July 22, 2015

To the Editor:

Having read several articles in Town Topics concerning the pros and cons of placing a tax on single use bags, I thought it would be informative to report my recent observations pertinent to the topic of pollution of the water courses by single-use plastic bags.

On July 15, 2015, after a very heavy rain event, I walked my dog along Harry’s Brook between Harrison Street and Harriet Street so she could get wet and have a drink. Within a distance of about 50 feet, there were at least 10 plastic bags and a plastic cup attached to low hanging branches and woody debris in the flood plain. Since the plastic bags were mostly elevated at about the level of the recent flood water, I suspect they were just recently transported there by the storm. If they had continued onward downstream, they would have ended up in Carnegie Lake. Now, they are simply an ugly reminder that man’s waste ends up as residual solid waste in an otherwise rather pristine brook in the middle of Princeton.

I believe that no matter how hard we try, non-point pollution will enter Harry’s Brook, and ultimately Carnegie Lake and the Raritan-Millstone River. We should keep this in mind when we use and dispose of single-use plastic bags.

Fred H. Bowers

Snowden Lane

NTU ArleesThe reviews are in, and they are good! In keeping with the growing trend of juice bars springing up across the country, customers are lining up to sample — and re-sample — the range of choices at Arlee’s Raw Blends.

Opened in April at 246 Nassau Street, the new juice bar is owned by the brother and sister team of Brian Moore and Paula Taylor. Their establishment, with its emphasis on cold-pressed juice and natural and organic ingredients, is special, they maintain.

Their background includes spending summers at their grandparents farm (owned by the family for three generations) in Georgia, and a familiarity and love of fresh produce and healthy eating.

“I’ve always been on the road to health and wellness, and my journey led me here,” explains Ms. Taylor. “The business evolved, and we grew into this. There is a movement toward healthy eating today, and we see that more and more people want to eat healthy.” more

July 15, 2015

To the Editor:

A June 26 New Jersey Tax Court decision has profound implications in the pending legal challenge to Princeton University’s property tax status brought by four local taxpayers.

The Tax Court decision held that Morristown Memorial Hospital is not qualified for blanket property tax exempt status because it treats many of its facilities not as strictly hospital uses but as profit centers, and therefore, cannot claim property tax exemption with respect to those facilities. The issue decided by the Tax Court is analogous to the issue presently in Princeton tax litigation and could result in the University losing property tax-exempt status with respect to its buildings that are not strictly educational in purpose.

The judge in the Morristown decision is the same judge who will hear the Princeton case; he’s the senior tax court judge; and he’s not known to be reversed on appeal.

The Princeton Council has taken a “neutral” position on the lawsuit. Whatever the rationale for Council members’ reluctance to get involved, regular residents of Princeton need not feel so constrained.

Indeed, there is a lot at stake here for the local taxpayer, who pays about twice in property taxes what would be required if the University’s property were not tax exempt.

Those who complain about high Princeton property taxes may do well to consider the argument that many of the University’s buildings have little to do with education and more to do with generating income through governmental grants (e.g., the Defense Department), the licensing of intellectual property to Fortune 500 companies (e.g., pharmaceuticals and engineering), and ticket sales to the general public (e.g., sports and cultural events). None of those University activities have much to do with traditional educational function that property tax exemption was designed to support.

Some University professors liken the University to a hedge fund. Others point out that the University not only serves the nation but the world. Whether in support of a hedge fund, the nation, or the world, Princeton taxpayers pick up most of the local property tax burden required to provide policing, firefighting, garbage removal, and a host of other municipal services provided to University students, staff and faculty and their invitees. On the face of it, there is an imbalance in benefit/cost impact of University programs on local taxpayers.

To correct that imbalance, local taxpayers should consider supporting the pending lawsuit brought by the four Princeton residents. Such support is particularly important when the governing body is not really involved. The undersigned solicits contact by persons interested in exploring ways to provide such support.

If successful, and success seems likely for the reasons expressed above, the lawsuit promises to do more to mitigate the financial hardship done by the town’s crushing property tax burden than has ever been done in Princeton by anyone. It represents a historic opportunity to modernize property tax law, with profound policy implications for Princeton and New Jersey for generations to come.

