May 11, 2017

To the Editor:

I was dismayed to read about the possible fate of the Veblen house and cottage buildings in Herrontown Woods, as reported in Town Topics [“Resistance Grows as Houses Face Demolition,” page one, May 3]. As a restoration architect with over 30 years experience repairing and preserving old structures, I find the county’s posture to be bewildering, and apparently, close-minded. Freeholder Andrew Koontz claims in the article that demolition of these buildings is the “only option” available. This is rarely the case with buildings, even when in more advanced disrepair than the structures in question. Demolition is an irreversible last resort. I could argue that the buildings are in better condition than implied, or that the budget projections referenced are inflated, but as I understand the circumstances, the group FOHW (Friends of Herrontown Woods) is willing to undertake responsibility for the buildings and adjoining site, so why would the county object? There is no requirement to spend county funds under this scenario. The fact that an interested local group is willing to expend funds, time, and energy to retain and improve an existing resource of historic significance seems to me to be the very definition of a strong, healthy and engaged community. Why would this be discouraged?

Charles DiSanto

Mt. Lucas Road

May 3, 2017

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Arts Council of Princeton’s Board of Trustees, staff, and members, we would like to thank everyone — from the 250 participants consisting of artists, nonprofits, and merchants, to the hundreds of volunteers and the tens of thousands of visitors — who helped make the 47th annual Communiversity ArtsFest such an amazing event.

Communiversity ArtsFest is a town-gown celebration with something for everyone: live performances, creative artistry and crafts, interactive children’s activities, delicious food and drink. We appreciate the extremely talented visual artists who participated in many creative activities including the ACP Atelier in Palmer Square, which was the hub of the Arts Council-sponsored art activities; the ceramics and painting demonstrations at the Paul Robeson Center; the artists that set up their easels throughout Communiversity as part of Paint Out Princeton; the vibrant sidewalk chalk murals; and all the many forms of creative expression that make Communiversity such a unique and memorable event.

As a people-centered nonprofit with a mission of building community through the arts, we are grateful for the collaborations that allowed us to produce another hugely successful event. And so with much appreciation we thank: the students of Princeton University, University President Christopher Eisgruber and the Office of Community and Regional Affairs; Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert; Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes; Jennifer Spillane of the Princeton Area Regional Chamber of Commerce; the Princeton Police Department; Princeton Fire Department; Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad; Princeton Regional Health Department; Princeton Public Works Department; the Princeton Clergy Association; the Princeton Merchants Association; the Princeton Public Library; Mary Harris Events; our title sponsor Bai Brands; our major sponsors AT&T, Baker Auto Group, Palmer Square Management, Princeton Garden Theatre; and the local media. You can find a complete list of all of the generous Communiversity ArtsFest sponsors and in-kind sponsors at

Thank you all for your participation and help in making Communiversity ArtsFest 2017 a fun-filled, family-friendly event.

Taneshia Nash Laird

Executive Director, Arts Council of Princeton

To the Editor:

Opposition to the natural gas pipeline to run through the Pinelands of New Jersey has failed, but it’s necessary for New Jersey residents who do oppose it to keep fighting. One reason for the pipeline, according to a spokesperson for the South Jersey Gas Company, is to help create and protect jobs. Creating and protecting jobs is important to us all, but how important would this be if it means that the health of our residents is compromised and beautiful landscape is ripped apart. The pollution of our air and waterways affects not only the wildlife but us, too.

It is important for New Jersey citizens to know the fragile Pinelands hold an estimated 17 trillion gallons of the nation’s purest water. Also, when oil and gas operators clear a site to build pipelines, harmful pollutants are released into nearby streams. These are direct consequences of the pipeline that will affect us greatly.

Republican and Democrat state governors have opposed the pipeline. This is not a political issue, but a quality-of-life issue. While also a national problem, it’s one that can affect us closely if we don’t continue to act. Chris Christie’s successor will be elected in November, and this should be at the forefront of our minds when that time comes.

Samantha Gardner, 

Hoagland Drive, Montgomery

To the Editor,

In my letter in the March 29 Mailbox about Sunrise Senior Living’s prospective plans for an assisted-living/memory-care facility to be built between the Princeton Shopping Center and Terhune Road, my memory was in evident error about several things. Most significantly, my “recollection” of past commitments to keep the property undeveloped was not supported by records of the zoning history, according to a representative of the Sunrise organization who told me it has always been zoned residential. Prior to the approval and construction of the shopping center in the early 1950s, the entire area was undeveloped, and according to an even earlier and more suspect memory of mine, was devoted primarily to tree farming. Such ancient-history qualifications aside, I must accept the research-based input to the effect that from the time the area has been zoned, the plot between the center and Terhune has been considered residential. The most recent rezoning that I remember permitted multiple-unit housing at a density of 24 units per acre … unless I’m wrong again.

