March 6, 2013

To the Editor:

In her letter of Feb. 27 (“Opposition to AvalonBay Not ‘Widespread’”) Sandra Persichetti makes some excellent points that should have been considered at least six months ago. As she points out, we are now the defendants in expensive legislation, with a potential of $2 million in damages, plus cost of defense.

This is the second time that the hospital has been on the verge of selling this non-productive asset that is a significant cash drain. If this option expires May 1, it doesn’t help the chances for the hospital to find another purchaser. Given the recent history, it is hard to imagine another developer willing to go the trouble of trying to develop the property. If the option to purchase expires on May 1, we’re back where we started — a deteriorating vacant building occupying a significant piece of property. We already have one of these on Valley Road, and that has not been a good experience, as was pointed out by Mr. Woodbridge in his recent letter.

We are all dependent on the services of the Princeton Hospital. To be unable to sell this property puts an incredible financial burden on our hospital. If the property is ever to be sold, some form of multi family housing is probably inevitable.

Maybe the AvalonBay development plan was flawed. However, the value of the underlying real estate is such that it is probably not reasonable to expect that the site will be turned into something like a bird sanctuary.

William Stephenson

Governors Lane

To the Editor:

With interest and relief I read in Town Topics (Feb. 27, “‘No Dearth of Ideas’” on DOT’s Route 1 Concept”) the page one story on debates over a Route 1 concept that would alleviate bottlenecks and delays between Princeton, West Windsor, Plainsboro, and the new University Medical Center — that glassy hybrid of motel and airport that looks more accessible than it is. May I add this detail to the discussion: This summer I was scheduled for daily radiation in the oncological wing of the Medical Center in a rush-hour slot — 4:40. The treatment was excellent. I was not so sick that I was obliged to haul a huge car with me and then fume passively while it was trapped in traffic, so part of the recovery plan was to bike to and fro from the Borough (a 17-minute exercise) down Harrison to the crosswalk across Route 1, and then, during the red light, a sharp and fast dart up north to the hospital turn-off. In a car this trip could take up to 45 congested minutes at that time of day; the mobility and sense of urgency provided by a bicycle was (I am sure) itself a healing factor.

Could we please look at the physical state of lower Harrison Street (after the bridge) from this perspective? Hairpin turns and bad visibility, yes — but not only is there no shoulder, there are all sorts of treacherous trash, potholes, weeds, lumps of blacktop and broken glass, as if any human being accidentally outside a car was positively punished. Approaching the hospital complex was also hazardous, although there one must assume that landscaping was still in progress. In addition to the elaborate indoors health club being constructed on hospital grounds, however, how about a safe bike (and walking) path across that little bridge and to the hospital? I was fortunate to have a biking escort for most of these hospital visits, which greatly improved the safety, but not every client can count on that.

In July, new bicycle routes in Copenhagen to and from urban hospitals got quite a bit of press. Women gave birth and biked home with their newborns. European and Asian cities routinely make allowance for people who want to propel themselves to where they need to go, not only by pressing on a gas pedal. To provide a decent, healthy non-motor path from Princeton to the new hospital would be a fine community service and worthy end-point for our tax dollars.

Caryl Emerson

Dempsey Avenue

To the Editor:

With AvalonBay (AB) appealing the Planning Board’s denial of its application, the new Planning Board and Princeton Council are considering their response. New members of the Council and the Planning Board have a responsibility to review the public record of Board Hearings of the AvalonBay project, especially the graphic representations and massing designs shown by local architects. Words like “monolith” came alive — so also “scale” and street “frontage.” After seeing these visuals, everyone understood the overwhelming mass of the development. Urban planner Peter Steck argued that the plans required multiple c- and d- variances. Forty residents spoke; 38 of them opposed the project.

The illustrations are central to comprehending the radically disruptive character of AvalonBay’s wedge in the Witherspoon Street corridor. AB didn’t present a single visualization of its 367,808 sq. ft. apartment building in the context of the neighborhood of two-story houses, which would have revealed the cookie-cutter design’s inconsistency with the neighborhood in scale and character. The Board criticized the lack of visuals in its memorializing resolution, with attorney Muller writing that AvalonBay didn’t provide the Board with “accurate and sufficient information” (page 36).

AvalonBay’s appeal claims that the ordinance language is “vague”. But the visual presentations demonstrate clearly that AB’s plans don’t comply with this language and that the language is thus enforceable. Princeton’s attorneys should ask Judge Jacobson to admit the visualizations into evidence. Any legal deliberations of AvalonBay’s appeal would be flawed without them.

Wendy Ludlum

South Harrison Street

To the Editor:

I hope the Princeton Council will stand firm in opposition to any further proposal by AvalonBay (AB),

1) which advertises its efforts to avoid paying taxes.

2) which is intransigent in negotiations, as shown by the refusal to consider suggestions of citizens and repeated efforts to shut down citizen communication with the Council.

