June 17, 2020

To the Editor:

I am writing in support of Leticia Fraga’s re-election to Princeton Council. For a town that touts diversity, inclusion, and equity on its platform of behavior it is critical that the Council’s make-up reflect that core philosophy and belief.

As the only woman of color on Council, Leticia has targeted critical issues facing lower income residents while also demonstrating an ability to look at issues on a variety of other levels with balance, thoughtfulness, and insight.

Being both a councilwoman and a mom helps Leticia find solutions in creative ways to manage conflict and focus on the end result while navigating through the proper steps to get there. She understands the value of listening carefully and the importance of guidance and nurturing, and demonstrates that care in her deliberations and public discourse. more

To the Editor:

When the last banner will have come down from the protests prompted by the sadistic and public murder of George Floyd, communities across the country will need to take a critical look at their policing practices. Princeton is no exception.  Our demographic make-up and political leanings are not that dissimilar to Minneapolis.  That city has a population 15 times the size of ours and, therefore, presents many more opportunities than we do for interactions between police and its minority population.  That we have not experienced the kind of traumatic incidents the nation witnessed last month is simply a manifestation of the laws of probability.  The more these encounters take place, the more likely it is that these sorts of tragic incidents will occur.  The fact is few, if any, of us here in Princeton even today have cared to ask how the police in our town have treated our black residents. At some point, the laws of probability will catch up with us unless we get genuinely interested and involved with how we choose to police our community.

In the short term, the surest way to reduce the likelihood of catastrophic incidents involving police and the black community is to simply reduce the number of unnecessary interactions between the police and the public at large. Here in Princeton, traffic stops and nuisance calls are two areas in which we can effectuate change immediately. 

Do we really need cops staking out motorists on Mountain Avenue to make our streets safer?  Wouldn’t speed radars and cameras be in fact more effective at deterring aggressive driving?  Maybe we should impose higher summons to reflect the income levels here in town. Even better, let’s make a portion of the summons means-based.  more

To the Editor:

We have known Dina Shaw for close to two decades and wholeheartedly endorse her candidacy for Princeton Council. Whether in the capacity of PTO President for Littlebrook Elementary School or JW Middle School, or in a board position at The Jewish Center, Dina has proven herself to be an innovative leader who has never wavered from tough decisions. While PTO President for Littlebrook she saw a need for, and implemented, a slate of after-school programming which continues to be extremely popular with children and fulfills a vital need for parents. In addition, while PTO President at John Witherspoon Middle School, she helped develop new and creative fundraising solutions, including reconstructing the dues collection process and designing sponsorship opportunities for local businesses which significantly increased the funds available for PTO activities.

Due to Dina’s extensive involvement in the Princeton community, we have seen her network expand significantly over the years and believe that this will make her an informed contributor to the Council should she be elected. Further, her approachable and inclusive style encourages diverse viewpoints. Dina offers a fresh voice to enrich the Princeton Council, with new ideas that are grounded by the long-standing principles we value such as education, smart planning for our community to maintain its unique character that we cherish, and support for a vibrant central business district that serves our needs. more

To the Editor:

Tomorrow evening the Planning Board is considering adopting a Green Building and Environmental Sustainability Element (GBESE) into Princeton’s Community Master Plan. Adoption of this element ensures the integration of sustainability and climate action in the development of community policies and land-use decisions.

A priority action of the Princeton Climate Action Plan (CAP), the GBESE affirms and reinforces the CAP’s mitigation and resiliency goals. This new element provides the essential planning foundation required to enable Princeton to meet its emission reduction goals and better prepared for the impacts of the changing climate.

Sustainable Princeton commends the Environmental Commission, the Master Plan Subcommittee, and the Planning Board for their diligent work on this major milestone and wholeheartedly supports the GBESE’s adoption into the Master Plan.

Sustainable Princeton

To the Editor:

It must have been a divine nudge that led me to check my Twitter feed in April to see a promotional “tweet” for a free online course titled “The Medieval Pursuit of God,” offered by Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS). 