Roger Martindell

Patton Avenue

To the Editor:

The Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC) is very pleased to learn that Medicare has decided to cover people’s conversations with their physicians on healthcare decision-making. PSRC is participating in the Mayor’s Wellness Campaign, “Conversations of a Lifetime” that aims to bring advanced care planning conversations to New Jersey communities. Princeton was selected by New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute as one of three communities to pilot this initiative. Participating organizations, including PSRC, Princeton Public Library, Goals of Care, and Princeton Health Care System are presenting programs to educate the public and health professionals about the importance of planning and having these conversations with family and doctors.

PSRC staff are leading workshops to help people complete healthcare directives, facilitating a group called “Conversations on Being Mortal,” and assisting individuals with their questions. These programs will help people age 18-plus prepare for having these important conversations with doctors and family so they can confidently know how to make decisions that are consistent with their wishes when they are unable to do so.

Susan W. Hoskins LCSW

Executive Director, PSRC

Fashion was a passion for Christina DiDonato from the time she was a young girl. The creativity and ingenuity involved in putting together stylish outfits intrigued and inspired her at an early age. more

July 8, 2015

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to Ms. Woelk’s letter “Can Nothing Be Done to Protect Homeowners from Not for Profits?” (Mailbox, July 1). I understand the concerns expressed about unwanted solicitations. When Ms. Woelk first raised the issue with me several months ago, I consulted with our municipal attorney about ways we could protect residents, and shared this information with Ms. Woelk. Unfortunately we were informed that we cannot require non-profit organizations to notify or register with the municipality before soliciting door to door because of constitutional free speech protections. But, recognizing that solicitations can be intrusive, the Council has set limits where we are legally able. For example, it is unlawful under sec. 14-10 of Chapter 14 for a person to peddle or solicit on a property which has a “No Soliciting or Peddling” sign displayed by the homeowner. In addition, canvassers are only allowed to go door to door during the hours of 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. Residents should contact the police at (609) 921-2100 if they are contacted by someone outside of those hours.

Liz Lempert, Mayor

Witherspoon Street

July 1, 2015

To the Editor:

Much has been written over the years regarding this flag, what it means to those who fly it and what it means to those who are offended by it.

It’s interesting to note and there seems to be no coincidence that the flag first flew over the South Carolina state capitol in 1962 at the same time as the Civil Rights Movement was gaining traction and momentum.

The issue here is, simply put, that many are offended by this symbol, a symbol of a Confederacy that fought to preserve a way of life surrounded by and supported by a population of slave owners and rejected by the slaves.  What benefit can honoring this symbol have?  There are those who argue that the flag honors those that lost their lives in that war.   That argument fails to meet any test of logic or any test of humanity.

The lives that mattered then are the lives that matter now.  And the society that matters now is that which honors and respects all lives, and that includes black lives.

The flag should be removed.  Prejudice must be replaced with inclusion and the rule of law must be enforced.

If towns like Princeton declare their war against ignorance and prejudice one town at a time, then change can only follow.  Black lives matter.  All lives matter.

There is a movement afoot in South Carolina to encourage the leadership to remove the flag and there now appears to movement on the part of leadership to do just that.   It has been reported that due to overwhelming response to the shooting and due to the historic objection to the flag, Governor Nikki Haley has called for the flag to be moved.  By “moved” we hope, that similar to Florida, the flag be relegated to a museum in a place where it belongs as a relic of the past.

Our Princeton Human Services Commission, consistent with its mission to defend the rights and dignity of all those in need of a louder voice, implores the government of South Carolina to do the right thing and remove the flag from its current prominent position.

We hope they do.  We hope justice prevails.

Ross Wishnick

For the Princeton Human Services Commission

To the Editor:

It is so unfortunate that the Wednesday prayer vigil in Princeton for the massacre in Charleston was just another rambling forum for gun control and less about all the things that it should have been about.  Where was the real dialogue on race relations or an honest discussion about preventing the radicalization of youth, either as white supremacists or radical Islamists?  Community leaders who preach to limit the freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights may get a rise from the crowd and enjoy some temporary sense of purpose, but ultimately provide a great disservice to all of us by wasting such a prime opportunity for identifying and addressing the root causes of violence in our society.

Aaron Bennett

Markham Rd

To the editor:

Quiet, non-polluting, and cardio-friendly, biking brings many benefits to both the cyclist and the community.

