June 1, 2016

To the Editor:

The Town of Princeton is proposing that the property tax be increased by nearly 50 percent for the next 20 years for all properties on “historic” Bank Street in downtown Princeton in addition to the recent tax increase.  After nearly 40 years of meetings, discussions and false starts, the Town is planning to replace the rotting infrastructure, improve the street surface and streetscape in this unique historic district after letting it literally fall apart for the past 40 years. The historic commission has been powerless to do anything except make people jump through hoops if they want to improve their property while the public domain falls apart.  The real issue is the overhead electric, cable and telephone lines by PSEG, Verizon, Comcast and Suneyes, which continue to hang even more lines without removing the unused ones or needing approval to hang new ones.  To place these lines underground will cost, the companies say, $1,940,000, or $ 6,000 to $8,000 per linear foot plus a $5,000 hook up fee for each structure.  The 28 structures along the street must cover the entire cost, so says the NJ Board of Public Utilities.  The alternative is to leave the poles and the gaggle of wires with the radiation from EMF’s literally feet in front of people’s bedroom windows and forever devalue the street.

There is no other street like it in Princeton and it could be a real architectural and historic gem that could enhance the character and quality of downtown and increase revenues from taxes from potential improvements.  If the owners of the majority of the properties along the street do not agree to this massive increase in property taxes to place the wires underground, the Town  is proposing an unimaginative, vanilla improvements with concrete curbs and sidewalks- no granite, no cobble stone, no historic lighting, no bollards, no traffic calming  just a standard asphalt suburban streetscape with new sewer and water lines.

Is this what Bank Street deserves after paying high taxes with few services for over forty years, to be just another old narrow ghetto street with gaggles of overhead wiring while paying extraordinary amount of taxes for all these years with few, spotty municipal services and no resident parking.  If it is to remain as this “ghetto” street, then perhaps the Township can accommodate at least one request- have it removed from an historic district and take the historic restrictions away. Perhaps that will be a way to pay for the undergrounding if a large developer purchased many properties and redeveloped it.  We were told that the University paid the utility companies their price for undergrounding the Arts and Transit district, and conceded to the demands of the Board of Public Utilities mandate.

What is happening and has happened to Bank Street is shameful. Even in Princeton, every owner cannot write out a check for $75,000.00 or be taxed for greater value than the house will appraise.

Tony Nelessen

Owner of 13 Bank Street for 38 years

Professor of Urban Planning and Design


“AWESOMENESS PERSONIFIED”: Jeff Lucker, after teaching history for 47 years at PHS, still looks forward with enthusiasm to every day in the classroom with students in his AP World History, Latin America studies and Middle East studies classes.

Jeff Lucker, Princeton High School history teacher for the past 47 years, didn’t expect to spend a large portion of his life in the classroom. “In trying to decide whether to become a cellist or a doctor,” he recalled, “I decided to become a history teacher.” more

May 25, 2016

To the Editor:

The question of whether or not Communiversity ArtsFest should be a ticketed event has recently been in the spotlight. Given that the Arts Council of Princeton has been the prime organizer of the annual event for more than 40 years — with the support of the town, the University, merchants, and houses of worship — we would like to weigh in.

Communiversity is a very special day in Princeton each year, both for local residents and the greater Princeton community. In addition to providing a rich array of food and entertainment, it provides an important platform for local arts, nonprofit groups and merchants to promote their offerings to an audience of tens of thousands. The fact that exhibitors come back each year, and pay for space, underscores the value of the event. Meanwhile, it is true the event has gotten so popular that the crowds have created some challenges.

To clear up any misconceptions, Communiversity ArtsFest is not a major fundraiser for the Arts Council. We raise about $70,000 per year from exhibitors and sponsors, which exceeds our hard costs. But when considering the hundreds of staff and volunteers hours involved with orchestrating the event, Communiversity is much more a service we love to provide to the community than a fundraiser for the Arts Council. We presume the University and town have similar motivations in dedicating significant resources. Their in-kind and hard costs are critical to the success of this community day.

There is a strong argument to keep the event free. So many of the cultural activities in Princeton and throughout the nation these days are expensive and out of reach for many members of the community. Communiversity, by definition, is an inclusive event and welcomes everyone, making it one of largest and most diverse events every year. Whether a nominal fee would keep people away, or reduce the number of attendees or cars, is hard to say. Common sense suggests that the people who would choose not to attend based on price are those who have the lowest incomes, so adding a mandatory fee might make it a less inclusive cultural festival.

Is it possible to raise more funds to offset both town and Arts Council costs? Logistically it wouldn’t be easy. Communiversity is not a “gated” event. It would be impossible, or very costly, to control and ticket every one who enters the event area, which can be accessed via several streets. But certain options — such as selling wristbands, which entitle the bearer to discounts or extra benefits — are worth exploring.