My memory also faltered as to the size and shape of the lot. Based on information from Sunrise, the depth of the lot between Terhune and the center is approximately 195 feet, not 150 as I remembered, and its frontage along Terhune is approximately 737 feet rather than 900 or more. The area of the near-rectangular portion of the lot on which the proposed buildings are to be located is approximately 3.3 acres. There is an “ell” extension of the lot at the end away from Harrison Street, about 1 acre in area, that runs down toward the town park and that is apparently unused in the developer’s present plans.

Having been corrected on some of the assumptions cited in my earlier letter, I remain skeptical as to the suitability of the lot for its proposed use. The tentative layout of the buildings provided by Sunrise shows the assisted-living building having a setback from the shopping center property line of what appears to be about 30 feet. My own interest in moving to such a location is vanishingly small, given my unavoidable conviction that I’d rather not live with the shopping center property line thirty feet from my back window. Other elderly people looking for a place to downsize to may admittedly not be as sensitive as I think I would be to such a conjunction. To paraphrase as accurately as I can, Sunrise believes its primary interest is in the welfare and satisfaction of its residents, which it says it will do its utmost to ensure even given the proposed facility’s proximity to the Princeton Shopping Center.

John Strother

Grover Avenue

To the Editor:

I first came to Princeton in 1953 as a graduate student at the University and then as a a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. From 1958 to 1968 I taught at Brandeis University. I returned to Princeton in 1968 to join the faculty of the Princeton University Mathematics Department.

Princeton is a very special town principally because of the two great institutions: the University and the Institute for Advanced Study. These create a unique atmosphere and environment for study, research, learning, and teaching. This idyllic state was brought about, to a large extent, by the idealism, resourcefulness, and negotiating skills of one remarkable individual: Oswald Veblen. Veblen was an outstanding mathematician and a naturalist. He, together with Dean Luther P. Eisenhart and Professor Henry Burchard Fine, built up one of the greatest mathematics departments in the world. He convinced the Bamberger family to locate the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and he was very influential in formulating its mission. Veblen was keenly conscious of the esthetic, architectural, and natural environment which would inspire researchers and students. He was deeply involved in the design of Fine Hall (now known as Jones Hall) which, for over half a century, was one of the great centers of mathematical research and teaching. To Veblen the natural environment was essential for the excellence of academic life. He donated his magnificent estate, known as the Herrontown Woods together with his house to Mercer County. One of my fondest memories as a student and as a young faculty member is the walks and talks I had with colleagues, students, family, and friends in these woods. They were an essential part of the Princeton experience.

I am writing in strong support of the Friends of Herrontown Woods’ proposal to maintain and put to public use the Veblen buildings and grounds located on the edge of Mercer County’s Herrontown Woods.

Joseph J. Kohn

Professor Emeritus of Mathematics, Sturges Way

To the Editor:

Another parking study on how to solve Princeton’s downtown area parking issues? I don’t think so after attending a so-called workshop eliciting public input. The purpose was supposedly to make more parking available, decide how much to charge, and in which locations. A map showing the streets to be included is the first indication of the false premise for the study. Neither Spruce nor Library are in the downtown business district. Spruce is not a through street since it ends at Moore on one end and a park on the other past Linden and has very light traffic and no business establishments. These and the tree streets in that neighborhood are all zoned residential. They all have reasonable parking restrictions. To suppose the study could make more parking available assumes more parking is needed, required, and therefore in demand, but offers no proof in support of this assumption. The decision on how much to charge implies parking meters might be installed. That could be quite expensive and require a cost/benefit analysis beforehand for advance technology meters. In fact, there was a salesperson present who said his company had such meters to offer Princeton. Courts have regarded parking meters primarily as a revenue-raising measure for a municipality and meter installation requires a zoning ordnance. That could be the first step to permit mixed use allowing business entry into residential streets. Finally, no parking study ought to be undertaken without consideration and reference to transportation planning for the town and surrounding areas. There is ample parking in downtown Princeton. The real problem is too much traffic on the main streets. Expanded parking does not relieve traffic congestion.

Louis Slee

Spruce Street

To the Editor:

The health care bill pushed by the leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives has come back to life in an even more damaging form.

The legislation would hit people 50-64 with an “age tax” that could cost them up to $13,000 a year.