Unfortunately, because bicyclists share the road with cars, trucks, and buses, fear of being injured is a significant deterrent for many would-be bicyclists.  Research done at the University of British Columbia comparing deaths per 100 million trips shows that, when compared to automobile travel, bicyclists in the United States are more than twice as likely to be involved in a fatal accident. Thankfully, research also shows that the rate of accidents declines when more cyclists are on the road.

Whole Earth Center has long been a supporter of bicycling in our community. One way we support biking is through our annual Random Acts of Community campaign, which has delivered more than $7000 in gift cards to cyclists in Princeton. Twenty seven Princeton businesses participated in that program this year. Another way we support cycling is through our long-standing policy of giving a discount to bicyclists.

The goal of these programs is to incentivize biking in hopes of increasing the number of bikes on our town streets. More bicycle-friendly streets will, we hope, make a five- to ten-mile shopping trip by bike more appealing to shoppers who currently travel those distances by car. A significant rise in the number of bike trips from those distances will have a positive impact on our roadways and will free up more parking spaces for Princeton shoppers who must travel by car.

Our bike reward program is not, in any way, intended to say that we place less value on customers who travel to our store by foot or by bus or by car. We deeply appreciate all of the customers who have chosen to support our store and our mission over the past 45 years. Biking is simply the way that we, as one small, local food market, have chosen to focus our efforts toward making a positive impact on our town roads and quality of life.

Jennifer Murray

General Manager

Whole Earth Center

To the Editor:

I have had “not for profit” solicitors coming not only to my front door, but back door regularly since February. Apparently, they are registered with the local police for five hours or so at a time to canvass our neighborhoods.  If a resident does NOT want them on his or her property, one must post a No Trespassing sign. Not for profits are protected by both New Jersey and Federal Supreme Court Rulings to freely enter private property with whatever issue they feel is for the betterment of the public be it religious or of public interest.

I am not interested in having these people walking uninvited up to my door trying to convince me to support whatever cause. The last visit was for some children’s group campaign. The first one was for water issues. The police report that this last group had from 4-9 p.m. to bother us. How many children were home alone during that time after school? Or walking home from school with strangers walking near them? The man who came to our street with his brochures came a second time (two hours later) because some of us weren’t home. I have been told by our mayor there is nothing we can do about it — other than put up ugly No Trespassing signs in our yards. Even then, these people can claim they “didn’t see the sign”.

I offered the suggestion to our mayor that we register our addresses with the municipality/police department as a “do not solicit” address.  If the police can register these groups, they can certainly hand them an address list of homeowners who wish to opt out. This suggestion would keep our town looking beautiful. No Trespassing signs would not.  The mayor responded that that would be “too much trouble”. The Town has our addresses on file for everything else they need.  How could it be so much trouble to register an address for no trespassing?

Perhaps this can be addressed and implemented by those who manage our town. And perhaps ASAP or before the next wave of “not for profit solicitors” hit our neighborhoods again this summer. This is an invasion of privacy and a dangerous situation for out of school children.

Nancy Woelk

Maybury Hill Road, circa 1725

To the Editor:

The apocalypse is indeed near. Latest evidence: Just back from Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Garden Theater. Absolutely the most magnificent and wonderful Dream, or even Shakespeare, or even movie, I have ever seen. Splendid. Magical.

Yet – for this first of only two showings (next one Sunday, August 9, 12:30 p.m. – really), the small theater wasn’t close to full, and at least 95 percent of the audience was over 50 (as am I), many quite over.

So, where the heck was everyone else? No interest in glorious Shakespeare on a rainy Sunday afternoon? Our youth and civilization are clearly falling apart.

No, I have no financial interest in the movie or the Garden. I just can’t bear the thought of anyone missing this film. Seriously – see it. You can thank me later.

Brian Zack

Hageman Lane

To the Editor:

Right now, the New Jersey Legislature is working on the NJ Secure Choice Savings Program Act, which would help the more than 1.7 million working New Jerseyans who don’t have access to a retirement savings plan at work.

Secure Choice makes it easier to save so everyone can live the life they want after they retire.  It’s all about choice and control.   It makes it easier for people to build their own private retirement savings rather than having to depend on a government program.  Under Secure Choice it’s up to workers to decide if they want to contribute to their accounts.  And if they change jobs? Their accounts, and their retirement savings, follow them wherever they go, keeping them in control of their own futures.

