December 30, 2015

To the Editor:

There was a thoughtful op-ed on philanthropy in the December 18 New York Times by Darren Walker, president of Ford Foundation. The Princeton community has long had a proud tradition of donating their time and money to support positive change. The important message that Mr. Walker shared, and I would like to echo, is directed to not only all individual donors, but to all foundations, and non-profit organizations with endowments, including colleges and universities: The good that you are doing with your donations is appreciated. Please continue to give and give as much as you can. BUT, the harm that you are presently doing with the investments that are generating the income to produce those donations hugely dwarfs the good. By investing in companies that encourage, support, and facilitate human rights violations, poverty wages, discrimination, environmental destruction, forced labor, and more, you are creating or exacerbating the problems you claim you would like to solve. (Yes, you are personally responsible for the damage done by the companies you own, no matter how small your stake.)

Choosing not to own stock in, or hold the debt of, such companies is one option. So is voting your proxy when another shareowner files a resolution to bring positive change to your company. But not voting, abstaining, or giving your proxy to your money manager or fund manager without ensuring that they will vote as you would is the same as actively voting to support management and continue the bad behavior you (I hope) deplore.

And if you believe, “Oh no. None of the companies I own could possibly be doing that,” it is not hard to check. Ask your financial advisor, wealth manager, etc. “what are the ESG (environmental, social and governance) ratings of the stocks/funds I own?” The answers will likely surprise you. For that matter, ask whether those managing and investing your money adhere to the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment, and therefore even look at ESG ratings. (Too many do not. That would be the cause of the blank stare or misdirecting comment when you ask.)

Thankfully, companies that are paying better attention to these issues in their operations have lower costs of capital, lower turnover of employees, higher rates of productivity, and produce better long term returns. For investors concerned about the future, rather than just the next quarter, these are key facts.

Whether you are a $30 billion endowment, a community foundation, or a 401(k) owner writing a check to a local charity, if your goal is truly to make a difference, it may be time to make a difference in how you manage your money.

Theodore Casparian


December 23, 2015

To the Editor:

On December 7 the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled against the U.S. in a challenge from Mexico and Canada regarding our Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law. This challenge was made possible through the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The ruling specified that the U.S. faces one billion dollars in trade sanctions annually until it repeals or significantly weakens COOL.

COOL is a consumer protection law that informs us where the beef and pork we eat are born, raised, and slaughtered. The ruling forces us to either abandon this consumer protection or face exorbitant trade sanctions.

It is of great significance that the WTO arbitration tribunals are heavily weighted to favor corporations. Tribunal judges and lawyers come from a corporate background. Mexico and Canada were representing their meat industries in this suit. Large scale U.S. ranchers also want to see the repeal of COOL.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is the most current so called “free trade” agreement looming in our very near future. The TPP would strengthen these arbitration panels by elevating corporations to nationhood status, allowing them to directly sue a signatory government. Challenges would be made on the basis that a law, policy or regulation is a “barrier to trade” causing “potential loss of profit.” This, despite the fact that President Obama insists trade treaties will not change U.S. law.

It is vitally important that Americans educate themselves to the fact that the TPP and other upcoming trade treaties represent a threat to our democratic way of life.

Mary Stevens, Esq. 

Blue Spring Road

Dear Editor:

The Princeton Battlefield Society and some of our local state legislators have a seemingly noble desire to preserve history, yet their historical memory of the Battle of Princeton and the Institute for Advanced Study’s (IAS) faculty housing project are either seriously flawed or intentionally misleading. As the former mayor of Princeton Township when the IAS’s project was approved unanimously by the regional planning board, I felt compelled to shed some historical light on this matter.

First, the IAS has made a concerted effort since the early 1970s to preserve and encourage understanding of the Battle of Princeton. In 1973, IAS conveyed 32 acres to the State of New Jersey increasing the Battlefield Park by 60 percent. In recent years, the IAS has agreed to open their land to the public (as part of the faculty housing project) to allow for interpretative tours to increase the understanding of the Battle of Princeton. This additional public-access open space did not exist previously and presents us with a unique opportunity to further enhance the public’s understanding of the battle.

Second, it is important to understand the Battle of
Princeton — not just that it was an important battle in our
nation’s history, but also that it wasn’t fought on a singular ‘battlefield.’ It was not a stationary battle of simple line formations marching across an open field. In fact, it was a series of skirmishes stretching from the Clarke Farm to Nassau Hall. On the morning of January 3, 1777, the Hessian Captain Johann Ewald wrote upon arriving on the scene that “we found the entire field of action from Maidenhead on to Princeton and vicinity covered with corpses.” [Fischer, Washington’s Crossing] This only makes it quite clear that the land from the Clarke House all the way to and including Nassau Hall was the ‘Battlefield.’ The Princeton Battlefield Society and some of our local legislators would best serve our community and our nation by working with the IAS and helping our nation better understand the battle through interpretive tours, signage, and educational events — along the entire route of the battle.

