December 28, 2016

Editor’s Note: The Town Topics Mailbox policy is that letters with negative content are shared with the person/group in question in order to allow the courtesy of a response.  The YMCA was not given the opportunity to respond on December 21st and we apologize for that oversight. 

Contrary to Claims of Discrimination Against Disabled, Princeton Family YMCA Provides Widespread Access

To the Editor:

The Board of Directors of the Princeton Family YMCA would like to respond to a letter in the December 21 Mailbox that falsely claims that our organization discriminates against individuals with disabilities. To the contrary, the Princeton Family YMCA has provided widespread access to our facility and programs to ALL of our citizens for 60 years, since the facilities were first constructed. We are proud of the undisputed fact that generations of children and adults with a wide range of abilities — physical and intellectual — have participated and enjoyed our various programs, ranging from swim and group exercise classes for adults and children, youth sports, a free LIVESTRONG program for individuals living with cancer, group mentoring, summer camps, and after school programs including Princeton Young Achievers (just to name a few!). Indeed, the Princeton Family YMCA is a beacon in our community by providing first-rate educational and healthy living support to all individuals — regardless of race, age, national origin, ability, or socioeconomic standing.

It is important to note that the Princeton Family YMCA is a charitable non-profit, cause-driven organization that depends entirely on revenues from membership and program fees and contributions from generous donors. The YMCA also provides more than $500,000 each year in subsidized programs that are free or low cost to our neighbors who are most in need, as well as in direct financial assistance to individuals and families. Every dollar the YMCA receives is reinvested back into the community.

With that said, we wholeheartedly agree that our aging facility is in dire need of significant upgrades to provide better access to individuals with disabilities, as well as to other members of the greater Princeton community. As a board, we are in the midst of a campaign to raise awareness of this need, and to raise the necessary funds so we can provide a top-notch facility that our entire community can enjoy and take pride in. We are very proud that we successfully completed the first step of three for our planned “refresh.” The first step, that encompasses the main level, includes a new reception desk with an accessible counter, two new handicapped-accessible restrooms and family changing area, renovations to the women’s locker room that include accessible counters and lockers, and throughout the spaces, all new doorways, doors, lever sets, and electrical switches that meet accessibility standards. And it’s important to acknowledge that these improvements were funded through individual charitable donations from caring people here in our community.

In the coming months, in addition to the “refresh” campaign, our board will be leading a needs assessment to determine how our YMCA can best serve our community, as we prepare to develop a comprehensive strategic plan which will include a larger vision and master plan for our facilities. We look forward to welcoming our neighbors’ input and participation as we embark on this journey, and to continuing our efforts to strengthen the foundations of this community with a focus on youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. We also invite everyone to visit us soon, take a tour, and see how the YMCA is making a difference in the lives of so many here in the Princeton region — and please consider joining us!

Merilyn Rovira, 

Chair Board of Directors, Princeton Family YMCA

To the Editor:

I write to second the letter in Town Topics on Dec. 14 complaining about the leaf piles that narrow our streets and make them unsafe for vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians [“Due to Leaf Piles, Streets in Our City Remain a Dangerous Slalom Course].

Although Princeton has strict regulations as to when loose leaves can be put out (one week prior to the pickup week), many homeowners (or, more likely, their yard maintenance companies) place leaves in the street in disregard of the rule (either well before or after the pickup). Yet apparently neither our elected officials nor the Department of Public Works seems to have ever taken notice of this phenomenon (just drive around any fall day and you can’t miss it) or cares to enforce the regulation.

I’m not necessarily defending the rule — sure I’d like to put leaves out when it is convenient for me and not have to adhere to an arbitrary schedule — but then why bother having this requirement if it isn’t enforced?

Of course there are alternatives such as bagging leaves, mulching, and composting, but these are not always practical approaches for many homeowners.

Steve Frakt

Lake Drive

December 21, 2016

To the Editor:

We oppose the expansion of the Princeton Charter School as both unfair and a waste of taxpayer dollars.

While the effects of putting a charter school in a small suburban school district were unknown when the school opened 20 years ago, the negative impacts are apparent now. The existence of the charter school segregates our students and leaves the public school with less money to provide the valuable public service of educating every student that resides within its borders regardless of their income or any learning issues.

As taxpayers, we should expect that our property tax dollars are used in the education of our community’s children where they are most needed. The school board elected by the entire Princeton community and the superintendent they hire are the ones to determine where our resources are best used. If a Princeton resident is unhappy with the board’s decisions, he can vote in new members at the next election. Better yet, they could run to be a school board member themselves.

