June 14, 2017

To the Editor:

“Resolved, That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white on a blue field, representing the new constellation.” —The Second Continental Congress, on the passage of the Flag Act, June 14, 1777.

With this resolution, the Congress not only authorized a new flag, but engrained in our collective mindset an unshakable truth — that we are one nation, united and free. And just five months before our American flag was formally created, General George Washington stood on the fields of Princeton, New Jersey, and made this vision a reality.

In the latter half of 1776, just months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, our liberty was far from assured. Washington’s novice army endured a series of brutal defeats in New York, which led to the British capture of New York City. In the words of Thomas Paine that winter, “These are the times that try men’s souls … tyranny, like, hell, is not easily conquered.”

Washington realized that only he and his dwindling fighting force could revive the flickering flame of American independence. Embarking on an audacious campaign easily decried as foolish, Washington secured surprising victories at both Trenton and Assunpink Creek, New Jersey. Eager to capitalize on the momentum begun by his improbable Christmas night crossing of the Delaware River, Washington then dared to confront seasoned British soldiers at nearby Princeton.

In the frigid morning hours of January 3, 1777, citizen soldiers faced trained British regulars and engaged in furious fighting. Many American patriots fell. But, it was at that moment that “a tall man on a white horse could be seen galloping towards the scene of battle.” George Washington had arrived. Rallying his troops, Washington ordered the advance, driving the British from the field and securing a greatly-needed victory.

The valor witnessed at Princeton is a testament to the symbolism of the flag colors themselves: white for purity and innocence, red for hardiness and valor, and blue for vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

Today, we have an opportunity to save the land where Washington secured this victory at Princeton and honor the resolute American flag. In 2016, the Civil War Trust, through its Campaign 1776 initiative to preserve Revolutionary War and War of 1812 battlefields, signed a landmark agreement with the Institute for Advanced Study to preserve 15 acres where Washington’s storied counterattack occurred.

This agreement allows the State of New Jersey and the Trust to transform this property into an outdoor classroom that can inspire all Americans to learn more about Washington and the purity, valor and vigilance of the American flag. Saving the Princeton battlefield – what better way to commemorate Flag Day?

ROGER WILLIAMS

Secretary of the board for the Princeton Battlefield 

Society, Committee member of TenCrucialDays.org and The Spirit of Princeton

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to Anne Levin’s excellent article entitled “Quieting Noisy Leaf Blowers” in your June 7th issue. The increased cost of using rakes rather than leaf blowers is the reason residents are reluctant to change to “quiet landscaping,” say the two area landscapers interviewed. This has not been my experience but I am not looking to remove every single leaf. My landscaper worked with me to eliminate leaf blowing last fall by mowing over light leaf accumulations and directing them onto the beds. In heavier areas he simply used the mower to direct leaves into a pile, rake onto a tarp and haul to the curb. No more mulch blown away and no cost increase!

Quiet Princeton, of which I am a member, is dedicated to improving our quality of life by removing and controlling sources of noise. We hope that reducing or eliminating the use of noisy polluting leaf blowers will gain momentum.

Carol Rothberg

Winant Road

To the Editor:

I am on the faculty of Westminster Conservatory, and a parent of two children in the Princeton Public Schools. It has become clear to me in my discussions with students and friends that for some, there is confusion about the difference between the two music schools on the Westminster Choir College campus.

There are two significant programs connected with Westminster: the college and the community music school. These are distinct operations, having differing relationships with the Princeton community.

Westminster Choir College, is the home of a world-renowned choir program. The symphonic choir sings regularly with the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Great choral directors, opera singers, pianists, organists, school music educators, composers, and ministers of music have studied there. Many graduates teach and perform in schools, universities, religious institutions, and professional and community organizations throughout the country and the world. Initially founded in Dayton, Ohio in 1920, the college established its home in Princeton in 1932, clearly motivated by the desire to be close to metropolitan centers and great orchestras. Westminster merged with Rider University in 1991.

Graduates from Westminster Choir College regularly teach in our local schools and institutions. Currently these include, among others, Princeton’s Littlebrook and Riverside elementary schools, Princeton High School, The Chapin School, Westminster Conservatory, as well as independent music studios.

