December 23, 2020

FAMILY FOCUS: “We have had nearly 20 years of uninterrupted growth, and we look forward to that continuing. How people dress and how they look is important, and it can also be a sign of respect for others.” Nick Hilton, co-owner of Hiltons Princeton, the longtime men’s and women’s clothing store, is proud that his daughter Catherine Hilton, vice president, is the latest generation to be a part of the family business. They are shown in the women’s department.

By Jean Stratton

Hiltons Princeton is here to stay!

Despite COVID-19, the challenges of online shopping competition, and the doubt and disillusion that have pervaded 2020, this brick-and-mortar business continues to fulfill its destiny: offering the finest quality and styling in men’s and women’s clothing, accompanied by superb customer service and personal attention.

Located at 221 Witherspoon Street, Hiltons was opened by Nick Hilton in 2001. Initially, it was exclusively a men’s store, but in response to public demand, women’s clothing was added 12 years ago, and president and co-owner Jennifer Hilton became buyer and manager of the women’s department. The married couple soon became a vibrant force in Princeton fashion.

“I love the fashion business,” says Jennifer Hilton. “I like to help people put an outfit together, and I love my customers! They come in regularly to see what’s new, and we always have something to show them. They are all ages and come from all over the Princeton area.”

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To the Editor:

Princeton Human Services thanks donors for their contributions to its 22nd Holiday Gift Drive. Princeton Human Services had its most successful Holiday Gift Drive this year thanks to the overwhelming number of donors who contributed. This year, the department distributed gifts to approximately 334 kids aged 12 and under. In addition to donating gifts for the children, donors donated a gift card to each family to help during these difficult times.

The department would like to thank Stone Hill Church, Dorothea’s House, Tenacre Foundation, Princeton Children’s Fund, PBA Local 130, Weichert Realtors, Church & Dwight, the Princeton Recreation Department, and the Woodland Drive neighborhood for their support and contributions to the Holiday Gift Drive as well as municipal employees, police officers, and the many Princeton residents who made individual donations and sponsored children in our drive.  more

To the Editor:

No one said that being on a Board of Ed would be easy. It shouldn’t be and it isn’t. Often, it feels like you are stuck in a Three Bears story on repeat – You spent too much, you didn’t spend enough. You did that too early. You did it too late. You said too much. You didn’t say enough.…  Very rarely do you get to the part where things are just right. The struggle, if it is focused on what is in the best interest of our kids and community, is worthwhile and necessary. Excellence will exist in some places no matter what anyone does. Disparity is a call for introspection and action on everyone’s part.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have been part of this Board. I think my favorite moment of service was the night that we honored Dorothy Mullen, because her work, and our school gardens, reflect the best in our district’s values — joy and purpose, respect for teachers, and also wellness and a genuine concrete version of equity, sometimes as simple as every kid tasting a new herb.   more

To the Editor:

I noted, with sadness, the recent passing of Anna Christy Peacock, the retired affordable housing coordinator for Princeton Township. I first met Christy in 1997 when I applied for affordable housing following a pair of layoffs and a divorce. I was in dire financial straits and the prospect of being homeless, or at least in desperate housing circumstances, was a distinct possibility. She shepherded me through the process and I am confident that I would not have received approval without her knowledgeable, patient guidance.

That affordable housing experience was the foundation for the success and comfort I have achieved since then, and I have Christy to thank for that opportunity. She helped countless others in the same way, and all of us, especially the municipality of Princeton, owe her a debt of gratitude. She made Princeton, and the world, a better place and she will be missed.

John Rounds
Eldridge Avenue, Lawrenceville

December 16, 2020

“JAZAMILY” TEAMWORK: “We’re a specialty toy store, with the focus on fun and quality. It’s an eclectic mix, with items to appeal to all ages — from babies and toddlers to teens and even young-at-heart adults!” Joanne Farrugia and Dean Smith (foreground), co-owners of jaZams toy store, are shown with members of the “jaZamily” team.

By Jean Stratton

JaZams is a magical store!

Nothing is more fun than a toy shop, and this one is filled with creativity, imagination, and colorful toys galore.

During its 25-year history, jaZams has earned an outstanding reputation and built a loyal, ever-expanding clientele.

Founder and co-owner Joanne Farrugia opened the store in the Montgomery Center in 1996, and moved to Palmer Square in 2000. It has been in its current location at 25 Palmer Square East since 2008.

