June 2, 2021

To the Editor:

Last Wednesday, I tuned into a neighborhood meeting given by the University about their new East Campus plan, a large project extending north and east of the football stadium. I had heard a little about it, but thought it mostly impacted a number of parking lots and the Ferris Thompson apartments.

After the presentation, though, I had a hard time sleeping. I learned that this project is so vast (nearly 15 acres!) that it would sprawl even up to Prospect Avenue — and incredibly, that the University is planning to demolish three Victorian-era houses I’d always found delightful, and which have added charm and warmth to the Prospect neighborhood for so many years.

What’s more, they are planning to move one of the beautiful Eating Club manors from its current location next to all the others, and sandwich it between an apartment building and a parking garage.

In its place, I learned, the University is proposing to add a discordant, modern Engineering complex with 250’ of exposure along the length of Prospect, shattering the visual continuity and forever altering the feeling and atmosphere of this grand, historic avenue. more

To the Editor:

Princeton University’s application for a variance from zoning regulations for 1) moving the historic Court Clubhouse at 91 Prospect Avenue out of the National Register Princeton Historic District; 2) demolishing three graceful Victorian-era houses at 110, 114, and 116 Prospect; and 3) constructing a new pavilion at 91 Prospect that will be incompatible with the Historic District should be denied by the Historic Preservation Commission at its hearing at 3 p.m. on June 7 and by the Planning Board at its hearing at 7:30 p.m. on June 17.

All three components of the University’s proposed development on Prospect Avenue violate National Park Service policy for historic districts and buildings, and will irrevocably damage the iconic streetscape of 15 historic eating clubs and three Victorian houses that is unique to Princeton. The University’s rationale for doing this? — to attract and retain top faculty. Many of those faculty will no doubt be appalled by the University’s overreach on Prospect. Everyone in town admires the University and wants it to be as successful as possible, but at the expense of town and campus history? Its proposed plan for needless destruction and intrusion on Princeton’s most distinctive street is a bridge too far, and yet another damaging encroachment into a residential neighborhood. more

To the Editor:

I am writing to urge the town to designate the western end of Prospect Avenue as a Local Historic District. Part of this neighborhood is currently on the National Register of Historic Places, but unfortunately, that does not seem to be enough to fully protect it.

I’ve lived in Princeton for half my life, much of which I’ve spent studying or teaching aesthetics, art history, language, and literature at the University I love. Every day for some two decades, I’ve relished walking, running, or riding up Prospect Avenue, taking in the charm of the Queen Anne Victorians to the right, and the grandeur of the 19th and early 20th century Eating Clubs to the left. As I’ve climbed the hill to the University, the historic character of these buildings has helped me transition to a community committed to the life of the mind and service. I understand why some have called our majestic Prospect Avenue the Champs-Élysées of Princeton.

In recent years, I’ve noticed that the Queen Anne Victorians have not been well tended to; the paint has been left to chip and the exteriors have fallen into some disrepair. Since the University has tremendous financial resources for new construction projects, I’ve wondered why its building managers have not better cared for the structures already under their charge. more

To the Editor:

Six years ago, I enjoyed the privilege of having a letter published in this newspaper (“Spike in Tear-Downs Offers Princeton Sustainability, Affordability Opportunity” July 29, 2015) arguing for a more significant and proactive policy to address the trend of teardowns in Princeton. I expressed then and still believe that while teardowns will happen, and McMansions defy any legislation that night curb them the overall community should benefit more from their overall effect on the makeup and image of Princeton. Specifically, I hoped that our local government might follow the example of other U.S. towns on teardowns and impose a fee for such actions in the form of a water hookup or other connection fee that would then make more money available for such causes as affordable housing. Had our elected officials enacted such a policy, Princeton’s coffers by now would have gained millions of dollars from such fees. Nothing happened.

Two years ago, Zoning Officer Derek Bridger called for efforts to “slow down and de-incentivize teardowns on substandard lots.” Changes in zoning arose in Council discussions at that time. Nothing happened.  more

To the Editor:

I want to address the mayor and Council’s current proposal for expanding street parking availability in Princeton’s in-town and near-town neighborhoods. The proposal reserves spaces for downtown employees and creates new parking by removing the overnight parking ban and adding new permits for residents.

