March 7, 2018

To the Editor:

The unseasonably warm weather last week coupled with your 2018 Kids and Camps guide had me longing for the warm weather, outside exploration, and joys that come with summer. As a Princeton University undergraduate, I had the good fortune to become familiar with the Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC) and to spend a summer working there. The kids who came to PBC then were kids who were from areas with fewer resources than where I grew up and whose opportunities were not always the same. I went there to work with and teach them, but I learned a lot in the process and became acutely aware of the lack of quality summer opportunities for these young people.

Fast forward a few decades, and I now serve on the Board of PBC, and I know first-hand that PBC is still making sure that students from under-served communities have opportunities for an enriching and positive summer experience. At the Princeton-Blairstown Center, we are working with young people to combat summer learning loss, the phenomenon where young people lose academic skills over the summer months. Each summer, 500 students — primarily from Trenton and Newark — come to our 264-acre campus in Blairstown, New Jersey for our week-long Summer Bridge Program, free of charge. They spend three hours a day engaged in hands-on literacy; science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM); and project-based learning; an hour and a half in waterfront activities (swimming/canoeing/kayaking); and three hours a day working on their social-emotional skills through ropes and challenge course activities that focus on leadership, team-building, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Each student also gets to choose a book to take home with them, donated by many of PBC’s community partners including the Hun School, Princeton Friends School, Representative Andrew Zwicker’s office, and the Hamilton Township Library, to name a few. Research indicates that the best predictor of summer loss or gain is if a child reads during the summer.

All young people deserve opportunities for enriching and stimulating summer experiences so that they start the school year ready to learn and compete on an even playing field. For 110 years, the Princeton-Blairstown Center has been providing this opportunity to some of the most deserving young people in our community.

Chris Van Buren

Hun Road, Board Vice Chair 

Princeton-Blairstown Center

February 28, 2018

To the Editor:

Hurricane Maria is regarded as one of the worst natural disasters in history. Our musical friends in Puerto Rico suffered great loss, so we relied on the uplifting effects of music in order to help. Along with our community, we were able to sponsor six music students, two chaperones, and their director, David Rivera, from the Escuela Libre de Musica Ernesto Ramos Antonini (ELMERA). The ELMERA Jazz Ensemble students were able to spend a week in Princeton and then travel to Boston to compete in the 50th Annual Berklee Jazz Festival. We called this the Puerto Rico Project.

From February 2 thru February 13, the ELMERA Jazz Ensemble students got to experience student life in Princeton, performing with their PHS counterparts and eating their way through town. The highlight of their trip was the Berklee competition, where the ELMERA Jazz Ensemble won first place in the small ensemble category.

The PR Project concluded with the students packing nine duffel bags filled with donated supplies and equipment that they took take back home. The donations empowered the students to be ambassadors of change in their own communities.

We would like to thank the following people for supporting the PR Project: PHS music department, Pat Lenihan; PHS Principals, Angela Siso, Ben Stentz, Jane Sanchez, and Diego Negro with Princeton University; Mimi Ominski with Princeton Tour Company; Salina Paria with United Airlines; Quilts for Kids; Dr. Elaine Torres; the Board of Education, and Superintendent Cochrane. We also want to thank the following local companies for their hospitality: Despaña, Hoagie Haven, and Small World Coffee. Our heartfelt thanks to the Princeton Public Schools and the larger Princeton community for sharing in this inspiring musical experience.

A final thank you to Joe Bongiovi for leading us on this collaborative musical journey.

Debbie Bronfeld

Dodds Lane, parent member of PHS Band Program

 

To the Editor:

I read with great interest the recent letter in Town Topics on the Board of Ed Facilities Referendum authored by Sheila Siderman of Princeton. Her overall assessment that “it is actually a vote on major changes to our educational system “ is right on point. PLUS, the PPS Board plans to embed their envisioned educational system firmly into the facilities to be constructed incident to the referendum’s approval. Their initial justification for the facilities as critically needed to meet enrollment growth has become a Trojan Horse for seminal changes in the local education system now being advanced.

These concerns are compounded by questions regarding the enrollment growth projections themselves and the available measures to control or even reduce growth, including the related costs to accommodate. The best example is the Cranbury High School sending district’s underfunding of PPS tuition costs by over $1 million each year, plus not being required to contribute to bond issues for renovations or expansion.

I have been involved in job-related education, training, scholarships, and internships in New Jersey since the 80s and with both public and private education Boards and Commissions since first elected to the PPS Board in the early 90s. There were many intervening turbulent times both programmatically and funding-wise. In my view, the soaring, out-of-control costs and other issues related to PPS and other educational institutions in Princeton will be a top voter interest issue in 2018. It’s the most troubling period I’ve observed in 30 years.

John Clearwater,

Governors Lane

February 21, 2018

To the Editor:

The Princeton Board of Education Facilities Referendum is actually a vote on open plan buildings that drastically changes how students will be taught. The changes will especially affect students with learning issues, psychiatric problems, and with attention deficit disorder.

