately 650 acres of undeveloped land across from the Quaker Bridge Mall to allow for the construction of multiple large warehouses. West Windsor Township also entered into a litigation settlement agreement with the owner of that land, which anticipates the development of 5.5 million square feet of the property for warehouse use. This project could have undesirable consequences on the environment and quality of life in Mercer County. more

To the Editor:

Candidates for Legislative District 16 will meet in a forum on Wednesday, September 22 — Assembly candidates at 7 p.m. and Senate candidates at 8:30 p.m. The event takes place at Raritan Valley Community College, 118 Lamington Road, Branchburg. Due to limited seating, it will also be livestreamed at Facebook.com/PrincetonTelevision and rebroadcast. A recording will be posted at VOTE11.org and at lwvprinceton.org.

A virtual forum among candidates for Princeton Board of Education will be livestreamed at Facebook.com/PrincetonTelevision on Wednesday, October 6 at 7 p.m.  It will be rebroadcast, and a recording will be posted at VOTE11.org and lwvprinceton.org.

Voters may send questions for candidates in both forums to lwvprinceton@gmail.com.

Please note that this November election will differ somewhat from last year’s. You will not receive a Vote-by-Mail ballot unless you have requested one, and you may not deliver a completed Vote-by-Mail ballot to a polling place. Instead, mail it or use a drop box (locations listed on county websites). more

September 8, 2021

To the Editor:

This past April, Princeton University’s Environmental Studies Department hosted a thoughtful seminar, entitled “Environmental Justice Symposium: Meaningful Engagement between Communities and Institutions of Higher Education.” Anyone committed to sustainability knows that community engagement and support are essential to create positive environmental change. But meaningful engagement with the community is not a model that Princeton University seems interested in following in Princeton, as they seek to destroy three historic homes and impose their 666,000-square-foot engineering and environmental studies complex on the neighbors of Fitzrandolph, Murray, and Prospect. They have not heard the community’s pleas to save the homes by modifying a tiny fraction (2 percent) of a proposed complex that dwarfs most projects on Route 1.

At the June meeting of the Princeton Planning Board, the University’s representatives alleged they had done everything right, and that, at the last hour, the rules were being changed on them. This is false and disingenuous. From the outset, the University chose to design without regard for national historic district guidelines or for the town’s zoning and master plan. That is why the University needs a variance from the town. Rather than follow the zoning, or engaging the community, the University has preferred to lawyer up and force their will on their neighbors. They are only shocked that someone dares to say “no.” more

To the Editor:

Until recently, instead of referring to benign sounding “climate change,” I had been using “climate crisis.” However, the two hurricanes that battered our region with severe flash flooding, tornados, and high winds just in the past month, have opened my eyes to how drastically the situation has worsened. So now I call it the “climate catastrophe.”

We see this catastrophe unfolding here, nationwide, and globally, and worsening far faster and more severely than almost anyone expected. Massive fires, extreme heat, flash floods, and droughts are all afflicting the world in unprecedented ways.

The organization that I lead, the Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), began a campaign called No Wars, No Warming in conjunction with the People’s Climate March attended by over 400,000 in September 2015. This campaign seeks to educate the public on the connections between militarism and the climate catastrophe.

The climate catastrophe is an existential threat in the same category as global nuclear holocaust. If anybody doubts that, just look around at events like those above. We must rapidly intensify efforts to prevent further global warming, or we face the danger of planetary extinction.

Readers wanting to join CFPA in this effort are encouraged to visit peacecoalition.org.

The Rev. Robert Moore
Witherspoon Street

The writer is executive director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action.

To the Editor:

Rosedale Road was considerably damaged during the floods following Hurricane Ida. The sidewalk near Johnson Park school has bucked and stretches have been washed out. The road and bridge are potholed.

In addition, two weeks ago a man was tragically killed by a car near the school intersection. This is a dangerous stretch of road and sidewalk that has fallen into disrepair. Johnson Park and Greenway Meadows get a lot of use by children, sports teams, and walkers. They need to be able to safely navigate the sidewalks and cross the street. A pedestrian activated crosswalk with a light that signals to cars that to stop is urgently needed, and the sidewalks need to be repaired.