3) whose design is outmoded, un-green, and cookie cutter, not designed to complement the surrounding neighborhood or the Master Plan so carefully worked out between the hospital and the town well before the hospital moved to Plainsboro or met with AvalonBay.

4) which shades the truth re need for a pool, when the town has just rebuilt its handsome pool right across the street (“AvalonBay always has one”), ability to “do retail” (but they have done it elsewhere), location of possible cesspools (they say that if it smells they will deal with it, rather than look for the cesspool that is thought to be buried under the garage.)

Regardless of AvalonBay’s protestations, this project, if completed, will strain municipal services (The 280 units insisted on will accommodate how many children? Use how much water? Produce how much” waste, how much traffic and at what hours?)

We can all go on and on discussing these and other items that have surfaced during the year of public comment, but worst of all, AvalonBay’s approach in every possible way defies and contradicts the community that surrounds it.

1) A concentration of affordable housing such as AB offers to counter all objections is no substitute for town wide planning; it is a plug set to backfire.

2) It will not integrate itself into the community; like the towering condos now going vacant on Palmer Square, it will look down on — yes, condescend to — its neighbors.

3) Whatever is built there will increase tax pressure on the existing affordable housing in John Street, which is already driving a slow exodus of blacks who have historically served the community in so many ways. Therefore,

4) Anything proposed must offer the benefits of upgraded retail complementing the town’s effort to upgrade the Witherspoon Street corridor.

5) And it must integrate the John Street neighborhood that it faces on into the rest of the community by creating permeability and a real park.

I beg the Council to find alternatives; not just settle.

Mary Clurman

Harris Road

To the Editor:

This is our town and we cannot allow some outside corporation or real estate so-called “trust” tell us what to do here. In case nobody has noticed, the central axis of civil society in Princeton is moving from the University-dominated Nassau St to the full length of Witherspoon Street.

Witherspoon Street has a lot of what any town needs for life: a town hall, a church, a school, a swimming pool, restaurants, small businesses, a neighborhood grocery store, a fine clothing shop, headquarters of a charity, an arts center, and even a graveyard. There is a bar. Oh, and I forgot the wonderful town library. This is only a partial list of what we need in our town. A vibrant mix.

The hospital site is right in the center of all this, and can be thought of as the center of our newly consolidated town.

The massive THING proposed by AvalonBay and wisely rejected by our Planning Board would deaden the vibrancy by blocking up the area where our real need is for more streets, more connections between neighborhoods, and more choice between types of rental housing.

Yes, we need rental housing, but our town deserves good design. We reject AvalonBay and what it stands for.

Sarah Hollister

Ridgeview Road

To the Editor:

Princeton’s mayor and Council have reportedly “offered” resignation or investigation to Police Chief David Dudeck because certain officers within his department claim he engaged in inappropriate intra-departmental communications.

The public needs mayor and Council to conduct an appropriate investigation of the allegations and the credibility of those who made them. Our elected representatives would shirk their statutory accountability for police management not to pursue such an investigation, regardless of a resignation by Chief Dudeck.

This is not to pre-judge the allegations against Chief Dudeck: who knows what truth lies in police precincts? But one thing is clear: fueled by management-union and Borough/Township tensions, the legacy of intra-departmental politics that plagued both the former Borough and Township police has degenerated to a new low in the newly consolidated department.

A few years ago, Borough Chief Anthony Federico led a poorly executed effort to reorganize the department, resulting in the firing, suspension, or indictment of no less than one third of the Borough force. The Borough’s governing body took a hands-off approach to the near collapse of the department.

When the last three Township police chiefs each resigned following reports of mismanagement, improper conduct, or criminal charges, the Township governing body never brought the facts to light but, instead, granted the chiefs handsome retirement packages and buried any analysis of police dysfunction.

Successive failures by Princeton governing bodies to manage their police departments have resulted in millions of dollars — yes, millions — in unjustifiably high personnel costs, unnecessary lawsuit awards, settlements and legal fees, and bad police morale. Mismanagement wastes tax money and impairs public safety.

History will be repeated if mayor and Council fail to address the systemic problems underlying the allegations against Chief Dudeck simply by “offering” him resignation and an expensive retirement, and then reshuffling the deck of officers in the newly consolidated department.

Princeton’s new governing body must demonstrate that it has the mettle to deal with the intra-departmental tensions that are behind the pending allegations. It must pursue an appropriate investigation to assure Princetonians that it is their informed elected representatives, and not a cadre of over-politicized police officers, who control the public safety functions of the community.

Roger Martindell

Patton Avenue

February 27, 2013

To the Editor:

As Princeton students and alumni living in town, we cherish our unique local establishments — and none so much as the iconic Small World Coffee. So we were disappointed to see that for the past month this beloved institution has been sponsoring the controversial sex education organization HiTOPS, whose activities offend many of Small World’s patrons.

