October 3, 2018

To the Editor:

A major objective of the PPS referendum is to eliminate the overcrowding in all schools. The following ideas will help to solve that problem and simultaneously reduce the cost of the referendum bond. more

To the Editor:

Of the major challenges facing the Princeton community, finding and providing for an affordable home is high on the list. This community has always supported affordable housing not just as an ideal, but also followed through with construction such as Griggs Farm and Washington Oaks. I have been involved with providing and maintaining affordable housing for more than 25 years as a member of the Princeton Affordable Housing Board and a commissioner on the Princeton Housing Authority.

As the community is aware, the town has an obligation to provide a total of 753 units of affordable housing by 2025. Achieving this goal will require the community’s traditional commitment to affordable housing and leadership supporting its construction. Fortunately, two candidates for Princeton Council, Eve Niedergang and Dwaine Williamson, are committed to affordable housing and will work hard to insure that the town meets its affordable housing obligation. They deserve this community’s support.

Alvin McGowen

Race Street

To the Editor:

When my family moved to Jefferson Road in 2011, there were no young children on our block. Today there are 15, ranging from the 7-month-old next door to the fifth grader across the street. Our block is living the demographic changes happening in Princeton. Young families are moving in, many of them attracted to our town’s reputation for strong public schools. That reputation — and, most important, the educational futures of our children — now hang in the balance.  more

To the Editor:

On Saturday, September 22 the Arts Council of Princeton hosted the fourth annual An Evening with Bollywood event at the Princeton Shopping Center. It was a magical evening celebrating Indian culture for the more than 1,000 attendees who enjoyed an open bazaar market, Bollywood dance performance, and a lively Bollywood-inspired dance party to top off the night.

This event would not be possible without the generous support of EDENS, Princeton Shopping Center, Uma Kapoor, whose NachNation dance troupe delighted the audience with their live performance, and the Arts Council staff and volunteers, who worked tirelessly to ensure that it was a great evening for everyone. And, thank you to the community for supporting this event — the outpouring of enthusiasm was amazing to see. more

To the Editor:

I support the letter on Princeton’s Composting program [“Sabotaged by Poor Communication,” Mailbox, Sept. 26]. I have always believed in composting and recycling. It is a priority of mine to care for the Earth that we have been privileged to inherit, and leave it in good shape for our descendants. After my move just over two years ago, we decided to use the Princeton Green Bucket program instead of maintaining our own compost heap.  more

To the Editor:

Princeton Public School buildings are in a state of decay and inadequate for today’s students, never mind tomorrow’s. Many of our students perform well despite the lousy facilities — certainly not because of them. Rankings and average test scores don’t tell the whole story. They don’t measure the opportunities lost because there isn’t enough space to offer an elective course or special subject; they don’t measure the failure of an instructor to provide adequate attention to a student falling behind because they have too many charges; and they definitely don’t measure the level of anxiety felt by adolescents navigating crowded hallways and cafeterias in addition to their own educational futures. more

September 26, 2018

To the Editor:

As we near the November 6, 2018 midterm election, numerous signs point to a “blue wave” of Democratic enthusiasm cresting over New Jersey. The fight to restore the balance of power in both chambers of Congress begins in our state, where U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, whose voting record demonstrates a strong history of defending health care accessibility, the right of women to choose, LGBT rights, and protecting the environment, faces a critical re-election campaign that depends on a strong turnout from all parts of the state.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic candidates must flip a total of 23 Republican-held seats to gain the pivotal U.S. House majority. Opportunities to flip five of these seats are present in New Jersey alone, as strong Democratic challengers Jeff Van Drew (NJ-02), Andy Kim (NJ-03), Josh Welle (NJ-04), Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), and Mikie Sherill (NJ-11) run on a platform of enacting legislation to lift up all Americans and to protect the rights we have fought so hard to secure. All these candidates are inspiring grassroots enthusiasm powered by women, people of color, and young people, reminiscent of the 2006 midterm election, where Democratic candidates flipped dozens of seats and control of Congress blue. more

To the Editor:

The need for more space at our schools is indisputable. I wholly support the high school renovations; however, have serious objections to the creation of a separate 5/6 school.