If the state grants the Princeton Charter School this expansion, our citizens lose their voice in how that money is spent. Instead, over a million dollars will be taken from our accountable officials and given to the Princeton Charter School whose board is elected only by the families that attend the school. Property taxpayers have no recourse if they disagree with how the money is spent. The concern is real. The Princeton Charter School plans to use the money for elementary grade expansion. Meanwhile our high school is bursting at the seams.

Princeton relies almost entirely on its local residents rather than the state to fund its schools. Yet, if they allow the expansion, the state is deciding how our locally raised money is used and removing all community oversight! We all want quality education for our children. But this expansion benefits a small group of families already very generously served by the existing charter school at the very real expense of our public schools and our taxpayers.

Amy Craft 

Poe Road

Megan McCafferty 

Fisher Avenue

Julie Tromberg Ramirez 

Stone Cliff Road

To the Editor:

The Princeton Charter School expansion is not the right decision for our Community.

The PCS trustees’ proposal seeks 76 more students, 60 of whom will be in grades K-2, at a cost of $1.16 million dollars that will be taken out of our existing school budget each year.

The trustees of Princeton Charter School claim that by taking 60 children in grades K-2, from Princeton’s 4 Elementary schools, plus taking $1.16 million dollars each year from the current Princeton Public Schools budget, the expansion will help the Princeton Public Schools with their enrollment issues. It will not.

First, enrollment at Princeton High School has been steadily rising for years and is already at or above capacity. None of the new 76 Princeton Charter School “seats” will help PHS.

Second, in the past two years, John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS) enrollment has ballooned. The district must have the funds in its upcoming budget season to hire more staff, in order to maintain/readjust class sizes and maintain programs there. As explained above, the bulk of the Princeton Charter School expansions proposal would call for taking 60 children currently in grades K-2, from the 4 Princeton elementary schools. That does nothing to lessen JWMS’s enrollment.

Third, the PCS proposal calls for an additional few kids per grade, in grades 4-8. This will take out only a handful of students from JWMS, spread over the three grades there. This will not affect enrollment, nor will it lessen the need for the district to hire more staff there. If charter school expansion happens, JWMS will still have almost the same number of kids, therefore will still need the same resources and teachers. Fixed costs remain the same! and as a result, we will not have the money to staff those needed new sections. Once again, the PCS expansion does not help JWMS. As a matter of fact it further weakens JWMS now and in the future.

Lastly, the majority of children PCS would take would come from three grades across the 4 elementary schools, which aren’t experiencing a crowding issue. Even if they were, the expansion as proposed would not meaningfully help.

So, if the PCS expansion doesn’t help PHS, doesn’t help JWMS, isn’t needed in the 4 elementary schools, and only weakens the excellent Princeton Public Schools as a whole, why is it being forced on our community?

Wendy Vasquez

Audubon Lane

To the Editor:

As a graduate of Princeton University and a former New York City public school teacher, currently a resident of Princeton and a teacher at Princeton Charter School, I am surprised by the antipathy some in this community have directed towards PCS’s reasonable and modest expansion plans. Given how good a job PCS does in educating 348 Princeton public school students each year, it is ironic and sad that some question its very right to exist, much less expand. PCS is a public school that is successful because it has competent and compassionate leaders, who create an environment that attracts and retains talented, committed, and supportive teachers and a talented, committed, and supportive student population. These characteristics do not make PCS a private school, as some in this community have suggested, but a model for what a successful public school can and should be.

Arthur Eisenbach 

Russell Road

To the Editor:

I am writing to you to express my appreciation of your paper’s coverage of the Princeton Charter School expansion plans. As a parent of a child that went into PCS as a kindergartner in 2002 and graduated from it, I would like to express my support for its expansion.

PCS was a great educational experience for our daughter. An impish naughty handful when little, she was nurtured by the excellent teachers there to become a thoughtful person, and extremely well prepared for the challenges of high school. She attended PHS, and went on to attend Princeton University. We credit PCS for instilling the right academic habits and inspiring intellectual curiosity, and PHS for providing the additional challenge and social maturity.

When we had enrolled her in PCS kindergarten, we did so because we had been hearing anecdotal comments from parents of older children that they chose PCS to avoid John Witherspoon middle school, which, in the early 2000’s was, supposedly, not as strong in academics as PCS. Over the years, the grapevine script has changed: we have been hearing how wonderful JW is, which means that the competition from PCS must have facilitated changes that improved its quality dramatically. I believe that competition is a good thing. It keeps PCS on its toes, because its charter gets renewed only if it provides education at least as good as the district schools, and it keeps those schools on their toes as well. It also instills an ethic of constant improvement, which only serves our student population better.

 While our daughter was a student there, PCS received a “Blue Ribbon” award, as part of the “No Child Left Behind” act. I was proud as a parent, because this meant that the school did not cherry-pick the students, but instead worked with the students it had, and was able with its more limited resources to improve the academic skills of its most disadvantaged students, more than other schools in the area.

