November 25, 2020

To the Editor:

Brick and mortar locations of cafes, restaurants, and pubs are often called “third places.” Places where we develop a sense of belonging away from home and work. Places where we foster associative connections filling in the cracks and crevices of our relationships. I look at our entire downtown as the collective third place — the only shared neighborhood that belongs to all of us. Here, social cohesion manifests.

In 1993 when my business partner and I were searching for the perfect American town in which to open Small World Coffee, Princeton made us put on the brakes. It boasted a healthy retail mix, internationally acclaimed institutions, commercial and residential walkability, access to NYC, and a diverse, cosmopolitan community. Most important? Princeton had huge heart and deep soul.

I was 27 years old when we opened, and I turn 55 any day now! I’ve spent half of my life living and working in this community. We loved raising our children here and benefited from this “third place” feeling in our downtown business district. Once our kids were old enough, they would walk up from Community Park School at the end of the day to meet me at work, have a snack, and then go on excursions in town on their own. The library!, jaZams!, Ice cream! All of these shop owners knew (and still know) our kids, and held a caring, watchful eye over them. more

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Board of Housing Initiatives of Princeton (HIP), I thank everyone involved in HIP’s Annual Rent Party, which was enormously successful this year, in spite of the challenges of COVID.  The party was a COVID-safe virtual celebration consisting of a series of videos that brought to life the art and music that thrived during the Harlem Renaissance, a time when rent parties originated as a vehicle to help folks pay the rent. HIP’s virtual Rent Party raised the much-needed funds HIP will use to help our neighbors who currently struggle to pay their rent and stay safely in their homes.

Some of Princeton’s most renowned scholars and citizens gave their valuable time and contributed their voices to these videos to make them so powerfully inspiring:  Professor Eddie Glaude Jr., Tracy K. Smith, Ruha Benjamin, Mayor Liz Lempert, and Professor Wallace D. Best. Our newly re-elected senator, Cory Booker, showed his support for the HIP mission by making an appearance, even though he was in the midst of a demanding political season. more

To the Editor:

Throughout the past year many residents of Princeton have contacted The Watershed Institute for help addressing flooding in and around their homes. Because of changes in precipitation patterns due to climate change and continuing development pressure, flooding in Princeton is getting worse. Our water quality has suffered as well. Beloved water bodies in open spaces including Mountain Lake and the pond in Smoyer Park were covered with duckweed this summer, a sign of an excess of nutrients in the water, and a harmful algal bloom was identified in Rosedale Lake near Pennington.

We can address our flooding issues and protect and improve water quality by using plants and soil to capture and clean the polluted stormwater runoff that is causing these flooding and water quality issues. The state recently amended its stormwater regulations to require the use of these strategies, which are known as “green infrastructure.” We applaud Princeton Council for introducing a new stormwater management ordinance on November 9 that goes beyond the state’s basic requirements. This new ordinance builds on enhancements made in 2017 by the Council and incorporates additional protections that would be among the strongest in the state. As a result, we will see many more rain gardens and green roofs in town. Using green infrastructure provides many well-documented benefits including reduced temperatures in areas with high concentrations of blacktop and other impervious surfaces, habitat for birds and pollinators, improvement in property values, and positive impacts on mental health. more

To the Editor:

I write in full agreement with the recent letter from Brian Levinson [“Noting That Witherspoon Street is a Silver Lining in Year of Pandemic,” Mailbox, November 11]. I share Mr. Levinson’s admiration for the changes that have been made to Witherspoon Street this year. It has been a delight to walk through, seeing people safely enjoying food outdoors, supporting local businesses, and contributing to a pleasant atmosphere in this challenging time.

I understand that Princeton Council is now considering long-term changes to Witherspoon Street as part of a planned engineering project. I hope that Council will create a traffic-free space on lower Witherspoon Street, where residents and visitors might enjoy public art, live music, and outdoor dining. This is a generational opportunity to enhance the lives of people who love to spend time in downtown Princeton. more

To the Editor, 

At this time of reckoning with the history of racism in Princeton, including the renaming of the former John Witherspoon Middle School in light of Witherspoon’s enslavement of African Americans and opposition to abolition [“A ‘Teachable Moment’ as Princeton Works to Rename Middle School,” page 1, November 18], I urge consideration of renaming Witherspoon Street to “Robeson Street.”

The name would be especially fitting as “Robeson Street” would run past the historic Robeson House, the Paul Robeson sculpture in front of the Arts Council, and alongside Princeton’s historic African American neighborhood (and alongside Palmer Square, the original construction of which displaced Princeton’s African American residents).

