June 17, 2015

To the Editor:

This is regarding increased bicycle use in Princeton (“Second Session for Valley Road set for June 15” and letters to the editor, Town Topics, 6/10/15).

Biking is great exercise and a good form of sustainable transit. As a one time biking enthusiast, I’m generally glad this is being encouraged in Princeton though I do worry about the safety of bikers who ride on narrow roads with no shoulders which are also hilly and curvy, e.g. Cherry Hill Road. This also poses serious challenges to motor vehicle drivers. I am also concerned about current biking practices which pose a safety hazard to walkers primarily due to lack of knowledge or courtesy.

As a walking enthusiast, I am writing primarily to bring attention to the dangers walkers face especially in our parks with joint walking/biking paths, including the Smoyer Park and the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath, among other such places.

When I first learned to ride a bicycle as a kid, and for many years after, it was common (required?) to have a bell on the handle bar of a bicycle to warn others in front of you, walkers and bikers alike, that you are about to pass them. This is no longer the case. If bikers give any warning at all it is often too late because they are almost on top of you and you must quickly jump out of the way. Voice calls are often unclear. A bicycle bell has a distinct sound which offers good advance warning.

Because of my experiences as a walker, I understand why residents of Valley Road would object to having a joint biking/walking path there. It would transform the simple pleasure of walking to one of safety concerns. If the walking and biking paths are separate that would make a positive difference. I understand there are other issues of concern regarding Valley Road changes.

If we want to encourage biking in Princeton it should not be at the expense of those who prefer to walk, a most basic form of exercise. For public safety and fairness, I recommend that an ordinance be enacted which requires all bicycles used in Princeton to have a warning bell so that “Sharrows” not only refer to bikers rights but to that of walkers as well.

Grace Sinden

Ridgeview Circle

To the Editor:

To its credit, Princeton Council recently voted to acquire two lots on Lytle Street currently owned by Roman Barsky. Most significantly, Mayor Lempert gave instructions to the Council attorney to prepare a resolution to acquire the land in such a way that the land will not be restricted to use as open space. Council will vote on this resolution at its next meeting, June 22.

This purchase will thus allow a citizens’ group to move forward with the construction of affordable housing units on the vacant lot, the goal that the vast majority of the neighbors speaking at three previous Council meetings want. Habitat for Humanity, with its strong and impressive history of building and fundraising, will be the developer of (probably) two three-bedroom apartments. Construction, planned for 2017, will adhere to Energy Star standards — always a plus for sustainability.

Cooperation to date from the mayor, Princeton Council, and municipal staff has been exemplary.

One of the chief virtues of this project is that the two affordable units are “stand-alones”; they won’t be part of a 20 percent affordable housing set-aside in some large complex where, in effect, economic diversity is restricted to a specific location. This is sound public policy, and a model for Princeton to follow, as it increases its affordable housing by 2025 (in accordance with the declaratory statement the town must submit to Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson this summer).

The building will have a porch that contributes to the “community of porches” so distinctive to the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. While it won’t be possible to save 31-33 Lytle Street, a house with an important architectural and cultural history, elements of the original porch and the rooflines will be removed, preserved, and reassembled on the new building. Towards the turn into the 20th century, the house was owned by William H. Hulls, an African-American who came north from Virginia to become an active member of Princeton’s African-American community, some of whom owned property as early as the 18th century even as many others serviced Princeton University.

Please plan to attend this important Council meeting and to speak out in favor of the resolution.

Daniel A. Harris

Dodds Lane

June 10, 2015

To the Editor:

Planning for next summer’s reconstruction of Valley Road is taking place now. Options concerning provisions for pedestrians and bicyclists are being considered.

We share the goal of making Princeton a great community for all, including walkers, bikers, and homeowners (categories which obviously overlap). Only one of the proposed options serves all interested parties well — to repair and maintain the current 4 foot sidewalks on each side of Valley Road. The other options, such as an 8 foot wide pathway on one side of the road, or one 6 foot pathway on each side, are, as a prior writer said, unnecessary, unsafe, intrusive, and unattractive. Please consider the following:

• Necessity: Thirty years of observation and personal experience have shown that the sidewalks along Valley Road are more than sufficient and quite safe for all the walkers and bikers who use them. They are never congested. On weekends, we often see serious cyclists on the street itself, and feel that sharrows (on-pavement signage) would be appropriate.

