December 16, 2020

To the Editor:

On December 16 and January 9, the Princeton Environmental Commission and Princeton Council will meet to prioritize their goals for the coming year. In the interests of public health, an ordinance banning or severely restricting the use of two-stroke leaf blowers in our community should be among next year’s town goals.

The shortcomings of these instruments of torture are widely reported and have appeared in our local news sources as well as national magazines (see, for example, Atlantic, April 2019).

It is not simply a matter of their being annoying, noisy and smelly — they are extremely so and do serious damage to our health and well-being. We all know that cars and trucks emit damaging pollutants, but the two-stroke engine is far worse than any other. A recent study found that up to a third of its fuel, including highly carcinogenic benzine, is unburned in the firing process and is let loose into our air and into our lungs. On average these emissions are an incredible 124 times higher than a car. Note that cars and trucks use much cleaner four-stroke engines. more

To the Editor, 

I am a frequent visitor to Princeton. I think making Witherspoon Street into a pedestrian-friendly street is a good option.

Many of my family’s favorite restaurants and shops are located on Witherspoon Street. My husband has worked in Princeton for nearly 30 years, and we come into town quite often as a family. When my daughter was in high school she liked to hang out with her friends at the Princeton Library or in the coffee shops nearby.

We think of Princeton as unique among all the cities and towns in New Jersey. A big part of the attraction is the pleasure of walking around. If there are more places for people to stroll safely, it will invite more people from the greater Princeton area, like my family, to choose Princeton as a place to eat, meet friends, and enjoy shopping and leisure time. 

Shirley Wang
Rosewood Court, Belle Mead

To the Editor:

When I was a student at PHS, I loved going to the Small World after school and sitting in the cool parklet, sipping a coffee, talking with friends, and watching the cars go by. I’ve continued to do this even after high school (before COVID-19), as I’m a student at Rutgers now and come home often. Once we’re past the pandemic, I hope that Witherspoon Street will be a pedestrian street where you can enjoy eating a full meal outside; I would give up the car-watching for that.

This stretch of Witherspoon Street is not necessary to get anywhere. On the contrary, it is a destination in itself. I feel the potential for expanding the restaurant and retail area during high-volume hours is enormous. To me, it is worth the few extra minutes to drive around the block to one of the parking garages. I hope Princeton Council will make Witherspoon Street a pedestrian plaza during dinner hours and on weekends.

Spencer Marks
Howe Circle

December 9, 2020

To the Editor:

Princeton’s business community has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank the town’s leadership for working with us during this difficult year and are especially grateful for the temporary arrangement on Witherspoon Street that has allowed us to keep serving our customers. 

For business owners on Witherspoon Street, this summer’s outdoor dining experience has been a first. While it was dictated by necessity, we have found that the move from a street that is congested with cars and delivery trucks to one where people can enjoy convivial al fresco dining has been received well by the public.

We would like to see a flexible street that allows one-way access to personal cars, delivery, and service vehicles at set times, but also allows closure at other times, to make a safe outdoor space for people, for meeting friends and for community building.

A people-friendly street design, augmented with trees, good lighting, and tasteful decoration, would make Witherspoon Street even more beautiful, and would make a fitting approach to historic Nassau Hall. Indeed, a low-traffic Witherspoon Street can become a destination for visitors, which benefits local businesses, as has been the happy outcome of similar redesigns in Jersey City and Somerville. more

To the Editor:

In 1905, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in a tarpaper shack behind a farmhouse on the Princeton Ridge. This area has been a focus of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and targeted in the Princeton Community Master Plan: “The preservation and protection of the natural environment must be in integral part of all plans and designs for improvements and changes in land use. Examples include rezoning of the Princeton Ridge.”

This week, Princeton’s Planning Board will be hearing testimony on proposed changes at the apex of the Ridge in a land-lease agreement between Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart and the Princeton Soccer Academy. In the agreement, the school will remove 4.2 acres of grass and natural surface, including 46 mature trees, and replace it with nonpermeable artificial turf. PSA is looking to lease this complex and conduct practices, games, and tournaments year-round, every day and every night until 9:30 p.m. 