The IAS has received full local and state approvals for the faculty housing it critically needs on land that it owns. It has also clearly stated its intentions to collaborate with the community, state, and other stakeholders to further enhance our nation’s understanding of the Battle of Princeton. Let’s take advantage of this opportunity and move forward with a more robust educational and tour program on the Battle of Princeton to make sure that its importance is preserved for future generations.

Chad Goerner

Former Township Mayor

To the Editor:

In 2011, West Windsor reconstructed the S bend of Alexander Road near the boundary line with Princeton, after a lawsuit involving the fatality of a teenage girl. Attempt was made to reduce the sharp curvature and to properly bank the curves. The road was designed, built, accepted, and paid for by West Windsor, with a $190,000 grant from the state. The total cost of the project was roughly $938,000; including $61,000 for design and $43,000 for construction management and inspection by a hired consultant.

Being a civil engineer, it was apparent the first time I drove on the new road, that it was constructed incorrectly, with numerous defects, but most importantly, the road was banked in the wrong direction. The last bend to the right before reaching the canal, is sloped downward toward the outside of the turn, contrary to proper road design. This has a tendency to throw cars toward the outside of the turn, across the center line into the path of oncoming traffic, especially in wet or slippery conditions. In my opinion, the road, as constructed, is now more dangerous than before construction, and there is little doubt that another accident will occur.

A meeting was finally held with the mayor and Township officials to discuss the dangerous conditions. The officials dismissed the conditions as minor, and refused to meet on site. The mayor acknowledged that his son had an accident on the road, yet stated that there is no more money to fix the road.

Township officials will argue that the New Jersey Department of Transportation issued a design exception for the project allowing the road to be banked at a lesser degree than is required by the design standards. That did not allow the road to be banked in the incorrect direction. If a design exception is issued, it must then be followed properly. A design exception is not a license to build incorrectly.

New Jersey DOT officials lay the responsibility for proper construction on the Township, and refuse to meet on site.

Typically, an independent surveyor prepares as-built (record) drawings showing how the road was actually built to verify compliance with the design plans. The Township officials made recommendation to the Council for final payment to the contractor a month and half prior to even having the as-built drawings in their possession. The as-built drawings, which show discrepancies, were prepared by a surveyor hired by the contractor.

A review of the Township’s project files reveals lack of oversight and management. Critical documents are absent and crucial steps are not mentioned in the available inspection reports.

Taxpayers should be asking West Windsor many questions and should demand that Township officials take corrective action to eliminate the dangers on the road. Portions of the road need to be rebuilt to eliminate the dangerous condition. The Township is now on notice that a roadway defect exists and therefore cannot seek immunity from liability when the next accident and lawsuit takes place.

Martin Lyons, P.E.

Montadale Drive

December 16, 2015

To the Editor:

The Witherspoon-Jackson (W-J) Neighborhood has a compelling legacy that we should never forget in acknowledging the inhumanity of slavery and segregation. Structures in the neighborhood date back to the early half of the 19th century, but the roots of those whose ancestors were slaves (some were slaves right here in Princeton) date back to before the American Revolution. This unique history of a once-segregated neighborhood is the story of the whole neighborhood, and is not that of any one person or structure.

Action is required to preserve the physical representation of the fundamental legacy of Princeton’s African American community (as well as its Italian American history) so that it is not lost forever. The buildings and their distinctive porches are the memory-bank of a close-knit community that has survived through struggle and hardship that is unique, nationally.

The formation of an historic district will preserve this legacy by maintaining the structures, character, and streetscape of the W-J Neighborhood, augmenting the physical and cultural viability of a neighborhood that has been the home for generations of African Americans, and later also a home for immigrants chiefly from Italy and Ireland, and most recently from Latin America.

This very neighborhood was found in 1994 by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) to be eligible to be on the National Register of Historic Places. Now the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) recommends that this neighborhood join with 19 other local districts that have far less profound stories.

Many people hope that this historic district designation will help to stabilize property values. While the mission of the HPC is to preserve just the historic character of the neighborhood, its reviews of proposed tear-downs with an eye for alternatives, along with limits on the construction of outsized buildings that are out of scale, may also help to moderate growth in valuations for the neighborhood.

The HPC has recommended a Type II designation for the district, which permits considerable flexibility for its home-owners. Routine maintenance that does not change the house’s appearance from the street is permissible without HPC review, and the HPC will work with the homeowner to find less expensive alternatives for more extensive alterations. And just because the neighborhood is an historic district doesn’t mean that developers and architects alike can’t participate in preserving the neighborhood’s critical important legacy, while still moving forward with creative projects.

