December 9, 2020

To the Editor:

As a longtime Princeton resident, I am concerned about the proposed plan being heard by Princeton’s Planning Board on Thursday, regarding the land lease variance sought by the Princeton Academy of The Sacred Heart. The proposal seeks to add 4.2 acres of plastic turf as ground cover, more than the 50 percent maximum allowed.

In addition to the obvious problems due to rainwater runoff, plastic turf fails to provide a suitable habitat for threatened and endangered species including animals, reptiles, birds, and bees. The huge amount of the plastic cover proposed will disrupt the biodiversity of the Princeton Ridge area and cause irreparable ecological damage. The proposed light towers will also generate unacceptable levels of both noise and bright light.  more

December 2, 2020

SHOPPING SPECIALTIES : “We wanted to expand the space, and we want to be a destination place, where customers can come to find a great selection of furniture, including our signature barnwood tables, as well as a variety of gifts of all kinds.” Kristin and Ron Menapace, owners of Homestead Princeton, are delighted to offer customers an intriguing selection of holiday shopping opportunities.

By Jean Stratton

As the song says, “We need a little Christmas…,” and perhaps now more than ever during this year of our discontent.

And indeed, Christmas has come to Homestead Princeton at 300 Witherspoon Street.

Decorated trees, holiday displays, Santas and snowmen, angels and elves, fragrant candles and musical snow globes — and more — all capture the season at this very inviting store.

“I think people are starting to decorate earlier this year,” says co-owner Kristin Menapace. “They want their house to be special and festive, especially now with the virus.” more

To the Editor:

As the holidays approach we wanted to say thank you to our customers, fellow merchants, delivery drivers, and municipal workers who have reached out, checked-in, and lent a helping hand through the COVID crisis. There have been many challenges since we have been in business, but this one takes the cake. If not for the kindness of others we would not have been able to make it this far, either financially or spiritually. But, we are not out of the woods yet!

For the last decade jaZams and nearly all other merchants in town have been struggling. Faced with the pressures of the false economy of online retail, we have been working harder and longer for less and less. Always optimistic, we press on because we love what we do and are committed to the community we serve. As we are sure you have noticed, many of us have not survived. Most recently, the pandemic has sealed the fate of many of our retail family. For those retailers the cause of death will read “COVID-19” but the underlying condition will be online retail.

What every member of our community needs to understand is that every time the “Buy” button is pushed for a big online retailer our local economy — and the community it enlivens — becomes less viable. We understand why shopping online is attractive, but because of the staggering imbalance of capital local merchants will never be able to adequately respond to the Amazons of this world. No, we cannot stock every item you want. We cannot give you prices pennies above wholesale. We cannot shuttle items to your doorsteps via voice activated commands. It’s just not in the cards. more

To the Editor:

We write as Princeton business owners and residents, concerned for the future of our fellow merchants and our town. As town Council is currently undertaking efforts to redesign Witherspoon Street at a time that will make or break many of our beloved Princeton businesses, we feel it is important to express our views regarding these redesign efforts.

We all agree: Witherspoon Street needs beautification and improvement. At the same time, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Witherspoon Street is central to fostering a successful business district. As individuals who have operated stores and restaurants in Princeton for years and experience the realities of the current one-way setup daily, we understand that it is critically important to incorporate the following factors into any redesign of Witherspoon Street:

Avoid decreasing the number of parking spaces. Princeton has a “parking problem,” perceived and real. We can’t afford to exacerbate this issue. We serve clientele who live walking-distance to our shops and many more who don’t, both from Princeton proper and well beyond. Convenient parking is critical to keep customers visiting Princeton’s downtown. more

To the Editor,

In 2020, in the face of our substantial societal challenges, I found the website gratitude.org. It is run by a nonprofit, A Network for Grateful Living, which has roots in faith and philosophy and shared human experiences that transcend religion, gender, race, or ethnicity. One of my favorite things about the site is its continual prompt to ask, “To whom and for what am I grateful?” And there is always someone or something.