What is so offensive about HiTOPS? The organization uses its monopoly status in 50 communities around New Jersey to teach students a sexual ethic most parents would find objectionable. We don’t mean that they acknowledge something we all know — that not every student will wait until they are married to have sex. But there is a big difference between presenting high school children with medical facts about reproduction and STIs and fostering an environment that encourages sexual risk taking — by those too young to grasp fully the risks they take. But how does HiTOPS encourage sexual risk taking? By coercing students into sharing intimate conversations — their feelings about sex — with strangers (talk about peer pressure), emphasizing the negative size of waiting (“it’s really hard”), and desensitizing students by showing extremely graphic images of a condom being used. HiTOPS lessons on abstinence suggest that “sexting,” watching porn with a boyfriend or girlfriend, and cuddling naked are all behaviors that can be part of a healthy sexually abstinent lifestyle. For a fifteen-year-old. The curriculum encourages “limiting” a teen’s number of sexual partners, rather than postponing sex until an age when the brain’s ability to make responsible decisions — and handle the consequences — has been better formed. (There is a reason the drinking age is 21, not 15.) Limiting sexual partners to 1 per year starting at 16 may seem not bad. But consider that (statistically speaking) these students are unlikely to marry until their late twenties. Even if they maintain a rate of only 1 sexual partner per year (and that’s generous considering many will take part in the college hook-up scene), that’s at least 10 lifetime partners. With STI rates being what they are, this kind of “limiting” isn’t so safe after all.

Rather than encouraging students to discuss sexual decisions — or frightening situations teens may find themselves in — with their parents, students are told to make a list of local clinics (where parents are kept out of the loop) and turn to the strangers there for help when they are at their most vulnerable.

By turning serious decisions about sex into a series of cutesy jokes in skits and comics like “Condom Man,” HiTOPS strips sex of its inherent dignity. We appreciate that Small World gives back to the community every year by supporting charitable groups, but we hope that next year they will do more research into the organizations they support to avoid offending their patrons, but more importantly to avoid endorsing a program that harms our community under the pretext of serving the common good.

Caitlin Seery,

Spruce Street (Class of 2009)

Caroline Bazinet,

Princeton University (Class of 2014)

T.Z. Horton,

Princeton University (Class of 2015)

Cassandra (DeBenedetto) Hough,

Loetscher Place (Class of 2007)

Ana (Quesada) Samuel,

Bergen Street (Class of 2000)

To the Editor:

AvalonBay’s ill-considered lawsuit has prompted much public handwringing and many “I told you so’s” — usually from solons whose identities are concealed behind initials and pen-names.

Most of the critics make plain their view that the Planning Board should have waved through a site plan that even its most ardent supporters would describe as ill suited to the neighborhood into which its proposed buildings were to be dropped. Craftier critics chide our former Planning Board for disregarding “the law,” as if we do not have an abundance of evidence to remind us that sitting judges can do just about anything they please — and usually do.

AvalonBay’s charge of bias and willful evasion of the requirements of the various Mt. Laurel statutes is pure nonsense. Only a sophist would suggest that a desire for lower density and/or less intrusive design is prima facie evidence of a bias against “affordable housing.” In fact, housing does not need to be dense and ugly to be affordable, nor must reduced density and pleasing design imply a reduced commitment to affordable housing. Council might find it helpful to know — and to let the presiding judge know — that some of us are working to finance a locally sponsored development scheme, one that would reduce density by at least 50 percent but deed-restrict 56 of the new units for affordable housing.

The real issue — the only issue — is AvalonBay’s attempt to bully our town into imposing excessive density and poor design on one of our core downtown neighborhoods — with the certain result that existing affordable housing in adjacent neighborhoods (e.g. the Witherspoon Jackson neighborhood) will be made unaffordable as land values are driven skywards.

We will now discover whether or not our town’s leaders have the backbone to defend a vote that a brazen developer has chosen to challenge as arbitrary and capricious — a vote that never would have been needed had our town’s paid staff vetted the proposed project more thoroughly at the outset. Those who insist that AvalonBay was legally entitled to proceed might do well to review Peter Steck’s masterful critique of the application’s many deficiencies. His critique — perhaps the best single presentation I have ever seen — made clear that the application should never have reached the planning board.

Let us hope that Council votes to persevere, and that the town’s attorneys will not be too proud to cite Mr. Steck’s findings in their formal response to AvalonBay’s pleadings. And let us hope that, in the future, it will not be necessary for a citizens’ group to engage and pay outside experts to expose the blunders of the town’s paid staff.

Peter Marks

Moore Street

To the Editor:

I have been following the application of AvalonBay to develop the former hospital site on Witherspoon Street with great interest. I am disappointed that the Planning Board chose to reject the application knowing full well that it was within the parameters of the zoning ordinance. This rejection opens the municipality to a likely lawsuit from AvalonBay that would probably be decided in AvalonBay’s favor. I do not agree with Mayor Lempert that there was “widespread opposition” to the plan. The opposition by a small group of people under the guise of sustainability was vocal but not widespread. In some cases, members of that group are living in houses exceeding their needs with swimming pools and other improvements that are far from sustainable.

One may not like the developer or the development as proposed; however, one should consider the following before rejecting it.