“Robeson Street” would intersect and complement the existing Paul Robeson Place. Black Lives Matter and names matter — it’s time to do the right thing.

Shannon Daley-Harris
Dorann Avenue

To the Editor:

In light of the unprecedented events of 2020, there is a renewed interest in reconsidering how lives are lived and how we commune as a people and a community. Creating a pedestrian-only thoroughfare on Witherspoon Street would allow for stronger community building as public places allow for that to happen.

Meals are more enjoyable without car exhaust, and letting go of car-centric planning in our charming and historic town is in line with Princeton’s climate action plan. Moreover, the ability to walk, shop, dine, and commune will distinguish Princeton’s central business district from other town centers and attract more visitors, which is good for business.

Monica Neufang
Chestnut Street

November 18, 2020

To the Editor:

I am the owner of Miya Table & Home on Palmer Square. As a relatively new resident and business owner in Princeton, I am continually amazed by this town. Once the pandemic hit, individual volunteers and organizations popped up to help. Local businesses immediately stepped up to donate goods or services. When local businesses needed help, individuals who could donated to the businesses’ Go Fund Me accounts.

The township set up the Princeton Small Business Resiliency Fund with help from the University and other groups.  We at Miya Table & Home created shirts and bags to show Princeton township pride and to raise money for the resiliency fund. When we approached other business owners to help spread the word, they did so without a moment’s hesitation. Groups of students and faculty offered their services for free to local businesses.

During the initial shutdown, some customers told us that they planned to patronize the local businesses that were still operating every week just to help keep them afloat. When we asked the community to make origami paper cranes for the Princeton Paper Crane Project to honor lives lost during these challenging times, we imagined we would get a couple thousand cranes. We received almost 18,000. Ross Wishnick, from Human Services, helped to distribute information and connect us with the right people. The Arts Council of Princeton took a chance on the project and welcomed us into their gallery space. Princeton is a pretty special place and we feel very fortunate to be a part of it.  more

To the Editor:

The Friends of the Princeton Public Library would like to thank everyone who joined us on November 7 for the first evening of our Beyond Words 2020. The conversation with David Remnick, Henry Finder, and Elizabeth Kolbert was engaging and thought-provoking  — ranging from climate change to the role of the media in public discourse to the politics of the day. We are grateful to HarperCollins Publishers, to our lead sponsor, The Gould Group, and to all of our individual donors and corporate sponsors for making Beyond Words 2020 a success.

The second evening of Beyond Words 2020 is Saturday, December 5 at 7 p.m. on Crowdcast with Bakari Sellers in conversation with Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, discussing Mr. Sellers’ memoir, My Vanishing Country. Our third evening will be on Saturday, January 9, 2021 at 7 p.m. on Crowdcast with Kate Andersen Brower discussing her book Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump with Princeton Professor Kevin Kruse. Separate tickets for each of these events are now available on the Library’s website for $100 each, which includes the digital link and a hardback copy of the speaker’s recent book.  more

November 11, 2020

To the Editor:

As colder weather sets in, we worry for the future of our stores and cafes. Concerns over COVID spikes are increasing, and we are heading towards a holiday season with new challenges due to the limits on capacity in our spaces. We thus want to urge everyone to make this your season of shopping local.

Since March, we have kept open thanks to the support of our customers, the thoughtful leadership in this town, an initial shot in the arm through the government PPP program, and our amazing employees. With the exception so far of additional government support, these continue to be the things that sustain us.

We are part of a delicate ecosystem, in which our businesses can only rise together and also fall together. Every new vacant storefront weakens our community. As an incentive to all of you to honor and support our inter-dependence, from November 16 through December 31, 2020, we will be honoring receipts for $20 or more spent at any of our businesses by giving 10 percent off at any of the other participating businesses within two days of the original purchase. You will help us most if you shop Mondays through Thursdays. So make the rounds, show your receipts, and save!

Sixty-eight cents of every dollar you spend locally stays in the local economy in the form of jobs, tax revenues, and more. By contrast, none of the money you spend with online retailers directly benefits your community. Where you spend your money has a direct effect on the kind of world we will all live in. more

To the Editor:

I write in support of the initiative pursued by Quiet Princeton (quietprinceton.org) supported by Sustainable Princeton (sustainableprinceton.org), the Princeton Environmental Commission (princetonnj.gov/boards-committees/environmental-commission), and the Princeton Board of Health (princetonnj.gov/boards-committees/board-of-health), which strives to enhance the health and quality of life of our residents by encouraging the transition from gas powered landscaping tools to electric powered. This issue has appeared in the Town Topics  Mailbox section on several prior occasions, but again deserves comment because the fall season is upon us which finds property owners, business and residence alike, attentive to leaf removal.