At this moment, I’d like to express my gratitude for being elected to a seat on the Board of Education for Princeton Public Schools. I am especially grateful for those who encouraged me to run and for the support of my campaign team, Walter Bliss, Fern Spruill, Nick Di Domizio, Kathy Taylor, and my husband Jon, as well as for those who paused for a moment to write a letter of support or share a testimonial or host a gathering. I am also thankful for everyone who took time to speak with me about our schools and the issues we face as a community, for the other candidates, and for everyone who voted during 2020 to ensure democracy thrived.

I look forward to working as part of a team to make our excellent schools even better and to garner community support for strong public schools because of the promise they hold for our children’s future.

Jean Y. Durbin
Mount Lucas Road

To the Editor:

I am a graduate student at Princeton University writing in favor of pedestrianizing Witherspoon Street between Nassau and Spring streets.

During the pandemic, my friends and I have been frequent visitors to the new and inviting Witherspoon StrEATery. It is not surprising that we visit the restaurants and shops on Witherspoon more. Other area businesses benefit as well. Previously, we would take our lunch back to campus to eat. Now, with on-street seating, we are more likely to walk over to the Princeton Running Company to check out the new shoes, browse the books at Labyrinth, treat ourselves to bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea or ice cream at Palmer Square after lunch. Given how much business owners stand to benefit from increased pedestrian traffic and expanded outdoor dining, I hope they will champion our shared cause.   more

To the Editor:

Thanksgiving is a very special day in many ways. It is not a religious, patriotic, or commercial holiday, but rather a time for families to gather over a special meal and count the blessings in their lives. While this year looked different for so many, the families that HomeFront serves that are homeless or very low-income were especially thankful. Thankful to have a safe place to sleep at night, to have food on their table — and grateful for our caring community.

For the past 30 years HomeFront has called on all of you to provide these families with “baskets” filled with all the ingredients for a wonderful celebration. The response has been overwhelming, and this year was no exception! Donors even included gift cards for turkeys, Thanksgiving decorations, and groceries for the following week.

On behalf of all the families who were blessed with a very special meal we thank all the individuals, congregations, and corporations who made it possible, and hope their Thanksgivings were equally special.

Kelsey Espada
Volunteer Coordinator, HomeFront

Meghan Cubano
Director of Community Engagement, Homefront

Princeton Avenue, Lawrenceville

To the Editor:

I write to express gratitude to Princeton voters for re-electing me to a second term on the Princeton Board of Education. 

We have important work ahead, as a Board of Education and as a community, as we navigate through the pandemic and chart a path forward. I look forward to continuing, together with my dedicated Board colleagues, the work of securing a permanent superintendent, providing focused and impactful oversight, and ensuring that all of our children receive an equitable and effective education. 

I’ve been inspired and touched by those who have supported my past service, provided frank feedback about what we can do better for our kids, and encouraged me to run again. You supported my candidacy in so many ways — hosting Zoom calls, writing letters, speaking with friends and colleagues, and spreading the word about what the Board has accomplished so far and the importance of experience for the challenges ahead. Thank you.

It will be an honor to continue serving the 32,000 residents of Princeton. We are all in this together, and I look forward to continued dialogue and collaboration as we work together to prepare our children and our community for the future.

Beth Behrend
Riverside Drive

To the Editor:

I’m writing to express my support for Princeton opening Witherspoon Street to walkers and shoppers to create a distinctive and vibrant place that benefits merchants and local residents alike. I offer two thoughts for Princetonians to consider about this.

First, other communities in New Jersey have overcome their nervousness to create just such places, and have learned that direct experience is the best teacher.

Just before Thanksgiving, I spoke with the town administrator of Red Bank, New Jersey, about his experience converting two full blocks of Broad Street to a fully pedestrian-focused plaza through the summer and fall.

Red Bank’s first steps pedestrianizing Broad Street were tentative, experimental, and time-limited, and all town communications emphasized this. But as merchants and residents gained direct experience, positive reviews came thick and fast.

