July 24, 2013

To the Editor:

I am writing in support of the proposed AvalonBay development on Witherspoon Street.

When the Princeton hospital that had been built in 1919 was not allowed to modernize by either vertical or horizontal construction, it was necessary to build the new hospital in a new location. Though the move to the new hospital was very complicated, it went smoothly. The final step of the process, however, involves the sale of the old hospital.

Standards were set for a different usage of the old hospital site and variances were approved by our elected and appointed community Boards and Commissions. When AvalonBay was selected to develop the site, it presented plans to the Planning Board that were then revised as a result of listening to the Planning Board and organizations of the community.

The Planning Board now has the revised development plan, which will provide affordable rental housing that is convenient to town. The housing will also provide tax revenue to the community of Princeton.

A responsible commitment was made to the hospital and to AvalonBay, and it now needs to be honored. Not doing so affects our community’s health care and discourages others from investing in our community in the future, because smart growth occurs only where it can happen without extensive delays.

For the betterment of our community, let’s move forward.

Rachel Gray

Member, Princeton HealthCare System Foundation

 

To the Editor,

I believe that AvalonBay’s application before the planning board should be approved. And I want to address comments made by many who oppose the development in the name of “protecting the character of the neighborhood.” I submit that if we do not allow additional housing to be built in the core of town, we will be further destroying the true character of Princeton.

The actual consequence of opposing town infill development such as this is the further calcification of our town into an elite, over-expensive country club. Simple economics demonstrate the overwhelming desire for housing in town — prices are so high simply because there’s enough demand to support these high market rates. By wielding the zoning power to artificially limit the number of units in town, those who oppose development make housing more expensive, and more and more out of reach of those with even upper middle-class incomes — to say nothing of the younger generation of workers, like myself, who are saddled with educational debt. And to say even less of the working class workers who drive into Princeton every day to serve its wealthy residents.

Approving AvalonBay’s application will be a vital step in alleviating the upward pressure on prices and begin to address the housing needs of the tens of thousands of people who are already in Princeton, driving in every day to their offices, restaurants, shops, libraries, and theaters. The addition of housing in the walkable core of town will undoubtedly reduce the number of cars on our streets. It’s notable that most residents of the former Borough actually work in town and walk to work. This development would take more cars off the street than it would add — just as is the case in other college towns similar to ours.

Many of the opponents of this development don’t seem to understand that apartment living actively discourages the use of cars for in-town trips. It’s not like in a single-family home, where you step out your door and right into one of the cars parked in your driveway. A resident of the proposed AvalonBay complex would have to walk out of the apartment, down flights of stairs, go up more stairs in the parking garage, find the car, drive a few blocks to another garage, pay for parking, and then walk a few blocks to their destination. It would be faster and so much easier just to walk the few blocks to the office, restaurant, or shop. Either we allow more housing to be built in town, or we draw a big red line around Princeton saying “only upper-upper middle class allowed; everyone else has to drive in.” Whether or not the opponents of this application realize it, this is the outcome that will result if we continue, in a knee-jerk fashion, standing against all new housing. So I urge the board instead to approve this application.

Christina Keddie

Walkable Princeton

 

To the Editor:

I have been quite vocal about my concern over raising the salaries of the mayor and members of the Princeton Council at this time. Therefore I agree with Mayor Liz Lempert that now is not the time to consider raises; instead, the proposal could be reintroduced next year.

It is obvious to me that the mayor and Council have faced major issues and challenges that have demanded extraordinary amounts of time, thought and energy — perhaps more than many of us anticipated. However, Council’s having been seated for only six months makes the pay raise proposal premature. Waiting until next year provides the opportunity for council to use their precious time now to deal with matters that are critical to the success of a newly consolidated Princeton and as Councilman Liverman has said, “It’s about moving ahead with things.”

The recommendation adopted by the Consolidation Study Commission was very clear. We said, “The elected positions in a consolidated Princeton be compensated at the level currently paid in the Borough for its mayor and governing body.” Of course, recommendations deserve to be reviewed in the light of new realities. That said, I believe the governing body should give itself at least one full year and then revisit the proposal in 2014 when I trust the tremendous demands of governing the transition to consolidation are indeed “less distracting” and the community has a deeper understanding of the savings from consolidation.

In March or April of 2014 the council should again consider the proposal to adjust salaries and I anticipate that at that time an increase would be appropriate given the current diligence of the council and mayor. I would support a proposal to invest in our elected officials, to encourage new candidates to seek office, and to raise salaries at that time — one year ahead of the three years anticipated by the Consolidation Study Commission.