Zoning prohibits the school from leasing the property for commercial purposes to for-profit organizations. PSA, LLC, a for-profit organization, has been noted by the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, for years, as a partner in this endeavor.  When the school realized this impermissible commercial use, a new application was filed by PSA, Inc., a parallel nonprofit organization just four weeks ago. Clearly, this nonprofit formation is a last-minute attempt to circumvent Princeton’s clear zoning regulations. Allowing an organization that has operated as a for-profit entity for years to suddenly claim they are nonprofit to skirt zoning’s impermissible commercial use sets a dangerous precedent.  more

To the Editor:

Growing up in Princeton, it was obvious to me that we cared deeply about our town. But it was not until I became owner of Princeton Record Exchange that I began to understand just how entwined the government, residents, merchants, and other organizations are. For 40 years, PREX has been embraced by this Princeton community. The residents and local government have shown us love and support, and their enthusiasm and concern for our well-being has increased exponentially during these challenging times. The daily encouragement we get is heartwarming and has made our load much easier to bear. 

As a nationally recognized record store, we are also firmly entrenched in the global music community. Each year we host tens of thousands of visitors from all over the state, country, and world. They come to PREX to experience the joys of immersing themselves in a real brick-and-mortar store. We are happy to satisfy and hope to do so for many years to come. more

To the Editor,

We are writing to you to express our serious concerns and strong opposition regarding the proposed plan set out by the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart to replace their grass fields with synthetic turf, add 11 diesel-operated light towers, and lease out their land to the Princeton Soccer Academy (PSA). 

As owners of property on Heather Lane, this proposed project would have a significant negative impact on our quality of life, for our family and our neighborhood. Our greatest concerns are the negative impact of increasing the impervious coverage that would lead to extensive water runoff and pollution, the additional light and air pollution, increased traffic in the area, and the detrimental impact on our quality of life and safety. more

To the Editor:

Witherspoon Street used to be a central feature in a dad ritual I enjoyed with each of my daughters when they were teens: We would walk or bike to town on Saturdays; we’d pick up a ciabatta at the Witherspoon Bakery, coffee at the Small World, then stroll around campus before making our way home via the library. We would talk about life, the universe, and everything.

With or without daughters, I experience Witherspoon Street as part of the lively heart of our historic town. It really is the perfect place to amble about and see what’s happening, then sit down for a drink or a bite. The parklet in front of Small World Coffee has been very popular in summertime and shows that there was “appetite” for outdoor seating, even before the pandemic.

This summer, Witherspoon Street has looked more attractive than ever, despite the concrete barriers. Who doesn’t like to dine outside with friends, enjoying a breeze or the shade of trees with good food? Who doesn’t enjoy people watching? Let us not go back to the Witherspoon Street of pre-COVID times. Instead, let us turn it into the face of Princeton: inviting and people-friendly.  

Michael Faas
Dempsey Avenue

To the Editor:

Since the canopy covering the Princeton municipal fueling station on Mount Lucas Road was removed in April, nothing has been done to “beautify” or camouflage the remaining structure as promised by our elected officials. And now that winter is approaching and trees have lost their leaves, what remains looks like a high school science project gone bad. 

Granted that COVID has impacted this year’s municipal activity, it hasn’t stopped the workers from other outdoor “beautification” projects around town. So why is this ugly monstrosity ignored?

Barry Goldblatt
Andrews Lane

To the Editor:

We are writing as residents and taxpayers of Princeton, N.J. Andrew and I reside at 75 Heather Lane, Princeton where we have lived for the past 18 years. We are extremely concerned about the Minor Site Plan application filed by Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart (Princeton Academy).

Heather Lane has long suffered from water runoff problems and the proposed replacement of grass with 4.2 acres of impervious surface will only exacerbate this situation. It is our understanding that the Princeton Environmental Commission has recommended this variance be denied because of the synthetic turf’s negative impacts on the environment. The Princeton Ridge has long been considered a fragile ecosystem. The removal of 46 mature trees will further degrade the environment and add to the deforestation we are already experiencing in Princeton from the demise of the ash trees due to disease and insect infestation. 

