July 1, 2015

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

To the Editor:

For over half of New Jersey’s workers, the future looks bleak. Their jobs do not offer retirement plans. They are struggling to save on their own. The average working family has $3,000 for retirement, and without Social Security, which pays the typical New Jerseyan only $1,377 a month, they would hit rock bottom. And 43 percent of seniors would be in poverty. Qualifying for food stamps is not retirement.

AARP supports the Secure Choice Savings Program Act, a bill by Assembly Speaker Prieto and Senate President Sweeny that helps New Jerseyans save enough to live independently. Under Secure Choice, people without workplace savings plans can automatically put some of their paycheck in an Individual Retirement Account. A vetted investment firm manages these accounts, so people’s savings grow as they work, even when they switch jobs. Secure Choice gives people greater financial security and independence.

Secure Choice is about choice. Anyone can opt out whenever they want. People choose how much they save. Businesses just set up payroll deductions, like they already do for medical and dental coverage. Taxpayers do not fund the program. Workers get options, not mandates.

Hard-working New Jerseyans deserve a future. We should not settle for less.

Ryan Protter

Riverside Drive

To the Editor:

There are neighborhood/town meetings to discuss the Valley Road project, which is mostly about needed repairs and resurfacing. But there is an issue lurking in the list of items planned for our taxpayer dollars which I and many of my neighbors see as a serious problem:

“The Princeton Master Plan recommends the installation of an off-road multi-use path along Valley Road.”

If that is done as I have heard it described, an 8-foot wide asphalt strip nominally accommodating bicycles and pedestrians, it will destroy a strip of landscaping by my neighbors that is about 4 feet wide. That is unconscionable, unjustified, unnecessary, and unacceptable. Among the reasons why are: that we have very little bike traffic, and quite uneventful sharing of the current sidewalk. Easy. Also, this would be a bike path to nowhere since there is nothing connecting to it at either end of Valley Road or, as far as I know, in other Princeton neighborhoods. Valley is a pretty wide road as it is, and it would be sensible and economical to paint the bike lane symbols on the road surface. We don’t need an “off road path” replacing grass, flowers, and carefully tended hedges with asphalt.

I won’t be able to attend the June 15 meeting, but I encourage my neighbors to be there to demand that the work on Valley Road be focused on repair and reconstruction of the roadway and sidewalks as they are. None of our taxpayer dollars should be spent on this “off-road multi-use path” that we don’t need and don’t want. It is a bad idea.

Roger Nelson

Valley Road

To the Editor:

The trees are yelling: “Stop with this piling up mulch around my trunk — you’re killing me!”

What is the purpose of mulching? —  To conserve moisture in the soil and to suppress unwanted growth.

Ninety percent of the large and small landscaping companies are simply ripping you off and doing permanent damage to your trees and bushes. The high volcano-like dense piles of mulch that surround your trees actually contribute to the rotting of the bark surfaces and provide a moist environment for fungal diseases and insects who feed on the bark to proliferate; the volcanoes encourage surface root growth that are not true roots as they are formed from cell tissue, not root tissue; surface roots caused by a too deep surrounding of mulch discourages deep supportive root development; prevents the penetration of needed moisture to roots; and promotes extensive and destructive root girdling around the base of tree. This all weakens the health and strength of your trees and shortens their lives as they are vulnerable to diseases and to being knocked down by high winds.

For proper mulching methods you can visit the mulching blog on my website www.ourworldourchoices.com.

Judith Robinson

Salem Court

June 3, 2015

To the Editor:

This Tuesday, June 2, negotiators for the Princeton Board of Education and PREA, the teachers’ union, meet one last time to try to agree on a contract before bringing in a costly fact-finder. A key outstanding issue is the manner in which the Board will compensate teachers for the rising cost of health insurance. We urge the Board to reduce teachers’ upfront premium contributions, as we believe this is the best protection against a repeat of this year’s corrosive negotiations.

Under Chapter 78, a 2011 state law, a Princeton teacher earning $78,000 a year (the 2014 average district salary) pays between 23 percent and 33 percent of his or her insurance premiums, reducing take-home pay by $4000 to $7500. These rates, combined with previously-agreed-to austerity measures, mean that some district teachers’ take-home pay is less now than it was eight or nine years ago.

