March 24, 2021

To the Editor:

I enjoyed reading your article on Town Topics’ 75th birthday [“Town Topics Celebrates 75th Anniversary,” page 1, March 17].

Congratulations on your continued success, and most importantly on not missing an issue during the pandemic. You have kept the record intact, something my father and my uncle would be most happy to know.

Charlie Stuart
Maine

Editor’s note: The writer is the son and nephew of Town Topics’ founders Donald C. Stuart and Dan D. Coyle.

To the Editor:

Our parks are wonderful areas used by the entire community. Fields where youth play soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball, and other sports are multi-use. Synthetic polymer or “plastic” fields lined and designed for a particular sport are less suited to casual recreation. They are a poor setting for a picnic. More and more studies suggest that any kind of exposure to nature has benefits. And while manicured playing fields are no wooded trail, they are still more natural, especially to local wildlife, passing birds, and any creature that lives in soil. They “breathe.” 

Artificial fields do not sequester CO2 and emit oxygen, rather they can off-gas potentially dangerous chemicals. This depends on construction and constituent materials, which are improving. Anything in environmental toxicology is hard to prove — depending on factors like temperature, exposure duration, lifestyle, etc. The science is still evolving and long-term studies are challenging, as each new generation of artificial turf technology is ripped-up and replaced well before its promised lifespan.

The new candidate for artificial turf is “Gen 4.” Prior generations were retired due to performance, injuries, chemical leachates, and off-gassing from the crumb-rubber infill and synthetic grasses. They are now presumably in a landfill, at times leaving an expensive remediation behind. Artificial fields also absorb much more heat in the summer, sometimes double, raising the risks of injury and the weathering that volatilizes and mobilizes chemical constituents.  more

March 17, 2021

To the Editor:

I am a neighbor of Hilltop Park and a youth sports leader in Princeton. Hilltop Park has one combined soccer/lacrosse field that is in very poor condition, and the lights on the single baseball/softball field are decades old. 

One of the significant changes in the culture of Princeton in the last 15 years has been the dramatic increase in participation of youth sports.  As a result, we simply don’t have enough playing fields to accommodate the demand from all the youth sports leagues. Climate change and increased rainfall have exacerbated the problem. 

The renovation plans for Hilltop Park are designed to help alleviate field shortages. The plan for turfing and lighting the existing field will accommodate more games and reduce the impact of rainouts.

I know there are concerns about the use of artificial turf. Ten years ago, I would not have been in favor of turfing any fields, but from everything I have read in recent years, the materials used to make the turf fields today are dramatically improved in terms of being both athlete-healthy  and environmentally-friendly.  Moreover, the plan for the new water management system for the field area will capture rainfall or snow melt and disperse it in a regulated way. Additionally, the installation of the latest generation of field lights on both fields will dramatically reduce light pollution. more

To the Editor:

Many of us who live in the Northeast part of Princeton Township support our neighbors in the Hilltop Park area who are seeking to overturn the recent and surprising decision by our town Council to replace the natural turf field with synthetic turf.

First, let’s review why synthetic turf is a bad idea.

Bad for kids – Increased frequency and severity of sports injuries like concussions and falls including turf “burn” and provoking allergic reactions from inhaling fumes.

Bad for the environment – It’s impermeable, amplifying storm water run-off and flooding, and polluting our water with toxins and heavy metals from the breakdown of rubber “crumbs” derived from old tires that make up the “turf.”

Bad for the town budget – It’s expensive to install ($1 million); requires ongoing maintenance ($50,000/year — half the total Rec Department budget) with special “cleaning” machines for the inevitable blood, sweat, and tears that adhere to it; and it must be replaced every 10 years ($1/2 million) with old artificial turf dumped somewhere.  more

To the Editor:

I fully support the Hilltop Park field project based on the need for Princeton taking this first step in addressing its shortage of safe and adequate fields, not just for soccer, but lacrosse, ultimate frisbee, field hockey, football, and every other sport requiring a large playing field. 