An independently-owned store, it is facing the challenges so many brick-and-mortar establishments are coping with today. COVID-19 brought with it an onslaught of difficulties, but, even before that, online shopping competition was creating its own hurdles.

jaZams continues to prevail, however, and although it was closed from March to June due to COVID, it operated its online business with its website, and also established a busy curbside pick-up service.

“We were fortunate to keep busy then, and we also delivered within an 8-mile area (and still do),” reports Farrugia. more

To the Editor:

2020 has been a hard year for everyone. I lost my dear friend — Dr. Stephanie Chorney, a local artist, grassroots activist, member of the New Jersey Environmental Lobby, and former co-chair of the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC). When I am struggling, my mom reminds me that “God will send a Messenger.” Stephanie was that messenger for eight years. We were the same age, both mothers to young boys, and we shared December birthdays. Our dedication to social and environmental justice, however, is what created our deep and unshakeable bond.

My passion to make Princeton and New Jersey greener, cleaner, and more equitable is now joined with the desire to make sure that Dr. Stephanie Chorney’s “memory is a blessing.”

I am losing my patience with our local elected officials, who have the power, privilege, and responsibility to act, and refuse to do so.

I do not believe Princeton elected officials are “climate deniers,” but their inaction over decades on public health issues and their refusal to consider proven solutions make them complicit in what they claim to be fighting.  more

To the Editor:

Before the slogan “It takes a village…” became popular, my mother lived those words. After working the night shift at Nabisco, she would drive around, picking up children and making sure that they made it to school. She would appear on behalf of students whose parents couldn’t or wouldn’t attend parent teacher conferences, and was a fierce advocate for kids all over town.

I am guided and inspired by my mother’s commitment to ensuring that ALL children have support and an equitable chance to succeed in school. Princeton voters’ support of my re-election to the Princeton Board of Education will allow me to continue critical work of making sure that of our children are equipped to pursue lives of joy and purpose.

Make no mistake — COVID-19 has made a difficult job even more challenging.  We are asking so much more of our children, our teachers, and our staff.  But I am confident that, along with my Board colleagues and our interim Superintendent, that we will succeed in overcoming these obstacles.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve our community, for the betterment of everyone. I am grateful for your support.

Happy Holidays.

Michele Tuck-Ponder
Laurel Circle

To the Editor:

On December 16 and January 9, the Princeton Environmental Commission and Princeton Council will meet to prioritize their goals for the coming year. In the interests of public health, an ordinance banning or severely restricting the use of two-stroke leaf blowers in our community should be among next year’s town goals.

The shortcomings of these instruments of torture are widely reported and have appeared in our local news sources as well as national magazines (see, for example, Atlantic, April 2019).

It is not simply a matter of their being annoying, noisy and smelly — they are extremely so and do serious damage to our health and well-being. We all know that cars and trucks emit damaging pollutants, but the two-stroke engine is far worse than any other. A recent study found that up to a third of its fuel, including highly carcinogenic benzine, is unburned in the firing process and is let loose into our air and into our lungs. On average these emissions are an incredible 124 times higher than a car. Note that cars and trucks use much cleaner four-stroke engines. more

To the Editor, 

I am a frequent visitor to Princeton. I think making Witherspoon Street into a pedestrian-friendly street is a good option.

Many of my family’s favorite restaurants and shops are located on Witherspoon Street. My husband has worked in Princeton for nearly 30 years, and we come into town quite often as a family. When my daughter was in high school she liked to hang out with her friends at the Princeton Library or in the coffee shops nearby.

We think of Princeton as unique among all the cities and towns in New Jersey. A big part of the attraction is the pleasure of walking around. If there are more places for people to stroll safely, it will invite more people from the greater Princeton area, like my family, to choose Princeton as a place to eat, meet friends, and enjoy shopping and leisure time. 

Shirley Wang
Rosewood Court, Belle Mead

To the Editor:

When I was a student at PHS, I loved going to the Small World after school and sitting in the cool parklet, sipping a coffee, talking with friends, and watching the cars go by. I’ve continued to do this even after high school (before COVID-19), as I’m a student at Rutgers now and come home often. Once we’re past the pandemic, I hope that Witherspoon Street will be a pedestrian street where you can enjoy eating a full meal outside; I would give up the car-watching for that.