We also recommend that a fiscal impact study be conducted so that we can understand the true value, and expense, of the event. Is the town’s $30,000 expenditure a solid investment? Let’s more closely assess its full value to our community to help the town determine if it wishes to support and invest in this annual cultural festival.

Armed with such information, we are ready and willing to explore ideas that help both the town and the Arts Council recoup more of our costs. We encourage gathering this information and discussing all options — but are committed to keeping this community treasure as accessible and inclusive as possible.

Ted Deutsch 

President, Board of Trustees 

Jeff Nathanson

Executive Director

To the Editor:

To those interested in the future of Communiversity and whether to impose a fee on those attending, here’s some advice: go back to the event’s original purpose, keep it simple, and keep it free.

Communiversity was conceived as a celebration of University/community relations, fueled in particular by an appreciation of the arts and the spirit of non-profit community enterprises.

Today, it’s increasingly becoming a marketing tool for car dealers, banks, and realtors, drawing tens of thousands of visitors to downtown Princeton, threatening to turn a special local day into merely another regional commercial platform.

While Council candidates might consider charging an attendance fee to offset Communiversity’s cost to local taxpayers, such a fee will lead to more government regulation and expense and continue to drive away local participation and eclipse of the underlying purpose of the event.

Charging visitors to Communiversity is not only impractical; it would speed the unfortunate commercial tilt that the event has taken.

It would be wiser to simply pare down the effort to something closer to its earlier conception — a celebration of the arts and non-profits — and keep it free.

Roger Martindell

Patton Avenue

To the Editor:

We support Tim Quinn for Princeton Council because of his exceptional public service to Princeton in several critical areas. In addition to his service with distinction on the Board of Education for nearly seven years, Tim has been serving on the Planning Board for the last three years. Because of his work ethic and consensus building leadership abilities, he has become chair of the Planning Board’s Zoning Amendment Review Committee as well as being appointed to the newly formed Neighborhood Study Zoning Group. As a member of the Planning Board’s Subdivision Committee, Tim pushed for greater public transparency and better notification to neighbors of changes that will affect them.

One of Tim’s issues of concern is housing “teardowns” and the type of replacement housing which can substantially change the character of neighborhoods and could ultimately price out current and future residents of moderate income. In these roles, Tim has demonstrated a firm commitment to manage change while preserving neighborhood character to keep middle class residents at the forefront of his decisions. His work will help to determine the future of Princeton’s housing, demographics, and character for decades.

Tim was selected for these positions for his good judgment, community values, good listening skills, and the ability to work well with a variety of people and organizations with different viewpoints to build consensus, which is no small thing in our current world.

Tim got his early political experience working for George McGovern as a 14-year-old canvassing in the mill towns outside Philadelphia. He has shown through his public service to this community that he is an outstanding candidate to represent and work hard for all in Princeton.

We support Tim Quinn for Princeton Council and urge others to do likewise when they vote on June 7, or earlier by absentee ballot.

Grace, Frank Sinden

Ridgeview Circle

To the Editor:

I am excited to support Leticia Fraga in the Democratic primary for Princeton Council. I have known Leticia for years, since our two sets of twins went to pre-school together. For over 15 years, Leticia has immersed herself in bettering our Princeton community, in all neighborhoods, on all levels. She has dedicated her time to tackling critical issues facing us today — affordable housing, child hunger and educational opportunity, and public safety, to name a few.

Leticia has gained a deep knowledge of the needs of all Princetonians through her service to both municipal and non-profit organizations, including Send Hunger Packing, the YWCA, Princeton Community Housing, and the Princeton Human Services Commission. Her ability to build bridges across communities, and her practical approach to problem solving, would be an invaluable, and unique, asset to the Princeton Council. I admire and respect Leticia and her contributions to our town, and I urge you to vote for her on June 7.

Kathy Taylor

Jefferson Road

To the Editor:

Water supply and safety issues are in the news more and more frequently. As members of the Princeton Environmental Commission, we are concerned about the quality and quantity of safe water available to the citizens of Princeton.

The Water Supply Management Act was passed in 1981 to ensure that New Jersey could cope with all foreseeable water needs and droughts. It requires that a Statewide Water Supply Plan be released every five years. The last such plan to be released was in 1996 and it included data that gave cause for concern about the state’s long-term ability to meet the growing water demand due to population growth. We are now 20 years overdue for a plan that would give us information about New Jersey’s levels of surface and ground water supplies.

The Princeton Environmental Commission passed a resolution calling for the release of a new Statewide Water Supply Plan at our April meeting and Princeton Council will be considering a similar resolution later this month. Citizens can support our efforts by contacting the office of Governor Christie at www.state.nj.us/governor/contact/.