Benedicte Callan, Ph.D.
Brookstone Drive

August 25, 2021

To the Editor:

Let’s roll out the Princeton welcome mat on Saturday, August 28 for about 400 bicyclists who are participating in a ride from New York to Philadelphia. The riders will arrive in Princeton around 2 p.m. and will spend the night enjoying all that Princeton and the surrounding area has to offer, including its many fine restaurants.

Come meet the riders at their base camp at the Princeton YMCA at 59 Paul Robeson Place during their visit and cheer them as they push off at 9 a.m. to complete their ride to Philadelphia on Sunday morning. It is also not too late to sign up to volunteer to provide logistical support for the riders. Please visit Princeton’s municipal website at princetonnj.gov and follow the link under “News and Announcements” to learn more. We need your help to make this event a resounding success! more

August 18, 2021

To the Editor:

Everyone loves to talk about the weather, and now we have not just weather but extreme weather to discuss. The cause of this is clear: changes in the planetary weather system caused by human carbon dioxide emissions primarily from burning fossil fuels. If there was any doubt about this, the latest IPCC Climate report makes the point emphatically: we must reduce our carbon emissions immediately of face even more frequent extreme (and dangerous) weather patterns.

Keeping in mind that the average New Jersey household burns about 30 barrels (1,260 gallons) per year of gasoline, one straightforward way to reduce emissions is to lease an electric vehicle (EV). Leasing has many advantages: it allows one to immediately use the federal tax rebate of $7,500, even if you do not pay any federal taxes. The rebate is deducted from the residual value of the car which reduces the monthly payment. In addition to the federal rebate there is also a $5,000 New Jersey rebate as well as no sales tax either on the lease or purchase of an EV. Thus, the price differential between a $40,000 gasoline car versus an EV is an astonishing $15,150. There are also savings on fuel expenses (up to $1,000/year) as well as reduced maintenance costs.  more

To the Editor:

On July 2 I mailed six checks at the Palmer Square USPS Post Box. On July 8, I noted that two of my checks had been forged and cashed. I closed the account but did not realize that my new account was still linked to the old account, so the forgers were able to pay off two additional bogus charge card bills. In total they made five assaults on my accounts.    

When I spoke with the Princeton Police detective, he stated that all the USPS Post Boxes in Princeton have been compromised. When I went to my bank on Nassau Street, staff advised me that several customers had come in that week with the same issue, and that all the banks in Princeton had customers that had been affected.

I had read about this issue last year in the Town Topics Police Blotter and had been taking most of my mail physically into a Post Office, but on July 2 I was rushed and did not have the time. 

I called the detective again, advised him of the additional assaults. I also asked if there was a way to notify all Princeton residents of this issue, but he was non-committal.  more

August 4, 2021

To the Editor:

The following issue is something important that I have been working on for several years with others, including nationally known fire and code professionals in and out of government, including our state government, to address degraded state fire codes for large, multi-unit light weight wood housing which have seen dramatic fires, including several at four Avalon Bay sites in N.J., most recently this spring at their Princeton Junction facility.

This is something that increasingly needs attention at the municipal level. While the state code rules at the moment, we will be living at the municipal level with this housing, both market rate and affordable, for many decades, long after the developers are gone.

What I, and others, have urged is that to the greatest extent possible, until an upgraded state code is adopted, our municipal officials, both elected and staff, “bargain” creatively with developers/property owners on strengthening their large, light weight wood construction, multi-unit housing standards. This includes upgrading our less than best current fire walls. Masonry and concrete construction is more fire safe and are materials that are sourced in New Jersey, creating jobs here, rather than the scarcer wood supplies coming from the U.S. northwest and elsewhere.  more

To the Editor:

As Dr. Lieberman noted in his letter (Mailbox, July 21), Princeton remains a community without a dog park. It is truly surprising that our typically generous and inclusive community, blessed with acres of parkland, has, to date, chosen to neglect the needs of Princeton’s many residents with dogs. Our dogs need fresh air and exercise, and many of us benefit from the exercise and social interactions that result from time spent outside with our dogs. However, as Dr. Lieberman pointed out, there are definite advantages of dog parks, especially when walking the sidewalks and trails is difficult or impossible due to health or weather issues.

Princeton offers many recreational options for its residents. We have tennis, swimming, skateboarding, hiking, playgrounds, baseball, and soccer. Often, many acres of Princeton parkland are empty, unused except for people walking their dogs. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of those people had a fenced dog park where they could gather and share information while also exercising their dogs and providing needed canine socialization experiences.

