March 30, 2016

To the Editors:

For over 12 years, the Johnson Park (JP) Koko Fund has assisted JP students from families in financial need by subsidizing enrichment opportunities. The program has grown significantly since its founding and is needed more than ever as nearly one third of Johnson Park’s current students are eligible.

Through financial assistance from our JP Koko Fund, students participate in after-school activities at JP, in the greater Princeton community, and at various summer camps. JP’s Koko Fund partners provide significant program discounts for our youngsters. Without their support, our children would not have these experiences.

Specifically, through the support of our program partners, the Koko Fund has given students the opportunity to participate in after-school classes such as science, sports, chess, acting, and art. Our partners have also allowed JP boys and girls to attend programs at the Princeton Recreation summer camps, Westminster Conservatory, and the Princeton Y.W.C.A. Other program partners include:

The Arts Council of Princeton, Princeton Ballet School, Princeton Y.M.C.A., Princeton Soccer Association (P.S.A.), Princeton Football Club (P.F.C.), Princeton Soccer Experience, Rambling Pines Day Camp, and Village Shoes.

The JP Koko Fund Advisory Board would like to express our sincere gratitude to all those who have helped provide enrichment opportunities.

Now more than ever, we seek support of our Koko Fund, which operates within the JP Parent Teacher Organization, a 501c(3) organization. The JP Koko Fund Advisory Board consists of parents, teachers, and community members who manage the fund and its activities. The Advisory Board strives to work within a framework of fiscal responsibility and mutual respect and sensitivity to the recipient children and their families.

Our Koko Fund’s annual fundraiser, our “JP Move-A-Thon,” is Wednesday, April 6, at JP. To contribute to the Koko Fund, please send a check payable to Johnson Park Koko Fund, 285 Rosedale Road, Princeton, NJ 08540, or go online at to donate to the Koko Fund via PayPal.

Johnson Park Koko Fund Advisory Board

To the Editor:

Saturday night, March 26, hundreds of commuters to Princeton Junction saw first hand how inadequate New Jersey Transit would be in the event of a large serious emergency situation. At least four trains that left New York from 8 p.m. on were prevented from stopping at Princeton Junction because of what we were told on the speaker system was “police action at Princeton Junction.” Before New Brunswick, our train, the 9:01 express due in at 10:04, was halted. After we limped late into New Brunswick, the speaker system announced that we would go backward a bit to a different track and then would have to bypass the Junction and get off at Hamilton and then take the train on the “opposite platform” back to Princeton Junction.

When we arrived at Hamilton, there was no human being to direct us through the long walk on the platform to the escalator to the street level, and to the east-bound platform which we had to reach by going out into the street. We never saw an employee of NJ Transit after getting off the train at the low-level platform where there was a conductor. And no one came or even announced at 11 p.m. while we were waiting out in the cold at Hamilton when the next train would appear. There were babies, children, older people, and several who needed but could not find the way to an open bathroom. If we had found one, we’d have been afraid to leave the platform because we had no idea when the train home would arrive. Others had come from the airport with luggage after perhaps a day of traveling.

We kept hearing announcements about trains going west to Trenton. Several more trains came in with passengers destined for Princeton Junction. We arrived back at the Junction after midnight, two hours late for us but longer for the earlier trains that had been through the same situation.

Yes, it was an emergency at the Junction. When we passed going south we saw a car on the tracks and several police and fire vehicles. Yes, it was obviously a sad situation. But — where were conductors who could be trained in human communication? Why weren’t they walking through the cars? And why did no employee appear at Hamilton to direct us, open restrooms, and give us information?

Ideally, a bus would have been there to take us back. There were hundreds of people from several trains waiting.

Yes, it was not a national emergency and we all were aware that this was just a great inconvenience. And because the tragedy in Belgium was in many minds, the complaints were not large. Everyone seemed to bear it despite the cold and lateness of the hour.

My concern is where will the human being employees of New Jersey Transit be if a far more serious situation arises?

Obviously some training and serious preparation and mock situations need to be put into action.

Phyllis Spiegel


To the Editor:

As I run for Council in New Jersey’s June 7 primary, I look forward to discussing issues with Princeton’s Democratic voters.

I see three main issues facing Council: affordability and municipal property taxes, affordability and Princeton University, and affordability and McMansions. (The school budget is not within Council’s purview.)

First, I believe Council does control spending carefully. But what about increasing revenue? Having met for four years with Princeton Future’s Neighborhood Retail Initiative, I propose a volunteer economic development commission to help us retain existing businesses and attract new ones in keeping with our town’s character.

Second, affordability and the University: Council should begin consulting with the plaintiffs’ lawyer in the case questioning the University’s non-profit status. The University has agreed to explore mediation, and we need to ensure the best settlement for our town. Having met for five years with a committee that studied this issue, I favor a greatly increased Payment in Lieu of Taxes that grows predictably each year, according to the University’s annual income or the value of its real property, fairly assessed.