Spontaneity and curiosity caused me to click “enroll” as my stay-at-home circumstances felt very isolating. Yet, while I always dreamed of taking a PTS course, I had a nagging thought that the medieval period wouldn’t offer anything transformational to enrich my own faith tradition.

And then I learned about the fascinating life of Julian of Norwich, a 14th century woman who lived at the time of the Bubonic plague. Julian’s faith and dedication to church was foundational. At the age of 31, she had a miraculous recovery from an undiagnosed deadly illness through multiple visions of Christ on the cross. 

This transformative experience led her to become an anchoress — someone who “sheltered in place” for over 40 years in an apartment connected to St. Julian’s Church of Norwich, England. One of her windows faced the chancel of the church, another faced the main village street where town folk came to share their troubles and ask Julian’s council and advice.  more

June 16, 2020

To the Editor:

New Jersey is already experiencing the effects of climate change. Local temperature data shows that Mercer County has experienced a 3.6°F degree increase in average temperatures during the past century. We are also experiencing precipitation peaks, 2018 was the wettest year since record keeping began in 1895.

By adopting the Climate Action Plan, Princeton committed to reducing our community’s greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050. Buildings are Princeton’s single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for nearly two-thirds of production-based emissions. The Princeton Environmental Commission and the Master Plan Subcommittee of the Planning Board have drafted a Green Building and Environmental Sustainability Element for the town’s Master Plan. more

June 10, 2020

To the Editor:

As an active member of my community, I am involved with many organizations that serve the needs of the most vulnerable residents of our town. Among these, a quiet but steadfast partner to the low-income children in Princeton is the Arts Council of Princeton. I am writing this letter to encourage each family and household in our town to consider a gift to the Arts Council’s emergency Spring Appeal.

Each Friday, in three locations across our town, (or at least before the COVID-19 shutdown) the Arts Council’s ArtReach program provides hands-on arts programming to children residing in low-income and community subsidized housing. These classes are integrated into an afterschool enrichment program aimed at improving academic performance, encouraging literacy, and supporting the emotional well-being of our most vulnerable children.

The program doesn’t get a lot of press or attention. If you weren’t one of the families served, you might never know it exists, but you might have seen some of the artwork created by these children. As an art instructor at the Pannel Center location on Witherspoon Street, I can attest to the sheer joy this program provides the children who participate. In the Fall of 2018, my art class at the Pannel Center created an art piece called “Mixed Media Monarch Butterflies” exhibited at the Princeton Public Library. These students have also contributed with artwork to several cultural events organized by the Arts Council like Day of the Dead, Martin Luther King Day, Three Kings Day, Sweet Art Market, and many others. more

What if…we start calling our law enforcement professionals “Peace Officers?” What if promoting peace was the driving force as they train at the “Peace Academy,” and the core of policies developed by the “Peace Department?”

What if…we in Princeton were the first to embrace this idea and implement it as a model for other communities in our country?

What if…?

Ruth Goldston
Bouvant Drive

To the Editor:

Councilman David Cohen has proven himself to be a great asset to Princeton. I strongly urge my fellow Princetonians to join me in voting to re-elect him in the upcoming primary election.

As a member of the Princeton Environmental Commission I have worked with Councilman Cohen on a variety of environmentally-related projects including the development of Princeton’s Climate Action Plan, important changes to the stormwater management ordinance, and the planning and implementation of the Princeton Community Renewable Energy Program. Each of these projects was complex and time consuming, and David’s commitment to their successful planning and execution was evident. more

To the Editor:

As a pediatrician, I am aware of how implicit biases (attitudes/stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner), institutional structures, and interpersonal relationships lead to the negative impact of racism on the health and well-being of all children.

New Jersey has the second largest disparity in infant mortality  — black babies born in New Jersey are three times more likely to die than white babies. Research also shows that racism is linked to mental health problems, such as chronic stress and depression, especially in children and adolescents. 

