January 9, 2013

To the Editor:

I am looking forward to participating in our new Princeton refuse collection and would like to make a suggestion/request.

When the yellow and green plastic recycling barrels were first distributed it was possible to obtain lids that fit them, first at a town municipal facility and then by driving to the Mercer County facility and purchasing a lid there for $2. Over time it was easy to lose them due to careless pick up practices or windy conditions, so many of us no longer have enough lids to cover these barrels when we also use them for garbage disposal.

It would be a real help if the Department of Public Works could obtain a quantity of these lids for resale to Princeton residents so that they can fully comply with the new disposal regulations. Princeton has been my home for over 85 years and it is difficult for me to drive to the Mercer County facility but a short drive within the town limits would be no problem. Until then, I will have to improvise to provide lids for all my trash receptacles.

Sallie W. Jesser

Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

Now that our consolidated municipality is collecting everyone’s trash, citizens are scrambling to comply with the December 17 refuse collection memo. Unfortunately, there is confusion, especially in the outdoor sections of Home Depot and Lowe’s where trash cans are sold. The memo instructed: “You are allowed a maximum of four 32 gallon capacity plastic or metal containers (with or without wheels), which weigh no more than 50 pounds when full.” After seeing all manner of containers large and small on the streets after our first pickup last week, I called Town Hall for clarification. The confused, defensive response seemed suggestive of a “Municipal Complex.” The respondent didn’t quite know whether the rule permitted 50 gallon containers, or each container 50 pounds, or all containers a total of 50 pounds. “I didn’t write this memo,” she protested. In fact, the memo is confusing. A further clarification would be helpful so that homeowners can readily comply without overinvesting in new receptacles, local merchants can stock exactly what we need, the haulers can attain their efficiencies with the preferred standardization, and the community can be satisfied that compliance is being fairly maintained and that municipal collection is better than private collection.

Tom Pyle

Balsam Lane

January 2, 2013

To the Editor:

The 7-3 Planning Board vote against AvalonBay was decisive.

After chastising AvalonBay for falsely claiming to have presented a concept plan, one member said, “We are as contemptuous of [AvalonBay’s] site plan as the applicant was of [Borough Code] design standards.” Another said, the plan “is the essence of a gated community” and stated that the word “through” — as in public “linkages between and through the development” (Code, 17A-193B.d.4) — was “not a difficult word” to understand; some design standards “are concrete,” the member said, after having received assurances of SPRAB’s “absolute” rejection of the site plan on fourteen counts.

Another criticized AvalonBay’s intransigence during ad hoc discussions (spring 2012) in failing to “provide the openness … the design standards are calling for” and in balking “when we suggested we might support an increased building height if they would go higher in the center of the site” (as stipulated in the design standards), and summarized, “The overriding theme was ‘AvalonBay is a brand and that’s what you get.’”

Another called the plan “monolithic and gated,” not “something that was integrated into the community.” One, also referring to the outsized scale, strongly discouraged in design standards unchanged since 2006, said, “We owe these neighbors … some semblance of a family neighborhood.” Another called AvalonBay “intellectually devious” in frequently using the term “cost-generation” (not permitted in a development that includes affordable housing) to threaten the Planning Board and satirized the developer’s private, “cost-generative” swimming pool.” One, though voting for the application, asked whether the development would be a “destructive unit” (harsh language); another wanted “a better design”; “disturbing” was the kindest word.

Planning Board members agreed: AvalonBay disregarded the design standards. Mr. Ladell audaciously tried to sham his way into an approval. “Not once,” he said, did “staff assert that the project needed any variance or isn’t conforming.” Eyes rolled. Attorney Ladell: you know that no municipal staff can “approve” an application; they “deem” an application “complete” when all preliminary papers have been submitted — and then study the plans for difficulties, ask for clarifications. They don’t vote.

Princeton should know that, just before the final hearing, the planning director, with Borough and Township staff, addressed the Planning Board: “Staff is not able to form an opinion on whether all the [design] standards have been adequately addressed as AvalonBay has only provided the Board and staff with one-dimensional black and white drawings of the building. Many of the design standards require a more expansive approach and we would expect the site designer to discuss the design criteria with the Board using exhibits to demonstrate the creativity, invention, and innovation that went into the design. None of the elevations have been rendered … the applicant has not provided any building material samples … detailing how it has addressed the design standards.”

Mr. Ladell, that’s no “approval”. It’s a rebuff based on the design standards you chose to disregard and your failure to provide information. You lost the vote. You lost community trust months ago. Leave. Do not appeal.

Daniel A. Harris

Dodds Lane

TT Erika Flory Emma Rosen 1-2-13

Emma: “To get more organized with school work so I have time to do everything, so I’m not all over the place.”
Erika: “My New Year’s resolution is to have a more positive attitude when things don’t go my way.”
—Erika Flory (left) and Emma Rosen, Princeton

TT Chris Leone Mckinsey Bamber 1-2-13

 Chris: “My New Year’s resolution is taking any opportunity to do better. If you put off setting a goal, you will never achieve it.”
Mckinsey: “My New Year’s resolution is always the same, to be better.”
—Chris Leone and Mckinsey Bamber, Richmond, Va.
TT Peter Krasnoff 1-2-13
 “It’s to make my daughter laugh as much as possible.”
—Peter Krasnoff, Princeton

 
TT Bernadine Hines 1-2-13
“To get my new business started.”
—Bernadine Hines, Princeton

 
TT Anna LaPlaca 1-2-13
“My New Year’s resolution is to eat better. I come into town and eat junk food. I want to eat healthier.”
—Anna LaPlaca, Princeton

 
TT Gabriel Mendelberg 1-2-13
“To exercise more.” —Gabriel Mendelberg, Maplewood

 
WORKING OUT: “This is something that I love. It’s wonderful when you can do something you love and that makes you and others feel good. You feel renewed and revitalized after a Gyrotonic® work-out.” Kristen Thompson, owner of KAT movement — Gyrotonic® on State Road, is shown working out on the pulley trainer, Gyrotonic’s main piece of equipment.

WORKING OUT: “This is something that I love. It’s wonderful when you can do something you love and that makes you and others feel good. You feel renewed and revitalized after a Gyrotonic® work-out.” Kristen Thompson, owner of KAT movement — Gyrotonic® on State Road, is shown working out on the pulley trainer, Gyrotonic’s main piece of equipment.

“When I discovered Gryrotonic®, I loved it!” says Kristen Thompson. “It provides a total body work-out, and it simulates the feeling of being in water and air. It draws from the movements of yoga, ballet, Pilates, gymnastics, tai chi, and swimming, but it is different because it is three dimensional.”

Owner and certified Gyrotonic trainer of the new studio KAT Movement — Gyrotonic® at 812 State Road, Ms. Thompson is enthusiastic about the benefits of this unique exercise concept.

“It was developed in the 1970s by dancer Juliu Horvath, who had sustained injuries, including to his Achilles tendon. In the beginning, Gyrotonic was a means for professional dancers to deepen their stretches and improve their fluidity of movement.”

The results were so positive that over time, athletes and others began to practice Gyrotonic. Physical therapists and members of the medical profession also recognized its value.

Arching and Curling

The foundation of the Gyrotonic form of exercise is its focus on three dimensional, spherical and fluid movements, including arching and curling the spine.

“Spinal mobility is very important for every age level,” explains Ms. Thompson. “Gyrotonic exercises are circular, elongating, and strengthening. They also help prevent injuries by toning, stretching, and increasing range of motion and flexibility. We can pay attention to one area, such as knee, shoulder, neck, etc. But it is a full body work-out and in a balanced way.