As a former Princeton Council member for 10 years, I know firsthand that requests for parking from employees and residents are often tinged with desperation and stories of hardship. Council members may believe their plan achieves a measure of social justice for low-paid workers and for those who live in modest homes that lack driveways or whose driveways accommodate only one car. I disagree with that in terms of both residential and commercial parking. 

A parking spot for one’s car is a cost of owning a car. Employee parking is a cost of doing business.

When considering providing new parking spaces for residents, it is important to understand that houses with no driveways have lower purchase prices and pay lower taxes than houses with plentiful parking. In other words, these residences are more affordable. Adding new parking spaces will increase their price and their taxes.  more

To the Editor:

I appreciated Mr. Rodrigues’ Town Topics letter of May 19 [“Build More Housing to Solve Princeton’s Parking “Problem”], connecting the ongoing parking discussion to another important ongoing discussion: affordable housing.

I grew up in Princeton and moved back in my mid-20s to care for an ill parent. I made $35,000 a year at a local nonprofit, while my partner made under $10/hour while getting a professional degree. Three years later, we now both work for the town’s public institutions, giving back to the community that raised me. But we moved out of town because of the lack of affordable housing.

In Princeton, we struggled to find housing to share with friends in similar situations — wanting or needing to live in Princeton but unable to afford more than a room in a shared house. Part of the issue was the high rent, and part of it was the preference of landlords to rent to traditional families or Princeton PhDs. more

To the Editor:

Princeton is clearly a community that cares about the environment and big issues like climate change. And yet, with all we do, it’s easy to wonder whether our actions are equal to the climate emergency. Our congresswoman, Bonnie Watson Coleman, has taken a step that is equal to the climate challenge by cosponsoring the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, HR 2307. The bill would put a steadily rising fee on carbon and return the funds to households.

The third thing the bill would do is to establish a border adjustment. “The border adjustment might actually be the most important feature,” according to Citizens Climate Lobby Executive Director Mark Reynolds, “because what the border adjustment essentially says [to] other countries [is], ‘If you don’t put a price on carbon in your country, we’re going to impose it here.’” more

To the Editor:

The Harry’s Brook watershed is recorded to be one of the “flashiest” in the country. That means that it does not take much rain to produce a flash flood. I live on Harry’s Brook, and in the last decade what used to be called 100-year floods have, for some of my neighbors, become five-year, two-year, or even one-year floods. Every time the Zoning or Planning Boards issue a variance allowing for an increase in impervious surfaces on a lot on our street, the mismanagement is made visible by our eroding backyards and flooded basements. The typical excuse for the variance is “property rights,” but what about the property rights of people who have owned their properties for decades? And why should taxpayers have to pay more because these variances are making our stormwater infrastructure issues significantly worse?

The developer of the last over-sized house built on our street was told by the Planning Board to plant native trees and install rain gardens. The trees were not native, they died, and the rain gardens were poorly designed. Now the new owners are stuck having to cut down the dead trees and their unresolved water issues contribute to the downstream flooding. I am amazed that the Zoning and Planning Boards have not figured out that the only people benefiting from the construction of over-sized houses, that increase impervious surfaces, are the developers; not the new buyers or the existing homeowners.

This has to stop. To effectively manage Princeton stormwater issues, I want to encourage residents to demand that the Zoning and Planning Boards put a moratorium on variances that increase impervious surfaces. Princeton has a strong ordinance that requires stormwater management for new development. If we are going to begin to address flooding in neighborhoods like mine, we also need to ensure that stormwater is managed with green infrastructure when appropriate redevelopment occurs, and we need enforcement.