It’s time for Princeton to “get off the fence” and take action to establish a dog park. It would be a valuable addition to our recreational facilities, at minimal cost (using existing parkland, all that is needed is fencing and gates). The several thousand Princeton families who share their lives with dogs would quickly make this one of the most popular recreational facilities in the community.

Patricia Mahar
Snowden Farms Lane

July 28, 2021

To the Editor:

History and literature in our schools are meant to be open conversations where we challenge ideas, question things, and ultimately broaden our perspectives. This is how we learn. In all districts, but especially in diverse districts such as the West Windsor-Plainsboro and Princeton districts, it is important that these critical parts of the learning infrastructure be upheld by ensuring that culturally responsible education is maintained and furthered. This means that the inclusion of diverse voices in our history and literature is a constant process and our teachers are constantly encouraged to seek out perspectives that are different but that are representative of the students.

For instance, in my Language Arts Honors class we were able to read books and short pieces by a  variety of authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Bharati Mukherjee, Sherman Alexei, Anna Quindlen, and Eric Liu. These pieces of literature diverge from the classic literature, and they give us a whole new perspective. I was able to see how the American experience is a complex, multi-layered experience, where people struggle to be accepted, to make a life, to experience romance, to feel free, or who embrace opportunities, who work to be socially mobile. I got to feel seen in this kind of literature. I was represented, and so were others.  more

To the Editor:

Prospect Avenue’s Eating Club Row, a contiguous collection of 16 majestic turn-of-the-century clubhouses, is a Princeton icon and unique in the world. The architectural grandeur of these exquisite manors rivals that of Newport’s magnificent mansions.

Across the street are the three sisters of Faculty Row, the Avenue’s oldest buildings. These Queen Annes tell a different story, a story rich in the humanities and the lives of the brilliant thinkers and refugees who lived and worked in them over the past century. Their graceful presence completes Prospect’s history, one not entirely about eating clubs.

W. Barksdale Maynard called Prospect, “the most beautiful suburban street in America.”

The University seeks a variance to move the Court Clubhouse out of the National Register Historic District and into a residential buffer zone, razing the three Victorians. Why would they denigrate a Historic District, when changing just 3 percent of their vast 15-acre proposal would avoid the sprawl and protect the legacy of our grandest public avenue? more

To the Editor:

First, at a time when the business model for community-based journalism has been crushed by society’s lamentable disinterest, I offer sincere gratitude for the dogged persistence of Town Topics and its local reporting. Publishing weekly in ink, on paper, you invite the news of the moment to be held with respectful hands for consideration and close attention. We are all better for your efforts. Don’t give up.

Second, I am following your coverage of a redevelopment proposal for Prospect Avenue and the rising hue and cry from dissentient voices of historic preservation (“HPC Considers Club Row Historic District,” page 1, July 21). It’s a veritable planning and zoning “whodunnit?” decades in the making.

Literally, a page turner. It was fascinating to learn that Prospect Avenue redevelopment vulnerability was identified as early as 1992, that strategies were available to give the community a seat at the planning table for this historically and aesthetically important part of the town, but that nothing was done for 26 years. This is a real head-scratcher, wouldn’t you agree? It’s there that I began flipping the pages back and forward. Did I miss the big reveal? What explains this gap between situational awareness and action? Would you consider following up? more

July 21, 2021

To the Editor:

At the entrance of most parks in Princeton there is a sign stating that dogs are permitted, but must be on leads, and that to clean up after them is essential. This is so at Johnson, at the University, at IAS, at Mountain Lakes. In addition, there are many narrow trails where this is difficult, particularly when one is older, and rather unsteady (I’m 87).

One place where there is NO sign, none at all, is at the Princeton Shopping Center. Perhaps they do not want dogs there at all and don’t want to be too obvious about it. In any case, because it is the only place in town which is covered, it is the one that I have utilized when it rains, usually with leads in place, but if there are no other dogs around, and few people, I dispense with the leads and permit them to run. At least, not until I was given a summons, for which I am to go to court next month.  more

To the Editor:

There have been many articles and letters on Princeton’s plans and application to the Planning Board for approval of the ES-SEAS project, a 15-acre engineering campus to be constructed between the Eating Clubs and Princeton Stadium. The plans include building a modern engineering pavilion spanning two lots on Prospect Avenue which is a historic district on the NJ State and National Register. To do this, the architects want to pick up the former Court Club, a massive brick and stone mansion, and move it across the street, demolishing three Victorian houses on the site where they propose to relocate Court Club. I’m an alum who lives in the area and am on the board of the Cap and Gown Club, so I drove down Prospect Avenue to try to envision this plan, and it’s shocking to think of the disruption and destruction it will cause to a residential neighborhood and to one of the most historic streetscapes in America.  more

July 14, 2021

To the Editor:

Last Tuesday evening, rounding the corner at Moore and Spruce, I was nearly run down by yet another full grown adult riding a bicycle at full speed on the sidewalk in the dark with no lights. Frankly, the only thing that saved me (and likely the rider) from serious injury was the fact that my dog yanked me back to sniff something as I was stepping around the corner. All I could utter in alarm was “Jesus!” The rider continued without a word.

Princeton wants to be bike friendly. I get it, but teens and adults are riding wheeled vehicles capable of significant speed on pedestrian walkways. That’s not only not friendly, it’s inconsiderate of people with mobility issues and downright dangerous for children and pets.

I’ve even seen bike riders ride on the sidewalk, dismount at a pedestrian crossing, walk their bike across that pedestrian crossing, then remount and continue riding on the sidewalk. In what world does that make sense?  What’s next? Twenty-mile-per-hour electric bikes on the sidewalk? These aren’t broad city avenues. Most sidewalks are only three to four feet wide, forcing walkers to step on the grass so a bike can fly by. Surely there could be an ordinance and some enforcement to get bikes onto the street where they belong … before someone gets hurt?

Ralph Thayer
Chestnut Street

To the Editor:

I have lived in Princeton since my family moved here in 1955. That’s 66 years.

It became obvious very soon that there were two very special streets in Princeton. One was, of course, Nassau Street, and I include Palmer Square in that description. And the other was Prospect Avenue. Any time we had friends come to Princeton for the first time, those were the two “must see” places on our tour of the town. Nothing defines Princeton the way those two streets define the community in terms of its character and beauty.

Week after week, Town Topics has been filled with letters to the editor that eloquently describe why the University’s variance request relating to Prospect Avenue plan should not be approved, as does the report of the Historical Commission. There is no need to repeat those reasons at this point. (And in terms of the letters, I thank the authors for writing them.)

What concerns me more than anything else at this point is the attitude of our proverbial 800-pound gorilla, Princeton University (a university, I might add, that is not overly generous in terms of its payment in lieu of taxes). Please don’t get me wrong. I have had some great associations with the University over the years, most recently as the head coach of the Princeton University Mock Trial team. But in this case, not only is the University our 800-pound gorilla, it is also a bully. more

To the Editor:

The Cannabis Task Force (CTF), appointed by the Municipality of Princeton, has been hard at work. We would like to update Princeton residents on the status of the development of ordinances for licenses to grow, process, and sell cannabis for adult recreational use in Princeton. As cannabis delivery will be available throughout the state, the CTF recommends that Princeton set optimal parameters around local ordinances for our community as soon as possible. The Princeton community voted overwhelmingly in support of legalization in the 2020 election, and a public forum held by the CTF confirmed our community’s support of adult recreational use of cannabis, so long as our policies and educational materials promote safety and social justice. The CTF is working on an initial ordinance to allow the retail sale of recreational and medical cannabis, with plans to consider other cannabis licenses at a later date.

The state set an early deadline of August 21 for municipalities to pass ordinances for opting in or opting out of licenses. However, the legal consensus in the state is that municipalities that opt in cannot then opt out for a period of five years, while municipalities that initially opt out may opt in at any time. When a municipality opts in, it sets an ordinance for their community’s licenses that establishes guidelines and restrictions in addition to the state’s licensing legislation. Municipal ordinances determine where dispensaries can be located and establish community requirements for dispensary owners. Given that our community needs more time to develop requirements that fit Princeton’s values and needs, Princeton will temporarily opt out, with the goal of developing an ordinance by early fall to opt in. This will allow the CTF time to solicit community input and examine legislation in states where cannabis is legalized to inform its recommendations. more

To the Editor:

The Sustainable Landscaping Steering Committee, which includes community partners such as the Princeton Environmental Commission, Quiet Princeton, Sustainable Princeton, Unidad Latina en Acción, the Civil Rights Commission and others, has been considering steps to reduce harm to human and environmental health and enhance the well-being of landscapers. As an important part of this process, Princeton’s Environmental Commission is recommending limiting the hours and seasons that certain lawn maintenance equipment can be used in order to reduce exposure to harmful air, noise, soil and water pollution, and to promote sustainable landscaping practices. The proposed changes would also strengthen the current landscaper registration requirements. 

