March 27, 2013

To the Editor:

AvalonBay continues to mislead the press, the public, and now the New Jersey Superior Court about Princeton’s record on affordable housing units.

The truth?—Both Princetons have built or designated 208 affordable housing units since 1990, 130 since 2001 alone (see “Housing Restricted to Low and Moderate Income Households in Princeton, N.J., 2012,” tabulation prepared and updated by David N. Kinsey, January 9, 2012, originally issued as “Princeton Housing Opportunities,” through Princeton Community Housing, funded by Princeton Borough, Princeton Township, and the Princeton Area Community Foundation). Mr. Kinsey, a recognized authority on Fair Share obligations, has been appointed by New Jersey courts as a Master to adjudicate statewide matters of affordable housing.

Despite this public tabulation, AvalonBay has deceitfully claimed that Princeton’s Fair Share policy “has only resulted in the construction of six (6) COAH affordable housing units” since 1990 within an artificial Affordable Housing Overlay Zone. AvalonBay incorrectly states: “Princeton Borough has not created a realistic opportunity for its entire fair share obligations for decades” (AvalonBay Communities v. Princeton Planning Board, Princeton, and Princeton Mayor and Council, Verified Complaint, Mercer County Superior Court, February 19, 2013, pp. 9-10).

Does AvalonBay misrepresent facts in order to sway Judge Mary Jacobson by misleading and distorted information?

AvalonBay concealed scientific evidence in their Environmental Impact Statement. Their urban planner Jeromie Lange copied verbatim, without attribution, 24 pages of his official report from their architect Jonathan Metz; see Planning Board transcripts, December 13, 2012, where Mr. Lange conceded,  “The words are his [Mr. Metz’] but I agree with his opinions”! No one in Princeton should trust a corporation devoted to such unprofessional tactics.

Another crucial truth about the affordable housing situation: AvalonBay actually chose to delay construction of 56 affordable housing units required by the ordinance for the MRRO zone—and now blames Princeton for not having built! After contracting with UMCPP (July 28, 2011), AvalonBay could have promptly submitted site plans. Instead, they chose to dicker with Borough Council, trying to get greater density (324 units)—and a lesser percentage of affordable housing (17.3%) than the 20% required by Borough Code.

AvalonBay finally filed plans on June 8, 2012 perhaps half a year later than they might have. They, not Princeton, are responsible for delayed construction of affordable units. Blame must rest where it belongs.

Princeton’s attorneys Gerald Muller and Trishka Cecil must ensure that Judge Jacobson study the truth about Princeton’s compliance with Fair Share obligations and Avalon’s patent distortions.

Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods (PCSN) stands firmly behind Princeton’s record in providing affordable housing. PCSN has been unjustifiably attacked by Anne Studholme, attorney for AvalonBay (letters to Gerald Muller dated October 24 and November 8, 2012) for impeding AvalonBay’s building of affordable units. But PCSN now has legal status as an “intervenor” in the lawsuit, joining  with the other Princeton defendants. Bolstered by many contributions from the community, PCSN will fight back against Avalon’s malpractices. AvalonBay does not belong in Princeton.

Daniel A. Harris

Trustee, PCSN

Dodds Lane

To the Editor:

I am writing to thank the Princeton Board of Health for approving a smoking ban in Princeton’s public outdoor spaces. Princeton has a long history of progressive measures to protect the public health, and leads again with this ordinance. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death, and this initiative will protect everyone who congregates in parks and outdoor spaces from secondhand smoke.  Indeed, studies show that outdoor concentrations of secondhand smoke can be comparable to those in smoky indoor settings.   By this ordinance, Princeton is setting a standard for Mercer County that promotes a healthful environment for outdoor activities and helps to normalize smoke free surroundings.