PCS is ready to accept the challenge of educating more disadvantaged students by changing its charter to a weighted admission lottery, which would favor them substantially. I would like to ask for your support and the support of the entire Princeton community in this challenge. It is a noble challenge, in the spirit of a cooperative competition, and it is something open-minded Princeton citizens should embrace.

Nadia Braun

Cherry Hill Road

To the Editor:

I called up the YMCA this afternoon and heard its welcome message. The Y is for healthy living (I ask how, if those who need it cannot access the exercise room), social justice (really, the Y by not making the facility accessible is discriminating) and everyone is welcome (how?).

I ask you how the Y can say or even think that when they exclude a segment of the community, the handicapped, from two thirds of its facilities.

Someone on the ADA helpline told me that, while older buildings were exempt from the original ADA regulations, Title 3 regulations are that 20 percent of a renovation budget of older buildings should be used to make the facilities more accessible. The Y is using semantics when it says it is “refreshing” its facilities rather than renovating them. When they redid the women’s locker room they changed where the entrance was, to make checking in to the facility easier for the staff, and replaced functioning (although no longer pretty) lockers but did nothing to make the area more accessible.

When I spoke to the CEO, Kate Bech, about making the facility more accessible it was clear from her comments that accessibility was not a priority, and she indicated that there was not money for making all three floors of the facility accessible. So I go back to my question, how can the Y be a community organization when it discriminates against the handicapped.

Nancy Hall

Walnut Lane

December 14, 2016

To the Editor:

Princeton Councilwoman Jo Butler [from a transcript of Princeton Council Meeting, Monday November 28]: “I am a little bit worried and this doesn’t have anything to do with this project but with the University’s settlement of that lawsuit; it does seems like we have a lot of our housing in Princeton, and particularly in this neighborhood that will be um, not free market um, housing and so that there are people that will qualify for this homestead exemption, that do qualify for the homestead exemption, and through the University settlement will be able to stay in their homes perhaps longer than they would have and that’s great for them personally but as the price appreciates, all of that price appreciation will go strictly to them and it may take some supply out of the market which because people won’t have to sell their houses in a way that they might have had to sell them without the University settlement and so we’ll have even less supply in the market and there will be fewer opportunities for people at that entry level who would like to move into Princeton so there’s a lot to weigh here I think in this situation.”

I nearly fell out of my chair listening to such reprehensible babble from an “elected official” with an “unfettered free market trumps all” mentality, even at the expense of current residents. At best it displays a remarkable callousness toward the plight of lower income homeowners who just want to stay in their homes. At worst, since it came in the context of the Waxwood on Quarry Street discussion, it sounds like Ms. Butler would prefer that the diversity of this extraordinary neighborhood be eroded.

Is it a bad thing or undesirable thing that individuals in Princeton who qualify for the homestead rebate may be able to stay in their homes longer? And why focus on only the WJ (Witherspoon-Jackson) neighborhood? Under Ms. Butler’s assertion, if it’s unfortunate that families in the WJ neighborhood will be able to stay in their homes longer, would it not also be unfortunate that families in other neighborhoods will also be able to remain in their homes longer … or is it just the WJ neighborhood because of its affordability for first time homeowners as she references.

Unless the comments referenced above can be explained or an apology given by Councilwoman Butler she should be taken to task and held accountable by the following:

First and foremost everyone who lives in the WJ neighborhood and those less fortunate than others in Princeton wherever they may live. Secondly, each of the 869 homeowners, households, and voters, who will be helped by the allocation of the Princeton University settlement based on their eligibility for the homestead rebate. Lastly but certainly not least any and all fair-minded levelheaded citizens of Princeton who understand and appreciate that a roof over one’s head provides shelter and protects those who live inside, regardless of their status and/or income level, and they should be able to live under that roof as long as possible, by any means necessary or available to them.

It is after all their home.

Leighton Newlin

Birch Avenue

To the Editor:

Last week, Mr. Hillier [a Town Topics shareholder] was before Council once again seeking to be relieved of his obligation to offer for sale the units in the Waxwood development. For its part, the former Borough has already granted a density bonus for the redevelopment; allowed a change to the original agreement from for-sale to rental in order for the Waxwood to qualify for the National Register of Historic Places; relaxed the residency requirement for the Foundation units intended for residents with ties to the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood; and extended for five years the deadline by which Mr. Hillier was to offer the units for sale. The agreement also called for Mr. Hillier to offer eight of the units at a 20 percent discount — three as affordable units and five as Foundation units. The former Borough Council did not want to force Mr. Hillier to sell into a weak real estate market. Mr. Hillier benefited enormously as the market recovered, and the folks who missed the opportunity to purchase a residence in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood in 2010 missed the opportunity to own property in a neighborhood whose desirability has increased dramatically. One such resident encouraged Council to hold Mr. Hillier to the long-standing agreement. Mr. Newlin spoke in favor of protecting Mr. Hillier rather than allowing others the opportunity to invest in this vibrant, diverse, and historic neighborhood.