Heidi Fichtenbaum

Chair, Princeton Environmental Commission, 

Carnahan Place

Sophie Glovier

Vice Chair, Princeton Environmental Commission, Drakes Corner Road

To the Editor:

I’m surprised by all the commotion over the municipal budget this year. Sure, I don’t like a tax increase any more than anyone else. However, I have to give our Town Councilors and staff a lot of credit for keeping 2016 expenses to a 1.2 percent increase. Meanwhile school taxes will be up 2.8 percent for the 2016-17 school year, according to the district’s website.

My 2015 tax bill indicates that municipal taxes including library and sewer charges were only 22.2 percent of the total. School taxes were 47.4 percent, and Mercer County 28.3 percent. Open space accounted for the other 2.0 percent.

Looking back at older bills, I see that the municipal tax rate for 2015, including the library, was up just 0.2 percent from 2010/2011, the first tax year after property revaluations. The school tax rate was up 11.2 percent, and the County was up 11.8 percent. I live in the former Borough so these percent changes may not be the same as for former Township residents — who since consolidation have received free garbage pickup that they did not have before.

Both jurisdictions held municipal tax rates flat for the last few years before consolidation. In 2013 and 2014, consolidation resulted in lower municipal taxes versus 2012.

The point is — since at least 2010, apples to apples, municipal taxes have increased much less than school and County taxes.

As in Lake Woebegone, our “children are all above average.” We love them and want them to get a great education. But let’s focus on the drivers that have the most impact on our tax bills — school and County budgets.

Rather than a process which uses percentage increases from last year, I would like to see a “zero based budget” similar to that used by the most successful corporations and non-profit groups. What services are truly necessary? Which positions result from this analysis, and which positions may no longer be necessary? Are we purchasing goods and services as efficiently as possible? When was the last time large budget items like insurance, maintenance, technology, supplies, and major outsourced services were put out for bid?

Let’s give credit to our Town administration and Council who have done the best job keeping our taxes in check.

John Heilner

Library Place

To the Editor:

As a candidate for Princeton Council, let me answer T. J. Elliott [“Asking Candidates How They Would Change System of Variances Favoring Developers,” Mailbox, May 18]. Stopping Princeton’s current pattern of teardowns and disproportionate McMansions is a plank in my platform.

But can we stop this pattern thoughtfully? And can we stop it quickly? Residents of Princeton’s affected neighborhoods want something done now before those neighborhoods are irrevocably changed.

Thanks to Governor Christie, applications for development in New Jersey are governed by ordinances in effect when they’re filed, not when they’re decided on. It might take Council and the consultant they’ve hired several years to develop a neighborhood-specific McMansion ordinance using form-based zoning, which codifies a new home’s appearance — or form — to reflect nearby homes. Meanwhile, builders will build.

A moratorium sounds tempting. But moratoriums on new construction are illegal in New Jersey except in emergencies. Two weeks after the fire at AvalonBay’s Edgewater apartments, a bill was introduced to stop light frame construction for multiple dwellings until its safety was studied. The bill died in committee.

A quick solution — which both T. J. Elliott and, in a May 11 letter, Jon Drezner call for — would be sliding fees for construction permits: the more builders exceed the house they tore down, the more they must pay. Council should consider what fee would be a sufficient disincentive.

I myself favor a quick-to-pass mathematical zoning ordinance based on bulk requirements rather than form. For example, Austin, Texas, limits new homes in central neighborhoods to the greater of either 2,300 square feet or a 0.4 Floor-to-Area-Ratio (FAR). That is, no new Austin home may have usable floor space on all floors larger than 40 percent of lot size.

The option I prefer would vary the new FAR from neighborhood to neighborhood. The limit could be a block’s average FAR plus one standard deviation plus a small percentage. This would allow new homes at the upper end of average for each neighborhood but prevent any existing McMansions from influencing the average unduly.

I trust my support for such solutions will win Mr. Elliott’s vote in the June 7 Democratic primary.


Alexander Street

To the Editor:

In response to residents’ urging and the near universal dismay at teardowns, the Planning Board has formed a task force to determine and protect the defining characteristics of Princeton’s various neighborhoods. Urban planner Mark Keener has been hired to work with the task force and “existing neighborhood groups” to establish criteria for post-consolidation rewriting of zoning ordinances. We can be glad that the governing body is finally addressing these issues.

We note two points: the task force itself includes the mayor and standing members of the Planning Board and Council, but no other residents. And the stakeholders listed at the first meeting by staff Planner Lee Solow and Administrator Marc Dashield included only realtors, builders, and developers, no residents.

Roman Barsky, the builder of so many big new houses, once told me that Mt. Lucas Road between Jefferson and Ewing is “underdeveloped.”