Some neighborhood homeowners apparently remove their home’s leaves weekly, thus seemingly nearly every day, including Sundays which are supposed to be a day free of commercial landscaping, and a symphony of dueling leaf blowers is heard around town. Perhaps since more Princetonians are spending more time at home because of the pandemic, there is heightened awareness of the noise and air pollution that gas powered landscaping equipment generate. This should encourage us to bring this concern to those town officials who can enact legislation to address this issue. (Email addresses of Princeton Council members are available at princetonnj.gov/council). more

To the Editor:

Witherspoon Street has lately turned into a wonderful corridor for diners and pedestrians. As a local resident who loves spending time downtown, I hope the Princeton Council makes this a real hallmark of the town for years to come.

Removing car lanes is a win for residents, businesses, and out-of-town visitors. It’s about more outdoor dining opportunities, especially with the pandemic. It’s about a town center that fosters community and interaction. In the end, it’s why families move to a place like Princeton, and why so many others come to visit us here.

If the new setup makes life easier for walkers and bikers, it does the same for drivers. A downtown corridor that is more dedicated to people than cars will encourage greater use of the town’s expansive parking facilities. The Chambers, Hulfish, and Spring Street garages are all within a few blocks and — according to a 2017 parking study — rarely hit capacity, even during peak weekend hours. more

To the Editor,

A lot of Princetonians who worked hard on the election, and even some who didn’t, are saying, “I voted, now what?”  We know our democracy is more fragile than we thought and that voting every two years is not enough. Here’s a way to stay in the game and make a difference.

Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman has cosponsored the Global Child Thrive Act, HR 4864, which would require the administration to integrate early childhood development techniques into all child-focused international aid programs, techniques like reading and singing to children, playing with colorful objects, and providing better nutrition. The kinds of things that we would do with our own children and grandchildren can make a world of difference for children around the globe. 

I know what you might be thinking, “But Congress can’t get anything done.” Not true. The Global Child Thrive Act has been included as an amendment to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a must-pass bill that now goes to a House/Senate conference to iron out differences between the two pieces of legislation.   more

November 4, 2020

To the Editor:

The Princeton Mobile Food Pantry (PMFP) is a grassroots organization that has operated in various forms since 2010. In 2017, we established a partnership with Mercer Street Friends Food Bank and offered a weekly pickup for over 300 people at the Henry Pannell Learning Center.

Under COVID-19, we became independent and mobile, changed our name to the Princeton Mobile Food Pantry, and shifted to biweekly deliveries of fresh groceries to over 500 food-insecure people. Our primary focus is on families with children in Princeton Public Schools, all of whom range in age, race, identity, background, and mobility. A volunteer-led collective, we support our neighbors through various networks and collaboration with community partners.

To date, we have supplied nearly 3,000 orders of fresh groceries and referred over 30 people to partner organizations, and engaged nearly 100 volunteers ranging from age 4 (food drive) to senior citizens (making deliveries), all stepping up to help nourish families in our community.

The PMFP team would like to thank our many volunteers and supporters — from the food packers to the delivery people to the financial donors to the countless organizations — who have helped to address food insecurity in Princeton:  more

October 28, 2020

To the Editor:

I’ve known Beth Behrend for six years. After moving from Palo Alto, Calif., to Princeton with a newborn and a child in kindergarten, we hardly knew anyone, and we knew little about Princeton. Beth was one of the first people I met on the Riverside PTO; she was warm, welcoming, and inclusive. Because of her and other PTO executive committee volunteers, we quickly realized that Princeton was our home, and Riverside was a place to find friendships and community.

For five years, I worked with Beth on the Riverside PTO, and observed firsthand her commitment and dedication to Riverside students, staff, and families. She volunteered tirelessly to ensure that Riverside was working to reach its full potential in everything that served the students and the community. For example, she was a champion of Riverside’s garden and a driving force behind getting our elementary school gardens funded by the district. These gardens serve our students, schools, community, and communities beyond Princeton.

I continue to work with Beth on school matters, and she consistently demonstrates her passion, and a solid, logical, and thorough approach to finding effective solutions on matters big and small. I rely on her judgement and decision-making because it’s fair; she looks at all angles and considers every need, and while she is practical, she pours empathy into everything she does.  more

To the Editor:

We need leaders who believe in the course of action they are taking and commit to their beliefs, values, and actions in everything they do. Michele Tuck-Ponder has demonstrated that leadership over the past three years as a Board member and throughout her life, never wavering from her values in her actions. She is trusted. As Michele says, her platform for the Board of Education is the same as it was three years ago – equity and excellence for every student, financial responsibility, and providing 21st century skills for every student – skills of collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. 