If the plan meets the zoning ordinance, it is likely to stand up in court.

Lawsuits (which Princeton people seem to love) are costly to the municipality and I do not believe that is the best use of our tax dollars.

An empty hospital building will soon become derelict and the real estate taxes received from it will be reduced due to the lack of occupancy.

The sale of the building was part of a large and carefully considered financial plan for the hospital. It has already been reported that the hospital is losing thousands of dollars each month that the building is vacant. Those funds will never be made up.

If the density on the site is lowered, the value of the property will also be lowered. Previous potential buyers have not appeared given the uncertainty of the future possible zoning. And, of course, the number of affordable units will be decreased.

Private property developed in accordance with zoning ordinances should not be subjected to the whims of vocal objectors. I doubt that those objectors would make changes to their own properties based on what others think would be appropriate. One does wonder why these very vocal people who are so opposed to the AvalonBay development haven’t assembled the resources necessary to purchase the hospital site and develop it in accordance with their own plans for sustainability.

Sandra Persichetti

Trewbridge Court

To the Editor:

Yet again we Dinky-riders watched as the shuttle accelerated round the bend in the Princeton Junction parking lot just as our train arrived. I’ve had this general experience an annoying number of times, but this time I decided to record the specifics and offer a solution.

Last Saturday’s local 1:14 p.m. from Penn Station arrived at the Junction five minutes late at 2:31 — exactly the Dinky’s advertised departure time. Of the 32 frustrated customers, 25 shared cabs for the last leg of their journey. We others waited for 40 minutes for the Dinky to return for the 3:11 run back to the beloved old station. Once, when I absolutely had to be in town on time, I myself took a taxi: $18 without tip.

Logically, the Dinky could have waited at the Junction until 2:53 and still arrived at the Princeton station several minutes before its next scheduled return, inconveniencing only those riders already on the shuttle at 3:11 — or it could have made an additional (unscheduled) roundtrip. The conductor explained that he would be subject to discipline for failing to maintain schedule if he had waited, but he did point out that he has the authority to leave early when an “L” is shown on the schedule. Only if his special schedule has an “H” (for hold) can he delay departure.

The Solution: Reprint the Dinky pages in the employee timetable, with each scheduled departure from the Junction annotated with “H(old) up until [7 minutes before next scheduled departure from Princeton]”, with clock-times specifically calculated for those shuttles where this works. Even more trains could be met at the Junction, coming and going, if the Dinky were able to schedule more than three round trips an hour, but that would have to be negotiated with the union. Let’s start with the easy part.

Rodney Fisk

Birch Avenue

February 20, 2013

To the Editor:

In 2013, year one of the new consolidated Princeton, two seats on the Princeton Council will be up for election. As the president of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) and as the chair of the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee (PDMC), we are writing to encourage all genuinely interested Democrats to step forward as candidates for these seats. We want to briefly outline the endorsement process for the community, but potential candidates should contact us to learn more about the endorsement and primary election process, and all candidates must contact us by March 3 to be considered for endorsement. We will have an open reception this coming Sunday, February 24, from 2 to 4 p.m. at 210 Moore Street. If you are interested in running this year or in the future, please come and ask questions and learn more.

The endorsement process for Princeton Democrats will involve two steps, as it did last year. First, the PCDO will hold its annual endorsement meeting for local candidates on Sunday, March 17 beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Suzanne Patterson Center (behind the former Borough Hall). This meeting is a week earlier than usual to avoid conflicts with the public school break and Passover. After debate and discussion, PCDO members will vote by secret ballot to endorse Democratic candidates for two seats on the Council. The PCDO endorsement is an important step for Democrats who wish to compete for the nomination for these offices.

Second, the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee will hold its endorsement meeting the following evening on March 18, where the committee will receive the results of the PCDO endorsement vote. Candidates will each appear for a discussion with the Democratic Committee members, and then the committee will vote to endorse two candidates. The results of this two-step endorsement process will decide which candidates will receive the Democratic Party endorsements for the June primary. Candidates will have until April 1 to file nominating petitions in order to actually appear on the primary ballot. The Democrats selected in the June Primary will then appear on the November ballot.

Candidates seeking the PCDO endorsement must notify PCDO President Jon Durbin by March 3 (14 days prior to the meeting) by email at jonwdurbin@gmail.com or at (609) 924-2438. Similarly, Princeton Democrats should join the PCDO or renew their membership by March 3 to be eligible to vote at the March 17 meeting (dues are annual per calendar year, $15 suggested and $5 minimum). Membership information and a downloadable form are available at www.princetondems.org/join. To see the Democratic Committee members for your voting district, visit municipal-committee.princetondems.org/members.

Jon Durbin

Mt. Lucas Road, President, PCDO

Peter Wolanin

Spruce Street, Chair, PDMC

To the Editor:

Last week, the Princeton community was treated to a wonderful Commonground lecture on raising resilient children, by Lenore Skenazy, author of the book Free Range Kids: A Commonsense Approach to Parenting in these Overprotective Times. She took the opportunity to highlight the ways that modern parents can promote activities and provide environments that help kids become “smart, young, capable individuals, not invalids who needs constant attention and help.”

