May 27, 2015

To the Editor:

When will Princeton Council members realize that when they make decisions behind closed doors, against the wishes of residents, that they will always face opposition! A majority of the Princeton Council members recently decided to reject a unanimous request made by all seven families directly affected by the plan to place sidewalks on Poe Road. The request to place a sidewalk on just one side of Poe Road would spare four families consisting of senior citizens and physically challenged persons the considerable burden of snow removal. Since this request was nothing more than what has been given to the residents of other local street where sidewalks were added, why would the Council deny this to senior citizens and those physically challenged? Council members should know that seniors on fixed incomes cannot afford to pay a service for snow removal.

It is too bad that Mayor Lempert, who in her official candidate profile states, “I will implement Advisory Planning Districts to give residents a stronger voice in decision-making and to help neighborhoods retain their own special identity and sense of place,” could not convince her colleagues on the Council to listen to the unanimous request of Poe Road’s families. If sidewalks on both sides of the street are essential, isn’t it odd that members on the Council living on streets without sidewalks on both sides are clamoring to put them in other neighborhoods, but not their own?

The Council’s decision forcing sidewalks on Poe Road is a textbook example on how responsible and responsive government should never act: from the three-day notice given for the surprise meeting during August vacation time announcing the sidewalk, to the August 4 meeting itself when Poe residents who could attend were told that discussion of the sidewalk was forbidden, right up to the recent Council decision to turn a deaf ear to residents. At that meeting, when the Council noted that there is little foot traffic on Poe to warrant sidewalk construction, one Council member stated that surely sidewalks would encourage the masses to walk on Poe! Are Council members willing to risk precious taxpayer’s money in a Field of Dreams fantasy of “just build it and they will come?”

The sidewalk on Poe will be off the current sidewalk grid. Since there are now, and for the foreseeable future, no sidewalks on Princeton-Kingston Road or on the adjoining section of Prospect Road, the Poe Road sidewalks paid for by taxpayers will be Princeton’s “sidewalks to nowhere.” The Council’s claim that sidewalks on Poe would reduce school bus costs in Princeton will not materialize until and unless sidewalks are constructed on Princeton-Kingston Road — a state road with historic status.

There are, of course, some level headed Council members on the sidewalk issue, but they unfortunately are in a minority. Why does the Council keep spending taxpayers’ money on projects nobody asks for or even wants? Apparently the Council members from the former Borough have adopted a “one size fits all” approach to Princeton in their current obsession to cement the Princeton countryside!

Robert De Martino

Princeton-Kingston Road

To the Editor:

June 2 is the primary election, and I am writing to urge Democrats to vote for Heather Howard and Lance Liverman, two strong Council candidates running for re-election. They have served us with distinction, focused on creating a more effective and responsive government and a welcoming and just community. On the Public Safety Committee, they have worked with the police department to re-introduce community policing and strengthen relations with the community. They bring diverse backgrounds and a shared commitment to keeping Princeton a livable community.

Walter R. Bliss, Jr.

Moore Street

To the Editor:

Your headline “School Expansion Worries Neighbors” caught my eye. Although I don’t take sides regarding the proposed expansion of PRISMS, I have very strong opinions when it comes to Princeton neighborhoods and schools.

As a resident of Walnut Lane, I now avoid walking down my own street so as not to see the “architectural” addition to Princeton High School created there by Hillier Architects. I believe that old and modern architecture can go hand in hand. (Just visit London and you’ll see how well the two can marry.) Our high school’s addition, however, is at odds with the school’s historic building exterior and with our neighborhood.

Schools aren’t just any buildings. My research shows that childhood experience of place remains with us forever, unconsciously influencing our sense of design. Further research indicates that even dementia patients often can recall the look and feel of hometown schools when so many other memories fade. Is the concrete bunker that now forms the back of Princeton High what we want our children to conceptualize and remember as a well-designed environment?

I call upon the Princeton Regional School’s facilities committee to find a remedy to the high school’s visual ills. As his legacy, perhaps Mr. Hillier, himself, as a town leader, would like to contribute to the commissioning of a great public artwork to improve the addition’s façade. We need an inspiring, appropriate intervention to turn this architectural potato into a well-remembered peach.

Toby Israel

Walnut Lane

Days Work

Since coming to Princeton two years ago to become executive director of the municipality’s office of human services, Elisa Neira has been putting her bilingual skills to good use. Originally from Ecuador, Ms. Neira immediately began partnering with local police to improve community relations with minority residents, particularly those whose first language is Spanish. She spearheaded Princeton’s commitment to the Affordable Care Act, manages the Family Support Services Department and has developed a newsletter with resources and information for families. Among other good things, she collaborates with local schools and food banks to provide a supplemental weekend food program for children, the Send Hunger Packing Program, known as SHUPP. Interviewed in her office in Monument Hall, Ms. Neira, who is 27, tells me she’s an “open book.” Here, in her own words, she talks about the job she loves and about her recent love affair with the land of her birth.

“I grew up in coastal city of Guayaquil, where my Dad ran a business he inherited from his father. He was an engineer and traveled a lot, doing electrical work. His family has been in the United States since the 1950s and when I was a child we often visited my grandma and my aunts in the summers. There was always the possibility of my family moving to the United States and I was in an English language school since I was five, at an all girl’s Catholic school. I came here with my Mom, Teresa, and my Dad, Walter, when I was 11, in the spring of 2001.

We first settled in Bridgeton, South Jersey, but I spent the first summer visiting cousins in Canada—I have family everywhere—and when I got back my parents had moved to Woodstown, where they thought the schools would be better for me. My parents still live there and they love it. I like to spend as much time with them there as possible.

