December 9, 2020

To the Editor:

Witherspoon Street used to be a central feature in a dad ritual I enjoyed with each of my daughters when they were teens: We would walk or bike to town on Saturdays; we’d pick up a ciabatta at the Witherspoon Bakery, coffee at the Small World, then stroll around campus before making our way home via the library. We would talk about life, the universe, and everything.

With or without daughters, I experience Witherspoon Street as part of the lively heart of our historic town. It really is the perfect place to amble about and see what’s happening, then sit down for a drink or a bite. The parklet in front of Small World Coffee has been very popular in summertime and shows that there was “appetite” for outdoor seating, even before the pandemic.

This summer, Witherspoon Street has looked more attractive than ever, despite the concrete barriers. Who doesn’t like to dine outside with friends, enjoying a breeze or the shade of trees with good food? Who doesn’t enjoy people watching? Let us not go back to the Witherspoon Street of pre-COVID times. Instead, let us turn it into the face of Princeton: inviting and people-friendly.  

Michael Faas
Dempsey Avenue

To the Editor:

Since the canopy covering the Princeton municipal fueling station on Mount Lucas Road was removed in April, nothing has been done to “beautify” or camouflage the remaining structure as promised by our elected officials. And now that winter is approaching and trees have lost their leaves, what remains looks like a high school science project gone bad. 

Granted that COVID has impacted this year’s municipal activity, it hasn’t stopped the workers from other outdoor “beautification” projects around town. So why is this ugly monstrosity ignored?

Barry Goldblatt
Andrews Lane

To the Editor:

We are writing as residents and taxpayers of Princeton, N.J. Andrew and I reside at 75 Heather Lane, Princeton where we have lived for the past 18 years. We are extremely concerned about the Minor Site Plan application filed by Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart (Princeton Academy).

Heather Lane has long suffered from water runoff problems and the proposed replacement of grass with 4.2 acres of impervious surface will only exacerbate this situation. It is our understanding that the Princeton Environmental Commission has recommended this variance be denied because of the synthetic turf’s negative impacts on the environment. The Princeton Ridge has long been considered a fragile ecosystem. The removal of 46 mature trees will further degrade the environment and add to the deforestation we are already experiencing in Princeton from the demise of the ash trees due to disease and insect infestation. 

The addition of 11 diesel-operated light towers and increased traffic caused by ball fields in continuous use will also diminish the quality of life for families in the surrounding area. We are also concerned about the certain all-evening light pollution. The noise from the generators will be a significant annoyance as well. Another concern that we have is that the addition of ball fields will inevitably lead to a requirement for more parking which will lead to more development of the site. This important point has not been addressed in the plan. more

To the Editor:

Princeton Academy of Sacred Heart, a private day school for boys at the corner of Drakes Corner Road and Great Road, has an application before the Princeton Planning Board on December 10 to turn our quiet dark nights into diesel-powered mega lighting for evening soccer practices and games, which are not even part of the school programs. We will be affected by the lights and noise because we look west, right across the Great Road, at the school’s fields that will be lit up. The darkness of the sky and the silent evenings are a major reason we have lived here for the past 32 years. We use our 12-inch reflecting telescope to find galaxies and nebulae which require a dark sky to enjoy.

The application appears to be an attempt to sneak something through that has the potential to profoundly affect our quality of life. At the very least the applicant should address the specifics of the impact of the lights on us, and of the noise from the diesel generators and from the cheering spectators. more

To the Editor:

I am writing this letter to express my strong opposition to the proposed plan for Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart to replace their grass fields with turf, add lights, and lease the land out to Princeton Soccer Academy. This issue will be heard at this week’s Planning Board Meeting taking place via Zoom on Thursday, December 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Our main areas of concern are that the impervious coverage the plan would allow water runoff; water pollution; light pollution; air pollution; land erosion; wildlife conservation, traffic, and speeding issues; and quality of life issues for our residents in the Ridge.

This new turf will increase the impervious coverage of their land by over 90 percent. I worry about flooding in this area.

At this moment there is no evidence of the effects of the rubber and plastic that will be used on the natural land and the land that is used for our children. Undoubtedly the downpours that we now experience will force some of the small granular turf to run off their property. What are the long-term effects of such man-made materials on our children’s or wildlife health? more

To the Editor:

It has come to my attention that the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart School is planning to add lighted, artificial turf soccer fields on the top of Princeton Ridge.  While I understand that the school feels there is a need in Princeton for these fields, I believe that what they are planning is irresponsible and will cause considerable damage to the Princeton Ridge neighborhood.