I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist and have done evaluations of children in the West Windsor/Plainsboro school district where they had a school with open classrooms. It was a disaster!! Even I could not concentrate to evaluate the children for their issues. Their newer high school has closed classrooms.

In the past week, I spoke to staff and students. They said that open classrooms were extremely unpopular. It was very difficult for most students and teachers to hear and focus. There was enough clamoring that they put up walls wherever they could. One example: A math teacher had a great deal of difficulty holding her students’ attention, especially while the health teacher nearby was teaching sex education.

When our three children attended schools in Princeton, I attended school board meetings regularly. I was often upset by the process by which decisions were made without appropriate professional oversight. Too often, the taxpayers paid for projects poorly planned and administered.

I recommend that the Princeton Board of Education reconsider their plan to create a new classroom environment for our students, which is likely to have negative results.

I am also concerned that more people will move out of Princeton as our property taxes increase yet again.

Dr. Naomi Vilko

White Oak Drive

To the Editor:

Is it true that Princeton is going to experiment with open classrooms again? Good! More students will have the same opportunity that I was given, when open classrooms were first implemented in the early 70s. I was in fifth grade then at Witherspoon School, and my parents were alarmed at the prospect of my entering middle school where sixth, seventh, and eighth grades were going to be taught as a group, with no age divisions. With six kids at home, my parents relied on the public school system, and for the most part it served us well. However, I remember clearly the day my parents sat me down and told me they were going to take me out of public school and enroll me at Stuart. They explained that I would be there for three years, after which I would return to the public school system for high school. I distinctly remember them saying that they didn’t want me to lose three years of my education, and this was the only way they could ensure that my education would continue on track.

Those three years at Stuart were the best three years of my young life, and I am grateful that my parents had the wisdom and foresight to send me there. Of course they would never have done it if the Princeton School Board had not attempted this (failed) experiment with open classrooms, so ultimately I owe my Stuart experience to the School Board at that time.

Yes, I did complete three years at Stuart, and when I entered Princeton High I was academically advanced — so much so that they ran out of classes for me in my favorite subject and had to enroll me at Princeton University as a non-matriculated student. I was a good student before Stuart, and an excellent student afterwards. Not only did Stuart catapult me academically beyond my peers, but also it taught me that I could achieve anything I wanted in life, and that being a girl was irrelevant to my life choices. That was a pretty bold message in 1970, just one year after Princeton University first accepted female students. Stuart was way ahead of its time then, and continues to educate and inspire girls from pre-K through 12 to catapult past their peers. Registration for their Lead Like A Girl conference “sold out” within 24 hours, with 1,100 attendees and a waiting list of 400 more.

I’m all in favor of open classrooms in the Princeton Public Schools. It was the reason why I had the great privilege of attending Stuart for those three years, and that experience transformed me as a person, as a girl, and as a woman. I have no doubt that implementing the open classroom experiment again will give many more young girls the opportunity to experience the finest education that this town has to offer — at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart.

Barbara J. Clarke

Balcort Drive

To the Editor:

This is embarrassing.

The February 7 Police Blotter informed us that local police, while responding to a panhandling and shoplifting call, then arrested the 64-year-old for having outstanding warrants for several hundred dollars. Is there no compassion in this town?

1. There should be a fund to reimburse our town stores for food shoplifted by anyone who is obviously hungry and unable to make ends meet. We’ll make the first challenge grant contribution.

2. Our town’s police should not be directed to arrest people with non-local warrants for what obviously must be some who-knows-what minor offense(s). Law enforcement agents should focus on the well-being of our town and not spend time collecting trifling amounts of some other city’s budget from those who struggle to put food on the table.

Adding arrests onto warrants that were already overly burdensome just exacerbates what was not a pretty situation into something desperate. Families living in poverty can’t get out from under all the stuff that keeps piling on, and it seems like opportunistic profiteering to prey on those individuals who are already in such a tight spot.

That’s not what the Princeton community should be about.

Elizabeth Monroe, Alain Kornhauser

Cleveland Lane

To the Editor:

Most of us were raised to be good people, but we live in an era when it is impossible to be good. Sure, we do all the things that good people would do: drive loved ones to where they need to go, keep the house comfortable, cook dinner, navigate the workaday world, travel to fascinating places. But each one of those life-affirming gestures, try as some might to deny it, is haunted by the collateral damage it causes. It is combustion that enables every one of those actions, and the kind of combustion we do leaves behind a chemical curse, all the more potent for being invisible.

Cars going by, planes flying overhead, steam rising from a chimney — the positive associations of each in the present is polluted in our minds by the dreaded portent for the future, as each person’s seemingly insignificant legacy of combustion mixes with tens of billions of others past and present in the atmosphere and oceans, creating a vast chemical and thermal imbalance over time. This is the power of collective action.

It’s as if every gallon of gas we buy, and every cubic foot of natural gas delivered silently to our homes, comes with an automatic donation to the End-of-the-World-As-We-Know-It Fund, dedicated to flooding coastal cities, promoting ecological collapse, and destabilizing weather patterns worldwide. Any intentional plot to do such damage would be considered Public Enemy No.1. How, then, are we supposed to think ourselves good people without building a wall through our brains to prevent this unintentional harm from invading our awareness?

