April 7, 2021

To the Editor:

On behalf of Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS), I am writing to ask fellow Princetonians to help address the problem of off-leash dogs in our parks and obey the law, which requires dogs to be leashed at all times when off their owners’ property.  Lest anyone think this letter is written out of anti-dog sentiment, let me say that I and many FOPOS board members are ardent dog lovers. We would love to have a place in Princeton like there is at Skillman Park where dogs could run free. However, that is not the situation currently, and two very sad incidents at the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve illustrate how ignoring the law can have serious consequences.

In one, which occurred a couple of years ago, an off-leash dog ran up to a stag, was gored, and died. Its owner was devastated. Quite recently, an off-leash dog seriously injured a dog that was leashed. There have also been a number of incidents in which people who have had past unpleasant encounters with off-leash dogs have had their enjoyment of the park spoiled by encountering them repeatedly on the trails. We know from conversations with the Animal Control Officer that off-leash dogs are a significant problem at other open space parks; it is not just Mountain Lakes. more

To the Editor:

We are writing on behalf of the Princeton Public Library’s Board of Trustees to express deep gratitude to PPL’s outstanding staff.

The library has long been one of Princeton’s jewels, enriching, educating, and entertaining the community. Throughout the pandemic, the whole team — led by Executive Director Jennifer Podolsky — has worked tirelessly to sustain popular services while also reaching patrons in new ways, including the princetoncovid.org website, StoryWalk, the Keeping TABs podcast, a host of online events, and an expanded mobile device lending program.

We are so grateful for this library and its extraordinary staff, who have helped to make a challenging and isolating time more bearable.

Ruth Miller
President, Board of Trustees, Princeton Public Library
Governors Lane

Jennifer Jang
Vice President, Board of Trustees, Princeton Public Library
Russell Road

To the Editor:

What a crowning achievement it would be for the town of Princeton, the Board of Education, and of course the wonderful and beloved Shirley Satterfield to have the Princeton Middle School named after her. For much of her life she has been dedicated to serving others through her involvement in education as a guidance counselor where she has been a mentor to many students and parents. Through her active involvement in the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church, where she is a deacon and is responsible for ministering and looking out for 12 other church members, and is the adviser for the Junior Ushers Ministry. She is also the church historian, participates in three choirs, and serves on various committees.

Educationally Shirley spent 14 years at Hightstown High School where she taught seventh and eighth grade English and history, and was a guidance counselor. She then came to Princeton High School where she served as a guidance counselor for six years from 1993-2000 before retiring. That did not last long, because the school system called her back as a consultant where she continued to help students find career paths until 2006. more

To the Editor:

On March 24th, 2021 I took part in a meeting of the Princeton Environmental Commission. I was there because of my interest in the proposed Hilltop Park project to replace grass with synthetic turf.

Heidi Fichtenbaum, a member of the commission, gave a very informative report on the impact of synthetic turf versus natural grass. It included the effects to the health of human and animal life, effects on the environment, and the cost of each project over the coming years. For anyone who thought a synthetic turf field was a good idea, the information we heard could easily have changed their minds.

The whole report pointed to the huge benefits of having natural grass. And the good news is that the costs of the grass project and upkeep are lower as well.

Kudos to PEC!

Eliane Geren
Dempsey Avenue

To the Editor:

Child abuse and neglect is a serious problem affecting every segment of our community, and finding solutions requires input and action from everyone. While this is vital in any year, it is even more important in these challenging times when a family’s way of life is upended because of the COVID pandemic. Child abuse can have long term psychological, emotional, and physical effects that have lasting consequences for its victims. 

It is essential that communities increase access to programs and activities that create strong and thriving children and families. Effective child abuse prevention activities succeed because of the partnerships created between child welfare professionals, education, health, community and faith based organizations, businesses, law enforcement agencies, and families. 

April has been declared as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The volunteers and staff at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties strive to ensure the emotional, physical and educational well-being of these children while they reside in foster homes or residential facilities. The ultimate goal of our volunteers is to help establish a safe, stable and permanent home for each child we serve.