The addition of 11 diesel-operated light towers and increased traffic caused by ball fields in continuous use will also diminish the quality of life for families in the surrounding area. We are also concerned about the certain all-evening light pollution. The noise from the generators will be a significant annoyance as well. Another concern that we have is that the addition of ball fields will inevitably lead to a requirement for more parking which will lead to more development of the site. This important point has not been addressed in the plan. more

To the Editor:

Princeton Academy of Sacred Heart, a private day school for boys at the corner of Drakes Corner Road and Great Road, has an application before the Princeton Planning Board on December 10 to turn our quiet dark nights into diesel-powered mega lighting for evening soccer practices and games, which are not even part of the school programs. We will be affected by the lights and noise because we look west, right across the Great Road, at the school’s fields that will be lit up. The darkness of the sky and the silent evenings are a major reason we have lived here for the past 32 years. We use our 12-inch reflecting telescope to find galaxies and nebulae which require a dark sky to enjoy.

The application appears to be an attempt to sneak something through that has the potential to profoundly affect our quality of life. At the very least the applicant should address the specifics of the impact of the lights on us, and of the noise from the diesel generators and from the cheering spectators. more

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter to express my strong opposition to the proposed plan for Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart to replace their grass fields with turf, add lights, and lease the land out to Princeton Soccer Academy. This issue will be heard at this week’s Planning Board Meeting taking place via Zoom on Thursday, December 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Our main areas of concern are that the impervious coverage the plan would allow water runoff; water pollution; light pollution; air pollution; land erosion; wildlife conservation, traffic, and speeding issues; and quality of life issues for our residents in the Ridge.

This new turf will increase the impervious coverage of their land by over 90 percent. I worry about flooding in this area.

At this moment there is no evidence of the effects of the rubber and plastic that will be used on the natural land and the land that is used for our children. Undoubtedly the downpours that we now experience will force some of the small granular turf to run off their property. What are the long-term effects of such man-made materials on our children’s or wildlife health? more

To the Editor:

It has come to my attention that the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart School is planning to add lighted, artificial turf soccer fields on the top of Princeton Ridge.  While I understand that the school feels there is a need in Princeton for these fields, I believe that what they are planning is irresponsible and will cause considerable damage to the Princeton Ridge neighborhood.

The plans they are presenting to the Planning Board include the removal of 46 mature trees, the addition of plastic turf fields that are not proven impervious to water, and 11 diesel powered lights that will create a level of noise and light pollution that is untenable to both the neighborhood and the wildlife in the area. Additionally, the school plans to rent these fields to an outside company for league play that will occur 12 months out of the year until 9:30 p.m. each night. League play will add additional noise and traffic issues to the residents of these quiet streets. more

To the Editor,

I am writing this letter to express concerns about Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart’s proposal for a variance to increase their maximum permitted total impervious coverage from the allowable of 14 percent to 21 percent. This is part of their proposal to develop and rent sports fields for year-round, nightly sports events.

The Academy of the Sacred Heart is located in a wetland area. It adjoins forested properties and sits higher than adjacent roads and private property. The proposed increase of 4.2 acres of impervious surface will increase storm water runoff due to the large proportion of ground that is already saturated. Excess runoff is likely to damage root systems and forests, as well as create more dangerous road conditions during storm events. In addition, the new, impervious surface would be part of a project that also includes diesel powered lights. Some of the pollution generated by these lights will settle in the immediately vicinity, wash into local streams and waterways, and further degrade the habitat for local species. more

To the Editor:

We moved to the area known as Princeton Ridge about a year ago. After many trips up from the city of Baltimore while house searching, Princeton Ridge stood out to us because of its beautiful natural wooded environment, the dark skies for ideal stargazing, and the ability to have some land. It had the natural elements that we were longing for while living in Baltimore — the opposite of city life. In Baltimore you would look to the sky and see maybe three stars … if you were lucky. Good for some, but for the long term we wanted something different.

Since we moved to Princeton Ridge we have grown to love it. We have enjoyed seeing beautiful racked piebald deer on our property. We have enjoyed many evenings around the fire pit in our yard, looking to the stars and feeling like we were camping somewhere beautiful. We have come to believe that Princeton has it all — beautiful natural places like this, and a wonderful hustling bustling town for those who prefer to be closer to it all.   more

To the Editor:

I’ll be succinct. I, along with my immediate family of four, have lived in Princeton New Jersey roughly a mile and a quarter from Hinds Plaza for the past 18 years. In that time we have regularly enjoyed the downtown, but never as much as we have since Witherspoon Street has been set to one-way traffic.