Anton Lahnston

Elm Road, Former Chairman

The Princeton Consolidation and

Shared Services Study Commission

To the Editor:

“Gary Player’s inspiring golf course is the centerpiece of a unique private club boasting a variety of golf, dining, and hospitality amenities in a pristine natural setting.” So says the Jasna Polana website. Yet “in a pristine natural setting” struck me as wonderfully inappropriate this past week as I was searching for the club’s phone number in order to tell a manager there about a problem in the neighborhood.

The quarter-mile stretch of Jasna Polana property on Province Line Road off of Rosedale Road is neither pristine nor natural. Until a few weeks ago, it was a jungle of drying trees, invasive vines, and ambitious weeds. One day in June, a wide strip of the roadside jungle was reduced to smashed branches, pulverized weeds, and deep tire tracks by a Princeton crew driving a one-armed blast-it: a truck with whirling blades at the end of a giant hydraulic arm.

The jungle was ugly enough every year from October to March, and I had asked the management of Jasna Polana several times to remove some of the dead trees and pick up the trash there. But no luck.

Last Monday, July 15, as I came out of our drive opposite this stretch of Jasna Polana, I saw lots of trash — bottles, cans, magazines, even food — strewn along the far side of the road and over the hacked-up strip. I looked closely and saw that the garbage had not come from our house. I speculated that trash collectors had accidentally spilled it and, in their haste, left it, or that vandals had spilled it.

Returning home several hours later, I saw a street-sweeper truck coming down the road. As I had never seen a street-sweeper on this road, I assumed that someone had requested it. The truck went down the golf course side of Province Line and swept nearly all the trash onto the denuded strip.

I called Jasna Polana, told the person who answered what had happened, and asked him to inform the grounds crew. For a couple of days, the trash remained there, so I called again and left a message directly with the head of grounds maintenance. If the club did not want to pick up the trash, I said, I would be willing to call the Princeton and Lawrence town halls and, if need be, Mercer county to see what I could arrange. I also asked for a call-back. Now, a week after the mess was made — no call-back and no clean-up.

Every few weeks, I pick up trash on our side and Jasna Polana’s side of the road. Several years ago, I even organized a neighborhood trash pick-up day along Province Line between Rosedale and Carson roads. But I have not wanted to pick up garbage in the awful heat of the past week.

Question: Assuming that trash-collectors (and recycling-collectors) are not required to pick up what they spill, who is supposed to do it? This privileged part of the Garden State is looking a lot less “pristine and natural” than it did not so long ago.

Richard Trenner

Province Line Road

 

To the Editor:

On behalf of Eden Autism Services, and the children, adults, and their families whom we serve, once again I want to extend my heartfelt thanks for the generosity of our community.

On July 14, Eden held its 10th annual Eden Autism 5K Race and one-mile Fun Run in the Princeton Forrestal Village. I am thrilled to announce that we exceeded our previous fundraising record for this event with $165,000 in net proceeds.

Special thanks to Tony Kuczinski, president and CEO of Munich Reinsurance America, and the Munich Reinsurance America staff and interns, for their leadership role as title sponsor of the race; Curt Emmich of Princeton Forrestal Center, who served as race director; the numerous volunteers, sponsors, and the many other individuals and businesses who provided monetary or in-kind support for our event.

We are deeply grateful to the dedicated Eden Autism 5K steering committee that helped plan this remarkable event and to the walkers, runners, and spectators who participated in the race and Fun Run. The funds raised will help Eden continue its mission of improving the lives of individuals with autism and their families.

Thomas P. McCool, EdD

President and CEO, Eden Autism Services

 

July 17, 2013

To the Editor:

Once again the Planning Board has an important decision to make that will greatly affect our town. AvalonBay proposes to replace the empty hospital site with residences. It will cost them a tremendous amount to take down the old buildings. Few developers would be willing to consider it. The plan they propose conforms with the zoning for the site. It will include 56 affordable units. The people lucky enough to get one of these will pay 30 percent of their income in rent. This is a tremendous help to these people, and a help to the town, which needs this type of housing badly.

Princeton Community Housing operates 465 affordable rentals in town. Sounds like a lot? The waiting list has 900 names! Many do not even apply as they know it would take too long to get in. They are the people who are commuting to town, adding to our traffic every day, and using too much of their already low income for transportation. New Jersey has a huge shortage of affordable housing. We should be thrilled to have these 56 units available to us!