Michele makes every decision through the lens of equity, standing for her belief that every child deserves equity when it comes to getting an excellent education and preparing for whatever path they choose in life. Michele has dedicated her life to public service, serving on Capitol Hill as a legislative aide, holding leadership roles in nonprofits like the Girl Scouts and The Women’s Fund of New Jersey, and currently as executive director of a global educational nonprofit. She has served on town Council and as mayor of Princeton Township, so she knows Princeton, and how to manage a budget and deal with facilities. As a commissioner on the Princeton Housing Authority, she understands the needs of those with the lowest incomes. As the chair of the first District Equity Committee, she listened, really listened, to every constituency – residents, students, staff, and parents representing the vast diversity of our community. The outcome is that we will soon have a framework for decision making in the District that will ensure that we think about equity for all students before we invest in or start new programs. more

To the Editor:

I am writing to thank our many supporters who participated in Trenton Circus Squad’s fifth annual fall fundraiser — Step Right Up! — on October 17. Trenton Circus Squad relies on Step Right Up! to raise a significant portion of our funding each year. Now, more than ever, your support is appreciated. Thank you for making the event a great success!

For those of you who don’t know Trenton Circus Squad yet, we are a youth development program where teenagers from diverse backgrounds come together to learn circus arts and life skills, and to engage the community by leading workshops for younger kids in after-school programs and summer camps and traveling around the country to perform for the public. Participation is free for our teenagers and all workshop attendees and made possible by contributions. more

To the Editor:

I am writing in support of Jean Durbin’s candidacy for the Board of Education, and I urge those of you who have not yet voted to support Jean, Column L at the bottom of the ballot.

I first became friendly with Jean through common political causes and then through deeper work together on the executive board of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization and on the Princeton Civil Rights Commission.

Jean is now my friend because I know her to be authentic, intelligent, kind, and committed to fostering goodness in our community. She is never quick to judge, and always strives to see an issue from all sides. Through all our interactions, Jean has impressed me as someone who is highly effective, cares deeply about people, and has a strong commitment to equity.

I think Jean’s skills as a lawyer and former social worker will also really benefit the Board of Education, and her collaborative nature will be a true asset. Jean is not only thoughtful and analytical, but she is also a warm person, and deeply committed to helping our schools and community be the best they can be. I wholeheartedly endorse Jean Durbin for Board of Education, and hope you will vote for her.

Afsheen Shamsi
William Paterson Court

To the Editor:

The Friends of the Princeton Public Library want to thank their sponsors for Beyond Words 2020, the Friends’ annual benefit for Princeton Public Library. We are excited to be partnering with our speaker presenter, HarperCollins, to bring Beyond Words 2020 to a national stage.

This year Beyond Words will be a series of three virtual events with nationally renowned and thought-provoking speakers. Author David Remnick will be in conversation on November 7 with colleagues Henry Finder and Elizabeth Kolbert discussing his book The Fragile Earth. On December 5, Bakari Sellers will be joined by Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman discussing his book My Vanishing Country: A Memoir. The series will conclude on January 9 with Kate Andersen Brower discussing her book Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump, with Princeton Professor Kevin Kruse.

The loyalty of our sponsors helped make the needed expansion of the digital collections and virtual programming possible, enabling the library staff to do a tremendous job keeping us connected, informed, and entertained during these unusual times. more

To the Editor:

My husband and I would like to go on record for our wholehearted support of Beth Behrend’s re-election to the Board of Education.

Serving on the Board and as Board president, Beth’s accomplishments are numerous: the budget moving from deficit to surplus, talented new hires, schools ranking No. 1 for the past two years … the list could go on.

However, beyond these many accomplishments, my husband and I want to speak to Beth’s character, to who she is as a person, to what she stands for. In our years of knowing and observing Beth in the community as well as church, we have been consistently taken by her intelligence, her sound judgment, her poise, her equanimity, and her unwavering commitment to children (beginning with her own) and the importance of education. For us, it is someone of Beth’s character that can be trusted.

We trust that Beth will only and always do what’s best for our children and our community. Please support Beth’s re-election to the Princeton Board of Education on November 3.

Harriet and Joseph Anzek
State Road

To the Editor:

This race for the BOE in Princeton is about competence, integrity, and proven leadership. We need people on the Board who consistently demonstrate that they have the 21st century skills that we are so focused on developing in all of our children — collaboration, effective and transparent communication, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and the capacity to collectively address the challenges facing our schools, whatever they may be.