Both Princetons had strong commitments to providing affordable housing, and I am proud to be a part of the continuing commitment in the consolidated community. The former Borough focused primarily on rental units, and the former Township had a robust Affordable Housing Purchase program. One important feature of the purchase program is that when properties appreciate in value, the municipality shares in that increase when the property is sold, which allows us to continue funding the program. The settlement with Princeton University will offer support to those qualifying for the Homestead exemption for four years, at the end of which, the benefit ends. Unlike the municipal purchase program, the appreciation in the value of the housing will accrue solely to the property owners and is without any long-term benefit to affordable housing efforts in Princeton.

As a plaintiff in the lawsuit that challenged the tax status of Princeton University, Mr. Newlin has taken umbrage where none was intended. I don’t begrudge the plaintiffs their settlement. We all are concerned about the neediest among us, so tax relief, no matter how brief, is welcome. The Town was excluded from the settlement discussions, so I am disappointed that we didn’t have the opportunity to discuss the long-term financial challenges facing the municipality and the schools. It is an age-old challenge that New Jersey funds its public schools through property taxes; in Princeton, our challenge is even greater due to the number of tax-exempt institutions within our borders. The “fair share” debate has been a part of the local discourse since the day I arrived, and there is no end in sight. Personal attacks certainly don’t advance the discussion. The silly season of local politics is off to an inauspicious start!

Jo Butler

Hibben Road

To the Editor:

It is a lovely winter Saturday and my neighborhood is abuzz with the sound of leaf blowers. The sad part about this sound, in addition to the noise, is the knowledge that the streets will have more leaf piles in Section One of Princeton which has already had its last unbagged leaf pick up. I know that Public Works will probably add another day in the future for leaf pickup, but until then the streets in our city remain a dangerous slalom course.

Neighbors please log into the website to find out about what days your section is having pick ups or better yet have an automatic reminder left on your phone. Until we as a community coordinate when we bring out our yard debris, this town will always appear a bit disheveled. Please have pride in our town and consideration for our neighbors.

Deborah Yao

Linden Lane

To the Editor:

For 20 years, Princeton taxpayers have been forced to pay for the Princeton Charter School, an unnecessary, boutique program that was not developed or approved by the voters of Princeton and that has drained funds from the work of our public schools year after year.

There is no need for the Princeton Charter School. Our children have been well educated by the excellent, actual public schools of Princeton and their hardworking educators. Parents who want an alternative can choose from the many fine private schools in the area and pay extra for them. However, the Princeton Charter School has been created by the state as an exception. Princeton voters have never approved its existence. It is really a private school operating with public funds. We are taxed for this program without our approval. It is a financial drain on the Princeton community. As the Princeton School Board president says, the funding for the Princeton Charter School “comes straight off the top of our budget each year.” We are talking about millions of dollars!

Now the Princeton Charter School has applied to the New Jersey Department of Education for an expansion that would drain even more funds from Princeton Public Schools and, in the words of Superintendent Steve Cochrane, “compromise the quality of our children’s education.” The timing is particularly upsetting, as the superintendent and the School Board are planning for an expected and expensive influx of students in the coming years.

We call on our elected representatives to bring the matter to a vote. The voters of Princeton should have an opportunity to decide whether or not to support the Princeton Charter School. We need to publicize the unfairness of being asked to support a school which is not under the jurisdiction of our elected School Board, a school which depletes the resources needed for our public school system. We need to support the work of Superintendent Cochrane, the elected Princeton School Board, and the work of our public school teaching staff, and refuse to be taxed for any other educational program.

Francesca Benson, George Cody, Roz Goldberg

Bainbridge Street

Beatrice Cohen

Pine Street

Shirley Dwork

Phillip Drive

Ruth Randall

Gulick Road

To the Editor:

Lured by a program which included Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, and Dvorák, I found my way to Taplin Auditorium, Fine Hall on December 10 for an afternoon concert featuring “Opus 21” a chamber music group founded in 2014 and made up of Princeton University undergraduate pianists and string players. According to the program, most Opus 21 members started their musical studies at an early age and arrived in Princeton after performing with prestigious symphony orchestras and receiving top prizes and awards both in the U.S. and abroad.