The inevitable guilt may cause some to trim their personal impact, but it seems paralyzing for most people. Better to feel outrage, at the powerful ideologues, pessimists, and political cowards who keep us trapped in a dependency on fuels that power the present by sacrificing the future. This is not freedom, when we are cheated of any positive collective response commensurate with the threat, when we remain little more than conscripts, prodded by car commercials, cultural norms, and enforced economic necessity to collectively sabotage a beloved planet and our children’s prospects.

People think of climate change as an external threat, largely distant in place and time, but I feel it just as much on the inside, aware of the devil’s bargain that pollutes any good I might do day to day.

There was a time when nations were free to collectively counter global threats. We should be even more willing now, proud of sacrifice, challenged to be resourceful rather than extractive, because this time around, no lives need be lost, no war fought — only a rapid disarmament in the insidious chemical war against nature, a shift in habit and technology that squeezes fossil fuels out of our lives.

Stephen K. Hiltner

North Harrison Street

February 14, 2018

To the Editor:

“Don’t take it personally.” Those words of wisdom were repeated again and again during my childhood. I’m regularly reminded of this wisdom when I feel offended by a president who has a habit of making inflammatory and insensitive remarks. Simply reacting and taking his comments as a personal affront isn’t helpful in solving anything.

But how do we respond or protest in some meaningful way? Last year, we saw NFL football players bring attention to racial and social injustices by going down on bended knee. In 1777, during the darkest hours of our country’s revolutionary struggles, the future first president of the United States was found on bended knee seeking guidance from divine providence. It might be well worth your time to do a quick internet search for “The Prayer at Valley Forge,” a painting by Arnold Friberg.

In the late 19th century, Reverend Mary Baker Eddy was asked “What are your politics?” She responded, “I have none, in reality other than to help support a righteous government: to love God supremely, and my neighbor as myself.” Princeton is a community where we care for our neighbors. So far in 2018, there’s been an outpouring of love and care for those 35 individuals affected by the Griggs Farm fire. We also had a multi-faith service at First Baptist Church on Green Street that not only honored Martin Luther King Jr., but brought together many faith traditions to share prayers and brotherly love to address threats to peace and prosperity in these revolutionary times.

America means hope, the hope that good will conquer evil and that we will find ourselves on the side of good. Dr. Martin Luther King’s enduring legacy of not taking things personally is illustrated in an approach that can be useful today: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” These are a few reasons why I’ll try a bended-knee approach to celebrating Presidents’ Day.

Steve Drake

Tenacre Foundation, The Great Road

To the Editor:

On behalf of everyone at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation (NJVVMF), as we begin a new year, I extend best wishes to our community and to all who serve our country.

As a private not-for-profit organization, the NJVVMF is fully self-sustaining. We rely on the support of our community, both financially and through participation, to meet and exceed our mission. An easy way to support our work is by checking line 61 on the NJ state tax form to make a self-designated donation. We are grateful for all levels of support as these donations cover a significant portion of our annual operating expenses.

For those unfamiliar with us, the Foundation operates the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and its companion Vietnam Era Museum. This unique site in Holmdel, New Jersey pays tribute to the 1,563 New Jerseyans who did not return home from the Vietnam War while placing their sacrifice in the larger context of the tumultuous Vietnam Era, a period of history that still affects New Jersey families and communities today.

As executive director, I am honored to spend time with our community of veterans and visitors. Through our ceremonies, public programs, exhibitions, and class trips, we work with an incredibly diverse community that allows us to explore the complexities of the Vietnam Era in a way that is relevant to people today. This year marks the 20th anniversary of our museum and an exciting period of expansion for us through programs, resources, and a planned expansion of our public spaces. I see firsthand the impact that these offerings have on our community. This is especially apparent with the nearly 10,000 students and teachers we work with each year and the veterans who attend our ceremonies.

If you have not visited us, I encourage you to plan a trip and spend an afternoon with our Vietnam Veteran guides and staff. As the first and only site of its kind in the nation, you will not be disappointed. You can learn more about our work at www.njvvmf.org.

Help us preserve and share the legacies of New Jersey’s Veterans. Please remember us as we remember them. Thank you in advance for your support of our mission and our Veterans.

Sarah Taggart

Executive Director, New Jersey 

Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Foundation

To the Editor:

The October 2 Board of Education Facilities Referendum is actually a vote on major changes to our educational system. On February 8 Superintendent Steve Cochrane, architect Prakesh Nair, and educator Heidi Hayes Jacobs presented their plans for the future of our schools — new pedagogy and open plan buildings with few interior walls that are a rebranded version of the failed open space schools of the 60s and 70s. Approving the construction funding gives de facto approval to drastically changing how students will be taught.

The presentation was heavy on PR and theoretical educational philosophy but lacked hard data. As a former teacher, teacher trainer, and textbook creator, I question many of their assumptions. My online research yielded many negative reviews but not one positive review of schools that have enacted this new plan.