Turf is a must as the heavy play and constant usage puts a strain on our Recreation Department to maintain and repair our current inventory of grass fields (some would argue mud fields during and after rain events). This need is not new and is only growing, especially with the proposed increase of affordable housing coming to Princeton.

I agree with Hilltop resident concerns, especially regarding the need for addressing environmental issues, which by all indications have been addressed, but I would ask —if not Hilltop then where?  Hilltop is one of many parks in Princeton’s portfolio to be used and maintained for all Princetonians and is merely the first turf project that is needed to rectify our field shortages and conditions.  

Whatever side of the issue we are on, let us work together to build a better Princeton for all of its citizens.

Thomas Bell
Lake Drive

To the Editor:

Princeton was hit by a series of snowstorms mid-February, with the worst on the 15th.  Residents were happy to have the roads cleared by the town, but not so happy to find so many mailboxes wrecked. 

On my street, a number were hit hard – our mailbox was the third in a line of three, when the plow driver apparently lost the center of the road.  Damage like this has happened before including to our mailbox, although not in such volume. In former days, one only had to report such to the Township, and a crew would be sent in the next few days to assess the damage make the necessary repairs. Sadly, this is no longer the case. 

When I made my call, I was told to contact the Princeton Department of Human Resources where I would find a “Torte Claim” form to fill out online. (Really?  Human Resources?) The complexity of the form, which only works with Google Chrome, and in which every slot needs to be filled, regardless of relevance,  was quite a challenge. However, after several tries, we managed to get it submitted, only to receive a letter a few days later via email asking for much the same information, including photos, written estimates etc. One can only conclude that these requirements, and the complexity of the procedures, have been designed to dissuade residents from making even the simplest of claims. And the snowplows are free to wreak havoc.

Anna Marie Skalka
Bouvant Drive

March 10, 2021

To the Editor:

What will 1.5 acres of plastic grass (artificial turf) and night lighting do to Hilltop Park on the Princeton Ridge? To answer that question, let’s consider existing amenities.

A lot of recreation is packed into Hilltop Park’s 11.2 acres within walking distance of 435 adjoining households at Princeton Community Village, Copperwood, and Campbell Woods. Improvements include a playground, basketball court, skateboard park,  baseball diamond, and the soccer field. Underground sprinklers keep the field green, on which children also romp, families picnic, and office workers set up lunch-hour volleyball games.

Paved parking suffices for baseball, but soccer crowds spill over onto McComb Road, ignoring “No Parking” signs posted on both sides of the narrow street, posing a public safety hazard.     

Eleven years ago, when residents of Campbell Woods raised parking and environmental concerns, the Recreation Department withdrew its proposal for artificial turf at Hilltop Park.  more

To the Editor:

Born, raised, and educated in Princeton are just some of the many reasons for giving positive consideration to a candidate who is prepared and ready to serve his town. Leighton Newlin is a member of a family who has, for generations, dedicated themselves to service to Princeton.

Just what does Leighton consider important and necessary for occupying a seat on town Council and working to improve Princeton? In addition to his Princeton upbringing, there is education.  After graduating from Princeton High School, Leighton attended and graduated from Lincoln University. Lincoln is the first degree-granting university of what has become many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). After graduation, Leighton used the knowledge obtained from college and the entrepreneurial skills learned from his uncle, Mr. George “Lonnie” Barclay, to start a successful hat and accessory business, From the Neck Up, in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts.

There is the compassion for the lives and stability of the town residents. Leighton has been giving back to his hometown through his advocacy for residents who sought equality in housing. As board chair for the Princeton Housing Authority for 19 of his 24 years on the board, Leighton has made a fair and caring decision to assist all residents who seek affordable and equitable housing. more

To the Editor:

As a former resident of Campbell Woods (1997-2007) and current resident at Copperwood (2018-present), I am well aware of what an asset Hilltop Park is to the town of Princeton and to its nearby neighbors in particular. How appalling and detrimental to the environment it would be to install artificial turf on this lovely green area. 