Carolyn Rouse
Wheatsheaf Lane

To the Editor:

Recently, letters were sent to the Town Topics Mailbox addressing parking, bicycle lanes, housing, and the shopping center enlargement proposals. I agree with the points made, and would like to add some thoughts below:

1. Why is the shopping center site up for grabs again for adding more “affordable” housing in an area that has seen increased traffic over the last 10-15 years on Terhune, Valley, and Harrison? If Council members had done their homework, the wooded area abutting the shopping center and Terhune was voted down for additional housing many years ago through the efforts of northeast residents. The little park is used for baseball games. The shopping center is used as a meeting place, exercise walks, and has ample parking for a comeback of more restaurants, gyms, shops, and venues for seasonal events. Leave our little ’50s style shopping center and surrounding green space alone!

2. Valley Road School. Why has it taken so long for Council and the School Board to make a decision to renovate this historic building built by our esteemed Italian masons 100 years ago? Valley Road School was discarded for renovation due to “mold” issues, only to be replaced by a new $20 million municipal building which developed mold issues — resulting in more cost to the taxpayers. Could Valley Road possibly be considered for condo-type housing with a small gym and grocery store to house our growing senior population? And perhaps the open space next to the Valley Road School might be redesigned for outdoor activities such as concerts, festivals, etc. when not in use for sporting events. There is ample free parking nearby. The building is near Witherspoon for a short drive or walk into town; 206 is nearby for access to points north and south. The same might be true for considering the unused “recreation” space near Community Park School. A diverse population lives in that area and would welcome more affordable housing. Plenty of parking there and access to town.  more

May 26, 2021

To the Editor:

As spring slides into summer and the sound of cicadas compete with the sound of traditional landscaping, seeds of hope have taken root in Princeton. The Changing the Landscape: Healthy Yards = Healthy People/Cambiando el Paisaje: Jardines Sanos = Gente Sana project kicked off in January and is making progress. The project seeks to move our community to adopt practices that protect the health of landscapers and the environment in a way that embeds racial equity into local decision-making and builds partnerships between government, sustainability groups, and community-led frontline groups.

Key accomplishments to date include multiple focus groups with landscapers in English and Spanish; meetings between landscapers and municipal leadership; and kicking off a campaign to educate residents to do their part.

The project Steering Committee — which includes the Princeton Environmental Commission, Unidad Latina en Acción NJ, the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Quiet Princeton, Rutgers School of Public Health, the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program, and several Municipality of Princeton departments and commissions, including Human Services, the Board of Health, and the Civil Rights Commission — invite you to learn more about the project by reading the Spring 2021 Newsletter at sustainableprinceton.org/current-projects. more

To the Editor:

Thank you to our community for its amazing continued support. We are delighted to share that this year’s Morven in May weekend was the most successful in our history, despite having the Garden Party “blown” into the following evening by unusually high winds. The plant sale also surpassed all pre-pandemic sales records. Our event chairs Ashley Formento, Liza Morehouse, Martha Sword, Elizabeth Wislar, and Marcia Zweig were superlative hostesses, and we owe them a debt of gratitude.

We were delighted by the response to our partnership with the Arts Council of Princeton, with “Paint Out Princeton at Morven in May” hosting record numbers of plein air painters throughout the weekend safely painting on our grounds and producing our first online gallery of their work which can be seen at this link: morven.org/paint-out-princeton-2021.

Morven was one of the first New Jersey museums to reopen its galleries in July 2020 following all CDC and safety protocols after keeping our 5-acre property in the heart of Princeton open for passive visitorship throughout the shutdown. We continue to work hard to meet people where they are comfortable; we expanded our garden tours, outdoor history strolls, and turned our traditional weekly tea into no-contact box lunches in the garden and broadened our array of offerings to include presenters from around the world zoomed in for Morven specific content, all features we probably wouldn’t have so quickly adopted had the pandemic not necessitated out-of-the-box thinking. more

To the Editor:

My name is Maya Wahrman, and I am currently a Masters of Social Work student at Rutgers University, working full time at Interfaith-RISE in refugee resettlement and serving families and individuals living in Princeton, Trenton, and across central and south Jersey. I moved to Princeton nine years ago as an undergraduate at the University, and after graduating I worked for two years at the University’s Office of Religious Life in interfaith programming, focusing on immigration justice.

