January 16, 2019

To the Editor:

While the Dinky did lose 22 percent of its ridership after the relocation of the Station, 78 percent of its original ridership has remained and is holding strong!  Before the temporary suspension to help NJT with its Federal PTC retrofit deadline, ridership losses on the Dinky had leveled off despite the apparent allure of parking permits at the Junction. Princeton is slowing initiating it’s GoPrinceton transit campaign. The Dinky is now poised for some real growth.   

While there have a been a few days during the year where NJT unforgivably has had service problems, by-and-large the Dinky has delivered passengers day-in and day-out on-time at the Junction with just a short passenger hop onto waiting trains. There are a lot of advantages that Dinky riders enjoy over those who use Junction parking, hiking through the parking lot in the wind, rain, and snow, day-in and day-out. 

There are big problems with the substitute buses. Passengers get caught in traffic like everybody else, not to mention that big pause at the Alexander Street Bridge!  Use of the buses has added tremendously to commuter time and uncertainty for Dinky riders, and contributed to area congestion. more

To the Editor:

The Princeton organic recycling program’s last pickup will be on January 30, because the accepting farm kept finding too many non-organics, especially plastic, in the mix. There was a warning sent to all subscribers last fall which was not heeded, and the farm said NO MORE.

Suggestion: If the pickup people look into a green can and see unacceptable material, they should just flip open the top and not collect the contents. (It would be nice if they could leave a sticker saying “Unacceptable” or “Refused,” but they are busy and wearing gloves.)  

Sometimes the trash is put out by people who are not the owners/managers and may not be able to communicate with them directly. However, if the recycling is not picked up, the message should get through.

Ruth E. Scott
Governors Lane

January 8, 2019

To the Editor:

On behalf of everyone at McCarter Theatre Center, we would like to thank the community for the incredible outpouring of support and generosity that we experienced during the run of our annual production of A Christmas Carol.

We were delighted to welcome over 28,000 people to see this show. Many in our audience experienced live theater for the first time, and others have made A Christmas Carol an annual holiday tradition. In addition to our regular performances, we offered five student matinees and shared Scrooge’s story with 4,800 children from area schools. more

To the Editor:

I have to assume that our elected officials were either completely bamboozled by consultants or do not have an ounce of sense. Why else would they change from a perfectly good parking payment system to the new one?

As a longtime Princeton resident, I have frequently supported restaurants and businesses in town. No longer. We are relegated to fumbling with change purses or struggling to read dark meters. Or, we are forced into a $1 minimum should we opt for a credit card. And rates have ballooned to pay for these undesired changes. On principle, I refuse to use an app with a 35 cent surcharge per (often small) transaction. I will continue to visit the library, but I presume the library lot will be ‘full’ with greater frequency, as visitors avoid on-street parking.

So, while there are already quite a number of empty Princeton storefronts, I would expect that number will grow as other Princetonians, like me, opt to take their business elsewhere due to this unnecessary change.

Kristine Olson

Lawrenceville Road

To the Editor:

Yes, the Dinky service isn’t perfect and needs improvement, and yes the new station could use some do-able improvements such as holders for paper schedules, improved handicapped accessibility, more flexible seating arrangements, and the relocation of the historic exhibit into the new Station complex so that kids can see it without going into a bar.

But let’s step back and reflect on the institutional environment that has gotten us this far. Significantly, despite the negativity surrounding the Dinky there has been and continues to be private sector interest, the best possible vote of confidence in its future. To be clear, yes, there are people willing to put their money where their mouth is: for example, I am aware of an investor group with extensive railroad experience interested in operating the Dinky service with purpose-built equipment, along with additional stops and increased frequency. But they are not interested in investing in a political quagmire, and such initiatives will continue to go nowhere as long as the basic question of NJT’s governance stands in the way. more

To the Editor:

May I offer a suggestion concerning the Alexander Road bridge replacement?

When the replacement happens might it be possible to adjust the timing of the traffic lights on Washington Road and Harrison Street (intersecting at Route 1) to accommodate the dramatic increase in traffic? Otherwise the typically crummy rush hour back up will become truly horrific.