Coming here as an immigrant myself and being bilingual, I found that it was natural for me to be helping other immigrants. I grew up in a town that had few minorities and learned how helpful it was to be bilingual in Spanish and English. I did a lot of volunteering. After graduating high school, I went to Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. My bachelor’s degree is in social work and Spanish translation and interpretation. As an undergraduate, I was clueless at first, not knowing what to study. I took courses in biology and in French and literature and sociology. Then I took “Introduction to Social Work,” which not only introduced the concepts of social work but also offered experience in the field. It was taught by Duwayne Battle and he became my mentor. I am a doer and social work is much more hands-on than sociology. After that I went on to take a master of social work, client center management at Fordham University in New York.

My first job was with the New Jersey Association of the Deaf-Blind. I was a department of one and so I learned a lot over the four years I was there. Then one day, I saw the Princeton job described on a blog. Although I had experience working for a non-profit, I didn’t have any in local government but I applied. I didn’t believe I would get the job and when I did, I was amazed. It happened; they trusted me!

When I first came to Princeton, I heard people ask, why is there a social services department in this wealthy town? What is there to worry about in Princeton?. I learned very quickly from the nine-member Human Services Commission about the challenges, even here. Still, I wanted to hear about the needs of community,from the people themselves and shortly after I arrived I began a community needs assessment (CNA).

Being a social worker, I knew all about needs assessment and that was my first challenge. I was fortunate that a volunteer who arrived from London about a month after I came here, Deanna, is great with statistics. We did this together. We researched other models and found one in Snohomish in Washington State. We had very helpful conversations with them.

This was, for me, the best way of learning about the community, local organizations and community leaders. We spoke with 200 households, and with people in public housing, affordable housing, and we had four focus groups: Latinos, Seniors, Singles, and Families. The CNA is about to wrap up and we will be presenting a report to the mayor and Council. It’s a long report but it’s important as it will allow us to better serve those in the community who are most vulnerable, people who may have limited resources and, in some cases, limited access to education.

Every day is different. The first business day of the month I meet with those on public welfare assistance, about 35 clients currently come in for cash assistance and/or welfare checks, their only income. For those in need, we may also pay rent or cover their mortgage for up to 12 months, help with transportation, gas money for medical appointments, for utilities. But we don’t just hand out checks, we help with finding jobs, dealing with applications , connecting with other services.

People who qualify for this help may be out of a job and have exhausted their unemployment benefits; they may be physically or mentally disabled and have exhausted or for some reason not qualified for disability relief or they may be in the process of applying for Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability, which can take a long time.

Since I began, the members of the Human Services Commission have provided me with invaluable support and much has been accomplished because of them. This is a team effort and we now have the Send Hunger Packing Program, the ‘Serving Princeton’ newsletter; we have founded the immigration subcommittee and tackled the issue of wage theft, which resulted in getting the landscape workers ordinance in place.

Washington D.C

Earlier this year, I went to Washington with Mayor Liz Lempert with the My Brother’s Keeper Challenge program. When I got the email from the mayor about the visit to The White House, I couldn’t believe it. We met with White House staff, although we were hoping, of course, to meet with President Obama, but it wasn’t to be. Traveling by train was great; it allowed us time for debriefing on the way back; there was a lot of information to take in that day. Liz and I felt very blessed to be working in Princeton, which, although it has its challenges, it doesn’t have the serious problems of violence that are faced by other municipalities. After that visit, I came back to Princeton wanting to do more for kids through the My Brother’s Keeper program.

There are so many people doing great things in Princeton. We want to support them and maximize their efforts. One way we can do that is by identifying gaps and help them in measuring outcomes—that’s one thing that busy organizations don’t always have time for, measuring the effectiveness of their efforts.

Exploring Ecuador

I live in Lawrenceville near the Lawrenceville-Hopewell trail and I enjoy riding my bike there and kayaking on the Delaware and Raritan Canal and on the lake in Mercer County Park. This part of New Jersey is great for access to New York City. In December of 2013, I went back to Ecuador for the first time in 14 years. It was wonderful and I’ve visited four times in the last two years, traveling the country seeing as much of it as I can. When I lived there with my parents, the coast and Quito was all I knew. Since then, I’ve discovered beaches, mountains, and the Amazon rain forest. I have fallen in love with Ecuador and my goal is to get to know it better. This October, I plan to visit the Galapagos.

May 20, 2015

To the Editor:

We are outraged to hear that before the school board settles the teacher’s contract, we are spending additional taxpayer’s funds on another fancy label called IB (International Baccalaureate).

IB is an international designation for schools that meet a certain requirement as defined by the International Baccalaureate Organization. IB schools are often great schools, but an IB label does not automatically guarantee it to be a best school. Good international schools in other countries sometimes seek IB designation to make themselves more comparable to their American peers so that they are more easily recognizable by American universities. Schools in poorer areas sometimes seek the designation to differentiate themselves from other urban, less academic driven schools. Princeton is in neither category.

Moreover, IB designation requires extensive financial investments, not only in the initial three-year approval process, but also on an on-going basis annually. Simply put, IB is not cheap! We would have supported such an initiative if we were not in today’s penny-pinching economic environment. Given the fact that we cannot even secure a teacher’s contract after more than a year of negotiation, we strongly suggest the school board stop wasting taxpayers’ money, and stay focused on more pressing issues such as settling with the teachers.

When the money is tight, let’s invest in those who make a difference in our kids’ lives every day rather than more expensive labels.

Becca Moss, Janice Fine

Nassau Street,

Robert Dodge

Maple Street

To NJ Transit:

In response to the agency’s proposal to discontinue the 655 Princeton-Plainsboro bus route, I would like to express my concern on the record that eliminating this service would be disruptive to the Mercer County region and to the Princeton community.

As you may know, at the time of the relocation of the hospital from downtown Princeton to neighboring Plainsboro Township significant concerns were raised, as the proximity of the hospital had always been an important benefit to nearby residents who often times have fewer transportation options, relying upon walking, biking, or public transportation. Thus, the introduction of a new bus route, the 655, was strongly welcomed, as it was seen as an important way to accommodate the employees, patients, and hospital visitors who prior to the move, had been able to access the hospital without a car.

