July 17, 2013

TT Stephen Charlie Allen

Stephen: “I’m not happy with the current plan that I saw on the website. It looks like Princeton is in transition to a small city instead of a nice town.”

Charlie: “There are a lot of kids and dogs in my neighborhood now. I think they should include a playground which would benefit kids and dogs.”

—Stephen Allen with son Charlie, Princeton (current hospital site neighbor)

TT Thika Okeke-Agule

“I think it’s a good idea. I think Princeton could use more housing, especially low cost. And if the new development can guarantee (this is the key thing) that Princeton residents will have priority for the lower cost housing. If this is not the case, and it is more housing for affluent residents, it is probably not a good idea.” —Thika Okeke-Agule, Princeton

 TT Debbie Benjamin Peikes

“It’s a good idea, if they can get the right boundaries with AvalonBay. It could be a nice place for people to live in the neighborhood as long as they get the right density and it has low income housing.”

—Debbie Peikes with Benjamin, Princeton (current hospital site neighbor)

TT Carey Gates

“I think it’s a good idea because we need more affordable housing in town. I am a little concerned with the scope and the size and scale in its current form.”

—Carey Gates, Princeton

 
TT Cynthia Fite

“I think it really could be great, if they could just come to some resolution that meets the community’s needs. It’s a great location in town and we need more housing.”

—Cynthia Fite, Princeton

 
TT Nicole Sichet

“I think it’s a good idea because they’ll be giving people the opportunity to live in Princeton at an affordable rate.”

—Nicole Sichet, Ewing Township

 

To the Editor:

Once again the Planning Board has an important decision to make that will greatly affect our town. AvalonBay proposes to replace the empty hospital site with residences. It will cost them a tremendous amount to take down the old buildings. Few developers would be willing to consider it. The plan they propose conforms with the zoning for the site. It will include 56 affordable units. The people lucky enough to get one of these will pay 30 percent of their income in rent. This is a tremendous help to these people, and a help to the town, which needs this type of housing badly.

Princeton Community Housing operates 465 affordable rentals in town. Sounds like a lot? The waiting list has 900 names! Many do not even apply as they know it would take too long to get in. They are the people who are commuting to town, adding to our traffic every day, and using too much of their already low income for transportation. New Jersey has a huge shortage of affordable housing. We should be thrilled to have these 56 units available to us!

The neighbors would like to see just some two-story row houses, with a park which they could enjoy. We can all understand that, but one has to be realistic. The old hospital is a menace and a hazard, standing there gradually deteriorating. It needs to be gone. AvalonBay should be supported as they plan to do exactly that.

Harriet Bryan

Skillman

 

To the Editor:

The AvalonBay development of 280 units will undoubtedly have a major impact on the surrounding neighborhood in all sorts of ways, many of which we can’t yet calculate. One issue that we could attempt to ascertain is the financial impact of AvalonBay’s proposed development on the average Princeton taxpayer. But nobody knows what this impact will be. Why? Because no such analysis was ever performed by our elected officials before allowing up to 280 units. The potential impact on our schools in particular may not have been considered important since the Hillier scheme, which formed the basis of the 2006 MRRO Zoning Ordinance, was originally designed as a 55-plus community. The AvalonBay development is not restricted to this age group.

If we look to the other major developments in Princeton we learn that Griggs Farm, with 140 units, sends 138 children to the public schools; Princeton Community Village, with 238 units sends 101 students; the Princeton Housing Authority, with 176 units dedicated to families, sends 87 students. So what can we expect from the AvalonBay development of 280 units? Without a professional analysis, the average taxpayer is left with his/her own analysis relying on multipliers used by housing professionals and municipalities in determining the impact of development on local schools.

Based on bedroom size alone, statistics according to recognized multipliers developed by Rutgers University tell us to expect 37 school-age children. But Princeton’s other developments far exceed these recognized multipliers. Is there reason to believe the AvalonBay development will not produce more than the statistical average of students?

At the April 8, 2013, Council meeting, Superintendent Judith Wilson warned Council: “We are facing continued growth. We’re in an all-time high at Princeton High School, standing room only, almost. We’ve not prepared for any exchange students next year or for any tuition students next year. We’re not able to take them. We are full beyond capacity and we will continue to be so. We have a very large seventh grade class, so in two years we’ll see another bump in the high school enrollment.”

Ms. Wilson continued: “In terms of the next thing we’re watching — I believe it’s on your agenda tonight — any development, AvalonBay or otherwise, any development within the town will be our next influx of students.”

The 2010-11 Princeton Schools total spending per pupil was $22,570. Coupled with the potential need for additional staff and classrooms, will the average taxpayer be likely to see a negative income stream from the AvalonBay rateables? At the High School overcrowding is already acute and it is hard to see where extra classroom space can be found. The impact of a development of this size on the school system should be properly analyzed before it is built and not after.

Susanna Monseau

Moore Street

 

To the Editor:

AvalonBay could do two things to make its development proposal much more palatable to a public that finds Plan B woefully massive, monolithic in scale, and noncompliant with multiple sections of Princeton Code.

They can open the central entrance to Building 2 as an archway open to the public moving between Witherspoon Street and the so-called public piazza. They can also install solar panels — now.

An open archway would make the piazza much more accessible to the public — a big neighborhood benefit. Why does AvalonBay balk? They’ve already shuffled all the apartments to create a central entrance. A mostly glass entryway will give the “appearance” of accessibility — with small doors maybe six feet wide within a much wider arch. The interior space will be an empty lobby running east-west. Of course the building needs locks — easily installed for the north-south corridors on either side of the present lobby. Marvin Reed on the Planning Board and all of SPRAB certainly support this idea. I am dismayed that AvalonBay continues to say “no” to the obvious. Why, on this simple thing, doesn’t AvalonBay care about neighbors and streetscape? If they opened the small courtyard in Plan A, they can certainly open this archway.