We wholeheartedly are in favor of at least keeping it this way permanently, and would be in favor of shutting it down to motor vehicles entirely.

Jonathan Shor
Walnut Lane

To the Editor:

I have been impressed by the efforts of the town Council, the Engineering Department, the Department of Public Works, etc. to improve the Central Business District. As shopping is done more and more online, we need to make the effort to bring shoppers back to downtown. One possibility is to close blocks to vehicles. In his letter two weeks ago [“Hoping Council Will Create a Traffic-Free Space on Lower Witherspoon Street,” Mailbox, November 25], Samuel Bunting pointed out that this is done in Charlottesville. A town closer in size to Princeton that has a pedestrian mall of about three blocks is Winchester, Virginia. They have bus routes circling the streets on all sides of the mall before they radiate out of the business district. There are very good signs detailing the bus route information.

People will want to return to shopping downtown if there is something about the experience that makes it stand out from the alternative choices. By creating one-way traffic on the first block of Witherspoon Street, such an experience is possible. No one is cutting off access to the three parking garages. They are all within walking distance of Nassau Street.  When I have tried to use the Municipal Garage, the only time I have not been able to park there or park on or below the third level was when something special was taking place at the library or in town. more

To the Editor:

As a longtime Princeton resident, I am concerned about the proposed plan being heard by Princeton’s Planning Board on Thursday, regarding the land lease variance sought by the Princeton Academy of The Sacred Heart. The proposal seeks to add 4.2 acres of plastic turf as ground cover, more than the 50 percent maximum allowed.

In addition to the obvious problems due to rainwater runoff, plastic turf fails to provide a suitable habitat for threatened and endangered species including animals, reptiles, birds, and bees. The huge amount of the plastic cover proposed will disrupt the biodiversity of the Princeton Ridge area and cause irreparable ecological damage. The proposed light towers will also generate unacceptable levels of both noise and bright light.  more

December 2, 2020

To the Editor:

As the holidays approach we wanted to say thank you to our customers, fellow merchants, delivery drivers, and municipal workers who have reached out, checked-in, and lent a helping hand through the COVID crisis. There have been many challenges since we have been in business, but this one takes the cake. If not for the kindness of others we would not have been able to make it this far, either financially or spiritually. But, we are not out of the woods yet!

For the last decade jaZams and nearly all other merchants in town have been struggling. Faced with the pressures of the false economy of online retail, we have been working harder and longer for less and less. Always optimistic, we press on because we love what we do and are committed to the community we serve. As we are sure you have noticed, many of us have not survived. Most recently, the pandemic has sealed the fate of many of our retail family. For those retailers the cause of death will read “COVID-19” but the underlying condition will be online retail.

What every member of our community needs to understand is that every time the “Buy” button is pushed for a big online retailer our local economy — and the community it enlivens — becomes less viable. We understand why shopping online is attractive, but because of the staggering imbalance of capital local merchants will never be able to adequately respond to the Amazons of this world. No, we cannot stock every item you want. We cannot give you prices pennies above wholesale. We cannot shuttle items to your doorsteps via voice activated commands. It’s just not in the cards. more

To the Editor:

We write as Princeton business owners and residents, concerned for the future of our fellow merchants and our town. As town Council is currently undertaking efforts to redesign Witherspoon Street at a time that will make or break many of our beloved Princeton businesses, we feel it is important to express our views regarding these redesign efforts.

We all agree: Witherspoon Street needs beautification and improvement. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Witherspoon Street is central to fostering a successful business district. As individuals who have operated stores and restaurants in Princeton for years and experience the realities of the current one-way setup daily, we understand that it is critically important to incorporate the following factors into any redesign of Witherspoon Street:

Avoid decreasing the number of parking spaces. Princeton has a “parking problem,” perceived and real. We can’t afford to exacerbate this issue. We serve clientele who live walking-distance to our shops and many more who don’t, both from Princeton proper and well beyond. Convenient parking is critical to keep customers visiting Princeton’s downtown. more

To the Editor,

In 2020, in the face of our substantial societal challenges, I found the website It is run by a nonprofit, A Network for Grateful Living, which has roots in faith and philosophy and shared human experiences that transcend religion, gender, race, or ethnicity. One of my favorite things about the site is its continual prompt to ask, “To whom and for what am I grateful?” And there is always someone or something.