And the deal worked out behind closed doors would allow insurance companies to deny coverage or increase costs by thousands of dollars for people with pre-existing conditions.

Twenty-five million Americans between the ages of 50 and 64 have a pre-existing condition, like cancer, heart disease, or high blood pressure — including over 700,000 in New Jersey.

Coping with a pre-existing condition is painful enough. The last thing the government should be doing is telling insurance companies it’s okay to add to the suffering.

Who wins under this legislation? Big drug and insurance companies.

Let’s not go backwards by once again permitting insurance companies to punish someone for having a pre-existing condition. And, we can’t allow legislation to slap older Americans with an unfair age tax.

All but two members of Congress from New Jersey, Reps. Tom MacArthur and Rodney Frelinghuyse, have said they’d vote against the bill. They need to hear from their constituents about what a terrible idea this bill is.

Brian McGuire

AARP New Jersey

To the Editor:

A huge wave of people wearing green flowed from the D&R Greenway Land Trust to Hinds Plaza in Princeton last Saturday, a movement indicative of our community’s strong support for the environment. The Walk for Our World’s Green Future was a fun way for people of all ages to walk together and share their ideas about how to care for our world. As one sign said There is no Plan-et B!, so now is the time for everyone to take action.

The event was organized by a collaborative partnership of Climate Central, the D&R Greenway, and Sustainable Princeton. A special thanks goes to the leaders and staff of these local effective environmental organizations for planning and executing this walk, especially Molly Jones and Christine Symington of Sustainable Princeton who were amazing at organizing this green awareness event!

Thank you to Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert for her leadership and inspiring words at the rally and the fantastic support of the Princeton Police Department who kept walkers safe on the two mile trek through town. The Princeton Public Library was a terrific neighbor with Kim Dorman supporting the event and we are also grateful to the Arts Council of Princeton which accommodated the living art project imagined by Yamile Slebi and Kirsten Haley which was created at the rally and displayed through Communiversity. We appreciate the information on the science of local weather shared by Bernadette Woods-Placky of Climate Central and guidance on the changes we must all make to prevent further environmental deterioration from Sophie Glovier of C-Change Conversations and Molly Jones of Sustainable Princeton. Finally, a special thanks to Princeton Marching Forward and all the volunteers and businesses who helped to make this walk such a success. Together we can make a difference by each taking steps to preserve and protect our environment now, before it is too late. There is no Plan-et B.

Betsy Sands

Hageman Lane

April 19, 2017

To the Editor:

As Earth Day approaches on April 22, it seems fitting to express our appreciation to the Princeton Public Library and to Susan Conlon and Kim Dorman for their exceptional efforts and heartfelt dedication to organizing the Princeton Environmental Film Festival earlier this month. The event spanned one week of films, speakers, panel discussions, and Skype interviews on topics ranging from whales and solar power to “inconvenient truths” about plastic-filled oceans and dying coral reefs. At a time when environmental progress in this country may be more threatened than ever, we greatly appreciate this 11th annual festival that brings us together as a community of citizens who are concerned about the environment.

Alice Hay-Tolo


To the Editor:

This Wednesday evening at PHS we will hear the results of the Challenge Success Survey conducted earlier this year. PHS parents already know all too well what they are likely to show: our kids have too much homework. Academic pressure is endangering their mental health and putting them at risk for behavioral health problems. As we address this problem, it is important to keep in mind that our “race to nowhere” culture is more than a wellness issue — it is also a civil rights issue. By making course grades so dependent on work done outside of school, we are creating a tremendous bias against low-income and language-minority students. Many of these students have jobs; others do not have the necessary technology to complete assignments at home. Some may just be normal teenagers, who have taken on family responsibilities appropriate to their age and development unlike the typical upper middle class child, whose parents, or paid help, act as a pit crew providing all services necessary so that they can spend countless hours on homework. The talent and potential excluded by this homework regime is disproportionately that of poor and minority students.

It is no secret that public school is a powerful instrument of social reproduction, but shouldn’t we be working to mitigate this effect rather than contributing to it? Less homework is a step toward more equitable educational opportunity, in addition to being a much-needed mental health initiative. Parents may be concerned that the current system is needed to propel their students toward acceptance at elite colleges, but academically-motivated students now have myriad resources available to prepare themselves for high-stakes tests. An oppressive homework load is neither an appropriate nor an effective way to do it.

Bold leadership is needed to put the brakes on our academic arms race. We need school administrators to act quickly to make long overdue changes to the school schedule and the school culture. In Princeton, we don’t need to keep up with the Joneses — we are the Joneses — and we have a responsibility to make it possible for all of our kids to reach their full potential.