Solar. In response to SPRAB proposals, AvalonBay has revised its roof plans. The new plans offer much more south-facing space on the exterior ring of Building 1. If AvalonBay eliminated a small dormer window on the south-facing inner courtyard, they would have even more space available — plus south-facing roofs on Building 2, with very minor tweaks. Through a Power Purchase Agreement, AvalonBay could have a roof over the garage for a large solar array — paid for by the third party. They could generate more than enough energy to cover their electrical needs for all their common spaces (all exterior lighting, including garage, elevator and exhaust fan, bridges between garage, Building 1 and Building 2; pool; all interior lobbies, hallways, stairwells, mailroom, leasing office, marketing room, community room, lounge, fitness center, storage space, maintenance space, bike rooms, trash rooms and associated mechanical facilities; gas meter room).

All at a discount of 20-50 percent over conventional utility costs, with a profit on surplus energy. Why would AvalonBay say “no” to such a no-brainer? Their corporate website (“Sustainability,” p. 8) indicates they’ve used solar for freestanding clubhouses, so doing solar for an entire complex would be a first for them. Are they ignorant of PPAs? Do they need help and explanations? AvalonBay could in fact take a lead role in the industry by including this component; they would also satisfy the requests of both the PEC and SPRAB to utilize solar power.

Planning Board members should push hard on solar sustainability. Jon Vogel should show evidence that he’s committed to sustainability and green building. Right now, I’m missing proof.

Jane Buttars

Dodds Lane

 

FARM TO TABLE: “Someone can come in, have a ham and cheese sandwich on Rye with lettuce, and know that everything was grown or made within a five-mile radius. This is really farm to table.” Robin McConaughy, proprietor of the new Brick Farm Market in Hopewell, also owns Doublebrook Farm, which raises pastured, grass-fed cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens and turkeys, and in addition, features an extensive area for vegetables and herbs. Ms. McConaughy is shown spraying her sheep with apple cider vinegar to help reduce flies.

FARM TO TABLE: “Someone can come in, have a ham and cheese sandwich on Rye with lettuce, and know that everything was grown or made within a five-mile radius. This is really farm to table.” Robin McConaughy, proprietor of the new Brick Farm Market in Hopewell, also owns Doublebrook Farm, which raises pastured, grass-fed cattle, pigs, sheep, chickens and turkeys, and in addition, features an extensive area for vegetables and herbs. Ms. McConaughy is shown spraying her sheep with apple cider vinegar to help reduce flies.

Brick Farm Market has recently opened for business at 65 East Broad Street in Hopewell.

Robin and Jon McConaughy have a mission: healthy eating, humane treatment of farm animals, environmental responsibility, sustainability, and a local focus.

“The demand for healthful, local products has always driven our desire to become farmers. Like most people who care about healthful food, we want to know about everything that goes into creating what we serve to our family and friends. After a lot of research, we decided that if you want something done right — do it yourself! We started Double Brook Farm in earnest in 2006. Our passion for a local, sustainable, and humane operation has guided our approach to the farm from day one.”

As interest in and demand for the high quality products the McConaughys were providing grew, they expanded their operation to include raising sheep, pigs, and turkeys in addition to the cattle and chickens. They also cultivated a section for vegetables, including lettuce, carrots, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and a variety of herbs and other produce.

Now, where to sell all this high quality, fresh, local food?

Dedicated Outlet

As Ms. McConaughy explains, “We created Brick Farm Market to be the dedicated outlet for the farm — a full-service market within a stone’s throw of the source: Double Brook Farm. The market enables us to interact with our customers and share with them how the food they are buying is grown, raised, or made.”

Opened at 65 East Broad Street in Hopewell on May 17 at the former location of the Malek Chevrolet building, the market offers a variety of items either from the farm, made on the premises, or from like-minded vendors who share the McConaughys’ mission.

“With the Brick Farm Market, Double Brook Farm, our restaurant, Brick Farm Tavern (to open in 2014), we have a local sustainable operation that takes food from farm to market to table, and then back to the farm in the form of compost or animal feed. Three entities that rely on each other to create a full-circle model of responsible food creation and consumption.

“What you will find at the market reflects a culmination of informed choices and best practices. From selecting the seeds we grow, to humane animal treatment, to limiting our fossil fuel needs with clean energy, to preparing recipes with choice ingredients to educating the customers, we are taking some of the guess work out of nutritious, local, sustainable shopping.”

Brick Farm Market offers an attractive, convenient two-story setting in which to display the variety of items. Upstairs, the butcher shop features artisanal cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and chicken, charcuterie, and cheese. A long counter offers ample space for seating.

Downstairs, customers will find a juice/water/coffee bar, creamery (ice cream and other dairy), produce and herbs, bakery, and prepared foods. Tables are available for sit-down eating.

Amazing Team

The Brick Farm Market staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and happy to answer customers’ questions.

“We have very passionate, dedicated people working with us,” says Ms. McConaughy. “An amazing team of people. We want to be able to delegate and have a real partnership with them.”

General manager Deeann Lemmerling was previously with Bon Appetit in Princeton. Co-manager Jerry Baker is also a sommelier. Karen Child, formerly of The Village Bakery in Lawrenceville, is in charge of the bakery, and everything is made on the premises, including bread, croissants, cookies, brownies, Danishes, cupcakes, tarts, and cakes.

Bob Martinez, director of the creamery, makes the ice cream on-site. Single and double scoops are available in cones and cups, as well as quarts and pints. He is experimenting with new seasonal flavors in addition to the traditional vanilla and chocolate. Current specialties are blueberry gelato, salted caramel, and summer rum raisin. Ultimately, 32 flavors will be offered seasonally.

Chef Chase Gerstenbacher is in charge of the prepared foods, including rotisserie chicken, braised beef, chicken pot pie, shepherd’s pie, among many other dishes. He is also responsible for producing beef stock.

“We make our own bacon and sausage,” adds Ms. McConaughy, “and we also have a charcuterie, Salumeria Biellese, a certified slow food charcuterie in Jersey City, which uses our meat to make the prosciutto and other specialties.”