Westminster Conservatory is the community music school in Princeton where about 2,000 students of all ages from Princeton as well as from surrounding towns, come for private lessons in all instruments, chamber music, music theory, choir, early childhood music education, musical theater, jazz, a community orchestra, and several summer music camps. It also hosts the Honors Music Program, an enrichment program that meets on Saturdays throughout the school year. Westminster Conservatory is a member of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts.

Since 1970, Westminster Conservatory has served as a musical home for students and for faculty. The school’s mission is to, “provide excellence in music instruction to a broad constituency of amateur and professional musicians and to promote the appreciation and performance of music within the community at large.”

I graduated with my masters in piano performance from Westminster Choir College and my mother, Phyllis Lehrer, has been a professor in the piano department for 45 years. I am hoping that this gem of a music school will stay in Princeton. However, the future of the college is unclear and therefore the community music school, made up of local students, needs a contingency plan.

Let us be certain that Westminster Conservatory, a community treasure that benefits us all, continues to have a home in Princeton. This will help to preserve Princeton’s preeminent reputation as a regional cultural center.

Suzanne Lehrer

Piano Faculty, Westminster Conservatory

To the Editor:

Four years in Princeton and 82,000 delivered supplemental meals later and Send Hunger Packing Princeton (SHUPP) is even more passionate, enthusiastic, creative, and driven to continue to grow the program. It started as part of a national movement to provide weekend meals to kids who live in a food insecure home. The requirements to participate were minimal, a simple request to participate was the sole qualification. There were and are three main partners: Princeton Human Services’ offspring Send Hunger Packing Princeton, Mercer Street Friends, and the Princeton School System. And for the same reasons the program started, the program has grown.

Today, in addition to the regularly delivered food bags consisting of two kid-friendly breakfasts and lunches, SHUPP has expanded the program to better meet the needs of our constituents. We now provide an additional, more robust package of food each month for the whole family. Summer break, which is more logistically challenging, is now a large part of the SHUPP mission. For some kids that means meals throughout the summers Monday through Friday. For others it means the continuation of weekend meal packs. And for those we can reach, it means the addition of fresh produce. And starting this summer, a brand new breakfast program is being launched for the benefit of all kids under the age of 18, a free meal at the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church.

This Send Hunger Packing Princeton Initiative could not exist without the generosity of the Princeton Community. Each year, in September, at Hinds Plaza, community members gather to celebrate and raise money to enable the program to not only continue but to grow. This year, as last year, the theme will be Fill the Bowls. The event features the work of local potter, Adam Welch, who will once again create custom bowls for the event. All who participate will receive one.

The benefits are clear. No one argues the point that “a child should be hungry for knowledge and not hungry for breakfast.” That’s SHUPP’s mission and thanks to our community, that’s what SHUPP’s been able to do.

Robert Rabner For The SHUPP Family

Christopher Drive

To the Editor:

On June 4, Rock Brook School held its third Annual Rock Brook Celebration …. An Evening of Two-Step and Honky Tonk. The fun evening included country line dancing, live music, barbecue buffet, and an auction. For more than 40 years, Rock Brook School has provided exceptional special education services to children, as well as support for families and professionals. We are so proud of our students and the hard work of our dedicated staff.

I’d like to take a moment to recognize all who helped make the event possible. Thanks to all the families and businesses that contributed prizes for our auction. A special thanks to Rock Brook parent Laura Jones who contributed Yankees/Red Sox tickets for our special raffle as well as several additional auction items. Our gratitude to the Blue Wave Ramblers for the fantastic music; and Debbie Figel for calling our country line dances. Much appreciation to The Lodge at Montgomery for hosting our event; and Mary the Queen of Pork for catering the affair. Also, credit to our students and staff for creating the lovely theme-oriented décor.

And finally, I’d like to thank our guests, sponsors, and donors. Your generosity helps Rock Brook School continue its legacy of quality education, providing supports, and ensuring success for children with communication and learning difficulties.

Mary Caterson

Executive Director

GREAT GARDENS: “We are set apart because we grow our own bedding plants, annuals, and perennials, and we have thirteen greenhouses. This is unusual today. And importantly, we are family-owned and operated.” Sarah Conte is the third generation to be part of Mazur Nursery in Lawrence Township, and her son Michael represents the fourth generation.

A family-owned and operated business for 85 years is almost unheard of in today’s world of quick turnovers, rapidly changing landscapes, and the “here today, gone tomorrow” mentality.