Carol Tate

Spruce Street

To the Editor:

Our mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends are at risk. Heart disease and stroke cause one in three deaths among women each year — more than all cancers combined. Fortunately, we can change that because 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action.

The American Heart Association Go Red For Women movement, nationally sponsored by Macy’s and CVS Health, inspires women to make lifestyle changes, mobilize communities, and shape policies to save lives. United, we are working to improve the health of all women.

Through the outreach and efforts of Go Red For Women, about 293 fewer women in the U.S. die from heart disease and stroke each day. We Go Red to help create a culture of health for women and their families. Why? Life is why.

As chairwoman of the 15th Annual Garden State Go Red For Women Luncheon, I want women across the state to be more aware of their heart health. The luncheon, set for Friday, May 19 at the Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village, will help raise critical funds for the nation’s top killers. Let’s unite for a day of awareness, education, and inspiration.

Together, we can prevent heart disease and stroke. It’s time to put our hearts into it and Go Red For Women. For more information on the Garden State Go Red For Women Luncheon, visit

Stephern Allison, DHSc, PA, MBA 

Chair, Garden State Go Red For Women Luncheon

Vice President of Cardiovascular Services

and Care Management at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

April 12, 2017

To the Editor:

It’s easy to assume the recent renewed advocacy of actions to combat climate change (a euphemism for anthropogenic global warming) means somebody found another money-making scheme. But global warming has serious implications few talk about. Among the reticent are climate scientists who are justifiably circumspect because some reportedly lost their jobs when employers didn’t like their conclusions. So let’s take a look at what some conclusions may hold for our future.

In New Jersey, for example, coastal barrier islands will be flooded as the ice in Greenland and Antarctica melts. Based on the geological record, a sea level rise of more than 10 meters is eventually likely, turning Princeton’s canoe rental locations on the canal into saltwater seaports. As the ice in the Arctic melts, the albedo (reflectivity) of that ocean surface declines from about 75 percent to less than 10 percent, the water warms above 38ºF and may release a huge burp of methane (natural gas) from clathrates accumulated on the ocean floor over millions of years. Methane is a greenhouse gas (GHG) much more potent than the primary GHG, carbon dioxide, creating a (bad) positive reinforcing feedback loop.

The idea that the town of Princeton can somehow do something to reduce global warming is ludicrous; we can only prepare for its effects. First, if we cut back our fossil fuel consumption to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions, that fuel will be used by others elsewhere, perhaps even generating electricity for our “environmentally responsible” electric vehicles. Second, there is no proven method of quickly and permanently sequestering great amounts of carbon dioxide. Proposed systems also require large quantities of fossil fuel, generating even more carbon dioxide. Third, the effects of atmospheric GHGs take a long time to peak after their release, more than 30 years in the case of carbon dioxide.

From the latter, we can expect that before any worldwide corrective actions bring results, global warming will significantly reduce the human habitat — the land on which food crops can be grown. The sea level rise previously mentioned will inundate and salinize important farming areas such as river deltas around the world. Rising air temperatures will make the American Southwest especially vulnerable. Not only will temperatures increase to the point where crops cannot grow in some areas, but the rainfall there may decrease, providing less crop irrigation water. Such a hot drought is an underlying cause of the current unrest in the Middle East. The ensuing famine could occur anywhere, even in New Jersey, and it may be prudent for us to prepare for it.

The world population is over seven billion, but the most optimistic learned estimate of the carrying capacity of the Earth, after the exhaustion of fossil fuels, has been two  billion people. Global warming will only reduce that carrying capacity. When an animal’s habitat is destroyed, that animal population declines or dies off. Why would this be any different for the human species?

For sources, please visit my website:

Ronald Nielsen

Humbert Street

To the Editor:

On April 5, my husband and I had the privilege of attending the Paul Robeson lecture at Rutgers and hearing the renowned performer and activist Harry Belafonte in conversation with Robeson’s granddaughter, documentary filmmaker and producer Susan Robeson. Their stories impressed upon me how thoroughly and deliberately Paul Robeson was erased from the public consciousness for his audacity, particularly as a black man, to use his celebrity and international venues to speak out against racism in the United States and colonialism throughout the world. Unfortunately, in Princeton we have also allowed ignorance of Robeson’s life and contributions to persist in his hometown.