While you are making that timing adjustment, perhaps consider also changing up the lights at the intersection of Alexander Road and Carnegie Center Drive? The lights currently are timed to stop traffic on Alexander upon demand from Carnegie Center Drive traffic, but this makes little sense. A small number of cars on Carnegie Center Drive will oblige a full light’s worth of Alexander Road traffic to stop, sometimes just as those cars are accelerating from the stop light on the Route 1 bridge. This causes a back up of large numbers of cars that can sometimes extend back to Canal Pointe Blvd intersection. more

To the Editor:

In 1989, my mother, Katharine O’Neil Bidwell and her cousin, Elsie Hillman, sat in a Westminster Choir College board meeting wringing their hands. The realities facing the tiny choir conservatory with its small classes, one-on-one instruction and challenging fundraising demographic made it clear that Westminster needed a partner or it would close.

My mother and aunt had a vested interest in keeping the college alive. Their grandmother (my great-grandmother), Katharine Houk Talbott, was Westminster’s first benefactor in Dayton, Ohio. An opera singer, she helped create the school; Westminster’s Talbott Library is named after her. The Talbott family has endowed scholarships and family members have served on the boards of Westminster and Rider University. Aunt Elsie and Uncle Henry’s legacy lives on in Hillman Hall in Westminster’s Cullen Center. Their foundation endowed a fund that supports recruiting and performance activities. The Bidwell endowment, named for my mother, supports training for opera singers. more

January 2, 2019

To the Editor,

I share the frustrations of those experiencing difficulties using the municipality’s new parking system and want to assure residents and visitors that members of municipal staff are working daily with our vendors on fixes while exploring all possible alternatives. While I can’t speak for all of Council, I expect my colleagues and I will be taking action this month. It is certainly my first priority.

As a member of Council’s Public Works Committee, I know that the overhaul of our parking system was necessary: multiple antiquated meters were breaking down daily and rates hadn’t increased in a decade. Revenue raised by meters funds maintenance of our parking infrastructure and is used for property tax relief. more

December 19, 2018

To the Editor:

When I recently visited the grave of my deceased daughter, I discovered something that would leave any family heartbroken and disturbed: the owners of the Princeton Cemetery had torn down the twin miniature pine trees that flagged her headstone. My wife and I planted these trees 18 years ago when our daughter passed away. Seeing them uprooted and destroyed left us reliving this very painful period in time. In telling my family what happened, they were moved to tears. more

To the Editor:

We are writing in reference to the article [“Neighbors Stress Traffic Concerns At Meetings on Seminary Project,” Town Topics, December 12, p. 5] that covered a recent meeting sponsored by the Ad Hoc Committee on the proposed redevelopment of Princeton Theological Seminary. The article indicated that residents of streets that border the PTS campus “seemed especially concerned about traffic issues that already exist.” more

To the Editor:

Three thoughts about the metergate issue roiling our little town, summarized as: 1. Thank you; 2. Please explain; 3. Watch out.

Thank you: I am grateful to our friends and neighbors who serve on our municipal boards and commissions and committees. While they are spending their evenings on folding chairs in brightly lighted meeting rooms to grapple with civic matters great and small, I am enjoying a book and glass of wine in my favorite chair in front of the fire. Theirs is largely thankless work, and so I thank them now. more

To the Editor:

Clients of mine have all negatively commented on the new meters, with the exception of the three-hour limit.

I believe they said meters in town are inactive until 9 a.m. so we locals can run errands. Great! Besides coffee shops and bakeries, what’s open?

I am sad to see the parking card has been run out of town; many people who supported the card are now stuck with credits they can’t use.

“Change” needs to happen.