I was not disappointed, as the group’s dynamic and sensitive musical interpretations “blew me away” as, I observed, they did to most of the audience. Much to my surprise, many of these outstanding musicians are not pursuing careers in music, but are studying disciplines as diverse as molecular biology, computer science, and languages. Opus 21 is a tour de force on Princeton’s musical scene and I eagerly await their next performance.

Linda Sipprelle

Nassau Street

To the Editor:

The Members of Princeton Friends (Quaker) Meeting were pleased to see the Town Topics front-page story about our school [“Renovation of Schoolmaster’s House Helps Remind PFS of Its Quaker Roots,” Nov. 30]. An important aspect of the story, however, was missing.

The reference to our “historic Meetinghouse” overlooked the fact that we are an active, vibrant religious community. With over 250 members, numerous attendees, and scores of frequent visitors, we hold meetings for worship at 9 and 11 every Sunday morning throughout the year. We are far from an historic site, but rather a religious body of which the Princeton Friends School is an offspring.

Anyone who is interested in experiencing our form of worship and in learning more about the Quaker testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, and equality is welcome to join us at any Sunday morning in our beautiful 18th-century Meetinghouse.

In Friendship,

Sally Oppenheimer

Presiding Clerk Princeton Monthly Meeting at Stony Brook Quaker Road

December 7, 2016

Your Honor:

Thanks for allowing our mean-spirited university to increase my suffering. I am 72 years old with congestive heart failure. Before the heartless decision to move the station, I could walk there. That is no longer possible. Because of a recent procedure, I am forbidden to drive for the next two weeks. My surgeon is in New Brunswick, and I am happy to take New Jersey Transit there for my follow-up appointment on December 8. But getting to the train will be a major inconvenience.


David Zinkin

Humbert Lane 

Dear David,

The decision to move the station was made between New Jersey Transit and the University. There are options to help you get to the new station. For example, you may want to avail yourself of the Crosstown service, which is run through the Senior Resource Center. Here is a link for more information:

In addition, the free Tiger Transit shuttle runs from Palmer Square to the Dinky station.

Here is a link to the schedule:

There is another Tiger Transit line that runs from the Friend Center on Olden and Williams to the Dinky Station:

I hope your recovery goes well.

Liz Lempert

Mayor of Princeton, Witherspoon Street

To the Editor:

As members of the board of Not in Our Town, Princeton’s racial justice organization, we applaud the mayor and Council for re-establishing a Civil Rights Commission for Princeton. We also recognize the dedicated work of the members of the Civil Rights Subcommittee of the Human Services Commission, Leticia Fraga, Elizabeth Bidwell Bates, John Heilner, Thomas Parker, and Larry Spruill, who spent years researching and creating a plan for the new Commission.

We hope that members of the Commission will have sufficient access to reports and information about any civil rights complaints that are received — whether from private residents, visitors, or employees of businesses, the municipality or the University — so that they can do a good job advising the mayor and Council members. More than ever, town officers and elected officials need to give a high priority to the safeguarding of civil rights, the personal liberties that belong to an individual owing to his or her status as a citizen or resident of a particular country or community.

Linda Oppenheim

South Harrison Street

Barbara Fox

Cedar Lane

Shelley Krause

Western Way

Wilma Solomon

Tee-Ar Place

To the Editor:

As chair of the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee (PDMC) and as president of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO), respectively, we are writing to encourage all Princeton Democrats to consider serving their community by getting more involved in the local Democratic Party or the local government.

We invite you to join us at an open house meeting on Sunday, December 11, from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Suzanne Patterson Center (behind Monument Hall), just before the PCDO meeting, to learn more about the different ways that you can get involved.

This is an informal opportunity for Democrats to learn about the local political process and municipal elections. Topics to be covered include how candidates get on the ballot, the local Democratic Party endorsement process, and the different Democratic organizations in Princeton.

Membership in the PCDO is open to all registered Democrats, and members who reside in Princeton may vote on candidates and resolutions. There is an associate category for Democrats who do not reside in Princeton. The PCDO works to elect progressive candidates and has free monthly public programs to discuss issues affecting all of us on local, state, and national levels.

Elections for the PCDO executive board will be held in January and we welcome interest from those who wish to learn more about the organization and to serve, either now or in the future. If you are not able to attend the open house, information on becoming a member of the PCDO is available at

The members of the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee are elected in each voting district. You may email if you would like more information about the municipal committee or running for local office. For further information, please email or text (609) 468-1720.

While Democrats are disappointed at the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, New Jersey remained blue and worked tirelessly to elect national, state, and local candidates. We said goodbye in 2016 to Rich McClellan, Mercer County Democratic chair, who left a legacy of activism, warmth, and humor. And we were pleased to welcome the dynamic Trenton Councilwoman, Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, as chair. We want to thank the members of the Democratic Municipal Committee and the PCDO for their support of a transparent and vibrant political culture in Princeton that helps keep our government responsive to its citizens.