The neighbors would like to see just some two-story row houses, with a park which they could enjoy. We can all understand that, but one has to be realistic. The old hospital is a menace and a hazard, standing there gradually deteriorating. It needs to be gone. AvalonBay should be supported as they plan to do exactly that.

Harriet Bryan

Skillman

 

To the Editor:

The AvalonBay development of 280 units will undoubtedly have a major impact on the surrounding neighborhood in all sorts of ways, many of which we can’t yet calculate. One issue that we could attempt to ascertain is the financial impact of AvalonBay’s proposed development on the average Princeton taxpayer. But nobody knows what this impact will be. Why? Because no such analysis was ever performed by our elected officials before allowing up to 280 units. The potential impact on our schools in particular may not have been considered important since the Hillier scheme, which formed the basis of the 2006 MRRO Zoning Ordinance, was originally designed as a 55-plus community. The AvalonBay development is not restricted to this age group.

If we look to the other major developments in Princeton we learn that Griggs Farm, with 140 units, sends 138 children to the public schools; Princeton Community Village, with 238 units sends 101 students; the Princeton Housing Authority, with 176 units dedicated to families, sends 87 students. So what can we expect from the AvalonBay development of 280 units? Without a professional analysis, the average taxpayer is left with his/her own analysis relying on multipliers used by housing professionals and municipalities in determining the impact of development on local schools.

Based on bedroom size alone, statistics according to recognized multipliers developed by Rutgers University tell us to expect 37 school-age children. But Princeton’s other developments far exceed these recognized multipliers. Is there reason to believe the AvalonBay development will not produce more than the statistical average of students?

At the April 8, 2013, Council meeting, Superintendent Judith Wilson warned Council: “We are facing continued growth. We’re in an all-time high at Princeton High School, standing room only, almost. We’ve not prepared for any exchange students next year or for any tuition students next year. We’re not able to take them. We are full beyond capacity and we will continue to be so. We have a very large seventh grade class, so in two years we’ll see another bump in the high school enrollment.”

Ms. Wilson continued: “In terms of the next thing we’re watching — I believe it’s on your agenda tonight — any development, AvalonBay or otherwise, any development within the town will be our next influx of students.”

The 2010-11 Princeton Schools total spending per pupil was $22,570. Coupled with the potential need for additional staff and classrooms, will the average taxpayer be likely to see a negative income stream from the AvalonBay rateables? At the High School overcrowding is already acute and it is hard to see where extra classroom space can be found. The impact of a development of this size on the school system should be properly analyzed before it is built and not after.

Susanna Monseau

Moore Street

 

To the Editor:

AvalonBay could do two things to make its development proposal much more palatable to a public that finds Plan B woefully massive, monolithic in scale, and noncompliant with multiple sections of Princeton Code.

They can open the central entrance to Building 2 as an archway open to the public moving between Witherspoon Street and the so-called public piazza. They can also install solar panels — now.

An open archway would make the piazza much more accessible to the public — a big neighborhood benefit. Why does AvalonBay balk? They’ve already shuffled all the apartments to create a central entrance. A mostly glass entryway will give the “appearance” of accessibility — with small doors maybe six feet wide within a much wider arch. The interior space will be an empty lobby running east-west. Of course the building needs locks — easily installed for the north-south corridors on either side of the present lobby. Marvin Reed on the Planning Board and all of SPRAB certainly support this idea. I am dismayed that AvalonBay continues to say “no” to the obvious. Why, on this simple thing, doesn’t AvalonBay care about neighbors and streetscape? If they opened the small courtyard in Plan A, they can certainly open this archway.

Solar. In response to SPRAB proposals, AvalonBay has revised its roof plans. The new plans offer much more south-facing space on the exterior ring of Building 1. If AvalonBay eliminated a small dormer window on the south-facing inner courtyard, they would have even more space available — plus south-facing roofs on Building 2, with very minor tweaks. Through a Power Purchase Agreement, AvalonBay could have a roof over the garage for a large solar array — paid for by the third party. They could generate more than enough energy to cover their electrical needs for all their common spaces (all exterior lighting, including garage, elevator and exhaust fan, bridges between garage, Building 1 and Building 2; pool; all interior lobbies, hallways, stairwells, mailroom, leasing office, marketing room, community room, lounge, fitness center, storage space, maintenance space, bike rooms, trash rooms and associated mechanical facilities; gas meter room).

All at a discount of 20-50 percent over conventional utility costs, with a profit on surplus energy. Why would AvalonBay say “no” to such a no-brainer? Their corporate website (“Sustainability,” p. 8) indicates they’ve used solar for freestanding clubhouses, so doing solar for an entire complex would be a first for them. Are they ignorant of PPAs? Do they need help and explanations? AvalonBay could in fact take a lead role in the industry by including this component; they would also satisfy the requests of both the PEC and SPRAB to utilize solar power.

