March 10, 2021

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

To the Editor:

“The preservation and protection of the natural environment must be an integral part of all plans and designs for improvements and changes in land use. Examples include rezoning of The Princeton Ridge,” states the Princeton Community Master Plan.

We all live nearby one of the region’s most environmentally fragile and ecologically diverse habitats. The Princeton Ridge is home to many threatened and endangered species, while playing an important role in Princeton’s delicate ecosystem. Measures have always been taken to protect this important land.

At the apex of the Ridge sits Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart’s 48-acre campus. It’s a jewel of a property, surrounded by woods and open fields. Understandably, their R4 zoning prevents commercial use by for-profit entities.  Similar to any residentially zoned neighborhood in Princeton, a 7-Eleven cannot be erected next door to your property.

Several years ago, Princeton Academy inked a partnership agreement with the Princeton Soccer Academy (PSA) in a land-lease opportunity with exclusive rights to the PSA. In the agreement, PSA, an organization outside of Princeton, will rip out 4.2 acres of grass, including 46 mature trees, and replace it with nonpermeable plastic turf. Aside from the devastating environmental and community exploitation, it’s important to expose the unsavory tactics used by the school and PSA to circumvent zoning regulations. more

To the Editor:

Everyone, especially our institutions, needs to pay their fair share of taxes.

This Thursday, February 4, Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart will present a plan before the Planning Board that would allow them to skirt local zoning rules and allow them to not pay their fair share of taxes.

Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart has planned for over two years with Princeton Soccer Academy to build two artificial turf fields on their property. This will certainly endanger state protected wetlands on the school grounds, destroy a sensitive ecosystem that houses endangered species, potentially poison the waters of the mountain lakes, and destroy a quiet community. 

Princeton Soccer Academy is a fully commercialized pay-to-play, state-wide, for-profit youth soccer organization. They have been recent recipients of hundreds of thousands of dollars of federal PPP loans as a for-profit entity. The problem with the school’s plan is that it operates in a residential area that is zoned for nonprofit usage only. When a group of concerned citizens opposed this project and stated the obvious, that this for-profit entity was not allowed to operate on nonprofit zoned land, the school and the soccer academy conspired to create a nonprofit out of thin air. more

To the Editor:

Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart is an independent, all-boys, Kindergarten through Grade 8 school. Our mission is to develop young men to be creative, compassionate, and courageous leaders of a just society. As a school of the Sacred Heart, Princeton Academy is guided by noble goals. We always act with social awareness as we seek to build community.

Everything we do at Princeton Academy is aimed at providing the best possible developmental experience for our students. We believe that by doing this we are not only bringing out the best in our boys, but we are also contributing to make our world a better place.

Our school is proposing to enhance our facility for our students and for our community by replacing two athletic fields that already exist with a new, next-generation athletic surface. The fields will be enjoyed by our students, along with the athletes of Princeton Soccer Academy, and will be accessible to all in the broader community.  more

To the Editor:

Once again, we are writing as residents and taxpayers of Princeton. We remain eminently concerned about the Minor Site Plan application filed by Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart (Princeton Academy).

This coming Thursday, February 4, Princeton Academy will proceed with their quest for application with variances and conditional use. This discussion continues from the December 10, 2020 Planning Board meeting.

Princeton Academy has partnered with the Princeton Soccer Academy (PSA) to build an artificial turf athletic field complex on their campus, which is located on the Princeton Ridge, a unique and sensitive ecological area in Mercer County that extends across the northern part of Princeton Township. For numerous environmental and nuisance reasons that we cited previously, and contrary to the applicant’s claims, the construction and operation of this complex will be detrimental to our surrounding community. more

To the Editor:

As I sit today watching the snow fall onto Princeton Ridge, I am reminded how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful and natural area of New Jersey. We chose to move to Princeton Ridge about a year ago because of its beautiful natural wooded environment, the dark skies for ideal stargazing, and the ability to have some land. It had the natural elements, and stability, that we were looking for.

We enjoy pointing our spotting scope towards the moon and being able to see many craters. It’s also wonderful to see the red fox, and many beautiful deer. One of our favorite activities is to sit under the stars in the evening around our fire pit — enjoying time together and looking to the heavens. We have come to believe that Princeton has it all — beautiful natural places like this, and a wonderful hustling bustling town for those who prefer to be closer to it all.   more

January 27, 2021

To the Editor:

Following the murder of George Floyd on May 25, Princeton Council declared racism a public health crisis through the passage of resolution 20-195 on June 8, 2020. Council noted the need for “assessments of internal policies and procedures to ensure racial equity” in all municipal work. Over the summer and fall, a Civil Rights Commission (CRC) ad hoc committee worked diligently on creating a Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) Toolkit, which was presented to the Council on December 14, 2020, to a positive reception. As suggested at the Council meeting, we look forward to the Toolkit being presented to municipal department heads.