“Gyrotonic is for all ages, abilities, and agility levels,” she continues. “My focus is to help the everyday person looking for a new way to stretch, strengthen, improve posture, lessen aches and lower back pain, engage their core muscles, and increase coordination, focus, and flexibility. All ages can benefit from the gentle, fluid, circular motion that guide the body through a rejuvenating, relaxing, and renewing head-to-toe work-out.”

The unique pulley tower is Gyrotonic’s primary piece of equipment. It consists of two pieces, a seven-foot wooden tower with two sets of pulleys and a padded bench with two rotating wheels at the end. These rotating wheels allow the exerciser to perform a series of arches and curls, helping the spine to flex and extend, while simultaneously opening the chest and shoulders, explains Ms. Thompson. Weights on the pulleys provide resistance and support the movements of the legs, arms, and hands, all working in a balanced way. At the heart of all the movements is the activation of the deep core muscles.

Balance and Posture

Clients are all ages, from seven to 81, and everyone in between, says Ms. Thompson. “For older people, it can be very beneficial for balance and posture. It is truly for all ages, including kids with agility problems and medical conditions, people with sports injuries, or conditions such as arthritis. I also have clients who do triathlons. And it’s helpful for new mothers, too. It’s a great way to strengthen the muscles and work out the core, which is especially important for them.”

Ms. Thompson trained and worked with master teachers of Gyrotonic at Kinsespirit and Fluid Fitness studios in New York, and has earned Level One certification enabling her to instruct clients. Sessions are one-on-one with Ms. Thompson for 50 minutes, and are $60. Savings are available with packages of five or 10 sessions. Gift packages are also offered.

Ms. Thompson is very enthusiastic and encouraged about her studio and the numbers of clients who continue to return. “When I opened the studio in April, I completely remodeled the space. I wanted it to be warm and welcoming. I so much enjoy sharing something that I love with others and seeing them enjoy it as much as I do. And, then when they see how much better they feel after a work-out, it is very rewarding.

“This is such a beneficial way to exercise. No other exercise can move you three dimensionally and stretch and strengthen at the same time. It’s such a graceful, fluid program.”

As the Gyrotonic founder has pointed out, “The ultimate aim is to be at home in one’s body, experience greater freedom of movement, to feel unrestricted and uninhibited, to be free from pain, to be at one with the nature of oneself, and to experience exercise as a creative and delightful experience”

Ms. Thompson’s studio is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. by appointment. (908) 500-3470. Kthompson360@gmail.com. The studio is also on Facebook: KAT Movement — Gyrotonic®.

PICTURE PERFECT: “I want to create timeless photos that will endure. I want my work to be the best it can be, and I look forward to the photos I am going to take tomorrow.” Photographer Frank DiGiovanni enjoys every moment in capturing an image with his camera, and he is an expert in his field.

PICTURE PERFECT: “I want to create timeless photos that will endure. I want my work to be the best it can be, and I look forward to the photos I am going to take tomorrow.” Photographer Frank DiGiovanni enjoys every moment in capturing an image with his camera, and he is an expert in his field.

Getting it right is crucial to photographer Frank DiGiovanni. Whether it’s a portrait, a wedding photo, or a fine art landscape or flower, he devotes all his energy, effort, and expertise to capturing the right shot at the right moment.

“In a portrait, it’s all about getting the essence of that person,” he explains. “The moment can be fleeting. My specialty is one person, with no props, and my approach to every person is barely letting them know I am taking their picture. I want it to be authentic.”

Self-taught, Mr. DiGiovanni received his first camera when he was 11, and he was immediately captivated by this device, and what he was able to achieve with it. “I have always been visually oriented, and have good spatial relations. You have to have an eye to see the concept,” he explains.

He took photography classes in high school, and won a national scholastic award for his work, as well as a Governor’s Award for photography.

Making Memories

As a young photographer, Mr. DiGiovanni was grateful for the support and encouragement of professional and award-winning photographers, and took to heart the advice of one in particular: “To find the substance in my work, I had to find the substance in myself. To grow as a photographer, I had to grow as a person.”

After working for various photography firms in New Jersey, he opened his own studio at 4577 Route 27 in Kingston in 2006. “I always knew I wanted my own business, and I was very happy to open here, which is where I grew up,” notes Mr. DiGiovanni. “When I first opened, I focused on weddings and portraits, and I continue to do these. They are the best ways to make memories. I recently did a family portrait, with two grown sons and their mother, who had been ill. The mother died two months later, and it meant so much to the sons to have the portrait.”

Although not formally trained, Mr. DiGiovanni has been determined to learn all he can about photography, and spends many hours investigating new procedures and examining his own work. “I have read all the books about the theory and concept of photography, but there is nothing like the experience of going out and getting the shot. According to author Martin Gladwell, it takes 10,000 hours to become a master of what you do.”

Provided, of course, that one has the talent and skill to become an expert.

Softer and Softer

In addition to his work with weddings and portraits, Mr. DiGiovanni is now focusing more on fine art photography, including landscapes, flowers, and street scenes. “In this work, I like to find the little things that are part of the overall,” he explains.

“It may just be a very small part of the flower, for example, or a little section of a house or building. And, with fine art photography, you want to show the subject in the moment, in the light of the moment. It is often spontaneous, when I discover it — it can be so fleeting. It may be at dusk, when the light is perfect. That’s the last light of day, and it gets more and more gorgeous, softer and softer.”

Some of Mr. DiGiovanni’s fine art photographs look like paintings, since they are stretched on canvas. These have become increasingly popular with customers, and currently, 30 percent of the photos are on canvas.

Digital has become the means of choice in photography today, and Mr. DiGiovanni is an advocate of its value. “Digital is such an improvement. The answer is right in front of you. You see the photo immediately, and the quality is so much better. The main thing with digital is that it helped me to get better in leaps and bounds because I can see it so quickly, and then, if necessary, you make adjustments.”

Portrait photo sessions can last 20 minutes or more, and Mr. DiGiovanni can have color or black and white prints or digital images for clients in a few days. Digital images on line may be available in 24 to 48 hours.

“My rates are competitive,” he adds. “It’s very high quality work at very fair prices. And, I also try to work within people’s budgets.”

Planning Ahead

Mr. DiGiovanni is practical as well as creative, and strongly believes in the importance of planning ahead. “I need to have a streamlined operation, so I can think about tomorrow and deal with the constant change. My goal is to think about the next 10 years, and I already have my 5-year plan in place. And, I never want to be satisfied with what I did today. I always want to improve.”

He is very pleased that the economy has begun to take a turn for the better recently. As he says, the past eight months have been better than the past four years. Portraits are up, and weddings, commercial photos, and fine art are all up.

Continuing to capture special moments in people’s lives is Mr. DiGiovanni’s mission. “I enjoy taking the photos. For me, if I can just keep taking pictures, that is the ideal situation. I also enjoy the variety of the work, including the processing. I like to study my work, and see ways to improve. The fact that I was able to capture indelible memories for someone with a wedding or a portrait is a way of making a difference in their lives. I want the photos to be meaningful to them, and continue to tell their story.”

Mr. DiGiovanni’s is available by appointment, and he tries to accommodate customers’ schedules. (609) 924-4400. Website: www.digidg.com.