It is my hope that NJ Transit would consider the real hardship termination of this service would have on riders and the barriers to a vital regional medical service it would appear to impose.

I urge you to maintain the 655 Princeton-Plainsboro bus route.

Andrew Koontz

Freeholder, Mercer County

To the Editor:

In response to the changes proposed at the May 12 meeting concerning the reconstruction of Valley Road, we find the 8-foot-wide construction of an asphalt bike lane which would replace the current sidewalk a poor plan. This proposed lane is both unaesthetic, unnecessary, and environmentally intrusive. We would be forced to give up a 4-foot swath of our lawns, gardens, and shrubs for the sake of this proposed bike lane.

Being residents of Valley Road for nearly 20 years, we have observed the use of our sidewalk. Most people walk on it. About 95 percent of the usage of our sidewalk is for walkers. The few people who ride bikes sometimes use the sidewalk and sometimes the wide enough shoulder of the road. Actually it is one of the roads in Princeton where this shoulder is wide enough for a bike. Elsewhere in town the bikers (including us) share narrow roads with cars.

We urge Mayor Lempert and the engineers of the town to withdraw this inflated, useless plan and apply common sense and respect our neighborhood.

Ilona Melker, Neil Melker

Valley Road

To the Editor:

On May 9 McCarter Theatre Center held its annual Gala, and we would like to thank the community for supporting this effort. The funds raised from this spectacular evening will be used to support our artistic and educational programming throughout the region.

The centerpiece of the evening was an incredible performance by the musical group Pink Martini delivered to a packed-to-the-rafters theatre. The concert was preceded by an elegant, seated dinner for 360 guests catered by Jimmy Duffy’s Catering and followed by a late-into-the-night after-party featuring cocktails, desserts, and plenty of music and dancing.

The success of this event is only possible with the support of the many individuals and local corporations that provide financial contributions, enthusiastic attendance, and volunteer their time on our Gala committee, and donate auction items. On behalf of the entire staff of McCarter Theatre, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to these tireless supporters.

Special thanks go out to our fantastic Gala committee and to committee co-chairpersons — Timothy M. Andrews, Cheryl Goldman, and Liza Morehouse — who orchestrated a striking evening for our guests.

Lending their support to this year’s Gala at the Gold level of sponsorship were six generous corporations: Bloomberg, Cure Auto Insurance, The Gould Group of Wells Fargo, Maiden Re, Mathematica Policy Research, and Saul Ewing. We are deeply grateful for their support.

We also want to give a special thanks to Princeton University, not only for their longstanding support of this event, but for their unwavering support every season.

One can’t help but be awestruck, and humbled a bit, when so many in a community join together in support of a cultural treasure such as McCarter. We are deeply grateful for their support.

Timothy J. Shields,

Managing Director

Emily Mann,

Artistic Director

To the Editor;

We are writing with regard to the contract dispute between the Princeton Board of Education, and the teacher’s union (PREA). Now that the mediation has failed to deliver a contract, and the parties will move to fact finding, the shield of confidentiality is gone. We urge the Board of Education to communicate with the public and let us know the reason for the failure of a resolution. It is our understanding from the public Board of Education meetings, that the Princeton Public Schools have a surplus of money — well in excess of the approximately $400,000 that the PREA is seeking to fairly resolve the contract matter. This was surprising to learn, because since last fall, the Board has maintained that while they honor and respect teachers, they simply don’t have the resources to pay them. Now that these resources have come to light, what is the Board’s reason for not moving forward and settling this contract?

The recent “swatting events” in several of the schools have reminded us that there are people who may intend to do harm to our children. Every day, we leave our children in the care of teachers knowing that they will do their best to look after them. Isn’t it time we look after our teachers and give them a contract, so they can focus on our number one priority, our children? Because not only have our teachers been affected by this contract turmoil, so too have our children. Some school activities, led voluntarily by teachers, have been drastically changed or canceled, altering our children’s education experience. The Board’s lack of leadership has resonated throughout the community. Enough is enough.

There seems to be a lot of misinformation spread throughout the community as to why this contract matter has not yet been resolved. We are hoping to facilitate a public forum before the end of the school year, to give members of the community the opportunity to ask questions and get answers on this issue that is so vitally important to Princeton.

Jonathan and Carrie Besler,

Dempsey Avenue

Debbie Bronfeld, Dafna Kendal

Dodds Lane

Krissi Farrimond,

Michelle Mews

Nadia Di Gregorio,

William Livingston Court

To the Editor:

Recent events have brought to light the unfortunate, prevalent, and detrimental racism that exists in our country. It is often easy to feel detached from the incidents in Ferguson, New York, and Baltimore, but the Urban Congo performance (when Princeton University athletes mocked African culture) demonstrated there is so much work to be done within our own town as well.

Groups such as Not in Our Town, on which I serve as the first youth board member, are actively fighting against racism in Princeton. Not in Our Town’s goal is “that Princeton will grow as a town where everyone is safe and respected.” I have been truly inspired by the activism of my fellow board members as they advocate for justice, equality, and peace.

Redefy, the teen organization that I have founded to defy stereotypes and promote acceptance, was fortunate to work with Not in Our Town at its booth at Communiversity and in a social media campaign. Along with Princeton CHOOSE (the Princeton High School group formed to fight racism) and Not in Our Town, Redefy campaigned with the hashtag #PrincetonAgainstRacism to assert that our town will not tolerate intolerance.

Redefy took more than 100 portraits as a part of our #PrincetonAgainstRacism initiative, which demonstrate Princeton citizens’ commitment to equality. At the Not in Our Town booth, countless positive conversations could be heard about social justice. The atmosphere was truly one of activism. People of all ages were engaging in meaningful discussions.

I am so incredibly thankful to Not in Our Town, my Redefy team members, and the population of Princeton.