As the Council liaison to this effort and the chair of the Princeton Environmental Commission, we would like to invite the public to a meeting tonight, July 14 (sorry for the short notice!) at 7 p.m. The link can be found on the municipal website at princetonnj.gov. Members of the Sustainable Landscaping Steering Committee will give a brief update about this project, including its use of the Civil Rights Commission’s Racial Equity Assessment Toolkit and engagement of Princeton’s landscaping community. The meeting is an opportunity for residents to learn about and discuss these proposed changes and to get answers to their questions.

If you are unable to attend tonight (again, sorry for the short notice) please feel free to contact us with your comments at eniedergang@princetonnj.gov or princetonnj.gov/535/Environmental-Commission.

Eve Niedergang
Princeton Council Member 

Tammy L. Sands
Chair, Princeton Environmental Commission

July 7, 2021

To the Editor:

The Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development, or PCRD, is a nonprofit organization formed recently to advocate for and enable a more effective and collaborative approach to land use development in Princeton.  We are not opposed to new development in our town; that said, we do believe in smart, eco-friendly development that will respect and build upon Princeton’s unique character and reflect the voices of its residents. Such development is best accomplished through transparent and inclusive deliberations that heed the input of developers, elected officials, and, importantly, those who live in town.

Princeton University has announced its intention to destroy three buildings that form part of the historic Prospect Avenue streetscape. PCRD supports the effort to protect the former Court Club in its current location and to protect the homes on Prospect Avenue from demolition by Princeton University. More broadly, PCRD is concerned about the disregard for the Princeton Master Plan and the diminished prospect for the evaluation of Club Row as a local historic district that Princeton University’s plan represents. Each degradation of this part of town becomes yet another step toward further undesirable changes throughout Princeton, thus diminishing, building by building and lot by lot, what makes Princeton so attractive to its residents.

Recently, Princeton has witnessed financially capable property owners neglect their facilities, only to turn to the municipality for relief by pointing to the poor state of buildings they have let deteriorate. Rewarding such bad behavior isn’t good for the town in the short run or the long run. Additionally, the environmental impact of demolition and its associated release of embodied carbon, isn’t consistent with sustainable development. more

To the Editor:

Princeton University’s massive (666,000 square feet in four new buildings) expansion of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is exciting for the future of teaching, research, and studying at Princeton. This project has been in the works for more than a decade and finally has emerged into public view as a packaged deal, much like the Lewis Center across campus.

The process now moves to the town of Princeton’s Planning Board to review and approve or reject the Plan. While the concept and plan are admirable, there should be room to improve the Plan with comments from the neighbors, alumni, and other interested parties.

I would like to suggest a Plan B.

First, moving (or tearing down if Plan is not approved) Court Club, which is located within a National Registered Landmark District, seems an offense to the town of Princeton. We should respect our National Landmarks and make an effort to preserve our fortunate heritage. Environmental studies teach us to recycle, reuse, or repurpose objects whenever possible so as not to waste resources. Court Club would make an ideal setting for small conferences, intimate dining opportunities, or prime seminar space for focused group conversation. Think a second “Faculty Club,” an annex to Prospect House. more

June 30, 2021

To the Editor:

Last week’s lead article “PU Prospect Ave. Plans Remain Unresolved” [Page 1, June 23] comprehensively covered the Planning Board (PB) meeting on June 17 and the current public controversy over the University’s intentions to remove the former Court Clubhouse from the Princeton Historic District and to demolish three historically-significant Victorian-era houses as part of its planned ES+SEAS complex to be located adjacent to the University’s iconic eating clubs. However, as board chair of the nonprofit charitable organization Princeton Prospect Foundation (PPF), which for months has objected to this small aspect of the project, I would like to clarify a misstatement in the article. The community petition opposing the plan, which has garnered over 1,100 signatures, is not sponsored by PPF, as the article states. Rather, town residents created the petition without any prior interactions with PPF, although PPF now strongly supports it, and a Save Prospect Coalition comprised of town residents, University alumni, and PPF has since emerged.  more