September 2, 2020

To the Editor:

We are writing to enthusiastically endorse Jean Durbin for Princeton’s Board of Education. We are going through a very difficult time in our state and nation, and many Princetonians are facing serious struggles to simply get by from day to day.  More than ever, the School Board needs steady hands to guide our schools through these uncertain times.

Jean is deeply rooted in this town and knows our schools and our families well from being a PPS parent, a PTO president at Littlebrook, and a fixture for many years with Princeton Little League. Jeffrey has had the opportunity to work with Jean both at Princeton University and on the Executive Board of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization, witnessing first hand her ability to manage inclusively, build consensus, and work efficiently to get things done. Her background in policy making, strategic planning, and contract negotiation will help her add to the strengths of the current Board and its very capable leadership. Perhaps most importantly, she will bring to the job a deep commitment to the progressive, equitable values we share as a community. more

To the Editor:

We are writing to you to voice our complete support for Jean Durbin for the Princeton Board of Education. We first met Jean when our son, Jonathan Tao, started to play Princeton Little League baseball. Over the years, we have watched her working so hard for the community and for our children. While our sons play ball, she makes sure our boys treat each other right, be responsible, and be brave.

During our son’s Cooperstown Little League baseball tournament in the summer of 2017, Jean organized and created the opportunity for the boys to sell cookies to earn the money for the trip. She organized to rent a big classical house for families to share, and the trip brought all the families closer. The trip was not only successful, but also created a lifelong memory for us to cherish.

Throughout the years, Jean has not only shown that she is a very caring person, she has also demonstrated that she is a true leader. We could not be happier that Jean, at this critical time, comes out and is willing to bring her qualifications and skills to make a difference in our children’s education and future.

We fully endorse Jean.

Xue Shirley Li and Dali Tao
Montadale Drive

August 26, 2020

To the Editor:

Please join us in voting to re-elect Beth Behrend to the Board of Education on November 3. More than ever, our town needs her experienced and strategic leadership.

As fellow community volunteers and advocates around issues of sustainability and school gardens, we have known and admired Beth’s leadership for a long time, including her work as a trustee of the Princeton School Gardens Cooperative, as Riverside PTO President, as a founding trustee and secretary of the NJ League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, and as a trustee and secretary of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association.

Beth was elected to the Board of Education in 2017 and chosen by fellow Board members as chair in January 2019. Beth’s steady hand during stormy times has facilitated a number of significant accomplishments. Under Beth’s leadership, the Board strengthened its oversight capabilities, enhanced communication, and improved coordination with partner institutions and organizations. The Board also planned and implemented major facilities projects and priority-based budgeting, introduced district-wide Pre-K, adopted restorative justice practices resulting in a 50 percent decline in suspensions, and is developing K-12 racial literacy curricula. Perhaps most crucially, the district hired a highly-qualified interim superintendent and three highly-qualified key senior administrators who are now working tirelessly and effectively as a team to design and execute a comprehensive pandemic reopening plan.  more

To the Editor:

As a native of Princeton, I have been following the discussion around the renaming of the John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS). I grew up in Princeton and attended both public and private schools. I raised four children here and they too attended a combination of the local public and private schools. 

I have been actively involved in both middle and high school athletics for 40 years as a  women’s field hockey and lacrosse umpire. I have traveled to many, many schools in Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset, and Hunterdon counties. It has always been easiest to find and know what school it is you are going to if the name is short, concise, and self-explanatory, ie: Princeton High School; West Windsor-Plainsboro HS, North or South; Princeton Day School; Hopewell Valley Central High School; Lawrence High School, just to name a few. Often the middle schools are most confusing to find, because they have names that do not have the local town name in the title, ie: Grover, Timberlane, Grice to name a few. Sometimes it is necessary to know what school district you are working for.  more

To the Editor:

Here is one indication of the sad state of Post Office deliveries. Today, August 22, I received in the mail a statement from the Tax Department of Princeton. The statement is dated August 3, the envelope in which  it came is postmarked August 4. It was mailed “Neopost First Class Mail.”