Third, affordability and McMansions: I served seven years on Princeton’s Site Plan Review Advisory Board. To slow tear-downs of modest homes and their replacement by million-dollar spec houses, I favor toughening the Borough’s 2006 McMansion law and applying it also to denser parts of the former Township. Set-backs, floor-area ratio, and height should reflect each neighborhood’s existing averages.

For more information, please email

Anne Waldron Neumann

Alexander Street

March 23, 2016

To the Editor:

Be sure you’re ready to vote in the June 7 primary election! Please review the following procedures and deadlines. Forms can be downloaded from the League of Women Voters’ website. Go to and, on the home page, click on whatever form you need.

In New Jersey, only Democrats and Republicans are allowed to vote in a primary election and then only for candidates in their own party. If you are now registered as Unaffiliated, you may declare yourself either a Democrat or Republican at the polls. You will then be allowed to vote. If you wish to change your party affiliation — from Democrat to Republican or vice-versa — or to become Unaffiliated so that you can declare your party at the time of the election, you must submit a Party Affiliation Declaration Form by April 13.

May 17 is the deadline to register to vote in the primary election or to file your new name or address if either has changed since the November election. For high school seniors who have turned 18, the primary will be their first chance to vote!

May 31 is the deadline to apply to Vote by Mail — whether you’ll be away on June 7 or simply don’t want to take the time to go to the polls. By applying early, you can have your ballot sent wherever it’s convenient.

Please be prepared, and please remember to vote.

Chrystal Schivell

Voter Service Chair, League of Women 

Voters of the Princeton Area

March 16, 2016

To the Editor:

I’m guessing I’m not the only one who is looking forward to the day when the obsessive and futile efforts of the Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS) to halt the construction of new faculty housing on the grounds of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) come to an end. The PBS’s hyperbolic misrepresentations of the motives and actions of the IAS are an embarrassment.

A fact the PBS ignores is that the Institute is also an important part of our local and national history. And where is the PBS’s gratitude for the glorious Institute Woods, which the IAS generously shares with the community? The time and energy and funds the PBS has poured into this fruitless fight would have been much better spent on improving and maintaining the Princeton Battlefield State Park’s monuments and buildings — some of which are in serious disrepair.

Jane Eldridge Miller

Laurel Circle


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March 9, 2016

To the Editor:

I was delighted to hear that Princeton is considering installation of a PV (photovoltaic) array on the municipal garage near the library [“Bridge Closing, Solar Array Among Council Topics,” Town Topics, March 2, page one], and thought that my recent experience putting an array on my own roof might be helpful. Much to my surprise (why should I be surprised?) I discovered that Wall Street has found a way to turn my roof into their gold mine. Had I accepted their proposal I would be able to buy somewhat cheaper renewable electricity while Wall Street collected the 30 percent federal tax rebate and New Jersey state incentives (Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECs) which currently are worth about 29 cents/kWh for electricity generated by the array. (For comparison, the PSE&G generation plus distribution charge is currently about 17cents/kWh.)

The key to the Wall Street financial engineering approach is that these extremely generous incentives are collected by the owner of the array, not the customer, and are never mentioned in the contract proposal.

I discovered what might be termed “a walk down the garden path” when I tried to obtain a quote for my own solar array, saying that I was interested in ownership, not leasing or any other arrangement. After much searching, one of the large national solar installers sent me a very professional, detailed proposal, but for a 20-year power purchase agreement, not ownership. In this case the homeowner pays nothing and the installer owns and maintains the array and sells the homeowner electricity at a rate below that of the local utility but with an escalation clause (2.9 percent per year in my case). Tax credits and SRECs were never mentioned.

I did some rapid calculations of my own based on the Installer’s power production projections and a reasonable array cost and found that over the lifetime of the agreement I was over $50,000 better off owning the array. This is somewhat astonishing as the array is relatively modest: 21 panels, 340 square foot, 5.67 kW ($15,050 installed cost after the Federal income tax credit). I am sure the array on the garage roof would be many times larger and thus much more profitable.

Princeton should carefully examine different contractual arrangements (one possibility: a short term, 5 year, lease-purchase agreement) for its solar arrays with the objective of capturing as much of the incentive payments as possible. An array with excellent solar exposure, such as on the top of a parking garage, may have a payback period for the installed cost of less than four years, after which SREC sales and avoided power savings would provide a steady and substantial income stream.

All such income should be dedicated to funding additional energy efficiency and fossil fuel reduction projects such as electric and hybrid vehicle purchases, EV charger deployment, and geothermal heat pumps for heating and cooling municipal buildings and schools.

For homeowners, the “Go Solar for $0 Down” plans and derivatives, including unsecured “Solar Loans,” should be avoided. If one cannot afford the installed array cost with available funds, one might take out a home equity loan. Otherwise, save your money for a few years until you can pay for the array yourself.