I came to know the town of Princeton as a community that I wanted to contribute to and see flourish. I volunteered at Princeton High School mentoring unaccompanied minors in the ELL class and with local refugee families. I moved into direct client service and worked for a year at the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund in Trenton (LALDEF) as a bilingual client advocate and case manager in partnership with a Trenton middle school. As an active member of Princeton Mutual Aid and a social worker I see the immense possibilities in Princeton and Mercer County for support of our vulnerable neighbors and the growing immigrant and Latino communities in our town.

I have had the great fortune of knowing Eve Niedergang my whole life, as our families have been close friends since before I was born. When I moved to Princeton Eve always hosted me graciously for dinner, drove me to appointments, and helped me with whatever I needed. I saw Eve’s commitment to Princeton, her knowledge and care toward all the different layers of our community. She has always showed me and everyone in my circle immense generosity and kindness of spirit, paired with a nuanced thoughtful approach to politics, from her own neighborhood to the federal level and beyond.  more

To the Editor:

At my advanced age, many may have expected that I would not be here to write this. Neither do I know, after taking every imaginable precaution, how I caught COVID pneumonia. Now that I’m returning to full health, I believe that it was Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center, its doctors and staff, that saved me. I am evermore convinced of how fortunate we are here in Princeton to have such professional, caring, and dedicated medical professionals.

My gratitude extends beyond my stay at our local hospital. After I was discharged, I continued receiving excellent care at home including visits from a physical therapist, a home aide, and a registered nurse. And so I continue getting better.

The entire medical team with their outstanding skills, dedicated professionalism, and deep kindness have pulled me through this. For that I would like to publicly thank them all.

Carolyn Leeuwenburgh
Jefferson Road

To the Editor:

The current proposal for selling parking spaces on our residential streets in order to add bike lanes to a major artery is a disaster. We urge Council to turn down this plan. Both components of the plan — bicycle lanes on a major road, and the sale of parking spaces on residential streets — will have catastrophic and far-reaching results.

Hamilton/Wiggins/Paul Robeson is a major artery in town that runs parallel to Nassau Street and serves as a connecting link to major highways in our county, our state, and beyond. It is misguided to think that this major crosstown artery is wide enough to accommodate bicycles as well as the heavy traffic and trucks that use this road on a normal traffic day. Bicycles are not meant to be part of a major network of heavily traveled highways. 

Where are the traffic surveys that led to this plan? Consider this: during the past 15+ months of the COVID pandemic, traffic was anything but normal, much lighter, almost non-existent. Schools were closed and most office employees worked at home. No one was commuting to work! This will change as schools and businesses open again. Summer traffic is also light, with schools closed and people out of town, so any traffic surveys taken during the past 15+ months and including this summer must be incorrect. This is not the time to make major changes to any roads or traffic patterns. more

To the Editor:

Let me second Terry Lyons’ letter of May 19 on the vitality of the Princeton Shopping Center (PSC). All retail areas have suffered during the COVID pandemic including downtown Nassau Street. This general retail downturn is not a reason to hand massive tax breaks (PILOTS) to would-be developers of the PSC who could well turn it into another failed Forrestal Village, or Route 1 strip mall.

The Sustainable Princeton Fair of April 24 was a vivid example of how valuable the PSC courtyard is as a community resource. Another example is the Blue Bears restaurant that is dedicated to providing a place of dignity to work for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Nomad’s saw a business opportunity in the PSC and opened a new pizza restaurant without any PILOTs. The New York Sports Club (NYSC) at the PSC was thriving but closed on the day of the Governor Murphy’s COVID order, contrary to the claim of “multiple vacancies well before COVID” in the Preliminary Investigation Report by Carlos Rodrigues. I know because I was a regular NYSC member who suddenly could not enter the club that day.

McCaffrey’s, Ace Hardware, Walgreens, and many other PSC stores well serve the community. The loss in property taxes from PILOTS would necessarily increase in taxes on Princeton residents. Far from being “obsolete,” the PSC is an essential community resource that should be preserved as is. 