Eighteen days to arrive? Even more remarkable given that I live less than a mile from the Tax Department.

Nicholas M. Katz
Bayard Lane

To the Editor: 

I would like to thank the many Princeton residents who supported my candidacy for Princeton Council and offer my congratulations to David Cohen and Leticia Fraga. While we didn’t prevail this time, our campaign had an important message for the community, and I remain committed to my decision to run a full campaign in spite of the pandemic. Our democracy thrives with an informed electorate. I want to offer a special thanks to my intrepid campaign team who engaged in the process with enthusiasm and creativity.  

After living here for 17 years, contributing extensively to our public schools, The Jewish Center, Princeton’s Economic Development Committee, and the library, I remain ready to work more broadly for our town. We will face major hurdles in the coming years, from the economic impact of the pandemic to the arrival of many new Princeton residents. We will need to develop a true economic plan — not just react to issues, but lead with ideas. We will need to address transportation, affordable housing, infrastructure and our schools, to name a few. I am committed to supporting the new administration in any way I can.

For all of you who voted for me, you have my deepest gratitude. Thank you for your support.

Dina Shaw
Clover Lane

To the Editor:

We write in support of the candidacy of our colleague and friend, Jean Durbin, for the Princeton Board of Education. We met Jean Durbin more than 15 years ago through a shared interest in working to find solutions to issues that affect our community at the local, state, and national levels. We worked together on the board of local organization that seeks to present a progressive perspective on these issues for public discussion. Our public schools face many issues in these uncertain times, amongst these being how to best conduct education during a pandemic that has caused concerns about maintaining a safe, healthy environment for our students, faculty and staff, while creating severe financial pressures on our schools. 

Jean has shown that she is an effective leader and board member. Her leadership style is inclusive and collaborative. She is thoughtful, incisive, and has shown the ability to focus on workable solutions. Jean is a strong advocate for public education and understands its role in helping our children to become educated citizens and achieve success as adults in a rapidly changing world. She has shown that she is well prepared to help guide our Princeton public schools to provide the best education to all of our children in these difficult times. 

We urge you to join us in voting for Jean Durbin on November 3 for a brighter future for our Princeton public schools. 

Ruth Miller
Bernie Miller
Governors Lane

August 19, 2020

To the Editor:

Our neighbors at 200 Hamilton Avenue have recently experienced a frightening event that has occurred at that address no fewer than six times in my experience. I have lived here for 28 years. The front yard, fences, and shrubbery were recently destroyed by a fast moving vehicle that plowed into their property at great financial loss and, potentially, though thankfully not yet, human loss or injury.

I have lived at 218 Hamilton Avenue and seen many traffic events that wrecked the yard and instilled fear in the families that have lived in that house. I walk to work every day and I am “super” vigilant when I cross the Hamilton/ North Harrison intersection. Speed is unmonitored and drivers run or jump the lights on a routine basis. They go too fast and can’t stop.

My neighbor’s yard is where they finally hit the brakes. My husband was “clipped” by a driver when crossing the street. He reported it to the police but was told no action would be taken since he was not injured. I have offered my yard, three houses away, for my neighbor to bring his children to play. Is this why one moves to Princeton? more

To the Editor:

The dual health and economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic is challenging our local merchants in unprecedented ways.

The Princeton Small Business Resiliency Fund was created to provide much needed relief to our community, with an eye toward rebuilding from the crisis in ways that will make our community healthier and stronger moving forward. As part of the initial round of funding, local businesses that met eligibility requirements were able to submit applications for up to $5,000 for COVID-related reopening expenses.

Before distributing the first round of grants at the end of this month, the Fund is making an appeal to the community to match a “challenge” grant from Princeton University to enable fuller funding of those businesses that applied. Currently, there are more worthy requests than money in the fund. Princeton University, which generously contributed the initial $250,000 to create the Fund, has pledged an extra $100,000 in matching dollars to double the impact of additional donations. more

To the Editor:

Jean Durbin will make a great addition to the School Board. It would be the logical extension of her years of service to young people in the Princeton Community.