Scouting in Princeton is a way that parents can implement Lenore’s ideas. Girl Scouting and Boy Scouting use progressive experiences to prepare kids for adulthood. They promote child-led experiences and provide multiple opportunities for kids to explore and engage the world around them, all the while cultivating leadership.

For example, girls in Princeton have yearly opportunities to attend camp with older girls, and learn to survive and thrive without modern amenities. Their time with their troop, both at camp and at their field trips and meeting places, enables them to bond, be in the company of other adult authority figures and contribute to both their own development and the larger community. All the while, the girls practice common sense, have opportunities to challenge their comfort zone, and learn valuable skills.

Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts provide a similarly rich experience through which boys participate in a broad array of activities and adventures. Through camping, hiking, service projects, and other outdoor activities, boys learn skills that will help them overcome obstacles and challenges with courage and character throughout their lives. As they grow as leaders, they learn cooperation and teamwork, as well as the importance of being active members of the community.

We hope that all parents will consider how Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Boy Scouts could benefit their children as they grow, experience, and master the world around them. Please join us!

And if your own childhood and adulthood has equipped you with an expertise that would benefit Scouts in Princeton, please consider joining our volunteer ranks to give back to your community and positively affect the next generation.

Karen Freundlich

Stanford Place

Tracy King, Laura Felten

Girl Scouts of Princeton

Bill French

Cub Scout Pack 43

Kevin Baranowski

Cub Scout Pack 1880

Patrick Sullivan. Adrienne Rubin

Boy Scout Troop 43

To the Editor:

Princeton has witnessed over 20 years of lamentable neglect and lack of stewardship of highly valuable real property commonly known as the Valley Road School. Isn’t it time for a united Princeton to seize the initiative in resurrecting this facility for beneficial use both in providing needed services to the community and achieving savings to the taxpayer? We really do know how to do it. Let’s get something done!

Having been involved in some depth with the Valley Road complex of community facilities, I could recount a multitude of misadventures and inaction by the Board of Education, Princeton Township, and a host of others as responsible stewards of community real property. Just a few examples follow.

For years, the parties argued about who owned what, who should pay, and how much. During the Township’s lengthy occupancy little was done to maintain or repair the facility in spite of continual complaints about its poor condition, employee health issues, and inadequacy for its mission. Having then justified the need, the Township built what some refer to as the “Princeton Township Taj Mahal,” abandoning the school to further neglect and disuse. Soon thereafter, PRS completed a monumental $85 million school construction program and floated a recent $11 million bond issue without addressing their dilapidated building or working with the Town to resolve final disposition of the Valley Road School. A book could be written!

The good news is Valley Road School and other municipal facilities issues are now before a united Princeton community. This creates a wonderful opportunity to use innovative funding and project delivery approaches now being widely employed nationally to build and renovate community infrastructure. Yes, the town’s infrastructure includes our schools, public parks, recreation facilities, and community centers right along with the sewer plant on River Road, Public Works facilities, and Firehouses. A spectrum of methods, including Public-Private Partnerships and many hybrids with or without private ownership plus non-profit private 501c3 entities, among others, are available.

The Valley Road School is an ideal candidate for creation of a Community Center by a recently established, local 501c3 non-profit for supporting service organizations through conversion and repurposing using sustainable adaptive reuse. This project for adaptive reuse will require modest or no taxpayer funding for conversion, operations, and maintenance and the multiple community service non-profit tenants will be self-supporting. Further, Valley Road School continues to house community service organizations even after relocation of Corner House to prime Class A space in the former Borough Hall. Note that the just voted $11 million bond issue for PRS funds significant projects of a similar character, especially repair, renovation, and repurposing, for existing underutilized or deficient facilities.

Most important, current beneficial use and occupancy will continue and additional use commence almost immediately while work for repair, conversion, repurposing, and new occupancy of currently unused space proceeds.

Let’s start a “new normal” for beneficial use and stewardship of our valuable community real property. Get common sense things done quickly, not 20 years too late with opportunity costs and taxes issue foregone.

John Clearwater, P.E.

Governors Lane

February 13, 2013

To the Editor:

Your recent article on nepotism in hiring for town positions was interesting to me. I take issue with the opinions of the elected officials as to the propriety of municipal employees hiring members of their families for jobs, particularly choice summer jobs, unless these positions have been equally available and advertised to all residents of Princeton and not the result of “insider information” available to those with that advantage. Perhaps, however, priority should be given to children of Princeton residents and taxpayers. That would seem reasonable to me.

I was impressed last summer to be contacted by a young Princetonian about a summer job through our mutual college vocational bureau. Evidently she wanted to find a job on her own merit, not through the contacts of her family and neighbors. I thought that this was admirable and tried to help her.