A review of recent tear-downs of historic structures in the neighborhood reveals a genuine urgency for immediate action. In my career I have had major roles in setting up both a residential and a commercial district; I have prepared applications that put two structures on the National Register; and I have had a major role in restoring three structures, one of which was converted to a multi-modal transportation center. None had the compelling legacy of survival and cohesion of the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood. Let us preserve that legacy and learn from it.

Kip Cherry

Dempsey Avenue 

To the Editor:

It has been heart wrenching for me to see the Islamaphobic response to the recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. However, I was uplifted after attending the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom Muslim Jewish Women’s Leadership Conference held this past weekend right here in Princeton. The Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom is a national organization with the goal of bringing Jewish and Muslim women together. This historic event brought together 350 women committed to spreading peace, and I am honored that it took place in my hometown.

As part of the conference I attended the jummah prayer at the Islamic Society of Central Jersey in South Brunswick, where Imam Hamad Chebli talked about how the Prophet Muhammad deplored extremism.
Most Muslims react to acts of terror with the same revulsion, fear, and sadness as everyone else. On top of that, they experience the verbal and physical abuse of strangers, fear that their children will be bullied, and live with the narrative in the mainstream media that casts them as threats to our society.

There are more than a thousand years of Muslim history and a billion and a half Muslims in the world today. It’s terrifying to me that people judge Islam by the actions of a small number of people and a few verses of a book they have never read. My Muslim sisters have the same hopes and fears, the same generosity, vitality, and curiosity, as everyone else. I can only hope I do them justice in trying to combat the wave of hatred they are currently experiencing.

Aliza Alperin-Sheriff

Robert Road

To the Editor:

Thanksgiving is over, but like turkey sandwiches, our gratitude lingers on.

From the very first feast up in Massachusetts, Thanksgiving has been a community affair, and it still is. Without help, 2,100 needy families in Mercer County would have found hunger to be a distraction from counting their blessings.

But hundreds of HomeFront helpers stepped forward, some individually and some from businesses and congregations, to collect and deliver the ingredients for Thanksgiving dinners like the ones enjoyed by most other Americans. The clients cooked for their children in their own kitchens and served turkey dinners at their own tables, because HomeFront and friends believe in the home.

But we also believe in the community — and our volunteers and contributors of money and food, have renewed that faith.

So, thank you, neighbors and friends, you’ve done it again. You’ve shared love and encouragement that made each client family’s Thanksgiving celebration so much more sustaining than just one meal could ever be.

Connie Mercer

Executive Director, HomeFront

To the Editor:

To evaluate President Wilson one must weigh the following:

At Princeton he increased teachers’ salaries, required an honor code, a senior term paper, and promoted graduates to serve the nation.

As U.S. President, he helped create the Federal Reserve System, the Child Labor Law, the Interstate Commerce Act, and the Clayton Anti-Trust Act.

As a citizen, he was for slavery and the state’s right to secede. Wilson opposed women voting and their voice in family or business affairs. His relationship with Mary Peck was kept secret from his three daughters.

Wilson overcame dyslexia as a child and despite periodic strokes wrote volumes of American history.

This is a human being of many parts.

William Roufberg

Kendall Park, Retired history teacher, 

PHS, 1958-1988

To the Editor:

Fifty-three percent of New Jersey private-sector workers don’t have access to a workplace retirement plan. Since workers are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if their employer offers a plan, this means that many will be unprepared for retirement. This is a problem. In a recent Republican debate, Governor Christie said emphasis should be on solving problems through the private sector rather than government policies. The Secure Choice Savings Act would create a public private partnership which will help millions of New Jersey workers easily save for retirement. Just like a 401K, they can choose whether or not to participate, and can select their contribution level. This allows flexibility to accommodate any circumstance workers may face. Employees will be able to save money for retirement, and small businesses will be able to provide a benefit with very little effort. Only employees can contribute to their accounts, so neither taxpayers, nor employers, fund the program thereby not costing anything to those not involved.

As a senior in college who will soon enter the job market, I join AARP and the many legislators from both parties in support of this bill. Governor Christie should sign this bill which will secure a better financial future for all New Jerseyans.

Atif Ahmad

Princeton Junction

NTU edpascal

FESTIVE SCENE: “I enjoy creating. I design all the clothes, and I also designed the decor in the boutique, as well as the holiday windows.” Christina Depascal, owner of the new Depascal Atelier, looks forward to introducing customers to her intriguing collection. Shown is the holiday window display, highlighting the handmade papier maché dress, crafted from vintage newspaper. Also included are festive poinsettias, a variety of jewelry, and contributing to the natural motif, a rustic bird house, bird’s nest, and birch tree branches.

“We want women to be able to look their best. The first thing people notice about you is how you are dressed. Everything here is handmade and one-of-a-kind.”