An exception is Mazur Nursery, still going strong at 265 Bakers Basin Road in Lawrence Township. Established in 1932 by George Mazur, it has become one of the area’s foremost garden centers. more

June 7, 2017

To the Editor:

Princetonians should be proud to accept responsibility for doing as a municipality what the federal government has spurned: the Paris Accord of 2015. “Climate Mayors,” including our Mayor Liz Lempert, are now 187 mayors representing 52 million Americans. They have all stated a commitment to “adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement.”

This group is spearheaded by Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles. The governors of California, Washington, and New York have initiated a separate but parallel group, all of them aiming to hold global warming to not more than 1.5 degrees Celsius annually and to reduce carbon emissions annually as well.

At least nine states have joined with these cities to resist the follies at the top of the federal heap. These states include Massachusetts, California, Oregon, New York, Colorado, Washington, Connecticut, Virginia, and Rhode Island as, night by night, more officials choose to oppose by bathing their capital buildings in green, as Paris did on the first night of this massive failure for the planet.

We ask Princetonians to follow Mayor Lempert’s lead and commitment to slowing the speed of disastrous climate change and global warming. As the noted anthropologist Jane Goodall has recently said, we must have time to invent solutions to the problems we have haplessly made since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. We live in what has been called “the Anthropocene Epoch”: as homo sapiens we have the power to destroy ourselves and everything else on our globe; as Elizabeth Kolbert has written in The Sixth Extinction (2014), no living creature before us has ever had that power. To the fullest extent possible, Princetonians must heed the strictures of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the World Wildlife Fund, and many other comparable groups in the U.S.

We have great confidence in Mayor Lempert, Princeton Council, and Sustainable Princeton to lead us all in understanding what we must do next, and all the time.

Sophie Glovier,

Drakes Corner Road 

Heidi Fictenbaum,

Carnahan Place 

Daniel A. Harris,

Dodds Lane 

Grace L. Sinden,

Ridgeview Circle

Matthew Wasserman,

Meadowbrook Drive

To the Editor:

Leticia Fraga will bring a sharp, focused, and independent mind to Princeton Council. In a town largely Democratic it is important that issues both large and small be vetted honestly and with great transparency. How easy it can be at times when there is lack of opposition to rubber stamp ideas and policies without really taking time to fully understand their impact and implications. Leticia’s unique understanding of community partnerships will serve her well by allowing more voices to be heard and greater inclusion in a town that desperately needs it.

As Princeton goes from a town to a small city, managing its growth will become crucial. Our schools, our traffic issues, our affordable housing and our affordability, our diversity, our accountability, our law enforcement will all be challenged to respond to a variety of needs in the days ahead.

Leticia’s fresh perspective, her background in outreach and education, her sensitivity to human concerns, and her understanding of the application of civil rights will round out our panel of municipal leadership to provide across the board accountability.

Serving on council requires commitment and dedication and concern for others. It is time consuming and at times full of stress. Leticia has demonstrated the unique ability to remain cool under pressure and takes the necessary time to both examine and look deeply at issues with regard to causes and effects. She will exhibit great care and thoughtfulness when making decisions and will speak truth to power when necessary. I expect her to be a strong voice for what is right in our town and also a strong voice against what she believes is wrong.

It is with great confidence that I endorse her candidacy, her commitment, her knowledge, and her level of expertise and understanding. The time is right for her and she is right for the time.

Leighton Newlin

Birch Avenue

To the Editor:

After several months of planning and discussions, we are pleased to announce the commencement of a new and free breakfast program that will begin on Tuesday, June 27, at the Witherspoon Presbyterian Street Church. The collaborators of this new initiative includes Princeton Cornerstone Community Kitchen, Princeton Human Services and Send Hunger Packing Princeton, the Witherspoon Presbyterian Street Church, and the Trenton Department of Parks and Recreation. First, we’d like to acknowledge our gratefulness to the Church for their enthusiastic willingness to host the breakfast all summer long. And second, we’d like to thank Trenton’s Fiah Gussin, Trenton Parks and Recreation, for the support she has provided in helping us get the program approved by the USDA.

The meals will be available from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday throughout the summer. They are available for youths 18 years of age and younger. The meals need to be consumed on the premises. The address is 124 Witherspoon Street, the corner of Witherspoon and Quarry Streets. Children will be greeted at the door.