Secure Choice provides businesses with a simple, hassle-free retirement savings program benefit they can offer to their employees at little to no cost to themselves.  Secure Choice is a professionally managed fund with no cost to the state government or taxpayers.

Research shows individuals are 15 times more likely to save for retirement if they can do so at work. AARP believes Secure Choice is a commonsense approach towards everyone’s retirement security.

Jeff Abramo

Interim Manager of Communications
& Community Outreach

AARP New Jersey

Forrestal Village

June 24, 2015

To the Editor:

Thanks to everyone who helped make PSRC’s BBQ and Line Dancing party such a great event!  The turnout was terrific and everyone loved dancing with the Silver Spurrs!  Business Bistro’s BBQ was delicious.

Thanks to our co-chairs, Victoria Leyton and Helen Burton, and to the many volunteers who transformed PSRC into a wonderful western ranch for the evening.  Once again Bloomberg volunteers stepped up and helped to make the whole evening move along smoothly.

We thank our sponsors and advertisers, too: Acorn Glen, B-Well Rehabilitation, LIFE St. Francis, Merwick Care and Rehabilitation, Bear Creek Assisted Living, Buckingham Place, Progression Physical Therapy, Memory Care Living, Heidi Joseph, Homewatch Caregivers, and Berkshire Hathaway Realtors.

Susan W. Hoskins, LCSW

Executive Director

To the Editor:

The purchase of 31-33 Lytle Street by the Town of Princeton presents an extraordinary opportunity to work in partnership with private and not-for-profit entities, and with the people of the community, to develop homeownership opportunities for low and moderate-income families. At the same time, the municipal body has a duty to all it’s residents (including those that are more financially well-off) to take every opportunity to develop ratable properties that increase—rather than reduce—the amount of land that is on the tax roles. The Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood where this property is located was most adversely impacted by the 2009 revaluation.  Removing any part of this property from the tax roles will not be helpful to anyone.  The current “compromise” being considered by the Town would allow for the construction of 1 to 2 units of affordable housing AND the expansion of the playground.  This is a half-step in the right direction.  I suggest that before “compromise” there needs to be “correction”; correction in the process, planning, and thinking about this potential development.  Doing so might produce 5-7 units of housing for sale to low and moderate-income families.

Why is the Town of Princeton even on this track eliminating ratables? Because without consultation with residents of the neighborhood, members of Council and the administrative staff began taking steps to purchase 31-33 Lytle Street with the intent of expanding the adjacent playground.  This action will allow the Town to “capture” Mercer County Open Space funds. But it will also remove the property from the tax roles. Clearly, this is an example of poor planning and process that should not be pursued further.  I have repeatedly asked the Council for its justification or rationale for using tax dollars to purchase this property with the intent of removing any part of it from the tax roles. My inquiries have received no response.

I support the Town’s purchasing of the entire property with Affordable Housing Trust Funds and the continuing of a process to develop affordable homes for sale to low and moderate-income families on all of it.  Further, I encourage the Town of Princeton to enter into an agreement with the Housing Authority of Princeton to include its former storage building—located off John Street and adjacent to the Lytle Street lots, and which in prior years was a residence—in development discussions for the entire area.  By including this property we could expand the potential marketing and sale to “low-low income” families.  There are housing developments in Witherspoon-Jackson and other neighborhoods where the building lot size approximates the dimensions of these properties.

The Town should take the opportunity to carefully and thoroughly consider housing development on this site, and in other parts of Princeton, as it anticipates its COAH fair-share obligation along with the need for more ratable property. A well thought out plan and process could achieve both good ends.

Hendricks Davis

John Street

To the Editor:

I am writing this public letter (my first ever!) because I am sorely in need of enlightenment (and admittedly, I also feel the need to vent). So if someone could please explain to me:

How on (Whole) Earth can it be, that our local organic food store will (laudably) provide a discount for shoppers when they use the FreeB bus or come by bicycle, but will NOT grant it when someone walks to the store? Isn’t the whole idea to encourage and reward behaviors that reduce fossil fuel consumption? Why is walking, of all things, ranked the same as pulling up with the SUV (possibly from just 2 blocks away)? What part am I missing here?