Christina Depascal, owner of Depascal Atelier, also designs the clothes at the new women’s boutique. Opened in October at 20 Nassau Street, this is a unique and inviting new fashion studio. more

December 9, 2015

To the Editor:

Nassau Presbyterian Church has been resettling refugees in the Princeton community for over 50 years. Families have arrived in our community from Cuba (1964), Cambodia (1980), Vietnam (1984), Hungary (1989), Bosnia (1994, 1999), Sudan (2003), Burma (2006), and Iraq (2010). The effort has involved serving one family at time, providing support of all kinds, offering a brief stay in a church member’s home, building relationships, and celebrating the launch toward independence. We have witnessed family members in various careers: restaurant management, computer networking, dentistry, tailoring, library science, teaching, and more. Several families have joined in our effort to support subsequent families resettling. Together with Princeton Theological Seminary, our congregation is working with Church World Service (CWS) to receive a Syrian refugee family soon after the first of the year. We look forward to the next chapter of what has become an essential part of one congregation’s attempt to live out our faith, honor our heritage, and give glory to God.

The Rev. Dr. David A. Davis

Pastor, Nassau Presbyterian Church

To the Editor:

While I am not a resident of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, I would like to share some of my observations about the conflict over the proposal to consider the designation of the neighborhood as a historical district and one that is referred to as historically African-American.

As we learned from the presentation on November 30, the neighborhood was never exclusively African-American. There were Irish and Italian immigrants also in the neighborhood at various times, as there are now a number of Hispanic residents (whose needs interestingly were not represented at all at the “crowded” meeting last Monday).

Although there are significant buildings in that neighborhood that ought to be preserved and protected — such as the African-American churches; the Dorothea House for its significance to the Italian residents of Princeton; places related to Paul Robeson, an outstanding resident of the neighborhood, his birthplace; the African-American cemetery — much of the neighborhood can use a facelift. There are also some buildings that would no longer serve the needs of residents where a teardown may be the best solution. Let’s not preserve poverty and decay.

There are two arguments I would like to make against designating the neighborhood historical and favoring its African-American constituency.

1) Such favoring of the African-American neighbors, although it may sound politically correct in our time, could create hostility between the different ethnic groups that make up the current neighborhood. It is not a move toward “coexist” and respect, but one toward resentment.

2) Hearing from residents who already live in historically designated neighborhoods that the cost of repair and upkeep to maintain historically approved looks can become prohibitive and thus can lead to decline and deterioration, rather than preservation, would discourage people moving into the neighborhood and providing the facelift.

I would like to recommend that the Council and the mayor of Princeton designate historically valuable property protected in the neighborhood, look at each house not as a district, but as an individual case when evaluating whether it should be preserved rather than replaced with something new. Such a one-by-one evaluation could be sensitive to all residents of that neighborhood and may add to its revival rather than freeze it in time and space for the emotionally motivated reasons of a few.

Ilona Melker

Valley Road

To the Editor:

The December 2, 2015 meeting of the Princeton Historic Preservation Commission provided all in attendance with a comprehensive history of the formation of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. We learned about the complex factors that contributed to the settlement of this neighborhood. We saw with pictures and heard by first person testimony the experiences of those that have lived in this neighborhood. We also learned about families, individuals and organizations that were able to overcome adversities imposed by the “law of the land”.

I listened with a sense of pride about the role of the Princeton Nursery School (PNS) in shaping the lives of many in the audience who were representative of the more than 5,000 students that have attended PNS since 1929. The Wise Preservation Planning LLC described the work done by a large sector of the people living in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood in the 19th and 20th centuries as “menial.” It was for the children of these hard working parents that the PNS’s Board of Trustees provided “care for and help to develop the whole child, to enrich his or her physical well-being, mental development, and cultural opportunities in a child’s formative years.” Scores of PNS graduates have gone on to serve the community as teachers, attorneys, doctors, clergymen, scholars, community activist, and in countless other professions.

Another noteworthy historical fact is that from its inception, Princeton Nursery School was integrated. While the elementary schools in Princeton were not integrated until 1948, Princeton Nursery School opened its doors in 1929 serving the African American and Italian American families that lived in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. The late John Mathews spoke of the difficulty his cousin Margaret experienced in obtaining funding for the school because of its integrated student body. Margaret’s parents, Rev. and Mrs. Paul Matthews, and many of their friends provided financial support to the school.

Another historical milestone that intersected at PNS was in the hiring of Mrs. Simeon Moss, the teacher–nurse of the infant group in 1930. Mrs. Moss was a Princeton resident and had the distinction of being the first black woman to graduate from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing in Baltimore. And her son Simeon was the first black student to graduate from Princeton University.

The Princeton Nursery School’s mission remains constant; to provide high quality preschool and childcare for the children of working parents that is affordable for all. We celebrate the rich racial, cultural, and linguistic diversity of the families from Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood and the greater Princeton community. Our student body and staff reflect this diversity. We thank past donors and volunteers for your support of our work. Your continued support will make Princeton Nursery School’s place in Princeton’s history and in serving children and families secure.