Alfred Cavallo

Western Way

To the Editor:

My parents moved to Princeton in 1992 when I was three years old, shortly after McCaffrey’s Supermarket opened its doors in the Princeton Shopping Center. Shopping at McCaffrey’s quickly became an almost everyday ritual for us, for everything from Jersey Fresh produce to delicious baked goods. When I return home to visit my folks and I shop at McCaffrey’s, I often recognize many of the same faces from my youth who have made successful careers for themselves at our neighborhood market. The store is a welcoming place and always has everything I need, including the best donuts I have ever tasted. The employees are always helpful and knowledgeable. I cannot tell you how many times while I am shopping at the chain grocery store near my home in Washington, D.C., that I think to myself, “Gee, I wish I was at McCaffrey’s right now.”

How lucky the Princeton community is to have such a wonderful grocery store! Many towns could only dream of having a supermarket like McCaffrey’s. And yet, I happened upon Diane Landis’s letter in this paper last week [Mailbox, March 2] scolding the store for not adhering to certain standards of plastic bag distribution. As someone who holds a Bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and lives in a city that charges 5 cents per plastic bag at all retail outlets, I am fully aware of the environmental consequences of improper plastic bag use and disposal, as well as the many benefits of well-crafted regulations to curb plastic bag consumption. I am also fully capable of telling a cashier, “Thank you, but I won’t be needing a bag today.”

It is my opinion that Mercer County, or preferably the state of New Jersey, should be the jurisdiction to set regulations on plastic bag use. Only then can there be fairness amongst stores in the region in competition for our grocery dollars, as well as a comprehensive plan to utilize fees realized from plastic bag use in a way that benefits the environment of the greater Mercer County region, or even the entire state.

Those that insist that the town of Princeton pass its own (flawed) municipal plastic bag legislation fail to see the bigger picture and, consequently, single out the only substantial grocery store in town. McCaffrey’s has done so much over the years to promote reusable grocery bags, as well as provide a convenient location to recycle plastic grocery bags — from any store — well before this “ABC” campaign got started. Their support of the Princeton community in many other ways is so generous and far-reaching that I could not possibly put it into words. I only hope that rational, forward-thinking heads can prevail in this effort to make the Princeton community (really, all of New Jersey) a cleaner, greener, friendlier, and healthier place.

James Steven Beslity

Washington, D.C.

Editor’s Note: Mr. Beslity was a Princeton resident for 17 years and a graduate of the Princeton Public Schools.

To the Editor:

The Battlefield Society’s president recently wrote that supporters of the IAS (Institute for Advanced Study) have “subscribed to the Big Lie theory” and that “IAS is intent on destroying the heart of one of the most important sites in American history.” [Mailbox, March 2]. How I wish the Battlefield people would redirect their laudable intents but lamentable language. Such demonization has too long impeded what should by now have been a better outcome for the hallowed ground where Washington saved the American Revolution.

But how I also wish that the IAS would break out of its hermetically sealed Eurocentric bubble. For our neighborhood and our nation, IAS, with its global connections and gigantic funding sources, should be doing much more to help preserve the uniquely significant American heritage land under and around its control. And how I wish the State of New Jersey would properly care for our public lands. The decrepit state of Battlefield Park under its stewardship, with its crumbling monuments and collapsing Clarke House, is a national disgrace.

But mostly, how I wish our community leaders would lead us out of this sorry stalemate. The prestigious and powerful Civil War Trust (CWT) now wants to help, but IAS is refusing to meet. Meanwhile, PBS (Princeton Battlefield Society) is filing a Federal lawsuit of uncertain prospects against IAS. Now seems a good time for a constructive compromise. OK, IAS has the right to build its houses. Let’s help it build them even more discretely. In return, get IAS to sell to CWT the rest of Maxwell Field, which can then help fund a suitable Battlefield visitors center near Clarke House. With CWT’s help, get Crossroads of the Revolution to forge public-private partnerships to restore the Clarke House, refurbish the Colonnade, and repair the monuments.

Then, get the U.S. Park Service and the Historical Society of Princeton to place interpretative markers and pathways throughout the whole area. Get the municipality and Friends of Open Space to create another local trail, a National Heritage History Trail, from the Quaker Meeting through the Battlefield, along Olden Avenue and Battle Road, through the Frog Hollow area around the Grad College, up to Nassau Hall. That trail might include other epic historical sites, like the IAS nursery school in which John von Neumann pioneered the ENIAC computer and the grand ground floor chamber in the Grad College tower that memorializes Grover Cleveland.

We need some honest brokerage to break this impasse. I call for some Princeton “tribal elders” interested in both promoting our local community and preserving our nation’s history to step forward. I’m thinking of the likes of Kristen Appelget (University Community Relations), Mark Freda (Spirit of Princeton), Chad Goerner (Friend of IAS executive committee member), Scott Sipprelle (Historical Society of Princeton president), and Patrick Simon (Council liaison to the Princeton Historical Preservation Commission). Let’s ask such leaders to get the stalemated parties together for a better solution for the Battlefield and IAS, our community, and America’s posterity.

Tom Pyle

Balsam Lane

To the Editor:

Princeton Council will soon introduce an ordinance that, upon passage, will establish the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood as Princeton’s 20th Historic District (HD). I commend Council members Heather Howard, Jenny Crumiller, and Bernie Miller for their enthusiastic support of this measure, which passed unanimously. The “work session” unfolded before a full house, was laced with dozens of passionate speakers from neighbors and their allies — most, focusing on the historic presence and inestimable value of the segregated African-American community in Princeton, but also on the importance of the district to the more recent Latino population.