Lee Solow himself has called Princeton’s smaller homes “obsolete,” adding that families now want bigger houses. Yet realtors report that young families cannot buy in Princeton because the stock of smaller houses is disappearing. What kind of housing will be “affordable” here?

Wanda Gunning, chair of the Planning Board and a member of the task force, stated at a public meeting I attended that ever since consolidation, the board has been “too busy” to review architectural drawings from builders who appear before them requesting permits. The result is that no town official, including those responsible for granting variances, or exceptions to existing zoning ordinances, knows quite what a new house will look like, how it will compare with existing houses or affect the streetscape. Will it block the light to its neighbors? Will windows look into a neighbor’s bath or bedroom? Will two garage doors face the street? Will there be no windows on the street side?

No ordinance can prevent all problems, but previously a neighbor could see the drawings, assess details, and get the builder to address them. Without this kind of detail, such questions are not asked.

I live here because I want to live in a town with a sense of community, varied architecture, lots of trees, and an enlightened citizenry. How about you? Keener, the consultant, suggested that his first step might be to interview residents. Let’s hope that will happen before the town slips out from under us.

Mary Clurman

Harris Road

To the Editor:

I am writing to endorse Jenny Crumiller for re-election to the Princeton Town Council. In the past few years there has been significant development in my neighborhood that concerns me. Being new to an understanding of Princeton politics, I asked my neighbors for advice. They all told me that I should contact Jenny Crumiller as she would be able to offer me practical advice on how to respond. When I reached out to Jenny, I found her responsive and helpful in addressing my concerns. Going forward, I believe Princeton has serious issues we need to address. One of these that we see all around us is the ubiquitous teardowns of small houses with replacement mansions that are changing the charming small town feel of Princeton. Others that concern me are the increasing traffic with its impact on walkability, and the ever increasing property taxes and reduced affordability of houses. I know there aren’t easy solutions to these problems, but with Jenny’s record on the Town Council I am confident that we have a candidate with the experience to address them. If you believe in maintaining the quality of life in Princeton that makes this a great place to live, vote for Jenny Crumiller in the upcoming Democratic Primary on June 7.

Bill Hare

Jefferson Road

To the Editor:

In spite of New Jersey’s late, June 7, primary, voters may still influence the selection of the Democratic nominee for president. Locally, Princeton Democrats and unaffiliated voters who declare themselves Democrat at the polls will be choosing the next two members of Princeton Council. A video of the League’s forum among the four candidates for Council is available at www.lwvprinceton.org and at www.princetontv.org. A Voters’ Guide for the contested Democratic primary for Mercer County Freeholder is also posted on the League’s website.

Voters are reminded that they are entitled to vote provisionally for a number of reasons: the poll book indicates they vote-by-mail; they moved within the county; their name is not in the poll book; or they did not show ID if required. During the November, 2015 election, League members who were poll watchers noticed that some boardworkers did not offer provisional ballots as required. The League sent a letter to Paula Sollami-Covello, Mercer County Clerk, and to the four members of the Mercer County Board of Elections alerting them to the problem. Ms. Sollami-Covello replied that she was disappointed but was not responsible for training and that she had forwarded our letter and her response to the Mercer County Board of Elections. The League has not heard from them. Since it is known that board workers who were trained before the November 2015 election have not been re-trained, the League is concerned that voters’ rights be honored. Voters who vote provisionally should expect to be given information about how to ascertain whether their vote was counted.

Chrystal Schivell

Voter Service Chair, 

League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area,

 Monroe Lane

May 18, 2016

To the Editor:

I welcomed the recent letter of Jon Drezner [“Princeton Need Not Waste Time, Money Rewriting Zoning to Stop Tear Downs,” Mailbox, May 11] as the latest installment in the dialogue often represented in these pages and elsewhere about the teardown and mega-mansion phenomenon affecting Princeton for the last decade. Mr. Drezner suggests (as other writers including myself had previously) that the incorporation of some sort of “upfront new construction fee paid at the time permits are pulled for added space” is at least part of the solution if our town is serious about both the promotion of energy efficiency and the provision of additional affordable housing.

At the same time, I have noticed an abundance of letters endorsing various candidates for Princeton Council. The fact that the candidates and their supporters acknowledge the issues emanating from the rampant teardowns in our town is cause for optimism; the prevalence of the teardowns is evidenced by the increasing presence of the ominous orange plastic fencing that signals the bulldozers’ imminent arrival. However, the current incumbents only moved recently to hire a consultant to look at the situation despite the fact that these issues have been well known for years. Vincent Xu wrote in a March study of the situation that the Princeton “municipal construction department has issued more than 220 building permits for new single-family units from 2007 – 2015, with a spike of more than 40 permits in 2015.” While some action was taken on zoning changes last December, the current administration did not accept or enact changes that would have altered “the maximum construction allowed on undersized lots.”