For more than a decade, Jean has been a mainstay of youth baseball in Princeton, working largely under the radar, organizing activities, coordinating volunteers, raising funds, and generally helping do what has to be done. The Little League has flourished over these years, and with broad community support and organization, every child has had a chance to participate and feel welcomed.    

Over these same years Jean quietly served our schools as well. For two years she was a member of the board of the Princeton Education Foundation; and after stepping down from the board, twice went back to co-chair PEF’s annual fundraising gala. For many years she was instrumental in supporting and growing the Chess Club at Littlebrook School. She was a prime mover and fundraiser for the Club’s activities, including the introduction of privately-funded chess instruction at the school. She also served a term as co-president of the Littlebrook PTO. more

To the Editor:

The Princeton Paper Crane Project was the brainchild of Heidi Moon from Miya Table and Home. It is a community art project created at the community room at the Arts Council of Princeton. Its purpose is two-fold: to call attention to all those in New Jersey who have lost their lives due to the coronavirus, and to acknowledge Black Lives Matter in a very visual manner.

Heidi and family have orchestrated a very moving multifaceted display of the paper cranes which were created by many in Princeton and elsewhere. There are quite a number of different installations of cranes hanging from the ceiling, laying on the floor, in plexiglass cases, placed on the steps of the stairs leading to the second floor. All are equally creative. All, nearly 20,000, are testimony to the caring people of Princeton demonstrating their support for the larger community we live in. more

To the Editor:

I applaud Sustainable Princeton’s recent attention to the invasive plant species that abound in our wooded areas. I would also like to invite people to walk around their yards and think about replacing the so commonly used landscaping plantings that are both highly invasive and that give no sustenance or shelter to our native pollinators.

These include boxwood, English ivy, barberry, burning bush, butterfly bush, autumn olive, Callery pear, pachysandra (there is a native pachysandra!), and many others. These all are devoid of pollinator support. And for each of these there is an equally attractive native plant species that could be used that would help stem the disastrous worldwide decline of our native pollinators. This decline is due to the lack of food and shelter for them and the pervasive use of pesticides and herbicides that tear apart the necessary eco-community that is entirely interdependent for their continued existence.

Native plant gardens are designed to look beautiful — with a seasonal arc of blooming of choices from a full palette of colors, textures, and heights. Plant those trees, bushes, grasses, and flowers and they will come! 

Judith K. Robinson
East Broad Street, Hopewell 

August 12, 2020

To The Editor:

My wife and I are senior citizens and we live on Governors Lane in Princeton. Last week, we endured another power outage because of the storm. Power outages are very frightening for all, but especially for seniors who sense a feeling of abandonment and helplessness during that sort of experience.

Several years ago we went to Amsterdam, Holland, for a one-week vacation. Amsterdam is a city of culture, great restaurants, beer, museums, and lots of great activities. While on a tour outside the city with a Dutch guide, we noticed that there were no power wires, on poles, anywhere. No wires crossing roads, highways, streets. And when there is a storm or inclement  weather, no power outages.

Our guide explained to us that the government of Holland decided, about ten years before we were there, to launch a government-sponsored campaign to place all wires underground. Good for the environment, good for everyone’s welfare.

Driving in Mercer County and many other communities not only in New Jersey, but across America, we see a network of wires crossing highways, streets, and roads in a confused “spaghetti-like” fashion. When there is a storm with strong winds such as we recently experienced, poles that hold these wires are vulnerable to fall down, damaging the power wires and causing dangerous power outages. more

To the Editor:

The Board of Health and the Princeton Environmental Commission suggested that we talk to our landscapers and ask them to limit or discontinue their use of gas-powered leaf blowers [“Protecting Landscaping Workers and Our Air Quality: You Can Help,” Mailbox, August 5].