Wendy Cotton 

Executive Director, Princeton Nursery School

Dear Governor Christie:

Hi, I am in middle school in Princeton and I am writing to you on behalf of many kids about the lack of enough sidewalks in this state. Sidewalks are very crucial for child safety and health; therefore, I believe that we need more.

In terms of safety, most kids like me love skateboarding and riding their bikes around town and in their neighborhood. Many kids also ride their bikes to school. Unfortunately, in my case, when I was younger, I was sometimes not allowed to ride because of the lack of sidewalks. As I am getting older, I realize the reason for this and how it is still dangerous for kids to ride bikes on roads without sidewalks. Although I am allowed to ride now, it is still unnecessarily dangerous. On average, in the United States, 12 people a day are killed by the lack of sidewalks on roads. In 2006, New Jersey recorded 171 pedestrian deaths. Many of these came from the lack of sidewalks. According to the Federal Highway Administration, there would be 88 percent fewer road injuries with sidewalks on every road.

I think that we can agree that more sidewalks for our roads would be very useful for the people of New Jersey. So I am asking you, as governor of this state, if you would do everyone a favor and build more sidewalks.

Not only would this make riding around town safer, but it would encourage people to get out and exercise. One out of three kids is obese. There are two main ways to prevent people from becoming overweight: exercise and healthy eating choices. I think that exercise is the more important. Not only is it good for your body, it is good for your mental state. Because exercise is so crucial for losing weight, if we had more sidewalks it would be easier for practically everyone to exercise. The number of kids who are obese is growing and more sidewalks will encourage kids to go outside and lose weight. Instead of staying inside and playing video games, if kids felt safer, I guarantee they would exercise more.

I really hope you consider my request to make New jersey a safer and healthier place.

Aiden Silverstein

Talbot Lane

To the Editor:

On November 24, Princeton’s Council and Planning Board revealed how Princeton plans to meet its Mount Laurel affordable-housing obligations. A Fair Share Housing advocate had already suggested we add 1163 new affordable-housing units through 2025, and a court-appointed consultant suggested 424. Alas, the plan presented chooses the lower number.

In fact, the plan includes only 339 housing units plus 107 “bonus credits” we’ve earned in the past. Of those 339 units, moreover, 154 have already been constructed, including 67 units at Harriet Bryant House, which opened in 2007. Another 120 units are already under construction, including 56 units at AvalonBay and 56 at the University’s Merwick/Stanworth housing.

The plan envisions only 85 genuinely new affordable units: 40 added to Princeton Community Village, 5 (a 20 percent set-aside) of 25 homes on the Franklin Street parking lot, 10 of 50 homes by the Princeton Shopping Center, and 30 of 150 residential units added to commercial buildings along Route 206 near Herrontown Road.

The plan seems less about adding affordable housing than about surviving judicial scrutiny. Those 339 units are “new” because they haven’t yet been counted in meeting Princeton’s Mount Laurel obligations. Meanwhile, of Princeton’s 9,328 actual households in 2013 (the last year I have figures for), 1,461 (15.7 percent) had incomes below $30,000, while another 1,537 (16.5 percent) had incomes between $30,000 and $60,000. This means that 2,998 Princeton households (32.2 percent) would have (depending on family size) been eligible for affordable housing in 2013. Unsurprisingly, our various affordable-housing authorities have a combined waiting list of some 1,600 distinct applicants. The average waiting time is one-and-a-half to three years.

One bright side of this dismal picture is that more land in Princeton (including lower Alexander Street and the Butler Tract) could also support affordable housing. And once Princeton meets its Mount Laurel obligations, it might be legal to offer any additional affordable housing to Princetonians first. Furthermore, we need not limit the number of affordable housing units on any site to 20 percent of the whole. If the land is sold to builders to develop, the town could offer zoning benefits in exchange for 50 percent affordable housing. Incentives like tax rebates, fast-track approval, lower parking requirements, and permission for greater density could all help shape future development to our benefit.

Finally, these sites need not be sold to for-profit developers. Council should allow the community time to raise funds so non-profit groups could develop some of the sites. Then 100 percent of the new housing could be affordable.

Surely many of us share the Princeton Community Master Plan’s stated goals: to “Provide Princeton’s fair share of affordable housing,” to “Promote, preserve, and enhance Princeton’s unique community life,” and to retain Princeton’s “diversity” in age, income, and ethnicity. As we age, our incomes may decrease. Affordable housing is crucial because, sooner or later, you and I may need it.