Planning Board members should push hard on solar sustainability. Jon Vogel should show evidence that he’s committed to sustainability and green building. Right now, I’m missing proof.

Jane Buttars

Dodds Lane

 

July 10, 2013

 

To the Editor:

Where can Princeton residents go to see a building similar in scale to the largest of the five AvalonBay buildings submitted to the Planning Board for the old hospital site? Where can a similar style of construction and materials be seen? Nothing in town comes close. But if you drive on Canal Pointe Boulevard to Marketfair Mall, the adjacent Residence Inn will start to give you a sense of Avalon Bay’s aspirations for Princeton.

Park your car and walk along the motel’s 260 feet of uninterrupted length. Guess what — Avalon Princeton Building #1 will be longer at 280 feet. Then turn and walk along the motel’s 180 feet of uninterrupted width. Guess what — Avalon Princeton Building #1 will be wider at 260 feet. And then allow your imagination to double the size of the motel to create an impenetrable private courtyard and you’re getting closer. Finally, look up at the motel’s height — Avalon Princeton Building #1 will be even taller, almost triple the height of adjacent homes on Franklin Avenue.

AvalonBay Princeton’s proposal ignores the Zoning Code’s design standards that ban a private gated community and stipulate harmony with surrounding neighborhood buildings. A large motel-style building, which looms over its neighbors and creates massive impenetrable walls, does not abide by the code standards and is discordant with the Princeton community.

Dan Shea

Harris Road

 

 

To the Editor:

AvalonBay should have a composting program in its proposed development — a win-win situation for everyone.

With composting, AvalonBay would pay $65/ton to haul organic food waste to a processing site — not $125/ton for the same waste to fill already overflowing landfills (where the waste creates methane gas, a known agent of climate change). Within the near future they would make an easy profit. There are many disposal companies, including Central Jersey Waste, that compete for contracts for food waste.

AvalonBay’s tenants (~560) would be allowed to participate in an important program that benefits the whole community and our environment.

Princeton (and Sustainable Princeton) would gain a partner in our programs for sustainability.

This is the wave of the future. The Princeton Environmental Commission’s report urges the Planning Board to make Food Waste Composting a Condition of Approval (section N). It cites Mayor Bloomberg’s New York City plan to compost 100,000 tons immediately, include 600 schools in the composting program, and build a composting plant in the region to turn compost into bio-gas, which in turn can become electricity. San Francisco and Seattle already have programs for single family homes.

AvalonBay, to its credit, has installed composting facilities at one of its developments in San Francisco. Ron Ladell, attorney for AvalonBay’s Plan A, said that “AvalonBay is not in the composting business,” but he was wrong.

AvalonBay can either install appropriate chutes for organic waste now (not larger than 2×2 feet) as part of the new design or it can stall, and then struggle through a retrofit in the future (after falling behind, again, in green building design), or it can do nothing and let the trash pile up (a health hazard), as photos show at its Lawrenceville and West Windsor developments. In any case they can require, or educate, their tenants to use standard biodegradable bags for food waste (13 gallons, available at McCaffrey’s) and take them to compost units — but AvalonBay should really provide the facilities themselves to make it easy for everyone.

Jon Vogel, project manager for AvalonBay in Princeton, has claimed to be the Green Man, but he has sounded dubious about chutes for compost. Why? — no big deal, especially when so many interior spaces need to be redesigned anyway. He has rightly said that his maintenance team will have the job of educating the tenants in living green (including recycling).

Sustainable Princeton will begin a composting program in all the schools this fall; they will soon be marketing the composting program to our private communities, i.e. Washington Oaks. AvalonBay should volunteer to be a leader and earn the sustainability credit at corporate headquarters that Mr. Vogel wants from the Princeton project.

If AvalonBay doesn’t embrace the future now, how will they respond to responsible tenants who really want to compost? AvalonBay should recognize that composting capabilities will be a selling point for their communities, not a downside. They should use their proposed Princeton development as their poster-child.

Vojislava Pophristic, PhD

Professor of Chemistry, University of the Sciences

Tee Ar Place

 

To the Editor:

As a former resident of Princeton for over 30 years, I am writing regarding the pending application from AvalonBay for the hospital site. AvalonBay has made significant changes to its original site plan and has addressed many of the concerns raised by those who oppose the development. And yet a small vocal minority continues to insist on more changes, particularly with regard to the affordable units.