Heather Howard

Princeton Council Liaison to the Board of Health

Aiken Avenue

To the Editor:

Last week, Governor Christie sent a letter to some residents of Princeton congratulating us on consolidation. We want to thank the governor for his praise and thank him for reiterating the promise he made in September 2011 to reimburse the taxpayers of Princeton for 20 percent of the transition costs incurred through consolidation. We have requested $471,119.60 from the State and look forward to receiving these funds in time to incorporate them into our budget for this year.

The governor’s letter also contained some inaccurate statements concerning the tax savings that we would like to correct. We estimate that Princeton will save approximately $2.5 – $2.9 million from consolidation in year one. This is greater than the initial estimate from the Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission. These savings are in comparison to what we would have spent on existing municipal services and operations had the municipalities remained separate. However, these savings are not a net reduction to the total municipal budget, as they are offset and adjusted by several budget and tax impacts. These include one-time transition expenses that must be incorporated into the municipal budget, the cost of expanding residential garbage pickup to the area of the former Township, moving to a single equalization ratio for all of Princeton, and the effects of inflation year over year. The first three impacts were addressed in the tax impact analyses done by the Consolidation Commission and updated by the Transition Task Force, both of which are available at The impact of inflation is to make it more difficult to avoid tax increases without significant cuts to services.

Of the total property tax bill, approximately half goes directly to the schools, and about 30 percent goes to the County. A reduction of the property tax by 10 percent, as mentioned by the governor, would require a 65 percent reduction in the municipal budget this year. A reduction of this magnitude was never expected; elimination of the police, public works, heath, recreation, sewer and planning departments would not be enough to reach this benchmark. We want to make clear that a 10 percent property tax reduction is simply not achievable; the municipal portion of our property taxes is too small for any reduction from consolidation to have that great of an impact on our overall property tax bill. We have been in communication with the governor’s office regarding the consolidated budget, and we are confident that they now understand these constraints.

Princeton is proud to be leading the way in providing high quality services as efficiently as possible. We have demonstrated budget savings with consolidation and we believe that this will continue to full implementation. We will continue to manage our costs and accurately communicate the fiscal impacts and benefits to our residents.

Liz Lempert

Jo Butler

Jenny Crumiller

Heather Howard

Lance Liverman

Bernie Miller

Patrick Simon

To the Editor:

A rapidly growing number of municipalities across the country have regulated or are considering regulations to curb the use of gas-powered leaf blowers. Cambridge, Mass., Greenwich Conn., Montclair, N.J., Palm Beach, Fla., Evanston, Ill., Boulder, Colorado, and Houston, Texas, are only a few of the more than 400 cities and towns where citizens are working to sensibly manage these highly polluting machines.

Here are some facts about leaf blowers. I present them in the hope that Princeton residents will consider — or ask their lawn-care professionals to consider — using gas-powered leaf blowers judiciously, or perhaps not at all.

1. In one year, a single leaf blower can emit as much soot and other air pollution as 80 cars. The majority of this pollution remains concentrated in the neighborhood where the leaf blower is used. Children at play, the elderly, and those who suffer with asthma can be particularly affected.

2. Leaf blowers indiscriminately used throughout a neighborhood create a level of noise that is usually only acceptable in short-term-exposure industrial situations. Each one generally operates at about 70-75 decibels — or more. According to the EPA, the noise level considered acceptable in residential areas is about 60 decibels. Every increase in decibels means noise that is 10 times louder.

3. Leaf blowers worsen allergies and asthma and irritate the lungs. Besides emitting particulate matter (soot) derived from petroleum combustion, leaf blowers stir up mold, allergens, and dust particles that otherwise would be tamped down by rain and decomposition.

4. By disturbing a fragile ecosystem of top soil, leaf blowers, ironically, are not very good for lawns.

5. They waste gas.

6. Leaf blowers make it hard to hear birds singing, bees buzzing, crickets chirping, and Princeton’s summer breezes.

Clean-air lawn care is the way to go!