Scotia W. MacRae

Chair, Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee

Owen O’Donnell

President, Princeton Community 

Democratic Organization

To the Editor:

What a wonderful community we live in! Once again, many caring individuals, congregations, civic groups, corporations, and organizations made Thanksgiving a wonderful holiday for the families served by HomeFront in Mercer County. We received donations of Thanksgiving baskets that were stocked full of dinner supplies, holiday plates and napkins, and healthy everyday food items, and distributed them to 2,200 grateful families.

We extend our deepest thanks and appreciation to our community for its generosity that enabled so many others to truly celebrate a day of being together and sharing a home-cooked meal. Together, you all continue to make an enormous difference in many lives.

Meghan Cubano

Community Engagement Manager

Tiana Hall

Drive Coordinator

To the Editor:

One recent afternoon, I walked into my front yard with a rake in my hands. At the same moment, a crew of three yardmen drove up to my neighbor’s house across the street, armed with massive leaf-blowers — the kind that require a shoulder harness to handle — and one large riding mower. It was a true Paul Bunyan moment — me and Babe, my rake, against a small army of 2-cycle engines. The lawnmower and two of the leaf blowers attacked the neighbor’s yard just as I dug in with my rake. The lawnmower kicked up a tremendous cloud of dust in addition to the 100+ decibels of noise that the three machines contributed to the otherwise quiet air around us. When the guy on the mower had finished his work, he started up the third leaf blower and began blowing. The men finished the yard, put away their equipment, got into the truck and pulled away from the curb … just as I raked the last rake-full of leaves onto the curb. One silent man vs. three internal combustion machines — a dead tie. But I still think I won the contest.

Mark Censits

Moore Street

November 30, 2016

To the Editor:

I applied to the Historic Preservation Committee (HPC) to replace an existing fence surrounding my property in the Witherspoon-Jackson Historic District. As a result I received numerous recommendations/directives as to altering the height, location, material, and finish of the proposed fence that was contrary to my architect’s well thought out design. The HPC not only dictated style, but felt empowered to overstep existing zoning laws and demand changes that are already defined in current zoning regulations. Their feedback to me was random, and without any historic basis. It appears that this 20th district was enacted without any consideration of a master plan from an architectural historical perspective as to what the district should NOW look like. We, the property owners, received absolutely no “informed consent” as to what we would be permitted to do with our properties, even down to what design period we were to comply with.

I request that the HPC call an emergency meeting and while adhering to all of their bureaucratic rules, quorum restrictions, legal restrictions, and political correctness, advise the owners in this district as to what type of fence we are allowed to build since it is obvious the HPC feels we are unable and unqualified to do it ourselves.

The following is a list of fence designs based on time periods that could be implemented. HPC, please tell me which historic time period we must adhere to.

 1. Neanderthals: boundaries marked by human excrement.

 2. Vikings: spiked pylons.

 3. 1700s: piled field stone.

 4. 1850s: split rail.

 5. 1890s: wrought iron.

 6. 1900s: cast iron.

 7. 1930s: rusted bed springs, chicken wire, and milk crates.

 8. 1940s: barbed wire as in the American/Japanese internment camps.

 9. 1950s: veneered stone/brick.

 10. 1970s: Untreated natural wood (what the HPC is demanding that I use).

 11. 1980s: pressure treated lumber.

 12. 2000s: PVC plastic fences (currently very popular in our historic Princeton).

It amazes me that the 20th Historic District in Princeton was created without a single definition as to which historic period was to be emulated. We the property owners are forced to spend our money on architectural design, only to be required to modify it at our own expense based on totally subjective demands by the HPC that embarrassingly have no basis in any historic context. The very sad result of this new set of bureaucratic regulations in this district is that it preserves in perpetuity the blighted properties in the district, drives out existing property owners that have lived in the neighborhood for many generations, and devalues their single most valuable asset, their home. Let the committee get together and clearly define the design features that comprise this historic district. It will be a difficult decision. Every fence described above already exists in the neighborhood!

Anthony Vasselli

Lytle Street

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff team of HiTOPS Adolescent Health, I want to thank you, all of you, the entirety of greater Princeton for an amazing day on Sunday, November 6. The fourth running of the HiTOPS Princeton Half Marathon is now in the books, and the incredible outpouring of support from the community was central to making this record-setting year particularly special.

The HiTOPS Princeton Half Marathon (PHM) has become a marquee event in the region, the proceeds of which go toward helping HiTOPS reach over 13,000 youth with age-appropriate information about how to make positive choices and decisions about their health and relationships.