Princeton residents deserve more information before we vote on these changes. As a resident who will be asked to absorb another tax increase and more importantly, as someone who cares about education, I urge Mr. Cochrane, the School Board, local newspapers, and Princetonians to research open plan school buildings and open space schools. We need to know how this change will affect all students. We need information about successful and unsuccessful schools. If that means postponing the referendum, so be it. This radical change is consequential and deserves extensive community-wide discussion.

Parents, be aware that the proposed plan is an experiment that we cannot afford to have fail. The prime losers will be your children. Taxpayers, you’re being asked to pay for new construction and renovations that involve extensive structural changes, including removing walls and corridors. Failure will mean rebuilding the schools.

The quality of our schools is a major attraction of raising children in Princeton. What will happen if this new scheme does not succeed?

Sheila Siderman

Bouvant Drive

To the Editor:

On Saturday, February 3, the popular children’s performer Dan Zanes brought his new sensory friendly folk opera to McCarter to the delight and enjoyment of our audience. This new production, which premiered in December at the Kennedy Center, offered a “Relaxed Performance” concert to an audience of more than 400 people from our community. This marks the sixth season that McCarter has offered a Relaxed Performance for people on the autism spectrum or who have sensory sensitivities and their family members. These productions feature slight adjustments to the lighting, special effects, and music which allows everyone to enjoy the magic of a live performance in a thoughtfully altered environment. Zane’s Night Train 57 is the first time McCarter has presented a Relaxed Performance specifically designed as such. We are grateful to Dan Zanes for creating a joyous, interactive performance for a family audience, many of whom have limited opportunities to enjoy a concert or performance together.

McCarter, in collaboration with five other theatres in the area (Delaware Theatre Company, Montgomery Theater, Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, People’s Light, and Theatre Horizon) is working to program more Relaxed Performances, share best practices, and develop a public calendar of these events in the region.

We are grateful for the contributions of JaZams, a beloved local toy store, which provided ‘fidgets’ — small toys for our audience members to quietly fidget with while watching the performance. We also acknowledge our incredible volunteer ushers who received special training for this production.
Finally, we thank The Karma Foundation for their leadership support of these Relaxed Performances at McCarter; they have generously funded this program since its inception. Hundreds of our area’s families have enjoyed a performance together in the last six years through the foundation’s dedication to the community!

Emily Mann

Artistic Director, McCarter Theatre Center

February 7, 2018

To the Editor:

Our town’s leaders appear to have agreed with the University that growth is good. Both parties seem indifferent to the harm their policies are inflicting upon our town and our residents.

No longer content with serving only our nation, the University proposes to expand its campus to encompass the land between Carnegie Lake and Route 1. Its leaders promote the plan as “sustainable” and offer as proof a contemplated pedestrian bridge over the lake. What they omit to say is that their expansion plans will make a distant memory of the walkable campus that, as recently as a few decades ago, made our University so distinctively intimate. Not insignificantly, their plan will also increase the stress on our town’s housing prices and limited infrastructure.

Our Council, meanwhile, manages our town like a charity for non-residents and public sector employees. Unlike most charities, however, theirs is funded with compulsory levies on our residents. We have long paid the inflated salaries and pensions of our public sector employees. We will shortly be required to add the costs of a school expansion necessitated by our town’s “welcoming” policy. Adding to those costs are the increased taxes that result when land values are driven up by the apartment blocks our leaders approve as sources of low rent apartments. If present trends continue, we residents will soon be required to substitute a paid fire department for the volunteers whose generosity and civic mindedness has thus far spared us that expense. We will also be required to pay for, and to accommodate, the widening of our streets and the expansion of our water and sewer facilities.

Rising taxes and higher densities are threatening our core residential neighborhoods, many of which are still predominately single-family. Our leaders decry the diminished affordability of our housing, but ignore the harm their policies are inflicting upon our formerly affordable neighborhoods. Their attitude seems to be that residents who have trouble paying their ever rising property taxes should either move to less expensive communities or move from single-family houses into apartments. Worse, there seems to be sympathy for the notion that single-family residences are to be disparaged as evidence of selfishness and greed.

Higher density, of course, creates modestly increased tax revenues — but at what cost and to what purpose? Any fair reading of the evidence proves that population growth is not good for current residents. Population growth is expensive. It is destructive of long-established neighborhoods. It creates intractable problems and limits the interaction of residents with our governing bodies. It is environmentally unfriendly and ultimately unsustainable. Which begs the question, why do our ever-so-correct leaders continue to advocate and enable the transformation of our formerly little town into a mid-sized city? One might also ask why our residents petition to reduce assessments instead of fighting to change the policies which cause assessed values to rise.

Peter Marks

Moore Street

To the Editor:

As chair of the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee (PDMC) and as president of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO), respectively, we are writing to encourage all Princeton Democrats to consider serving their community by getting more involved in the local Democratic Party or the local government. In 2018, this year’s election, there will be a Primary Election in June and a General Election in November for two open seats on Princeton Council, as well as for the Congressional seat held by Bonnie Watson Coleman and the Senate seat held by Robert Menendez. In Mercer County, we will elect three freeholders; the Democratic incumbents are: Ann Cannon, Pasquale “Pat” Colavita, Jr., and Samuel T. “Sam” Frisby.