I can testify from personal experience that doing that can really work. I talked to my landscaper. I asked him to completely stop using leaf blowers but to continue mowing my lawn. He was glad to do this. The result: when he works on my lawn, there is no longer any noise or pollution from leaf blowers that would damage his health and disturb my neighbors.

I next encouraged my landscaper to buy battery-powered equipment. He now mows my lawn with a battery-powered mower. The result: when he mows my lawn, there is less noise and no pollution. He does most of the work himself. I’m glad that he is no longer subjected to pollution from a gas-powered mower because of his work for me. more

To the Editor:

As supporters of Quiet Princeton, we add our voice to the cry to ban gas-powered leaf blowers. That they are deafeningly noisy, produce poisonous pollutants, and blow fine particulates of all sorts into our air is well documented as are the potential solutions — electric blowers, raking, letting leaves mulch on the lawn, and so on. Action against these awful contraptions is long overdue and needs to be swift in commission. It is indeed good news that Princeton’s Board of Health is taking this issue seriously and the prospect of an ordinance to limit their use is more than welcome.

However, it should be noted that the use of gas-powered leaf blowers extends well beyond summer. They are now commonly used year-round. Therefore, the health of our citizens also needs to be protected year-round. more

To the Editor:

There is rarely a day when I am not bombarded by the roar of industrial mowers, the whine of weed-whackers, edgers, and, finally, blowers. It often goes on all day and is so noisy that I get in my car and leave. 

But inevitably, wherever I end up, there are more landscapers making more noise. Even beautiful wooded trails, such as at Mountain Lakes, back up to houses where the noise of blowers pierce the solitude of a quiet nature hike.

I can tell you, having worked in landscaping, that fall leaves can be raked in the same amount of time as being blown around, with no cost to anyone’s sanity, work productivity, or health. more

To the Editor:

I am delighted to read that the Princeton Board of Health and the Princeton Environmental Commission are taking a stand regarding the toxic uses of gas powered leaf blowers.

The health of our citizens and our planet should not be compromised, even if homeowners (many of whom live in houses worth over a million dollars) have to pay more for services from their landscapers. There are plenty of reliable statistics about fine particles in the air causing life threatening conditions, particularly for people with lung conditions, including COVID-19.  Also, unburned gasoline released into the air contributes to pollution and global warming.

Now that our town agencies are making their opinions heard, let’s expect quick action to solve this problem.

Peggy Skemer
Robert Road

To the Editor:

I greatly appreciate the Board of Health and Environmental Commission’s interest in worker health and safety [“Protecting Landscaping Workers and Our Air Quality: You Can Help,” Mailbox, August 5]. They bring attention to occupational hazards that landscapers may encounter, specifically noise and particulate exposures.

Landscaping presents many hazards to workers, including amputations; electrical shock; heat and cold stress; ergonomic; noise exposure; pesticide and other chemical exposure; vehicular accidents; and slips, trips, and falls. Deaths have occurred associated with vehicular and heavy-equipment accidents, falls, electrocution, and heat stroke (source: www.osha.gov/SLTC/landscaping/hazards.html#pesticideschemicals).  more

August 5, 2020

To the Editor:

The recent renewed national focus on equity as well as the multiple impacts of the coronavirus pandemic have made it especially important to focus on protecting everyone’s health, especially the health of outdoor workers in our community.

During the summer months, when poor air quality already poses a health risk, the use of gas-powered lawn equipment for landscaping maintenance in general, and gas-powered leaf blowers in particular, makes the problem even worse. Lawn equipment and leaf blowers emit pollutants and fine particulates that are hazardous to human health and are often loud enough to damage the hearing of workers who are not adequately protected.  more

To the Editor:

Beth Behrend is the person Princeton needs to continue to lead the School Board. Her consistent, calm demeanor will help guide our school system through challenging times. We need her experience from the past couple of years: managing the hiring of an interim superintendent, navigating our entry into the world of virtual education, and holding the importance of unity in the midst of diverse pressures.