While I respect the sincere encomia offered for those seeking election or reelection in these and other pages, my own decision about whom to support will depend largely upon specific promises made to address this most significant challenge faced by our town. Specifically, I would like to know what each candidate would do to change the current system of variances that favors developers to the detriment of existing neighborhoods. Does a candidate believe that the current zoning system is appropriate or overly permissive? Will he or she commit to specific actions to change the system? Will a candidate promise to introduce at the very first meeting after their election a motion for upfront new construction fees that would go to a fund to construct additional affordable housing?

These are not the only questions that should concern us in Princeton, but they are important ones that demand specific answers and in the case of those officeholders who have thus far failed to act credible explanations.

T.J. Elliott

Gulick Road

To the Staff of Town Topics:

Congratulations to Town Topics on thriving for 70 years.

Your newspaper has stood the test of time. By serving as an important source of information and discussion for the Princeton area, it is an integral part of the community. As residents rely on your newspaper for a source of their local news, events, and opinions, Town Topics continues to deliver timely and relevant content. Town Topics’ excellence helps to distinguish Princeton, our region, and our sate.

Again, congratulations and my very best wishes for continued success.

Jack M. Ciatterelli

Assemblyman 16th Legislative District

To the Editor:

McCarter Theatre Center’s annual Gala was held this past Saturday night featuring a performance by  internationally renowned virtuoso classical pianist Lang Lang, who performed for a packed theatre as  the centerpiece of the evening.  Following a week of appearances at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall,  his appearance at our 1,072 seat Matthews Theatre marks the smallest venue in which he’ll perform  during the entirety of his 2016 world tour!

This is the fourth time that Lang Lang has performed at McCarter in his storied career. Saturday’s  appearance was in a way a tribute to the abilities of our venerable Special Programming Director Bill  Lockwood to spot world-class talent—Lang Lang thrilled Princeton audiences with his talent quite  early in his stellar career.

The theme of the evening was Truman Capote’s epic Black & White Ball and dinner guests arrived sporting masks and vintage 1960s fashion.  The seated dinner for 380 guests was catered by Jimmy  Duffy’s Catering and the post-performance party featured late-night Southern comfort food, cocktails,  desserts, music, and plenty of dancing.

We offer our very sincere thanks to the greater Princeton community for the tremendous support  of this outstanding event. Special thanks go out to our fantastic Gala Committee and to Gala Committee Co-Chairpersons — Tory Hamilton, Cheryl Goldman, and Paula Chow — who orchestrated a festive and glittering evening  for our guests.  We would also like to thank Sebastian Clarke of Rago Arts and Auction Center for conducting our live auction and Viburnum Designs of Princeton for assisting with our center pieces.

Lending their support to this year’s Gala as Gold level sponsors were six very generous corporations:  Bloomberg, BNY Mellon, Cure/PURE NJ, Maiden Re, Mathematica Policy Research, and Saul Ewing LLP.  We are deeply grateful for that support, and for that of many other corporate and individual sponsors  and advertisers.

We also want to give a special thanks to Princeton University for their longstanding support of this event  and the theatre throughout the season.

The proceeds of this event are used to further McCarter’s artistic and educational programming throughout  our region.  More than one hundred thousand people annually—from the five county region and beyond — see a show at McCarter or participate in a McCarter class or workshop.

Timothy J. Shields – Managing Director

Emily Mann – Artistic Director

To the Editor:

One factor, at least in principle, to be taken into consideration in reviewing and revising zoning and planning policy with respect to teardowns and replacements with oversize buildings would seem to be the environmental impact of a teardown.  From even a relatively small house of typical mid-century construction, well over 1000 cubic feet of building materials must be disposed of, consisting primarily of wood, sheetrock, and roofing.  At an average weight of 50 pounds per cubic foot, that’s 25 tons, most of which presumably ends up in landfills.  Adding in heating and cooling equipment, built-in appliances, plumbing, wiring, ducting, and bathroom and laundry fixtures, etc., it’s possible to get the impression of a small-scale environmental catastrophe.  To the people who built and lived in the house, it can seem like a different kind of tragedy, but that’s for them to suffer bravely while counting their money.  If environmental concerns over the disposal of organic garbage and dead leaves are as important as represented in various recent letters in Town Topics, such concerns would seem to apply at least as significantly to teardowns.

John Strother

Grover Ave.

To The Editor:

Anyone who paid attention to the May 11 League of Women Voters Candidates Forum couldn’t come away from it without acknowledging that  Jenny Crumiller and Anne Neumann are hands down the two best candidates for election to the Princeton Council in the Democratic Primary on June 7.

I rated all six candidates on (1) Intelligence, (2) Knowledge of the issues likely to come before Council, (3) Relevant prior experience, (4) Responsiveness to the questions asked, and (5) Practicality and reasonableness of their proposed solutions to municipal problems.  On every one of those criteria (with a single exception) Crumiller and Neumann came out as number one or two.