Ziad Ahmed

Princeton Day School Student, Derwent Drive

To the Editor:

I read with concern the past week’s front-page article “Council Weighs In On Overnight Parking” [Town Topics, May 13].The three solutions listed (“leave the boundaries as they are, adjust them slightly, or make no overnight parking a town-wide implementation”) overlook three significant issues:

1. Removing overnight parking entirely is neither fair nor reasonable because a number of Princeton residences do not possess any off-street parking. For example on Chestnut Street, where I live, there are three duplexes, equaling six residences, without driveways. If all overnight parking is removed, these residents will be completely unable to keep even a single car anywhere near their homes. Historically, these properties have always had the ability to park at least one car. Eliminating this option would represent a hardship for homeowners who bought their residences based on this knowledge.

2. The current overnight parking permits for one car per property do not include all-day street parking. This has long struck me as a poor idea for the following reasons. In a town which prides itself on its environmentalism, residents who live within easy walking distance of most services (grocery, restaurants, banks, drugstores, train, etc.) and sometimes also their workplaces, are nonetheless required to drive to work or otherwise move their cars at two-hour intervals, throughout the day, six days per week. When residential parking permits are reviewed and harmonized, I strongly urge the Princeton Council to allow residents with a parking permit to leave a car parked in one spot throughout the day as well as overnight.

3. In addition to the environmental cost of having to move one’s car unnecessarily throughout the day, there is a social justice issue: please consider that the question of overnight on-street parking mostly affects residents in Princeton’s lower-priced homes. The three duplexes on Chestnut Street, which are typical of the properties with no off-street parking, have a valuation at or below the 25th percentile of average Princeton home prices. Let’s not penalize homeowners for their property’s lack of a driveway.

Julie Landweber

Chestnut Street

May 13, 2015

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Board of Trustees and the staff of the Princeton Education Foundation, I would like to thank everyone in the Princeton community who supported our “Sculpting the Future” Spring Gala and Silent Auction. We raised almost $60,000 net that will directly benefit our public schools’ teachers and students and will further our goal of supporting excellence in education in the Princeton Public Schools. Since its inception, the Princeton Education Foundation has contributed almost $2 million to the Princeton Public Schools for capital improvements, educational programs, and teacher support.

We are especially grateful to the Princeton Education Foundation’s lead sponsor, Georgeanne Gould Moss, The Gould Group of Wells Fargo Advisors and to our Salutatorian sponsors, Bai Brands, LLC; Roger and Theresa Liao and W. Bryce Thompson Foundation.

Thank you to our Summa Cum Laude sponsors, The Bank of Princeton, Beatrice Bloom, Weichert Realtors, Hamilton Dental Associates, Herring Properties, and OnePrinceton. Thank you to our Magna Cum Laude sponsors, Jean Durbin Esq. and Walter Bliss, Esq., Charles Schwab, Dr. Tyl & Dr. Fogarty, Dennigan Cahill Smith, Mathnasium of Princeton, NT Callaway Henderson Southeby’s Intl. Realty, and PNC Bank.

We are deeply grateful for the sumptuous community tasting stations provided by: Alchemist & Barrister, Asian Bistro, Cross Culture, Eno Terra, Jammin’ Crepes, Mediterra Restaurant and Taverna, McCaffrey’s Food Markets, The Taco Truck, Teresa Caffe, Corner Bakery Café, LiLLiPiES Bakeshop, Lindt Chocolate, Seasons 52, WildFlour Bakery and Café, Bai Brands, LLC, River Horse Brewing Company and Unionville Vineyards.

The community businesses and individuals that provided Silent Auction merchandise are too many to name and are a testament to the generosity of community support in our mission to provide excellence in the Princeton Public Schools. We are also grateful to have the support of many individual Benefactors and Patrons.

We would like to recognize the hard work of our Gala committee, the group of dedicated volunteers that planned and executed this year’s event, led by Co-Chairs Nicole Bergman, Jean Durbin, and Theresa Liao. Our Auction Co-Chairs included Sue Bowen, Milena Deluca and Stacy Pibl. Our Wine Grab Co-Chair was led by Mara Franceshi and Décor Co-Chairs included Liz Kaman and Alex Escobar. Thank you to the volunteers that worked to set up and during the event to keep everything running smoothly.

Finally, we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone in the community who participated in this important fundraiser by volunteering time, purchasing tickets, donating wine, or bidding on items in our auction. Thank you for joining with us to say that our children’s public education matters!

Fran Jones

Executive Director, Princeton Education Foundation

To the Editor:

The Princeton Special Needs Prom on May 8 was our most successful yet. With attendance at over 100, it really was a FIESTA!

We are grateful to a long list of incredible people who enable us to offer this annual event to our adult and teenaged neighbors with special needs.

Thanks to John Groeger, Stacie Ryan, and Joe Scullion of the Recreation Department for all of their hard work, and particularly heartfelt thanks to the Rec’s Program Supervisor Joe Marrolli for his extraordinary commitment to creative programming. Princeton is very lucky to have him!

Special thanks to Jaime Escarpeta and Alicia White, our photographers who once again donated their time and sent every participant home with a beautiful formal portrait. Thank you, too, to our DJ Drew Zimmerman, and to the Mexican Mariachi Grill for supplying a fabulous dinner and being so easy to work with. And huge thanks to Olivia and Courtney Browndorf for generously donating sombreros and other fun favors.

We are fortunate to have an exceptional group of busy professional women who carve out time each year to bring the prom to life: Katerina Bubnovsky, Ann Diver, Radha Iyer, Hana Oresky, and Susan Simonelli. Thank you also to event volunteers Oleg Chebotarev, Liz Cutler, John Diver, Sethu Iyer, Tom Kreutz, Katie Lynch, Joan Morelli, Abitha Ravichander, Trudy Sugiura, and Valerie Walker. We so appreciate you all!