This new program is an exciting addition to the already robust and growing sources of food and meals in our Princeton Community. More information can be obtained by calling the Human Services office at (609) 688-2055.

Larry Apperson

Cornerstone Kitchen

Ross Wisnick

Send Hunger Packing Princeton

SAVE HER A SEAT: Gita Varadarajan, second grade teacher at Riverside School, has co-authored a book, “Save Me a Seat,” that Rhode island selected for this year’s Kids Reading Across Rhode Island initiative. She looks forward to her ongoing career as an author and educator.

Rhode Island celebrated “Save Me a Seat Day” on May 13, 2017 in honor of a recently published book co-authored by Riverside School second grade teacher Gita Varadarajan.

As part of the One State, One Book initiative and Kids Reading Across Rhode Island 2017 for students in grades three to six, the special day included an event at the state house with the authors, writing workshops, book signings, family activities, and even Indian dance and cricket demonstrations related to the cross-cultural theme of the book. more

FUNCTION, FORM, AND FLAIR: “We provide kitchens and bathrooms both for new houses and renovations. An updated kitchen or bathroom are also very helpful if you plan to sell the house. The kitchen and bathroom are the best return on an investment if you are selling the house” says Kate Furman, COO of Princeton Home Center, who is standing by a transitional style kitchen display featuring walnut cabinets, subway-style backsplash, and “Lattice” polished quartz countertops.

“If you can dream it, they can make it!”

Kate Furman, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Princeton Home Center, is referring to the amazing advances in kitchen and bathroom design today. The choices in cabinets, countertops, organizing systems, flooring, and hardware are so plentiful and attractive that almost any need or taste can be accommodated. more

GOURMET SPECIALTIES: “I think of us as a European market, with specialties that include hard-to-find epicurean products. We have so many choices, and we are especially known for our cheeses from around the world, chocolate from all over, and our baguettes freshly baked all day. In addition, we have a great staff. We challenge ourselves to do better every day,” says Bill Lettier, co-owner of Bon Appetit (left). He is shown (from left) with his co-owner and wife Marta, and staff members JoAnn, manager Jose, Cristain, and Gio.

Everyone loves Bon Appetit! A true Princeton treasure, it is located in the Princeton Shopping Center and it just keeps getting better and better!

Opened in 1967 by Carl and Virginia Andersen, it featured a cosmopolitan flavor from the beginning. Mr. Andersen was from Denmark, and Mrs. Andersen’s parents were Spanish and German. The Andersens emphasized products from around the world. more

May 31, 2017

To the Editor:

McCarter Theatre Center’s Annual Gala on May 6 marked the 40th anniversary of this major fundraising event. Over that span, luminaries and legends such as Luciano Pavarotti, Carol Burnett, Gregory Peck, Dave Brubeck, Tony Bennett, Bob Newhart, and Lily Tomlin have graced our stage in support of the theatre.

This year longtime friend of McCarter, Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, performed for a packed-to-the-rafters theatre as the centerpiece of the evening.

Lending their support to this year’s Gala as Presenting Sponsors were BNY Mellon Wealth Management, Community Investment Strategies, and WIRB Copernicus Group. Our Gold Sponsors include Bloomberg Philanthropies, CURE Auto Insurance, Drinker Biddle, Maiden Re, Mathematica Policy Research, Merrill Lynch, and PNC Wealth Management. We are deeply grateful for that support, and for that of many other corporate and individual sponsors and advertisers.

Special thanks go out to our Gala Committee and to Gala Committee Co-Chairpersons—Ed Matthews and Vilma Keri, Chris Foglio-Palmer and Doug Palmer, Reggie and Aliya Browne—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 centerpieces.

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 support McCarter’s artistic and educational programming throughout our region. More than 100,000 people annually — from the five county region and beyond — see a show at McCarter or participate in a McCarter class or workshop.

We’re so deeply grateful!

Timothy J. Shields
Managing Director
Emily Mann
Artistic Director

To the Editor:

The Latin American Legal Defense & Education Fund (LALDEF) would like to thank all those who helped make our May 24 Community Meeting on Immigration Issues such a success.

First and foremost we thank the 130 people who attended. We thank them for their recognition of these difficult times when people of conscience are standing together to support our immigrant friends and neighbors. For their desire and determination to do all they can at the local level to support those who share this space we call Princeton and Trenton. All this is more than appreciated.