The introduction of two two-year schools would significantly affect the community feel and spirit of the district and be very disruptive. For the typical two-child family, the children would be in different schools for the majority of their school careers (six years), while for families with three or more children, they would juggle three different schools for at least four years — a logistically challenging arrangement most parents would not willingly choose. more

To the Editor:

As a proud Princeton resident and lifelong proponent of public education, I support the entirety of the Princeton schools referendum and urge fellow residents to do the same. To my mind, passing the referendum in its various parts will enable critical investments in our schools and in our children’s futures. The high school renovation is a no-brainer — no one wants to abandon the high school building for a new one, but nearly everyone generally agrees it must be expanded and upgraded. Students eating lunch on the floor in the halls and being assigned free periods because there is no classroom in which to teach them something are not sustainable conditions in one of the state’s best school districts. more

To the Editor:

We are writing concerning the current decision of Princeton University to eliminate Dillon Gym memberships for the general public and their choice not to grandfather in existing members who want to continue.

Since this decision was initially sprung upon members in late June, a number of reasons have been floated. Initially, it was due to overcrowding. Then, they simply wanted the facility to be exclusive to University students, faculty, and personnel. Now, it seems to be due to the influx of additional students in the near, but not immediate, future and the impact they will have while in school and after graduation. At that time, if still in the Princeton area, they, their spouses, and potentially their children can all join Dillon. Theoretically, the number of current members from the public will ruin this long-range plan, hence the decision to eliminate public memberships now. We think it’s safe to say that most people plan for the future, but this seems to stretch the meaning of the phrase. more

To the Editor:

As Bob Rabner correctly points out in his letter [“Resident Is Concerned About Town’s Recycling and Composting Program,” Mailbox, Sept. 19], Princeton’s composting program has been poorly managed. He incorrectly stated that pizza boxes are not allowed. Why? Poor communication.  more

To the Editor:

We are writing to let the community know that we are seeking re-election for a second three-year term on the Princeton Public Schools’ Board of Education on November 6, 2018. It has been a privilege to serve our community and our district’s students in this role, and we are committed to providing continuity of leadership on the Board of Education during this critical time for our school district.

We are results-oriented leaders with a strong focus on student-centered initiatives, a great respect for our district’s staff, and a concern for our limited community resources. During our (almost) three years on the board, we have guided the implementation of many positive changes in our district, such as: more

September 18, 2018

To the Editor:

I find it puzzling and inaccurate that you chose to use the term “resistance” in the headline of the page one story [“Schools Face Resistance to Referendum Plan,” Sept. 12] to describe how many citizens in our community are reacting to the fact that an attempt is being made to “railroad” a variety of public school enhancements at a proposed cost of $130 million which these very citizens would have to help fund.  more

To the Editor:

I attended the evening public schools board meeting (the portion open to the public) on September 4 in the comically cramped room provided at the Valley Road building (where the Board members spread out comfortably at tables at one end of the room, while the public made-do with a shamble of available chairs at the other end — sharing space with several video cameras and a sound board engineer with a large table full of equipment, resulting in spill-out of attendees into the hall — some leaving in disgust. It does make one wonder if this is done by design, to deter a larger turnout. As the previous meeting had an identical situation (although this time, more so), you would think that arrangements would have been made to accommodate a larger gathering, as the school referendum is very clearly a hot topic at present.

The meeting had a signup of over 30 speakers (with each having an allowance of two minutes to speak — I was one of them.) While the tone and approaches to the subject at hand varied, the concern and opposition expressed to the $129 million school referendum was palpable and unanimous. more

To the Editor:

We were pleased to see coverage of the Princeton Civil Rights Commission on the front page of the September 5 issue of Town Topics [“Civil Rights Commission Seeks Improvements”]. Last night, the commission began reviewing Princeton Council’s recommendations for procedural changes as submitted by special subcommittee. This committee was appointed by the mayor and Council to review the commission’s first year and conflict resolution proceedings, as called for by guidelines, policies, and procedures adopted by resolution at the time of the commission’s reinstatement by ordinance. Our monthly commission meetings are the third Tuesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room at Witherspoon Hall. more

To the Editor:

I’m wondering what is happening with the recycling and composting programs in Princeton. As I walk around town, I see more and more “non recyclable” items in the yellow bins such as styrofoam, plastic shopping bags, and pizza boxes. We know this pollutes the stream and often necessitates that a greater percentage just gets rerouted to the landfill. Also, I see fewer and fewer new green composting bins on the street and realize that I haven’t received anything in years asking me to join the composting program or reminding me of what can and can’t be recycled and composted. I know this information is available on the township website, but judging from simple observation I don’t think many residents are even aware of that.