Michel Lemmerling, former owner of Bon Appetit, is the cheese guru (a “Taste Fromage”), and as Deeann Lemmerling points out, “We have an interesting cheese selection — all local, including brie-style, cheddar, Swiss, and gouda-style. Michel is an expert with cheeses around the world, and he is enjoying this new adventure, finding the best local cheeses.

“Aging Caves”

“We also have ‘Aging Caves’ for cheese and meat in three refrigerators, and customers can look into these and watch it being aged.”

Wooden bins are filled with a variety of vegetables and herbs, and Ms. Lemmerling explains that the bins were made of recycled wood from a former church in Trenton. “We also kept some of the vintage signs from the Malek Chevrolet dealership.”

Among the tempting treats customers can eat at the market or take out is the signature hamburger for $8; a variety of panini sandwiches for $7; breakfast dishes (served from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.), including eggs benedict, egg white scramble with roasted potatoes, cheddar, and greens; and breakfast croissant egg, cheese, with choice of ham, chorizo or country sausage, ranging from $5 to $7. Large plates include roasted sausage sampler, beer braised short ribs, and half rotisserie chicken — natural or BBQ, among others.

Ms. McConaughy looks forward to Brick Farm Market becoming an important part of the community. “People are really enjoying the fact that everything is local, and I know they will love having the store here. We have local employees, and we will be a local place. I can’t wait to come in and see the place humming.

“Also, we are a local market, and we can run out of things. It will reflect the season. We offer what a local farm can provide. We don’t sell anything here unless we have grown it or made it. The exceptions are coffee and drinks, but they are local. Our stipulation is: did it come from the farm? If not, is it local? If it is not local, is it within a 100-200 mile radius? And is it from a company that supports our mission of fair trade and sustainability? We will continue to evolve, and we like to show that a local farm-to-table operation can be profitable.”

Brick Farm Market offers a number of other items for sale, such as coffee and travel mugs, baseball caps, T-shirts, and canvas shopping bags, all featuring the friendly Brick Farm Market rooster logo. Fair trade large woven bags are offered for shoppers to use in the store. Gift cards are also available.

The McConaughys landscaped the property surrounding the building, and the ample parking is a plus.

Hours through June are Thursday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday 8 to 6, Sunday 8 to 1. Starting in July, the market will be open Tuesday through Sunday 7 to 7. (609) 466-6500. Website: brickfarmmarket.com.

 

FAMILY FARM: “We started the farm store in 2012. We wanted to do something for the community. We are a small full-service high quality market with produce from our own fields and products from others who share our ideas. Every farm and company whose products we carry is carefully vetted.” Shown left to right in the Blue Moon Acres Farm Market in Pennington are farm store manager Natalie Rockwell, farm manager Scott Morgan, and sales and marketing director Ashley Lyons.

FAMILY FARM: “We started the farm store in 2012. We wanted to do something for the community. We are a small full-service high quality market with produce from our own fields and products from others who share our ideas. Every farm and company whose products we carry is carefully vetted.” Shown left to right in the Blue Moon Acres Farm Market in Pennington are farm store manager Natalie Rockwell, farm manager Scott Morgan, and sales and marketing director Ashley Lyons.

“Something this good comes along once in a blue moon!” says Jim Lyons, with a smile. Describing the origin of his Blue Moon Acres Farm and Blue Moon Acres Farm Market, he is proud of this family business he started with his wife Kathy Lyons in 1992.

“Our farm began 21 years ago in Buckingham, Pa.,” he explains. “In the beginning, it was a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation. People would buy a share, and then come and get their vegetables.”

The Lyons started growing a small variety of greens and produce, and within a few years, the focus shifted to microgreens — small specialty greens for garnishment, especially in fine restaurants.

“We started with three restaurants in New York, and now we provide microgreens for 280 restaurants in New York and Philadelphia,” says Mr. Lyons. “When I first told my father about my work in farming, he said ‘Get a real job!’ Now, he’s a big supporter.”

Top Quality Produce

In 2007, the Lyons purchased 63 acres on Willow Creek Drive (just off Titus Mill Road) in Pennington. “We went from seven to 70 acres,” reports Mr. Lyons. “We came to Pennington because we needed more acreage. In addition to selling microgreens to the top restaurants and caterers in the New York/Philadelphia corridor, we now also operate markets at both of our farms.”

Ensuring that he can offer top quality produce to customers is a priority, and the Lyons have done extensive research about proper farming techniques. “We are certified organic.” points out Mr. Lyons. “We use only natural methods in our growing process — no chemical pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or growth regulators. The premise now is the same as it was in the beginning: to grow good quality food that is in accordance with sustainable agriculture procedures.

“Our goal is to produce the healthiest, most nutrient-dense foods in the most sustainable way possible,” continues Mr. Lyons. “To achieve this, our focus is primarily to encourage the numbers and diversity of beneficial micro-organisms in the soil. With healthy soil microbiology, growing crops becomes easier. Without it, the farming methodology would require an ever-increasing amount of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and no doubt, genetic modification, to attempt to achieve the same yields, all the while producing what I feel would be a nutritionally inferior crop.

“The interaction of the various microbes with one another and with the roots facilitates nutrient cycling and nutrient uptake by the plants.

“A good balance of bacteria to fungi in the soil also helps create good soil structure by the formation of soil aggregates. With good structure comes more pore spaces in the soil allowing the soil to, among other things, retain water better. Roots are also able to go deeper because soil is not compacted.

“Disease issues become less of a problem because the healthy microbes cover the plant top to bottom. So when a disease spore lands on a plant leaf or a root is attacked, the diseases are not able to compete because the surface of the leaf or root is already covered with healthy mircro-organisms. Also, even weeds can be lessened by enhancing the fungal populations in the soil.”

Long Grain Rice

In addition to the microgreens, Blue Moon Acres Farm grows baby greens (the next step up) and kale, chard, collards, kohlrabi, corn, red cabbage, and tomatoes. The Lyons also look forward to having blueberries soon, strawberries, and ultimately fruit trees.