This was a record year, with 1,750 registered runners! More than 5,000 spectators and friends were on hand to support and encourage each runner as they made their way around the 13.1 mile course. Area businesses were bustling with peak activity during the typically slow early hours of a Sunday. The weather and fall foliage both cooperated to present historic Princeton in spectacular form.

Race sponsorships fuel the engine enabling HiTOPS to reach adolescents where they are, and with the information they need. This year’s major sponsors are: Orange Theory Fitness of Princeton, Trojan Brands, WPST, Coloplast, Specialized Physical Therapy, NRG, Novo Nordisk, and Fairleigh Dickenson University — School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. THANK YOU!!

The HiTOPS PHM is a private, charitable event, conducted in the public domain. HiTOPS takes very seriously the responsibility of well-representing the municipality of Princeton. We are grateful to the Princeton Council and Mayor Lempert for their continued support. It is a sincere pleasure to work with them and many others, such as the Department of Public Works, and the Princeton Police Department.

With further regard to the police, they deserve special thanks. Our main points of contact, Lt. Geoff Maurer, and Sgt. Tom Murray, who have been with the race from the start, employed incredible skill and experience creating a public safety “ballet” of sorts, keeping the roads open, the runners running, and everyone safe.

We are also grateful to the Princeton Clergy Association for working closely with us in planning, and helping us communicate with their respective congregations. We realize this event has the potential to impact the normal routines of a Sunday morning, and we made it a priority to make sure residents could get to and from their places of worship with as little inconvenience as possible.

While this is a serious, USATF Certified race, it’s first and foremost a charitable event with the goal of increasing awareness of HiTOPS and the importance of adolescent health education. The race also raises much-needed funds that makes a big difference in young people’s lives. We couldn’t possibly do it effectively without the help of over 250 volunteers. They pack and unpack boxes, they haul water and food, they set up, break down and clean up. They are the ones offering water and nutrition with a smile and encouraging word. They are the fabric of the race and we are eternally grateful.

Tracey Post

HiTOPS Board President

Bill Schofield

Interim Executive Director

Courtney Newman

Princeton Half Marathon Race Director

To the Editor:

Two recent projects in town deserve commendation. The shopping center parking lot was wonderfully remade and the lighting at night is superb. Thanks goes to the new owners who were willing to fund the make-over. Let’s hope the rents do not go through the roof to pay for it.

Secondly, the University did exactly what they said they would do in demolishing the old barracks on the Butler site on Harrison Street and turning it into a wonderful open space. While the long-term plans for the site are not settled, what they have done initially is wonderful. I am sure all the neighbors are thrilled with it.

Stephen Schreiber

Prospect Ave

November 23, 2016

To the Editor:

The Witherspoon-Jackson Development Corporation (WJDC) was established in 1976. It is a 40-year-old organization with an impressive history of serving the Witherspoon-Jackson (WJ) neighborhood. Initially, with $90K in funding, its efforts focused on redeveloping the original Shirley Court into new affordable for-sale housing units. The organization later began purchasing and repairing existing neighborhood homes to sell to Witherspoon-Jackson families. WJDC also extended help to some existing property owners towards the payment of property taxes. Remarkably, the organization facilitated the purchase of 23 houses in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood by the mid-1980’s. Unfortunately, without sufficient funds in a competitive real estate market, the organization experienced a long period of dormancy.

In the past year, due to the many dynamics affecting the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, steps have been taken to revive the WJDC. Resurrected, the WJDC hopes to continue as a resource in addressing neighborhood issues of affordable housing, home ownership, maintenance, and supporting the residency of longtime families in the WJ neighborhood. This summer, interested members of the community met to discuss creative ways for the organization to explore the nature, use and type of existing properties through zoning or other measures in order to address diverse housing needs, economic development, and neighborhood services. At that meeting, a vigorous discussion ensued on the need for the neighborhood to secure a position in its physical planning and long term viability as a socio-economically diverse neighborhood, recently designated as the Witherspoon-Jackson Historic District.

Last month, WJDC was fortunate to have been granted $1.25M from Princeton University as a stipulation of the property tax lawsuit settlement. The grant will be dispersed over three years to help support WJDC’s general mission. WJDC appreciates the recognition of past accomplishments, is humbled by Princeton University’s faith in it as a revived organization, and looks forward to the active participation by the University as a member of the WJDC Board of Directors.

WJDC leadership is particularly grateful to the Eleanor Lewis Estate and the 27 plaintiffs, most of whom are Witherspoon-Jackson property owners. Represented by attorney Bruce Afran, they challenged the status of the University as a non-profit organization in its payment of municipal property taxes. Because of the generosity and courage of these plaintiffs, many property owners throughout Princeton will benefit. The settlement also stipulated the dispersal of funds for a tax relief program for those who qualify for the NJ State Homestead Rebate Program, for which the application deadline is November 30, 2016.