CREATIVE CUISINE: “This is a small restaurant, and I have a small kitchen. There is no mass-produced food here. Everything is cooked to order.” Salvatore Scarlata, chef/owner of Vidalia, is shown in his restaurant with samples of his delicious dishes.

CREATIVE CUISINE: “This is a small restaurant, and I have a small kitchen. There is no mass-produced food here. Everything is cooked to order.” Salvatore Scarlata, chef/owner of Vidalia, is shown in his restaurant with samples of his delicious dishes.

The flavors and tastes of Italy are on the menu at Vidalia Restaurant, 21 Phillips Avenue in Lawrenceville. Both the food and the ambiance at this charming and intimate establishment are pleasing to the senses.

The friendly knowledgeable staff makes customers immediately welcome, and the menu invites leisurely dining in a setting that includes fresh linens and decor reflecting Italian sensibility. Great care has been taken with every detail, and chef/proprietor Salvatore Scarlata makes a point of visiting each table he can to thank his guests for joining him for dinner.

“I am treating people well and feeding people well,” he says. “When people go out to eat, they are spending their hard-earned money. Why should they come here? I emphasize simplicity and consistency. If you have guests visiting you and want to bring them here, you can count on it being good. It’s service, quality food, and a warm atmosphere. I have a great staff, and everyone gives 110 percent. They are all experienced servers.”

Born in Sicily, Chef Scarlata came to the U.S. with his family when he was 12. His father had a restaurant in north Trenton, and as a boy, Sal was involved in the family operation. “I grew up in the restaurant business, and I learned from my father. Now, I have been in the business for 20 years.”

Classic and Inventive

Before acquiring Vidalia in 2005, Mr. Scarlata worked in a number of restaurants in the area. It was always his hope to have a restaurant of his own, where he could not only serve traditional Italian dishes, but also create new recipes.

“There are different ways of preparing Italian food” he notes. “The work is so creative. Sometimes, it can be trial and error, when trying out new things. We change the menu seasonally, and we have classic and inventive dishes. I also often get good ideas from customers. Many have traveled, and have sampled interesting cuisines. I try to cater to them if they have special requests. We can also accommodate people with particular dietary needs, including those with gluten or other food allergies.”

People are more knowledgeable about food today, he adds. They are also more concerned about eating healthier diets.

Mr. Scarlata believes Vidalia is set apart by his special recipes and the fresh ingredients and quality of the food. “We have daily deliveries, and I always get local produce whenever I can.”

In addition to the regular menu, the restaurant offers seven specials every day. Recently, filet mignon, with shrimp wrapped in bacon, French string beans, truffle garlic mashed potatoes, and onion rings were available. Another special was beet salad, including roasted beets with goat cheese, dried apricots, walnuts, apple slices, arugula and the chef’s own salad dressing.

“Lovers Scallops,”  which alternates scallops and shrimp in a molded crostini, with spring mix salad including Sicilian blood oranges and cherry tomatoes, is a favorite. Prince Edward Island clams on the half-shell in a wasabi cocktail sauce is another special.

Many Choices

The basic menu offers many choices, and customers’ favorites include the appetizer Artichoke Francese, egg-battered in a lemon, white wine butter sauce. The Penne E Polle con Broccoli entree, with penne pasta, broccoli, and grilled chicken, sauteed in garlic and extra virgin olive oil, and topped with fresh grated parmiagiano cheese, is always in demand.

Another favorite entree is Capesente, pan-seared scallops served with a side of black truffle oil, infused parmiagiana risotto, spinach, and topped with a vermouth cream sauce.

A variety of salads and appetizers, along with the selection of entrees will satisfy the appetite of any diner. In addition, the presentation of the dishes at Vidalia is impressive and visually striking. “I feel the food has to have eye appeal,” explains Mr. Scarlata. “I am very visual, and it is important that the food looks as good as it tastes!”

Desserts are always popular, and include such choices as tiramisu, cannoli, and exotic bomba, among others. Cappuccino, espresso, and other beverages are all available. The restaurant does not have a liquor license, but many customers bring wine, and all set-ups, including ice bucket, are available without corkage fee.

Private Parties

Lunch, dinner, and catering (all sizes and styles of events) are offered, and the restaurant, which seats 40, can also be booked for private parties. In seasonal weather, there is room for 60 to dine al fresco.

Even in what has been a difficult economy, Mr. Scarlata is very encouraged and optimistic about the numbers of customers from all over the area who are regulars at the restaurant. “I am very proud of Vidalia. In preparing a dish that is special, I am pleasing someone. The reward is when someone says it was the best meal they ever had, or they posted on-line: ‘It reminds me of my mom’s cooking.’ It’s great to have these comments and to see people leave with a smile on their face.

“On the other hand, I am never satisfied,” he adds. “I always want the next meal to be better. I want to continue to have the restaurant improve and introduce even more people to our great food.”

Vidalia will offer a special New Year’s Eve fixed-price menu, and the restaurant is always reservation only. Hours are lunch: Tuesday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner: Tuesday through Thursday 4 to 9, Friday, Saturday 5 to 10, Sunday 4 to 9. (609) 896-4444. Website: www.eatatVidalia.com.

December 26, 2012

To the Editor:

I am greatly disappointed to hear that the Princeton Regional Planning Board has voted to approve Princeton University’s plans for its new Arts Center and the Dinky train shuttle between Princeton and the Northeast Corridor train line at Princeton Junction. I agree entirely that the Arts Center should go forward immediately. But this really has nothing to do with the Dinky, except for the fact that Princeton University has dishonorably and disingenuously tried to package the two plans together, in order to slide a bad project through the public approval process under cover of a good one.

The Dinky terminus at the Princeton end will be moved 460 feet out of town, AND have a long staircase interposed between it and the town, AND have a road interposed between it and the town, AND have drop-off parking moved from the bottom of University Place to a location one traffic circle and multiple street lights and pedestrian crossings further away from town. All for the purpose NOT of enabling an Arts Center, for which none of these physical changes need be made, but instead simply to give the University better access from Alexander Road to one of its parking lots. The Dinky plan is patently awful public-amenity planning, for these reasons and others (it will prevent possible future extension of the Dinky line into town, it will further burden traffic on the Alexander Road route out of town and pin this route between University-controlled land on both sides, etc.). It would be laughed out of any reasonable public policy forum, were it not being camouflaged by the Arts Center stalking horse.

If the Dinky plan is ultimately effectuated, the sad lessons to draw will be that (1) the University is as capable of degrading the public welfare for selfish reasons as any other big, rich, and overly self-satisfied private actor; (2) the University can be quite unintelligent in weighing up long-term benefits for itself (as well as for the town) against minor gains for itself (and losses for the town); (3) our public servants have failed us in not separating the Arts Center and Dinky plans and making sure that the good plan did not come at the high cost of the bad plan; (4) our public servants have failed us in not coming up with a better way to give the University better access to its parking lot (surely something we should be rushing to help the University achieve, without having to rip up functioning electric transportation infrastructure); (5) our local news media have failed us in not seeing through the ruse of an “Arts and Transit” neighborhood and speaking truth to power; and (6) the University and the town are about to vandalize a unique and extremely valuable amenity — an electrified (and extendable) right-of-way from the Northeast Corridor almost to the Princeton town center. So close, and yet so far.

The town of Princeton has only two things that really differentiate it from most other suburbs in the country: Princeton University and the Dinky connection to the nation’s busiest transit corridor. The town has now decided to permit the stronger of these two assets to cannibalize the weaker. It will only make Princeton more of a “one-company town”, and give the University even more power to override the local public good in favor of its private interests in the future.