Now Red Bank is gearing up to make even more pedestrian-supporting changes. Next year, the town plans to expand the pedestrian plaza one block more, and will also make physical improvements to calm traffic and create a better pedestrian environment on nearby streets. Direct experience, and learning from that, has been the most important factor in making progress. more

To the Editor:

I‘m a longtime resident. I’m in town at least three times a day. I walk in at least once and I drive in. I drink coffee here. I buy lunch here. I buy clothes here. I buy lottery tickets here. I eat dinner here. You get the point. I’ve been doing this for 25 years. I use town. I really use town. I don’t wish it was somewhere else, I use it, I know it, I like it. I’ve also led large projects, deployed computer technology globally, and developed urban planning concepts that are still in use by the state of New Jersey. I have a feel for how things work and how things don’t work.

Princeton is at its worst when solving problems with a “known” solution. Think about this time last year when we couldn’t park because of our new parking solution. We don’t seem to know how it happened, it just appeared and it didn’t work—really didn’t work.

Now we are getting ready to apply the “known” solution to the Witherspoon Street problem. I’ve never quite understood “the Witherspoon Street problem” but nonetheless, we have a solution. The “known” solution is Witherspoon Street should have no cars and be for pedestrians only. I know there are other alternates, but that’s the “known” answer.

Plans for projects as complex and strategic as changing a north south arterial road require significant planning. It’s hard. Planning during a pandemic is fraught with problems. It’s harder. You’re measuring an artificial construct. Through traffic is off. Pedestrian traffic is off. University traffic is off. Everything is off. But wait, I’m falling into a trap, the trap of defending against the “known” solution.  more

To the Editor:

So many of you continue to generously support your favorite nonprofits as they navigate unprecedented challenges. You continue to help feed our neighbors, support childcare services, and fund many other important causes, including the arts and the environment. Thank you.

As we approach the season of giving, and you think about supporting the charitable organizations that mean so much to you, my organization, the Princeton Area Community Foundation wants to provide you with the expert giving guidance that we have already offered to so many of our Donor Advised Fundholders:

For COVID relief in particular, support organizations that serve vulnerable populations that were disproportionately affected by the pandemic, including low-income families, seniors, and people of color.

Support existing funds that pool gifts for great impact and quickly distribute grants, such as our COVID-19 Relief and Recovery Fund and our New Jersey Arts and Culture Recovery Fund. Learn more at www.pacf.org. more

November 25, 2020

By Donald Gilpin

Anna Leader

A live, masked, physically distanced audience was in attendance as the lights dimmed at the Grand Theatre de Luxembourg on the evening of October 2 for the debut performance  of Deliver Us, a play about the coronavirus specially commissioned by Luxembourg’s national theater.

The 24-year-old playwright, Anna Leader, was not present, however. She was in her dormitory apartment at The Pennington School in the midst of her first full semester of teaching English and French, and overseeing the young women boarders.

Born in the United States and raised in Luxembourg, Leader has been a writer since childhood, author of a number of award-winning poems, plays, and novels, and an aspiring teacher since her high school years.

Settling at Pennington this fall was Leader’s third move to New Jersey. She came to Princeton University from Luxembourg in 2014 and graduated in 2018. She then worked for a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., for a year before returning to Princeton to earn her New Jersey teacher certification through the University’s Teacher Preparation Program in January 2020, after which she went back to her job in D.C. She returned again to New Jersey in August this year to begin her teaching career at Pennington.

Leader realizes that her life in Luxembourg and the United States, and in the worlds of teaching and writing, offers many options as she contemplates her future.  more

SUPER SHOPPING SOURCE: “The store is open for everyone. This is a destination place, and customers are coming from all over the area, including Princeton. People know they can get a good price. There is always a good deal here,” says Annie Fox, resource development director, Habitat for Humanity Burlington and Mercer Counties. Shown are Habitat for Humanity personnel and Hamilton community representatives at the Hamilton Habitat for Humanity ReStore’s ribbon cutting in Independence Plaza, 2465 South Broad Street.

By Jean Stratton

Anew shopping opportunity is available at the Independence Plaza at 2465 South Broad Street in Hamilton.

Not only does it offer a wide variety of household items and building supplies at discounted prices, it is also a means to help the Habitat for Humanity program.