While the projected sum of the lawsuit settlement to the WJDC provides a real boost to advance the organization’s efforts to address various issues from program development through to implementation, WJDC will still need to develop a vigorous financial plan and engage in fundraising to address the rising costs of real estate, some of which are tenfold since the founding of the organization.

On December 1, 2016 WJDC will hold its first meeting of the full board of directors and advisory board. We look forward to the challenging work ahead under the guidance of a diverse, experienced, expert, and energized group of volunteers who will be dedicated to addressing a broad set of neighborhood needs and aspirations. We invite the community to join us in this journey and ask for your support.

Henry Pannell, Joan Hill, 

Penney Edwards-Carter, Yina Moore

To Mr. Sweeney, Mr. Prieto, and every member of the New Jersey State Legislature:

Regardless of whether one voted for Trump or Clinton, one cannot ignore the reality of Trump’s victory. Despite all the money his opponent spent, all the organization she had, all the establishment support she enjoyed, and all the predictions of the media, it was not enough to defeat the will of the people who sent a loud and clear message that the status quo of politics-as-usual, that benefits only the few at the expense of everyone else, was no longer acceptable.

In case things evaded your attention or you’re oblivious to what is happening in your own state, the people here in New Jersey are also sick and tired of the same politics-as-usual.

It might be time for all of you in Trenton, both Democrats and Republicans, to get together and solve the biggest and most urgent problem facing all New Jerseyans, which is property tax. Property tax reform cannot be achieved without a reform of the benefits currently enjoyed by the public sector employees.

It’s time to level the field and bring all public sector benefits in line with the private sector. It’s unreasonable to ask the average citizen, who can hardly afford health insurance for him and his family, to pay for an annual $30,000 platinum plan for a public sector employee. It’s also unconscionable to ask an average citizen, who lives or will be living on social security, with or without a 401k, to pay pension benefits of public employees for the duration of their lifetimes and of their beneficiaries’ lifetimes. A silver plan and a 401k should be sufficient for public sector employees and will be in line with what the private sector offers. It will save the State billions of dollars every year and will reduce property taxes.

Unfortunately, there is no logical reason for this inequality. The only reason is pure greed, corruption, and lack of courage to tackle those problems that will ultimately bankrupt our state if no action is taken. If you already have over 200 billion dollars of unfunded pension liabilities that you cannot pay, how will you ever be able to pay it by adding to that liability? Even public sector employees should wise up and accept smaller and guaranteed benefits instead of accepting the promise of much larger but illusive benefits.

Politicians pay large amounts of money for advice on how to get elected and re-elected. I am giving you simple and free advice that will guarantee you will get re-elected forever if you follow one simple rule: Serve the people, not the special interest groups. If you think you are invincible and this rule does not apply to you, I suggest you look at what happened to Hillary and the Democrats nationwide and think again.

George Kneisser Sr.

Executive Director, Citizens for Property Tax Reform

To the Editor:

The English Tea, given in support of Trinity Church Choirs’ 2017 trip to England, was a happy event on November 6. Guests enjoyed a traditional English tea of savories and sweets as well as a short concert by the choir. The combined Trinity choirs will be singing daily services for a week each at Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedrals. Thanks to all who enjoyed this afternoon with Trinity Church members and choir.

Pegi Stengel

Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

My grandson and I reached an agreement today. He is going to be my guide and interpreter in the foreign land I suddenly feel my country to be.

I am a progressive Democrat. My grandson, 17, is a conservative Republican. We’re both appalled by how the other’s side is acting. He, his conservative family (parents and sister) and I are living under one roof, and for the past months we all agreed to not discuss politics. That is no longer possible.

We have to talk.

Because my grandson holds the strongest views opposing mine, I decided to start by talking to him. I told Oliver, first, that I love him more (incalculably) than I disagree with him and that that will always be true. I told him I need him to help me understand what his side believes and fears, because I can’t understand it on my own. I have asked Oliver to be my guide as the country heads wherever it is on its way to now. He has agreed.

Our starting point will be a daily exchange of a) news stories and b) things we’ve heard or seen in the course of the day that especially anger us about the other side — he at school, I among colleagues or on the street. He will explain what I bring to him. I will try to do the same. Our intention is for this to be an ongoing arrangement. We also intend to disseminate what we learn from each other among our friends.

It is an exchange. Oliver and I anticipate tension. I know I will learn from him. I hope he will learn from me. If you love someone on the other side, you might consider such an agreement with them. If a lot of us do this — starting right now — it might make a difference. We need to.

Kate Hughes Del Tufo 

Ober Road