• Safety: Wider paths would decrease safety along Valley Road in two ways. First, they would make dangerous intersections more dangerous; they would increase the likelihood that bikers, taking their right of way for granted, would fail to exercise sufficient caution when entering the busy intersections at Jefferson, Walnut, and Ewing. Second, wider pathways would hamper the ability of drivers backing from driveways into the busy street to maintain the continuous vision necessary to do so safely.

• Intrusiveness and appearance: Wider paths would take a substantial amount of land from across the front of homeowners’ properties. They would decrease privacy. In increasing the volume of hard-surface coverage in front of houses, they would be very unattractive. In eliminating space from owners’ driveways, they would limit residents’ usage and parking. Finally, in no case is asphalt an acceptable surface for sidewalks. Property values are likely to decrease as a consequence of all these factors.

We share the value of making Princeton a great community for walkers and bikers. We also feel that it is essential that the town not take homeowners’ property and cover it with hard-surface pathways unless it is absolutely necessary to do so. The current sidewalks on Valley Road are well suited for all the pedestrian and bike traffic they may ever bear. So in the Valley Road reconstruction, repair the sidewalks and preserve our neighborhood!

Nancy Schreiber, Greg Hand

Valley Road

To the Editor:

Last Tuesday’s letter endorsing the 10-cent surcharge at McCaffrey’s for each so-called single-use bag supplied by the store prompts a number of questions, and some speculative answers.

If the surcharge would not affect whether or not customers shop at McCaffrey’s, isn’t it also reasonable to assume it would not be much of an incentive for them to bring their own reusable bags? In spite of the reported outcome of the referendum, the present balance of opinion among the shoppers themselves appears to be at least 10-to-1 against having to bring their own bags; 40 or 50 cents more on a bill whose order of magnitude is a hundred dollars seems unlikely to greatly change that balance.

Is it really a significant contribution to the environment to bring one or two reusable bags to the store several times a week while typically driving a minimum of two miles per round trip in semi-urban traffic in a car or SUV that gets less than 20 miles per gallon following such a protocol, thereby emitting at least 2 pounds of CO2 per trip?

Is the sole target of the movement really McCaffrey’s? Would the surcharge not apply to every retailer doing business in the town? For example, will a dry cleaner be required to charge 10 cents for each paper or plastic bag protecting just-cleaned clothes from the atmosphere? Pizza boxes are notoriously non-recyclable and not obviously reusable, so is there not a valid rationale for including them under the surcharge umbrella? Also, as one more inconvenient example, paper and styrofoam coffee cups and “doggie bags” or their equivalent.

I perhaps should know, but don’t, who would get to keep the surcharge. If it’s the stores, it makes a certain sense, since they would be compensated to some degree for their extra clerical work. It would seem regrettable to an extreme degree if the town planned to set up a bureaucracy to enforce adherence to the new ordinance, regulate its application, and collect the proceeds.

Do the surcharge advocates target paper bags and plastic bags with equal emphasis? Both are nominally recyclable, but in practice it appears substantially more likely for paper to be recycled than plastic. Also, paper, though one suspects it is more costly to the stores, is relatively benign environmentally; paper and wood products constitute one of the most effective and least costly — but also least credited — avenues to long-term sequestration of atmospheric CO2 (and paper shopping bags, at least in our house, are rarely single-use).

John Strother

Grover Avenue

To the Editor:

Non-biodegradable plastic bags are filling up landfills. Princeton does not have an active landfill within its boundaries, thus any problem with plastic bags does not uniquely concern Princeton.

The proposed ordinance would impose a tax on those Princeton shoppers who use store-supplied plastic bags. Proponents of the tax would have us believe that this is not a tax because we can bring our own bags and thus avoid it. If we apply the same reasoning to the gasoline tax, then it, too, is only a fee that can be avoided if we walk or use bicycles. Orwellian Newspeak, long used by the Federal government (“Collateral Damage” or “Revenue Enhancement” anyone?), has arrived in Princeton!