Jill Feldman

Harriet Drive

March 20, 2013

To the Editor:

For five years I’ve been alerting the Princeton community to the importance of the historic Veblen House, located on the edge of Herrontown Woods on the northeast side of town. Part of the estate of the world famous visionary and mathematician, Oswald Veblen, the house was donated to the county back in 1974 with the intention that it become a nature center, library, and museum. Instead, it was rented out for many years, then boarded up. Saving a historic public building is a bit like trying to save a hospitable climate. People think it’s a nice idea, but imagine it’s just too costly. After my appeals met with mostly blank stares and unreturned emails, I decided it would be more rewarding to document Veblen’s multifaceted contributions to Princeton and the world. As with a study of nature, the closer you look, the more you see.

Veblen’s legacy, like the house he and his wife left in the public trust, has long remained hidden. It runs like a deep river beneath many aspects of life in Princeton we now take for granted. A pre-eminent university, the Institute for Advanced Study, Einstein’s long and cherished residency — Veblen played surprisingly instrumental roles in making these possible. His vision and influence were also fundamental in Princeton’s contributions to early computer development.
A recurrent feature of Veblen’s legacy is his capacity to bring disconnected entities together to create greater meaning. The layout of Jones Hall on the Princeton University campus was designed by Veblen to bring mathematicians together to share ideas. The Institute, too, achieved this goal on a larger scale, expedited by the tradition of afternoon tea begun by the Veblens. Whether recruiting mathematicians for the university, the Institute, or to help improve ballistics during the World Wars, Veblen displayed an uncanny eye for talent. With Norwegian and Midwestern pioneer roots, Veblen himself combined extraordinary intellect with a love of hands-on physical work. A wedding of Old and New World can be seen both in the architectural elements of the Veblens’ house and in their marriage — Elizabeth having been born in England.

All this “bringing together” can also be experienced when walking the trails of Princeton’s many nature preserves. A nature lover, Veblen served as “re-aggregator” of open space, consolidating small parcels in the 1930s with the intention of preserving large tracts — both at Herrontown Woods and the Institute Woods — and in that sense he began the process that continues today through Princeton’s open space movement. Herrontown Woods, donated by the Veblens in 1957, was Princeton’s first dedicated preserve. Though the Veblen House — a deep legacy next to a deep woods — remains neglected by the powers that be, Veblen’s founding efforts to mend pieces of land back together will be explored in a talk by author George Dyson on March 21 at 7 pm, hosted by D&R Greenway.

In a time marked by polarization and disconnection, both locally and nationally, Veblen’s legacy speaks to unity and a focus on the greater good. The house ( and accompanying woodlands can and should serve as a living portal for that legacy.

Stephen Hiltner

North Harrison Street

To the Editor:

As a professional dog walker servicing the Princeton area I am amazed at how many dog poops I see which have not been picked up and in some cases picked up bagged only to have the bag thrown on the sidewalk for someone else to deal with. I walk my four legged friends all over Princeton and I see this everywhere. Pet owners have a responsibility to that animal for its safety and well being. Dog owners have an added responsibility to the town they live in, in this case Princeton. So please make sure you pick up and dispose of your dog’s poop or if you have a dog walker make sure to remind them to do the same, not all dog walkers are created equal.

Joe Cauchi

A Dog’s Mate LLC

To the Editor:

Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Wilson noted the loss of some $87,000 in federal funding because of sequestration. She called the amount ‘significant in a very tight budget’ (“Board Adopts Budget, Rejects Valley Road Plan,” Town Topics, March 13).

This statement by the leader of our public schools got me thinking. Ten percent of the $84 million Princeton schools’ budget would be $8.4 million. One percent would be $840,000. One tenth of one percent — that’s right, 0.001 — would be $84,000. So just slightly more than 0.001 of the school budget we won’t be getting from Uncle Sugar is “significant”? In this rich, privileged town more than able to manage — and finance — its own affairs? Why are we getting this money in the first place? No wonder even those brave few of our representatives in Washington interested in controlling the federal Leviathan can’t seem to manage it.