I know that the management of the programs has changed hands and I wonder if whoever is in charge of them now even cares about the results or the value of these programs to the community and our environment. I know for a fact that their predecessor did, because I volunteered my time and worked with her to increase awareness and expand participation. more

September 12, 2018

To the Editor:

A community is built by focusing on people’s gifts, and diversity among community members makes this approach all the more important. With “Welcoming Week” just around the corner [Sept. 14-23], it is a wonderful time to come together to recognize all of the opportunities to connect with and learn from one another. 

As recent transplants from Missouri to the Garden State, my wife and I were delighted to eventually connect with a reclusive neighbor through a hibiscus tree. It was evident from viewing her prolific garden that our neighbor must be a master gardener. One of the stereotypes about people in Missouri is that they won’t hesitate to look you straight in the eye, introduce themselves, and hold a full-fledged conversation whether or not you’re interested. Yet for several years I struggled to figure out how a guy like me from the Bible belt could “break down the middle wall of partition between us” in relation to this seemingly reclusive neighbor. more

To the Editor:

Ms. [Niki] VanAller’s says her organization “favor[s] diplomacy, not war, with Iran and North Korea.” [Mailbox, Aug. 29]. Well, so does everyone else, most of all, anyone in harm’s way. But good intentions do not excuse serial misstatements. “Iran has no nuclear weapons to date,” she claims, despite abundant evidence of Iranian-North Korean collusion to transfer nuclear weapon and ballistic missile technology between the two countries. Iran drew on North Korean expertise and used cutouts to construct a defense infrastructure to protect and conceal its military nuclear program. It rejects the 1987 Missile Technology Control Regime, and actively schemes to acquire, develop, and deploy a broad range of ballistic missiles and space launch capabilities.

Nor is it true that “the U.S. has over 7,000 of them,” i.e., nuclear weapons. The correct number is 1,350 warheads says the Arms Control Association, slightly less than Russia’s 1,444. Whether 1,350 is the ideal number “useful for deterrence” is unknowable, but the deterrent effect is indisputable, for which Ms. VanAller should be immensely grateful. more

To the Editor:

The upcoming November election is one of crucial importance to our nation at the local, state, county, and national levels. Progressive values are under attack. Gains in health care, in environmental safeguards, and in protections for our most vulnerable citizens have been rolled back. We need representatives who advocate for a compassionate society, not a nation governed by fear. 

Local and regional governments act as a pipeline to, and bulwark against, the divisive tactics at the federal level that have set religious, ethnic, and cultural groups against each other. more

September 5, 2018

To the Editor:


In about eight weeks the voters of Princeton will have the opportunity to cast their votes for candidates seeking national, state, and Mercer County offices as well as for two candidates for Princeton Council. In light of recent events, our attention as Democrats has been drawn to the need to support Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate and House to create a bulwark against the actions of a president who upholds neither his oath of office nor the rule of law. However, the quality of the people that we elect to Princeton Council is also important as our local elected officials make the decisions that affect the everyday lives of Princeton residents. Two current members of Princeton Council, Heather Howard and Lance Liverman, both progressive Democrats, will retire from elected office at the end of this year. Eve Niedergang and Dwaine Williamson are the two progressive Democrats who are running to succeed Lance and Heather, and they have been endorsed by the Princeton Democratic Party following their convincing win in the Democratic primary election. Both Dwaine and Eve have participated in the life of the community as volunteers and have the knowledge, the experience, and the commitment to be effective members of Council. They are committed to achieving smart, sustainable growth, being fiscally responsible stewards of our public funds, and strengthening the core values of our welcoming and inclusive Princeton community. As members of Princeton Council they will provide a voice for all members of our community.

I ask you to join me in voting for Eve Niedergang and Dwaine Williamson, progressive Democrats for Princeton Council, in the general election on November.