On Tuesday afternoon this week, in blazing sunny, 80 degree temps and 85 degree humidity weather, no less, my husband walked (actually walked!) the entire way across town, from Mountain Avenue (a whopping 4.2 miles round trip, according to Google) to the store and shopped. But when he asked for the discount at check-out, he was denied. Because he hadn’t biked. I thought he was joking at first when he recounted the encounter, that’s how surreal it felt.

But no; no joke. Even after pointing out that he had a broken and very visibly swollen wrist (four surgeries and counting) and most regrettably could not even bike; no matter. Inexplicable stubbornness reigned.

“No bike, no discount,” was, verbatim, the final flat verdict of the elderly gray-haired checkout man. Seriously? Where is the logic in that? For now, I am seriously, seriously miffed, because IF there is a punchline here, it’s that I, who have nurtured veggie patches and all things organic since my early 20s, was finally starting to make inroads in convincing my more economically-oriented mate to go more and more local and organic with me and adjust our budget accordingly. Needless to say, that was a bit of a setback. Hubby will not enter the store again any time soon; and neither will I any more.

Our business goes elsewhere from here on. We can stay local and buy our eco-cleaners and supplies, our Stonyfield yoghurts and milk all at McCaffreys; our CSA share and local Farmer’s Markets will cover the veggies, my Weleda products I may have to source from Germany, and for my spelt flour, I will just order in bulk online if I don’t find local. Can’t be helped.

I still would strongly encourage Whole Earth Center to reconsider their discount policy, to include the ambulatory specimen of humanity as well. I never thought that my formerly favorite store in Princeton could be so lacking in common sense, a sad surprise indeed.

Barbara Kaiser, RN

Mountain Avenue

June 17, 2015

To the Editor:

Ai Weiwei is a world-renowned artist with, at the moment, close ties to Princeton; however, many in the community might be unaware of his connection. The impressive installation in front of the Woodrow Wilson building that tends to draw photographers and plenty of Instagram-ers (#yearofthedragon) is his piece titled, “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads. It’s an interesting work that plays on ideas of repatriation, cross-cultural symbols, and authenticity. Unfortunately, there is no plaque explaining these themes for full appreciation by the viewer. I’m remiss not to have written this letter sooner, but it’s still not too late to install some type of identifier for the many visitors this site attracts. In the words of the artist, “Everything is art, everything is politics.” In regards to this piece, we can all appreciate the art, but it’d be great to appreciate the politics as well.

Patty Manhart

Linden Lane

To the Editor:

Many communities (Princeton University, to name a local example) recycle “all” plastics.

Why are we in Princeton and Mercer County limited to plastics #1 and #2? Allowing us to recycle all plastics would be of great benefit to our environment.

Brian Zack

Hageman Lane

To the Editor:

We are writing to thank voters for their support in the recent Democratic primary for the Princeton Council. We are proud of Princeton’s efforts to strengthen law enforcement’s relationships with the community and to address the needs of the most vulnerable, and we pledge to continue to work to create a more effective and responsive government and a welcoming and just community.

We look forward to the general election campaign and to hearing more about residents’ priorities for the coming years.

Heather Howard,

Aiken Avenue

Lance Liverman,

Witherspoon Street

To the Editor:

This is regarding increased bicycle use in Princeton (“Second Session for Valley Road set for June 15” and letters to the editor, Town Topics, 6/10/15).

Biking is great exercise and a good form of sustainable transit. As a one time biking enthusiast, I’m generally glad this is being encouraged in Princeton though I do worry about the safety of bikers who ride on narrow roads with no shoulders which are also hilly and curvy, e.g. Cherry Hill Road. This also poses serious challenges to motor vehicle drivers. I am also concerned about current biking practices which pose a safety hazard to walkers primarily due to lack of knowledge or courtesy.

As a walking enthusiast, I am writing primarily to bring attention to the dangers walkers face especially in our parks with joint walking/biking paths, including the Smoyer Park and the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath, among other such places.

When I first learned to ride a bicycle as a kid, and for many years after, it was common (required?) to have a bell on the handle bar of a bicycle to warn others in front of you, walkers and bikers alike, that you are about to pass them. This is no longer the case. If bikers give any warning at all it is often too late because they are almost on top of you and you must quickly jump out of the way. Voice calls are often unclear. A bicycle bell has a distinct sound which offers good advance warning.