Laura Wall
Executive Director, CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties

March 31, 2021

To the Editor:

On March 14, the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) met virtually to hear from local and state Democratic candidates. Although this year’s race for Princeton Council is not contested, PCDO allowed the candidates for Princeton Council (Leighton Newlin and me) to make statements before we were endorsed by acclamation. I thank PCDO members for their endorsement, and I want to share with the larger Princeton community key points from the statement I gave that evening:

“I ask tonight for your support for a second term on Princeton Council. In 2018, I pledged that I would work hard, always be available and open to community input, and always keep the best interests of Princeton front and center. I believe that I have lived up to those promises. As a progressive Democrat, I am committed to the values of inclusion, social and racial justice, climate sustainability and smart growth, and providing opportunities for our businesses and for all who live and work in our unique and diverse community.

2020 was a very tough year and we faced some existential challenges. I believe that we faced those challenges as a community should, united in helping our residents and our businesses weather this very difficult storm as best we could. I am proud, and I hope that you are as well, of the way Princeton’s elected officials rose to the challenges of COVID, working tirelessly and as a team to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. We also continued work on many goals that could not be set aside, such as our affordable housing settlement, which was passed last year. With vaccines now increasingly available, we are beginning to look beyond the pandemic. We hope this year to get back to some of the goals that we set aside in the spring of 2020. more

To the Editor:

This letter supports renaming John Witherspoon Middle School after Shirley Satterfield.

Ms. Satterfield was my high school guidance counselor at Hightstown High School, in Hightstown, New Jersey. As I considered what to write about Ms. Satterfield, or Auntie Shirley, as we call her, I had to think through how to discuss such a lovely and sweet woman in words.

The easy thing is to write about her number of accomplishments. I am sure many will address that. All one needs to do is type in “Satterfield” and “Princeton” in Google, and you will find several pages documenting her good works. Or you could just look at her children Tracy, a successful guidance counselor, and Dawn, one of the best legal minds in California.

I could speak to her various efforts to preserve the history of African Americans in Princeton, New Jersey, and throughout the state. Her family’s personal history is filled with accomplishment and is also well documented. You can find Ms. Satterfield’s work in a number of periodicals, at various institutions that she has taught, and if you are given the privilege, throughout her home which highlights the history of her family.  more

To the Editor:

To Princeton’s dog owners: In parks, playing fields, and streets, please obey the law and leash your dogs.

These are public spaces, to be safely enjoyed by everyone. The law is for the common good, and is not optional.

Stephanie Magdziak
Jefferson Road

March 24, 2021

To the Editor:

An article in last week’s Town Topics [Town and School System Unite to Change Landscaping Practices,” March 17] described grant funding “geared toward developing a financially viable plan to transition away from the practice of landscaping with fossil-fueled equipment.” That long-winded language perfectly captures the double standard that allows us to continue indefinitely abusing nature while taking rapid action to save ourselves. Imagine a year ago if we had responded to the pandemic by seeking a grant to “develop a financially viable plan to transition away from spreading the coronavirus.” Such a response would have been considered absurd. Instead, we took the threat seriously, shut down activities that facilitated spread, then used our resourcefulness to adapt to new realities. Necessity proved the mother of invention.

Yet when it comes to nature, there’s this persistent notion that we must coddle ourselves and nudge the status quo ever so slowly, lest we upset cherished norms. Meanwhile, every day brings another superspreader event as we continue supercharging the atmosphere with planet-heating CO2. We, who are only alive because our bodies strictly regulate CO2 levels in our bloodstream, somehow think we can get away with altering nature’s atmospheric CO2 levels by 50 percent and rising.

Even before the pandemic struck, there was a telling example in Princeton of how real change happens. For years, environmentalists and town staff had regaled residents not to put plastic bags out for recycling. Educational flyers, websites, scolding letters to the editor — all had next to no impact on behavior. Then, in the fall of 2019, crews were told to leave contaminated recyclables uncollected. Residents who found their yellow and green buckets unemptied quickly got the message and changed their behavior. Within a month, plastic bags had disappeared from curbside recyclables.  more

To the Editor:

I thank Christina Elvina Grant, who took the initiative to schedule a COVID vaccination for me at our local CVS in Princeton, relieving me of the many months of fear that the pandemic had caused.

Ms. Grant, a local realtor, telephoned as soon as she heard that the vaccination was available within walking distance of my Nassau Street office, and then she called CVS to make the appointment. Two days later I was vaccinated. What a relief to feel reconnected to human society!

That exceptional personal intervention made the decision for me, for which I am deeply grateful.

Roger Martindell
Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

I was deeply distressed to learn from recent letters in Town Topics that plans are being made to dig up the beautiful green grass at Hilltop Park and replace it with some kind of synthetic turf to make way for a soccer youth club.