BERNIE MILLER

Governors Lane

To the Editor:

In recent weeks, white supremacist stickers have appeared in Mercer County and their message was disturbingly clear: “Reclaim Your Nation. Reclaim Your Heritage.” We at YWCA Princeton want to reiterate that we remain dedicated to our mission – to eliminate racism, empower women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

Like any agency with a nearly 100-year history, we have endured and weathered the changing attitudes of society as a whole. We have also been witness to the effects that racism has had in the communities we serve. We do not and will not tolerate racist messaging, as it is in direct odds with the advancement of our mission.

In 2007, with the now-dissolved YWCA Trenton, we cofounded Stand Against Racism (STAND), which is now a signature campaign of YWCA USA. The STAND’s purpose is to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism in our communities. This year, we innovated the STAND to make it meaningful for all of our community members throughout the year, through a range of civic engagement activities. As part of the STAND, this summer we proudly hosted an open-for-all summer series featuring three distinguished speakers who held discussions around difficult and often-times ignored topics such as racism in higher education, racism and mental illness, and the Black immigrant experience.

We will not let these racist stickers overshadow the hard work of our staff, supporters, allies, and most importantly, children and families served by our programs. We have an English as a Second Language program that serves over 300 students each year, including free United States Citizenship classes for individuals undergoing the naturalization process. Our Child Development Centers promote diversity and inclusivity in the classrooms and our Bilingual Nursery School in Princeton supports bilingual preschoolers. Our Breast Cancer Resource Center has an initiative to provide support and services for women of color recently diagnosed with breast cancer as well as breast cancer survivors of color.

We are committed to any and every person that walks through our doors, to always stay true to our mission, and we urge our community to STAND with us.

In solidarity,

JUDY HUTTON

CEO, YWCA Princeton

To the Editor:

This fall Princeton residents will vote on a crucial referendum for our schools and our children, as some of the cramped, aging school facilities have become an impediment to teaching, learning, safety, and wellness. At PHS for example, anxiety-producing school shooting drills now occur regularly, but guidance space and security remain inadequate. Classrooms are often sweltering or frigid due to HVAC problems, even during tests. Classroom and cafeteria space are insufficient, while three large, unused outside atria remain frustratingly inaccessible. And as more multi-family dwellings are built and new families continue to move to town, utilizing such capacity becomes even more necessary. Students, staff, teachers, and administrators do a truly fantastic job, but they know that critical repairs, updates, and expansion are needed right now. Referendum questions 1 and 2 address these and other pressing issues.

Some residents assert that facilities don’t matter in student outcomes, citing excellence in our schools. Teachers, parents, students, and demographics contribute to these strong outcomes, but they do not obviate the need for safe, sound buildings and adequate room for the people inside them. I am curious if those who say facilities don’t matter would choose to tolerate similarly poor heating, cooling, or crowded conditions in their homes.

I don’t especially like tax increases. But I stay informed and involved, and I feel confident in the capabilities of those entrusted to manage our schools. I have found the elected Board, administration, and teachers to be generally accessible, wise, and willing to answer questions thoughtfully. I also see with my own eyes that critical HVAC and security improvements, and capacity expansions, are necessary NOW, and would urge anyone in doubt to request a tour of the high school as a case in point (PHStourguide@ gmail.com). This wonderful high school, which Princeton takes great pride in, was built in 1927. Although there have been additions, much of that building is just plain old and it shows; it needs updating.

Some have noted that other towns require less expensive updates — but most neighboring schools are much newer than ours. I would also add that the vitriolic Cranbury discussion appears to be a bit of a red herring, as the needs being addressed in the referendum are not changed by the presence or absence of a small, declining number of students from Cranbury, while their tuition payments contribute meaningfully to the district’s operating budget.

It would be unwise to vote no on the referendum in hopes that a future analysis will result in a meaningfully better, cheaper plan. Waiting will almost certainly result in increased maintenance, construction, and financing costs, while leaving our children in sub-par facilities for longer. As Princeton residents, we’ve signed on to vote, pay taxes, and most of all to live in a community where the safety and education of children are consistently top priorities. I encourage you to vote YES on the referendum this fall and help the schools fulfill their mission for our children.