Richard Baumann

Princeton University Class of 1981,

Rosedale Road

To  the Editor:

I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Princeton Clergy Association for organizing the December 20 Interfaith Gathering of Unity and Hope in remembrance of the victims of the Sandy Hook school tragedy. I’m certain that the large number of attendees who covered Palmer Square Green share my sentiment.

The inspiring messages from leaders representing many denominations and religious faiths beautifully conveyed our sorrow, love and support for the families affected by this unspeakable horror.

Linda Sipprelle

Nassau Street

To the Editor:

“Wow!” was the word used by many as they entered Frick Laboratories, Princeton University for the Arts Council of Princeton’s (ACP) Dining by Design: POP! Fundraiser held on December 1. The ACP would like to thank our event sponsors, dinner hosts, guest artist presenters, auction donors and our event committee, especially the talented and dedicated décor Co-Chairs Dawn McClatchy and Sandy Bonasera and their team. We would also like to thank the over 400 attendees who supported our event and recognize our Board of Trustees for their unprecedented generosity and dedication. In addition, we truly appreciate Princeton University for providing the spectacular event venue.

We are proud to have exceeded our fundraising goals to continue our critical support of important free programs that make the arts accessible to at-risk youth, seniors, and people from all backgrounds. Programs for at-risk youth include: Arts Exchange (for HomeFront of Trenton), Art Reach (for Princeton Young Achievers and Princeton Nursery School), and Kids at Work: Discovery through Art (for Princeton Regional Schools). This funding also supports scholarships to ensure that our classes are accessible to all and for Creative Aging Programming for Seniors and Caregivers. For more information about these and other Arts Council of Princeton programs we invite you to visit our website www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

Thank you again to everyone for your continuing support in helping to achieve our mission of “building community through the arts.”

Jeff Nathanson,

Executive Director

Jeniah “Kookie” Johnson,

Director of Community Relations

AWARD-BUILDING BUILDER: “We are very honored to have received the Remodeling Big 50 Award,” says Jim Baxter, owner of Baxter Construction in Hopewell. “I direct a lot of the credit to my team of talented craftsmen and administrators. They are just as responsible for the experience that our customers receive and the success we have realized as I am.”

Whether it’s a 200-year-old colonial needing total renovation, a two-bedroom ranch requiring major expansion, or a 1960s kitchen or bath in need of updating, Baxter Construction will create just the look the homeowner hopes to achieve.

“Our focus is on residential,” explains Jim Baxter, owner of Baxter Construction. “We especially work on older houses, including repairs, renovation, and additions. Remodeling older houses and making them look as if they aren’t remodeled — keeping the character of the house — is our specialty. People are saying, ‘Let’s renovate’, but they still want to capture the feeling of the house.”

“We also do other jobs, however, both small and large. From replacing a doorknob or fixing a porch to new construction: everything from large and small additions to complete new houses. We’ll do kitchen and bath remodels, windows, mouldings, any kind of carpentry,” he continues. “Another thing we do is to put handrails and other support features in the house, so as they get older, people can continue to live in their home. We’ll do all kinds of jobs, all sizes, and I think people appreciate this.”

Many of the renovations have been of an historic nature, and have been featured in newspaper and magazine articles.

Peace of Mind

The company has completed many award-winning projects, since Mr. Baxter founded it in 1981. In addition to the 2012 Remodeling Magazine Big 50 Award (which recognizes “owners of remodeling companies that have set exceptionally high standards for professionalism and integrity through exemplary business practices, craftsmanship, and impact in their community or the industry at large”), Baxter Construction has received several Historic Preservation Awards, the New Jersey Historic Preservation and The Princeton Historic Preservation Awards for the Woodrow Wilson House in Princeton, and the Sustainable Princeton Leadership Award for the Whole Earth Center building.

Mr. Baxter attributes the company’s success to its fine craftsmanship, attention to detail, and listening carefully to the homeowners’ wishes. “We emphasize good project management and understanding the needs of the owners. We’re a traditional builder. We do a very detailed estimate, and the goal is getting a clear definition of the scope of the work. We have a lead carpenter and project manager on the job every day, which helps to create peace of mind for the client. What we always strive to do is to reach and exceed customers’ expectations.

“Our detailed management system allows us to plan and schedule your project, track progress of the work, and most importantly, communicate all of that to you in a timely and understandable manner And once your project begins, the work will proceed daily until everything is completed.”

Staying Put

“Many times today, the clients are people who are staying put, fixing their house rather than moving,” continues Mr. Baxter. “We do a lot of remodeling of kitchens and bathrooms, and expanding family rooms. In one house, we converted a two-car garage into a family room. People want to open up spaces and in some cases, they want to turn existing dining rooms into other space.”

Baxter Construction is also experienced in commercial building, having built the Michael Graves Design Studio and the Whole Earth Center store, a LEED certified green construction project, among other jobs.

Energy-efficiency, sustainability, and environmental-friendly methods and materials are very important today, emphasizes Mr. Baxter. “People are definitely thinking green now, and this is reflected in our construction projects.”

For many years, Baxter Construction has supported community organizations through its volunteer efforts with the Historical Society of Princeton, Morven Museum and Gardens, the Hopewell Board of Education, Hopewell Borough, and the Sourland Mountain Preserve.

Apprenticeship
Program

“Volunteering and being a part of the community is very important to us,” says Mr. Baxter, who is himself a carpenter. “I also hope to set up an apprenticeship program for young people to help them learn the building business.”

It is also important to Mr. Baxter that the company continues to improve. He belongs to the Remodelers Advantage, an organization helping companies to improve business practices and development. “There are 10 round table groups in the country, and 10 companies in each group. We meet twice a year to focus on improving business operation, including management, sales, and marketing, among other areas. It is very intensive and a great experience, and I am now focusing more on sales and marketing.”

Baxter Construction’s projects are found all over the Princeton area and beyond, including beach houses in Cape May. Mr. Baxter continues to enjoy the client contact, and he takes pride in the quality of work he is able to provide them.

“I enjoy the level of craftsmanship — what Baxter Construction brings to the job. To see the customer’s satisfaction at the end of the job is very rewarding. Baxter Construction is proud of the quality of the work we do, from framing through finish trimming. Our crews are composed of experienced carpenters who have been with us for many years and believe in the Baxter way of building: top grade craftsmanship, using high quality materials. Led by a master carpenter with decades of experience, each crew is extremely competent, efficient, neat, and courteous.

“I love my job. I walk away at the end of the day and am proud to look at what we have built.”

Baxter Construction can be reached to (609) 466-3655. Website: baxterconstruction.com.

SPECIAL SELECTION: “We are really set apart by our communion and christening dresses. They are our specialty, and we also carry boys’ communion suits in navy and white.” Jennifer Bottoni (left) owner of Julianna’s Closet, and her mother and associate Anna Feniello, are shown by a display of Communion dresses.

Julianna’s Closet is filled with fun, fashion, and flair! Clothes for kids are its specialty, and they are colorful, bright, and definitely “today”!

Little “fashionistas” are thrilled with the selection, especially the ruffles, frills, and “bling”.

Boys are not left out, and there are are plenty of choices, from casual jeans and shirts to suits.

Opened in 2004, the shop is owned by Jennifer Bottoni, and is named for her 8-year-old daughter, Julianna. Located in the Bottoni Plaza at 1240 Route 130 in Robbinsville, it is an easy outing from Princeton.