We need to bring more attention to Paul Robeson in Princeton schools and civic life. Fortunately, the Robeson House of Princeton, a 501(c)3 non-profit, is dedicated to restoring the Robeson house and to publicizing his amazing accomplishments. Our community needs to:

1. Support the Paul Robeson House of Princeton, 112 Witherspoon Street;

2. Attend events celebrating him, like the recent April 9 birthday commemoration at the Arts Council;

3. Emphasize his biography, performances, and writings in the Princeton schools, especially in Princeton and United States history classes.

Princeton should be proud to have Paul Robeson as a native son. Acknowledging the mistreatment of the man and his family needs to be part of the town’s and the nation’s truth and reconciliation efforts in coming to terms with racism. Honoring his courage and resolution must be part of our celebration.

Linda Oppenheim

Not In Our Town

To the Editor:

To the parents of the three boys that threw rocks at me this morning at the PU stadium:

Please, do not be friends with your children.

Know where they are going and who they are spending time with.

Take their computers out of their bedrooms.

Check their backpacks and purses often.

Friend them on social media, and check their messages and photos frequently.

Demand their respect for others.

Spy, yes, spy on them.

Be their parents; they have enough friends.

And by all means, make them take the PARCC test for practice if nothing else. Otherwise, they may end up back in the stadium throwing rocks for a lack of anything better to do.

Wendy Wilton

Longview Drive

April 5, 2017

To the Editor:

After more than four hours of often rancorous discussion during the recent Princeton Public Schools budget meeting, I was extremely disappointed that no one directly addressed the critical question of why Princeton’s gigantic per pupil cost ($24,634) exceeds that of other high achieving K-12 districts in New Jersey, including our neighbors in West Windsor/Plainsboro ($18,677) and Montgomery ($19,155). When I multiply a $5,500 difference by 3600 students, I get a product of nearly $20,000,000, an enormous annual sum for a town of this size. One Board member briefly responded that economically disadvantaged children require more taxpayer funds without providing an explanation or any examples that would even be remotely acceptable in any workplace forum today. A list of 15 New Jersey K-12 public school districts that have been recognized for high achievement reveals that at least two enroll more economically disadvantaged students than Princeton. They are Montclair ($20,506) and Summit ($19,211).

Another discussion item at the meeting was the existing contract with the “sending” district of Cranbury. Can’t the PPS Board adequately explain why Cranbury only reimburses Princeton $17,000 per high school student while the average per student cost in this district is currently $24,643? Based on the budgets of many high achieving 9-12 regional high school districts in the state, the cost of high school students exceeds that of students in other grades. All of my figures and conclusions are sourced to data from the New Jersey Department of Education.

Once again, Princeton taxpayers must brace themselves for upcoming increases from all three of the very extravagant tax jurisdictions that control our lives, Princeton Public Schools, the municipality of Princeton, and the County of Mercer. Throughout my neighborhood, houses assessed at $500,000 or even less are being torn down with replacements valued at $1.5 million. When annual revenue for the three tax jurisdictions is instantly tripling from the very same property, why should it be necessary to increase the taxes of the existing, struggling homeowners? When we are already paying property taxes that are among the highest in the entire nation, every increase becomes substantial, at least to some of us.

Folks in Princeton often speak of “diversity” and “inclusion.” For retirees, seniors, and the rapidly dwindling middle class of Princeton, all that we get, time after time, is a door that is slammed in our faces, even after some of us have lived here all of our lives. If you do not understand the true meaning of words, don’t use them so frequently or you risk the appearance of dishonesty and hypocrisy.

Frank Wiener

Loomis Court

To the Editor:

Community discourse should always be respectful and compassionate: we all want the best for our kids. In the past months, much of the discussion around the expansion of the Princeton Charter School (PCS) has centered on the lack of diversity at PCS. While an unrepresentative student body is something that should be corrected, it seems to me that this issue has been blown out of proportion, to the point of tearing apart the fabric of our community. PCS parents and children are not racist, and the Princeton Public School (PPS) community would oppose the expansion even if PCS had been diverse. Let us not pretend that this is the issue at the heart of the disagreement, and let us not label and shame anyone in the community unfairly.

Many issues are at stake — the oversight of a school by an elected board and the ability of the community to democratically decide on how taxpayer money is used on the one hand, and giving families and children in our community a choice of schools on the other hand. In October 2015, Superintendent Steve Cochrane and the PPS district screened the excellent documentary Beyond Measure to a full auditorium of community members: teachers, parents, and students. The point of the movie was well taken: children are not made from a mold, and there is no one-size-fits-all school that is best for everybody. Even public schools that ranks extremely high in the state and country (as ours are) can sometimes, for a variety of reasons, be a poor fit for a child. Whether the alternative should be a charter school, a magnet school, or easier cross-enrollment in schools that one is not zoned for, it is good to have alternatives. Rather than calling others names and tearing up friendships, it would be great if we could all engage in kind, compassionate, and productive discourse about what alternatives are needed and what needs are not met by our public schools, and find ways to meet these needs while maintaining our excellent schools and respecting the democratic process.