We invite you to join us at an open house meeting in Princeton on Sunday, February 11, from 3 to 4 p.m. to find out more about running and participating. The meeting, which will be held at a private home, is open to all, but you must RSVP so we can send you the location. Please respond to Scotia MacRae at swmacrae@yahoo.com, (609) 468-1720, or to jean@princetondems.org.

Topics to be covered include how candidates get on the ballot, the local Democratic Party endorsement process, and the differences between the PDMC and the PCDO. Local candidates should let us know by March 1 at the latest if they intend to seek the endorsement of the PCDO at the March 18 meeting.

The outcome of the 2016 presidential election has activated a Blue Wave in our state, resulting in the election of Democrat Phil Murphy to the office of governor and a majority of Democrats in the New Jersey Legislature. We want to thank the Princeton community, as well as the members of the PDMC and the PCDO, for their support of a transparent and vibrant political culture in Princeton that helps keep our government responsive to its residents.

Scotia W. MacRae

Chair PDMC

Jean Durbin,

President PCDO

To the Editor:

Creating partnerships and raising awareness while providing systems of support and care are critical. Mercer County’s Traumatic Loss Prevention Services program has been coordinating services with schools and community agencies to come up with short-term and long-term strategies, the first of which needs to be identifying warning signs and removing the shame and blame associated with seeking help. These signs may mean that someone is at risk for suicide.

• Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself

• Looking for a way to kill oneself

• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live

• Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain

• Talking about being a burden to others

• Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs

• Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly

• Sleeping too little or too much

• Withdrawing or feeling isolated

• Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge

• Displaying extreme mood swings

If you believe someone may be thinking about suicide:

• Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves.

• Listen with care and without judgment.

• Stay with the person or with another caring person while you get further help.

• Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

• If self-harm seems imminent, call 9-1-1.

Each of us can help people navigate the struggles of life to find a sustainable sense of hope, meaning, and purpose through connection and compassion.

If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

To get involved with Mercer County Traumatic Loss Coalition, contact Steven Olsen at (609) 278-7924 or email solsen@mercercounty.org. Monthly coalition meetings are held on the second Wednesday of each month, from 9:30 to 11 a.m., at Mobile Response and Stabilization Services, Suite 500, 3535 Quakerbridge Road, Hamilton, NJ 08619.

Steven Olsen

Mercer County Traumatic Loss 

Prevention Services Coordinator

January 31, 2018

To the Editor:

For our electricity needs, Princeton homeowners and businesses can take advantage of the important opportunity to embrace renewable wind-power and say “NO!” to dirty, non-renewable energy sources (oil, coal, gas) — and nuclear power as well.

While a number of organizations now provide green energy, CleanChoice is one of the simplest to navigate: a single telephone call! (You can also look at green-e.org).

CleanChoice Energy (cleanchoiceenergy.com; (800) 460-4900) is dedicated to helping us go green to fight global warming and climate change: 99 percent wind-power, 1 percent solar. They have built up trust over a ten-year period; their website is filled with information. Sign-up takes only the initial phone-call. CleanChoice manages the cost-free switch from PSE&G (from whom you will still get your gas/electric bill). You can have a fixed or a variable rate, with a low-low introductory offer. CleanChoice will notify you annually concerning the equivalent number of cars you have idled or taken off the road by using renewable energy sources. They are truly dedicated! And we can be too!

PSE&G will show you a monthly price-comparison of your CleanChoice electric charges vs. what electric by means of dirty fuels would have been. While CleanChoice appears to cost slightly more per kWh, we all know that the dollar cost of gas/coal-powered electricity is artificially low and does not take into account the true and much higher costs of dirty energy.

Furthermore, CleanChoice charges the customers less and less as more people sign up for this program. We hope that all of us will welcome our freedom to go green, help the planet’s climate, and personally reject a federal government that has pulled the United States out of the Paris Accords and will offset any of our lingering attachments to dirty, harmful sourcing for electricity.

CleanChoice lets us think globally, act locally, personally — and in the same spirit as Princeton’s pending Climate Action Plan spearheaded by Sustainable Princeton (sustainableprinceton.org). As SP’s director, Molly Jones, rightly noted at a recent meeting of Indivisible Princeton devoted to climate action, “There is no silver bullet” to resolve the hurdles we face; but “There is silver buckshot” (see “Sustainable Head Urges Climate Action Plan to Reduce Emissions,” Town Topics, Jan. 24, front-page article).

Let’s all be part of that communal, renewable firepower by signing on with CleanChoice. We will all breathe better.

Alexi Assmus, Rob Dodge

Maple Street

Keena Lipsitz

Shadybrook Lane

Suki Wasserman

Meadowbrook Lane

Lindsey Kayman

Mt. Lucas Road

Daniel A. Harris

Dodds Lane

Alexandra Bar-Cohen

Snowden Lane

To The Editor:

Thank you for the detailed article [Town Topics, Jan. 24] on the recent talk by Molly Jones of Sustainable Princeton on Climate Change. Her observation that there is no silver bullet to solve this problem, but rather silver buckshot — smaller actions individuals can take — should be taken to heart.