Here at Copperwood, with its 153 units, tenants take ample advantage of having Hilltop Park right next door. Many families with small children use the playground, older kids shoot baskets and skateboard, and older folks, with and without dogs on leash, enjoy strolls along the paths and picnics in season. In all, Hilltop is a quiet and bucolic place enjoyed by many folks. It would be a travesty to tear up the grounds and put in plastic and to install more intrusive lights than are already there. 

Princeton has long been a town deeply concerned with protecting its ever-shrinking areas of lovely natural environment. Ruining Hilltop Park would not be in keeping with this time-worn tradition.  Let us hope the powers that be in town can stop this invasion of Hilltop Park before it occurs.

Amy Gimbel
Copperwood

To the Editor:

On behalf of our residents who are living in Princeton Housing Authority homes and are awaiting their turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, we would like to sincerely thank the Princeton Senior Resource Center for creating vaccine navigators to help them with the complexities of the vaccine system including registration and appointment scheduling.

We have advised our residents that they can access an online form to register for assistance, or they may contact Carla Servin, vaccine navigator coordinator, at vaccine@princetonsenior.org or telephone (609) 751-9699, ext. 118.

Leighton Newlin
Chair, Princeton Housing Authority
Birch Avenue
Linda Sipprelle
Vice-Chair, Princeton Housing Authority
Victoria Mews

To the Editor:

Currently the natural grass field at Hilltop Park is perfectly balanced in being able to serve two groups of users: the organized sport groups (clubs/leagues) for their practices/games and the local residents for their activities such as playing ball with their children, outdoor yoga, or teenagers hanging out after riding at the skate park. The Recreation Department will be removing the grass field and replacing it with a synthetic turf field to solely benefit the sport groups.

I think most of Princeton can fully appreciate the experience one has on real grass compared to plastic grass. Most of you live in single family homes with a grassy backyard. You would never change out your natural lawn for plastic grass. Well, Hilltop Park is our backyard — a communal yard shared by the thousands of residents living literally right next to the park and the thousands of other residents within walking distance. A significant proportion of Hilltop residents live in high density dwellings without private yards such as apartments and condominium communities. The Recreation Department’s calculation is overcompensating the sport groups for their needs in relation to what the other park-goers have to sacrifice. It is not an equitable trade off.  more

To the Editor:

I am writing to let readers know that public comments about the Princeton Recreation Commission’s plans for Hilltop Park are expected to be heard at the Commission’s virtual meeting via Zoom on Thursday, March 25, at 7 p.m.

Almost a year ago, in April 2020, the Princeton Recreation Commission awarded a contract to Suburban Consulting Engineers, Inc. to begin plans to expand the 11.1-acre park on Bunn Drive. In addition to improved lighting, bleachers, and walkways, plans also include the installation of a multi-purpose synthetic turf field. There was little public comment at the time. 

Unfortunately, in April 2020, Princeton residents were not paying attention — they were focused on managing their lives, and the lives of their children, during COVID-19, which had reared its ugly head just the month before.

Many parents object to their children playing on synthetic turf because of its reputation for causing sports injuries. But there is another issue that residents may not be aware of: The cost.  more

March 3, 2021

To the Editor:

For more than 15 years, Housing Initiatives of Princeton (HIP) has embraced the idea of “neighbors helping neighbors” to ensure that Princeton is a diverse community where low-income families can thrive. We remain thankful for the many neighbors who have helped us in that effort. During the  COVID-19 crisis, we’ve received significant support from the town through its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, foundations, businesses, congregations, and individuals. With this support, we have been able to help more than 160 households in and around Princeton — the vast majority with young children — evade eviction during the pandemic. 