Michele Tuck-Ponder has those skills as has been demonstrated again and again during her first term on the School Board, in her role as chair of the District Equity Committee, as a commissioner on the Housing Authority, on town Council and as Township mayor, and throughout her personal and professional life.   

In today’s increasingly complex world in which new challenges arise at a sometimes alarming rate, it is essential that our Board of Education members are nimble, creative, and trustworthy so that Princeton Public Schools can achieve the very best for our students and community.  Further, it is absolutely critical that our BOE members are actively committed to advancing equity. This is why we support Michele Tuck-Ponder for the Princeton BOE.  more

October 21, 2020

To the Editor:

On March 10, 2020, N.J. Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic that had just claimed its first victims in the state. Soon after, all non-essential businesses were ordered to shut down and New Jersey residents were ordered to quarantine at home. Recognizing that many of our community’s residents would be in need of assistance, local organizations, including Princeton Community Housing, joined to form the Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). The goal of the fund was to “enable residents to be able to stay in their homes … maintain access to utility service that enables students to be connected to school and enable all residents to be connected to food resources and other necessities during this crisis.”

CERF was a community collaboration, led by the Princeton Children’s Fund (PCF) that included Princeton Community Housing (PCH), Princeton Human Services Department, Princeton Senior Resource Center, and Send Hunger Packing Princeton. A fundraising goal of $500,000 was set. Contributions totaling over $435,000 were collected from donations by the Princeton University Relief Fund, the COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund of the Princeton Area Community Foundation, and from over 830 individuals.  more

To the Editor:

On behalf of The Suppers Programs, we would like to invite the community to “A Seat at the Table” and share a delicious, healthy meal with us on Thursday, October 29, from 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Now more than ever, your health matters! The theme of this year’s free virtual event is inspired by our commitment to sharing information about the importance of healthy eating and fueling the body and the brain — by eating real, whole foods. At Suppers, we create a learning environment that is free from judgement for everyone and all communities. more

To the Editor:

The decade was the 1980s, the situation was the busing of children to schools, the outcome was the bonding of two boys from different communities in Princeton! Taylor “Todd” Marrow III and Jason Harding met when they were students at Littlebrook School, continued through John Witherspoon Middle School, and graduated from Princeton High School. Last Tuesday evening they reunited on a Zoom meeting fundraiser for the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society (WJHCS). Their lasting friendship and respect for each other was evident as they shared their growing up days of childhood antics, confronting racial injustices, sharing the love and care from both families and their educational journeys to becoming history professors. 

Todd, an associate professor at Chemeketa College in Salem, Oregon, and Jason Harding, a professor at Pennington School, gave an entertaining hour-long talk  centering on a variety of topics influenced by race and history. Jason introduced Todd’s recently-released edited book, America Awakened by Ida B. Wells-Barnett. Both professors shared an evening of remembrances, history, and the joys and challenges of life.  more

To the Editor:

We are so excited that Jean Durbin is running for School Board. We first got to know Jean when our son Phillip was in Little League and Jim was a coach. I wasn’t usually able to sit with other parents at games because I was typically watching our oldest son Jimmy, who has autism and doesn’t like to sit for very long. 

Well one day at Farmview, Jean started talking with me near the bleachers. As I answered, Jimmy walked away and I said, “talk to you later.” And Jean just said, “I’ll walk with you.”

And we had that conversation as we followed Jimmy through Farmview. 

For the parents of a child with special needs, this seemingly small gesture meant so much. It said: “I’ll go there with you — I want to hear what you have to say — I’ll walk in your shoes.” We haven’t forgotten.

Since then we’ve seen Jean in action as president of the PCDO and know how hard she will work to fight for causes that make our community stronger and better together. We wholeheartedly endorse Jean for School Board this fall. 

Mary Phillipuk
Jim Christy
Leigh Avenue

To the Editor:

We recently opened our newly renovated childcare center, The Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center at YWCA Princeton. Our renovated program building has new classrooms, a lactation room, additional children’s bathroom, HVAC air filtration system, and — because of COVID-19 — comprehensive health, safety, and security protocols.

Each morning starts with temperature checks and symptom screenings. For the health and safety of our staff and the families we serve, only staff, children, and essential workers are allowed in the building. This new check-in process has given my staff and I the opportunity to interact with each family on a daily basis, and our teachers are in constant communication with parents via ClassDojo, classroom phones, or emails.

All staff wear masks and PPE, and children over the age of 2 are required and encouraged to wear masks each day. Children are resilient and have been quick to adapt to wearing masks once teachers explained it’s a way to keep each other safe.  more