One of these small actions that could make a great difference is the rapid substitution of electric vehicles (EVs) for gasoline powered cars. The average New Jersey household burns about 30 barrels (1260 gallons) of gasoline per year, mostly for commuting and local travel. Local gasoline consumption is by far our largest single use of fossil fuel and our largest source of local pollution, and these can be sharply reduced without any change in comfort or convenience. Cars wear out, and upgrading to an EV is quite realistic, with many models to choose from. Leasing an EV is probably the best option for most people, as it requires the least immediate cash outlay, allows for a trial run of the technology, and eliminates the risk of technical obsolescence: at the end of the lease, the vehicle can be returned for a small fee.

In addition to reducing pollution and fossil fuel use, EVs also eliminate our complicity with the many negative aspects of the petroleum industry, such as fracking, off shore drilling, support of foreign adventures and certain medieval autocracies, to name just a few.

We leased our EV four years ago. With a range of 84 miles (on a calm spring day and a level road) our car is now completely out of date, but serves our local travel needs rather well. Current EVs have much greater range, more advanced safety features, and better recharge capabilities. Some manufacturers now guarantee the main battery for the life of the car.

In short, we as individuals should not regard climate change as a problem to be solved in Washington. We should realize that we can make a direct and significant contribution to the solution here and now.

Al Cavallo

Western Way

To the Editor:

As a follow-up to last week’s front page article on a speech by Sustainable Princeton’s Director, Molly Jones, advocating a “Climate Action Plan To Reduce Emissions,” I am writing to encourage our citizens to participate in Princeton’s Curbside Organic Composting Program, scheduled to begin this year’s cycle in February. Compostable material, plant, and animal waste (“if it grows, it goes”), can be recycled as mulch for your garden (free to all Princeton subscribers) instead of going into landfills where it produces methane, which is 20 times more hazardous to the environment than carbon dioxide. Collecting and transporting trash destined for increasingly scarce landfills costs Princeton hundreds of dollars a ton, whereas curbside composting is less than half that cost. The truck the program uses runs on natural gas and emits 90 percent fewer emissions than regular gas or diesel. We are saving tax dollars and helping the environment by participating in this efficiently run program.

The Organics Program, which costs only $65 a year, does not replace any of our current trash or recycling collections. The narrow green carts, supplied free to participants by Princeton’s Public Works, are picked up every Wednesday. Enrollment is easy: a simple call to Princeton’s recycling coordinator, Janet Pellichero, at (609) 688-2566 or an email to jpellichero@princetonnj.gov.

SUZANNE NASH

Governors Lane

January 24, 2018

To the Editor:

I am writing about unnecessary disturbance and pollution that could easily be avoided, to the benefit of all.

Today (January 17) Princeton had two inches of light snowfall. At the Barbara Sigmund Park on Hamilton Avenue, an employee of the Public Works Department attacked this tiny snow layer on the paths and sidewalk with a full-bore backpack leaf blower. It was audible 400 feet away. Its emissions and unburned gasoline could be smelled some distance away. I, who am two to three times the age of that diligent employee, used a simple push shovel to remove the sidewalk snow faster than the noisy leaf blower could do. With no carbon emissions either.

At a time when our town is, commendably, developing a Climate Action Plan, here is an opportunity to take a step to reduce emissions and provide other benefits. I ask the Public Works Department to cease using leaf blowers to remove snow, a very undesirable new use of these troublesome devices. They contribute to greenhouse emissions, are disturbing to residents, and are completely unnecessary.

Anthony Lunn

Hawthorne Avenue

Editor’s Note: The writer is one of the founding members of Quiet Princeton.

To the Editor:

According to research presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies meeting, the percentage of younger children and teens hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or actions in the United States doubled over nearly a decade. Last year at Carrier Clinic alone, we experienced a 26 percent increase in the number of adolescent hospital admissions. The unfortunate number of recent teen suicides, sadly, supports these startling statistics.

So, how do we save our kids?

We listen. We create opportunity for conversation. We reach out to experts. We approach help with an open mind. We don’t judge.

Dr. Anthony Marino, Carrier Clinic’s chief of adolescent medical services, recently said, “It’s more important to listen than to lecture, and to be as honest as possible … to let them know that things will be as good as we can work together to make them … to create in advance a supportive environment that lets kids express their fears … to let them know that we’re here for them.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

At Carrier Clinic, we applaud the superintendents of the Mercer County public school districts for hosting a public program to start a countywide focus on mental health. It isn’t easy to face the heartbreaking and alarming reality of teen suicide. And we agree with this team of educators that we must stop “fruitless finger-pointing” in order to remove the veil of stigma and get the teens in our lives talking about mental health.

While adults may not always be able to understand why a teen would consider or attempt suicide, it is important to approach the need for help with an open mind. There is help through treatment for teens who feel hopeless. Starting with a call to your family doctor or pediatrician is key to initiating this process. Additionally, there are many local and national organizations that can provide a list of support and resources in every community. There is no need to suffer in silence — or to ignore a teen’s need because as adults we are ashamed of their illness.