I am dumbfounded by this decision. The green “soccer field” is the only green space in the entire park. There is a concrete skateboard park, a basketball court, a playground, a parking lot, and a softball field. The only space in the entire park that makes it a park is to be converted into an artificial soccer field with bright lights around it so that games can be played far into the evening?

Hilltop Park is a tiny little “pocket” park, surrounded on three sides by hundreds of families. Campbell Woods is on one side of it, a beautifully developed neighborhood with many young families and narrow streets. On the other side is Copperwood Apartments, at least three stories high, housing many professionals who need a quiet place to unwind at the end of the day. Across the street is Princeton Community Village, also densely populated. Hilltop Park across the street is the only place these children have to play.  more

To the Editor:

We have been informed that Hilltop Park is about to be changed drastically by the installation of a for-profit soccer field. We residents of Princeton Community Village, one of the densely populated neighborhoods near the park, wish to register our opposition.

First, let us state that the park already has many facilities, which all of Princeton enjoys: a playground for young children, a basketball court and skate park for older kids, an existing soccer field that is much more ecofriendly than the one proposed, and a softball field. Hilltop Park is beloved as well for its open field, which is used by a great many people around the clock and around the year. It is a wonderful place to enjoy nature, to take a walk, to visit with neighbors. To find space. We citizens of the community do not need a land grab by a for-profit high-tech facility that will cost us millions in up-front costs and maintenance.

Hilltop Park is lovely as it is, but it is almost over-used now: The present soccer field already attracts so many cars that pedestrians are endangered by illegal parking along narrow roads; residents of Princeton Community Village routinely find their parking spaces commandeered by soccer spectators — the new field will greatly exacerbate our parking problems; residents of Princeton Community Village (soon to comprise 250+ households) love the park. Everyone from babies in strollers to seniors use it a lot. more

To the Editor:

I am writing in support of the Hilltop Park field project.

We moved to Princeton this past summer, and signed my boys up for PFC almost immediately. It has honestly been the highlight of the year for the boys, allowing them to get fresh air, exercise, and connection with other boys throughout this crazy year filled with Zoom classes, resulting in too much inactivity and screen time. It is an incredibly well-run program, with terrific administrators and coaches — all are professional, while being positive and encouraging.

For the winter season, we have been driving the kids to practice about 20 minutes away in Hillsborough, where they share a limited number of turf fields with students from a lot of other towns. It would be incredible if they could utilize fields in the community.

I used to work for the KIPP Network of Charter Schools in Newark, N.J. The achievement that I am most proud of throughout my 15+ years with them was creating an athletic field on what was once an unsafe and blighted parking lot, surrounded by abandoned properties. I saw firsthand how athletic fields can be life changing for kids. I know that we are blessed with many beautiful parks in this wonderful town, but the grass fields are not suitable for a good portion of the year, and the PHS turf field is in high demand.

Thank you very much for your consideration of this important project.

Hannah Richman
Esther Plaza

To the Editor:

I thoroughly enjoyed your 75th anniversary issue and its glances at Princeton “back in the day.” I was especially intrigued to learn that there was an A & P Market where CVS is now. When I first moved here in 1967 that space was a Davidson’s Market and I assumed, for some reason, that it had pretty much always been Davidson’s. For the record I lived directly behind Davidson’s on Park Place where my rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $125 and I paid $5 to park in the municipal lot for, not two hours, but for a month!  I am now motivated to visit the library and look up some of the original issues of Town Topics that the library has on microfilm (whatever that is!) so that I can see just what merchants were in which locations around town in, say, the fifties.

I’d like to send a special appreciation to your sports caption writer who somehow manages — week after month after year — to devise original descriptions of the action shown by local athletes. And always in the same format: name followed by verb followed by noun. Some recent examples include: heads to the hoop, delivers a serve, handles the ball, controls the puck, pressures a foe, shows his form, thwarts a foe, and my favorite — displays defensive integrity. That writer deserves a special place in caption Heaven. I shudder to think, however, what the captions would sound like if this person was ever reassigned to write obituaries!

Keep up the fine work as I look forward to many more issues arriving with a gentle thud on my front steps each Wednesday.

Les Seifer
Chestnut Street

Editor’s note: Sports Editor Bill Alden is the mastermind behind the endlessly creative sports photo captions.

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