The boundaries of this HD should be those set forth unanimously by the Historic Preservation Commission on February 22, 2016, without exception, as ably set forth by HPC Administrator Elizabeth Kim and Chair Julie Capozzoli on page 6 of their presentation). The integrity of Witherspoon Street will thus be assured; the HD will then include the historic Sears-Roebuck catalogue homes dating from the 1920s at 190-194 Witherspoon Street, the last of which retains its original porch and stained glass.

This HD needs no “guidelines” beyond those spelled out in Consolidated Ordinance 2014-44. Any builder read about what is expected in terms of building “preservation” or “visual compatibility” or dimensions in relation to height and width, neighboring buildings, porch projections, front lawns, roof shape, etc. By these standards, some of the recent buildings in this HD — which have eliminated porches (the core of street life in the community) — and “make an architect’s statement” but do not resemble the neighborhood’s styles over a 100-year period would not have been allowed. Some are eyesores; others unnecessarily shadow neighbors’ homes.

Among the many aims of this HD are these: preserve buildings and architectural styles which have been key to this community’s survival; control tear-downs and the erection of dysfunctional mansions; steady the valuations and thus the taxes, so that neighbors whose families have lived in Witherspoon-Jackson for generations can continue to do so — Princeton’s most affordable, and most diverse. Architects I know have said that HD designation is the most effective method for achieving these goals. While some buildings need repair, preservation (even replication) should take precedence over destruction (often, from the perspective of sustainability, the worst thing you can do to a building).

One of the chief aims of HD designation is to “foster civic pride” in our history and architecture (Art. XIII. Sec.10B-373[3]). All Princeton, and not only the people of Witherspoon-Jackson, whose homes from Nassau Street north to the vanished Jackson Street have been demolished or “removed,” should indeed feel satisfied that, as a community, we will come together to overcome the shames of the past and to build on our shared history to make us better.

The “usable past” (Van Wyck Brooks’s phrase) is what is of value to create the future. I urge Princeton Council to pass an HD ordinance with the HPC boundaries intact, and to acknowledge the thorough and sufficient guidelines in 2014-44.

Daniel A. Harris

Dodds Lane

To the Editor:

As a Princeton resident, I was shocked to learn of Princeton University’s non-renewal of the contract of the brilliant and learned Near Eastern scholar Dr. Michael Barry, after 12 years of University teaching and just two years from retirement. Michael Barry is a world-renowned scholar whose lectures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and at Princeton are among the most absorbing I have ever attended. Anyone who doubts the richness of his background and the extent of his contributions should read his biography on the Princeton University website or watch one of his lectures available on YouTube. The decision by this immensely wealthy university not to renew the contract of such an illustrious lecturer after so many years is incredibly shabby. To their credit, University students and alumni are protesting the decision, which certainly does not reflect an attitude of age-friendliness at Princeton University.

Francesca Benson

Bainbridge Street

March 2, 2016

To the Editor:

I am writing on behalf of a group of concerned citizens who would like the Princeton Council to designate the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood as a local historic preservation district.

In New Jersey, there are few places that embody the African American experience like the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. African Americans were among the first settlers of Princeton, which boasted a higher concentration of black residents than most other towns. However, this community was subjected to racial and discriminatory practices, which essentially created the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. Now, those same discriminatory practices are tearing apart a significant piece of African American and Princeton’s history, brick by brick.

The Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood exceeds the architectural guidelines for historic preservation. By preserving this neighborhood, we preserve a piece of our nation’s history.

Shirley K. Turner

Senator – 15th District

Editor’s Note: The following letter from New Jersey State Senator Shirley Turner was received too late to meet the press deadline for last week’s issue.

To the Editor:

There is much misinformation floating around on the Battle of Princeton. We have learned much over the last few years from artifacts and original accounts, much of which is included in John Milner Associates’ Princeton Battlefield Mapping Study on our website. This report was funded under the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP) of the National Park Service which vetted and approved the study.

The study represents the most comprehensive study of the battle ever done. Our efforts to save the Counterattack Site are largely based on that report and we are strongly supported in our conclusion that the Battle of Princeton was fought and won on the Counterattack Site by the two premiere historic preservation groups in the country the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Civil War Trust.

In 2011, professor and acclaimed historian David Hackett Fischer wrote in a letter to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to support the nomination of the Counterattack Site to its list of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Sites in the U.S.: “One question of historical fact is disputed by the Institute. Several spokespersons asserted that major fighting in the battle did not occur on the land it wishes to develop. They are mistaken. The climax of the battle was a major assault by Washington’s Continental troops, who broke the British line in very heavy fighting. This event happened primarily on the open field that the Institute proposes to use for a housing project. Five major studies have all reached the same result. Several archaeological digs have turned up more density of artifacts from the battle than in the park itself. This land is as central to the battle of Princeton as the field of Pickett’s Charge is to Gettysburg and as Omaha Beach is to D-Day.“

Esteemed Princeton University Professor Jim McPherson testified before the Princeton Planning Board on the historic significance of the Counterattack Site on December 8, 2011 as follows: “So we’re not talking about something unimportant here. We also agree, as David Fischer does actually say this we agree with the Battlefield Society, that the right wing of the American Counter Attack that won the Battle of Princeton took place on Institute Land, including the buffer zone and part of the land on which the housing is planned.”