Because of my experiences as a walker, I understand why residents of Valley Road would object to having a joint biking/walking path there. It would transform the simple pleasure of walking to one of safety concerns. If the walking and biking paths are separate that would make a positive difference. I understand there are other issues of concern regarding Valley Road changes.

If we want to encourage biking in Princeton it should not be at the expense of those who prefer to walk, a most basic form of exercise. For public safety and fairness, I recommend that an ordinance be enacted which requires all bicycles used in Princeton to have a warning bell so that “Sharrows” not only refer to bikers rights but to that of walkers as well.

Grace Sinden

Ridgeview Circle

To the Editor:

To its credit, Princeton Council recently voted to acquire two lots on Lytle Street currently owned by Roman Barsky. Most significantly, Mayor Lempert gave instructions to the Council attorney to prepare a resolution to acquire the land in such a way that the land will not be restricted to use as open space. Council will vote on this resolution at its next meeting, June 22.

This purchase will thus allow a citizens’ group to move forward with the construction of affordable housing units on the vacant lot, the goal that the vast majority of the neighbors speaking at three previous Council meetings want. Habitat for Humanity, with its strong and impressive history of building and fundraising, will be the developer of (probably) two three-bedroom apartments. Construction, planned for 2017, will adhere to Energy Star standards — always a plus for sustainability.

Cooperation to date from the mayor, Princeton Council, and municipal staff has been exemplary.

One of the chief virtues of this project is that the two affordable units are “stand-alones”; they won’t be part of a 20 percent affordable housing set-aside in some large complex where, in effect, economic diversity is restricted to a specific location. This is sound public policy, and a model for Princeton to follow, as it increases its affordable housing by 2025 (in accordance with the declaratory statement the town must submit to Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson this summer).

The building will have a porch that contributes to the “community of porches” so distinctive to the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. While it won’t be possible to save 31-33 Lytle Street, a house with an important architectural and cultural history, elements of the original porch and the rooflines will be removed, preserved, and reassembled on the new building. Towards the turn into the 20th century, the house was owned by William H. Hulls, an African-American who came north from Virginia to become an active member of Princeton’s African-American community, some of whom owned property as early as the 18th century even as many others serviced Princeton University.

Please plan to attend this important Council meeting and to speak out in favor of the resolution.

Daniel A. Harris

Dodds Lane

June 10, 2015

To the Editor:

Planning for next summer’s reconstruction of Valley Road is taking place now. Options concerning provisions for pedestrians and bicyclists are being considered.

We share the goal of making Princeton a great community for all, including walkers, bikers, and homeowners (categories which obviously overlap). Only one of the proposed options serves all interested parties well — to repair and maintain the current 4 foot sidewalks on each side of Valley Road. The other options, such as an 8 foot wide pathway on one side of the road, or one 6 foot pathway on each side, are, as a prior writer said, unnecessary, unsafe, intrusive, and unattractive. Please consider the following:

• Necessity: Thirty years of observation and personal experience have shown that the sidewalks along Valley Road are more than sufficient and quite safe for all the walkers and bikers who use them. They are never congested. On weekends, we often see serious cyclists on the street itself, and feel that sharrows (on-pavement signage) would be appropriate.

• Safety: Wider paths would decrease safety along Valley Road in two ways. First, they would make dangerous intersections more dangerous; they would increase the likelihood that bikers, taking their right of way for granted, would fail to exercise sufficient caution when entering the busy intersections at Jefferson, Walnut, and Ewing. Second, wider pathways would hamper the ability of drivers backing from driveways into the busy street to maintain the continuous vision necessary to do so safely.

• Intrusiveness and appearance: Wider paths would take a substantial amount of land from across the front of homeowners’ properties. They would decrease privacy. In increasing the volume of hard-surface coverage in front of houses, they would be very unattractive. In eliminating space from owners’ driveways, they would limit residents’ usage and parking. Finally, in no case is asphalt an acceptable surface for sidewalks. Property values are likely to decrease as a consequence of all these factors.

We share the value of making Princeton a great community for walkers and bikers. We also feel that it is essential that the town not take homeowners’ property and cover it with hard-surface pathways unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. The current sidewalks on Valley Road are well suited for all the pedestrian and bike traffic they may ever bear. So in the Valley Road reconstruction, repair the sidewalks and preserve our neighborhood!