The Hamilton Habitat for Humanity ReStore is part of the retail operation, which provides funds to help support the overall Habitat for Humanity (HFH) program.

Established in 1976 in Americus, Georgia, HFH was founded by Millard and Linda Fuller, who developed the idea of ”partnership housing.”

Affordable Houses

The concept centered on those in need of adequate shelter working side by side with volunteers to build decent, affordable houses. They would be constructed at no profit. New homeowners’ house payments would be combined with no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fundraising to create “The Fund for Humanity,” which would then be used to build more homes. more

To the Editor:

Brick and mortar locations of cafes, restaurants, and pubs are often called “third places.” Places where we develop a sense of belonging away from home and work. Places where we foster associative connections filling in the cracks and crevices of our relationships. I look at our entire downtown as the collective third place — the only shared neighborhood that belongs to all of us. Here, social cohesion manifests.

In 1993 when my business partner and I were searching for the perfect American town in which to open Small World Coffee, Princeton made us put on the brakes. It boasted a healthy retail mix, internationally acclaimed institutions, commercial and residential walkability, access to NYC, and a diverse, cosmopolitan community. Most important? Princeton had huge heart and deep soul.

I was 27 years old when we opened, and I turn 55 any day now! I’ve spent half of my life living and working in this community. We loved raising our children here and benefited from this “third place” feeling in our downtown business district. Once our kids were old enough, they would walk up from Community Park School at the end of the day to meet me at work, have a snack, and then go on excursions in town on their own. The library!, jaZams!, Ice cream! All of these shop owners knew (and still know) our kids, and held a caring, watchful eye over them. more

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Board of Housing Initiatives of Princeton (HIP), I thank everyone involved in HIP’s Annual Rent Party, which was enormously successful this year, in spite of the challenges of COVID.  The party was a COVID-safe virtual celebration consisting of a series of videos that brought to life the art and music that thrived during the Harlem Renaissance, a time when rent parties originated as a vehicle to help folks pay the rent. HIP’s virtual Rent Party raised the much-needed funds HIP will use to help our neighbors who currently struggle to pay their rent and stay safely in their homes.

Some of Princeton’s most renowned scholars and citizens gave their valuable time and contributed their voices to these videos to make them so powerfully inspiring:  Professor Eddie Glaude Jr., Tracy K. Smith, Ruha Benjamin, Mayor Liz Lempert, and Professor Wallace D. Best. Our newly re-elected senator, Cory Booker, showed his support for the HIP mission by making an appearance, even though he was in the midst of a demanding political season. more

To the Editor:

Throughout the past year many residents of Princeton have contacted The Watershed Institute for help addressing flooding in and around their homes. Because of changes in precipitation patterns due to climate change and continuing development pressure, flooding in Princeton is getting worse. Our water quality has suffered as well. Beloved water bodies in open spaces including Mountain Lake and the pond in Smoyer Park were covered with duckweed this summer, a sign of an excess of nutrients in the water, and a harmful algal bloom was identified in Rosedale Lake near Pennington.

We can address our flooding issues and protect and improve water quality by using plants and soil to capture and clean the polluted stormwater runoff that is causing these flooding and water quality issues. The state recently amended its stormwater regulations to require the use of these strategies, which are known as “green infrastructure.” We applaud Princeton Council for introducing a new stormwater management ordinance on November 9 that goes beyond the state’s basic requirements. This new ordinance builds on enhancements made in 2017 by the Council and incorporates additional protections that would be among the strongest in the state. As a result, we will see many more rain gardens and green roofs in town. Using green infrastructure provides many well-documented benefits including reduced temperatures in areas with high concentrations of blacktop and other impervious surfaces, habitat for birds and pollinators, improvement in property values, and positive impacts on mental health. more

To the Editor:

I write in full agreement with the recent letter from Brian Levinson [“Noting That Witherspoon Street is a Silver Lining in Year of Pandemic,” Mailbox, November 11]. I share Mr. Levinson’s admiration for the changes that have been made to Witherspoon Street this year. It has been a delight to walk through, seeing people safely enjoying food outdoors, supporting local businesses, and contributing to a pleasant atmosphere in this challenging time.