Proponents of the proposed ordinance claim the plastic bags supplied by retail stores are single use because they fail to acknowledge that these bags are also used for garbage (making them dual use, which is why they are in the landfills rather than being recycled). If the consumer complies with the ordinance and carries his purchases home in a reusable bag, then he must change his garbage handling. The obvious solution is to buy plastic kitchen garbage bags that are small enough to line a kitchen waste container. These thicker plastic bags will then go to the landfill instead of those supplied by the store, making a net reduction of landfill plastic very dubious.

The current store-supplied plastic bags would be replaced, the proponents demand, by a sturdier reusable bag. I have received several of these so-called reusable bags and doubt that they can be used more than 20 times before they tear or break. Comparing a store-supplied plastic bag tax of 10 cents with a reusable bag sold by McCaffrey’s for $1.99 plus sales tax, the consumer really has no net cost incentive to abandon the store-supplied bags.

The proposed tax would apply only to Princeton, thus encouraging people to shop outside of Princeton. The only justification put forth by the proponents is that Princeton should be a model for the rest of the world to copy. The latter outcome is at most unlikely. But, as pointed out by McCaffrey’s, this tax would place local vendors at a real competitive disadvantage. Such a tax should be state-wide, or at least county-wide, but that is unlikely after the defeat of the county referendum in the last election. (How the proponents expect to move the world when they can’t even succeed in their home county is an unaddressed question.)

The proposed ordinance would exempt people on public assistance from the tax. If that clause is approved, the goal of eliminating plastic bags from future garbage streams will not be met, but if not, the tax would be regressive.

The proposed bag tax would also apply to paper bags. Since when are paper bags not biodegradable?

The job of Princeton’s mayor and Council is to do the best they can for the people of Princeton. It is not their job to set a dubious standard which the rest of the world may not follow.

Ronald Nielsen

Humbert Street

To the Editor:

I must agree with those residents of Valley Road who oppose the transformation of one of their sidewalks into a bike path and I do so, not as a Valley Road resident, but as a long-time cyclist who has been riding almost every day, year ’round for 12 years. And I do ride a portion of Valley Road one day, also year ’round, on my weekend 30-mile rides out to and up along Sourland Mountain’s ridge line from east to west and then back down the “mountain” and back to Princeton.

Valley Road as it exists today is as safe for cyclists as any other moderately to high-trafficked through street I ride on my weekday 7-milers around town and rarely are bike paths in the area as safe. The problem with bike paths is that they are never maintained as well as streets and are rarely as well cleared of debris and other dangers to cyclists … for example low growing shrubbery and tree limbs … as are the town’s main roads. The little bike path that runs close and parallel to Valley Road from Moore across Jefferson Street and on over to Witherspoon is an excellent example of this. And the long bike path along The Great Road from Mountain Road to just short of Drake’s Corner is another. I would not ride on either because of broken glass and other debris, downed and low-hanging tree limbs, and bumps and pot holes on those paths. In all the years I’ve been riding, I’ve never once seen a cyclist on The Great Road’s bike path. Lots of joggers, but no bikes. We all ride parallel to it on the road.

There is little doubt in my mind that a Valley Road bike path, however well-intended, would suffer the same fate as the bike paths mentioned and that cyclists will choose to ride, as we do now, on Valley Road instead. Town money would be better spent improving the shoulders of Valley Road for cyclists as they are currently riddled with potholes and patches, especially toward the Witherspoon end. Chestnut and Jefferson streets pose dangers to cyclists too and my main concern there is not for myself but for the many school children who ride on those and any other street near our schools. Would not money be better spent making roads safer for children who ride bikes to school?

Bike LANES as opposed to PATHS, placed judiciously, can be a great help to cyclists. The bike lane markings along Wiggins, for example, have made my weekend run down Wiggins far less scary as drivers have come to understand and respect their purpose. Perhaps bike LANE markings along Valley Road would better serve cyclists and at much less cost to the town and to those residents of Valley Road who would lose their sidewalk to what is almost certainly to become an unused and thus useless bike path.