Sallie W. Jesser

Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

The concerns about nepotism in the hiring of individuals to work for the Township could have been avoided if proper procedures were established and adhered to. Government agencies at every level fill positions by advertising in local and area newspapers as well as posting openings internally. To avoid actual or apparent prejudice or favoritism in selection of an individual, written procedures for vetting and selecting applicants must be adhered to.

This does not have to be a lengthy procedure. Its purpose is to ensure that the most qualified person is hired and to provide a record of the proceedings should an applicant challenge the hiring and possibly sue. The cost of one law suit will offset any minor costs involved. Mayor Lempert and Mr. Liverman were wrong in declaring that the hirings were proper. Princeton is not a “mom and pop” operation. In difficult economic times other individuals would probably welcome part-time work to supplement their income. We encourage our new consolidated government to institute and follow policy and procedures which avoid future controversies and improprieties such as this.

Jerry Palin, Sheila Siderman

Bouvant Drive

To the Editor:

On Saturday, February 2, at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, a group of over 120 young choristers lifted up their voices in song at the Sing with Us! concert that benefited Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Mercer County. The concert epitomized the idea of children helping children.

This amazing group of young singers, in middle and high school (grades 6-12), came from area community music organizations and houses of worship including Princeton United Methodist Church, Princeton Area Homeschool Choir, Nassau Presbyterian Church, American Boychoir, and The Trenton Children’s Chorus. Also lending their considerable talents and passion to the evening were a group of five young music education students from Westminster Choir College of Rider University, as well six students of the Westminster Conservatory.

The singers were led by nationally recognized composer and song leader Nick Page, who has put his unique creative stamp on the model of the sing-along, bringing the chorus and the audience together this night to sing powerful songs from around the world in celebration of many styles and cultures. Accompanying Nick and the chorus were pianist Philip Orr and bassist Sam Ward.

We extend our heartfelt thanks to so many who made this exceptional night happen. Led by co-chairs Sue Ellen Page of Nassau Presbyterian Church and Janet Perkins of Princeton Girlchoir, the Sing with Us! planning team of Lauren Yeh, Lori Woods, Yvonne Macdonald, Maureen Llort. and Denise Hayes made possible a very successful concert, the second in Nassau Presbyterian Church’s acclaimed Nassau Arts series. Also due special thanks are Nassau Presbyterian’s sound engineer, John Baker, and Debbi Roldan, a congregant, and tireless member of the CASA board.

The free will offering taken at the concert raised $2475 to benefit CASA of Mercer County. CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties is a non-profit organization dedicated to serving children in Mercer and Burlington Counties who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect. The mission of our program is that through trained community volunteers, these children will be assigned an advocate in court to ensure they receive needed services while in out-of-home placement and ultimately, a permanent home as quickly as possible.

With our spring training for child advocates just around the corner, we welcome those interested in making a difference in the life of a child. Visit www.casamercer.org or call (609) 434-0050 for information on upcoming one hour information sessions.

Randall Kirkpatrick

Director of Community Development,

CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties, Ewing

To the Editor:

On behalf of Special Olympics New Jersey, I wish to express my sincere appreciation for the support of Governor Chris Christie and Lieutenant Governor Kim Guadagno with the signing of Bill s1855. This Bill designates our organization as one of the New Jersey Charitable Funds residents may choose to endorse with a donation on their 2012 and 2013 New Jersey State income tax form. A special thank you also is extended to Special Olympics parent and Senate President Stephen Sweeney D-Gloucester, Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, and Assemblyman Dan Benson, D-Mercer, who championed the passing of this Bill.

Special Olympics New Jersey will field a “Home Team” of 265 athletes with intellectual disabilities to the 2014 USA Special Olympics Games, which will be June 14-21, 2014. Under the new law, taxpayers will be able to include a contribution on their tax returns to the “2014 Special Olympics New Jersey Home Team Fund.” This Bill will provide every New Jersey citizen an opportunity to allocate funds to Special Olympic athletes, who represent communities from across the state, so that they may compete at the highest level.

With the signing of this Bill, Governor Christie, Lieutenant Governor Guadagno, State Senate President Sweeney and many others who helped to pass this legislation have paid the very highest tribute to the Special Olympic athletes of New Jersey in their quest to compete at the highest level and represent the “Home Team.”

Special Olympics New Jersey is proud to host the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games and invites New Jersey citizens from throughout the state to visit www.specialolym
pics2014.org to learn more about the Games and www.sonj.org to get involved with Special Olympics New Jersey.

We welcome everyone to join in the celebration of GENUINE JERSEY PRIDE and contribute to the “Home Team” as they train for the 2014 USA Games.

Marc S. Edenzon

President, Special Olympics New Jersey

To the Editor:

Four-hundred-plus enthusiastic participants braved the weather Monday, January 28 to attend the 15th annual Princeton Community Works conference held at the Frist Center on the Princeton University campus. Participants from more than 200 non-profit organizations across the state networked and gained insights and information by attending workshops. Our deep gratitude goes to Princeton University for its generosity as our host, to the Princeton Rotary for their significant administrative support, to the 23 workshop presenters who donated their time and talents, and to our keynote presenter, the Princeton Volunteer Fire Department, who shared with us the importance of recruiting, training, trusting, and practicing with your volunteers to ensure your mission is met. I also want to express my sincere appreciation to our dedicated, hard-working, all volunteer operating committee who made this conference a reality.