But it is indisputably our student volunteers who make the prom such a tremendous event. Thank you to these outstanding middle, high school, and college students: Joanne Adebayo, Matthew Ams, Caroline Black, Josh Bonaparte, Olivia Browndorf, Anna Cao, Callia Cordasco, Sonia DaSilva, Chris Diver, Phoebe Elias, Amy Hauer, Barbara Kaminska, Marysia Kaminska, Caley Knox, Jack Lynch, Kaity Mattia, John Mochia, Lauren Morelli, Kathryn Murphy, Ella Quainton, Rhea Ravichander, Caroline Sasser, Grace Seward, Jessica Sheridan, Kaitlin St. Amour, Sydney Vogel, Charlotte Walker, Jimmy Walker, Eli Wasserman, and Isaac Webb.

It’s hard to express how much it means to us when our community leaders engage with our population. Thank you to Jo Butler of the Princeton Council, and to Leslie Germaine and Dick Nosker of the Recreation Commission, for joining us.

And finally, thank you to my colleagues on the PSS Board. Now in our 15th year, these dedicated volunteers continue to make special needs sports and social programming available to this wonderful community: Katerina Bubnovsky, Carmine Conti, Ann Diver, Hana Oresky, John Pecora, John Rutledge, and Barbara Young.

The next and last dance of the season is our pool party, dance, and BBQ at the Princeton Community Pool on June 5. 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 or

Deborah Martin Norcross

Co-President, Princeton Special Sports

To the Editor:

Two front page stories in the May 6 issue of Town Topics, one describing the negotiating breakdown between the Board of Education (BOE) and teachers’ union (PREA) [“District/Teacher Talks Break Down”], and the other describing a $2.9M public library upgrade [“Library Seeks to Raise $1.7 Million for Second Floor Redesign, Upgrade”], present an interesting contrast.

Ms. Burger, director of the Princeton Public Library, commendably observes that “the world has changed dramatically” since the library opened in its new building 11 years ago. She specifically identifies radical upgrades and redesigns of space, technology, and programs to accommodate the ongoing information-age renaissance we are living through. The BOE/PREA, article, however, could’ve been written in the early 20th century, when labor and management clashed perennially over compensation policy in the old manufacturing-based economy. Nowhere do we read that BOE and PREA acknowledge the “dramatic changes” in our new knowledge-economy, or frame their dispute in the context of a world undergoing radical transformation by technology and the systemic improvements it enables.

While today’s pre-schoolers face a future world radically different from that of their grandparents in: manufacturing, retail, transportation/logistics, consumer services, even, finally, in healthcare, those grandparents would be quite at home in today’s educational institutions. The EdTech revolution is desirable, inevitable, and already underway. Princeton’s Public Library administration seems to understand that in a way our public school establishment does not.

Brandon Hull

Linden Lane

May 6, 2015

To the Editor:

In November, Princeton residents voted in favor of considering a charge on single-use bags as part of a Mercer County voter sentiment referendum. The idea of that proposal was to help reduce the amount of single-use bags taken at the register, thus leading to a decrease in landfill and environmental waste. People would be encouraged to bring their own bags to avoid the fee and to avoid polluting the environment.

The question passed overwhelmingly three-to-one in Princeton encouraging us to now consider actual legislation on this topic. Princeton could follow the lead of many other towns, cities, and states in the United States and around the world who have enacted such single-use bag policies.

The Princeton Environmental Commission has come out in support of a draft ordinance calling for a 10¢ charge on plastic and paper single-use bags at carry-out in stores in Princeton. The merchants would keep the entire proceeds from this charge, as they would for any other item purchased in their establishment. Shoppers would be encouraged to bring their own reusable bags to avoid paying for them at the register.

There are ample provisions for implementing this program on a timeline that is both merchant-friendly and also considerate of families in need. Families participating in assistance programs would be exempt from the charge, free bags would be distributed to those in need, and merchants could continue to give refunds to customers who brought their own bags … an additional incentive.

We thank the residents of Princeton for understanding the issue and for voting for a policy that we know makes the world a cleaner place. Enacting a charge on single-use bags has been shown to decrease their use by 60-90 percent. We would like to see the same happen in Princeton. While other New Jersey towns are considering this, we hope Princeton will take the lead on passing this legislation.

Princeton Environmental Commission

To the Editor:

Princeton Council is considering demolishing 31-33 Lytle Street, in the heart of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. Say “No” to Council: no demolition.

The lovely porch (1870-1880), which retains its original architectural details and roofline, should be designated an Historic Site. The historic home, owned and possibly built by an African-American who came from Virginia to Princeton after the Civil War, is eligible as part of an Historic District.

Who among us will endorse, now, demolition of yet another African-American building? — after white-skinned Princeton razed African-American Princeton homes (and displaced people) to establish Palmer Square, and then destroyed Jackson Street (with more people removed)? The house is community heritage.

The Historic Preservation Commission formally opposes demolition. Funds from The New Jersey Historic Preservation Trust can restore the house. Trishka Cecil, Council attorney, has given approval for using Princeton Open Space monies for historic preservation. Mercer County Open Space funding should remain available, prorated, for the area not covered by the house.

How should this beautiful porch and its building best be used? Affordable housing needs remain critical in Princeton: hikes in property taxes and school taxes have just been announced. Pressures on our economically challenged citizens intensify daily. Families are being divided, forced out. Princeton cannot promote our valued diversity without unswerving commitment to affordable housing opportunities.

The Lytle Street house could become two affordable units — for sale or rent, with resultant income to the appropriate municipal body. Concept plans have been generated. Despite extensive rehabilitation needed, reasonable estimates are less than the $250,000 cited by the municipal Administrator, Marc Dashield. A John Street house was rehabilitated for $150,000 (2012). Participation by Habitat for Humanity and Isles, together with volunteer labor, can reduce costs — particularly if the mayor and Council enthusiastically support the initiative and make the political effort.

If not affordable housing, what? As Councilwoman Butler proposed (March 23), the building can become part of the adjacent Mary Moss Playground, currently slated for expansion; building rehabilitation would be simpler, with restrooms and an indoor play area in inclement weather. (Only a small minority of speakers at the three Council sessions dealing with the park favored expansion, not affordable housing.)