Nancy Schreiber, Greg Hand

Valley Road

To the Editor:

Last Tuesday’s letter endorsing the 10-cent surcharge at McCaffrey’s for each so-called single-use bag supplied by the store prompts a number of questions, and some speculative answers.

If the surcharge would not affect whether or not customers shop at McCaffrey’s, isn’t it also reasonable to assume it would not be much of an incentive for them to bring their own reusable bags? In spite of the reported outcome of the referendum, the present balance of opinion among the shoppers themselves appears to be at least 10-to-1 against having to bring their own bags; 40 or 50 cents more on a bill whose order of magnitude is a hundred dollars seems unlikely to greatly change that balance.

Is it really a significant contribution to the environment to bring one or two reusable bags to the store several times a week while typically driving a minimum of two miles per round trip in semi-urban traffic in a car or SUV that gets less than 20 miles per gallon following such a protocol, thereby emitting at least 2 pounds of CO2 per trip?

Is the sole target of the movement really McCaffrey’s? Would the surcharge not apply to every retailer doing business in the town? For example, will a dry cleaner be required to charge 10 cents for each paper or plastic bag protecting just-cleaned clothes from the atmosphere? Pizza boxes are notoriously non-recyclable and not obviously reusable, so is there not a valid rationale for including them under the surcharge umbrella? Also, as one more inconvenient example, paper and styrofoam coffee cups and “doggie bags” or their equivalent.

I perhaps should know, but don’t, who would get to keep the surcharge. If it’s the stores, it makes a certain sense, since they would be compensated to some degree for their extra clerical work. It would seem regrettable to an extreme degree if the town planned to set up a bureaucracy to enforce adherence to the new ordinance, regulate its application, and collect the proceeds.

Do the surcharge advocates target paper bags and plastic bags with equal emphasis? Both are nominally recyclable, but in practice it appears substantially more likely for paper to be recycled than plastic. Also, paper, though one suspects it is more costly to the stores, is relatively benign environmentally; paper and wood products constitute one of the most effective and least costly — but also least credited — avenues to long-term sequestration of atmospheric CO2 (and paper shopping bags, at least in our house, are rarely single-use).

John Strother

Grover Avenue

To the Editor:

Non-biodegradable plastic bags are filling up landfills. Princeton does not have an active landfill within its boundaries, thus any problem with plastic bags does not uniquely concern Princeton.

The proposed ordinance would impose a tax on those Princeton shoppers who use store-supplied plastic bags. Proponents of the tax would have us believe that this is not a tax because we can bring our own bags and thus avoid it. If we apply the same reasoning to the gasoline tax, then it, too, is only a fee that can be avoided if we walk or use bicycles. Orwellian Newspeak, long used by the Federal government (“Collateral Damage” or “Revenue Enhancement” anyone?), has arrived in Princeton!

Proponents of the proposed ordinance claim the plastic bags supplied by retail stores are single use because they fail to acknowledge that these bags are also used for garbage (making them dual use, which is why they are in the landfills rather than being recycled). If the consumer complies with the ordinance and carries his purchases home in a reusable bag, then he must change his garbage handling. The obvious solution is to buy plastic kitchen garbage bags that are small enough to line a kitchen waste container. These thicker plastic bags will then go to the landfill instead of those supplied by the store, making a net reduction of landfill plastic very dubious.

The current store-supplied plastic bags would be replaced, the proponents demand, by a sturdier reusable bag. I have received several of these so-called reusable bags and doubt that they can be used more than 20 times before they tear or break. Comparing a store-supplied plastic bag tax of 10 cents with a reusable bag sold by McCaffrey’s for $1.99 plus sales tax, the consumer really has no net cost incentive to abandon the store-supplied bags.

The proposed tax would apply only to Princeton, thus encouraging people to shop outside of Princeton. The only justification put forth by the proponents is that Princeton should be a model for the rest of the world to copy. The latter outcome is at most unlikely. But, as pointed out by McCaffrey’s, this tax would place local vendors at a real competitive disadvantage. Such a tax should be state-wide, or at least county-wide, but that is unlikely after the defeat of the county referendum in the last election. (How the proponents expect to move the world when they can’t even succeed in their home county is an unaddressed question.)