Charles Skinner
Western Way

May 19, 2021

To the Editor:

Our elected officials have been working hard to figure out how to “solve” Princeton’s parking “problem,” specifically targeting the downtown labor force, as well as the high school students, faculty, and administrators.

The current thinking seems to be to manage the existing on-street parking supply around the downtown and the high school differently, with various types of paid permits, and to have the whole thing managed by a private, for profit vendor.

Why anyone would think that it is a good idea to provide more student parking is beyond me. So the entitled little darlings can spend another 15 minutes in bed, before tearing down our neighborhood streets in their late model Audis and BMWs? I don’t think so.

There is a stronger case to be made with respect to the school staff and downtown workers. And better managing the existing supply of on-street parking is certainly a superior alternative to building new parking lots. But it misses the point. more

To the Editor:

Summer concerts, community fairs, outdoor dining, easy access, plantings in bloom, places to stroll and relax — we can enjoy all these at the Princeton Shopping Center. Its courtyard is a lively contrast to more modern malls.

But the consultant who reported on the need for redevelopment (“Council Approves Recommendation for Shopping Center Area Development,” May 5, page 8) says the courtyard is under-utilized and contributes to the center’s obsolescence.

What’s your opinion? Let the town Council and candidates know your view.

Terry Lyons
Deer Path

May 12, 2021

To the Editor:

Phyllis Marchand — our mother/wife — thrived on interacting with the people of Princeton in her roles as an elected official, as a community volunteer, and as a friend. Watching her interactions for the past five decades has taught us that you can never say “thank you” enough. The “thank yous” we have said in person and in letters seem to have barely scratched the surface of our gratitude. Today we want to publicly reiterate our thanks to the many friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and strangers who have comforted us with notes, donations, and expressions of love, concern, and invaluable remembrances/anecdotes about her. We wish we could mention all of you by name, but you know who you are.  

We especially want to express our appreciation to the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad and the Princeton Police Department whose responsiveness, professionalism, and sensitivity to Phyllis was exceptional.  We were also touched by the team of Phyllis’ close friends who organized with care and efficiency the warm tribute to Phyllis — a street corner salute and expression of thanks — as her funeral procession turned onto Wiggins Street in its approach to the Princeton Cemetery.

Our family is planning to celebrate Phyllis’s life at a future time. It will also be a celebration of the members of the Princeton community who inspired her from the very first day we became part of this exceptional town.

Sy, Michael, Deborah, and Sarah Marchand
Montadale Drive

To the Editor:

Yes, it is that time of year again — the June 8 Democratic primary is quickly approaching.  As co-chair (Kathy) and communications director (Nick) of Eve Niedergang’s campaign, we urge you to vote to re-elect Eve to Princeton Council. Eve is finishing up her first term on Council this year, during which she has worked tirelessly to fairly represent our community. We think she deserves another term.

Why are we such fans of Eve? Council membership takes a lot of work, and the past year has been a challenging year for our town. Princeton Council is lucky to have Eve as a strong, unbiased, hardworking member who is devoted to serving to all our citizens. Her door is always open. On any particular issue, Eve actively solicits input from interested groups, listens to those voices, and makes a fair, transparent, and conscientious decision. She is knowledgeable yet knows when to seek out expert advice.  more

May 5, 2021

To the Editor:

The Princeton University Art Museum and various commercial property owners have given us a wonderful gift of really well-produced images from the museum’s rich and diverse collection. That is no small effort and is a great bridge for the economic changes in the retail sector (beginning before the pandemic) and the construction period during which the museum will be closed.

The museum is such a great local asset. I hope everyone takes a moment and looks around at the installations on Palmer Square and the Princeton Shopping Center. 

David Schure
Stockton Street

To the Editor:

As a retired member of the U.S. Foreign Service, I was proud to represent America in three countries over my 20 years of service. I write this in advance of Foreign Service Day on May 7, a day designated by Congress to honor our active-duty and retired members of the Foreign Service.