More significant: the historic porch — the neighborhood is a “community of porches” — can become a public architectural focus to celebrate African-American life in Princeton. Booker T. Washington himself visited the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, as a photograph attests. If white Princeton celebrates Einstein’s birthday, why not Paul Robeson’s (April 9, 1898)? — or the constitutional amendments that legalized citizenship and suffrage for African-Americans? The first floor could become “passive” exhibition space documenting Princeton’s African-American community (Robeson House highlights Robeson himself). The expanded park on the house’s north side could include a community garden — environmentally sustainable, probably much cheered.

Council should buy the property and retain both porch and house. Otherwise, the owner-developer Roman Barsky would probably subdivide the lot and build two expensive houses that are not consistent with neighborhood values.

Daniel A. Harris

Dodds Lane

To the Editor:

Dorothea’s House once again demonstrated on Sunday, May 3, why it’s such a bright star in Princeton’s cultural firmament. In its unique role of furthering the understanding and appreciation of the history and culture of Italy, it hosted a packed house for a discussion of Giuseppe Verdi’s operatic adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth by Joseph Colaneri, the music director of the Glimmerglass Festival, held annually near Cooperstown, N.Y. The production is slated for the 2015 summer season.

Often using Italian words and phrases punctuated by Italian verve, Colaneri said that Verdi’s operas represented the very soul of Italy. While Macbeth depicted Scottish exiles, Italians believe Verdi was really characterizing Italy’s history. Colaneri noted that although Verdi was not religious, he was spiritual, and tinta (color) was very important to him. In Macbeth, Verdi insisted on very dark colors (mood). Colaneri said that the Yale University professor and foremost expert on Shakespeare, Harold Bloom, has written that there are two human icons: William Shakespeare and Giuseppe Verdi because both express the essence of who we are as individuals.

Two talented soloists, Hunter Enoch and Mitra Mastropierto, understudies at Gliimmerglass, sang arias and a duet from Macbeth, bringing the audience to its feet in enthusiastic appreciation.

Linda Sipprelle

Nassau Street

To the Editor:

An event that began eight years ago in Princeton and Trenton — demonstrations for Stand Against Racism day — grew exponentially and is now the signature campaign for the national YWCA. Not in Our Town (NIOT) wishes to thank all those who contributed to the success of Stand Against Racism days, past and present. We remember Nassau Inn employees helping make a human chain around Palmer Square, merchant participation directed by Kathleen Maguire Morolda, and well-attended rallies at Hinds Plaza — all these programs benefited from the YWCA’s leadership.

For this year’s observance, Not in Our Town assembled photos of 100 merchants from Town Topics ad pages sponsored by an anonymous donor. (These merchants were among those who pledged to support this cause by putting up our We Stand Against Racism posters in their stores.) And this year the Princeton YWCA, implementing its motto “eliminating racism,” held an 80-person legislative breakfast, cosponsored by Lori Rabon of the Nassau Inn. After presentations by the CEOs of Trenton and Princeton YWCAs, the mayors of Trenton and Princeton, NIOT’s co-chairs Linda Oppenheim and Larry Spruill, Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, chair of the Latin American Legal Defense Fund (LALDEF), challenged all, saying being against racism is merely good manners. “We should really focus on inclusion, which is a lot harder because it forces us not just to be well-mannered, but to really open our hearts and our spaces to people not like us.” Then everyone clustered in small groups, and NIOT facilitators led discussions of down-to-earth concerns about bias. Thanks to all who helped and participated. This program truly fulfilled the Y’s intention: “to build community among those who work for racial justice and to raise awareness about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism.”

Marietta Taylor,

NIOT board member, Hartley Avenue

Howard Hudson

Franklin Park

Joyce Trotman-Jordan


To the Editor,

Each year the Arts Council of Princeton’s (ACP) Communiversity brings the Community and University members together to celebrate the things we love about our town. This year was no exception.

In keeping with the Communiversity spirit, Art +10 (a group of Princeton-area artists) wanted to honor our Volunteer Fire Department. In a unique collaboration with the department, the group hosted a joint paint-out and art show at the Chestnut Street Fire House.

Dubbed “Fired-Up,” the event welcomed visitors to view artists painting and learn the rich history of Princeton’s Fire Department.

Members of Art +10, want to thank Bill Shields, president of Princeton Engine Co. #1, the Princeton Fire Department, and the Blue Jersey Band (which provided a festive background), for making this event happen.

Members of Art +10: Priscilla Algava, Heather Barros, Jim Bongartz, Betty Curtiss, Katja De Ruyter, Suzanne Dinger, Johanna Furst, Jeaninne Honstein Ryan Lilienthal, Meg Michael, Tasha O’Neill

To the Editor;

As co-chairs of Planned Parenthood’s 26th annual Spring Benefit, we thank the hundreds of enthusiastic supporters who attended our luncheon on April 24 at The Hyatt Regency Princeton, as well as our benefit committee and the Planned Parenthood staff and volunteers. With 400 guests filling the room, it was a tremendous success in raising funds to support the services and programs of Planned Parenthood.

We were pleased to have as our speaker Alexis McGill Johnson, 2013-15 Chair of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. A true champion for women’s health and rights, Alexis shared her journey and the reasons for getting involved with Planned Parenthood. She described Planned Parenthood as part of a movement not just for reproductive freedom but also to uplift our friends in the fight for justice.

For more than 82 years, Planned Parenthood has worked every day to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and keep women healthy. We urge those who believe that every woman has a right to reproductive health counseling and family planning, regardless of income, to support Planned Parenthood.

Kathy Herring, Reba Orszag

Co-Chairs Spring Benefit

April 29, 2015
UNIQUELY YOUR OWN: “At Toggle Home, we strive to connect the past to the present by creating heirloom monograms with a modern twist. Our luxury monograms are hand-crafted and fully customizable to reflect each individual’s style and aesthetic.” Kate Johnstone-Butcher, owner and founder of Toggle Home, is shown with her sons Henry (left) and Porter.