The plans they are presenting to the Planning Board include the removal of 46 mature trees, the addition of plastic turf fields that are not proven impervious to water, and 11 diesel powered lights that will create a level of noise and light pollution that is untenable to both the neighborhood and the wildlife in the area. Additionally, the school plans to rent these fields to an outside company for league play that will occur 12 months out of the year until 9:30 p.m. each night. League play will add additional noise and traffic issues to the residents of these quiet streets. more

To the Editor,

I am writing this letter to express concerns about Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart’s proposal for a variance to increase their maximum permitted total impervious coverage from the allowable of 14 percent to 21 percent. This is part of their proposal to develop and rent sports fields for year-round, nightly sports events.

The Academy of the Sacred Heart is located in a wetland area. It adjoins forested properties and sits higher than adjacent roads and private property. The proposed increase of 4.2 acres of impervious surface will increase storm water runoff due to the large proportion of ground that is already saturated. Excess runoff is likely to damage root systems and forests, as well as create more dangerous road conditions during storm events. In addition, the new, impervious surface would be part of a project that also includes diesel powered lights. Some of the pollution generated by these lights will settle in the immediately vicinity, wash into local streams and waterways, and further degrade the habitat for local species. more

To the Editor:

We moved to the area known as Princeton Ridge about a year ago. After many trips up from the city of Baltimore while house searching, Princeton Ridge stood out to us because of its beautiful natural wooded environment, the dark skies for ideal stargazing, and the ability to have some land. It had the natural elements that we were longing for while living in Baltimore — the opposite of city life. In Baltimore you would look to the sky and see maybe three stars … if you were lucky. Good for some, but for the long term we wanted something different.

Since we moved to Princeton Ridge we have grown to love it. We have enjoyed seeing beautiful racked piebald deer on our property. We have enjoyed many evenings around the fire pit in our yard, looking to the stars and feeling like we were camping somewhere beautiful. We have come to believe that Princeton has it all — beautiful natural places like this, and a wonderful hustling bustling town for those who prefer to be closer to it all.   more

To the Editor:

I’ll be succinct. I, along with my immediate family of four, have lived in Princeton New Jersey roughly a mile and a quarter from Hinds Plaza for the past 18 years. In that time we have regularly enjoyed the downtown, but never as much as we have since Witherspoon Street has been set to one-way traffic.

We wholeheartedly are in favor of at least keeping it this way permanently, and would be in favor of shutting it down to motor vehicles entirely.

Jonathan Shor
Walnut Lane

To the Editor:

I have been impressed by the efforts of the town Council, the Engineering Department, the Department of Public Works, etc. to improve the Central Business District. As shopping is done more and more online, we need to make the effort to bring shoppers back to downtown. One possibility is to close blocks to vehicles. In his letter two weeks ago [“Hoping Council Will Create a Traffic-Free Space on Lower Witherspoon Street,” Mailbox, November 25], Samuel Bunting pointed out that this is done in Charlottesville. A town closer in size to Princeton that has a pedestrian mall of about three blocks is Winchester, Virginia. They have bus routes circling the streets on all sides of the mall before they radiate out of the business district. There are very good signs detailing the bus route information.

People will want to return to shopping downtown if there is something about the experience that makes it stand out from the alternative choices. By creating one-way traffic on the first block of Witherspoon Street, such an experience is possible. No one is cutting off access to the three parking garages. They are all within walking distance of Nassau Street.  When I have tried to use the Municipal Garage, the only time I have not been able to park there or park on or below the third level was when something special was taking place at the library or in town. more

To the Editor:

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

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

December 2, 2020

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

By Jean Stratton

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

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

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

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

To the Editor:

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

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

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

To the Editor:

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

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

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

To the Editor,

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

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

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

Jean Y. Durbin
Mount Lucas Road

To the Editor:

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

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

To the Editor:

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

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

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

Kelsey Espada
Volunteer Coordinator, HomeFront

Meghan Cubano
Director of Community Engagement, Homefront

Princeton Avenue, Lawrenceville

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

Beth Behrend
Riverside Drive

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

November 25, 2020

By Donald Gilpin

Anna Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jean Stratton

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

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

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

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

Affordable Houses

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

To the Editor:

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

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

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

To the Editor:

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

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