Like any public health crisis, we must address the crisis of racism through prevention, education, and treatment.  more

To the Editor:

We all appreciate the ability to get out and walk and run and ride bicycles during this difficult time.  

But, my daily walks would be much improved if the bike riders and joggers who pass by would either practice social distancing or wear masks.

Unfortunately, typically they do neither and just zip by often breathing heavily.

David Dobkin
Hibben Road

To the Editor:

Collectively, we are living through some of the most turbulent weeks of our lives — so turbulent that an election was postponed. When we mail our ballots for the July 7th election, we will vote to re-elect Leticia Fraga for Princeton Council. We urge Princeton voters to join us. In the name of peace, prosperity, an inclusive, empathic community, and for responsible spending that prioritizes collective well-being, Leticia Fraga offers the best choice for Princeton. 

From the moment she took office in January 2018, Leticia has been a dynamic force, offering thoughtful, original perspective and then taking action. Throughout her first term, Fraga has shown intelligence, perseverance, empathy, and a willingness to listen to a variety of voices — including those from historically marginalized populations. 

When news of COVID-19 hit, Councilwoman Fraga snapped into action. As liaison to the Board of Health as well as the Commissions for Human Services and for Civil Rights, Fraga helped assure that our community managed an unprecedented set of challenges compassionately and responsibly.  more

To the Editor:

We are writing to express our support for Dina Shaw, who has declared her candidacy for the Princeton Council.

We have had the good fortune to serve with Dina as co-presidents of the John Witherspoon Middle School PTO and Littlebrook Elementary School PTO, respectively. Dina brought tremendous energy to both PTO’s over several years, infusing the organizations with new ideas and successfully attracting more parents to collaborate and volunteer on school-related events and issues.

She worked tirelessly to improve communication, create transparency, maintain fiscal discipline, and ensure that both PTO’s were well-organized and sustainably-run. Dina also demonstrated a strong commitment to supporting Princeton’s most vulnerable students. In short, Dina’s passion for Princeton, her business acumen and experience, and her commitment to collaboration and problem-solving make her an excellent candidate for the Princeton Council.

Jennifer Jang
206 Russell Road

Christina Walden
75 Dodds Lane

June 3, 2020

To the Editor:

As a lifelong cyclist, I am thrilled that more people are biking for all the right reasons. I would like to raise the awareness of the importance of wearing a bike helmet.

I have been cycling for 40 years all over the world, and most importantly right outside my front door. On April 25, 2020 I was hit by an inattentive driver on a quiet country road in the Sourlands. The fact is my helmet saved my life.

I suffered a concussion, fractured rib, and fractured sacrum. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, bicycle helmets are 85-88 percent effective in mitigating head and brain injuries. This fact makes helmets the single most effective way to reduce your risk of a traumatic brain injury or death.

Facts are facts.

Jill C. Feldman
Southern Hills Drive, Skillman

To the Editor:

The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area will host a virtual forum Thursday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. with Democrats running for Princeton Council in the primary election. There is no Republican contest.

Questions for the candidates should be emailed to lwvprinceton@gmail.com by June 9. To view the forum, visit the League website lwvprinceton.org. A recording of the forum will be posted on the League’s website and its Facebook page facebook.com/LWVPRINCETON and rebroadcast on Princeton Community TV, times to be posted there and on the League’s website. The candidates’ written responses to League questions are available now at VOTE411.org.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the usual June primary was moved to July 7 and will take place mainly as a vote-by-mail election. Please note:

1. Every active registered Democrat and Republican will receive a ballot in the mail for the party with which the voter is affiliated. With the ballot, the voter will also receive a postage-paid envelope for returning the ballot. If returned through the mail, it must be postmarked by election day, July 7, and received by July 14 to be counted. Secure drop boxes will also be available in every county. more

To the Editor:

I thoroughly agree with Gerald Skey concerning the excellence of Stuart Mitchner’s talents beyond counting. I also salute our great good fortune to be expanded and delighted by his consciousness week after week. I have written you on this subject in other years, going so far as to say that the privilege of reading Stuart is reason enough to live in our region.