You might vote for one or the other of the two other candidates based on other criteria (you know them, they play well in the sand box, they won’t challenge powerful people or institutions, you like the people who support them—for political or other reasons), but that would be a big mistake.  If you want to have the really best people representing you and voting on how to raise and spend your hard earned tax dollars you’ll vote for Jenny and Anne.

Jenny has served on Council since the two Princeton’s were consolidated and previously in the Borough.  No one of the other three knows better the facts and issues that are likely to come before Council in the next three years and will be more prepared to do the work of Council from day one than Anne Neumann.

Jenny has had the courage to challenge those who think they know it all, even in those times when she is outvoted.  She speaks truth to power.  Similarly Anne has asked hard questions and taken positions that are in the best interest of the citizens and voters even when she met resistance from the most powerful institutions in town.  Remember we are voting not only to return the experienced Jenny Crumiller to Council but also to replace Patrick Simon who single handedly has asked the tough questions that have resulted in better policies and saved tax dollars.  Of the three other candidates, only Anne Neumann comes close to filling the big shoes of Patrick Simon.  Her strength to take stands on tough issues is based on knowledge, analysis, and practicality.  Unlike her two adversaries for the vacant seat she has not proposed fairy tale solutions like a constitutional convention (in the power of the Princeton Council to convene?) or simple nostrums like “neighbors don’t sue neighbors,” or “I’ll represent everyone.”  These statements sound good to the naive, but it make no practical sense, and are the products of limited knowledge, analysis, preparation, and experience.

You can choose “good guys” or the most competent to represent you.  If the criteria for earning your vote, like mine, are designed to select the most competent, you can’t help but cast you ballots for Jenny Crumiller and Anne Neumann.

Joseph C. Small

Hawthorne Avenue

May 11, 2016

To the Editor:

With heartfelt thanks and on behalf of a grateful community, members of the Witherspoon Jackson Historic District Committee (WJHDC), wish to acknowledge Mayor Liz Lempert and members of Princeton Council for making the WJ Neighborhood the 20th Historic District in Princeton. We also want to acknowledge Elizabeth Kim, Julie Capozzoli, and the entire Historic Preservation Commission for their advocacy, leadership, and commitment in search of truth, fairness, and equality.

Historically a segregated neighborhood, the WJ Community today is Princeton’s most affordable, culturally diverse, and eclectic area of town. It is a warm and welcoming village of interesting homes, people, places, and businesses. Our vision is to use this foundation to make the neighborhood more livable, friendlier, more beautiful, more fun, and more desirable.

We understand that while many were in favor of the historic designation, there were those who were opposed. We are calling on all residents, to ask for their input, ideas, support, and cooperation regardless of the position you may have held. The fact is, we as neighbors should focus on our similarities rather than our differences as we work together for what is best for our community. We all now reside and/or own property in an historic district and should take pride in that fact. We also believe that “taking ownership” of our newfound status is critical. Communication can make the neighborhood more responsive to homeowners and residents, and being organized will serve us better when working with municipal leadership on present and future plans such as zoning, variances, and site planning. Our neighborhood is now and will continue to be a work in progress. We can and will have a say in its continued development … how it looks, how it feels, and how it grows.

We are also very interested in identifying and working with landlords and the municipality to be more accountable to quality of life issues, being good neighbors, maintenance and upkeep of properties and curbside appeal. To that end, during the month of August we are planning to work in conjunction with the Joint Effort Safe Street Project and the municipality on a WJ Weekend Cleanup Campaign. We hope to engage the entire neighborhood in weeklong events that will celebrate WJHD, and include an art exhibition, community forums, an historic walking tour, block party, and youth sporting events. Witherspoon Street was once, and will again be a promenade with unique shops, boutiques, outdoor cafes, and other amenities that will serve the interests of residents and visitors alike. As an extension of Nassau Street, the central business district, and upper Witherspoon Street, the neighborhood will welcome walkers, bike-riders, joggers, and tourists who will experience the history and story of a proud neighborhood and its people. It will present a unique perspective of an historic district within one of America’s most historic towns. We look forward to continuing our journey from the past, through the present, and into the future for both our beloved neighborhood and the town of Princeton.

Shirley Satterfield, Daniel A. Harris, 

Yina Moore, John Heilner, Thomas Parker, Bernadine Hines, Kip Cherry, 

Jacqueline Swain, Leighton Newlin

The Witherspoon Jackson Historic District Committee

To the Editor:

Like cars and other items, buildings often become “tired” with time and use. Princeton has many “tired” buildings. When economics, function, energy inefficiencies and/or depreciation come into play, teardowns are often necessary. Princeton does not need to waste lots of time and money rewriting Princeton’s Zoning to slow or stop tear downs.