It must be very nice to be sitting in a comfortable (and likely oversized) home and determining what and where families who qualify for affordable housing would like to live. My guess is that although this minority gives lip service to supporting affordable units, they will continue to pick away at the plan in the name of those families desperately needing safe and affordable housing. Unless and until they have walked in the shoes of families living in overcrowded and unsafe apartments, their objections have no standing.

I appreciate that I am no longer a resident of Princeton; however, I recall too many interviews with families looking for affordable housing and having to tell them there was an 18-24 month wait. A part of my heart is still with those families and the sooner affordable units can be developed, the better.

I urge the Planning Board to approve the AvalonBay development.

Sandra Persichetti

Morristown

Former executive director of

Princeton Community Housing

 

To the Editor:

As signatures continue to mount for saving Valley Road School and putting the question on the ballot, a couple of other questions deserve immediate answers.

First, is there any asbestos in the building? NO, according to the inspection and sampling that the Valley Road School-Adaptive Reuse Committee (VRS-ARC) and the Valley Road School Community Center, Inc. (VRSCCI) commissioned some time ago, there is NO asbestos in 369 Witherspoon Street. There is horsehair in the walls, but NO asbestos.

Second, will you be looking for municipal funds for the renovations? NO, we will be seeking private donations. In fact, we will be SAVING taxpayer money that otherwise would be required to demolish the building, an estimated $350,000-$450,000.

Third, where will VRSCCI get the funds? We have had many indications of strong interest from members of the community. We also have had considerable interest by Valley Road School alumni, many of whom live outside of Princeton. In addition, we intend to seek support from the supporters of the nonprofit organizations that become tenants, and we will also be seeking funds from investor partnerships. One prospective tenant has already expressed interest in being an investor partner. We are also looking at funds from the Economic Development Authority, which has recently financed projects for nonprofit organizations similar to ours. And finally we have plans for exhibits in the building illustrating the history that Valley Road School has presided over and that we think will interest potential donors.

Dan Thompson

Member, VRS-ARC

Dempsey Avenue

 

To the Editor:

Living across the road from the hospital site brings up a number of concerns, not the least of them is concern about AvalonBay’s planning with regards to the pending demolition process.

What experience does AvalonBay have when it comes to demolition of this scale? Have steps been taken to evaluate the level of asbestos in the existing structures? What plans do they have to protect the neighbors from airborne contaminants?

It is common knowledge that the hospital contains asbestos. We also know from local contractors that this is true for some pipes buried within partitions between rooms. This means that every wall in the building would need to be opened up and pipes reviewed before the actual demolition takes place. Have such detailed plans been submitted and if so, who is reviewing them?

Since there are three schools within close range of the site, how will the children be protected from this risk?

We also know that there have been numerous issues with the sewers in and around the hospital in the past — how will the demolition process affect this? How will the sewer system be protected to avoid debris entering and causing further damage?

AvalonBay has not shown much concern for the neighborhood in the process so far, and we can’t expect them to start now. It is up to our town’s leadership to manage this process and safeguard its citizens.

Elizabeth Williams

Harris Road

 

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Bilingual Nursery School at the YWCA Princeton, I would like to thank the many people who contributed to the success of the 9th Annual ETS Firecracker 5K Run/Walk held on June 25. More than 600 people participated in the event, raising over $20,000 for the Bilingual Nursery School.

Eighteen years ago, we collaborated with the Princeton Regional School System and established the preschool, providing quality educational programming to a population whose needs were not being served elsewhere. We are proud to have taught hundreds of children throughout the two decades, providing a solid platform from which to build. And, we are truly touched to have been a part in preparing them for success not only in school, but in our community.

We are appreciative of all who supported this event in big and small ways. Their efforts made for a successful evening and will positively impact the lives of countless children. So a huge Thank You to Kurt Landgraf, Kari Barrio, the runners, volunteers, and our generous sponsors: ETS, Bracco, Novo Nordisk, Hopewell Valley Community Bank (HVC), Geico, Mercadian, NJ Manufacturers, The Bank of Princeton, Packet Publications, Szaferman Lakind, Nelligan Sports Marketing, BeeFit with Tracy, Stark & Stark, Sound Choice Disc Jockeys, CG Sports, McCaffrey’s, Princeton Porsche, and Wegman’s.