This stretch of Witherspoon Street is not necessary to get anywhere. On the contrary, it is a destination in itself. I feel the potential for expanding the restaurant and retail area during high-volume hours is enormous. To me, it is worth the few extra minutes to drive around the block to one of the parking garages. I hope Princeton Council will make Witherspoon Street a pedestrian plaza during dinner hours and on weekends.

Spencer Marks
Howe Circle

December 9, 2020

LUXURY LIFESTYLE: “We’re a newer concept because all our units are rentals. This was a market need. People are enjoying the benefits of not having to be responsible for all the things that go with running a house.” Ken Butler, MA, CCM, general manager of Ovation at Riverwalk in Plainsboro, is enthusiastic about this new active adult community. Shown is the sophisticated, state-of-the-art modern new building.

By Jean Stratton

Ovation at Riverwalk is a unique rental community for active adults, ages 55 and up. Located at One Riverwalk in Plainsboro, it is operated by SageLife, a developer of adult communities, and it is expected to open for residents in 2021. Applications and deposits are being accepted now.

“We are set apart from other adult communities,” explains Ovation General Manager Ken Butler, MA, CCM. “One, we are a rental community with flexibility, offering short term and long term leases, Two, we have fully-staffed amenities and services, a professional team of housekeepers, maintenance help, fitness and lifestyle coaches, and concierge service.

“In addition, the Ovation membership program offers a lifestyle that is like that of a private club. Our clubhouse, which is just for residents and their guests, offers all the services and amenities people will welcome. Our services and hospitality will be like a country club.”

Another important feature of the new community is its location very near the Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center campus just off Route 1 in Plainsboro. It is just a short walk away from the Merwick Care & Rehabilitation Center, and is situated alongside the Millstone River, with an opportunity for many scenic walking trails along the river. more

To the Editor:

Princeton’s business community has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank the town’s leadership for working with us during this difficult year and are especially grateful for the temporary arrangement on Witherspoon Street that has allowed us to keep serving our customers. 

For business owners on Witherspoon Street, this summer’s outdoor dining experience has been a first. While it was dictated by necessity, we have found that the move from a street that is congested with cars and delivery trucks to one where people can enjoy convivial al fresco dining has been received well by the public.

We would like to see a flexible street that allows one-way access to personal cars, delivery, and service vehicles at set times, but also allows closure at other times, to make a safe outdoor space for people, for meeting friends and for community building.

A people-friendly street design, augmented with trees, good lighting, and tasteful decoration, would make Witherspoon Street even more beautiful, and would make a fitting approach to historic Nassau Hall. Indeed, a low-traffic Witherspoon Street can become a destination for visitors, which benefits local businesses, as has been the happy outcome of similar redesigns in Jersey City and Somerville. more

To the Editor:

In 1905, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in a tarpaper shack behind a farmhouse on the Princeton Ridge. This area has been a focus of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and targeted in the Princeton Community Master Plan: “The preservation and protection of the natural environment must be in integral part of all plans and designs for improvements and changes in land use. Examples include rezoning of the Princeton Ridge.”

This week, Princeton’s Planning Board will be hearing testimony on proposed changes at the apex of the Ridge in a land-lease agreement between Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart and the Princeton Soccer Academy. In the agreement, the school will remove 4.2 acres of grass and natural surface, including 46 mature trees, and replace it with nonpermeable artificial turf. PSA is looking to lease this complex and conduct practices, games, and tournaments year-round, every day and every night until 9:30 p.m. 

Zoning prohibits the school from leasing the property for commercial purposes to for-profit organizations. PSA, LLC, a for-profit organization, has been noted by the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, for years, as a partner in this endeavor.  When the school realized this impermissible commercial use, a new application was filed by PSA, Inc., a parallel nonprofit organization just four weeks ago. Clearly, this nonprofit formation is a last-minute attempt to circumvent Princeton’s clear zoning regulations. Allowing an organization that has operated as a for-profit entity for years to suddenly claim they are nonprofit to skirt zoning’s impermissible commercial use sets a dangerous precedent.  more

To the Editor:

Growing up in Princeton, it was obvious to me that we cared deeply about our town. But it was not until I became owner of Princeton Record Exchange that I began to understand just how entwined the government, residents, merchants, and other organizations are. For 40 years, PREX has been embraced by this Princeton community. The residents and local government have shown us love and support, and their enthusiasm and concern for our well-being has increased exponentially during these challenging times. The daily encouragement we get is heartwarming and has made our load much easier to bear. 