Available treatment options are varied and include outpatient, inpatient, and residential treatments. Teen suicide can be a result of an underlying mental health issue or the experience of overwhelming feelings with the perception that there is no solution. It is through the appropriate treatment that what a person is truly feeling, thinking, and dealing with can be addressed. Seeking treatment is not a demonstration of weakness or personal failure, but the most rational and compassionate choice.

Acknowledging the need for help, seeking treatment with a professional, connecting to community support groups, and accepting that this is no one’s fault are all steps in the right direction. We must show our children that when that path seems daunting, we will be there to support them. If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, talk to your parents, a doctor, a teacher, a guidance counselor, a trusted adult, or call the National Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

Donald J. Parker

President and CEO, Carrier Clinic

To the Editor:

The only surprise coming out of this article [“Leaders Make Plans to Counteract Tax Bill,” page one, January 17] is the implicit recognition by “progressive” leaders such as Mayor Lempert that taxes matter and that given their druthers, most people would rather pay less than more, especially so in New Jersey with the highest property taxes in the nation coupled with high income tax. Instead of blaming the tax law as “unfairly targeting” states such as New Jersey and New York, and instead of looking for ways to “counteract” the tax law, why not honestly and directly step up to the issues — our taxes are too high! Oh, and our new governor has stated he wants to raise them even more!

If you want the taxpayers to continue supporting this high burden, make the case honestly as to why you think so. Otherwise, do the honest thing and reduce our taxes. Don’t look to weasel out by foisting our high tax rate on those states that are able to live on a smaller diet of their taxpayer dollars. Otherwise, look for the exodus from high tax rate states to continue. People will vote with their wallets and their feet!

Michael Eckstut

Trewbridge Court

January 17, 2018

In 2016 I wrote, “Princeton School Board (PRS) Election/Huge Tax Increases Pre-ordained.” As the town now enters 2018, it is evident that predictions re: PRS cost growth will be exceeded and the problem will become a tax and fiscal crisis for our town. How so?

First and foremost, PRS per student costs are totally out of control and far exceed those of other high performing districts, even those in Mercer County. Costs up to 38 percent more on a $100 million budget. This grievously impacts the town’s ability to fund other priority needs. PLUS, the percent of real estate taxes allocated to PRS keeps growing.

Second, PRS current demographic projections and related plans to accommodate predicted growth will mandate a major bond issue to fund school construction for hundreds of additional students in several schools. Teachers and administrative personnel required will increase concurrently.

Third, actions that might eliminate or reduce both forecasted increases in enrollment and the scope of capital investments are not being fully explored and certainly not being aggressively pursued. Cranbury High School sending district, non-resident, and various ineligible students comprise a list of hundreds PPS is not required to admit.

Fourth and most important, the demographic data and trends used to justify the huge expenditures being planned are flawed. They ignore or place no credence in the possible impact of macro-scale programs which are being initiated or expanded at the federal level by the new administration’s secretary of education, including school choice, vouchers, charter schools, etc. These programs may reduce PRS future enrollments significantly, as there are large numbers of empty seats in area private schools of diverse character, plus under-enrollment and closure of many financially troubled schools, especially those with religious affiliations. Vouchers and school choice options alone could significantly increase enrollments and financial viability of many schools and enable reopening of several in our area.

Personally, I have spent over 30 years, most often as a pro-bono volunteer, involved in and strongly supporting both public and private education at all levels. In Princeton, I have always supported ensuring continuity of their treasured traditions of excellence! I am reminded of my first election campaign for PRS Board in 1992 and trying to “foster a climate for constructive change.” I recall very welcome and detailed, fact-based coverage of all candidates in our local media including my seven priorities listed below:

• Restore Board’s proper role — GOVERNANCE

• Get educational priorities straight

• Stop Board’s preoccupation with raising revenues (taxes)

• Start reducing and controlling costs

• Stop explosive growth in salaries and benefits

• Downsize administration

• Focus on performance and accountability

John Clearwater,

Governors Lane 

To the Editor:

As I was walking up Witherspoon Street, a little sign in the window of Lisa Jones brought home the hard fact that the greed so evident in the workings of the world at large, a greed we tend to associate with the unscrupulous acquisitiveness of mega-corporations, was at work on our little Princeton streets. Does a rent increase of 33 percent amount to an eviction notice for these four businesses who have thus been slapped for their contribution to the charm of our town? Ah well, so long charm, hello chains. So long the pleasure of uniqueness, hello the ennui of sameness. When out for a stroll a year from now, let’s pray the aroma of coffee wafts in the Witherspoon air. And turning the corner onto Nassau, let’s hope there’s a bookstore where the delight of discovery is within a glance’s reach.

Patricia Donahue

Hamilton Avenue

To the Editor:

Having been a victim of the recent fire at Griggs Farm (Building 33 on 12/27/17) I want to express my sincerest, heartfelt thanks to all the people of Princeton for their help and support for not only myself, but all the people displaced by this terrible tragedy. We are all sorry to have lost our homes, many possessions, and the life of our neighbor, Larisa Bartone, to the fire and now we face the enormous task of rebuilding our lives.