Judith Hutton

CEO, YWCA Princeton

 

 

To the Editor:

We’re pleased that Jon Vogel has made a commitment to an equitable redistribution of affordable housing units as a part of the AvalonBay Princeton project. But he hasn’t yet extended that commitment to the three townhouses fronting on Franklin Avenue. He should. Twenty percent of the townhouses (2.4 units, rounded down to two units) should be inhabited by tenants who cannot afford market-rate units.

Municipal code for the MRRO zone requires him to do so. The site is not like Merwick/Stanworth, owned by Princeton University, who, unfortunately, are planning to exclude affordable units from their townhouses.

The real Princeton community doesn’t sanction redlining. Lee Solow, director of Planning, in his report on the AvalonBay application, plainly states: “… it has been [Planning] Board practice to require that all affordable developments distribute the affordable housing units throughout the site and ensure that the exterior of the affordable units are indistinguishable from the market units” (6/19/13, sec. 3.6; see also 9.6). The townhouses are certainly “distinguishable” from the two enormous apartment complexes. Their tenants should not be. The Engineering and Zoning Report from Jack West and Derek Bridger (6/18/13, sec. 22) reiterates the same principle.

Fully equitable distribution is Princeton practice and a sign of Princeton’s values, notwithstanding the perspective of some who have argued that premium real estate shouldn’t be wasted on the less fortunate.

Jon Vogel should commit to Princeton’s values. When he introduced himself at the Planning Board (6/27/13), he specifically mentioned his earlier experience in fair share housing — the years when he was General Counsel for the New York City Housing Partnership, an intermediary in the development of affordable rental and for sale housing in New York City (source: zoominfo.com). Someone with that background should certainly understand that the real estate costs for full equity are minor when compared with the claims of social and economic justice.

We trust that Jon Vogel will make the necessary commitment to an affordable set-aside of two units in the townhouses.

Milan Pophristic, PhD, MBA

Tee Ar Place

 

July 3, 2013

To the Editor,

I am extremely disappointed by the decision of New Jersey legislators to give Governor Christie’s latest budget a rubber stamp. The budget the governor just signed underfunds our public schools by $1 billion and fails to keep his pledge to increase higher education funding in his first term. Once again Christie has said he can’t find the funds for schools and essential services, but he has somehow located enough money to give corporations over $200 million in tax cuts.

After three years of tax breaks for the rich and corporations, New Jersey’s unemployment rate is the sixth highest in the nation. Tax cuts for the one percent haven’t created the jobs New Jersey desperately needs. Instead of signing off the governor’s failed policies, we need our legislators to advance bold ideas for building strong, safe communities and developing a highly trained workforce. Until they do, the Jersey slump will continue while the rest of the nation recovers.

Mary Ellen Marino

President of NJ Progressive Democratic Caucus

Hornor Lane

To the Editor:

This spring I noticed what I did not hear in the morning hours — sounds of multiple birds greeting the dawn in my “tree street” neighborhood. It was the quietest spring I can remember. Each morning I heard two or three birds in the nearby trees. No mockingbirds, catbirds, or woodpeckers. It’s a huge change from when I first moved to Princeton.

While we worry about global warming, habitat loss, and large scale effects on our wildlife, there’s one very small thing that can be done to protect a huge number of birds — keep pet cats indoors. A recent study by the Smithsonian, published in the Journal of Ornithology, found cats were the number one killer of baby catbirds in the suburb studied. Cat predation was so serious, catbirds could not reproduce their numbers for a successive generation. The American Bird Conservancy has estimated that 500 million birds are killed by cats annually, split evenly between pets and feral cats. Other estimates also number in the hundreds of millions.

That seems like an impossible number. But assume your cat catches two birds per week. What’s two birds, right? Multiply those two birds by the 47 million pet cats allowed outside across the U.S. (estimated by The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute). That totals 94 million birds per week (not including the toll taken by feral cats.)

Once outside, your kitty’s a predator. We don’t have barns full of mice for kitty to stalk. We have small yards where songbirds, after arriving in the spring, nest and raise their young. Even well-fed cats enjoy stalking and are successful, especially on birds just out of the nest.

As an introduced species to our environment with few natural predators, the effects of cats on bird numbers shouldn’t be minimized or trivialized. Song birds face threats here, in wintering grounds, and during migration. But losses due to cats are easily within our power to ameliorate. If most of us keep our pet cat(s) indoors, we can cut losses dramatically. We can and should keep our own neighborhoods safe for birds to nest. Isn’t that the least we can do?