As a nationally recognized record store, we are also firmly entrenched in the global music community. Each year we host tens of thousands of visitors from all over the state, country, and world. They come to PREX to experience the joys of immersing themselves in a real brick-and-mortar store. We are happy to satisfy and hope to do so for many years to come. more

To the Editor,

We are writing to you to express our serious concerns and strong opposition regarding the proposed plan set out by the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart to replace their grass fields with synthetic turf, add 11 diesel-operated light towers, and lease out their land to the Princeton Soccer Academy (PSA). 

As owners of property on Heather Lane, this proposed project would have a significant negative impact on our quality of life, for our family and our neighborhood. Our greatest concerns are the negative impact of increasing the impervious coverage that would lead to extensive water runoff and pollution, the additional light and air pollution, increased traffic in the area, and the detrimental impact on our quality of life and safety. more

To the Editor:

Witherspoon Street used to be a central feature in a dad ritual I enjoyed with each of my daughters when they were teens: We would walk or bike to town on Saturdays; we’d pick up a ciabatta at the Witherspoon Bakery, coffee at the Small World, then stroll around campus before making our way home via the library. We would talk about life, the universe, and everything.

With or without daughters, I experience Witherspoon Street as part of the lively heart of our historic town. It really is the perfect place to amble about and see what’s happening, then sit down for a drink or a bite. The parklet in front of Small World Coffee has been very popular in summertime and shows that there was “appetite” for outdoor seating, even before the pandemic.

This summer, Witherspoon Street has looked more attractive than ever, despite the concrete barriers. Who doesn’t like to dine outside with friends, enjoying a breeze or the shade of trees with good food? Who doesn’t enjoy people watching? Let us not go back to the Witherspoon Street of pre-COVID times. Instead, let us turn it into the face of Princeton: inviting and people-friendly.  

Michael Faas
Dempsey Avenue

To the Editor:

Since the canopy covering the Princeton municipal fueling station on Mount Lucas Road was removed in April, nothing has been done to “beautify” or camouflage the remaining structure as promised by our elected officials. And now that winter is approaching and trees have lost their leaves, what remains looks like a high school science project gone bad. 

Granted that COVID has impacted this year’s municipal activity, it hasn’t stopped the workers from other outdoor “beautification” projects around town. So why is this ugly monstrosity ignored?

Barry Goldblatt
Andrews Lane

To the Editor:

We are writing as residents and taxpayers of Princeton, N.J. Andrew and I reside at 75 Heather Lane, Princeton where we have lived for the past 18 years. We are extremely concerned about the Minor Site Plan application filed by Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart (Princeton Academy).

Heather Lane has long suffered from water runoff problems and the proposed replacement of grass with 4.2 acres of impervious surface will only exacerbate this situation. It is our understanding that the Princeton Environmental Commission has recommended this variance be denied because of the synthetic turf’s negative impacts on the environment. The Princeton Ridge has long been considered a fragile ecosystem. The removal of 46 mature trees will further degrade the environment and add to the deforestation we are already experiencing in Princeton from the demise of the ash trees due to disease and insect infestation. 

The addition of 11 diesel-operated light towers and increased traffic caused by ball fields in continuous use will also diminish the quality of life for families in the surrounding area. We are also concerned about the certain all-evening light pollution. The noise from the generators will be a significant annoyance as well. Another concern that we have is that the addition of ball fields will inevitably lead to a requirement for more parking which will lead to more development of the site. This important point has not been addressed in the plan. more

To the Editor:

Princeton Academy of Sacred Heart, a private day school for boys at the corner of Drakes Corner Road and Great Road, has an application before the Princeton Planning Board on December 10 to turn our quiet dark nights into diesel-powered mega lighting for evening soccer practices and games, which are not even part of the school programs. We will be affected by the lights and noise because we look west, right across the Great Road, at the school’s fields that will be lit up. The darkness of the sky and the silent evenings are a major reason we have lived here for the past 32 years. We use our 12-inch reflecting telescope to find galaxies and nebulae which require a dark sky to enjoy.