Marge Smith

Founder and Chair, Community Works

Montadale Drive

To the Editor:

As I prepare to leave the Health Care Ministry (HCM) of Princeton, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone in the Princeton Community who has supported our work. Those of us who work in the non-profit sector think of ourselves as people who care for others, who serve others, and who support those in need. We don’t think of ourselves first as recipients of caring. Yet if it were not for so many in our community who cared for us, we at the Health Care Ministry would not be able to fulfill our mission of assisting the elderly to remain independent in their homes as long as that is safely possible. If individuals did not give of their time as volunteers, if donors did not give us funding, if foundations did not provide grants, if businesses did not give support, or if other organizations did not partner with us, we would not be able to give.

The board of trustees of the HCM has named Beth Scholz as our new executive director. Beth is very fortunate to work in a community that values service and caring. I’m sure it will not take her long to see and to experience the generosity of the Princeton community.

Thank you for all the support you have given to the Health Care Ministry throughout the 19 years that I have been associated with it.

Carol L. Olivieri

Executive Director

To the Editor:

February 11 marks the Princeton Fire Department’s 225th birthday, making it one of the country’s longest operating volunteer departments.

We should all praise the exceptional people who offer their time and energy over long hours of training and risk their personal safety to protect Princeton’s residents and property.

Sima and Edward Greenblat

Leabrook Lane

February 6, 2013

To the Editor:

At last Thursday’s Hospital Ordinance Task Force meeting, the committee heard that Council did not approve their recommendation to reduce the allowed density (number of units) at the site if the buildings are demolished. The issue was the number of affordable housing units at “56.” Although some members of Council may remember otherwise, transcripts and memoranda nowhere support that the number “56” units of affordable housing was an original part of discussions. The discussions were around providing 20 percent affordable. The number “56” does not appear until 14 months from the hospital’s first presentation (memorandum from Lee Solow to Bob Bruschi, August 30, 2006, and Marvin Reed, Borough Council minutes, September 12, 2006). Mr. Reed was very straightforward: “development of the hospital site is a ‘density bonus,’ that of 280 units [of which] 56 will be low/moderate COAH-qualifying houses.” Note: the current ordinance allows “up to 280 units.” A developer may choose to build fewer units altogether.

For whom was the density bonus created? The hospital. The hospital, having now gone back on its promises to the Princeton community, no longer deserves any “density bonus.” It contracted with the one buyer who only builds closed private communities, contrary to Princeton values, and it sold off part of the land destined for a town park.

An architect specializing in designing redevelopments in single-family neighborhoods should work with stakeholders and the neighbors to create a site plan and massing diagram to inform the choice of density. However, there are yardsticks available which strongly suggest that a density of 280 units or 50 units/acre is too high.

1. Task-force architect Areta Pawlynsky stated the view of smart-growth advocate Urban Land Institute: more than 2 times the density of the surrounding neighborhood is too great a burden on a neighborhood. 2 times the neighborhood density in this case is 20 units/acre or 102 units.

2. Task-force architect Heidi Fichtenbaum, presented drawings to support the opinion that redevelopment in scale and character with the neighborhood gives a maximum density of 23 units/acre or 127 units.

3. If we were to set the density at that of the surrounding neighborhood, it would be 10 units/acre or 56 units.

4. Massachusetts legislation defines anything above 8 units/acre as smart-growth density for single-family neighborhoods. In the case of the hospital site, a density above 45 units is smart growth.

5. If we want to make the hospital a site for apartments, then anything above 20 units/acre or 102 units is smart growth under Massachusetts law.

Balancing the rights and needs of the surrounding neighborhoods with those who support the building of multi-rise apartment buildings to provide housing, particularly for grad students and postdocs at the University, is important. As former mayor Joe O’Neill said, increased density is a tax on a neighborhood. The major source of jobs within walkable distance of Princeton is the University. If there is a shortage of housing for those who work at the University, shouldn’t the University be pitching in here?

Alexi Assmus

Maple Street

To the Editor:

We have all contributed in many ways to help make Princeton what it is today. We all have a stake in its future. It is a wonderful town. I wish everyone could live here, but since that is not possible, we have to make choices and decisions, and the time is now.

Do we want to concentrate all new growth in a monstrously large development ONLY because it would render 56 affordable units? We should take the long view and realize that there are several sites that are ideal for apartments and will likely be built within a reasonable time, and that they would include affordable units as well.

The hospital was always considered an inherently beneficial use and was granted zoning variances time and again. Our neighborhood lost out every time as houses disappeared and the hospital kept growing, along with the traffic. Must we continue to pay forever, for having our neighborhood degraded and for having lost part of it? This condition is now being perpetuated because of the artful deal that the hospital struck with the town. We are once again at risk.