He has a particular gift for connecting the unconnectable — and making it work! I am forever fascinated by his juxtapositions. It feels as though there are no limits to this talent!

“’Dark Passage’ in a Dark Time” [May 20] is a tour-de-force. Of course, I cherish all the references to poetry, his recounting of actual phrases from novel/film, catalyzed by Frost’s “Mending Wall.” more

To the Editor:

Next month, we will be mailing in our ballots for town Council. We are fortunate to have three excellent candidates on the slate. We wish them all the best of luck.

We have known Dina Shaw for many years, and have seen firsthand the energy and commitment she gives to everything she does, whether it is running a successful business or leading the PTOs at Littlebrook Elementary and John Witherspoon Middle Schools. Dina is energized by getting involved and helping, and she inspires others to do the same. Her enthusiasm and positivity while leading the PTOs motivated us to volunteer — you can’t turn her down! She has a unique ability to reach out to others and help people work together towards common goals. She is a true public servant welcoming newcomers to her home.  more

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter in support of David Cohen’s campaign for re-election to the Princeton Council. As a fellow architect, I appreciate the skill set that allows Councilman Cohen to contribute on so many fronts to the urgent tasks of Council these days – implementing our affordable housing settlement plan, harmonizing our zoning ordinance, balancing smart growth and with preservation of our unique architectural heritage, to name a few.

I have been in the meetings with David as he works hard to analyze the nuances of our proposed new zoning code. David’s comments are factual, and his presentation is clear and concise, allowing others to quickly grasp the implications of their decisions. He fairly weighs the competing interests affected by possible changes.

He has demonstrated his dedication to the community. He is thoughtful, and hardworking – the kind of representative I want on Council.

Steven Cohen, AIA
Allison Road

May 27, 2020

To the Editor:

As reported In the last issue of Town Topics, the town Council and Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser are considering goals and priorities for the rest of this year and into the future [“Council Takes Another Look at its Goals and Priorities, May 20]. Realistically, there will be another pandemic. Perhaps not in the same form as the current one, but some challenge that will threaten our health, safety, and welfare.

I have two suggestions for the mayor and the town Council to consider. First, all those who live and pay taxes in Princeton should receive a face mask, at no charge. I am sure it was awkward and difficult for many to know where and how to buy face masks. I have read that many countries gave face masks, at no charge, to all citizens. Princeton should do the same. 

Another suggestion. Listening to NPR radio and WNYC, many listeners called in expressing isolation, fear, and a sense of abandonment. I am sure that there are residents of Princeton who are in the same predicament of being alone in these challenging times. In Princeton there are several high schools, public and private. The Princeton high schools should ask third year and fourth year students to volunteer to participate in “ phone squads.” The students who volunteer should be given a list of 10 or 15 names of Princeton senior citizens. The phone squad volunteers should call those seniors at least twice a week. How comforting it would be for a senior who is alone to hear a young voice asking, “Are you all right?” “Is there anything you need?” “Do you need any medication from your pharmacy?” “Would you like to just talk for a few moments?” more

To the Editor,

To echo Alice K. Small’s letter in the May 20 edition of Town Topics, during my walk today, Friday, May 22, around the Riverside area and along Prospect Avenue to the University campus, I counted 71 people out and about and not in vehicles. Of these, 12 (17 percent) wore masks. The CDC’s guidance, reinforced by Governor Murphy, is that “You should wear a face covering whenever you leave your home.”

According to an analysis in the New York Times (The Upshot, May 22), Mercer County had the third highest number of new deaths per capita in the U.S. over the previous two weeks and the fifth highest per capita cumulative confirmed deaths. This is not a time for anyone to relax vigilance or to place neighbors in jeopardy.

Bernard Abramson
Prince William Court

May 20, 2020

To the Editor:

The Hopewell Borough family lost one of its own as Mrs. Betty Wold Johnson passed from this earth on Tuesday, May 5th. She was 99. She will be missed, immensely.