LORI WEIR

Stuart Road East

To the Editor:

I served as a member of the Princeton Regional Board of Education over 30 years ago (1981-1987). We had a very hard time dealing with declining enrollment and faced tough decisions about which neighborhood elementary schools to close. This experience does not qualify me to answer the current question of how to deal with increasing enrollment, especially at the high school. However, I learned one lesson that may be of use today: don’t lose sight of our mission to provide the best education to the town’s children within the financial constraints of the community’s resources. It would have been easy, but wrong, to keep all four schools open and simply bill our taxpayers for that luxury.

Today, I have serious misgivings about how our Board of Education is working through the knotty issue of enrollment changes. Specifically, I am disappointed that the current Board appears to have renewed a ten-year sending-receiving relationship with Cranbury prior to deciding how to address significant expansion of the high school. The renewal decision removes one major means of reducing the enrollment problem that necessitates such expansion. Was this a backdoor attempt to force approval of the bond? Did the Board simply presume that the community would approve the construction program before public discussion? Why wasn’t the Cranbury decision delayed until after the community voted on the proposed bond? The order in which these two major issues are being addressed seems backwards at best and raises a concern about the Board’s sensitivity to the financial constraints of our citizens.

HARRY LEVINE

Newlin Road

To the Editor:
We have been Princeton taxpayers for nearly three decades and stand vehemently opposed to the proposed Princeton BOE referendum.

As retirees on fixed incomes, we are now ruthlessly being driven out of Princeton after nearly 30 years of residence here. Without the sewer fee, the taxes on our very modest, obsolete home are now approaching $14,000 annually, an outrageous sum in exchange for the very poor level of municipal services that we receive and a rapidly aging and inadequate infrastructure in comparison to other communities with much, much lower combined taxes.

We have examined the school budgets of a dozen high performing school districts with similar demographics in the northern half of the state, including neighboring West Windsor-Plainsboro and Montgomery. Having lived in North Jersey for much of our lives, we know for a fact that the cost of living is consistently higher there than in this part of Central Jersey, yet the per pupil cost for Princeton even without any proposed increases far exceeds that of any high performing district that we examined. The results of our comparative analysis have been widely distributed throughout the community and have been updated earlier this year based on available NJ DOE data.

We respectfully request that the Princeton Board of Education NOT increase our already burdensome, if not impossible, property taxes with additional costs that provide no apparent benefit to the public school students of Princeton.

FRANK WIENER, VIRGINIA DIACONU

Loomis Court

To the Editors:

Let me get this straight: our town is spending about a million dollars on new parking meters, at around a thousand dollars each, but can’t be bothered to save a few old meters so that it can refund the balances on smart cards? That is literally all it would take – just keep a few of the old meters inside one of the town offices, use them to read balances off the old cards, and then give cardholders back their money. If handling cash is the problem, balances could be transferred to the new online app. I have enjoyed the convenience of my smart card, but it would take a significant lifestyle change to use my balance by the end of the year, especially once it becomes usable in only one place. The “use it or lose it” plan sounds like a policy concocted by airline or insurance executives. I would have expected better from elected officials who are my neighbors, but I guess that was naïve. Nobody likes being swindled, even if the amount is small – the town should change this callous, bad-faith plan or invite a class-action lawsuit whose costs will swamp the modest windfall it seems hoping to pocket from smart cards holders.

JONATHAN ECKSTEIN

Longview Drive

Editor’s Note: Town Topics received the following response after sharing the letter with Mayor Lempert and Princeton Council:
“We recognize that some residents have balances on their Smart Cards that they may not be able to spend down completely before the meters are replaced in October/November. To accommodate these card holders, Smart Cards will still be a valid method of payment at the Spring Street Garage for eight more months, until April 30, 2019. Additionally, we are exploring the feasibility of transferring Smart Card balances onto the new parking app.

“We are switching to new meters as part of Princeton’s effort to make parking in the town work better. These new meters will enable payment by credit card and smartphone as well as coins. Because the old Smart Cards use outdated technology that is no longer supported in the parking industry, they will unfortunately not be compatible with the new system. To avoid any inconvenience going forward, we are encouraging all Smart Card holders to use up the balance on their cards before the meters are replaced in October.”

MAYOR LIZ LEMPERT

COUNCIL PRESIDENT JENNY CRUMILLER