There have been some repeated misguided claims that the ”Battle of Princeton was just a series of skirmishes all the way to Nassau Hall, none particularly important. It seems that the Institute and its supporters of the destruction of the counterattack site have subscribed to a publicity campaign based on the “Big Lie” theory that if you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it is true.

Enough is enough. It is time to own up to the fact that the IAS is intent on destroying the heart of one of the most important sites in American history.

Jerald P. Hurwitz

President, Princeton Battlefield Society

Editor’s Note: The 2011 statements by Mr. McPherson and Mr. Fischer were made prior to a compromise proposal that the Battlefield Society did not find acceptable.

To the Editor:

The ABC’s Campaign (Ask First, BYOBag, and Collect) has been a huge success in two of its three goals — the B and C. In the program’s first six months, this town has collected approximately 1,000 pounds of plastics that would have been sent to our landfill. These are the plastics that are not typically recycled such as bread bags, cereal bags, and the back of the house plastics that cover palettes for local businesses.

McCaffrey’s is doing an excellent job keeping track of weight and size of all the plastic collected so we can report how many pounds we have kept from the landfill — which is our goal.

What’s missing from the ABC’s campaign is the A. I just popped into McCaffreys this morning and was not asked if I needed a bag. Instead, the cashier pulled a plastic bag out readying it for my purchase. For the woman before me, the cashier actually wrapped two small candy bars in a huge plastic bag!

This campaign is all about changing habits. And, with a little effort, it could become a model for other towns. McCaffrey’s just needs to get the A figured out and hand out fewer plastic bags to its customers by Asking First. Pardon the dopey pun, but it’s as easy as ABC.

Diane M. Landis 

Executive Director, Sustainable Princeton

To the Editor:

As readers now know, New Jersey’s appellate court has upheld the legality of NJ Transit’s relocation of the Dinky terminus to accommodate the University’s development goals. We respect the legal process, but we are disappointed that these rulings have shown so little sensitivity to the public interests involved. We fought this battle to give voice to the interests of public transportation users, and we are grateful many, many supporters who have recognized that this was a battle worth fighting, win or lose.

We brought our cases to court because we believed, and still do, that the relocation of the Dinky terminus and destruction of our historic and charming station was a terrible idea. Princeton has lost an in-town station with easy pedestrian access that provided a mass transit link to the Northeast Corridor. Princeton has also lost an iconic train station with irreplaceable literary, cultural, and political associations. The park-and-ride facility we have in its place has all the charm of an industrial site and is inconvenient. It is no surprise that Dinky ridership has declined significantly.

When Borough elected officials debated zoning approvals for an Arts complex that involved relocating the Dinky, they were told by NJ Transit that a 1984 contract gave the University the absolute right to relocate the terminus. Our cases established that this was not true: the judges said that NJ Transit retained the full authority to approve or disapprove the move.

We also argued that before giving any approval NJ Transit was required to hold a meaningful public hearing to show the move was in the best interests of NJ Transit riders. Instead, with the backing of our governor, who controls NJ Transit and also is an ex-officio University Trustee, NJ Transit assented to the move behind closed doors and presented the plan to the public as a fait accompli. The Court has said the law permits this. However, if this is the law, the law should be changed. NJ Transit should not be permitted to make backroom deals to turn over precious public transportation assets to a private entity without any public hearing or accountability.

We encourage Princetonians who rely on the Dinky to join us in pressing for enforcement of the promises made in the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) and to identify steps that can and should be taken to improve service and ridership on the Dinky. We also urge our elected officials to press NJ Transit to move quickly to honor its obligation to promote public awareness of the history of the Princeton Branch through the installation and permanent maintenance of interpretative displays at the new station.

Anita Garoniak

Harris Road

February 24, 2016

To the Editor:

I write to join the Princeton community in mourning the passing of Bill Cirullo, the longtime principal and teacher at Princeton’s Riverside School. I first met Bill when he taught my son’s fourth grade class at Riverside. He was a force of nature in the best possible way. He was proof that a teacher can inspire, motivate, and teach children while still being strict and demanding.

When Bill applied to become principal of Riverside School, I was a member of the Princeton Board of Education. In my nine years on the Board, the vote of which I am most proud is the vote to appoint, and later to tenure, Bill as principal. He inspired the teaching staff to be the best they could be. He assumed he could make a poor teacher good and a good teacher great. And he always aimed for great. Although his position at Riverside made him the supervisor of teachers, he never forgot the children or the parents. He made education the business of the entire community: the children, parents, teachers, and community. Those of us who are fortunate to live in the town of Princeton know that we have lost a great leader. It is said that no one is irreplaceable, but it will be very difficult to replace Bill Cirullo.