Chris Mario

Greenhouse Drive

To the Editor:

Last Sunday’s Pi recitation contest saw children recite hundreds of digits from memory at the public library. However, what should have been an occasion to celebrate mathematics in Princeton was unfortunately nothing but, thanks to the astonishingly inappropriate conduct of the organizers of the event (the Princeton Tour Company).

The presenter of the 7-13 category presented herself as neither qualified nor interested to talk about Pi Day itself. Dressed in a lab coat, she instead made frequent comments about the appearance of the female contestants such as “You look so cute in your dress — just as well because that’s all I can talk about at an event like this!” and “What a lovely little skirt you’re wearing.” To one boy, she offered to “work out so I can become a supermodel and present next year’s competition in a bikini.” Despite no comments on the appearance of the male contestants (except one boy’s Pi-themed tie), she repeatedly complimented the clothes, accessories, and hair of the female contestants, eventually telling one girl who had paused mid-recitation, “I bet you stopped just there so we could all look at how pretty you are — that should be your strategy!”

These comments may have been intended harmlessly, but from the audience perspective, their effect was quite significant. The message being emphasized was that these girls were pretty first, clever/interesting/talented second. In a field such as mathematics which, like many scientific disciplines, still struggles to attract female academics, it seems particularly insulting to repeatedly draw attention to the physical appearance of girls above all else at an event like this one.

Worried by the attitude being presented, I mentioned my concerns to another organizer outside the competition hall and was consequently told in a raised voice that “if I didn’t like it, I could leave.” He also threatened that he was “visibly very angry.” Unsurprisingly astonished by this response, I did indeed leave, after being aggressively and repeatedly told, “Thank you for your feedback” until I offered to put my thoughts into an email instead.

Unfortunately, the only I response I received was “Thank you both so much for your communication regarding the Pi Recitation contest. Your feedback was detailed and constructive which will serve us well in planning for next year’s events!” Given that this email was addressed both to me and to another audience member who independently complained on similar grounds, I can only assume that this response was intended sarcastically.

Regardless, I believe that it’s important that next year’s events do take the attitude of the presenter into account. The Pi Day celebrations are a wonderful opportunity to introduce children to mathematics, and we should be extending that introduction to everyone, without playing to stereotypes or separating children based on gender. The issue of gender biases in academia is an extremely sensitive one, and I hope that the organizers will in future bear this in mind before behaving the way they did this year.

Catherine Offord

Dickinson Street

To the Editor:

We thank Ms. Casparian and Mr. Oscar (“HiTOPS Curriculum Conforms to New Jersey Department of Education Content Standards”) for replying to the letter from February 27 expressing concern with what HiTOPS teaches. However, they do not address or refute any of the claims we make about HiTOPS’ curriculum. Instead they reassure parents that their teachings have been approved by experts at the state and federal levels.

While parents appreciate expert opinion, it is not enough to override their concerns about what is appropriate for their children and what offends their moral values. It is time to offer an alternative to HiTOPS, not simply the opportunity for parents to opt their children out of HiTOPS/Teen PEP instruction. (The current program offers an “opt out” option, which leaves teens whose parents pull them out feeling awkward and penalized for being raised according to more conservative values.)

Instead of pretending that HiTOPS offers an “unbiased” sex-ed program, let’s acknowledge that it is impossible to avoid bias in these matters, and offer a second curriculum alongside HITOPS that better respects the moral values of families like those of devout Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

We invite parents to join our conversation on Facebook at Parents for Sex Ed Choice or in Spanish at Padres a Favor de Opción en Educación Sexual where we plan to study and discuss the HiTOPS curriculum carefully.