Anne Waldron Neumann 

Alexander Street

To the Editor:

Ten years ago, within a week of each other, Eli Wiesel at Princeton University and the Dalai Lama at Rutgers University, responded to the question “What gives you hope?” with the identical answer: “Young people!” That has stuck with me all these years. At the time I was a little annoyed as their response seemed to remove responsibility from those of us no longer young, yet still working for change. Recently, I have every reason to be hopeful based on knowing these young members of our community. I met them through my membership in Not in Our Town, a Princeton-based grass roots group committed to racial justice.

Ziad Ahmed, a Princeton Day School junior, started redefy, an organization committed to countering stereotypes, and on Sunday, December 13, at the Carl Fields Center, Princeton University, redefy will host a day long program, #TheGenerationofNow. The event will focus on racial justice and the goal is to inspire teenagers and community members to become engaged in social justice work.

Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi are Princeton High School juniors, and founders of CHOOSE, an advocacy effort to “overcome racism and inspire harmony through exposure, education, and empowerment.” In their “Engage” program, working with Princeton school administrators and faculty, they are organizing the many personal stories they have collected so that teachers can use them in the classroom to bring up the issues of race, racism, and racial justice.

Tatianna Sims, a 2015 Princeton High School graduate, winner of a Princeton Prize in Race Relations and a Not in Our Town Unity Award, recently spearheaded a community Unity Walk and panel discussion. With the help of her student committee (and some support from the older generation) the event exemplified her mission of bringing people together to support youth, particularly those who feel disconnected from our community. Over a hundred adults and youth, including political, community, and student leaders of all backgrounds, walked and talked. Adults spoke about the importance of their own mentors; students spoke about the need to reduce stereotyping and wondered how they could be advocates for their peers. The panelists ranged from the first African American Princeton mayor Jim Floyd, in his nineties, to Princeton High School student leaders.

During the event Mayor Lempert announced the imminent establishment of a Youth Commission so that our younger voices can be heard in making decisions affecting our community.

So, what gives me hope? Young people AND not so young, in partnership!

Wilma Solomon

Tee-Ar Place

Profiles in Educ

NEVER A BORING DAY AT PHS: Susi Murphy presides over her Princeton High School classroom, where testing and technology take a back seat to literature, learning, writing and life.

It’s the last class of the day on Friday afternoon at Princeton High School — winter break still more than two weeks away. This is not the time in the day, the week, or the school year when students are likely to be most energetically, attentively engaged in the learning process or most excited about the academic subject matter offered by their teachers.

Susan Murphy’s class is an exception. Her Contemporary Literature gathering of juniors and seniors is discussing The Keep, a complex psychological novel set in a medieval German castle. more

NTU All Good Dogs

PET PALS: “We offer love and attention to dogs 24/7 in a cage-free kennel alternative. And, we bring peace of mind to dog owners, who know their animals will have the best of care.” Carole Lini, owner of All Good Dogs, is proud of the staff members shown in the photo holding two of their canine charges.

Does your dog need a home away from home? Is he or she becoming a “pooch potato”? Too much rest-time and not enough play-time and exercise? With so many people working out of the house today, that special canine companion may experience all of the above and be lonely as well.

Fortunately, Princeton area dogs have a happy alternative: All Good Dogs, which operates two nearby facilities, one in Plainsboro and one in Lawrence, as well as a third in Cherry Hill.  more

December 2, 2015

To the Editor:

Princeton has begun to recycle plastic bags and other used plastics — bravo! McCaffrey’s has collected “over 800,000 bags, about 200 pounds, since August 1” (see Nov. 4 Town Topics, pages 7-8). I applaud the coalition of McCaffrey’s with Sustainable Princeton and the Princeton Merchants Association that has made this success possible.

But the only fully responsible aim must be a substantial pre-consumer reduction of single-use plastic bags. Post-consumer recycling cannot curb the toxic manufacture of plastics: carbons and methane released into the atmosphere contribute to dangerous climate change. Recycled bags simply become plastic wood, temporarily saved from landfills. Merchants must also strive to reduce pre-consumer use of single-use paper bags (think of deforestation, flooding).

The coalition’s voluntary program (“Ask First,” “Bring Your Own Bag”) should immediately promote an agreement among all Princeton merchants to reduce the number of single-use bags (plastic and paper) distributed to customers — i.e., reduce consumption. The coalition should devise a method of measuring the reductions achieved; the method should immediately be publicized; a schedule for making periodic announcements of progress should be announced.

I propose that the coalition announce its numbers every six months (at a minimum): April and October 2016. A program without measurements is effectually non-existent; accountability to Princeton is mandatory. Without measurement and accountability, no program can be responsibly evaluated. Obviously, Princetonians need to know the merchants’ baseline for measurements.

Many people know that voluntary programs to reduce consumption of single-use bags have failed (increasing bag-recycling is relatively easy). Municipalities, states, countries around the world have passed laws or ordinances to achieve reduction (most recently, Britain [following Ireland and Wales] and, in New Jersey, Longport, the first, but not the last in our state). FYI: it takes twice as long to drive from downtown Princeton to Wegman’s, Whole Foods, or ShopRite than it does to McCaffrey’s.