UNIQUELY YOUR OWN: “At Toggle Home, we strive to connect the past to the present by creating heirloom monograms with a modern twist. Our luxury monograms are hand-crafted and fully customizable to reflect each individual’s style and aesthetic.” Kate Johnstone-Butcher, owner and founder of Toggle Home, is shown with her sons Henry (left) and Porter.Customers have found the latest addition on Chambers Street to be irresistible! Since its opening on April 10th, Toggle Home Monogramming & Design has already sold out of a number of items, and visitors to the shop are selecting a variety of monograms to personalize clothing, accessories, blankets, and furniture, among other items.

Customers are not only delighted by the extensive choices of monograms but also by the bright and cheerful decor of the shop. With its yellow and white color motif and warm welcoming atmosphere, it invites shoppers to linger and look!

“We offer a specific type of high quality monogramming that can be completely personalized for each customer,” explains founder and owner Kate Johnstone-Butcher. “I will do custom design, and the monograms can be any size, all different colors, and many different designs.”

An interior designer with a distinctive eye for design and detail, Ms. Johnstone-Butcher also offers professional design services for people in their homes. In addition, before the space became available at 12 Chambers Street, she also operated Toggle Home as an online business for several years, as well as providing traveling trunk shows and pop-up stores.

Original Concept

“It was always my hope to have my own place, however,” she notes, “and when this location became available, there was a whirlwind of activity to get ready. I love the aspect of having everything here in one place for people. When you come in the shop, you will see me. I am always here to help customers, and we have new things coming in all the time. This is a destination place for shoppers.”

Monogramming had long been a special interest for her, adds Ms. Johnstone-Butcher. “Growing up on the North Shore of Long Island, I was around lots of monogramming. At that time, it had a special kind of meaning to it — a family heritage, for example, a connection to who you are. It seemed that monogramming had gotten away from that in recent years — it had become more frivolous — and I wanted to get back to that original concept.

“That feeling of connection is why I chose the name Toggle for the store. One meaning of toggle is connection. Our monogram collection includes a nod to the classics with a modern twist and a commitment to tasteful simplicity. I also wanted it to be accessible and affordable for people.”

Customers may bring in their own items for monogramming, she adds, but they will also find a wonderful selection of merchandise in the shop. Items include everything from furniture and custom chandeliers to clothing and accessories to linens, tote bags and table skirts, as well as choices, including sweaters, for children and toddlers.

“We have items from around the world, with many from the U.S.,” reports Ms. Johnstone-Butcher. “Some of the favorites with customers are robes, pajamas and sleep shirts, and blankets, including wonderful cotton “pom-pom” blankets available in 22 different colors. We also have soft cashmere ponchos for women.”

Baseball caps, tote bags, wine bags, and cosmetic cases are in demand for monograms, as are neckties, and even Wellington boots! The selection of 100 percent linen hand towels in assorted colors provides opportunities for a welcome hostess gift.

Pagoda Design

“Our pagoda lanterns, chandeliers, and candle holders are very big sellers,” adds Ms. Johnstone-Butcher, “and customers also love the pagoda design for their monograms.”

Furniture includes chairs, beds, sofas, custom upholstery, and X benches (popular for use as an ottoman or at the foot of the bed), and all of these can be monogrammed.

Design choices for monogramming are seemingly limitless. Every type and style of lettering and initial is available and in every color. In addition to initials, many design choices, such as animals (Staffordshire dogs, elephants, and zebras are very popular), feathers, nautical knots, pineapples, and dragons, among many others, are favorites.

In addition, a selection of jewelry includes gold and silver bracelets and pendants, which can be engraved. A very popular necklace includes a chain, featuring small pendant “tags” suitable for engraving of name, initials, or other design. Starting at $40, including engraving, this is a charming graduation gift.

Many of the monogrammed choices will also make wonderful gifts for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, graduations, and other special events. Red, white, and blue themes are popular for Memorial Day and Fourth of July gatherings.

“We also have lots of wedding items, such as beaded bags and robes, that are very popular monogrammed gifts for bridesmaids,” says Ms. Johnstone-Butcher.

Enthusiastic Response

Prices generally range from $25 for jewelry and small cosmetic cases to $45 for hand towels, $65 for tote bags, and $95 for the pom-pom blankets. All prices include monogramming, which typically takes five days for items in stock, somewhat longer for custom designs.

Ms. Johnstone-Butcher is delighted with the enthusiastic customer response, and reports there is never a dull moment. “I have not been bored a single day. I can hardly believe how busy we have been. It is wonderful to start out with an idea, to create something, and then be able to see it through.

“I am so pleased by the warm welcome both from the customers and the other merchants, and I am very humbled by it. I look forward to growing the business and continuing to deliver unique, special monograms. I love to create new designs, and I am also inspired by ideas from the customers.”

And, she adds, “Remember, with monogramming, you are only limited by your imagination, and we are here to help guide you through that imagination!”

The shop is currently open Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Hours may be extended in the summer. (609) 921-6057. Website:

To the Editor:

On behalf of the board, staff, artists, members and volunteers of the Arts Council of Princeton, we would like to thank everyone — including 40,000-plus visitors, 200 vendors, and over 40 performance groups — who helped make the 45th annual Communiversity ArtsFest such a spectacular event on a gorgeous spring day. As a nonprofit, community-based organization that relies on community support, we are very grateful for the collaboration that allowed us to produce another hugely successful event.

When the Arts Council plans the Communiversity ArtsFest, we envision a “town meets gown” celebration with something for everyone: diverse music and dance performances, outstanding artistry and crafts, creative children’s activities, delicious food, and participation from numerous local merchants, artists, nonprofit and campus groups. By all accounts, we achieved our goal. We would like to thank the Arts Council staff and volunteers who gave their time and energy to make the overall event the popular success that it was. We also appreciate the extremely talented artists and performers who participated in many creative activities including the “ACP Atelier,” ceramics and monotype printmaking, “Paint Out Princeton,” children’s art activities, performances on stage and street, sidewalk chalk drawing and all the many forms of creative expression that make the event unique and memorable.