Cassandra Hough (2007)

Loetscher Place

April Readlinger

Moore Street

Aileen Collins

Guyot Avenue

JoanMarie Land Zetterberg

Library Place

Peter Pandolfo

Nassau Street

March 13, 2013

To the Editor:

Caryl Emerson’s March 6 letter suggesting a bicycle path to our Crystal Palace of a hospital in Plainsboro (“Providing Non-Motor Path to Hospital Would Be “Fine Community Service”) is reasonable and humane, but not very practical. The money would be better used to address general cycling issues in Princeton proper. The writer’s fortitude and stamina are admirable, but people visiting hospitals are mostly sick, old, and weak (or all three), and I doubt that many persons would essay this long and tortuous route even if they felt up to it. When the hospital was a half-mile away from us on Witherspoon, I biked there myself, but even then I rarely saw other bikes tethered to the racks.

Still, I’m sympathetic to Emerson’s points. Princeton should be a biker’s paradise, but instead it’s the lower depths. I biked from the University to Hickory Court and back almost every day for 40 years and had no end of close calls. Wiggins, the only real alternative to unbikeable Nassau, was and still is a nightmare. Not all streets can have a bike path or lane, but secondary main drags like Wiggins and others (like Valley Road) could and ought to.

Emerson’s comments on lower Harrison apply to a majority of our streets, whose potholes would certainly win a Mercer County contest. Part of the problem is the poor quality of resurfacing. Walnut, Moore, and Jefferson, my main avenues home if I survive Wiggins, have been blacktopped several times since I’ve lived here, but their potholery is almost permanent. Nassau has better paving and, though it isn’t for cyclists, it does deserve its plaudit in the limerick below, which contrasts it with Route 27. But don’t bike on either of these roads, or on 206 either!

Our Nassau Street is pure heaven,

And many a life does it leaven.

But it all falls apart

As it northward does start

And turns into Route 27.


Charles E. Townsend

Hickory Court

To the Editor:

Words are inadequate to convey my shock and dismay on reading that Mercer County is proposing an 11 percent increase in its property tax assessment on Princeton. At the average assessed residential property value of approximately $800,000, the county is proposing an additional take of over $500 per house! While some might view Princeton as more able to afford this type of increase, many of our residents are getting crushed by their property tax burden and simply cannot afford an increase of this magnitude.

I was a member of the task force that helped our governing bodies merge the two Princetons into one. Most who voted for consolidation did so with the primary objective of reducing property taxes. We have been successful in executing the plan and hope to deliver reduced costs of up to five percent over where the trend line was taking us. Consolidation took a lot of hard work and cost some dedicated municipal employees their jobs due to redundancies. But the municipal tax bill is less than one-quarter of our total tax bill; schools make up one-half and the county takes the rest. In one careless swipe, the county is taking more than twice what Princeton labored to save by consolidating!

I also have to question an equalization formula that results in an eleven percent increase in one community and less than one percent in others. If the formula is indeed correct, I warn those ‘winners’ in this round that equalization will balance out over time and those ‘winners’ can soon expect to experience the same punishing tax increase that is being foisted on Princeton this year.

I urge that our County Executive and Freeholders re-think this budget and come back with something that is more in line with what their community can afford. Work as hard as the Mercer County municipalities do to mange their budgets.

Scott Sillars

Battle Road

To the Editor:

During and after hurricane Sandy, there were reports of people in the Princeton area who experienced reduced pressure in the natural gas lines, to the extent that they could not operate their emergency generators. The proposed pipeline that will run adjacent to the existing pipeline across the northern corner of Princeton offers us an opportunity to secure a supply of gas for our homes and businesses close to the pipeline where the likelihood of pressure outage interruptions will be minimal. This can be achieved by a tap on the pipeline within Princeton.