Elaine Staats

EYStaats

Moore Street

To the Editor:

The new parking meters are a catastrophe! Not only have the fees and enforced hours become much more expensive (for explanation see Park Princeton ad, Town Topics, December 12, p. 9: “the new rate structure  . . .  factored in the cost of the new equipment”), these parking meters are also unusable. One cannot read the instructions on the new pay stations in the dark, and as it is getting dark now at 4:30 p.m., but performances start only at 8 p.m., when one has to pay now, one is totally helpless. Looking for meters that could be fed individually, as proudly advertised, either with coins or credit cards, when I recently had tickets for the Richardson Auditorium University concert, I was confronted with every single parking meter up and down University Place and its cross streets covered with a plastic bag saying “Parking by Permit only.” So forget about coins and credit cards, there is zero use for them. more

To the Editor:

I just read Library Director Brett Bonfield’s celebration of walking over driving in the weekly message from the Princeton Public Library. But some of us don’t enjoy the luxury/privilege of walking to where we have to be. Although I have a Princeton zip code, I actually live in Lawrence Township, a little too far to walk to enjoy the attractions of Princeton. I appreciate the library’s Spring Street garage accommodation, but at times it’s full, or not convenient to where I need to go. more

December 11, 2018

To the Editor:

Being a merchant is difficult. Being a merchant in Princeton is extra difficult. Town Council and the mayor’s office can’t possibly spend any time in town. The new parking debacle is an affront to our merchants and citizens. It’s frightening that our leadership made significant investments in parking studies, focus groups and questionnaires and then proceeded with the poorest implementation that I could imagine. We have a different parking system, not a state-of-the-art parking system. Let me count the ways:

  • We lost the grace period.
  • Rates increased significantly, now a cup of coffee is a dollar more — 30 minute meters — 27 minutes for a dollar — no grace period, so you put more in.
  • You can’t get unused time back like you could with the old parking card.
  • There is a 35-cent courtesy charge to use the app and it doesn’t work for less that $1.
  • We lost two parking spaces at every crosswalk.
  • We lost about 25 parking spaces to new loading zones.
  • Trucks still block a traffic lane or park in metered spots, exacerbating the loss of paid parking spaces.
  • The parking app is different than the one at the Dinky and almost everywhere else from here to Philadelphia.

Wake up, it’s not a success, it’s a failure. Talk to us please.

 Lou Valente

Hunter Road

To the Editor:

A critical wetland structure on the Princeton Ridge is under imminent threat. These wetlands — which support a tributary to Mountain Lakes and habitat for a wide variety of wildlife — stretch across several acres near the corner of Ridgeview Road and the Great Road.

Last year, a developer built a 5,000-square-foot home on the corner property at 410 Ridgeview directly abutting wetland areas delineated by New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Now the same developer is asking Princeton for permission to build another large home on the adjoining 3-acre lot at 394 Ridgeview Road. The property is zoned for 4-acre construction, so a variance from the town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment is needed before the project can proceed.

These wetlands should be preserved as an integral part of Princeton’s municipal sustainability plan. The property is covered in springs, which are the headwaters to Mountain Brook, a C-1 stream that flows past Stuart School and Tenacre into Mountain Lakes, Princeton’s reservoir. The area is covered by obligate wetland species such as skunk cabbage, rush, vestiges of cattail, sensitive fern, and phragmites.

These wetlands also provide important habitat for a plethora of salamanders, frogs, turtles, migratory songbirds, raptors, and wild turkeys. Neighbors have even reported seeing a bobcat, which is endangered in New Jersey. In addition, the property is a major corridor for deer that move daily between the forests on the north side of the Ridge into the Preserve and Mountain Lakes. If the wetlands are blocked with a fence, it can be anticipated deer will wander onto the Great Road in a school zone near the crest of the Ridge, creating a traffic hazard.

We urge members of the Zoning Board to uphold Princeton’s 4-acre zoning ordinance for this property. And we invite all who are concerned with the preservation of the Princeton Ridge to attend the Zoning Board meeting this Wednesday, December 12 at 7:30 p.m. Please join us in protecting these critical wetlands on the Ridge and the remarkable creatures they sustain.

Christopher Barr

Ridgeview Road

November 28, 2018

To the Editor:

Concerning the December 11, 2018, $27 million Board of Education referendum, some possibly “overzealous” persons, not prodded by curiosity, have said that people like myself, who were against the original bloated, ill-conceived $137 million referendum were “against our kids,” “against public education,” or even “terrorists.”