Just as importantly, we thank the Nassau Presbyterian Church represented by the Reverend Dave Davis, Linda Gilmore, and Bill and Pam Wakefield. Their generosity in providing a beautiful meeting room, coffee and tea, A/V equipment, and arranging all the furniture was more than we could ask.

Finally, we thank our speakers: Princeton University Professors Alejandro Portes and Dan-el Padilla Peralta; Marisol Conde-Hernandez, a dreamer who is about to receive her law degree from Rutgers after many years of struggle aided by LALDEF; Steven Puac a graduate of our FUTURO mentoring program who will enter Haverford College next fall with a full scholarship; and two young women who found comfort in our No Estás Sóla (“You are not alone”) program for victims of domestic abuse.

If you would like to learn more about LALDEF or join in our work, please visit our website at www.laldef.org. There you can explore our service programs and advocacy efforts, and find contacts for volunteering, visiting our headquarters Casa de Bienvenida (Welcoming House), or making a donation.

Adriana Abizadeh
Executive Director
Leticia Fraga, John Heilner,
 Patricia Fernández-Kelly, Anastasia Mann,
The Board of Trustees of the Latin American
Legal Defense & Education Fund

To the Editor:

I hope that area Democrats will make a point of voting in the Primary Election in New Jersey on Tuesday, June 6.

New Jersey is one of two states to elect a governor this year — the other is Virginia — and the stakes are high in terms of combatting and/or blocking the retrogressive agenda of the Republican president.

Of the many Democratic candidates on the ballot, I personally believe that one stands out: Phil Murphy, former finance chair of the Democratic Party under Chair Howard Dean, and ambassador to Germany in the Obama administration.

Because Murphy, who grew up in a working poor family, had a successful career in finance at Goldman Sachs, his opponents have accused him of buying his way into New Jersey politics.

That is just not true. Phil Murphy declared his intention to run early on. He has taken time to get to know local decision-makers all over New Jersey. He has paid attention to the issues and developed a progressive agenda to deal with the problems of the state. That is why he has the endorsement of every county in New Jersey, including our own, which he won by 90 percent in a secret-ballot vote.

I recommend voting for Phil Murphy for governor and for the Democratic candidates for state, county, and local legislative offices.

Scotia W. MacRae
Evelyn Place

KIDS IN THE KITCHEN: Slicing, dicing, and mixing, under the encouraging guidance of HomeFront staff member Miss Tammi, are the focus of these boys, enjoying a class at HomeFront’s Teaching Kitchen. After their careful preparation and cooking, they are proud to eat and share what they have created.

Good health starts in the kitchen. Not at the local fast food establishment, or with a quick candy bar, bag of potato chips, or soda — as tempting and convenient as those options may be.

Sound nutrition and inexpensive meals are the foundation of HomeFront’s Teaching Kitchen program, which offers culinary classes for children, mothers, fathers, and grandparents. Emphasizing heathy ingredients and convenient low-budget meals, the classes not only help the participants with cooking skills, but also foster a true enjoyment of the creativity of cooking.

 more

May 24, 2017

NEW BEGINNINGS: Every season is delightful at Blue Raccoon, but spring, with its focus on hope, new beginnings, and transformation, is especially welcome at this iconic home, gifts, and design store in Lambertville. Owner and creative designer Nelson Zayas (left) and manager Cindy Philo are shown in front of a series of handcrafted items, made in the U.S.A., from the store’s wonderfully eclectic selection.

Approaching 25 years in business, Blue Raccoon Home Furnishings remains a delightful emporium to visit. Whether one is in a mood to browse or to buy, the shopping experience at this charming store is always a pleasure. And few customers leave empty-handed! more

May 17, 2017

To the Editor:

On May 10, Dress for Success Mercer County held its second annual Women’s Empowerment Breakfast at Trenton Country Club. Rosalyn Taylor O’Neale, author, corporate leader, consultant, and educator served as our keynote speaker. Ms. O’Neale’s address “Discovering Courage in the Midst of Change,” was an inspiration and perfectly in line with the principles we hope to instill in our clients.

Celebrating 10 years, we are delighted to have served 5,000 women since opening our doors in 2007. Our organization may have started with a suit, but over the past decade we have grown into so much more. We are support, we are encouragement, and we are an opportunity for women to learn, grow, and create a better future for themselves and their families.