We have also started growing long grain rice and arborio (Italian rice for risotto) as well as 30 other strains. The chefs at the restaurants are very happy about this,” reports Mr. Lyons.

Customers will also find beets, beans, and broccoli, carrots and corn, onions, potatoes and peppers, as well as spinach, squash, and turnips, among many other choices.

“We have three categories of produce: our own, which is organic, other organic, and local, which can also be organic,” explains Ashley Lyons, director of sales and marketing, and the daughter of Jim and Kathy Lyons. “We use the word ‘traceable’ about the products we have. We have a carefully curated selection. We know what farm or company they come from, and we have a personal relationship with the owners.”

In addition to produce, the farm market carries a variety of other items, including local area jams, jellies, honey and bee pollen, homemade ketchup, cheese, ice cream, chicken, soaps and lotions, coffee and tea, and various soft drinks, bread, and homemade chocolates.

The market also features a cafe, with chocolate and plain croissants from the Terra Momo Bakery in Princeton, various muffins, biscotti, and other specialties. “We have coffee beans from Coffee Scoop,” notes Ms. Lyon. “The beans are organic and Fair Trade. Also, the decaf uses the Swiss Water process and no chemicals.”

O Wow Cow Creamery

Laurie’s Chocolates from Bucks County, Pa. are another treat. The hand-crafted, award-winning chocolates are available in many varieties, including the popular chocolate peanut butter “Buckeyes”.

“We have small batch ice cream from O Wow Cow Creamery in Pennsylvania,” adds Ashley. “We also carry ice cream from the Bent Spoon in Princeton.”

The variety of breads includes baguettes and batards from Terra Momo Bakery and loaves from Berkshire Mountain in Vermont. Blue Moon Acres is the only establishment in the area to carry Berkshire Mountain bread, points out store manager Natalie Rockwell.

Pasta from Lucy’s Ravioli in Princeton, cheeses from Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, and chicken pot pies and fruit pies from Griggstown Farm are other popular items.

Ms. Lyons also points out the lavender soaps, lotions, and sachets from Pear Valley, owned by her aunt and uncle, Patti and George Lyons. “These are all natural products, with no chemicals.”

Customers also enjoy the variety of seasonal fresh flowers from the garden Kathy Lyons has planted.

Blue Moon Acres Farm Market prices cover a range, and include small coffees at $1, croissants at $2.50, muffins at $2, and baguettes at $2.50.

Series of Events

The Lyons family look forward to holding a series of events in the summer and fall. “On Saturday, July 14, we will have a special dinner created by elements’ chef Scott Anderson, using our own certified organic produce,” reports Ms. Lyons. “A part of the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.”

In August, an outdoor barbecue is planned, followed by a Farm Camp-out in September, Fall Harvest in October, and holiday Open House in December.

Ms. Lyons adds that she is very proud to be part of the family business. In addition to her parents, her sister Alissa and brother Chris take part in the farm’s operation. “I can’t imagine doing anything else,” she says.

“I enjoy the fact that we are taking care of the land in a way that will leave it better than when we found it. And, with the store, in connecting with the local producers and growing our own produce, we are reaching out to the community. The support from the community for quality food continues to grow. People appreciate what we have, and they are knowledgeable about it. They are informed consumers.

“We look forward to expanding what we offer and to taking on the challenge of growing whatever we can grow in the area.”

Blue Moon Acres Farm Market is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 to 5. (609) 737-8333. Website: www.bluemoonacres.net.

July 10, 2013

 

To the Editor:

Where can Princeton residents go to see a building similar in scale to the largest of the five AvalonBay buildings submitted to the Planning Board for the old hospital site? Where can a similar style of construction and materials be seen? Nothing in town comes close. But if you drive on Canal Pointe Boulevard to Marketfair Mall, the adjacent Residence Inn will start to give you a sense of Avalon Bay’s aspirations for Princeton.

Park your car and walk along the motel’s 260 feet of uninterrupted length. Guess what — Avalon Princeton Building #1 will be longer at 280 feet. Then turn and walk along the motel’s 180 feet of uninterrupted width. Guess what — Avalon Princeton Building #1 will be wider at 260 feet. And then allow your imagination to double the size of the motel to create an impenetrable private courtyard and you’re getting closer. Finally, look up at the motel’s height — Avalon Princeton Building #1 will be even taller, almost triple the height of adjacent homes on Franklin Avenue.

AvalonBay Princeton’s proposal ignores the Zoning Code’s design standards that ban a private gated community and stipulate harmony with surrounding neighborhood buildings. A large motel-style building, which looms over its neighbors and creates massive impenetrable walls, does not abide by the code standards and is discordant with the Princeton community.

Dan Shea

Harris Road

 

 

To the Editor:

AvalonBay should have a composting program in its proposed development — a win-win situation for everyone.

With composting, AvalonBay would pay $65/ton to haul organic food waste to a processing site — not $125/ton for the same waste to fill already overflowing landfills (where the waste creates methane gas, a known agent of climate change). Within the near future they would make an easy profit. There are many disposal companies, including Central Jersey Waste, that compete for contracts for food waste.

AvalonBay’s tenants (~560) would be allowed to participate in an important program that benefits the whole community and our environment.

Princeton (and Sustainable Princeton) would gain a partner in our programs for sustainability.

This is the wave of the future. The Princeton Environmental Commission’s report urges the Planning Board to make Food Waste Composting a Condition of Approval (section N). It cites Mayor Bloomberg’s New York City plan to compost 100,000 tons immediately, include 600 schools in the composting program, and build a composting plant in the region to turn compost into bio-gas, which in turn can become electricity. San Francisco and Seattle already have programs for single family homes.

AvalonBay, to its credit, has installed composting facilities at one of its developments in San Francisco. Ron Ladell, attorney for AvalonBay’s Plan A, said that “AvalonBay is not in the composting business,” but he was wrong.