Normally, I would not defend myself against kneejerk rhetoric; however, this time I will. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am a proud graduate of PHS.  My mom taught in the then-PRS for over 30 years. My dad served as president of the School Board. Myself and others were just against a financially catastrophic $137 million referendum, which  was proposed on the heels of the poorly executed and disastrous 2002 school referendum. more

To the Editor:

I read with interest about the Princeton Council’s approval of the Zoning Board’s ordinance establishing residential zoning standards regarding demolishing existing houses and rebuilding structures that ignore the ecology, character, and scope of Princeton’s neighborhoods.

In 2014, our small publishing house, Wild River Books, published a novel, The Megabuilders of Queenston Park, by poet, translator, novelist, and Princeton University Professor Emeritus Edmund “Mike” Keeley, that chronicles what happens to a family when the house next door is torn down and a McMansion built in its place. more

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter to the editor on Thanksgiving Day, one of my favorite holidays, because it gives us a time to reflect. For me, I am thankful that my kids are thriving and that we live in a community that takes pride in all of our children, in their health and well-being, and in their future. We have the opportunity to demonstrate these community values by coming together to vote yes in the December 11 school facilities referendum.

This referendum is a crucial first step in addressing what our community needs to support our kids. It includes security fixes to bring the schools up to today’s standards in an increasingly scary world where the risks are sadly much different than when the schools were built decades ago. It also updates the HVAC and air control systems. These changes provide the very basics in public health and wellbeing for our students, as well as for the teachers and staff whose energy, talent, and passion we need at their best every day. more

To the Editor:

On December 11, a $26.9 million bond referendum will be up for approval. I am in support of the referendum as I was of the referendum back in 2001. My children benefited from the one in 2001 and I want the current students to benefit from this new one.

It has been 17 years since the last referendum, and once again, the student population is growing and the facilities need to be updated and enlarged in order to maintain the district’s superior rating.

Why should other empty nesters support this referendum? Because our children benefited from their schooling in the Princeton Public Schools and the next generation deserves to as well.

Jane M. Sheehan

Mount Lucas Road

To the Editor:

In the November 21 Mailbox, Lincoln Hollister spoke about the environmental concerns of the Ridgeview neighborhood regarding the proposed zoning variance (introduced November 14) to allow a 5,000-square-foot McMansion be built on a non-conforming undeveloped lot.

Mr. Hollister’s letter was prescient, given the concerns of numerous residents regarding the influx of McMansions in the Princeton area voiced at the November 19 Town Council meeting. Over the course of that meeting, it was clear that Princeton residents are frustrated by the free reign allowed to developers to build oversized McMansions with no concern for the surrounding neighborhood. more

To the Editor:

The Watershed Institute wants to share a huge thank you to our community and committee chairs for their amazing support of our 43rd Annual FEST: Passport to Cuba. On October 13, nearly 300 friends helped us celebrate the culture, music, and cuisine of Old Havana with an evening of general festivity.

The evening featured a Cuban-themed dinner, cocktails, desserts and an array of specialty coffees. Many couples enjoyed dancing to music played by the Tren Latino Band inside the LEED-Platinum Watershed Center. more

To the Editor:

Want an easy way to help our local Food Bank? If you shop at McCaffrey’s, Wegmans, or Wawa, be sure to participate in the Check-Out Hunger campaign. Depending on where you shop, just remove one (or several) of the red, green, or yellow tickets posted near each checkout register, give it to the cashier to scan with your grocery order or simply drop your change in the container where provided. That’s it. Couldn’t be much easier. more

November 14, 2018

To the Editor:

The town is now accepting applications for vacancies on a variety of municipal boards, committees, and commissions (BCCs) including the Affordable Housing Commission, Environmental Commission, Planning Board, and Civil Rights Commission. Princeton’s volunteer boards and commissions ensure public involvement in the governmental process and provide vital advice to Council on major decisions.

Board, commission, and committee meetings are open to the public, and the public is strongly encouraged to attend and participate. Applicants are encouraged to attend at least one meeting of the advisory body that they are interested in joining.  more

To the Editor:

In a recent Town Topics article on the proposed transfer of Westminster Choir College from Rider University [“Controversies Continue Over the Future of Westminster Choir College,” pg. 1, Nov. 7], Jeffrey Halpern seriously mischaracterized the situation with regard to the accreditation process. The Westminster Choir College Acquisition Corporation’s efforts to obtain accreditation are proceeding just as they should.  more