At DFSMC, we understand the challenges faced by low-income, underserved, and underrepresented women seeking to break the cycle of poverty. Through our personalized career development programs, we support women through every stage of their professional development, starting with their job search and leading to sustained employment. We are the only community program that responds to the career development needs of this vulnerable population.

Our Women’s Empowerment Breakfast was a remarkable success and I would like to acknowledge this year’s sponsors which include Bloomberg, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Saul Ewing, Victory, Wawa, Capital Health, Fox Rothschild, LLP, investorsBank, PNC, PSE&G, Robert Half, Stark & Stark, and Royal Bank.

The services we provide would not be possible without the generous support of the community. My heartfelt thanks to all of our sponsors, in-kind donors, guests, and volunteers. Your contributions help Dress for Success Mercer County continue its legacy of providing quality programming and support to women who are ready to enter and thrive in the workforce.

Melissa Tenzer

Executive Director

To the Editor:

I write following yet another racist event within our schools recently. An 8th grade student from John Witherspoon was caught by his parent after indulging in “pot brownies” with friends. When questioned where they got the illegal substance, the young man without hesitation named a black boy he goes to school with. A phone call from the parent alerted the black young man’s mother. The black student had had nothing to do with the event at all and texted the young man who named him asking him why. His answer was “_______ told me to, he said they wouldn’t ask any questions bc ur black”.

PHS senior Jamaica Ponder wrote a blog post on the situation and stated “Princeton, listen to me, we have a race problem.” She is unequivocally correct!

In April of last year, we were shocked with the revelation that some of our high school students thought that playing a game called Jews vs. Nazi’s was an acceptable pastime. Then this past March we were blindsided by a young woman in PHS posting on Snapchat “I’m on the bus with a bunch of n——s, help”. Now this latest event in our middle school. My question to my fellow Princetonians is WHAT IS GOING ON?

In a town of over 30,000 people where 78 percent are college graduates and 37 percent work in education, a town where we have always prided ourselves on and welcomed a very eclectic mix, where exactly have we lost our way?

I read the statement Superintendent Cochrane put out and I thought his message was a good one, quickly exonerating the innocent black young man and saying the other children that lied had had consequences imposed upon them. What still concerns me though is the collective, district-wide follow through. Words on paper are a good first step, but completely useless if not put to constant use.

Racism in our schools and our town is not to be tolerated. Allowing our youth to use hateful words or actions is shameful and appalling. And not taking a hard stance collectively to eradicate this behavior is completely unacceptable.

We, as parents, should know our job is to raise our children to be strong, capable and evolved. That includes raising them to be kind, tolerant, ready to be a productive adult able to move about in a world made up of many different shades, languages, religions, and cultures.

I beseech each and every one of us to look deep within ourselves to be sure we are part of the solution — not the problem. We, as adults, have an example to set — at home, at work, at school, on the practice field, in every facet of our daily lives. I truly hope we do not continue to fail!

Kelly Ryan

Bayard Lane

To the Editor:

What a fabuleuse soirée à Paris we had at the May 5 Spring Formal for adults and teens with special needs!

Our DJ Steven Knox was awesome, as was our forever friend and photographer Jaime Escarpeta. McCaffrey’s provided a lovely dinner and PSS (Princeton Special Sports) parent Ashley Oppenheimer-Fink of A Touch of Magic blew us away with her gorgeous cakes.

This event has grown a lot from the small alternative “teen prom” it was when we started, which would not have happened without our partners at the Princeton Recreation Department. Special thanks to Joe Marrolli and Stacie Ryan. So much of what they do is behind the scenes, but they make everything possible.

This year’s theme was an ambitious one that we could not have accomplished without Abitha Ravichander, Hana Oresky, Katerina Bubnovsky, Radha Iyer, Rhea Ravichander, Sethu Iyer, and Valerie Walker. The unprecedented amount of time these already busy people spent this year enabled us to transform the Suzanne Patterson Center into a real City of Lights! Thank you, too, to the other adult volunteers who helped us set up, chaperone, and get everything cleaned up after: Eileen Bitterly, Stephanie Corrado, Liz Cutler, John Groeger, Sethu Iyer, Kevin Kane, Tom Kreutz, Andrea Lobo, Joe Marrolli, Joan Morelli, Alex Oppenheimer-Fink, Trudy Sugiura, Yasuo Sugiura, Wendy Vasquez, and Chiemi York.