The Longport ordinance (imposing a ten-cent fee per bag on customers who forget to bring their own and thus avoid the fee, which is thus not a tax) is similar to the one drafted by Princeton citizens four years ago — but still not put on the Princeton Council agenda. In February, 2015, Mayor Lempert authorized the expenditure of taxpayer funds for Princeton’s legal counsel to vet the draft ordinance; the resulting memorandum indicates that the ordinance, possibly modified, would be legal in New Jersey; Longport has now set the precedent.

I propose that, in fairness, we all assist the coalition’s voluntary program in proving its adequacy for a year from inception. If pre-consumer plastic reduction of at least 50 percent is not achieved by next October, the mayor should put the draft ordinance on the Princeton Council agenda; public input should be solicited, and a working group to achieve a satisfactory draft ordinance should be established. As the November 2016 elections approach, all candidates should make public their views on the ordinance.

“No man is an island”: Princeton, like every community, is responsible to the world.

Daniel A. Harris

Dodds Lane

To the Editor:

I read with utter disbelief the local media coverage of the radical Black Justice League invasion and occupation of Nassau Hall and the Princeton University President’s Office.

I wasn’t surprised by coverage and now our mayor accepting and rationalizing a bend the knee response. There wasn’t editorial comment or even mention of threats and intimidation used to press the League’s Demands. Nonetheless, I respect the news media’s right to report and comment on these events as they see fit.

That said, as a longtime letter writer and contributor to the media on issues of the day, I am dumfounded and angered by the lack of coverage of the courageous student group now advocating a return of true academic freedom and open dialogue to the Princeton campus. My concern is heightened by the fact that I doubt many in Princeton have even heard of, let alone read about, their request and cogent justification for a meeting with the president seeking redress.

I am a Princeton graduate, alumnus ’66, active for years in education locally, New Jersey-wide and sometimes nationally from pre-K to high school. Also I have held administrative, senior management, and Board positions at community colleges and universities offering varied curricula to equally varied student bodies. I was on the Princeton campus during the Vietnam War and present at SDS uprisings against the war as a Navy officer in uniform. Many fellow career officers were at the Woodrow Wilson School as well. We disliked intensely the protests involving verbal assaults on our officers and enlisted personnel. However, we understood that the protests were directed at our current national leadership and related actions taken in prosecution of the war. However, most of us kept focus on our assigned duties as directed by military leaders in execution of the orders of our president and commander-in-chief.

Despite these past events on campus, I find the current campus unrest more troubling. This time it’s not about demanding an end to an unbelievably costly and unpopular war. It’s an assault on the rule of law in our democratic republic, the very core values embedded in our laws long honored within the prestigious institutions that support and sustain our Constitutional government.

I view the Princeton Student Group advocating a return to true “academic freedom and open dialogue” as right. The University needs to acknowledge the legitimacy of their concerns. Their group is now the one bearing abusive burdens of hate and discrimination for their personal beliefs, both by faculty and fellow students.

John Clearwater

Governors Lane

To the Editor:

I attended the November 23 meeting of the Princeton Council, which among other issues, addressed the recommendations of the Open Space Task Force Committee on how to manage our open spaces and “passive parks,” in contrast to the management of the active sports and other facilities by the Town’s Recreation Department.

During the public comments period, there were several people who spoke with passion and knowledge about environmental issues, such as remediation of plastic bags (in our oceans and lands) and the benefits of dealing effectively with our fallen leaves. Our Mayor, Liz Lempert, has inspired me with her commitment to environmental issues, but she appears to be inhibited by other Council members who demonstrated little encouragement or reinforcement to those who have worked for many years on these matters.

Regarding the report of the Open Space Task Force Committee, the Town administrator suggested that more time was needed to hire a consultant to study the management of these issues, but this is not necessary, as these issues have been studied for many years. A thorough report was paid for and published in 2008, and the current report of the Open Space Task Force Committee, headed by Wendy Mager, director of the Friends of Princeton Open Space, was thorough and professional.

On a personal note, one of the Town staff members questioned me, “Who gave you permission to make Marquand Park an arboretum?” (the deed of gift from the Marquand family in 1953 and a subsequent consultant report designated the park as an arboretum). The Council liaison to the Task Force asked me, “When are the Marquands going to take the logs off my property?” and later declared that “Marquand Park is an eyesore.”

Please, in future elections, choose people to run on environmental issues, as well as other important issues facing the town. The current low level of environmental awareness is very distressing.