The past year of devastation and uncertainty has been difficult for everyone. This includes members of our Foreign Service who have remained on the front lines throughout the pandemic, working to bring more than 100,000 Americans home safely and continuing to protect and serve America’s interests abroad.

Diplomacy, development and security is the Foreign Service’s first line of defense, neutralizing issues before they become threats to Americans. This year has demonstrated the need for increased global engagement and the importance of U.S. global leadership.

Linda Sipprelle
Victoria Mews

To the Editor:

How lucky we are to have two great candidates running for Princeton Council this election cycle. We have the incumbent, Councilwoman Eve Niedergang, who has shown us how caring she is about many important topics. I know that Councilwoman Niedergang provided the residents of this great town the opportunity to see her work and help the community through many difficult issues. After serving 15 years as an elected Princeton Councilman, I know the many hours you must be able to provide the town. It takes time, energy and perseverance to become a strong and accepted Councilperson.

It is my pleasure to introduce to some of the residents of Princeton our future Councilman, Leighton Newlin. I have known Leighton for over 40 years; and I respect him and his decision making skills. We are going through very serious times with our elected leaders in this country. Just look around and see the questionable and non-caring behavior exhibited by so many elected officials. This will change with Leighton Newlin in office. The caring and support for everyone will begin on Leighton’s first day in office. Leighton has served  as chairperson of Princeton Housing Authority for over 20 years. Leighton has been serving the Witherspoon-Jackson community for many years; and his help with the historic designation for the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood was simply amazing.  more

To the Editor:

I want to take a moment to share my experience as the small business owner of Gratitude Yoga in downtown Princeton. From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic our loyal following has supported us throughout our shift to a user-friendly, cost effective virtual studio.

We want to thank all of our clients who have stayed with us and the many people who have encouraged us as we navigated this unprecedented time.  We are so grateful to all of you. We hope to continue to offer yoga and meditation in a warm and uplifting atmosphere, and to flourish as a compassionate yoga community in this ever-changing landscape.

Gemma Farrell
Owner, Gratitude Yoga
Spring Street

To the Editor:

We, Community Park School parents, would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who purchased a Princeton Perks discount card over the past months. Back in December 2020, a CP parent had the bright idea to create the Princeton Perks card, which entitles holders to special deals at some 80 local restaurants, shops, and services throughout 2021, to help fill a fundraising gap felt by parent teacher organizations everywhere this year. We hoped to also drum up traffic for many of our favorite establishments. Thanks to you, nearly 1,500 Perks cards are now in circulation around town, and the parent teacher organizations of Princeton’s public and charter schools raised a combined $17,500. 

While the idea may have germinated at CP, it was a collaborative effort from the start. We could not have launched the card without the help of parents from Littlebrook, Riverside, and Johnson Park elementaries. And we’re equally indebted to parents at Princeton Charter School, Princeton Unified Middle School, and Princeton High School, who added their energy and ideas as the program expanded. It was a true delight to work together and we hope this is just the start of a new era of cooperation among our schools. more

April 28, 2021

To the Editor:

In addition to the noise from blowers and mowers, in our neighborhood we have the problem of truck traffic—big, heavy trucks struggling up or screaming down Elm Road from morning to night. There is a highway two blocks away (route 206), but this village street is regularly crowded with huge trucks: moving vans, dump trucks, construction vehicles. There are no weight restrictions, so the largest vehicles available can legally drive on the road, flattening and fracturing the blacktop. There is no engine braking law, so heavy trucks coming down the hill can legally sound like the outbreak of WWIII. There are always young children and older citizens nearby; a heavy truck driving mishap here could be catastrophic.

Two actions are needed. One, the town should do everything possible to restrict truck traffic on Elm Road: set weight limits, outlaw engine breaking, post signage prohibiting overweight truck traffic and directing such traffic to more appropriate streets.

Second, Quiet Princeton should acknowledge traffic noise as part of the noise problem they are working to resolve. It is not a one neighborhood problem; a larger Quiet Princeton effort will find support from many neighborhoods in Princeton.

We can have a quiet Princeton if we work at it.

Paul Cruser
Westerly Road