The proposed ordinance would exempt people on public assistance from the tax. If that clause is approved, the goal of eliminating plastic bags from future garbage streams will not be met, but if not, the tax would be regressive.

The proposed bag tax would also apply to paper bags. Since when are paper bags not biodegradable?

The job of Princeton’s mayor and Council is to do the best they can for the people of Princeton. It is not their job to set a dubious standard which the rest of the world may not follow.

Ronald Nielsen

Humbert Street

To the Editor:

I must agree with those residents of Valley Road who oppose the transformation of one of their sidewalks into a bike path and I do so, not as a Valley Road resident, but as a long-time cyclist who has been riding almost every day, year ’round for 12 years. And I do ride a portion of Valley Road one day, also year ’round, on my weekend 30-mile rides out to and up along Sourland Mountain’s ridge line from east to west and then back down the “mountain” and back to Princeton.

Valley Road as it exists today is as safe for cyclists as any other moderately to high-trafficked through street I ride on my weekday 7-milers around town and rarely are bike paths in the area as safe. The problem with bike paths is that they are never maintained as well as streets and are rarely as well cleared of debris and other dangers to cyclists … for example low growing shrubbery and tree limbs … as are the town’s main roads. The little bike path that runs close and parallel to Valley Road from Moore across Jefferson Street and on over to Witherspoon is an excellent example of this. And the long bike path along The Great Road from Mountain Road to just short of Drake’s Corner is another. I would not ride on either because of broken glass and other debris, downed and low-hanging tree limbs, and bumps and pot holes on those paths. In all the years I’ve been riding, I’ve never once seen a cyclist on The Great Road’s bike path. Lots of joggers, but no bikes. We all ride parallel to it on the road.

There is little doubt in my mind that a Valley Road bike path, however well-intended, would suffer the same fate as the bike paths mentioned and that cyclists will choose to ride, as we do now, on Valley Road instead. Town money would be better spent improving the shoulders of Valley Road for cyclists as they are currently riddled with potholes and patches, especially toward the Witherspoon end. Chestnut and Jefferson streets pose dangers to cyclists too and my main concern there is not for myself but for the many school children who ride on those and any other street near our schools. Would not money be better spent making roads safer for children who ride bikes to school?

Bike LANES as opposed to PATHS, placed judiciously, can be a great help to cyclists. The bike lane markings along Wiggins, for example, have made my weekend run down Wiggins far less scary as drivers have come to understand and respect their purpose. Perhaps bike LANE markings along Valley Road would better serve cyclists and at much less cost to the town and to those residents of Valley Road who would lose their sidewalk to what is almost certainly to become an unused and thus useless bike path.

Ashley W. Wright

Park Place

To the Editor:

As principal and P.T.O. co-presidents of Johnson Park (JP) School, we’ve had the good fortune to work, over the years, with many community partners: the Arts Council, the Princeton Public Library, McCarter Theatre, Cotsen Children’s Library, the Thomas Clarke House, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, and the University, among others. In recent months, a long-term partner has emerged as a special friend to the children, parents, and staff members of our school community.

We refer to the Princeton Police Department.

Since Sandy Hook, officers have established a frequent, informal presence around our school — at our arrival and dismissal times, during our school day, and in the evening. In addition, members of the Safe Neighborhoods Division have come to JP several times per year to make classroom presentations to our fifth graders on the issues of cyberbullying and substance abuse and on the potential dangers of social media; they’ve presented similar workshops to our parents.

More recently, the police have been active supporters and guides during the “swatting” hoaxes that have plagued our community, including our schools. When other schools and ours received threatening telephone calls, officers were on the spot immediately to ensure our children’s and staff members’ well-being and to outline precautions we should take. They’ve checked JP’s perimeter and surrounding woods, our roof, and our hallways.

And, last Friday four officers joined with JP parents and staff members to participate in our fifth graders v. adults basketball game. What a thrill it was for our boys and girls to compete in a spirited game with the officers, and what an opportunity it offered our school community’s spectators to demonstrate their appreciation for our first responders, our protectors, our partners, our friends.

Thank you to the Princeton Police Department for all they do for and with us. They’re Princeton’s finest.

With Appreciation,

Robert A. Ginsberg


Milena DeLuca

P.T.O. Co-President

Mara Franceschi

P.T.O. Co-President