AvalonBay can either install appropriate chutes for organic waste now (not larger than 2×2 feet) as part of the new design or it can stall, and then struggle through a retrofit in the future (after falling behind, again, in green building design), or it can do nothing and let the trash pile up (a health hazard), as photos show at its Lawrenceville and West Windsor developments. In any case they can require, or educate, their tenants to use standard biodegradable bags for food waste (13 gallons, available at McCaffrey’s) and take them to compost units — but AvalonBay should really provide the facilities themselves to make it easy for everyone.

Jon Vogel, project manager for AvalonBay in Princeton, has claimed to be the Green Man, but he has sounded dubious about chutes for compost. Why? — no big deal, especially when so many interior spaces need to be redesigned anyway. He has rightly said that his maintenance team will have the job of educating the tenants in living green (including recycling).

Sustainable Princeton will begin a composting program in all the schools this fall; they will soon be marketing the composting program to our private communities, i.e. Washington Oaks. AvalonBay should volunteer to be a leader and earn the sustainability credit at corporate headquarters that Mr. Vogel wants from the Princeton project.

If AvalonBay doesn’t embrace the future now, how will they respond to responsible tenants who really want to compost? AvalonBay should recognize that composting capabilities will be a selling point for their communities, not a downside. They should use their proposed Princeton development as their poster-child.

Vojislava Pophristic, PhD

Professor of Chemistry, University of the Sciences

Tee Ar Place

 

To the Editor:

As a former resident of Princeton for over 30 years, I am writing regarding the pending application from AvalonBay for the hospital site. AvalonBay has made significant changes to its original site plan and has addressed many of the concerns raised by those who oppose the development. And yet a small vocal minority continues to insist on more changes, particularly with regard to the affordable units.

It must be very nice to be sitting in a comfortable (and likely oversized) home and determining what and where families who qualify for affordable housing would like to live. My guess is that although this minority gives lip service to supporting affordable units, they will continue to pick away at the plan in the name of those families desperately needing safe and affordable housing. Unless and until they have walked in the shoes of families living in overcrowded and unsafe apartments, their objections have no standing.

I appreciate that I am no longer a resident of Princeton; however, I recall too many interviews with families looking for affordable housing and having to tell them there was an 18-24 month wait. A part of my heart is still with those families and the sooner affordable units can be developed, the better.

I urge the Planning Board to approve the AvalonBay development.

Sandra Persichetti

Morristown

Former executive director of

Princeton Community Housing

 

To the Editor:

As signatures continue to mount for saving Valley Road School and putting the question on the ballot, a couple of other questions deserve immediate answers.

First, is there any asbestos in the building? NO, according to the inspection and sampling that the Valley Road School-Adaptive Reuse Committee (VRS-ARC) and the Valley Road School Community Center, Inc. (VRSCCI) commissioned some time ago, there is NO asbestos in 369 Witherspoon Street. There is horsehair in the walls, but NO asbestos.

Second, will you be looking for municipal funds for the renovations? NO, we will be seeking private donations. In fact, we will be SAVING taxpayer money that otherwise would be required to demolish the building, an estimated $350,000-$450,000.

Third, where will VRSCCI get the funds? We have had many indications of strong interest from members of the community. We also have had considerable interest by Valley Road School alumni, many of whom live outside of Princeton. In addition, we intend to seek support from the supporters of the nonprofit organizations that become tenants, and we will also be seeking funds from investor partnerships. One prospective tenant has already expressed interest in being an investor partner. We are also looking at funds from the Economic Development Authority, which has recently financed projects for nonprofit organizations similar to ours. And finally we have plans for exhibits in the building illustrating the history that Valley Road School has presided over and that we think will interest potential donors.

Dan Thompson

Member, VRS-ARC

Dempsey Avenue

 

To the Editor:

Living across the road from the hospital site brings up a number of concerns, not the least of them is concern about AvalonBay’s planning with regards to the pending demolition process.

What experience does AvalonBay have when it comes to demolition of this scale? Have steps been taken to evaluate the level of asbestos in the existing structures? What plans do they have to protect the neighbors from airborne contaminants?

It is common knowledge that the hospital contains asbestos. We also know from local contractors that this is true for some pipes buried within partitions between rooms. This means that every wall in the building would need to be opened up and pipes reviewed before the actual demolition takes place. Have such detailed plans been submitted and if so, who is reviewing them?

Since there are three schools within close range of the site, how will the children be protected from this risk?

We also know that there have been numerous issues with the sewers in and around the hospital in the past — how will the demolition process affect this? How will the sewer system be protected to avoid debris entering and causing further damage?

AvalonBay has not shown much concern for the neighborhood in the process so far, and we can’t expect them to start now. It is up to our town’s leadership to manage this process and safeguard its citizens.

Elizabeth Williams

Harris Road

 

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Bilingual Nursery School at the YWCA Princeton, I would like to thank the many people who contributed to the success of the 9th Annual ETS Firecracker 5K Run/Walk held on June 25. More than 600 people participated in the event, raising over $20,000 for the Bilingual Nursery School.

Eighteen years ago, we collaborated with the Princeton Regional School System and established the preschool, providing quality educational programming to a population whose needs were not being served elsewhere. We are proud to have taught hundreds of children throughout the two decades, providing a solid platform from which to build. And, we are truly touched to have been a part in preparing them for success not only in school, but in our community.

We are appreciative of all who supported this event in big and small ways. Their efforts made for a successful evening and will positively impact the lives of countless children. So a huge Thank You to Kurt Landgraf, Kari Barrio, the runners, volunteers, and our generous sponsors: ETS, Bracco, Novo Nordisk, Hopewell Valley Community Bank (HVC), Geico, Mercadian, NJ Manufacturers, The Bank of Princeton, Packet Publications, Szaferman Lakind, Nelligan Sports Marketing, BeeFit with Tracy, Stark & Stark, Sound Choice Disc Jockeys, CG Sports, McCaffrey’s, Princeton Porsche, and Wegman’s.