We would also like to express our heartfelt thanks to: the students of Princeton University, University President Christopher Eisgruber, and the Office of Community and Regional Affairs; Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert; Princeton Council and administrative staff; Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman; Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes; Mercer County Freeholder Andrew Koontz; the Princeton Police Department; Princeton Fire Department; Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad; Princeton Regional Health Department; Princeton Public Works Department; the Princeton Clergy Association; the Princeton Merchants Association and Chamber of Commerce; Princeton Public Library; Event Planner Harper McArthur; and our major sponsors: AT&T, Bloomberg, Palmer Square Management, and the Princeton Garden Theatre. A complete list of all our generous event and in-kind sponsors can be found at

Ted Deutsch

President, Board of Trustees

Jeff Nathanson

Executive Director, Arts Council of Princeton

To the Editor:

On behalf of the New Jersey AARP State Office staff and volunteers, I would like to extend a sincere thank you to Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald for his leadership on the issue of earned paid sick leave. Considering that over half of AARP members still work either half or full time, earned sick leave is a highly relevant issue for the community.

It goes without saying that the membership of AARP is greatly appreciative of Assemblyman Greenwald for lending his voice in such a worthy matter.

Furthermore, the Assembly Majority Leader and his colleague, Assemblywoman Lampitt, have sponsored the Caregivers Tax Credit, which could provide needed relief for those who unselfishly commit countless hours and resources in order to care for a loved one. This, as well, is deserving of recognition and kudos.

Ryan Lind

Rockingham Row

To the Editor:

As the weather warms, homeowners’ thoughts typically turn to yards and landscaping. Spring is an excellent time to spruce up residential plantings, and what better way to do so than to incorporate native trees, shrubs, flowers, and grasses into your home’s outdoor spaces? Native plants bring many benefits.

First and foremost, plants native to this region provide food and habitats to a diverse set of local wildlife; in many cases, plants originating overseas simply cannot substitute. “Planting native” helps insects and birds that are important pollinators, key components of the food chain, or simply beautiful to behold. The most famous example is perhaps the Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus), caterpillars of which feed on Milkweeds (Asclepias species); loss of native Milkweeds and plantings of non-native Milkweeds may be contributing to the butterfly’s population decline in some states. Another example is the Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio troilus); as its name suggests, caterpillars of this spectacular butterfly feed on leaves of Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), sometimes called “Native Forsythia.” This deer-resistant shrub has aromatic leaves, and can grow in a wide range of conditions; its flowers provision bees in spring, and its fat-rich berries help fuel birds migrating south in autumn.

Secondly, native plants can be beautiful and hardy, with colors, shapes, textures, and scents that rival or exceed those of the European and Asian species that are all too commonly encountered in residential landscaping. When established in suitable conditions, many natives grow well with little or no need for watering, pesticides, or fertilizers. You can find native species that love wet soils, others that do well in dry conditions, plenty that thrive in shade and many that are stunning in sun. The rich diversity of plants native to this area is vividly illustrated at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve just south of New Hope, where about 800 species can be seen in just 134 acres. You can purchase native plants for your own yard at the Preserve (their plant sale starts May 9 and continues throughout the growing season); at D&R Greenway’s native plant nursery; at the Mercer County Gardeners Plant Expo; and in good local garden centers and nurseries. All these outlets should also be able to advise on what plants will grow well in the light and soil conditions in your yard.

In short, eschew the imports, and plant native if possible; there are some upcoming sales where you can obtain a wide selection. Your local butterflies, bees, beetles, and birds will thank you.

Catherine Williams

Clover Lane, The writer is a volunteer at Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve.

April 22, 2015

To the Editor:

If there’s one thing I wish people would let go of on this Earth Day, both locally and nationally, it’s pessimism in all its manifestations. Well, maybe not all. That’s asking too much. But at least a few. Some equate pessimism with seeing trouble ahead, but the entrenched pessimism we face is the sort that casts us as helpless to find and act on solutions. Sometimes one form of pessimism gets piled on another, as in: “We can’t know if climate change is real and risky, or if it is, there’s nothing we can do about it, and if there is something we could do then we couldn’t possibly get other towns, states, and nations to work together.” That’s the kind of pessimism sandwich a lot of people eat for lunch every day.

Locally, pessimism takes the form of resistance to change. There’s some sense in a “look before you leap” approach, but when a solution is offered to a local problem, the tendency is to look and look and look, and never leap.

The paralysis and sense of foreboding that permeates our era is due in part to our capacity to collectively create problems while stubbornly resisting efforts to collectively solve them. The reflexive response to proposed solutions is to search for flaw and fear the negative consequences of any action. We see safety in inaction, but inaction is often the greater risk.

In such a situation, the arts are instructive. My impulse to seek collective solutions comes in part from playing in musical ensembles, where good results can only come from working together. And the cure for that pesky habit of finding flaws in any proposal for change can be found in theater improv, where the actors on stage succeed only if they commit to creating something new, together. I’ve done a little improv, and seen others try it for the first time, and typically our ingrained response is to contradict the acting partner, to take exception to what’s offered, and thereby sabotage the scene. The catchwords of theater improv are “Yes, and…”, which in community problem solving would take the form of greeting proposed solutions not with reflexive negativity but instead with “How can we make this work?”

In a way, we are in an ongoing improv with the earth, too often fighting against nature, resisting its logic, rejecting its offerings, and thereby defeating ourselves in this long-running scene in one corner of the universe. We set the stage, surrounding ourselves with suburban nature, then purge our yards of rainwater and leaves rather than explore how we could use them to advantage. Spring is a time when every tree and flower is saying “Yes, and…” We should try doing the same.

Stephen Hiltner

North Harrison Street