And outdoor cats themselves face many risks — traffic, dogs, wild animals, other cats, parasites, toxins, getting lost, etc. The American Humane Society recommends keeping cats indoors, purchasing prey-like toys, and rotating toys to avoid boredom. Outdoor time should be in a secured area, like a screened porch. Perches on window sills provide good entertainment viewing. Even paper grocery bags will engage your cat. Cats can have a great life indoors. After all, they are our pets, not wild animals.

It’s not enough to lobby government for conservation actions and press corporations for compliance with environmental laws. We need to police our behaviors and take responsibility for our effect on our planet. I urge cat owners to keep their cats inside. It’s a win-win. Cats and birds will both be safer.

Susan Betterly

Maple Street

To the Editor:

I have not been able to get to any of the meetings about the proposed pipeline through the Princeton Ridge. But I do want everyone involved to realize that the ridge is solid rock that will require constant dynamiting in order to bury anything.

Someone with a background in the topography of the area should be asked to provide information about the kind of rock the ridge is made of in order that a knowledgeable decision can be made.

Carolyn Wilson

Stuart Road

To the Editor:

We, the residents of the former Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, voted in good faith for the consolidation of the two municipalities with the hope for more efficient, but not reduced, services. In the process, the government of the newly consolidated Princeton assured the residents of keeping the already steep taxes unchanged. That may hold for the moment, but the altered schedule for garden waste collection is clearly insufficient in providing services for a town with lots covered by lush vegetation and oversized trees. These properties require regular care and waste disposal.

Now we are asked to either donate our time and services to transport the waste in our personal vehicles to the Princeton Pike Ecological Facility or to hire a professional company. This proposal implies that our time is not valued, our cars are suitable for transporting soaked paper bags with rotting, smelly garden waste (yes, it rains a lot these days!), or that every resident can write off the extra expense without thinking. This reduced service is as unacceptable now as it was in the past in the Borough before it turned back to the original routine, thereby encouraging the residents to resume gardening as they had been for years. In those days, on average, we in the Borough paid higher taxes and got better service than the residents in the Township. We still pay the same taxes, but the picture has changed, recalling the story of the baker who sold his bread for the same price without ever raising it, but eventually made the loaves smaller and smaller, until the customers had to buy two instead of one. Do we now pay the property taxes as well as foot various cartage bills from registered landscapers to maintain our properties with civic pride? I beg all residents who share my concern on this issue to bring it to the City Hall’s attention, the sooner the better as change doesn’t happen on its own accord.

Eva Siroka

Cedar Lane

To the Editor:

Just a quick note to say that the new town composting program is great. We have a compost pile in our back yard, but we obviously didn’t want any critters around, so we were careful to use only leftover vegetables and garden debris. Because we can compost so many more things with this program, our regular weekly trash has shrunk in size significantly.

Makes us feel good about leaving a better planet for future generations.

Jenn and Tony Pizi

Lake Drive

To the Editor:

We would like to thank the 128 (and counting) public-minded Princetonians who signed the petition to save the Valley Road School that was included in the June 12 edition of the Town Topics. The response was impressive given that the petition did not come with a return envelope or a stamp. That, combined with the over 1000 signatures already collected, clearly demonstrates the high level of commitment of the citizens of Princeton to preserving the historic structure and converting it to a Community Center as proposed by the Valley Road School Adaptive Reuse Committee.

So if you see one of our volunteers at a sign up table seeking more signatures please be so kind as to add your name and voice.

Richard C. Woodbridge

Member of Valley Road School

Adaptive Reuse Committee

To the Editor:

Do you think it is possible to slash your home energy bill in half or more, reduce the amount you pollute by 75 percent, save money, and make your living space more comfortable too? Edward T. Borer’s family has and we can too. Mr. Borer, Princeton University’s Energy Plant Manager by day, shared his very practical story during a recent Sustainable Princeton lunch-and-learn program. Here are some take away tips from Ted’s talk:

The key to win-win home improvement is understanding how we use energy in our own homes, what kinds of energy we use, and where there is waste. Details are important and projects should be customized to your needs. Understand what uses the most energy in your house (for example a home TV/set-top box might be an energy hog), then invest in improvements related to the biggest energy costs to have the biggest impact.

Ease into changes by starting with easy or free actions. Delay bigger, harder projects until they make sense or until you must replace an expensive item, such as a furnace, anyway. Mr. Borer advises us to consider ease of use, aesthetics, whether you will stay long enough to recoup your investment, or if a project will improve your home’s value.

We thank Mr. Borer for sharing his experience and hope to hear more inspiring stories and tips from Princetonians who are shifting to better and lower impact lifestyles!