As we move into the coming challenges we need continuity and collaboration. We need her philosophy that we are all in this together. Her leadership of the Board of Education has been notable for its inclusivity, its professional approach to complex issues, and its vision for the future of schools in Princeton. A unified School Board will be needed to hire the very best permanent superintendent and assistant superintendent of schools for our town. more

To the Editor:

I am deeply disappointed in the Princeton Public School Board’s reopening plan for elementary schools. Limiting our youngest students to two half-days of in-person instruction a week will only serve to exacerbate the learning loss our children suffered during the chaos of this spring, as well as contribute to more behavioral health issues due to lack of socialization with peers.

The data on this coming out of Wuhan is sobering — nearly one in five children in grades 2-6 there report depression and/or anxiety following their shutdown and closure of school. I would think this data would have been a call to action for the PPS Board to do more, especially given Princeton’s relatively low community transmission rate and clear strides in contact tracing. Sadly, it was not. more

To the Editor:

As a neighbor of the planned Franklin/Witherspoon housing project, I see merits and flaws. It is a laudable goal to expand and improve affordable housing. The housing needs to be more than a stark apartment complex; it should feature green spaces throughout to give it a gracious quality. Also, it should rise no more than two stories on Franklin Avenue and three stories on Witherspoon Street, so as to fit the residential neighborhood.

The neighborhood is already the most overcrowded one in Princeton, thanks to the AvalonBay housing. Now the planner wants to add, in addition to the affordable housing, in the same space, 80 luxury apartments, with the most expensive ones costing over $4,000 a month. There are enough high-priced apartments in the Avalon complex as it is! The argument is that the income from the luxury apartments will finance future affordable housing. Has anybody seen the calculations for the profits after deductions for building management, maintenance, and finance fees? I wonder how much will be really left to finance future affordable housing.  more

To the Editor:

Thanks to all who worked hard to settle the social and legal issues in affordable housing [“Council Approves Last of Affordable Housing Ordinances,” July 29, p. 1]. I write as a resident and a retired member of the Princeton Emergency Planning Committee.

Now that the affordable housing ordinances are largely in place, Princeton faces issues of scale, design, and public safety. It will be up to the Site Plan Review Board and, ultimately, the Planning Board to strive for the best site designs and safest construction materials rather than only formulas put forth by developers.

Many large fires have occurred in multi-unit housing in New Jersey (notably Edgewater, Maplewood, Lakewood) as well as in other states. In Edgewater, 500 people lost their homes in January 2015 in the large AvalonBay wooden housing development. This event was preceded in 2000 at the same site, when the same company’s development went up in flames destroying nine nearby, occupied homes and more than 12 cars. more

To the Editor:

I read Janet Heroux’s letter to the editor on July 22 regarding leaf blowers behind her house and could write the identical letter, unfortunately many of us could.

I live next door to a hair salon that was closed for over four months during this pandemic, and every other week a crew of landscapers would get out and blow the parking lot from front to back. An insane process which is so loud, burns gas, and results in sending a cloud of debris into my yard.

Recently I was on Palmer Square painting and I listened and watched a leaf blower that ran from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., just blowing dirt and dust into the street, which blows right back in and then the process is repeated the following week.

Like Janet, I wish we were not held hostage by the noise and stink of these ubiquitous machines, which regretfully have become part of our everyday lives. I do hope our town could make a change?

Maria Evans
Leigh Avenue

To the Editor:

Does anyone really like, or want, the use of leaf blowers?

Think about how they’re used. It isn’t just dead leaves and grass clippings that get blown into the air. It’s fungi, bacteria, animal and bird droppings, pesticide-laden dust, and anything else that has fallen or been applied to the lawn.

But if you watch landscapers work, they don’t just blow the debris off the lawn, they blow it into the street, where it lofts into the air rubber tire bits, diesel exhaust soot, and brake-pad wearings. (And virus-laden dust? What’s the proper “social distancing” measure for someone using a leaf blower?)

And then, of course, there’s the noise. Are you working at home, or learning at home? Can you concentrate on anything when a leaf blower fires up? Certainly not. So why is your productivity worth less than that of a landscaper? more