Joel Cooper

Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

In the fall of 1984, I had the good fortune to be assigned Bill Cirullo as my fourth grade teacher. There are many things I remember about that year — the math stumpers he would project on the black board in the morning, N.J. Travel (an interdisciplinary, project-based social studies unit he created), playing kickball when no other class was outside because at heart he was a coach and understood that for kids to learn, kids need to run. I’ve never forgotten his lesson to me on the perils of perfectionism, the day he called me to his desk, crumpled up an essay I’d written, then opened up the paper and with it full of wrinkles, said “It’s just as good now.” Or how he ignited a passion for learning in us all through his passion for teaching.

We were the last class he taught. The following year he was made principal. He went on to transform Riverside School into the top ranked elementary school in the state. But he did so much more than that. He inspired hundreds of children and families, teachers and staff to take part in the best of what public education can offer. Thirty years later, I moved back to the neighborhood where I grew up. This fall, my son started kindergarten at my old elementary school and he got to meet Bill. And while my son got to know his classroom, I got the chance to talk to Bill again after a lifetime. We talked about my kids and his grandkids. We talked about how he had pushed back when state policies didn’t advance learning. And then I asked him how he came up with N.J. Travel, one of those lessons I’ve never forgotten. He said, “I read the book they wanted me to teach and said to myself ‘This is going to bore them to tears.’ So I made notes on all the content I had to teach and then reimagined the whole unit. For a lesson to matter, it needs 3 things. Context. Meaning. Emotion.”

I am grateful for that last talk. It seems everything Bill touched when it came to teaching mattered. He made you feel like you were the only person in the room. There is so much I will cherish about Bill; the reaches of his legacy live on in me as that nine-year-old girl and now as a parent of three. He was one of the greats. Rest in peace, Mr. Cirullo. We will miss you.

Katharine Powell Roman

Harrison Street

To the Editor:

Last Wednesday, our zoning board granted a host of variances. The first waived the zoning code’s minimum lot size on a street that has been transformed by tear-downs. A sheepish chair explained that the board had no choice: 68 percent of the lots on that particular block are similarly undersized and the master plan has not yet been amended to reflect current reality.

The second approval simply ignored our zoning code. Five of seven members voted to grant transformative density, FAR, parking, and setback variances sought to facilitate the conversion of the Maclean street Masonic temple into an apartment building. 10 units were approved for a 7,473 square foot lot, resulting in a density of circa 58 units per acre in the heart of the Witherspoon Jackson neighborhood. As staff observed — repeatedly — that density exceeds the 38 units per acre approved for the hospital site, the 23.8 units per acre approved for the Waxwood, the 13.5 units per acre typical of the neighborhood, and the 2 units that the site is permitted under the existing zoning.

The building’s former use as a meeting hall for the black community gives the structure sentimental value as well as historic value. Housing advocates are impressed both by the two “affordable” units that will be created below grade and by the promise of undersized apartments targeted at people from the neighborhood — albeit with rents expected to range initially from $1,500 to $2,500 per month. The proposed design is admittedly attractive. And the developer seems genuinely sympathetic to the desires of his neighbors.

Laws, however, have no meaning unless they are enforced equitably. “We like the project” is not sufficient reason to grant variances. Nor is “we don’t like the project” sufficient reason to withhold approval when proposals comply with existing zoning. Flagrant disregard for our zoning code undermines our ability to protect our neighborhoods. The magnitude of the variances approved for the Masonic temple will necessarily be precedent setting — in no small part because the granting of those variances was so plainly capricious. Since residential land values are directly correlated with the number of units that can be built, the density variance can be expected to be especially pernicious. As I mentioned before Wednesday’s vote, a quintupling in permitted density will be construed as open season for speculators. Tear-downs and increases in assessed values will not be far behind, with the predictable result that property taxes will balloon — in a neighborhood still reeling from the effects of our last reassessment.

I suggest that nobody on the zoning board has any idea how many currently affordable Witherspoon Jackson residences will be rendered unaffordable by the coming tax increases. Nor do board members seem to grasp how quickly land speculation can transform a neighborhood that most of them profess to want to protect. Whatever the board’s intentions, our barn doors are now wide open.

Peter Marks

Moore Street

February 17, 2016

To the Editor:

I am not in a position to judge the merits of Professor Imani Perry’s claim that she was mistreated by the Princeton police during her arrest after being stopped for speeding at 67 miles per hour on Mercer Road. However, as a Mercer Road resident who has to navigate in and out of a driveway and occasionally crosses the road on foot, I am grateful to the police for intercepting her and hope she won’t do it again.

Dr. Allen H. Kassof

Mercer Road

To the Editor:

The subject headline in the February 10 Town Topics [“Unpaid Parking Tickets Lead to Controversy,” page one] was the “take away” for many readers on the arrest of a prominent Princeton professor after being stopped for speeding on historic Mercer Street at nearly 70 m.p.h. in a 45 m.p.h. zone. As increasingly typical in our “PC gone wild”  media and academia, this headline was a complete mischaracterization of the incident. It further failed to address fairly and completely the specific actions during the chase, traffic stop, and police conduct as required by their protocol; and procedures in conformance with establish law and regulation.