I understand that Princeton Council is now considering long-term changes to Witherspoon Street as part of a planned engineering project. I hope that Council will create a traffic-free space on lower Witherspoon Street, where residents and visitors might enjoy public art, live music, and outdoor dining. This is a generational opportunity to enhance the lives of people who love to spend time in downtown Princeton. more

To the Editor, 

At this time of reckoning with the history of racism in Princeton, including the renaming of the former John Witherspoon Middle School in light of Witherspoon’s enslavement of African Americans and opposition to abolition [“A ‘Teachable Moment’ as Princeton Works to Rename Middle School,” page 1, November 18], I urge consideration of renaming Witherspoon Street to “Robeson Street.”

The name would be especially fitting as “Robeson Street” would run past the historic Robeson House, the Paul Robeson sculpture in front of the Arts Council, and alongside Princeton’s historic African American neighborhood (and alongside Palmer Square, the original construction of which displaced Princeton’s African American residents).

“Robeson Street” would intersect and complement the existing Paul Robeson Place. Black Lives Matter and names matter — it’s time to do the right thing.

Shannon Daley-Harris
Dorann Avenue

To the Editor:

In light of the unprecedented events of 2020, there is a renewed interest in reconsidering how lives are lived and how we commune as a people and a community. Creating a pedestrian-only thoroughfare on Witherspoon Street would allow for stronger community building as public places allow for that to happen.

Meals are more enjoyable without car exhaust, and letting go of car-centric planning in our charming and historic town is in line with Princeton’s climate action plan. Moreover, the ability to walk, shop, dine, and commune will distinguish Princeton’s central business district from other town centers and attract more visitors, which is good for business.

Monica Neufang
Chestnut Street

November 18, 2020

BETTER BUILDING: “We do everything from historic renovation to modern glass and steel projects. As we near a quarter of a century of restoring, adding on to, and building some of Princeton’s most distinguished homes, the gratification that comes from collaborating with area architects remains as strong as ever.” Tom Pinneo (far right), co-owner with Chris Myers (second from right), of Pinneo Construction, is shown with the Pinneo team at a recent project.

By Jean Stratton

Authenticity, transparency, collaboration.

These are the core values, the foundation of Pinneo Construction.

When Tom Pinneo established his company in 1996 at 372 Wall Street, these principles were uppermost. “My partner Chris Myers, who joined me in 2002, and I have been deliberate in creating a process-driven company that prioritizes financial transparency and collaboration with our clients and their architects. This sets us apart.”

A lot sets Pinneo Construction apart, including the background and experience of its owner. A graduate of Princeton High School and Middlebury College, Tom Pinneo earned an M.A. in Eastern Asian studies from Stanford University. more

To the Editor:

I am the owner of Miya Table & Home on Palmer Square. As a relatively new resident and business owner in Princeton, I am continually amazed by this town. Once the pandemic hit, individual volunteers and organizations popped up to help. Local businesses immediately stepped up to donate goods or services. When local businesses needed help, individuals who could donated to the businesses’ Go Fund Me accounts.

The township set up the Princeton Small Business Resiliency Fund with help from the University and other groups.  We at Miya Table & Home created shirts and bags to show Princeton township pride and to raise money for the resiliency fund. When we approached other business owners to help spread the word, they did so without a moment’s hesitation. Groups of students and faculty offered their services for free to local businesses.

During the initial shutdown, some customers told us that they planned to patronize the local businesses that were still operating every week just to help keep them afloat. When we asked the community to make origami paper cranes for the Princeton Paper Crane Project to honor lives lost during these challenging times, we imagined we would get a couple thousand cranes. We received almost 18,000. Ross Wishnick, from Human Services, helped to distribute information and connect us with the right people. The Arts Council of Princeton took a chance on the project and welcomed us into their gallery space. Princeton is a pretty special place and we feel very fortunate to be a part of it.  more

To the Editor:

The Friends of the Princeton Public Library would like to thank everyone who joined us on November 7 for the first evening of our Beyond Words 2020. The conversation with David Remnick, Henry Finder, and Elizabeth Kolbert was engaging and thought-provoking  — ranging from climate change to the role of the media in public discourse to the politics of the day. We are grateful to HarperCollins Publishers, to our lead sponsor, The Gould Group, and to all of our individual donors and corporate sponsors for making Beyond Words 2020 a success.