Judith Hutton

CEO, YWCA Princeton

 

 

To the Editor:

We’re pleased that Jon Vogel has made a commitment to an equitable redistribution of affordable housing units as a part of the AvalonBay Princeton project. But he hasn’t yet extended that commitment to the three townhouses fronting on Franklin Avenue. He should. Twenty percent of the townhouses (2.4 units, rounded down to two units) should be inhabited by tenants who cannot afford market-rate units.

Municipal code for the MRRO zone requires him to do so. The site is not like Merwick/Stanworth, owned by Princeton University, who, unfortunately, are planning to exclude affordable units from their townhouses.

The real Princeton community doesn’t sanction redlining. Lee Solow, director of Planning, in his report on the AvalonBay application, plainly states: “… it has been [Planning] Board practice to require that all affordable developments distribute the affordable housing units throughout the site and ensure that the exterior of the affordable units are indistinguishable from the market units” (6/19/13, sec. 3.6; see also 9.6). The townhouses are certainly “distinguishable” from the two enormous apartment complexes. Their tenants should not be. The Engineering and Zoning Report from Jack West and Derek Bridger (6/18/13, sec. 22) reiterates the same principle.

Fully equitable distribution is Princeton practice and a sign of Princeton’s values, notwithstanding the perspective of some who have argued that premium real estate shouldn’t be wasted on the less fortunate.

Jon Vogel should commit to Princeton’s values. When he introduced himself at the Planning Board (6/27/13), he specifically mentioned his earlier experience in fair share housing — the years when he was General Counsel for the New York City Housing Partnership, an intermediary in the development of affordable rental and for sale housing in New York City (source: zoominfo.com). Someone with that background should certainly understand that the real estate costs for full equity are minor when compared with the claims of social and economic justice.

We trust that Jon Vogel will make the necessary commitment to an affordable set-aside of two units in the townhouses.

Milan Pophristic, PhD, MBA

Tee Ar Place

 

TT Livia Chris Hughes 7-10-13

Chris: “My favorite summertime drinks are Pimms No. 1 followed by gin and tonic,
and my favorite barbecued food would be burgers.”
Livia: “Orange juice.”
—Chris Hughes with daughter, Livia, Princeton

TT Natalie Schur 7-10-13

“Coconut Bai drink on ice and hamburger sliders.” —Natalie Schur, Princeton

 TT Joanie Ed Kaylee Cerbone 7-10-13

Joanie: “Margarita is my favorite drink and I like corn salsa and hot dogs.”
Ed: “Saranac Shandy beer with any meat on the barbecue.”
Kaylee: “Hot dogs.”
—Joanie and Ed Cerbone with daughter Kaylee, Montgomery

 TT Michelle Jerry Gomez 7-10-13

Jerry: “Peach sangria and grilled pork loin.”
Michelle: “Any kind of kabob chicken or beef and my favorite drink would have to be sangria as well.”
—Michelle and Jerry Gomez, Franklin Park

 TT Rebecca McCormack Sammy Nick Pietrinferno7-10-13

Nick: “Dr. Pepper and pulled pork.”
Sammy: “Lemonade and burgers.”
Rebecca: “Iced tea and a burger.”
—Rebecca McCormack, Lawrence (left) with Sammy and Nick Pietrinferno, Hopewell

TT Zane Sara Powell 7-10-13

Sara: “Burgers and margaritas.”
Zane: “Smoked sausage and Jockamo IMO beer.”
—Zane and Sara Powell, Franklin Park

 
July 3, 2013

To the Editor,

I am extremely disappointed by the decision of New Jersey legislators to give Governor Christie’s latest budget a rubber stamp. The budget the governor just signed underfunds our public schools by $1 billion and fails to keep his pledge to increase higher education funding in his first term. Once again Christie has said he can’t find the funds for schools and essential services, but he has somehow located enough money to give corporations over $200 million in tax cuts.

After three years of tax breaks for the rich and corporations, New Jersey’s unemployment rate is the sixth highest in the nation. Tax cuts for the one percent haven’t created the jobs New Jersey desperately needs. Instead of signing off the governor’s failed policies, we need our legislators to advance bold ideas for building strong, safe communities and developing a highly trained workforce. Until they do, the Jersey slump will continue while the rest of the nation recovers.

Mary Ellen Marino

President of NJ Progressive Democratic Caucus

Hornor Lane

To the Editor:

This spring I noticed what I did not hear in the morning hours — sounds of multiple birds greeting the dawn in my “tree street” neighborhood. It was the quietest spring I can remember. Each morning I heard two or three birds in the nearby trees. No mockingbirds, catbirds, or woodpeckers. It’s a huge change from when I first moved to Princeton.

While we worry about global warming, habitat loss, and large scale effects on our wildlife, there’s one very small thing that can be done to protect a huge number of birds — keep pet cats indoors. A recent study by the Smithsonian, published in the Journal of Ornithology, found cats were the number one killer of baby catbirds in the suburb studied. Cat predation was so serious, catbirds could not reproduce their numbers for a successive generation. The American Bird Conservancy has estimated that 500 million birds are killed by cats annually, split evenly between pets and feral cats. Other estimates also number in the hundreds of millions.

That seems like an impossible number. But assume your cat catches two birds per week. What’s two birds, right? Multiply those two birds by the 47 million pet cats allowed outside across the U.S. (estimated by The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute). That totals 94 million birds per week (not including the toll taken by feral cats.)

Once outside, your kitty’s a predator. We don’t have barns full of mice for kitty to stalk. We have small yards where songbirds, after arriving in the spring, nest and raise their young. Even well-fed cats enjoy stalking and are successful, especially on birds just out of the nest.

As an introduced species to our environment with few natural predators, the effects of cats on bird numbers shouldn’t be minimized or trivialized. Song birds face threats here, in wintering grounds, and during migration. But losses due to cats are easily within our power to ameliorate. If most of us keep our pet cat(s) indoors, we can cut losses dramatically. We can and should keep our own neighborhoods safe for birds to nest. Isn’t that the least we can do?