To their credit, the Board has responded to this financial strain by offering to offset teachers’ premium contributions. But rather than reducing teachers’ paycheck deductions, the Board proposes salary stipends or reimbursements. Why does this matter? Money is money. What difference does it make if the Board wants to give a stipend instead of reducing premium payments? As it turns out, it makes a big difference. Since 2010, New Jersey has capped localities’ annual tax increases at 2 percent, roughly equivalent to inflation; voters must approve any amount over that limit. But the law also grants discretionary waivers for costs local officials can’t control, including health care. Each year since 2010, over 40 percent of New Jersey municipalities have used such exceptions to exceed the 2 percent limit. Even the current Princeton municipal budget is 4 percent higher than last year’s, thanks partly to the health care waiver.

Money spent to reduce teachers’ premium contributions could help the district qualify for a health care waiver in the future, which the Board could choose to use or not. Stipends, in contrast, would not count towards a waiver, and would come from general funds. It’s not hard to imagine how this would play out in the next round of teacher contract negotiations. Health care relief would be pitted against the district’s other needs, producing more of the rancor and frustration we have witnessed over the past year.

As Princeton residents, we know that our property values – not to mention our quality of life – depend on the excellence of our public schools. Moreover, the cost of a health care waiver for the individual taxpayer need not be high. This spring, for instance, the Board used a $400,000 health care waiver that increased the property taxes on an $800,560 home (Princeton’s average assessed home value) by less than $39 a year. We consider this a small price to pay to safeguard the quality of our public education.

Joanne Rodriguez, Gennaro Porcaro, Megan Mitchell, Dafna Kendal, Adele Goldberg, Sandra Moskovitz, Mary Saudargas, Eleanor Hubbard, Nicole Soffin, Krissi Farrimond, Eric Anderson, Rebecca Rix, Janice Fine, Becca Moss, Deborah Yashar, Keith Wailoo, Nancy, Robert Swierczek, Hendrik Hartog, Elizabeth Harman, John Collins, Ron Connor, Jane Manners, Abigail Rose

To the Editor:

I am an engineer. In 2005 I was involved in a company designing high-speed computer networking hardware and systems. Coming down to the old “Dinky” train station in Princeton, I encountered John Nash. I had known his son John since he was 15. He asked me what I am doing. After telling him some of the challenges of doing high speed, he replied, “Have you thought of this?” What he described is now known as channel bonding, but after two years of working on this project we had not considered it. A beautiful mind indeed, that could come up with an instant answer in an impromptu meet-up.

Dr. Nash was quite sane and clear-minded at that time and remained so until his tragic death. He was not always so. For years I had seen him walking along Nassau Street slowly and laconically, often chain-smoking. Or he was in Firestone Library’s lobby sitting and staring. The scene was repetitive and boring. A day in the life of the real John Nash was not the material for an entertaining movie. But in our meeting, he also said, “You know my son John suffers from mental illness.” And he said it as if he had never been there and done that!

When the movie A Beautiful Mind was made, I signed on for a bit part, that of an academic. We were on the set 19 hours one day and got digitally multiplied to look like an auditorium full of 2500 people. The filming was done in the Newark Performing Arts Center, which was used to represent an auditorium in Scandinavia. After about a dozen hours of hurry-up-and-wait and only one meal, a lot of the extras were getting crotchety. For me, it helped having been a graduate student, since we had become immune to horribly long hours!

How did John, Sr. snap out of insanity and futility? He claims that he did not use drugs and I had good corroboration that that is true. In the movie, Nash says he knows he has a problem, but that he will solve it, because that is what he does. The psychiatrist replies, “You will not solve it because the problem is with your mind.” That was 1950s psychiatry. Today, thanks to tools we did not have in 1950 such as functional MRI, we know the brain is made of components. Some may be functioning well and others not. Nash used some functioning parts of his mind to test others. If he observed a situation, he asked several other persons what they perceived. If they agreed with what he saw, he said to himself, it is confirmed. If several agreed with each other but not with him, he said, I reject this. After a while, he snapped out of it. A “self-exorcism?’ Not many have the ability to do this, but in effect this seems to be what happened in the case of John Nash.

Arch Davis

Vandeventer Avenue

To the Editor:

I would like to bring attention to the fact that the Arts Council of Princeton has almost no classes for working adults. I was currently enrolled in a comic workshop, and my mom wanted to join. She was dismayed to find out that it was only for pre-teens and teens. The Arts Council had suggested that she look for any other classes she would be interested in, but there were none that would fit her schedule.

You see, during the weekdays, most classes for adults are between 9 a.m. and noon. As most know, a working adult usually starts work at 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. or later as well as making time for family and chores. These classes are opened to teenagers too. Approximately 20 percent of the classes are in weekends, 22 percent at night, and the others are in the morning while approximately 25 percent are in the early afternoons of weekdays, which is not a convenient time either.