At this moment, I’d like to express my gratitude for being elected to a seat on the Board of Education for Princeton Public Schools. I am especially grateful for those who encouraged me to run and for the support of my campaign team, Walter Bliss, Fern Spruill, Nick Di Domizio, Kathy Taylor, and my husband Jon, as well as for those who paused for a moment to write a letter of support or share a testimonial or host a gathering. I am also thankful for everyone who took time to speak with me about our schools and the issues we face as a community, for the other candidates, and for everyone who voted during 2020 to ensure democracy thrived.

I look forward to working as part of a team to make our excellent schools even better and to garner community support for strong public schools because of the promise they hold for our children’s future.

Jean Y. Durbin
Mount Lucas Road

To the Editor:

I am a graduate student at Princeton University writing in favor of pedestrianizing Witherspoon Street between Nassau and Spring streets.

During the pandemic, my friends and I have been frequent visitors to the new and inviting Witherspoon StrEATery. It is not surprising that we visit the restaurants and shops on Witherspoon more. Other area businesses benefit as well. Previously, we would take our lunch back to campus to eat. Now, with on-street seating, we are more likely to walk over to the Princeton Running Company to check out the new shoes, browse the books at Labyrinth, treat ourselves to bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea or ice cream at Palmer Square after lunch. Given how much business owners stand to benefit from increased pedestrian traffic and expanded outdoor dining, I hope they will champion our shared cause.   more

To the Editor:

Thanksgiving is a very special day in many ways. It is not a religious, patriotic, or commercial holiday, but rather a time for families to gather over a special meal and count the blessings in their lives. While this year looked different for so many, the families that HomeFront serves that are homeless or very low-income were especially thankful. Thankful to have a safe place to sleep at night, to have food on their table — and grateful for our caring community.

For the past 30 years HomeFront has called on all of you to provide these families with “baskets” filled with all the ingredients for a wonderful celebration. The response has been overwhelming, and this year was no exception! Donors even included gift cards for turkeys, Thanksgiving decorations, and groceries for the following week.

On behalf of all the families who were blessed with a very special meal we thank all the individuals, congregations, and corporations who made it possible, and hope their Thanksgivings were equally special.

Kelsey Espada
Volunteer Coordinator, HomeFront

Meghan Cubano
Director of Community Engagement, Homefront

Princeton Avenue, Lawrenceville

To the Editor:

I write to express gratitude to Princeton voters for re-electing me to a second term on the Princeton Board of Education. 

We have important work ahead, as a Board of Education and as a community, as we navigate through the pandemic and chart a path forward. I look forward to continuing, together with my dedicated Board colleagues, the work of securing a permanent superintendent, providing focused and impactful oversight, and ensuring that all of our children receive an equitable and effective education. 

I’ve been inspired and touched by those who have supported my past service, provided frank feedback about what we can do better for our kids, and encouraged me to run again. You supported my candidacy in so many ways — hosting Zoom calls, writing letters, speaking with friends and colleagues, and spreading the word about what the Board has accomplished so far and the importance of experience for the challenges ahead. Thank you.

It will be an honor to continue serving the 32,000 residents of Princeton. We are all in this together, and I look forward to continued dialogue and collaboration as we work together to prepare our children and our community for the future.

Beth Behrend
Riverside Drive

To the Editor:

I’m writing to express my support for Princeton opening Witherspoon Street to walkers and shoppers to create a distinctive and vibrant place that benefits merchants and local residents alike. I offer two thoughts for Princetonians to consider about this.

First, other communities in New Jersey have overcome their nervousness to create just such places, and have learned that direct experience is the best teacher.

Just before Thanksgiving, I spoke with the town administrator of Red Bank, New Jersey, about his experience converting two full blocks of Broad Street to a fully pedestrian-focused plaza through the summer and fall.

Red Bank’s first steps pedestrianizing Broad Street were tentative, experimental, and time-limited, and all town communications emphasized this. But as merchants and residents gained direct experience, positive reviews came thick and fast.

Now Red Bank is gearing up to make even more pedestrian-supporting changes. Next year, the town plans to expand the pedestrian plaza one block more, and will also make physical improvements to calm traffic and create a better pedestrian environment on nearby streets. Direct experience, and learning from that, has been the most important factor in making progress. more