Niche Boutique

“I knew I always wanted to open my own business,” explains Ms. Bottoni. “I loved shopping for my daughter and son, and it seemed a great idea to have a children’s shop. I actually started the business as a boutique in my basement. I was like a personal shopper. Then, my father-in-law opened this shopping center, and here I am!

“I consider this a niche boutique. With boutique shopping, you don’t carry so much of one item. You won’t see our clothes on every other child. My goal is to sell the most unique, adorable, and highest quality merchandise. We carry many different lines and are adding all the time.”

Sizes include newborns to 16 (pre-teen for girls) and newborns to 7 for boys. Ms. Bottoni describes the selection as dressy/casual for girls, including special occasion outfits that can also be worn to school.

“Our customers love all the ruffles and frills on the dresses,” she reports. “They come in regularly to see what’s new. I am always bringing in new lines, and I believe the point of life is special occasions! I love seeing the little girls’ faces light up when they try something on, and they feel like a princess. By the age of six, girls have definite opinions about what they want.”

The boutique offers a wide selection of lines, primarily from the U.S. although there are a number from overseas. Popular choices for girls are Hannah Banana and Luna Luna Copenhagen; Biscotti, Sierra Julian, and Eliane et Lena for boys and girls; and Fore for boys. And there are many others.

Silver and gold are the hot colors for girls now, and not just for the holidays, says Ms. Bottoni. Tiered ruffled skirts are big sellers, and legging sets are also in demand. Tops with varying degrees of “bling” are a popular item for many girls, and fun birthday T’s with “Birthday Princess” and “Birthday Girl” are also available.

Toasty Toes

The selection of outerwear will keep kids warm this winter, and toes will be toasty in the fun socks, shoes and boots available for boys and girls, with choices from Primigi and Naturino.

Styles are also available for the very youngest customers at Julianna’s Closet. Hand-done layettes from Peru and the U.S. will cover newborns in the sweetest, softest cotton. Adorable onesies and rompers, sleep sacks, and dresses are offered in assorted colors and designs.

Hair accessories and hats are very important for girls of all ages, and the softest plush bears and other animals are favorites for the youngest kids (and some of the older ones too)!

The communion and christening dresses, as well as flower girl dresses provide a big part of the shop’s business, notes Ms. Bottoni. “People have heard about our selection, and we have people from all over, including New York, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, even as far away as Washington State. There are not a lot of places to get these dresses, and we have a wonderful selection.”

Warm and Welcoming

Ms. Bottoni is very enthusiastic about her shop, and looks forward to providing the latest styles for her young clientele. “I take pride in my own children, and I want them to dress nicely and behave nicely. I want this for all children. The kids love to come here, and they are very comfortable when they come in. We have a TV for them to watch, and they often sit down and play.

“I very much wanted to establish a warm and welcoming atmosphere for our customers, and we offer very personalized service. Even in the hard economic times, people still want to buy things for their kids.”

Julianna’s Closet offers regular trunk shows, and in March, its fourth annual children’s fund-raising fashion show will be held. “This is an annual event, and the proceeds go to a child in the area who is ill,” explains Ms. Bottoni.

The shop is open Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 to 7, Saturday 10 to 3, Sunday 11 to 2, and Monday by appointment. (609) 448-3887. Website: www.juliannas-closet.com.


December 19, 2012

To the Editor:

One of my students [at the Hun School] participated in a debate last week in which she argued in favor of gun control. Although she had the stronger argument, she lost to a more experienced debater. In the wake of the events at Newtown I sent her the following message: “Given what happened at Newtown yesterday, I think your debate should be revisited. All you need to say is ‘Twenty babies in Newtown.’”

How terribly sad: how utterly unnecessary. I can’t even imagine.

There comes a time when an argument against rational good sense must run into a wall of public indignation. Vietnam was one such case: this is another. By allowing themselves to be held captive by a minority, our elected officials are working at cross-purposes with the public good. There is a difference between firearms for sport and machines developed for no better purpose than to kill human beings. There is a reason for background checks and extended waiting periods. That is, firearms kill 10,000 Americans every year.

It is estimated that in any given year, seat belt laws save the same number of lives that firearms take. The states and federal government justify curbing our personal right to be stupid because doing so benefits the greater public. How can the same people who pass seat belt laws continue to ignore the systemic violence, which they effectively endorse by not passing laws: laws, which restrict gun ownership as well as the kinds of guns available to the public? By continuing to elect these people, we are no less guilty.

Look into the eyes of the mothers who lost their children yesterday and explain to them how seat belt laws make more sense than gun control.

The time for debate is over.

Tim Pitts

Ettle Farm

To the Editor:

I was happy to read that Dr. Carl Hoyler rides a brightly-painted bicycle around Princeton (“After 44 Years and Many Memories, An Old-Fashioned Doctor Calls It Quits,” Town Topics, Dec. 12). However, I was dismayed to learn that he thinks wearing a helmet is dangerous. Dr. Hoyler is mistaken. In case of a fall, a bicycle helmet, rather than his head, would absorb some of the force of the blow.

Wearing a bicycle helmet is like wearing a seatbelt or having an airbag in a car: they all protect you in case of an accident. Dr. Hoyler worries about his peripheral vision. However, the Mayo Clinic says, “If the bicycle helmet straps block your vision — even a little bit — choose another helmet.”

“What’s the first lesson in bike safety?” asks Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation. “Always wear a properly-fitting bicycle helmet.”

Also, please remember to use lights so that you can be seen. Helmets are only part of the safety equation.

Sandra Shapiro

Advisor, West Windsor Bicycle and Pedestrian Alliance

Wycombe Way, Princeton Junction

To the Editor:

Incredibly, the plan for the former Princeton Hospital site proposed for development by the AvalonBay corporation that will be put before the Planning Board once again on Wednesday December 19 has no alternative energy and very limited sustainability features. The company has flatly refused to use solar energy to lessen its carbon footprint. This plan is disturbing also because of the issue of social justice in the higher cost of fuel to residents, including those in “affordable” units. This is tantamount to giving the blessing of affordable housing with one hand but placing the burden of increasingly higher energy costs on tenants, especially those less able to pay.

The building would be the largest residential development in Princeton. It is unconscionable to build a 280 unit apartment building for about 500 people and not have alternative energy, thus relying totally on fossil fuels, especially when AvalonBay has used such sustainable features in its corporate headquarters in Arlington, Va., the company’s website states:

“At AvalonBay Communities, Inc. green living is more than a philosophy, it’s our commitment …. At the core of green living is our understanding that a sustainable approach to living benefits all — our residents, our associates, and the communities where we are located.”

In spite of those nice p.r. words, it is difficult to consider AvalonBay a good corporate citizen given its current site plan. Alternative energy is an “Inherently Beneficial Use” which should not be put in the category of “cost generative,” a legal term AvalonBay throws around with abandon. Actually, in the long term, alternative energy will save money as well as improve the environment, but AvalonBay has short term interests.

Apparently Princeton is not an isolated case. An April 11, 2012 memo from the Office of the New York City Comptroller to AvalonBay’s shareholders on sustainability urges them to vote in favor of “A request that the board of directors of AvalonBay prepare and make available to shareholders by September, 2012 a sustainability report addressing greenhouse gas emissions, water conservation, waste minimization, energy efficiency, and other environmental and social impacts … in operations and maintenance as well a design.”

Almost all of the things that socially responsible developers do these days are called “cost generative” by AvalonBay because this proposed development will have some affordable housing. Are we to conclude that people living in affordable housing should be subjected to more pollution and its renters pay more for energy use because they have lower incomes? The fact that the state allows this lesser standard does not mean that AvalonBay must follow it instead of choosing to be a good corporate citizen.