These are very stressful and polarizing times. The PCS expansion is an important issue, but we should not allow it to divide us just at a time when we need to be united to fight much more significant threats to our society and democracy. It is all too easy to succumb to the (social-media facilitated) temptation to dehumanize others, but this is ultimately a losing strategy for everyone.

Yael Niv 

Franklin Avenue

To Superintendent Cochrane:

On behalf of Not in Our Town Princeton, we are writing to thank you for your letter addressing the public use of a racial slur by a white Princeton High School student about her fellow African American students. Your immediate, unqualified, public response made a clear statement to students and parents that this behavior is reprehensible and will not be tolerated in the schools.

We also applaud the vision you provide and the steps that are being taken to address seriously the racism that permeates our society. We appreciate that you mentioned the racial literacy programs Not in Our Town, among other organizations, have created and want to assure you that our members are ready to offer assistance and support for these efforts in the Princeton Public Schools. We believe strongly that the understanding that can be gained through racial literacy is critical for a just society. We hope that all members of the school community — students, faculty, staff, and parents — participate in this work that will benefit themselves, our community, and our nation. We encourage you to continue to be as proactively transparent as possible about the district’s ongoing plans to address racism. As a community, we need to be able to offer clear evidence of support to the students whose sense of safety is at risk.

Shelley Krause, 

Linda Oppenheim, Ted Fetter

Not in Our Town

cc: Board of Education members, 

Principal Gary Snyder, PHS PTO presidents

To the Editor:

Governor Christie has an opportunity to honor the struggles many of our veterans and their families face when they come home. The Wounded Warrior Caregiver Relief Act (S750), is awaiting the governor’s signature. This program would provide a modest state income tax credit for eligible, unpaid family caregivers, providing critical support for our Wounded Warriors who served in the military on or after the 911 terrorist attacks.

According to a recent AARP report, the vast majority of caregivers spend approximately $7,000 out of their own pockets each year to care for their loved ones. Caregivers support their families lovingly but could use some help. Without our army of unpaid family caregivers, our healthcare system would collapse.

We all must do our part to support our veterans. AARP is urging Governor Christie to do his part now us by signing this bill into law.

Cassandra Arnold

AARP New Jersey, Princeton

March 29, 2017

To the Editor:

Thank you for highlighting the annual Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale held at Princeton Day School in the March 22 edition of Town Topics [book review, page 15]. For the last two years, the Princeton-Blairstown Center and other charities have been able to take advantage of a wonderful benefit afforded to local non-profits that allows us to obtain boxes of age-appropriate books for free on the last day of the sale. What an incredible opportunity!

This year we were able to select five boxes of books that will be given to low-income students who are served in our Summer Bridge Program, a program designed to help stem the summer learning loss for more than 200 students in Mercer County. Research indicates that “the best predictor of summer loss or summer gain is whether or not a child reads during the summer … research shows that public library use among poor children drops off when a library is more than six blocks from their home, compared with more than two miles for middle-class children.” This is one of many reasons why low-income students show an average loss in reading achievement over the summer, while middle-income students show an average gain.

Thank you to everyone at the Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale and Princeton Day School for providing critical resources to help young people from low-income neighborhoods stem reading loss and broaden their world view.

Pam Gregory

President and CEO, Princeton-Blair

To the Editor:

While most Princeton residents have been busy going about their daily business and shoveling snow, two Princeton entities which declare ‘financial sustainability’ as an important goal have been focused on the significantly less sustainable objective of raising our property taxes yet again. Princeton Council has introduced an ordinance to exceed the New Jersey municipal property tax increase cap with up to a 3.5 percent tax increase (the original estimate was 6 percent!) and the Princeton School Board just voted for a $95 million budget that includes a 4.7 percent increase.

The school budget represents about 50 percent of our property tax bills and the municipality about 22 percent. If the remaining components of property tax increase by the same amount, the tax bill for the average house in Princeton could go up by $500 to $1,000. Neither governing entity appears to be capable of the sort of budgetary and fiscal responsibility that would lead to financial sustainability.

While the municipality is to hear public comment at the Council meeting on March 27 at 7 p.m., the School Board has avoided the former practice of local taxpayers voting on the school budget by moving school elections from the spring to the November ballot, thereby removing the nuisance of having to obtain specific public approval of the budget.