Pam Machold

Prospect Avenue, Chair of the 

Marquand Park and Arboretum Foundation

To the Editor:

Earlier this month, Princeton Special Sports and the Princeton Recreation Department sponsored the Arts for All! talent showcase featuring Princeton-area adults and teens with special needs. Although we suspected there was a ton of talent in this wonderful community, even we were blown away. Hosted by PHS junior Jack Lynch, our artists’ offerings included poetry reading, singing, piano, painting, 3-D puzzle sculpture, violin, guitar, trombone, and comedy — it was tremendous!

Student volunteers made the event both possible and very enjoyable. In addition to thanking Jack, who carried the evening as our host, thank you to Jimmy Britton, Olivia Browndorf, Callia Cordasco, Talia Fiester, Yannick Ibrahim, Manas Kaushik, Alex Kline, Grace Seward, Alex Vogel, Sydney Vogel, and Charlotte Walker. We hope you know that you really do make a difference.

Deborah Martin Norcross

Co-President Princeton Special Sports

To the Editor:

As chair of the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee and as president of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO), respectively, 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.

We invite you to join us at an open house meeting on Sunday, December 13, from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Suzanne Patterson Center (behind Monument Hall) in meeting room 3 to learn more about the different ways that you can get involved.

This is an informal opportunity for Democrats to learn about the local political process and municipal elections. Topics to be covered include how candidates get on the ballot, the local Democratic party endorsement process, and the different Democratic organizations in Princeton.

Membership in the PCDO is open to all registered Democrats. The PCDO works to elect progressive candidates and has monthly, public programs to discuss issues affecting all of us on a local, state, and national level. Elections for the PCDO executive board will be held in January and we welcome interest from those who wish to learn more about the organization and to serve, either now or in the future. If you are not able to attend the open house, information on becoming a member of the PCDO is available at

The members of the municipal committee are elected in each voting district, and you can get connected with the representatives for your voting district. You may email if you would like more information about the municipal committee or running for local office.

As we mark the fourth year of a consolidated Princeton at the end of 2015, we also want to thank the members of the municipal committee and PCDO for their support of a transparent and vibrant political culture in Princeton that helps keep our government responsive to its citizens.

Peter Wolanin, chair 

Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee

Jon Durbin, president

Princeton Community Democratic Organization

To the Editor:

Few people can deny the positive power of student protests throughout our history — demonstrations, sit-ins, and marches decrying the evils of the Vietnam War, segregation, nuclear proliferation, to name a few, are all significant contributions made by our country’s justice-seeking youth.

However, I’m hard pressed to understand the significant societal value of the current student protest over Woodrow Wilson. Why this protest now? I first became aware of this movement several weeks ago when I saw an expensive full color poster on Nassau Street of Woodrow Wilson’s face alongside a statement that he made more than 100 years ago referring to the American Reconstruction (1865-1877).

Surely, there are many protest-worthy causes today, including modern day slavery or human trafficking.
Slavery statistics are hard to come by because slavery is ostensibly against the law and slave trading is performed in a shadowy underworld, but even by the most conservative of estimates there are about 50,000 slaves in the U.S.A. today with about 5,000 human beings sold here every year for forced manual and sexual labor. Ending slavery in the United States would seem to be a more deserving cause for student protestors, especially for groups whose history has been so blighted by this evil practice.

Anne Woodbridge

Palmer Square West

To the Editor:

Princeton voters who care about good government and gun violence prevention have an opportunity to voice their concerns now by emailing their two current Assemblypersons in the 16th Legislative District: Jack Ciattarelli and Donna Simon. Both of these Assembly members are paid to serve in the Assembly until January 11, 2016. Consequently, they both have a key decision to make this Thursday at the State House when the General Assembly meets to vote to override Gov. Christie’s veto of a key gun violence prevention legislation, S.2360.

Readers should realize that the governor himself created a political problem that was not there, and simultaneously failed to solve a gun violence problem. Once he received the legislation, voted unanimously in both houses, the governor turned a piece of good government legislation into bad legislation by adding 27 pages of changes to New Jersey’s mental health laws. In letters to the legislature, New Jersey’s mental health associations have opposed the governor’s changes. The governor did not hold hearings or approach mental health care policy from a thoughtful or caring manner.

This blatant act of political obfuscation was designed simply to enhance his presidential campaign opportunities, as we hear daily from New Hampshire.

CeaseFire-NJ, the oldest and largest gun violence prevention group in the state has called on both Assembly members Ciatarelli and Simon to override the veto this Thursday. We strongly urge all readers who care about stopping gun violence to make a difference by calling or emailing their two Assembly members Ciatarelli and Simon immediately and ask them to vote yes to override the governor’s veto of S.2360. Their emails are: and The phone numbers are: (908) 450-7064 and (908) 968-3304 respectively. Calls are needed now. The vote is this Thursday, December 3

Dolores A. Phillips, MPH

Legislative Director, CeaseFire-NJ, 

Coalition for Peace Action