If the Planning Board should vote to approve this problematic site, with many other serious issues, I hope it will consider making a condition of approval the inclusion of solar panels “to the maximum extent possible” because of its “inherently beneficial use,” which also carries some legal weight.

Grace Sinden

Ridgeview Circle

To the Editor:

The day after Thanksgiving our home on Moore Street was badly damaged in a freak fire that started in the back yard and spread to the house. In a short period of time, while we were shopping, our entire life changed. Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire, and even our two cats escaped major harm.

Though the shock and pain of the loss of our home continues, our lives would be so much worse at the moment if it wasn’t for the incredible actions of the Princeton Volunteer Fire Department and for the amazing care of our friends and neighbors in Princeton, and especially on Moore and Jefferson Streets.

From the very first night, when we were left with only the clothes on our backs, people rallied around, providing everything from food, toiletries, and clothing to kind words of support. We are incredibly grateful and want to recognize and give thanks for the kindness of everyone who helped.

From the Nathan family who let us store some of the few possessions rescued from the fire in their garage, to the Stange family who gave us tickets for A Christmas Carol, there are many people to thank — so many, in fact, that we fear that this letter will not capture all of them. We do, however, want to try and publicly thank a few of them.

Jon and Jenny Crumiller and Darlyn Crum deserve special thanks for letting us stay in their beautiful house for almost two weeks until we found rented accommodation. It is impossible to overstate what their kindness meant to our family.

Community organizer Anita Garoniak, who started the search for temporary accommodation, clothing and so much more, continues to find other ways to support us. Ken and Diana Griebell created an online list to coordinate our search for necessities. Mona and Rob Sgobbo restocked our pantry and washed our smoke damaged clothing. Julie Harrison and Cecil Marshall helped us find a place to live. Liz Sikes found our scared cats and the Esterman-McKeegan and Dutaud families took them in. Miki Mendelsohn, the Marshall-Otto, Villa-Sgobbo, Esterman-McKeegan and Thompson families provided help, support and delicious food to comfort us over and over again. There are many, many names and this list continues to grow daily.

Others who have come to our side in our time of need include:

Susan Jeffries, Virginia Kerr, Jackie Shire, Dan Preston and Maggie Rose, Natasha Haase, Laura and Lindon Estes, Barbara Heck and Rob Nelson, Tom and Amy Onder, Maureen Kearney, Susan Ashmore, Danuta Buzdygan, Merilyn Rovira and Carlos Rodrigues, Advah Zinder, Lieve Monnens-Cash, Susan Osborn, Shawn O’Hara, Tony LaPlaca, and the Impink family.

We now have temporary accommodation on Moore Street from which we hope to oversee the rebuilding of our home as quickly as possible. Despite the trauma of the last few weeks we feel very lucky to live in Princeton and have such wonderful neighbors.

Thank you,

Susanna, Marc, Alex and Isabel Monseau

Moore Street

To the Editor:

The economic consequences of Princeton HealthCare’s contract with AvalonBay include a huge fiscal impact on Princeton municipal government and the taxpayers. The loss of expected tax revenues will increasingly be felt. This deadweight exceeds AvalonBay’s crippling refusal to permit local retail shops along Witherspoon Street and its misguided insistence on building an obsolete structure without solar paneling (and thus passing on, without regard for social justice, higher utility costs to its renters, including those in the 20 percent affordable units).

Why will this happen? Barry Rabner of Princeton HealthCare recklessly chose to sign a contract with the one
corporate developer who was almost guaranteed not to build according to the Master Plan and Borough Code, which prohibit any “private gated community.” AvalonBay, nationwide, builds only “Private Communities,” according to corporate policy. The company has thus run into powerful opposition from Princeton community members who scorn the fortress-effect and deplore the loss of publicly usable open space even while supporting rental housing and 20 percent affordable housing.

The consequence of Mr. Rabner’s deeply misguided choice is that AvalonBay’s application is likely to end up in court, further delaying (for how long, no one can guess) a settling of the contingency contract — at which time the developer will begin paying property taxes. No one can know, today, who will appeal.

That’s only part of the story. As Town Topics readers know from earlier letters to the editor, AvalonBay retains the Property Tax Assistance (PTA) company to represent them in gaining property tax reductions from municipalities. A PTA brochure lists AvalonBay as its chief client and boasts that “Since 1992, we have reduced their tax liability by nearly 30 percent” for AvalonBay properties in California and Washington (document available from Daniel A. Harris). AvalonBay’s projected taxes for the old Princeton Borough were estimated at between $3.7 million and $4 million dollars. Deduct 25 percent (conservatively). You get $3 million dollars in much-needed revenue — from a company that intends to haggle.

Of course the hospital never paid taxes as a non-profit organization. Its taxes since June 2012, if any, are unknown. Though Princeton has survived, any new taxes will be a plus, even if wrenched downwards by AvalonBay’s PTA crew. But the unpredictable delay resulting from judicial appeal is detrimental to the fiscal health of Princeton’s future, and so is any future conflict with AvalonBay as corporate taxpayer. The entire Borough as well as the old hospital’s neighborhood will feel increasingly cheated by Princeton HealthCare and by Mr. Rabner in particular.

Is there a solution to this problem that would preserve the integrity of all parties?

While we wait: since there is no desired revenue stream at hand, the Board should vote for the best urban planning it can get — surely not AvalonBay’s behemoth.

The Planning Board should vote its conscience.

Jane Buttars

Dodds Lane

To the Editor:

Like many others in town, my family enjoyed heat, electricity, internet connectivity, and a sense of community in the library during the days after Hurricane Sandy. We hope that, in this season of giving and thanks, others who took shelter there will join us in making a donation to the Friends of the Library. You can go to https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspxname=princetonlib&id=2 or get an envelope at the front desk to make a gift.

Elizabeth C. Hamblet

Wittmer Court

To the Editor:

On November 17, more than 700 people filled Richardson Auditorium for The Capitol Steps sold-out performance benefitting the Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC).

Special thanks go to our honorary chairs, Bill and Judith Scheide and Ellen and Albert Stark. Thanks, too, to our event committee, Rebecca Esmi and Audrey Hallowell who chaired the event and Rich Bianchetti, Dave Saltzman, Hazel Stix, Bob Hillier, Paul Gerard, Henry Opatut, Linda Richter, Todd Lincoln, Bill Isele, Jay Kuris, and Claire Jacobus, committee members who worked tirelessly to make this year’s performance such a rousing success.

This event, the capstone of our fundraising year, provides significant financial support for the programs and services offered by PSRC and helps us achieve mission-critical goals to be the center of active aging in the greater Princeton area. We are grateful for the invaluable contribution of our corporate and individual sponsors who made this event possible led by Archer & Greiner, the Gordon and Llura Gund Foundation, Otsuka, Arlene and Henry Opatut, Stark and Stark, Princeton Global Asset Management, Hill Wallack, Robert Hillier Architect, Hilton Realty, Dave Saltzman Insurance, Irwin and Cecilia Rosenblum, and Lynn and David Wong. For a complete list of our sponsors, visit our website at www.princetonsenior.org.

As the more than 1200 people who attend PSRC programs each week and the 125 who receive our support and guidance services know, PSRC is serving the needs of the greater Princeton 55-plus community and their families all year long. We continue to provide dozens of programs and services and continue to empower older adults to make informed choices and live healthy lives.