Let’s get real! The whole controversy stems directly from unlawful acts of the aggrieved professor, including all the protocols for subsequent actions incident to local police mandate to enforce our laws. No traffic stop, no controversy, no issue about warrants issued by a judge for failure to pay parking fines required in such cases. ( Yes, maybe warrants are a bit over the top in these cases but are apparently issued consistently to all in similar circumstances.)

Most unfortunately, this nationally esteemed and learned professor has charged endemically racist police actions and conduct, thus claiming to be a VICTIM even to the point of stating “I do not believe I did anything wrong.” Does she suggest speeding at nearly 70 m.p.h. along historic Mercer Street is “not wrong”? Anyone who watched the video and heard the very polite and business-like manner in which the officer addressed the “victim” while she sat in the car? Abusive language? Disrespect? Unreasonable requests?

As to the response by the University and the Town to this incident, many if not most Americans believe the “Rule of Law” is the foundation of our constitutionally mandated rights and freedoms. They must be appalled as I am by the wide publicity accorded the Princeton professor’s allegations of racism and improper conduct by police officers here and even taking her rant nationwide. The Town Topics headline that unpaid parking tickets started this “Controversy” was especially egregious.

The immediate response to the “Controversy” by President Eisgruber parroted by Mayor Lempert was “they have been shocked that such an arrest could result from unpaid parking tickets.” Again, the real causative factor related to the “Controversy” going viral was a traffic stop incident to police pursuit and stopping of a speeder with an expired license recklessly endangering safety of others on historic Mercer Street. The next allegation may be that the local police when they initiated the chase knew she was a black woman with out of state tags.

In this hot and heavy political season, “pandering” seems to be increasingly a negative term for eliciting support of certain voting blocs, especially any perceived as disadvantaged. A term not used for many years which I feel should be resurrected to describe Princeton University’s and the Towns’ handling of this case and several others recently like Sanctuary City ICE issues, Black Justice League and student groups seeking return to academic freedom and open dialogue on campus is OBSEQUIOUSNESS.

John Clearwater

Governors Lane

To the Editor:

I attended the Princeton Council meeting on Monday, February 8 and was surprised to hear one Council member describe Princeton’s preserved open space as underutilized and hard to get to, with under maintained trails.

As someone who walks our open space every day and the author of Walk the Trails In and Around Princeton, which has sold over 4,000 copies to date, I have a completely different perspective. I can attest to the fact that many residents use our local trails frequently. Information on trail routes and parking access is widely available, perhaps the most comprehensive online resource is

We are fortunate to have organizations like Friends of Princeton Open Space and D&R Greenway Land Trust in our town, and through the efforts of their staff and many volunteers, most of Princeton’s trails are well maintained and clearly marked. The 8.5 miles of trails in the Mountain Lakes Open Space Area, called by some Princeton’s central park, are a wonderful example. In addition, Kurt Tazelaar, Steve Hiltner, and Friends of Herrontown Woods have worked incredibly hard in recent years to reclaim and mark trails in Herrontown Woods and Autumn Hill Reservation, along Princeton’s eastern ridge.

If you are a resident who has not yet explored the trails in Princeton, I encourage you to take a walk today. My favorite winter walk is around the lake in the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve. Park in the lot off Mountain Road and follow the driveway to Mountain Lakes House then make the loop around the lake and back to the drive. Another great way to access this walk is to park in the lot at Farmview Fields, cross over The Great Road and take the boardwalk across Coventry Farm to access the loop around the lake.

Sophie Glovier

Drakes Corner Road

To the Editor:

I don’t live in the Witherspoon-Jackson (WJ) neighborhood. Those who do have written eloquently about its rich, complicated and at times difficult history. They want to preserve the area as Princeton’s 20th historic district (HD). I fully support this, and will add some practical reasons for doing so.

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) has stated publicly that in this proposed “Type II” district, they will only be concerned with what can be seen from the street. If not seen, or if maintenance looks the same, no review is necessary. You can even paint your home’s front any color without HPC review. Many residents have testified to the assistance HPC provides in helping them find less expensive materials that maintain the current “look” of their house.

Many studies have found that HDs enhance property values. Some people worry that prices will rise too much, increasing taxes on residents. But a New York City review by its Independent Budget Office, covering 1975-2002, found that the average annual “premium” for property appreciation in an HD versus similar non-HD properties was just 1.2 percent. A 2007 Tucson review covering 15 cities and states all around the U.S.A. (including very high appreciation tourist oriented HDs in Galveston, San Diego, and Savannah) reported premiums of only 0.5-3.0 percent.

This doesn’t mean an HD will increase WJ taxes 1-2 percent more each year. It does mean they won’t spike due to a mcmansion next door. Some day, when a resident sells her house, she will benefit from this small extra appreciation.