It is always our student volunteers who make the Formal such a fabulous evening; we can’t convey adequately how important these kids are to our participants. Thank you to Matt Ams, Maddie Bitterly, Olivia Browndorf, Phoebe Elias, Talia Fiester, Abe Koffman, Ella Kotsen, Grace Lynch, Jack Lynch, Lauren Morelli, Cami Poniz, Gracie Poston, Rhea Ravinchander, Marli Siciliano, Declan Rourke, May Kotsen, and Charlotte Walker.

Our heartfelt thanks and au revoir to Ann Diver who has managed the PSS student volunteer program for the last 13 years, and to Joe Marrolli whose commitment to special needs programming has been extraordinary. We miss you both already! And une gracieuse bienvenue to Valerie Walker and John Groeger, who are taking over for Ann and Joe.

Our last dance of the season will be our annual pool party, dance, and BBQ at the Princeton Community Pool on June 2. Swimming will be from 6:30 to 7:30 (weather permitting), followed by BBQ and dancing. For more information or to register, go to princetonrecreation.com or princetonspecialsports.com.

People with special needs are our friends, our relatives, and our neighbors. Like the rest of us, they have varied skills, personalities, and interests. Yet there are still too few opportunities for them to contribute, and to interact and socialize with each other and with us. If you’re part of a community organization, if you have a job to offer, or if you just have an idea like the one that led to PSS 18 years ago, please consider this segment of our community. You’ll never regret it!

Deborah Martin Norcross

Co-President, Princeton Special Sports

To the Editor:

​The Rider chapter of the American Association of University Professors — our union representing nearly 500 professors, librarians, coaches, and athletic trainers — strongly supports the continuation of Westminster Choir College in Princeton as a treasured gem of our university. Alongside the Coalition to Save Westminster Choir College in Princeton, we have made clear to Rider’s Board of Trustees that Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo’s decision to “sell” Westminster makes no sense from an academic, aesthetic, moral, or business perspective.

We appreciate Town Topics’ coverage (“Faculty, Students Protest Sale of Choir College at Westminster Rally,” May 10, page one) of a student-faculty rally that took place on the Westminster campus on May 8. We realize that your readers, including residents and officials, have a significant stake in the fate of this priceless property.

As your story made clear, Dell’Omo’s Westminster ultimatum is not his only crisis. He has presented our union with a set of demands — to be rushed into place by what he says is a hard deadline of Aug. 31 — that would increase teaching load by one-third, erase support for research, effectively eliminate our enviably transparent system of promotion and tenure, and end the faculty role in academic decision-making. He demands cuts to pay and benefits amounting to approximately $10 million a year. That would average approximately $20,000 taken from each bargaining-unit member’s pocket each year.

In your report, there were three errors which should be corrected.

1. Julie Karns is described as ​“Board of Trustees President.” Karns is Rider’s vice president for finance and treasurer. She is an administrator and is not a member of our Board of Trustees.

2. “Speakers at the rally said that if the negotiations fail, an arbitrator would be brought in.”

​We wish! The membership of the faculty union h​as voted overwhelmingly to submit unresolved issues to ​binding arbitration if an agreement is not reached by the time the current contract expires on 8/31​, but Rider’s administration has ​formally ​refused to agree to this condition.​

3. “‘If the faculty sees the students are organized, they’ll negotiate,’ said Professor Joel Phillips.”

Because of missing context and faulty pronoun-antecedent agreement, this passage does not make clear: (1) faculty have been and remain eager to negotiate; (2) administrators have for nearly two years raised demands instead of negotiating compromises; (3) our union believes if the administration sees the students are organized, the administration will negotiate.

Art Taylor

President, Rider Chapter of the American Association of University Presidents

FORTY-SIX YEARS OF SAFE CROSSING: Andy Tamasi, honored last week with an award of recognition from the Princeton Council, has served as a school crossing guard at various locations in Princeton since 1971.

More than 200,000 Princeton school children over the past 46 years have crossed the street under the watchful eye of crossing guard Costantino “Andy” Tamasi. There have been no injuries and no accidents.  more

May 11, 2017

To the Editor:

The Stanford Study referenced in the Town Topics two weeks ago [“PHS Student Survey Reports High Stress,” April 26, page one] highlighted high numbers of PHS students who reported feeling stressed by schoolwork and who suffer from multiple physical symptoms associated with stress and anxiety. At Trinity Counseling Service, we receive calls about children and adolescents from all of our community’s schools experiencing these same symptoms. And I know from colleagues that communities all over the country are dealing with similar issues. People often ask: what more can we do to help?