And outdoor cats themselves face many risks — traffic, dogs, wild animals, other cats, parasites, toxins, getting lost, etc. The American Humane Society recommends keeping cats indoors, purchasing prey-like toys, and rotating toys to avoid boredom. Outdoor time should be in a secured area, like a screened porch. Perches on window sills provide good entertainment viewing. Even paper grocery bags will engage your cat. Cats can have a great life indoors. After all, they are our pets, not wild animals.

It’s not enough to lobby government for conservation actions and press corporations for compliance with environmental laws. We need to police our behaviors and take responsibility for our effect on our planet. I urge cat owners to keep their cats inside. It’s a win-win. Cats and birds will both be safer.

Susan Betterly

Maple Street

To the Editor:

I have not been able to get to any of the meetings about the proposed pipeline through the Princeton Ridge. But I do want everyone involved to realize that the ridge is solid rock that will require constant dynamiting in order to bury anything.

Someone with a background in the topography of the area should be asked to provide information about the kind of rock the ridge is made of in order that a knowledgeable decision can be made.

Carolyn Wilson

Stuart Road

To the Editor:

We, the residents of the former Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, voted in good faith for the consolidation of the two municipalities with the hope for more efficient, but not reduced, services. In the process, the government of the newly consolidated Princeton assured the residents of keeping the already steep taxes unchanged. That may hold for the moment, but the altered schedule for garden waste collection is clearly insufficient in providing services for a town with lots covered by lush vegetation and oversized trees. These properties require regular care and waste disposal.

Now we are asked to either donate our time and services to transport the waste in our personal vehicles to the Princeton Pike Ecological Facility or to hire a professional company. This proposal implies that our time is not valued, our cars are suitable for transporting soaked paper bags with rotting, smelly garden waste (yes, it rains a lot these days!), or that every resident can write off the extra expense without thinking. This reduced service is as unacceptable now as it was in the past in the Borough before it turned back to the original routine, thereby encouraging the residents to resume gardening as they had been for years. In those days, on average, we in the Borough paid higher taxes and got better service than the residents in the Township. We still pay the same taxes, but the picture has changed, recalling the story of the baker who sold his bread for the same price without ever raising it, but eventually made the loaves smaller and smaller, until the customers had to buy two instead of one. Do we now pay the property taxes as well as foot various cartage bills from registered landscapers to maintain our properties with civic pride? I beg all residents who share my concern on this issue to bring it to the City Hall’s attention, the sooner the better as change doesn’t happen on its own accord.

Eva Siroka

Cedar Lane

To the Editor:

Just a quick note to say that the new town composting program is great. We have a compost pile in our back yard, but we obviously didn’t want any critters around, so we were careful to use only leftover vegetables and garden debris. Because we can compost so many more things with this program, our regular weekly trash has shrunk in size significantly.

Makes us feel good about leaving a better planet for future generations.

Jenn and Tony Pizi

Lake Drive

To the Editor:

We would like to thank the 128 (and counting) public-minded Princetonians who signed the petition to save the Valley Road School that was included in the June 12 edition of the Town Topics. The response was impressive given that the petition did not come with a return envelope or a stamp. That, combined with the over 1000 signatures already collected, clearly demonstrates the high level of commitment of the citizens of Princeton to preserving the historic structure and converting it to a Community Center as proposed by the Valley Road School Adaptive Reuse Committee.

So if you see one of our volunteers at a sign up table seeking more signatures please be so kind as to add your name and voice.

Richard C. Woodbridge

Member of Valley Road School

Adaptive Reuse Committee

To the Editor:

Do you think it is possible to slash your home energy bill in half or more, reduce the amount you pollute by 75 percent, save money, and make your living space more comfortable too? Edward T. Borer’s family has and we can too. Mr. Borer, Princeton University’s Energy Plant Manager by day, shared his very practical story during a recent Sustainable Princeton lunch-and-learn program. Here are some take away tips from Ted’s talk:

The key to win-win home improvement is understanding how we use energy in our own homes, what kinds of energy we use, and where there is waste. Details are important and projects should be customized to your needs. Understand what uses the most energy in your house (for example a home TV/set-top box might be an energy hog), then invest in improvements related to the biggest energy costs to have the biggest impact.

Ease into changes by starting with easy or free actions. Delay bigger, harder projects until they make sense or until you must replace an expensive item, such as a furnace, anyway. Mr. Borer advises us to consider ease of use, aesthetics, whether you will stay long enough to recoup your investment, or if a project will improve your home’s value.

We thank Mr. Borer for sharing his experience and hope to hear more inspiring stories and tips from Princetonians who are shifting to better and lower impact lifestyles!

Annarie Lyles, Alexandra Bar-Cohen

Sustainable Princeton Residents Committee Co-Chairs

To the Editor:

The members of Girl Scout Troop 70660 would like to thank the local businesses and members of the community who came together on Saturday, June 15 to participate in the kick-off day of our Downtown Princeton Scavenger Hunt. The day was a huge success, and helped the 11 fifth-graders in the troop in their Bronze Award, the highest award that can be achieved at the Junior level of Girl Scouts.

The troop designed and implemented a scavenger hunt in downtown Princeton, geared to preschool and elementary school children and their parents. This was inspired by their completion of the Detective and Business Owner badges this past year. As part of the requirements for the Business Owner badge, the troop met with Joanne Farrugia, the owner of JaZams, who discussed some of the privileges and challenges faced by local business owners. Based on this experience, the girls in the troop decided to create a scavenger hunt to encourage people to visit downtown Princeton and perhaps discover local stores and businesses that they hadn’t visited before.

The scavenger hunt itself can be done any time, since each clue leads to a permanent landmark in downtown Princeton. Families can pick up a copy of the hunt from the desk of the children’s department on the third floor of the Princeton Public Library. All children who complete the hunt will receive a special button designed by members of the troop.