A simple way to curtail the larger new houses that are replacing the “tired” smaller houses is to incorporate an upfront new construction fee paid at the time permits are pulled for added space. Because building bigger does not necessarily cost more, developers of spec houses currently have an incentive to maximize the allowable area of a house. If developers and or homeowners building had to pay an upfront (sliding scale — the more you add, the more you pay) fee for building larger than what is there, it is very likely they instead would consider quality and or efficiency over quantity.

Times have changed, needs have changed, how we use space and what space we actually need has changed, materials have changed, and building systems have changed. This added with the costs for annual maintenance, heating, and cooling is a current serious dialogue for buildings. Princeton has many architects who would love to sit down with developers, building owners, and homeowners and derive creative functioning, energy efficient and well specified smart buildings to replace (or rebuild) the “tired’ buildings with an incentive to keep the total new area nothing more than what it needs to be. Yes, it is possible these clever, smarter buildings could cost more per square foot like how efficient well-designed cars cost more than the inefficient, clunky SUV’s we are seeing much less of.

Jon Drezner

Architect, Battle Road

To the Editor:

I experienced a small measure of cautious relief from the recent decision by the Princeton Council to retain the services of a consultant to “take a hard look at residential zoning in the town,” as Town Topics reported in its May 4 edition [“Growing Teardown Trend Brings in a Consultant for Zoning, Planning Study,” page one],

The proposed teardown of a property adjacent to my own house in the vicinity of Mountain Avenue a couple of years ago prompted me to formally raise the matter with our Zoning Board of Adjustment. Unsurprisingly, my entreaty was summarily voted down and work to demolish the preexisting residence with an outsized replacement commenced without delay.

More interesting, though, was the feedback that I received at the time from Township Planning Director Lee Solow who declared in letter that my own 2500 square foot house built circa 1950 was “obsolescent.” Being a trained planner myself, this terminology struck a chord because in the world of property development it does not mean quite the same thing as it might if one were talking about an older model car or temperamental dishwasher.

The notion of obsolescence is technical vernacular with a specific legal meaning and it was deployed to devastating effect during the 1950s and 1960s to open the way for so-called slum-clearance projects in cities across the country. Applied to the whole of Princeton today, a not insignificant number of local homes would presumably be duly designated because they are unfashionably small or architecturally not of the moment.

The apparent — or at least potential — reversal of political sensibilities on this issue is, therefore, extremely consequential and I commend both Mayor Lempert and the Township Council for their evolving understanding. However, we should probably brace ourselves. If you think the pace of teardowns has finally reached an untenable level, I suspect that over the next few months there will be a mad rush to rapidly demolish an even larger number of perfectly livable homes around town as both sellers and developers sense that the permissive window to cash in is starting to close. The sensible course of action is therefore to impose a local moratorium on home demolitions while the newly announced comprehensive zoning review proceeds.

Maurie J. Cohen

Morgan Place

To the Editor:

Our May 6 Formal Dinner Dance for adults and teens with special needs was a truly memorable Journey to India! We are grateful to the many people who made it possible.

Thanks to our new DJ Steven Knox. Steven has reenergized our monthly dances, but he and his dad Dan really outdid themselves at the Formal. Thanks, too, to Cross Culture for the wonderful Indian menu and to McCaffrey’s bakery for the truly gorgeous desserts. And, as always, we are so grateful to our friend and very talented photographer Jaime Escarpeta.

Over the past decade, the synergy between Princeton Special Sports, an all-volunteer non-profit group, and the Princeton Recreation Department has made sports, social, and most recently, arts programing available to our friends and neighbors with special needs. Thank you to PRD staff Vikki Caines, Stacie Ryan, and especially Joe Marrolli for all of their hard work. Thank you, too, to the town leaders who showed their support for our community by joining us at the Formal: Jo Butler of the Princeton Council, Joanne Rogers of the Recreation Commission, and Recreation Executive Director Ben Stentz.

The Formal takes a lot of planning and work over many months. Thank you to Hana Oresky, Radha Iyer, Joe Marrolli, Susan Simonelli, Ann Diver, and Katerina Bubnovsky for bringing Journey to India to life. Thank you, too, to the adult volunteers who helped us set up, chaperone, and get everything cleaned up after: Oleg Chebotarev, Liz Cutler, John Diver, Sethu Iyer, Patrick Jackson, Abitha Ravichander, Maureen Rourke, Andy Santoro, and Valerie Walker.

It is always our student volunteers who make the Formal so successful. Thank you to these outstanding students: Matthew Ams, Maddie Bitterly, Charlie Doran, Tom Doran, Talia Fiester, Laura Harmon, Barbara Kaminska, Jack Lynch, Barrett Miller, Lauren Morelli, Rhea Ravichander, Declan Rourke, Yinhao Sheng, Grace Sheppard, Marli Siciliano, Sierra Steinberg, Haley Velazquez, Charlotte Walker, Eli Wasserman, DeAnna Weir, and George Yeung.