The application appears to be an attempt to sneak something through that has the potential to profoundly affect our quality of life. At the very least the applicant should address the specifics of the impact of the lights on us, and of the noise from the diesel generators and from the cheering spectators. more

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter to express my strong opposition to the proposed plan for Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart to replace their grass fields with turf, add lights, and lease the land out to Princeton Soccer Academy. This issue will be heard at this week’s Planning Board Meeting taking place via Zoom on Thursday, December 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Our main areas of concern are that the impervious coverage the plan would allow water runoff; water pollution; light pollution; air pollution; land erosion; wildlife conservation, traffic, and speeding issues; and quality of life issues for our residents in the Ridge.

This new turf will increase the impervious coverage of their land by over 90 percent. I worry about flooding in this area.

At this moment there is no evidence of the effects of the rubber and plastic that will be used on the natural land and the land that is used for our children. Undoubtedly the downpours that we now experience will force some of the small granular turf to run off their property. What are the long-term effects of such man-made materials on our children’s or wildlife health? more

To the Editor:

It has come to my attention that the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart School is planning to add lighted, artificial turf soccer fields on the top of Princeton Ridge.  While I understand that the school feels there is a need in Princeton for these fields, I believe that what they are planning is irresponsible and will cause considerable damage to the Princeton Ridge neighborhood.

The plans they are presenting to the Planning Board include the removal of 46 mature trees, the addition of plastic turf fields that are not proven impervious to water, and 11 diesel powered lights that will create a level of noise and light pollution that is untenable to both the neighborhood and the wildlife in the area. Additionally, the school plans to rent these fields to an outside company for league play that will occur 12 months out of the year until 9:30 p.m. each night. League play will add additional noise and traffic issues to the residents of these quiet streets. more

To the Editor,

I am writing this letter to express concerns about Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart’s proposal for a variance to increase their maximum permitted total impervious coverage from the allowable of 14 percent to 21 percent. This is part of their proposal to develop and rent sports fields for year-round, nightly sports events.

The Academy of the Sacred Heart is located in a wetland area. It adjoins forested properties and sits higher than adjacent roads and private property. The proposed increase of 4.2 acres of impervious surface will increase storm water runoff due to the large proportion of ground that is already saturated. Excess runoff is likely to damage root systems and forests, as well as create more dangerous road conditions during storm events. In addition, the new, impervious surface would be part of a project that also includes diesel powered lights. Some of the pollution generated by these lights will settle in the immediately vicinity, wash into local streams and waterways, and further degrade the habitat for local species. more

To the Editor:

We moved to the area known as Princeton Ridge about a year ago. After many trips up from the city of Baltimore while house searching, Princeton Ridge stood out to us 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 that we were longing for while living in Baltimore — the opposite of city life. In Baltimore you would look to the sky and see maybe three stars … if you were lucky. Good for some, but for the long term we wanted something different.

Since we moved to Princeton Ridge we have grown to love it. We have enjoyed seeing beautiful racked piebald deer on our property. We have enjoyed many evenings around the fire pit in our yard, looking to the stars and feeling like we were camping somewhere beautiful. 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

To the Editor:

I’ll be succinct. I, along with my immediate family of four, have lived in Princeton New Jersey roughly a mile and a quarter from Hinds Plaza for the past 18 years. In that time we have regularly enjoyed the downtown, but never as much as we have since Witherspoon Street has been set to one-way traffic.

We wholeheartedly are in favor of at least keeping it this way permanently, and would be in favor of shutting it down to motor vehicles entirely.

Jonathan Shor
Walnut Lane

To the Editor:

I have been impressed by the efforts of the town Council, the Engineering Department, the Department of Public Works, etc. to improve the Central Business District. As shopping is done more and more online, we need to make the effort to bring shoppers back to downtown. One possibility is to close blocks to vehicles. In his letter two weeks ago [“Hoping Council Will Create a Traffic-Free Space on Lower Witherspoon Street,” Mailbox, November 25], Samuel Bunting pointed out that this is done in Charlottesville. A town closer in size to Princeton that has a pedestrian mall of about three blocks is Winchester, Virginia. They have bus routes circling the streets on all sides of the mall before they radiate out of the business district. There are very good signs detailing the bus route information.

People will want to return to shopping downtown if there is something about the experience that makes it stand out from the alternative choices. By creating one-way traffic on the first block of Witherspoon Street, such an experience is possible. No one is cutting off access to the three parking garages. They are all within walking distance of Nassau Street.  When I have tried to use the Municipal Garage, the only time I have not been able to park there or park on or below the third level was when something special was taking place at the library or in town. more