Annarie Lyles, Alexandra Bar-Cohen

Sustainable Princeton Residents Committee Co-Chairs

To the Editor:

The members of Girl Scout Troop 70660 would like to thank the local businesses and members of the community who came together on Saturday, June 15 to participate in the kick-off day of our Downtown Princeton Scavenger Hunt. The day was a huge success, and helped the 11 fifth-graders in the troop in their Bronze Award, the highest award that can be achieved at the Junior level of Girl Scouts.

The troop designed and implemented a scavenger hunt in downtown Princeton, geared to preschool and elementary school children and their parents. This was inspired by their completion of the Detective and Business Owner badges this past year. As part of the requirements for the Business Owner badge, the troop met with Joanne Farrugia, the owner of JaZams, who discussed some of the privileges and challenges faced by local business owners. Based on this experience, the girls in the troop decided to create a scavenger hunt to encourage people to visit downtown Princeton and perhaps discover local stores and businesses that they hadn’t visited before.

The scavenger hunt itself can be done any time, since each clue leads to a permanent landmark in downtown Princeton. Families can pick up a copy of the hunt from the desk of the children’s department on the third floor of the Princeton Public Library. All children who complete the hunt will receive a special button designed by members of the troop.

For the kick-off event on June 15, participants also had the opportunity to visit ten local businesses located along the route of the hunt, including Princeton Soup & Sandwich, Olsson’s, Nassau Inn, PNC Bank, Iano’s Rosticceria, Small World Coffee, La Jolie, Savory Spice Shop, Hinkson’s: The Office Store, and JaZams. The businesses offered hunt participants free samples, discounts, and coupons. At JaZams in particular, each child received a small prize of a toy, and the first 25 participants received a $5 gift certificate. These donations helped make the kick-off event a big success.

In addition to thanking the business owners and employees of these businesses, we would also like to acknowledge the help of Fran McManus of the Princeton Merchants’ Association, who advised us in the early stages of the project, and Aaron Pickett of the Princeton Public Library. The library was the starting location for the hunt on kick-off day, and it will continue to keep copies of the hunt on file so that people can do it any time.

The girls of Troop 70660 really enjoyed the process of planning and implementing the hunt, and they spent a great deal of time and energy on this project. We thank the local businesses who partnered with us, and the members of the local community who came out to support us by participating in the kick-off event.

Patty Berhau, Martha Easton

Co-Leaders, Troop 70660, Princeton Service

To the Editor:

Has there been a thorough investigation of what is wrong with the sewers under Henry Avenue and Witherspoon Street? There were problems when the hospital was in operation and to the town’s credit, Bob Hough did a fantastic job coordinating a multi-week clean-up of the worst spillage with a hazmat team. The spillages raise questions as to whether those sewers are undersized, under-pitched, or cracked.

The sanitary sewers were in high demand with the hospital. As both a homeowner and retired plumbing contractor, I am very concerned about the effects of another high demand use — the 280 apartments proposed by AvaIonBay for this 5.6 acre lot.

I’ve lived on Harris Road since 1958 in a home built by my father. Ours was the second home on the block. The effect of sewage backing up into my home and those of my neighbors was sickening and traumatic, with unknown long-term effects.

I know that everyone wants to have a better use for the center of Princeton than an abandoned hospital, but I am worried about the infrastructure. Can this old sewer system that has already failed repeatedly serve a huge number of new residents and if not, what will be the cost to our town to clean up the mess?

John Armonia

Harris Road

To the Editor:

How refreshing and hopeful to read Barbara Trelstad’s letter to the editor (“Let’s Stop the Naysaying and Move Forward to Welcome AvalonBay Into Our Community,” June 26), where she cogently summarizes the many ways Princeton wins by approving AvalonBay’s reworked plans for the hospital site. David Keddie’s letter in the same edition also supports this position with yet another positive take on the issue.

Let’s hope these letters signal a change in direction from one group’s relentless, organized assault to a more receptive approach that will lead the community forward. The determined efforts of Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods provided a useful service to our town early in the process by forcing careful scrutiny of AvalonBay’s plans. But now we have an improved proposal, again in compliance with zoning guidelines. It’s time to stop the unsolicited e-blasts that the group fires off to everyone’s emails (there are so many, I’ve moved mine to the junk mail folder) in hopes of keeping the drama alive.

AvalonBay has responded thoughtfully, city officials have deliberated patiently and carefully, and the community’s silent majority is ready to see positive movement. Thankfully, it seems we have turned the corner to see an improved future along the Witherspoon corridor now, not after more costly stalling.

Beverly Leach

Witherspoon Street