Both the Princeton municipal budget and the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) budget have common problems: they are bloated with salary, benefits, and pension expenses and weighted down with significant debt service payments. In proposing tax increases, both groups are also depending upon waivers to increase their budgets well above New Jersey caps.

In its tradition of deflecting responsibility for constantly rising school taxes, this year the PPS Board has found a convenient scapegoat — The Princeton Charter School.

New Jersey property taxes are already double the national average and based on the lack of local fiscal restraint, no relief of any kind appears to be on the horizon for Princeton. From 2012, the last year before consolidation, until 2016, our average total property taxes went from $15,000/$16,000 (Borough/Township) to over $18,000. This rate of growth of the already highest property taxes in the nation is NOT sustainable. Last year, the NJBIA released the results of a study entitled “Outmigration by the Numbers, How do We Stop the Exodus?” It noted that between 2004 and 2013, over 2,000,000 people left New Jersey, taking over $18 billion in net adjusted gross income with them. The exodus spans all age groups, with millennials leaving in droves as well as the wealthy (who can afford to move). The reasons for leaving are always the same: higher property taxes, more regulation, and budgetary excess. As a result of outmigration, revenues are down as well.

Apparently, our local elected officials and school board plan to continue supporting the exodus.

Dudley Sipprelle

Nassau Street

Letter to the Editor:

Over the past few weeks, I enjoyed seeing all the ads from the day and residential camp programs that help young people develop a vast array of skills that include cooking, skateboarding, gardening, traditional sports, STEM skills, swimming, acting, writing, directing, coding, and more. I wish I were young again and able to take advantage of these opportunities.

Unfortunately, there are children from low-income communities who have their whole lives ahead of them but who have fewer opportunities to participate in programs like these. Research points to the substantial gulf in spending on children’s enrichment and extracurricular activities, depending on economic strata. Those with higher disposable incomes are investing more heavily to enhance their childrens’ experiences and education, while other children must make do with far less. Research also shows that low-income students experience more summer learning loss than their higher income peers, partly because they are less likely to participate in summer learning programs.

According to the Partnership for 21st Century Learning, which comprises Fortune 500 business leaders and progressive educators, the “3Rs” educators focused on for the past 150 years have been joined if not overtaken in importance by “soft skills” like communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical-thinking. These skills are also vitally important for success in the new world of work. We should welcome, encourage, and support those summer programs that teach these skills.

For the past 25 years, I have been deeply involved with the Princeton-Blairstown Center, an organization that was founded 109 years ago by Princeton University undergraduates. The Center provides high-quality summer experiences free of charge to young people from low-income communities. During the upcoming summer, we will provide, for example, 200 young people from Trenton with enriching and educational experiences that are usually reserved for their more affluent peers against whom they will be competing for jobs. I urge everyone in our community to support evidenced-based programs like ours. Programs that teach critical social-emotional skills like communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration and which help to reduce learning losses over the summer. Our kids’ futures depend on it. Come to think of it, so do ours.

Mark L. Antin, Esq.

Adams Drive, Former Board Chair 

and Current Trustee, Princeton-Blairstown Center

To the Editor:

More than a decade ago a detailed proposal for an assisted-living facility on the one-time “greenbelt” lot between the Princeton Shopping Center and Terhune Road was presented, thoroughly considered, and rejected by Township Committee. Grounds for the rejection were not made public, to my recollection, but two of the principal objections had been the small size of the lot for such a facility and the disadvantageous location — from the perspective of presumably frail and marginally ambulatory elderly residents — immediately adjacent to the shopping center parking lot. In this past Saturday’s mail our household received a “Current Resident” mailing from an entity representing itself as “Sunrise Senior Living” which invited the recipients to a meeting at which “We will discuss our plans to provide high-quality assisted living and memory care services in the heart of Princeton (near Princeton Shopping Center).” The long-ago applicant whose plans were turned down had a similar but not identical corporate name and logo, to the best of my recollection.

The only plot of land “near Princeton Shopping Center” that seems to qualify for housing the described services appears to me to be the one for which such use was rejected the first time it was proposed. It is startling to be abruptly informed that the current developer has reached a state in his planning that suggests he is newly encouraged to feel that the site will now be approved. I have seen no mention of such a proposal in Town Topics or elsewhere, nor of a zoning change that would make such a project acceptable. The lot — my memory claims — is between 900 and 1200 feet long parallel to Terhune and 150 feet deep from Terhune to the shopping center parking lot, or
between about 3 to 4 inconveniently-shaped acres. It was not only rejected previously by the Township for the proposed use, it was “promised” by the original shopping center applicants in the 1950s that it would be maintained as a “green” buffer zone between the shopping center and the surrounding area.