The ad hoc committee was comprised of two community partners, Afsheen Shamsi, a former CRC commissioner and Linda Oppenheim, a Not In Our Town Princeton board member, as well as two CRC commissioners, Jean Durbin and Surinder Sharma, and myself, CRC chair. During the process, the committee consulted with Joanne Parker, Fern and Larry Spruill, Karen Hernandez-Granzen, and Anastasia Mann.  more

To the Editor:

I moved to Princeton almost 12 years ago; part of what I immediately embraced about this community was its texture. We are nestled here in the heart of New Jersey, surrounded by great population density, and yet it is possible to know our neighbors, to have relationships with local businesspeople, to greet fellow community members in the streets. I likewise embraced the physical texture of our community, including a walkable downtown, an old fashioned outdoor shopping center, and the ways in which the campus of a great research university abuts and engages its downtown center — rather than being banished to the edges, as is so often the case.

This is a community in which town and gown are interwoven, in which the edges of each blend in dynamic ways. For my part, the Museum I lead has been a part of the blurring and blending of those edges. Historic Bainbridge House on Nassau Street became a gallery venue for our Museum in September 2019 as an intimately-scaled destination for residents, visitors, and students alike. The opening of a satellite Museum Store followed in November 2019 as a further way of integrating this particular cultural entity into the fabric of the town around us. more

January 20, 2021

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Board and members of the Sourland Conservancy, I would like to thank the many community volunteers, partner nonprofits, and teen leaders of Hopewell Gives Back (HGB) for observing the Martin Luther King Day of Service by volunteering on January 16-18. 

This year, the HGB teen leaders planned a virtual event to invite families and individuals of all ages to pick up a project “kit” to complete at home. Each project will benefit one of four local nonprofits: I Support the Girls (feminine hygiene packs), Seeds to Sew International (decorating paper bags/boxes), The Rescue Mission of Trenton (making no-sew fleece blankets or face masks), and the Sourland Conservancy (assembling native seed packets).  more

To the Editor:

I am writing to voice my objection to aspects of the newly passed ordinance permanently changing a portion of Witherspoon Street to a one-way street.

I realize that this is a challenging issue with many parties having different hopes and needs. We are all struggling to cope with the effects of the COVID crisis, but adaptations that work for some may be a hindrance to others. While I appreciate that there was an impetus to move quickly on this plan because, according to then Mayor Lempert, “Delaying it would mean we’d lose the grant funding for this project,” I do not think the implications of this ordinance have been well-considered. Many of the merchants that will be strongly affected, myself included, have been overwhelmed trying to weather the busy Christmas season during this pandemic and were not able to focus on this complicated topic.

I will leave aside the larger issue of whether Witherspoon should be one-way, although for the record I am against it, and focus on the part of this plan that directly affects my store. According to the Town Topics article on December 23 [“Council Vote Finalizes One-Way Traffic on Witherspoon,” page 1], South Tulane Street will be changed from one-way going north to south to one-way south to north. more

To the Editor:

During the past 10 months of the pandemic, residents who live in homes built and managed by Princeton Community Housing (PCH) have been the recipients of generosity by many organizations and food markets in Princeton. The challenge of making food available to those in need has been met by our community partners and we are very grateful for their initiatives.

Arm In Arm has provided 70 bags of food for 70 households, twice a month, at Elm Court (EC) and Harriet Bryan House (HBH), PCH’s senior developments on Elm Road. Princeton Community Village (PCV) residents have also received food deliveries. The YMCA has delivered 60 boxes of fresh produce every week, and over 100 households at our senior residences took turns receiving these food boxes. The YMCA also delivered weekly fresh produce boxes to 45 households at PCV and 30 households at Griggs Farm. The Jewish Family and Children’s Service mobile food truck delivered a reusable grocery bag to 90 residents at EC and HBH. The bag included fresh produce, chicken and non-perishables. The first delivery was on December 30 and hopefully will continue quarterly in 2021. The mobile pantry also delivered food to 20 residents at PCV on the same day. more

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Arts Council of Princeton, I am writing to thank everyone in our community who made a gift of support during our winter appeal. The response was overwhelmingly generous. Over the past nine months, the Arts Council of Princeton’s response to the pandemic has been to offer free programs and creative ways to address the social isolation and the diminished sense of togetherness that characterized so much of 2020.

Your support was an affirmative signal of support for the Arts Council’s hard work and continued commitment to keeping our community vibrant and connected. We will emerge from this pandemic stronger and more resilient as a community, and your support ensures that the Arts Council will be offering art-filled opportunities to come together and celebrate the creativity in each of us. On behalf of the entire Board, I offer a heartfelt thanks to all.

Board Of Trustees, Arts Council Of Princeton
Sarah Collum-Hatfield, President
Rock Road East, Hopewell