We invite you to stop by and visit PSRC and see all the smiling faces in person. Learn more about our many programs such as Evergreen Forum, the Health Fair, newly expanded Next Step: Engaged Retirement and Encore Career program, GrandPals and Caregivers programs as well as our countless support groups and services.

With best regard and sincere thanks to the many organizations, corporations, and individuals who partner with and contribute to PSRC. In doing so they enhance the Princeton area active adult community.

Susan W. Hoskins, LCSW

Executive Director

December 12, 2012

To the Editor:

Alas! The wrong version of the 2005 Hillier concept plan for the hospital site renewal was introduced by AvalonBay at the Planning Board meeting (December 6). Jonathan Metz showed the first version of the plan, originally shown to Planning Board members on May 26, 2005. This version lacks the public walkway between Witherspoon Street and Harris Road that Mr. Hillier developed by July 14, 2005 for the Planning Board’s consideration, in response to Planning Board members’ input.

The later version [shown here] is more community-friendly. The public walkway makes directly accessible the public patio area surrounded by two-story townhouses located roughly where the private swimming pool (enclosed by the four- and 5-story box proposed by AvalonBay) would be, if the site plan were unfortunately approved.

Moreover, the later plan has additional public walkways “crossing the site” (Borough Code, 17A-193B.d.1), linking neighborhoods to the two on-site public playgrounds serving the neighborhoods, new and existing. It truly fulfills the urban renewal intent of the Master Plan and Borough Code.

It’s a shame the rejected plan was shown. It mis-educates the public. It’s also the plan that Barry Rabner, CEO UMCP, allowed to be published by BlueGate Partners, who marketed the property. Many of us wish Mr. Rabner had exercised more diligent oversight and not defaulted in his commitment to our neighborhood. As Marvin Reed, on the Planning Board, said in frustration, again (December 6), “the hospital proposed the design standards” — and then failed to hold its chosen developer to compliance.

Planning Board members (and the public) should know that Mr. Metz’s estimate of the size of Hillier’s public parks is incorrect by 10,000 square feet. Hillier offered 35,000 square feet, not 25,000 — a huge difference. Mr. Metz attempted to explain away the tiny sliver of park now offered to the Planning Board (14,990 square feet — less then HALF the 35,000 square feet proposed by Hillier and UMCP) by saying that the difference in size between the AvalonBay “park” and Hillier’s park is virtually the size of the building known as 277 Witherspoon, just sold by the hospital. This truth obscures two facts: 1) AvalonBay could have attempted to meet public and official intent (a generous public park on the Hillier scale) and chose not to; 2) AvalonBay’s sliver is surrounded on three sides by streets or driveways (Hillier’s vehicular entry was only on Henry Avenue, not also from Witherspoon).

We and the Planning Board must recall that the AvalonBay proposal embodies everything that Wendy Benchley feared most: “I was so afraid,” she said at a Borough Council meeting (May 8, 2006), “that the open space would be just a buffer around the block.” Ms. Benchley, for decades a distinguished civic leader in Princeton, was a serious student of urban design. The “buffer” of renters’ back yards that is now passed off as “publicly-accessible open space” (Jeremy Lang, for AvalonBay, December 6) along Witherspoon and Franklin is the realization of Wendy Benchley’s nightmare.

Joseph Bardzilowski

Henry Avenue

To the Editor:

Since AvalonBay’s (AB) testimony regarding its proposal for the now vacant hospital property on Thursday night did not leave room for citizen comment, I would like to offer the comments I would have made had time allowed.

The design standards grew out of a public process asking what kind of development should replace the hospital when it left Princeton. Mr. Lang, AvalonBay’s engineering witness, spoke exhaustively about how he believes that it does, indeed, respond to the design standards; but it is my impression that AvalonBay’s response is superficial and that they should not be allowed to proceed until it responds to the substance of those standards.

1) Mr. Lang said, for instance, that there would be changes in color and texture of the facade, affordable housing, an overall setback larger than originally proposed, and stoops and front entrances on Witherspoon. In spite of such concessions the basic design has not changed: the proposed building is out of proportion to the neighborhood. It is a looming city block, not designed to fit into a neighborhood of one and two-story frame buildings.

Mr. Lang referred to the 119’ height of the hospital tower, saying that AvalonBay’s proposal calls for a maximum height of “only” 48’. He did not mention that this facade, like that of the Palmer Square development facing Paul Robeson Place, would dwarf the existing neighborhood. In fact, it would extend all the way around the block, altogether changing the character of the neighborhood. The fact that the houses on Harris Road would remain does not negate the additional fact that AvalonBay’s facade would tower behind them.

2) In order to promote pedestrian shopping, reduce automobile traffic, and encourage the stores currently in the neighborhood, the design standards call for retail to be included in the plan. AvalonBay does have retail in at least one of its developments, but Mr. Ladell now says that AvalonBay “does not do retail.” In Thursday’s presentation Mr. Lang said that AvalonBay does “not want to compete with” the existing stores. But I would think that in the right structures, AvalonBay might complement the services of these stores, thereby bringing them business. Actively considering retail would respond to the design standards, which sought to improve and encourage the retail offering in the neighborhood, not bypass it.

AvalonBay should respond to the public cry for responsiveness.

Mary Clurman

Harris Road

To the Editor:

The AvalonBay design raises several concerns regarding public and open space:

Thirty-six mature trees and the very tall evergreen hedges along Franklin Avenue and the interior driveway will be cut down for AvalonBay’s building. Dan Dobromilsky, the Planning Board’s landscape architecture consultant, takes a strong stance, saying, “The analysis of the existing vegetation on this site has completely discounted the value of mature landscape plantings in a community or neighborhood.” The removal of such a large number of mature trees lowers our carbon sequestration and increases the heat island effect. Like the proposed building, there’s not much that’s sustainable about the proposed plantings, either, since only a third are native.

Dobromilsky’s report also alludes to another important issue that has been sublimated by the applicant’s landscape renderings: the backyards of many units will face the Franklin and Witherspoon streets. AvalonBay’s landscape design ignores the many things that are usually placed behind a house: air conditioners; storage units; garbage cans, etc. None of these common backyard items are shown on the rendered site plan. Furthermore, the spaces that the applicant has continued to call public can become instantly privatized by the installation of fences at the property lines along Franklin and Witherspoon — none of which would require permission. And, suddenly, all that “public space” is only private ….

We must not lose sight of the bigger picture. This is the largest development site that Princeton has ever offered to a private developer, and we should be ashamed. We have handed the developer our greatest allowable development in a central location, and the AvalonBay design response has been to effectively remove the public nature that the concept plan crafted.

Consider Hinds Plaza. It, too, is the front of a large apartment complex, widely enjoyed by the public in large part because the public feels welcome and has reasons to go and be there. The integration of public features (stores, shops, institutions) and the fact that roadways on three sides do not surround it leads to its success. At AvalonBay, only the residents have reason to be there now that street-level commercial activity has been removed. It’s their front yard and no more than a glorified, totted-up bus stop for the town.

Rather than using this development as an opportunity for Princeton to show how sustainable Princeton could be, we’re allowing AvalonBay to bypass meaningful sustainability other than the givens — the scale of development and its central location. That means only AvalonBay profits, and the public loses.