Some working adults want to take a class, but are not allowed due to the time constraints. These adults want to learn something new or continue a class in art but the Arts Council feels that they will be able to gain more money from the new generation rather than the old one.

Regarding the classes on the weekends, a number of them take all day, 9:30am-4:30 p.m. Most adults would choose a movie day or family time over a seven-hour class.

Although the Princeton Adult School offers classes such as these, this is no excuse for the Arts Council not to cater to other potential clients as they also have interesting and diverse classes adults would like that are taught by professionals in the business. This issue must be addressed as it will allow for the arts community to grow as well as adding new revenue for the Arts Council by focusing on a different target audience. With classes available for working adults, some high-profile men or women might make a donation to the arts community, too.

I suggest that the Arts Council should look to the future and the possibility that this program might strengthen the community in the arts by offering classes to adults from 7:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.

Rachel Bierman

Grover Avenue

To the Editor:

Over the past two months a group of residents has sought a compromise solution for 31-33 Lytle Street that would retain the porch, façade, character and scale of its 1870’s house, provide two units of badly needed affordable housing, and still expand Mary Moss Playground (MMP) which has occupied the corner of Lytle and John Streets for about 80 years.

We are now very close to a solution involving a nationally renowned builder of low cost housing. The projected economics of this project will provide Princeton with two units of affordable housing at a cost lower than what the Town has paid over the last 3-4 years. It was believed 20-25 years ago that there should not be too much affordable housing concentrated in the Witherspoon-Jackson area. Now the neighborhood has changed with a real diversity of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. Every study as well as common sense says that this is a great benefit for low income families and their children. The vast majority of neighborhood residents who have spoken at two Princeton Council meetings, a special session on this subject, and last Saturday’s meeting of the W-J Association have spoken strongly in favor of additional affordable housing in their area. Lytle Street is just a short walk from jobs in downtown Princeton; elementary, middle and high schools; the library; and the Arts Council.

So far, Princeton Council has not proactively picked up on this idea, but rather proposed expanding MMP across the whole property — to which most neighborhood residents are strongly opposed. Community Park with playground equipment, both large and toddler pools, is just a few blocks north; there is a small playground behind the Y and Dorothea’s House a few blocks south; and the open space owned by the University leading to Stanworth is even closer.

If you care about these issues please come out and speak for 2-3 minutes at the Princeton Council meeting on Monday June 8 at 7 p.m. This will be our last chance to make the best use of 31-33 Lytle Street, a scarce piece of land in downtown Princeton.

John Heilner

Library Place

To the Editor:

I was delighted to learn that this August McCaffrey’s will celebrate its 23rd year as a member of the Princeton Community. McCaffrey’s is fortunate to be able to implement its desires to do the right things for the community and our Earth. I applaud them for that action. With a record of a 3:1 vote to support a bag ordinance and the use of a fee, we residents should have that right.

Opponents in the plastics industry work hard to fight bag ordinances at the local level because they work. The argument that is often voiced to convince local elected officials not to enact a ban is to let grocers and merchants reduce single use bag use voluntarily. But voluntary measures don’t work, bag ordinances work. Those that enact a fee, result in a 60-90 percent reduction of bag use.

McCaffrey’s has a rebate program and offers reusable bags. Both policies are commendable; however, these policies, like education, don’t result in creating a real, measurable impact. If they did, we would have statistics to show a significant reduction in the number of single bags that McCaffrey’s buys. To date, I do not believe that a single grocery chain in the U.S. has verifiable numbers showing a bag ordinance passed in their local town hurt their business.

McCaffrey’s is 3.8 miles from the Shop Rite and 6 miles from Wegman’s. Gas costs approximately $2.57 a gallon and the average MPG is 24 miles. A McCaffrey shopper would have to spend .40 cents (4 bags) to go to Shoprite, and 80 cents (8 bags) to go to Wegman’s. Does it really seem plausible that a McCaffrey’s customer, possibly one shopping there for years would undertake the expense and inconvenience to not shop at our local, loved McCaffreys?

I frequent both local grocers shopping at McCaffrey’s because it is a local store that provides unique value. I love picking up specialty desserts without a pre-order, running into my friends and knowing the Manager Steve Carney and some of the staff by first name. As a mother of a special needs child, the fact that they employ special needs individuals is appealing. I feel “community” at McCaffrey’s.

When discussing the bag ordinance, with a merchant, resident or individual that works in Princeton, I poll them to see why they shop at McCaffreys.