Because I came to this country 16 years ago with nothing but my talent, I am no stranger to starting over. Bless Princeton University for giving me the chance to capture their beautiful campus in my watercolors when I first arrived in Princeton and to be able to share them with the world.

I am grateful to be alive and still have my ability to paint, although I have lost my art studio as well. I was uninsured and have no savings, but I am confident thanks to the help of our landlords, Princeton Community Housing (PCH), Griggs Farm Condominium Association, Princeton Human Services Department, and the other local agencies that have cooperated in the organization of donations for our immediate needs. I also want to thank the Princeton Police and Fire Department, as well as the local Red Cross for their efforts that terrible night in the bitter cold.

Out of every tragedy comes a lesson for each of us. Personally, I never want to be without renters insurance again and I encourage everyone renting apartments or houses to make sure that they have this coverage. This has taught me that you never know what life will throw at you and even though we can’t predict the future, there are some practical things we can do that will help if a disaster, like this fire, should happen.

I lost some of my original art that I will only know in the future from the pictures that I took and it saddens me that I will never have them again. Because of this, I am going to be reaching out to the professional and amateur art community at large with the message, and hopefully the means, to raise awareness of the need to be covered by adequate insurance for their artworks, materials, and studios.

I also want to thank again those people, friends and strangers alike, who donated to me personally and PCH on the gofundme.com website (marina-ahun-artist-fire-fund).

Bless you Princeton, you are the Best!

Marina Ahun

formerly of Billie Ellis Lane

January 10, 2018

To the Editor:

Our community suffered a terrible tragedy on Wednesday night, December 27, when a fire ravaged a 24-unit apartment building we own at Griggs Farm. We mourn the loss of one life.

We are immensely grateful to all the first responders, including Princeton fire and rescue personnel, for preventing further tragedy and helping people to safety. We also gratefully acknowledge the municipality of Princeton for its ongoing support and for providing immediate transport and shelter for the victims at the Nassau Inn on Wednesday night. Thank you to Bob Gregory (director of Emergency Management), Elisa Neira (executive director of Human Services), and others for their assistance and support.

We have been working closely with the 34 displaced residents to help address their needs. As of Friday, December 29, PCH is providing temporary housing and some meals at a local extended-stay hotel for the 24 displaced residents who could not secure housing with friends or relatives. A daily breakfast is provided at the hotel, along with three light dinners per week. In addition, kitchens are available in the suites there, so residents will be able to cook meals.

The Princeton community has already rallied to our displaced residents’ support in a variety of sincere and spontaneous ways. We are coordinating with community organizations in several efforts for household donations and other fundraising. These include the donation site at Trinity Church (33 Mercer Street) for blankets, clothing, shoes, new toiletries, universal gift cards, and non-perishable food.

Because the damage from the fire is significant, it is expected that the reconstruction of the building at Billie Ellis Lane may take several months. We are thus asking all our neighbors, friends, and supporters to help us provide temporary housing for our renters during the reconstruction period and to assist the displaced residents with other immediate and ongoing needs. This includes assistance for those who have found temporary housing with friends or relatives but still need other support due to their displacement.

To this end, Princeton Community Housing has created the “Griggs Farm Fire Relief Fund” to aid all those displaced. Donations may be sent to Princeton Community Housing, One Monument Drive, Lower Level, Princeton, NJ 08540. Please make check payable to Princeton Community Housing and note “Griggs Farm Fire Relief Fund” on the memo line. You can also donate securely and immediately via credit card at princetoncommunityhousing.org. Gifts to PCH are tax-deductible, as PCH is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

We are profoundly grateful for anything and all that you can do to help our displaced residents while we work as quickly and efficiently as possible to restore them to their homes.

Princeton has a big heart: we know we can get through this tragedy together, with your support. Many thanks from all of us! — The Trustees and Staff of Princeton Community Housing.

Edward Truscelli

Executive Director PCH Development Corporation

An Affiliate of Princeton Community Housing

To the Editor:

The fire on December 27 that destroyed 10 homes and displaced 35 people and took the life of one person was a tragedy. The SHUPP [Send Hunger Packing Princeton] group, the School Band, PCH [Princeton Community Housing], Princeton Human Services, and others have shown their kindness in so many ways. SHUPP has transferred $25,000 raised through a Go Fund Me campaign to the PCH non-profit corporation to offset some of the extraordinary expenses these folks have experienced.

A number of the people displaced have found places to stay with families and friends. Some are being housed in a local extended stay hotel. A group of volunteers met recently to sort donated food and clothing for these families. The compassion being shown by the Princeton community is commendable.

These affected people have lost a lot, if not all, of their possessions. Once their homes have been rebuilt, they will need furniture, kitchen supplies, clothing, and lots of household supplies. Starting with the food is a good beginning.

To the supportive families in Princeton, its a pleasure to witness your grace and your generosity.

Bob Rabner

Christopher Drive

Ross Wishnick 

Edgerstoune Road

SHUPP Board Members