The tax problem now, without a WJHD, is that much larger, more expensive homes are built in place of torn down smaller ones. When a large home selling for $900K-$1.2M is built, it is assessed at its sale price. When the next revaluation is done, the tax assessor looks at the new large home that sold for $1M+ and attributes part of the price to the land value. He then imputes a new, higher land value to surrounding properties. This increases their total assessment although the house on them has not changed one bit.

Creation of the WJHD will help stabilize tax assessments throughout the neighborhood for current property owners. Without this HD, rapid gentrification and market forces result in rapidly rising tax assessments as developers pick off individual properties and build the largest homes that current zoning permits. This would also destroy the nature of the community.

Let’s not become another Manhattan where only the wealthy can live near our center of commerce and culture. Since the end of the 19th century, people of modest means who actually get the hard work done in our town and University — mostly African-Americans, Italians, and now Latinos — have lived in this neighborhood. Let’s designate a WJHD and allow them to continue living here, rather than pack them off to Trenton.

This will benefit all who live in Princeton by preserving a key part of our history, and maintaining a diverse ethnic and socio-economic population. If you care about this, about greatly slowing gentrification, and keeping housing that’s affordable, please come to the special Council meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday February 22, at 400 Witherspoon Street. Show your support. Speak a short statement. Our Councilors listen.

John Heilner

Library Place

To the Editor:

The County Executive of Mercer County, until now the most progressive and democratic of all the counties in New Jersey, has firmly decided to house Mercer prisoners in Hudson County jail, hours away from their families and children most of whom will not be able to take time from work or money necessary to maintain vital family ties.

Residents of Mercer County and others, please express your outrage and opposition as I did by calling, visiting, or emailing Brian Hughes.

Mary Ellen Marino

NJ Chair, Progressive Democrats of America, 

Hornor Lane

February 10, 2016

To the Editor:

I want to thank the eight inspiring presenters from our community who provided their diverse visions of a Sustainable Community at our Great Ideas Breakfast on January 28 at the Princeton Public Library. The visions included statements about courage, creativity, product stewardship, fruit and nut trees, faith, open space, legacies, buying local, and bold vision.

My bold vision is that Princeton will become Net Zero and Waste Free by 2023. But we need coordination and collaboration to even begin to get us there.

In the past six years in Princeton there have been many important sustainable steps taken, partnerships formed, policies considered and award winning sustainable programs established in this town.

All these actions have led us to this moment. The moment where action and vision meet in 2016.

Our municipality has installed LED traffic lights, conducted energy audits in all their buildings, purchased four hybrid vehicles, launched the first curbside compost program in the state, installed water bottle refill stations in our parks, and will soon put a solar array on the landfill on River Road to power the Sewer Operating Commission. Our town has Share-rows and bike racks, parks and walking trails, open space, and farmers markets.

There is more — at least 150 residents have conducted energy audits on their homes. 1,000 residents have diverted almost 500 tons of food waste from the landfill. Residents and businesses together have recycled more than 1 million plastic bags since September, 2015. These plastic bags weighing about 1,000 pounds would have ended up in the landfill.

What is missing is a boldly stated and constantly repeated vision that connects all these actions. We need to consider creating a Princeton Climate Action plan with goals to measure the town’s progress toward Greenhouse Gas Reduction. We need to follow in the footsteps of Boulder, Chicago, Oakland, and many more communities that are refining and connecting their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We can draw on the considerable passion, intellect, and social capacity of this community to do it. It will take a sense of humor and a sense of urgency, countless hours of planning, patience, and persistence, but I believe Princeton is up to the challenge.

Our community cares deeply about the environment. We love our trees, our lawns, our parks and our Priuses [according to Toyota Prii is plural for Prius]. We now need to organize that passion. We need to involve and challenge every corridor from housing and retail, to schools and homes to reduce our negative impact on the environment. We need to connect the dots between our commissions, committees, nonprofit groups and institutions. We need our mayor and Council to adopt this bold vision and embrace and imbed a sustainable mind set in every decision they make.

Sustainable Princeton is ready to lead this charge but we cannot do it alone. Please join us.

Diane M. Landis 

Executive Director, Sustainable Princeton 

To the Editor:

Across New Jersey, residents have been receiving phone calls from scammers claiming to be from the IRS or the U.S. Treasury for a while now. This isn’t necessarily a new scam. But over the last few days, the number and frequency of these calls to New Jersey residents has increased, and it is likely to continue to escalate as we enter the tax season. When they answer the phone, residents are told that they will be arrested and prosecuted if they do not pay them immediately. The name Dennis Grey is sometimes (but not always) given. And for a new wrinkle, in some cases, callers have been spoofing their caller ID to display “AARP,” further highlighting their desire to encourage seniors, whom they often target in these scams, to answer the phone. The fact is, these calls are not legitimate and are in no way connected to AARP or any government agency. The IRS will NOT communicate with you by phone. If you receive a call from someone purporting to be from the IRS or the U.S. Treasury, regardless of what appears on your caller ID, give them NO identifying information and insist that they send everything to you in writing.

Jeff Abramo

Interim Manager of Communications and Community Outreach, AARP New Jersey

Rockingham Row, Forrestal Village