The replies:

McCaffrey’s has great quality and variety of prepared foods. The store has an extensive salad bar with fresh fruit, vegetables, greens, and interesting salads. Convenience and good parking. It is our local grocer — you run into everyone. Organic and kosher food offerings.  McCaffrey’s has excellent customer service. They treat their employees well and that translates into very friendly employees.·They listen to customers.

Does it seem possible that all the good will created over 23 years could be undone by a 10 cent bag ordinance? Would you stop shopping there over a 10 cent charge?

Bainy Suri

Chestnut Street

To the Editor:

I write to support the concerns of Valley Road residents who find the proposed asphalt bike path, which will replace the pedestrian sidewalk, as environmentally intrusive, unnecessary, and unaesthetic.

I want to raise additional safety concerns that are being ignored. The first is the inability of residents on the bike-lane side of Valley to safely walk from their homes. If they walk along the bike path, they may get hit since they have no right-of-way. If they cross the road, then they are jay-walking and at high risk from the high traffic volume and excessive speeding. They have no pedestrian rights. For children, these safety issues are a concern and, in fact, makes it almost impossible for my grandchildren to visit and go to the shopping center.

Users of this “bike path to nowhere” also face dangers of being hit at cross-streets unless they dismount and walk their bikes across intersections that have some of the highest accident rates in town. Hardly a useable bike path. I myself am an avid biker and a “share the road” bike lane would meet all the needs of bike users, as has been done everywhere else in town. In fact in the 38 years I’ve lived on Valley Road, I’ve observed a very limited number of bike riders.

The rebuilding of Valley Road offers many opportunities to reduce traffic and excessive speeding, and thereby improve the quality of life for residents. Over the last 10 years there has been a huge increase in traffic using Valley Road as a bypass between Route 206 and Harrison, which isn’t its designated role in the town’s master plan, and often travelling in excess of 40 mph when there is a 25 mph speed limit.

Sensible solutions exist: adding 4-way stop signs at cross streets would slow traffic and wouldn’t impact emergency vehicles using sirens; adding a “share the road” bike lane would effectively address the needs of bike riders; closing off Valley Road for Route 206 north-traveling vehicles would reduce using Valley Road as a by-pass (as was suggested after the Township building was completed). These are solutions that improve the neighborhood. Yet we’re hearing of plans that negatively impact the neighborhood.

I join my fellow residents in urging Mayor Lempert and the town’s engineers to consider the significant negative impacts and safety concerns raised by this bike path and to withdraw this plan.

Eric Wood

Valley Road

May 27, 2015

To the Editor:

This August, McCaffrey’s Food Markets will celebrate our 23rd year as a member of the Princeton Community! Throughout these years, we’ve focused on providing excellent service, superb community relations and top-quality products to the Princeton area. We’ve also worked very hard to be good corporate citizens, through charitable efforts and solid environmental practices which are outlined below:

McCaffrey’s Markets has cut our landfill waste stream by more than 50 percent by:

• Initiating a food composting program

• Recycling cardboard shipping cartons

• Recycling plastic film

• Starting a single-stream recycling program

• Donating thousands of pounds of food per year to those in need

McCaffrey’s has reduced our energy consumption by:

• Replacing older, inefficient refrigeration equipment with state-of-the-art models that use 20 percent less energy

• Swapping older, fluorescent bulbs with high efficiency L.E.D.s

McCaffrey’s has reduced the impact of single use bags by:

• Offering a rebate on every reusable bag used at our store

• Selling reusable bags at check-out to encourage green behavior

• Recycling 75 percent more plastic bags than we purchase during the year, by encouraging consumers to bring bags from other sources in addition to those obtained at McCaffrey’s

All of the efforts outlined above are simply the result of our desire to do the right thing for the community and our Earth, rather than the result of a government mandate. Recently, there has been an effort in Princeton to impose a 10 cent per bag fee on our customers for every single use bag that leaves our store. While we understand the intent of the proposed ordinance, we cannot support it, as we believe that consumer education and choice are a far more equitable solution to the issues caused by single use bags. We believe continued collaboration between McCaffrey’s and those concerned about our environment can be of tremendous benefit. What’s more, the proposed ordinance would place McCaffrey’s at a significant competitive disadvantage. None of our competitors operate within Princeton which means that none of them would be subject to the mandatory bag fee.

We strongly encourage Mayor Liz Lempert and the Princeton Council to consider all of the above mentioned practices and successes, as well as McCaffrey’s desire to work together with environmental groups that want to better educate consumers about “best” eco-friendly practices, before deciding the fate of this proposed ordinance.

James J. McCaffrey

President, McCaffrey’s Market