Anyone fortunate enough to have known Mrs. Johnson was blessed indeed. She was an amazing, kind, astute, generous and brilliant woman — and one that had a way of making everyone around her feel respected, important, welcomed. She was as interesting as she was interested. Her quick and curious mind and wit enabled fantastic and charming conversation. She would remember and later recall the most minute details of a conversation because when you were with her, she was fully present, fully engaged, completely interested in the story or the plan or the project in discussion. Later, she would add to and improve that idea or project, because she didn’t stop thinking about it. She didn’t surrender her attention until the idea or project was perfected, or the problem was resolved.

Mrs. J’s kindness and down-to-earth presence was legendary, and appreciated. She loved Hopewell Borough and we loved her. She was “our” Mrs. J. She loved life and she lived it to the fullest. To Mrs. J, spending time with her neighbors was one of life’s greatest joys. She was one of us. She had her “regular” table at Rose & Chubby’s (now Aunt Chubby’s), she would attend community events, she might weigh in on an issue affecting the Borough, and she was always, always, interested in improving “home” and the world around her. She taught us about community because she lived the highest principles that define community every single day. more

To the Editor:
I have been promising myself that I would write this letter to the editor for the past two years. Long before that time, I had found that Wednesdays were my favorite days of the week as THAT was the day I received Town Topics and within those pages would be an article by Stuart Mitchner.

Although Town Topics is, by any definition, a small-town publication, I dare say that no other newspaper in the country can boast having a writer as talented as Mr. Mitchner. His most recent article on Walt Whitman [May 6] would be my Exhibit A if I were proving my case. But my sense is that I am — through this letter — merely stating what the Town Topics readership already knows and would readily endorse. We are, as a community, simply lucky to have him, as is Town Topics. So, please consider this letter as a huge shout out and hearty “Thank you” to Mr. Mitchner for the hours we have spent reading his columns over the years.

Gerald Skey
Emmons Drive

To the Editor:
There seems to be a lot of confusion about Princeton’s program to aggregate the town’s electricity purchases. This program provides both a lower rate and electricity supply with renewable energy content (50% for all, 100% for those who choose that option).

Let’s be clear: when Constellation purchases renewable energy credits (RECs) from a solar or wind developer in the local grid (aka PJM), it is promoting the installation of renewable energy projects by providing additional revenue so that project investors can recapture their capital outlay over a 15- to 25-year term. Every kilowatt-hour of electricity that a wind or solar project generates — at zero emissions — and puts into PJM is a kilowatt-hour not generated by coal or natural gas. That means cleaner air, not just for you, but for the entire region as well.

Perhaps you’ve read the news: renewable energy will produce more electricity in the United States this year than coal will. You should be proud of Princeton for doing its part to move us toward a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable planet.

Tom Leyden
Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:
For as long as most of us can remember, Memorial Day in Princeton has been commemorated with the annual Spirit of Princeton parade down Nassau Street featuring veterans, Scouts, Little Leaguers, drum brigades, and fire trucks ending with a ceremony in front of the Battle of Princeton Monument. It’s a heartwarming outpouring of community spirit.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we sadly are unable to celebrate Memorial Day this year in the traditional way, but we can still take the opportunity this holiday weekend to mark the occasion by honoring and giving thanks to all the men and women who have fought for the liberties and freedoms we enjoy today.  more

To the Editor:
Joe Small and I have lived in Princeton for 50 years, as of June 2020. I have always been really happy that we landed here, except I must now say, that as of today, I am not so sure. Because I guess that the Golden Rule no longer applies during this novel coronavirus crisis.

We don masks every time we go past our driveway and plan to be out and about. It seems that our neighbors in Princeton do not act in the same way. We were out today, and I would say that 95 percent of the people we saw were not wearing masks, and 0 percent of the young people! What a great disappointment in this so-called enlightened community. Shame! Is it that I care more about you than you care about me? I am truly appalled. Please tell me I’m wrong.

Alice K. Small
Hawthorne Avenue