Yes, that is how many of us in our quiet neighborhoods surrounding the hospital feel. We live quite away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Princeton. 280 units built on the site would bring more than 500 persons to the neighborhood and would be severely out of balance for the surroundings. We have never considered our houses to be in the central district of town; only an outsider would describe our area as such.

I really hope that the Task Force will do what the Planning Board charged them with, revising the zoning at the site. The Task Force should not be hobbled at the outset with demands from Council, such as the requirement for 56 affordable units. The resounding rejection of the Avalon plan makes it clear that the spot zoning of the site is severely flawed. It needs revising to be in harmony with the surroundings — urgently.

Why was a task force appointed if they are to be told what their conclusions should be? Are all their meetings and efforts on behalf of a better Princeton in vain? It is up to us to make sure that whatever is built at the site blends in with the surroundings and is a credit to our town. This is the time and this is our chance to make it happen. We will have to live with the results. My wish list: Number one priority is fewer units. The buildings should be of reasonable size and separated, not running along a whole block. Stepped back from the sidewalk would be nice and a plaza which all residents and the public can use. Walking and biking paths should cross the area from road to road. No pool. All building should be done with approved green methods. A small convenience store would be nice so tenants could pick up a few items without getting into their cars.

Berit Marshall

Jefferson Road

To the Editor:

This is to congratulate the awardees of the Sustainable Princeton Leadership Awards, presented at the Princeton Public Library on January 23 by Mayor Liz Lempert and Princeton Environmental Commission Chairman Matt Wasserman on behalf of Sustainable Princeton.

Devotion to sustainability spans generations — from Robert Hrabchak, a student at Princeton Day School, who retrofitted an old car to run on electricity, to Grace Sinden, who received Sustainable Princeton’s first “Lifetime Achievement Award.” The other awardees are: Dr. Stephanie Chorney, citizen activist; John Emmons, science teacher at Community Park School; Martha Friend, science teacher at Littlebrook School; Jack Morrison, President of JM Group and owner of Nassau Street Seafood and the Blue Point Grill; Stu Orefice, Princeton University dining services director; Bill Sachs, tree expert; and William A. Wolfe, architect.

The awards put a spotlight on citizens who have contributed in a variety of meaningful ways to lighten our footprint on the planet. Following their example, we, individually and collectively, can play a part in our everyday lives through better recycling (including food waste made into compost), greater energy conservation, planting trees, growing vegetables, etc.

Bravo to these awardees who have contributed to sustainable actions and who are an inspiration to us all.

Chrystal Schivell

Monroe Lane

To the Editor:

Having the University’s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes negotiated by the spouse of a University employee is a blatant conflict of interest. That this negotiation was done behind closed doors, with no involvement of other Council members, raises questions about its legality. That the negotiated figure was then presented to Council as a fait accompli, and that the majority of Council members quickly moved to cut off any deliberation or discussion of it and rushed to vote its approval, raises questions about their integrity. That these shenanigans took place at the very first meeting of our new town’s governing body casts a pall over what we might expect from our local government in the future. Shame!

Ken Fields

Secretary/Treasurer, Eleanor Lewis Fund, Linden Lane

To the Editor:

The proposal before the Princeton Council to prohibit underage consumption of alcohol on private property is a well-meaning initiative that nevertheless raises substantial concerns and therefore should not be lightly considered by the Council.

First, the move to expand the criminalization of alcohol use on private property would necessarily divert scarce municipal resources and attention where they might be better placed: with education as to the dangers of inappropriate or excessive alcohol use.

Second, an ordinance against underage alcohol use on private property provides an inappropriate “foot in the door” invitation to police to enter private property with “probable cause” to search for the source of alcohol use observed in front and backyards. This expansion of police power encourages official snooping that impinges on constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure which, in this post 9-11 age, is all too prevalent.

Third, such official snooping would most likely occur in the denser areas of town where the proscribed behavior would be more easily observed. If adopted, the ordinance will necessarily lead to the perception, generally accurate, that police enforcement will be targeted more at the John-Witherspoon neighborhood than at the Western Section or Riverside neighborhood, and their respective populations. That’s not a good message to send to our diverse community.

Fourth, if alcohol consumption on private property amounts to a real “drinking problem” in a certain area of town such as, say, educational campuses, an ordinance prohibition might be warranted to govern conduct there. But a blanket prohibition on underage alcohol use on private property throughout the community seems an over-broad and insensitive tool by which to unnecessarily enforce cultural values across a much broader population.

Lastly, with scarce tax dollars required to support important police activities, are we prepared to increase taxes to pay for enforcement of such an ordinance, particularly where the real consequences of inappropriate alcohol consumption can be policed by other means, such as summonses for disorderly conduct or noise ordinance violation?

In sum, the proposal before the Council sounds like an easy, paternalist way to govern, but it has many downsides that the Council should explore before adopting it.

Roger Martindell

Patton Avenue