Holly Grace Nelson

Leigh Avenue

To the Editor:

Clearly the Planning Board (PB) must schedule an additional hearing date beyond December 13 for the AvalonBay application. Due process and the choreography for these legal proceedings can’t be short-circuited, lest their legitimacy be questioned. While I respect the Planning Board’s need to finish work before December 31, additional overtime is needed from a Planning Board that has already labored with exceptional diligence under heavy pressure to complete an unduly burdensome workload.

To the credit of the Planning Board and its chair, Wanda Gunning, and PB attorney Gerald Muller, Ms. Gunning’s memorandum to PB clearly states: “I am not intending to limit testimony or cross-examination other than when it appears that a particular point being pursued is redundant.” She continues, however, that “if it is necessary” to impose “a time limit,” “without limiting the applicant’s and objectors’ right to present a full case, we will explore that possibility” (December 6, 2012).

AvalonBay has now had nearly three full sessions to present its case. Clearly Ms. Gunning and Mr. Muller expected them to be more “efficient” in their use of time and had anticipated that “ample time” would be left to Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods (PCSN) on December 6, but Mr. Simon (for PCSN) was not enabled to begin presenting his case until 10:15 p.m. He commended Ms. Gunning and the Planning Board for trying to set a schedule for the hearings but was obliged to say that it was “enormously, blatantly unfair” to PCSN and the general public to expect them to present and conclude their case in approximately one session.

The truth of this complaint was again evident as Mr. Lang, for AvalonBay, was rumbling through AvalonBay’s ostensible adherence to the Master Plan (in what some people called a filibuster), and was twice urged by Mr. Muller to finish speedily and then address design standards so that PCSN could begin its case. Toward the end of the evening, Mr. Muller agreed that a “colloquy” between Planning Board members might be necessary to set an additional hearing date beyond December 13, and after the lights had dimmed he and Ms. Gunning were seen conversing with Mr. Solow and Ms. Cutroneo. Let us hope they saw light.

The application has a huge reverberation for Princeton’s future; the honoring of due process is, in the long, democratic view, even more important.

Planning Board: Set an additional date. It’s unrealistic and unfair to everyone to expect PCSN to present its case, with witnesses, and deal with AvalonBay rebuttals, and answer questions from municipal staff, and participate in general questioning by the Planning Board — all in two sessions. In addition, Princeton citizens have a right to speak. The public has avidly contributed to the civic discussion about this application since November 2011. We don’t want our time cut short.

Mr. Muller must also demand again that AvalonBay send all official correspondence automatically to PCSN as well as to the Planning Board. AvalonBay’s tactics of withholding information are simply disreputable.

Daniel Brown

Humber Lane

To the Editor:

I have served on Borough Council for seven years during which time I have served on the Planning Board and have been part of the process involving the AvalonBay approvals. I write now, as a private citizen, in support of the approval of the AvalonBay development.

When Borough Council wrote the zoning that is currently in place, we had before us a potential model of what might be constructed on the hospital site. It was only a hypothetical guide. It was not a definitive model of what would be and we should not be beholden to that plan.

The first potential developer for the site dropped out because the model that had been suggested, with for-sale condominium units, leaving the seven-story hospital tower intact, proved not to be economically viable. In other words they would not make any money.

The hospital needs to sell the site now. They have chosen a developer who will pay the highest current price for the property, and who has the resources to build. This seems to be a rational and logical move on their part. The chosen developer is before the Planning Board with a compliant application. It may not be the most beautiful, but it is compliant with existing zoning.

The Environmental Commission on its first review of the project gave it a “thumbs up” for being smart growth. It is. This development puts density where density belongs, close to town, on bus lines, close to schools and other shopping. There is already an existing parking garage so parking is not an issue. Traffic in and out of the development will be greatly reduced from the 2,000-3,000 car trips per day that took place when the hospital was present.

Moreover, the development’s façade on Franklin Avenue will be broken up with front porches where residents might put a potted geranium in the summer time, or sit and chat with neighbors. Think of the façade now — it is monolithic and dead. The proposed development is far more neighborhood-friendly. And open space within the development is larger than required by the zoning.

If this application is turned down, what will happen to the property? The hospital has maintained it nicely in the short term, but what if, for example, there are problems with the site and the hospital finds it necessary to construct a cyclone fence around the property to protect it until a new developer can be found? This site could remain vacant for a very long time. This could have a very negative impact on the neighborhood and town.

Finally and most importantly, the developer is willing to devote 20 percent of this development to affordable housing. That is 56 units of very badly needed housing toward the Borough’s and soon Township’s unmet need of affordable housing units. The remainder of the rental units in this development will be market rate units that provide housing for working people in our town; administrative assistants, plumbers, electricians, teachers, policeman, social workers, etc. A recent letter to the editor bemoaned the fact that property taxes in Princeton are making it unaffordable for many to live in our town. This development would provide the housing needed to continue to keep Princeton an economically diverse and vibrant community.

I am troubled that the opponents of this development are elevating their otherwise laudable concern for the highest environmental standards to the detriment of another important value: providing affordable rental housing in our community. We need to work long term on improving our environmental building standards, but now is the time to provide a significant amount of rental housing here. I ask the Planning Board to approve the AvalonBay proposal and move on toward working on welcoming AvalonBay renters into our community.

Barbara Trelstad

Firestone Court

To the Editor:

My credentials are those of a longtime Princeton resident and of an emeritus professor of Art history. Since 1965 I have walked to the Dinky and, like the students of the Graduate College two blocks up from my house, I pull my suitcase(s) to the present station, when travelling to Newark Airport. In my old age I do not want to stumble half way down Alexander Road and climb stairs late at night or under icy conditions.

As a scholar of architecture, I have witnessed how not only wars and fires, but also indifference irretrievably destroys historic contexts. I am aghast that the Planning Board wants to dispose of one of Princeton’s few landmarks. The present Dinky station embodies a long tradition of Princeton life. Whether you return home from overseas or only from a day in New York City, you feel welcomed by the beautiful campus, scenes of loved ones being picked up at the adjacent “kiss and run” parking space, a few sleepy taxis, and across the street the entrances to our two theaters. What “Gateway to Princeton” would the sight of an ugly parking-garage be?

At the Township Hall meeting on November 29 I was impressed by the questioning from attorney Bruce Afran, who extracted only evasive or no answers from the officials. I was also mesmerized by the power-point presentation of Mr. Kornhauser. As he emphasized over and over again, that the Arts Center can be built without moving our Dinky station! You don’t even need to eliminate the tracks in order to turn the abandoned station building into a restaurant (great idea!). While the proposed use of Dinky land by the University is legally challenged, since when is the Dinky itself run by the University and not by N.J. Transit? By definition “public transportation” belongs to the public! We, the public, who ride the Dinky to or from New York and Philadelphia to get to our jobs, our doctor’s, lawyer’s, etc. appointments or museum/opera visits, do not want to be forced into inconveniences, unsafe access, and time-consuming detours for the sake of the University’s employees garage. Would you not think that our town officials would protect the welfare of their tax-paying citizens instead of letting themselves be pressured by the tax-exempt University? I do not know the terms of the million dollars gift by Peter B. Lewis, but I hesitate to believe that his vision of an Arts Center was intended to benefit an existing parking garage, and surely Mr. Lewis did not mean to hurt the NJ Transit riders, seniors, commuters, the Princeton population at large (not 50 percent of the passengers are connected with the University, as Mr. Durkee has maintained). If Penn Station functions with a multi-purpose indoor arena on top, a gifted architect should be able to find a solution for how to integrate our beloved little Dinky Station into an Arts Center. Come to your senses and correct the design!!

Gerda Panofsky

Battle Road