Last Sunday at Communiversity, the Junior Board of Trinity Counseling Service set up a game of “Giant Jenga.” Potential stressors like “school,” “parents,” “work,” and “relationships,” were written on the Jenga blocks that people stacked on top of each other to create a giant tower. Blocks were pulled out, the tower balanced, until it eventually collapsed, and was rebuilt, again and again, by groups (children, adolescents, and adults) throughout the day. The metaphor, of course, was that stressors pile up, and we balance them, yet they can also weigh us down until we fall. But importantly, we can reinforce, rebuild, and move forward. People loved the game, and had fun playing together. I think that’s one thing we as a community need to do more of: find creative and fun ways to connect with our families, friends, and as a community. Because healthy connections build resilience — within ourselves, our families, and our communities.

The Stanford study and the Topics article were reminders of the importance of acknowledging challenges faced by members of our community. Trinity Counseling Service is here as a resource, working together with other community agencies and faith-based organizations. Research shows that at the most basic level, people want to feel connected, listened to, and supported, and it’s important to remember that we have many places to turn to in this community for support.

I think about and discuss issues related to mental health every day. The Stanford Study provides an opportunity to our entire community to think about these important topics together. I hope you will join me in recognizing the importance of mental health by continuing to talk about this study, and about mental health in general, with friends, family, and our community — perhaps over dinner or a game of Jenga.

Whitney B. Ross, EdM, PhD

Executive Director, Trinity 

Counseling Service, Stockton Street

To the Editor:

On Saturday, April 29, the popular children’s music artist Laurie Berkner appeared at McCarter Theatre to deliver a special acoustic “Relaxed Performance” concert to an audience of more than 400 people from our community. This marks the fifth season that McCarter has offered a Relaxed Performance for people on the autism spectrum or who have sensory sensitivities and their family members.

Relaxed Performances feature slight adjustments to the lighting, special effects, and music which allows for everyone to enjoy the magic of a live performance in a thoughtfully altered environment.

We are grateful to Laurie Berkner for creating a joyous, interactive morning performance for a family audience, many of whom have limited opportunities to enjoy a concert or performance together.

Last May, McCarter — in collaboration with five other theaters in the area — was awarded a Theatre Communications Group Cohort Grant, which will allow this “cohort” of theaters to program more Relaxed Performances, share best practices, and develop a public calendar of Relaxed Performance events in the region. These grants often have a seismic impact on the participating theaters, as well as the field at large, by building audiences through projects that lead to new, more frequent, and increased theater attendance and community participation.

We are also grateful for the contributions of Jazams, who provided fidgets — small toys for audience members to quietly fidget with while enjoying Laurie’s music. We also acknowledge our incredible volunteer ushers who received special training for this performance.

Finally, we thank The Karma Foundation for their leadership support of these Relaxed Performances at McCarter — they have generously funded this program since its inception. Hundreds of our area’s families have enjoyed a performance together in the last five years through the foundation’s dedication to the community!

We look forward to serving our community in this way for years to come.

Timothy J. Shields

Managing Director, McCarter Theatre Center 

To the Editor:

I am a member of the Shade Tree Commission (STC) and went this morning to look at the tree that fell yesterday (5-2-2017) on the roof of a house on Mercer Street. The roof caved in and killed a dog in the house. I was curious what kind of tree this was and it turned out to be an ash tree.

For the past year, the STC has been trying to increase public awareness about the emerald ash borer (see www.princetonshadetree.org), an insect that will kill 99 percent of the ash trees in Princeton if left untreated. We have about 2,000 ash trees on our streets, and we estimate an even larger number on private properties and public lands such as parks, the University, and open spaces. The property on Mercer Street and the surrounding properties are full of ash trees, some of them very old and already in very bad condition. Some very big trees are close to Mercer Road. The ash tree that killed the dog seemed to have snapped midway. The wood of ash trees is very brittle and this characteristic makes these trees so dangerous in severe wind conditions like yesterday.

I hope you can pay some attention to this event.

Welmoet van Kammen

Member of Shade Tree Commission