As we acknowledge this support and the benefits it has produced, we also need to acknowledge the structural challenges that the pandemic has laid bare and call for systemic changes to address them. Long before COVID-19 disrupted our lives and economy, there was a significant shortage of rental homes available to the 26 percent of New Jersey renter households that are extremely low-income – earning at or below the federal poverty line. Nearly 3/4 of such households pay more than 30 percent of their household income in housing costs, making it challenging for them to afford other basic needs like food, health care, and educational supports, and more likely to face eviction. Increasing the number of affordable housing units can help address this challenge, and the emerging Princeton plans for new affordable housing are signs of progress that HIP welcomes.  more

To the Editor:

 As a former member of the Princeton Council, I voted for the 2019 affordable housing settlement agreement in which the former Borough’s 20 percent set-aside requirement for as-of-right multifamily development was eliminated in favor of set asides only for projects that require some kind of zoning relief, such as a variance. I want to apologize for my mistake.

I only skimmed the document and did not realize the loophole was added to weaken the requirement. There is no excuse for my carelessness. My theory for how the language ended up in the document is that the settlement agreement used boilerplate language and the change was an oversight. Given the length and complexity of the agreement and the many pressing issues that were hashed out near the end, this makes the most sense to me.  

Nearly every official action taken by the Council is accompanied by a memo by staff or legal counsel summarizing or explaining it. It was totally uncharacteristic for the change to have been inserted without explanation. There was no discussion. This does not relieve my responsibility to read the agreement carefully. I was given the document for review in draft form and still didn’t notice. But it may help explain how the loophole remained in the ordinance the Council adopted in April 2020. It was only during a recent site plan review for the proposed “as-of-right” development on the Griggs corner site that Council members became aware of the loophole that took the developer off the hook for affordable housing. more

To the Editor:

Princeton, New Jersey, of all places, needs to be in the forefront of doing good things for the planet and for ourselves. Plastic grass is not in this category.  

The town should not proceed with installing synthetic turf at Hilltop Park due to the negative environmental impact. There is also a protected wetland right next to Hilltop Park.

The idea of tearing up real growing grass, and putting down plastic instead, is totally horrific — and dangerous to people slipping on it, dangerous for drainage reasons, and generally environmentally unfriendly. I find it totally disgusting that anyone would even consider such a horror.

Alice Artzt
Hawthorne Avenue

To the Editor:

At the Princeton Community Housing (PCH) virtual event on Wednesday, February 24, Dr. Eddie Glaude Jr., author of Begin Again: James Baldwin’s Urgent America and its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, proposed a new kind of social contract for Princeton.

This social contract was discussed by Dr. Glaude and the Rev. Lukata Mjumbe, pastor of the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church and trustee of PCH. Dr. Glaude spoke about the need to shift the frame and recognize that social and moral justice is not a philanthropic or charitable enterprise. Racial equality is not something that we give ­—­­­­ we need to talk to one another and address this together. He encouraged the Princeton community to assert a different kind of moral and social contract between its citizens. Dr. Glaude expressed this contract as a broad, public infrastructure of care that is focused on addressing basic needs such as housing, health care and mental health services, education, and jobs.

PCH organized this discussion to raise awareness of the need to confront racial injustice and to raise funds for PCH’s COVID-19 Emergency Rent Relief Fund to support PCH residents who have been economically impacted by the pandemic. Since June 2020, PCH has provided a total of 63 months of rent relief. more

February 24, 2021

To the Editor:

Many of us value the wonderful work being done here in Mercer County by HomeFront, the organization helping homeless families break the cycle of poverty. Last week, during this time of tremendous economic distress and in the midst of a pandemic, HomeFront offered us an antidote — daily events, volunteer opportunities, and ways of connecting with our neighbors during its annual “Week of Hope.”