This tap would consist of two buildings, one owned by the pipeline company, where the physical tap is placed, and the other by the local gas company, housing the pressure regulating and distribution equipment. The space required could be as small as a half acre, presumably on or adjoining the pipeline ROW. The cost of this infrastructure was estimated by the pipeline engineer at the recent public meeting at about one million dollars. The pipeline company will put a tap anywhere it is wanted, but the decision whether to install a tap at all is made by the local gas company, which here is PSE&G. Any requests for a tap should be directed toward them.

I realize that this idea is probably going to get a Nimby  response from some people in Princeton, but perhaps this is one time that the benefits to the majority outweigh the objections of a minority. As we move forward into an age of increasing fossil fuel scarcity, the concept of being able to tap such an energy source within our own town seems quite desirable, particularly since (a) the pipeline is being built anyway, allowing the tap to be installed before the pipeline is in use, and (b) the opportunity to install a tap later may disappear, as natural gas supplies become less abundant.

Ronald C. Nielsen

Humbert Street

To the Editor:

Do you believe that ever-increasing property taxes and elected officials pursuing their own agendas are negatively impacting our quality of life in Princeton? Are you tired of never ending litigation and costly taxpayer financed settlements? Have you concluded that one-party municipal government is unlikely to result in outcomes to the benefit of all Princeton residents?

Local Republicans offer much needed diversity of thought and experience. Princeton voters increasingly agree that Republicans could bring fresh perspective to muddled local governance. This is evidenced by the fact that Republican candidates for mayor in the past two years received 40 percent of the vote — four times the number of registered Princeton Republicans.

The June 4 primary and the November general election will choose two Princeton Council members who will help govern our newly consolidated community. The Princeton Republican Committee welcomes expressions of interest from potential candidates. You could be on the ballot as the running mate of popular Governor Christie! The primary filing deadline is April 1. We also welcome volunteers who want to help in getting out the vote and actively support Republican candidates.

For more information or an explanation of the election process, please contact me at

Dudley Sipprelle

Chairman Princeton Republican Committee

March 6, 2013

To the Editor:

In a public forum like a community newspaper, we think it is vitally important that people feel free to share their opinions and exercise their right to free speech. At the same time, we’d like to take the opportunity to correct some of the information presented in the February 27, 2013 letter to the editor about the sexual health education that is provided in 44 New Jersey school districts (“Some Princeton Students, Alumni, Take Issue With Small World’s Sponsoring of HiTOPS”) .

The referenced curriculum, is part of an evidence-based, statewide program that is developed and disseminated collaboratively by HiTOPS and the Princeton Center for Leadership Training, with support from the New Jersey Department of Health. It conforms to New Jersey Department of Education Core Curriculum Content Standards for health education, and has been rigorously vetted by state and federal expert review panels that have found it to be medically-accurate, age-appropriate, and culturally-appropriate. This comprehensive sexual health curriculum and structured program model is implemented in schools that have voluntarily chosen to do so with the approval of their local school board. In each participating school, parents are free to choose to allow their students to opt in or opt out of this program.

We are disappointed that this curriculum, which represents the highest standard of comprehensive sexual health education available today in the United States, has been described in ways that are inaccurate, out of context, and misrepresentative of the materials that experts in the field of adolescent health, pregnancy prevention, reproductive health, and pediatrics deem to encompass the best practices for a public health approach to reducing unplanned pregnancy and transmission of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases).

While the Princeton community is fortunate in so many ways, the fact remains that our nation has the highest teen pregnancy rate and higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases among teens of all developed countries. National studies report that it is not that U.S. teens are not more sexually active, but that they frequently lack the information and skills needed to evaluate their risk for unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Experts around the world agree, this approach — providing accurate, unbiased information and access to resources and care, including parental involvement — is the best approach for reducing risks and promoting health-enhancing decisions.

Elizabeth M. Casparian,


Daniel F. Oscar,

Princeton Center for Leadership Training

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 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 To see the Democratic Committee members for your voting district, visit

Jon Durbin

Mt. Lucas Road, President, PCDO

Peter Wolanin

Spruce Street, Chair, PDMC