Our last dance of the season will be our annual pool party, dance, and BBQ at the Princeton Community Pool on June 3. Swimming will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., followed by BBQ and dancing from 7:30 to 9 p.m. For more information or to register, go to princetonrecreation.com or princetonspecialsports.com.

Deborah Martin Norcross

Co-President, Princeton Special Sports

To the Editor:

I encourage voters to reelect Jenny Crumiller to Princeton Council. Jenny is an intelligent, kind person, who works hard and listens to all sides respectfully. I support her stands on many issues, but as a doctor who practiced for many years first as an internist, and later as a pathologist, I am particularly pleased that Jenny has been a strong advocate for an ordinance to require Princeton’s employers to provide paid time off for employees who are unwell or whose children are unwell. This makes sense both for the wellbeing of both employees and also for general public. Such a measure will decrease the spread of communicable diseases by keeping adults and children home instead of in the workplace or in schools.

I hope readers will vote for Jenny so she can continue good work on Council.

Lilia Belov, MD

Monroe Lane 

To the Editor:

Leticia Fraga and I have worked closely together on the Community ID Cards and other community efforts over the last two years. I’ve been impressed by her dedication, energy, and reliability but that’s just the beginning. She’s stepped in to take a leadership role in organizing the ID Card effort as she has with the many other community organizations with which she’s involved, for example, as vice chair of the Human Services Commission. I can’t think of anyone to better represent the diverse needs of the Princeton community on the Princeton Council.

Bill Wakefield

Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

Anne Neumann and her family are established residents of Princeton, and Anne and her daughter attended Princeton schools. Anne’s contributions to Princeton municipal affairs and her plans for a livable Princeton have earned my support.

Anne has pledged to help neighborhoods in Princeton retain their character at a time when many residents are concerned with insensitive development and overdevelopment. The tax burden of new development will affect all Princetonians. But Anne is well aware that some neighborhoods will bear the burden of new development in terms of density and traffic. Anne will, therefore, call for a delay on all new development near AvalonBay until AvalonBay’s effects on roads, drainage, sewers, and our school population are clear.

Anne is a champion of the town of Princeton, host to one of the nation’s most prestigious, well-endowed, and powerful universities, that has been unwilling to pay what Anne and many Princeton residents believe reflects its fair share of the financial burdens it imposes on us. Anne is knowledgeable and unafraid to take on the contentious issues of town and gown, including a Council member and mayor with ties to Princeton University.

Please see Anne’s creative ideas for preserving Princeton’s character and fostering an environment friendly to local residents and taxpayers — not shoppers who descend from tour buses — on her website www.anneneumannforcouncil.weebly.com. Please join me in voting for Anne Neumann!

Cecil Marshall

Moore Street

May 5, 2016

To the Editor:

Press reports have suggested that Princeton University’s tax remittances may increase significantly as a result of a lawsuit challenging the tax exempt status of some of the University’s buildings and activities.

The stakes are very high for the University. Its influence is considerable, but the climate is changing and a judge can do whatever he or she wants to do. As we are reminded daily, the “1 percent” are not very popular these days. Connecticut’s efforts to tax Yale’s endowment income suggest that the definition of the “1 percent” is broadening. Given the risk to the University of an adverse ruling, an out of court settlement seems likely.

Should there be such a settlement, the magnitude of our towns’ potential tax windfall would be significant. Voters should expect candidates for mayor and Council to specify what they would do with the incremental tax revenues.

My own position is simple. Incremental tax receipts, whether resulting from a ruling against the University or from a negotiated settlement, should be used exclusively to reduce property taxes. Millage rates should be reduced to the point at which there would be a dollar for dollar substitution of windfall revenues for existing tax levies. Windfall revenues should not be squandered on new projects and programs.

Voters should also expect candidates — at least those of us who are free of conflicts of interest — to express our views as to what an acceptable settlement might look like. Here, too, my position is simple: the negotiation should not be limited to money.

Preserving Princeton’s essential small town character is one of my top priorities. I would therefore favor a settlement that includes changes in prospective land use. We might, for example, seek to persuade the University to deed restrict Springdale Golf Course, setting it aside, in perpetuity, as open space — and abandoning the right, conveyed in current zoning, to construct a row of ten story buildings on one of our town’s defining green belts.

Thanks in large part to the efforts of Bruce Afran, we seem likely to be offered one of life’s rare opportunities for a redo. Let’s make the most of it.

Peter Marks

Moore Street

Editor’s note: Mr. Marks is running for mayor in the Republican primary.