Those of us who took part learned about the daunting challenges facing so many families, and about the resulting increase in hunger and homelessness in every community in our county, from Trenton to Hamilton to Princeton. We know how expensive housing is in our region — a person earning the minimum wage has to work almost three full-time jobs to be able to afford the average two-bedroom rental in New Jersey. This is difficult enough, but the pandemic has erased so many job opportunities, leaving families stranded and facing the loss of their housing. more

February 17, 2021

To the Editor:

All of the homeowners on Bank Street that shared comments and objections with the Zoning Board and the hotel group have something in common. We all agree that the proposed Graduate Hotel will positively impact the Central Business District. Our intent was never to stop the project. 

However, we did object to four of the seven variances sought by GPNJ OWNER LLC. Those variances dealt with the structure’s height, which will increase from 32 to 65 feet, the 10-foot setback required in a residential (and historic) zone, excessive floor area ratio, and not meeting parking space requirements. Each separate variance was related to the other. If one variance were denied or changed, it would have brought the other two or three variances closer to compliance with town ordinances. And the Bank Street neighbors would have supported the changes.  more

To the Editor:

Bank Street residents were violated by the Zoning Board of Adjustment as they unanimously approved the massive new hotel on Chambers Street, allowing variances for insufficient parking, approving a building with a Floor Area Ratio nearly three times over allowed, only a 4-foot average setback from the residential historic district at the ground level, and a massive 65-foot-high blank brick wall facing Bank Street, most of it only 6 inches from the property line. The building steals light, air, views, and privacy.  The western facade looks like a massive windowless warehouse from the southern end of Bank Street.  What the Bank Street residents got in return for their hours of meeting, testimony, and exhibits was one small tree, and for the next 100 years a blank wall and additional traffic searching for the entrance to the hotel.   

Princeton got what it wanted, a tax ratable, promoted by the ex-mayor and other Council members.   Princeton must have financial problem, even with our very high property taxes. Design and sensitivity to a few neighbors is no concern, room tax is!  The result is an oversized, neo-federalist, decorated box on narrow Chambers Street with a fake mansard façade circa 1890s. Undoubtedly, Princeton needs one or more hotels downtown, therefore the developers packed this site with as many rooms as possible.  more

To the Editor:

My wife and I have lived in Princeton for seven years and feel privileged to make our home here. We appreciate much about the history of the area and Princeton especially, and greatly respect the old buildings in town and on campus. The community quality represented by the historic architecture here is an immeasurable resource that deserves to be respected and protected. Adaptive re-use of the office buildings at 20 Nassau Street as a hotel is a generally commendable idea, but the details of the plan by Graduate Hotels outlined in Town Topics [“Zoning Board Approves Plan for New Hotel,” page 1, February 10] are very troubling to read.

I am not so naive as to believe that Princeton should be “preserved in amber,” but in what universe is it appropriate to demolish a three-story building within a historic block and replace it with a five-story addition? In this specific case, such an increase in the street wall of Chambers Street would do irreparable harm to the scale of this narrow street and is totally incompatible with the narrow sidewalks. Further to this point, why should the project entrance not more appropriately be on Nassau Street, with its much deeper sidewalk? more

February 10, 2021

To the Editor:

On February 6, members of our community came together for a virtual fundraiser to support the Princeton Nursery School (PNS). “A Starry Starry Evening” included an informative and lively discussion between CNBC’s Brian Sullivan and the school’s executive director, Rosanda Wong, detailing the nonprofit’s mission and the challenges it and its families’ continue to face due to the pandemic. In addition, attendees were treated to a soulful, live performance by singer/songwriter and Princeton’s own, Carly King. 

The event raised much needed funds to benefit the nationally accredited early education program and hunger prevention program at PNS and also to provide scholarships for children of families in need.