For the kick-off event on June 15, participants also had the opportunity to visit ten local businesses located along the route of the hunt, including Princeton Soup & Sandwich, Olsson’s, Nassau Inn, PNC Bank, Iano’s Rosticceria, Small World Coffee, La Jolie, Savory Spice Shop, Hinkson’s: The Office Store, and JaZams. The businesses offered hunt participants free samples, discounts, and coupons. At JaZams in particular, each child received a small prize of a toy, and the first 25 participants received a $5 gift certificate. These donations helped make the kick-off event a big success.

In addition to thanking the business owners and employees of these businesses, we would also like to acknowledge the help of Fran McManus of the Princeton Merchants’ Association, who advised us in the early stages of the project, and Aaron Pickett of the Princeton Public Library. The library was the starting location for the hunt on kick-off day, and it will continue to keep copies of the hunt on file so that people can do it any time.

The girls of Troop 70660 really enjoyed the process of planning and implementing the hunt, and they spent a great deal of time and energy on this project. We thank the local businesses who partnered with us, and the members of the local community who came out to support us by participating in the kick-off event.

Patty Berhau, Martha Easton

Co-Leaders, Troop 70660, Princeton Service

To the Editor:

Has there been a thorough investigation of what is wrong with the sewers under Henry Avenue and Witherspoon Street? There were problems when the hospital was in operation and to the town’s credit, Bob Hough did a fantastic job coordinating a multi-week clean-up of the worst spillage with a hazmat team. The spillages raise questions as to whether those sewers are undersized, under-pitched, or cracked.

The sanitary sewers were in high demand with the hospital. As both a homeowner and retired plumbing contractor, I am very concerned about the effects of another high demand use — the 280 apartments proposed by AvaIonBay for this 5.6 acre lot.

I’ve lived on Harris Road since 1958 in a home built by my father. Ours was the second home on the block. The effect of sewage backing up into my home and those of my neighbors was sickening and traumatic, with unknown long-term effects.

I know that everyone wants to have a better use for the center of Princeton than an abandoned hospital, but I am worried about the infrastructure. Can this old sewer system that has already failed repeatedly serve a huge number of new residents and if not, what will be the cost to our town to clean up the mess?

John Armonia

Harris Road

To the Editor:

How refreshing and hopeful to read Barbara Trelstad’s letter to the editor (“Let’s Stop the Naysaying and Move Forward to Welcome AvalonBay Into Our Community,” June 26), where she cogently summarizes the many ways Princeton wins by approving AvalonBay’s reworked plans for the hospital site. David Keddie’s letter in the same edition also supports this position with yet another positive take on the issue.

Let’s hope these letters signal a change in direction from one group’s relentless, organized assault to a more receptive approach that will lead the community forward. The determined efforts of Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods provided a useful service to our town early in the process by forcing careful scrutiny of AvalonBay’s plans. But now we have an improved proposal, again in compliance with zoning guidelines. It’s time to stop the unsolicited e-blasts that the group fires off to everyone’s emails (there are so many, I’ve moved mine to the junk mail folder) in hopes of keeping the drama alive.

AvalonBay has responded thoughtfully, city officials have deliberated patiently and carefully, and the community’s silent majority is ready to see positive movement. Thankfully, it seems we have turned the corner to see an improved future along the Witherspoon corridor now, not after more costly stalling.

Beverly Leach

Witherspoon Street

To the Editor:

The Planning Board’s first hearing on AvalonBay’s new application began in pathos when chairperson Wanda Gunning thanked municipal staff for meeting an impossible schedule for reviewing the application. She noted that some of them (paid with our taxes) had “stayed up all night.”

They deserved thanks. But not for a moment did any member of the Planning Board chastise AvalonBay’s chief attorney Robert Kasuba for imposing such a brutal schedule for review on the municipality.

Will Princeton excuse the Board? How could they dissent? — they’re operating under the bullying terms of the Consent Order (4/18/13), which they may not even have read when they gave permission to sign off on it. Princeton Council did the same thing.

Why is the Consent Order outrageous? Read Point Four: “… if the Planning Board approves the [present] Application and litigation is filed challenging that approval, AvalonBay, at its option, may continue prosecuting this current litigation while, if it so chooses, defending the Application in the subsequent litigation [AvalonBay first filed a lawsuit on 2/19/13 against the former Planning Board for its 7-3 denial of “Plan A,” 12/19/12]. If the Planning Board denies the [present] Application or [!!!] imposes conditions on the approval of the Application that AvalonBay opposes, AvalonBay, at its option, may continue with the current litigation [on Plan A] while, if it so chooses, filing litigation challenging the Planning Board’s denial of the Application or conditions imposed on an approval of the application ….”

So: AvalonBay threatens further litigation against the Planning Board if it doesn’t like any new Conditions of Approval? Is this a loaded gun, or what?

Conditions of Approval are routinely attached to Approvals. What if AvalonBay “opposes” the Condition proposed by both the Site Plan Review Advisory Board and the Princeton Environmental Council (PEC) that AvalonBay build to Energy Star standards, version 3 (issued by the Environmental Protection Agency), no matter what? Or the PEC’s proposed Condition that AvalonBay provide a minimum of 200 bicycle spaces (less than one bicycle per unit)? What about SPRAB’s proposal for opening a public archway through Building 2 to the piazza? And many more proposed COA’s to make this gargantuan hulk a smidge more acceptable.

This Planning Board has little leeway to request modifications, much less deny the Application. Last week, according to reports published elsewhere, Mayor Liz Lempert dismissed a notion that the Planning Board hearings were a mere formality and said that these Planning Board hearings were no different from others. But as AvalonBay told the Planning Board (6/27), it held private meetings with the mayor, attended variously by at least four members of the Planning Board, plus the chairs of SPRAB and the PEC. Was AvalonBay’s new plan pre-approved — no matter what they planned to submit (submission on 5/20/19).

When SPRAB formulated its report without municipal staff input, Bill Wolfe made the right judgment: “This sets a very bad precedent.” The Planning Board needs some guts.

Cara Carpenito

Maple Street