My own frail, elderly, and marginally ambulatory status makes it effectively impossible for me to participate in meetings or other activities related to this proposal, and my wife’s situation is no better than mine. Intensive coverage in the future by Town Topics and attention from interested residents who are younger and more resilient than we are appear to offer our best hope that this apparently-re-proposed departure from previous practice and long-ago commitments will not be permitted.

John Strother

Grover Avenue

To the Editor:

Our family started the Curbside Composting Program two years ago after learning about it from a neighbor. Honestly, we were nervous that the change would be difficult and inconvenient. In fact, transitioning to composting was very easy! We keep the small container on the counter next to the kitchen sink; this holds a three gallon compostable bag that neatly collects our daily food scrapings, tea bags, coffee filters, paper towels. Every night this is the damp, compostable waste that gets put out in the Green Organics Cart. Our regular kitchen garbage can now go several days without needing to be taken out. So easy! To minimize cost we order the Biobags in bulk on the internet. The large Green Organics Cart is collected curbside every Wednesday and is convenient for adding sticks and other yard waste … and all those pizza boxes! We are only one family, but it makes us happy to know we are generating less landfill garbage.

If you are not already, please consider joining the Princeton Curbside Organics Program. Details can be found on the municipal website,

The Linko Family

Dodds Lane

To the Editor:

I am puzzled by the discrepancy between Dr. Julia Sass Rubin’s measured public statements on evolving Princeton Charter School (PCS) demographics and the charges of segregation espoused by Keep PPS Strong. The latter’s charges are rooted in a misrepresentation of Dr. Rubin’s data, which they publicly stated were supplied to them by her. I attended Dr. Rubin’s presentation on January 11, hosted by Superintendent Cochrane in the JWMS auditorium. Responding to questions about why PCS enrollment of low-income students declined precipitously in ’08-’09, she quite clearly stated that a number of factors could be responsible such as the recession, families becoming wealthier, etc. She was quite clear that the data she had was insufficient to test these hypotheses. In a private communication four days later, I suggested the recession caused a “disruption in peer recruitment.” She responded this was “feasible” but did not have “[data] to go on.” At no point did she suggest that it might be the result of deliberate policy.

In contrast to Dr. Rubin’s remarks, Keep PPS Strong’s opposition to PCS has coalesced around the accusation that the decline in low-income student enrollment is the desired result of “inequitable, racist policies.” Those words are Cara Carpenito’s, but her March 8 letter to Town Topics was reproduced without comment on the group’s Facebook page, as was the Latino Coalition’s press release for its federal civil rights complaint (which references Dr. Rubin’s data), and of course the replication of many of Dr. Rubin’s PCS slides with the tag #publiclyfundedsegregation.

Since Dr. Rubin’s work is a cornerstone to the opposition to PCS espoused by Keep PPS Strong, I would like to know why she has allowed the group to replace her well-reasoned concerns about the demographic effects of the expansion with such egregious speculation?

Ethan Schartman

Dodds Lane

March 22, 2017

To the Editor:

As I join our community and my colleagues at the Princeton Public Library in preparing for the grand reopening of the library’s second floor on Saturday, March 25, I want to take a moment to thank the Princeton University Library for its generous partnership in serving our cardholders during our renovation. We were committed to remaining open throughout the renovation and to offering the easiest possible access to the collection while the second floor was closed to the public. Princeton University Library made that possible by offering us storage, at no charge, in their facilities and supporting our efforts to page books upon request. This was a significant service to our cardholders, making the 30,000 volumes in the library’s adult nonfiction collection available typically within just a day or two after we received a request.

Princeton University Library’s generosity also allowed my colleagues to spend the last several months completing an ambitious and innovative reorganization of the collection into “neighborhoods,” a new system that combines the best of bookstore organizational systems with the best of our tried and true Dewey Decimal System. We have invested a tremendous amount of time, attention, and our collection budget into ensuring that the books in the collection meet the needs of this community, and we are excited to share the reorganized adult nonfiction collection with everyone when we reopen the floor. We have never had a collection that was more likely to exceed everyone’s expectations and we have never before been able to make specific titles easier or more appealing to browse or find. The collection itself has never looked better, and we could not have completed this vital work without our friends and colleagues at the Princeton University Library.

I look forward to seeing everyone at the ribbon cutting at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 25, and during the day-long celebration that will follow.

Brett Bonfield

Executive Director, Princeton Public Library