PNS is located on Leigh Avenue and was founded in 1929 to provide working families with affordable care. Along with a quality preschool education, the school also provides support services for economically disadvantaged students and their working parents. The school’s hunger prevention program includes breakfast, hot lunch, and snack and also participates in the Send Hunger Packing program, which provides nutritious meals for the weekend. more

To the Editor:

This year started with the historic inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and their commitment to unity and strengthening our democracy. PDMC and PCDO were thrilled to play a small part in this historic moment in the 2020 elections, and in this historic moment we call on our fellow Democrats to serve our community by considering running for elected office — we all have a role to play in advancing unity and strengthening our democracy.

As president of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO), in conjunction with Tommy Parker, the chair of Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee (PDMC), 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. In this year’s election, there will be a Primary Election in June and a General Election in November for two open seats on Princeton Council. On the ballot will be candidates for New Jersey governor and state Assembly and Senate representatives. In Mercer County, we will elect a county surrogate and three county commissioners.

We invite you to join us at an open house meeting, which will be held via Zoom, on Saturday, February 13, from 10 to 11 a.m. to find out more about running and participating. The meeting is open to all, but you must RSVP so we can send you the Zoom link. Please respond to Patty Soll at patty@princetondems.org. more

February 3, 2021

To the Editor:

I am a regular bicyclist in Princeton. I’ve both witnessed and lived the experience of bicyclists here. For the positive, to have a safe passage through and around town is a blessing. Writing as a pediatrician it is as healthful a way to counter the sedentary ways that affect children’s physical and emotional health.  

On the negative side, I’ve seen the consequences of halfway measures. Those bike figures on streets are more like collection stations for body parts than safe passages. Consider Harrison Street  just below where I live. There are figures on the street and then at Southern Way they stop because parking is required for houses built without driveways. I know enough to get off the street going east because the space is limited and cars going each way leave no room for a bicycle. This puts me on the sidewalk, and I become a hazard. That’s bad!

We need bike lanes with blockages so no one can park or deliver standing in the lane. That’s why I no longer take my bike on the bus to NYC for a ride to work in Brooklyn.

I appreciate what has been done. At the same time, much more is needed.

Robert Karp
South Harrison Street

To the Editor:

“The differentness of races, moreover, is no evidence of superiority or of inferiority. This merely indicates that each race has certain gifts which the others do not possess.”   —Carter G. Woodson

In 1926, Carter G. Woodson founded what was to become the ASALH, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History and the progenitor of Black History Month. Only more recently has this celebration gained more prominence, and yet there is more recognition still needed.

To this end, a number of social justice and racial justice focused organizations and people got together to discuss how to best put a focus on this month-long celebration. It was quickly understood that many organizations and institutions offer varied programming and separate promotion. The group decided that, in addition to self-promotion, a master Mercer County Black History Month Events and Happenings calendar would be created. And so, this newly created collaborative calendar now resides on the YWCA Princeton website. Events may be submitted by going to ywcaprinceton.org/event-entry. The calendar may be viewed by going ywcaprinceton.org/homepage/signature-events/calendar. more

To the Editor:

I urge Princeton residents to log onto the Planning Board meeting this Thursday, February 4 to oppose the turf fields Princeton Academy of Sacred Heart would like to build on their campus. This project is cheating the taxpayers, cheating the environment, and cheating the local community. 

The school isn’t building the fields, Princeton Soccer Academy (which isn’t even based in Princeton) is. Princeton Soccer Academy will own them. Not PASH. PASH will only own the land below them.

The school is zoned as a nonprofit. It can only partner with nonprofit. Princeton Soccer Academy is a for-profit entity. That is, until we mentioned this at a previous meeting. Since then, they have applied for NJ nonprofit status, which is just paperwork, not an official nonprofit according to the IRS. This is completely unethical to try to skirt the rules and get out of paying taxes and to trick the Planning Board and public.

Besides cheating the public, this is costly to the surrounding environment. They plan on cutting down 46 mature trees, replacing grass with a plastic turf carpet, and ruining the ridge’s natural habitat for many plants and animals, including the endangered red-shouldered hawk.  more