The second evening of Beyond Words 2020 is Saturday, December 5 at 7 p.m. on Crowdcast with Bakari Sellers in conversation with Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, discussing Mr. Sellers’ memoir, My Vanishing Country. Our third evening will be on Saturday, January 9, 2021 at 7 p.m. on Crowdcast with Kate Andersen Brower discussing her book Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump with Princeton Professor Kevin Kruse. Separate tickets for each of these events are now available on the Library’s website for $100 each, which includes the digital link and a hardback copy of the speaker’s recent book.  more

November 11, 2020

SUPERIOR SOLUTIONS: “We are a client-based interior design practice, providing cutting-edge solutions for interior design dilemmas. We provide constant, clear communication of the design process every step of the way.” Freda Howard of Freda Howard Interiors LLC looks forward to helping clients with her design expertise. (Photo by Frank Digiovanni).

By Jean Stratton

Dealing with dreams and making them come true is Freda Howard’s business. Taking someone’s vision and creating a new design that reflects what was only an ephemeral hope and turning it into reality is a very special skill.

“Enjoyment of the space is the goal,” she points out. The design must work for the client and reflect their way of life.”

Owner of Freda Howard Interiors LLC at 195 Nassau Street, Howard was interested in design at an early age. Growing up, she enjoyed trying out color combinations and new furniture arrangements.

“I was interested in design as a young girl,” she recalls. “I liked color and seeing how things could be put together and arranged. Also, my mother sewed, and made draperies, and I learned from her.” more

To the Editor:

As colder weather sets in, we worry for the future of our stores and cafes. Concerns over COVID spikes are increasing, and we are heading towards a holiday season with new challenges due to the limits on capacity in our spaces. We thus want to urge everyone to make this your season of shopping local.

Since March, we have kept open thanks to the support of our customers, the thoughtful leadership in this town, an initial shot in the arm through the government PPP program, and our amazing employees. With the exception so far of additional government support, these continue to be the things that sustain us.

We are part of a delicate ecosystem, in which our businesses can only rise together and also fall together. Every new vacant storefront weakens our community. As an incentive to all of you to honor and support our inter-dependence, from November 16 through December 31, 2020, we will be honoring receipts for $20 or more spent at any of our businesses by giving 10 percent off at any of the other participating businesses within two days of the original purchase. You will help us most if you shop Mondays through Thursdays. So make the rounds, show your receipts, and save!

Sixty-eight cents of every dollar you spend locally stays in the local economy in the form of jobs, tax revenues, and more. By contrast, none of the money you spend with online retailers directly benefits your community. Where you spend your money has a direct effect on the kind of world we will all live in. more

To the Editor:

I write in support of the initiative pursued by Quiet Princeton (quietprinceton.org) supported by Sustainable Princeton (sustainableprinceton.org), the Princeton Environmental Commission (princetonnj.gov/boards-committees/environmental-commission), and the Princeton Board of Health (princetonnj.gov/boards-committees/board-of-health), which strives to enhance the health and quality of life of our residents by encouraging the transition from gas powered landscaping tools to electric powered. This issue has appeared in the Town Topics  Mailbox section on several prior occasions, but again deserves comment because the fall season is upon us which finds property owners, business and residence alike, attentive to leaf removal.

Some neighborhood homeowners apparently remove their home’s leaves weekly, thus seemingly nearly every day, including Sundays which are supposed to be a day free of commercial landscaping, and a symphony of dueling leaf blowers is heard around town. Perhaps since more Princetonians are spending more time at home because of the pandemic, there is heightened awareness of the noise and air pollution that gas powered landscaping equipment generate. This should encourage us to bring this concern to those town officials who can enact legislation to address this issue. (Email addresses of Princeton Council members are available at princetonnj.gov/council). more