Ashley W. Wright

Park Place

To the Editor:

As principal and P.T.O. co-presidents of Johnson Park (JP) School, we’ve had the good fortune to work, over the years, with many community partners: the Arts Council, the Princeton Public Library, McCarter Theatre, Cotsen Children’s Library, the Thomas Clarke House, the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, and the University, among others. In recent months, a long-term partner has emerged as a special friend to the children, parents, and staff members of our school community.

We refer to the Princeton Police Department.

Since Sandy Hook, officers have established a frequent, informal presence around our school — at our arrival and dismissal times, during our school day, and in the evening. In addition, members of the Safe Neighborhoods Division have come to JP several times per year to make classroom presentations to our fifth graders on the issues of cyberbullying and substance abuse and on the potential dangers of social media; they’ve presented similar workshops to our parents.

More recently, the police have been active supporters and guides during the “swatting” hoaxes that have plagued our community, including our schools. When other schools and ours received threatening telephone calls, officers were on the spot immediately to ensure our children’s and staff members’ well-being and to outline precautions we should take. They’ve checked JP’s perimeter and surrounding woods, our roof, and our hallways.

And, last Friday four officers joined with JP parents and staff members to participate in our fifth graders v. adults basketball game. What a thrill it was for our boys and girls to compete in a spirited game with the officers, and what an opportunity it offered our school community’s spectators to demonstrate their appreciation for our first responders, our protectors, our partners, our friends.

Thank you to the Princeton Police Department for all they do for and with us. They’re Princeton’s finest.

With Appreciation,

Robert A. Ginsberg


Milena DeLuca

P.T.O. Co-President

Mara Franceschi

P.T.O. Co-President

To the Editor:

For over half of New Jersey’s workers, the future looks bleak. Their jobs do not offer retirement plans. They are struggling to save on their own. The average working family has $3,000 for retirement, and without Social Security, which pays the typical New Jerseyan only $1,377 a month, they would hit rock bottom. And 43 percent of seniors would be in poverty. Qualifying for food stamps is not retirement.

AARP supports the Secure Choice Savings Program Act, a bill by Assembly Speaker Prieto and Senate President Sweeny that helps New Jerseyans save enough to live independently. Under Secure Choice, people without workplace savings plans can automatically put some of their paycheck in an Individual Retirement Account. A vetted investment firm manages these accounts, so people’s savings grow as they work, even when they switch jobs. Secure Choice gives people greater financial security and independence.

Secure Choice is about choice. Anyone can opt out whenever they want. People choose how much they save. Businesses just set up payroll deductions, like they already do for medical and dental coverage. Taxpayers do not fund the program. Workers get options, not mandates.

Hard-working New Jerseyans deserve a future. We should not settle for less.

Ryan Protter

Riverside Drive

To the Editor:

There are neighborhood/town meetings to discuss the Valley Road project, which is mostly about needed repairs and resurfacing. But there is an issue lurking in the list of items planned for our taxpayer dollars which I and many of my neighbors see as a serious problem:

“The Princeton Master Plan recommends the installation of an off-road multi-use path along Valley Road.”

If that is done as I have heard it described, an 8-foot wide asphalt strip nominally accommodating bicycles and pedestrians, it will destroy a strip of landscaping by my neighbors that is about 4 feet wide. That is unconscionable, unjustified, unnecessary, and unacceptable. Among the reasons why are: that we have very little bike traffic, and quite uneventful sharing of the current sidewalk. Easy. Also, this would be a bike path to nowhere since there is nothing connecting to it at either end of Valley Road or, as far as I know, in other Princeton neighborhoods. Valley is a pretty wide road as it is, and it would be sensible and economical to paint the bike lane symbols on the road surface. We don’t need an “off road path” replacing grass, flowers, and carefully tended hedges with asphalt.

I won’t be able to attend the June 15 meeting, but I encourage my neighbors to be there to demand that the work on Valley Road be focused on repair and reconstruction of the roadway and sidewalks as they are. None of our taxpayer dollars should be spent on this “off-road multi-use path” that we don’t need and don’t want. It is a bad idea.

Roger Nelson

Valley Road

To the Editor:

The trees are yelling: “Stop with this piling up mulch around my trunk — you’re killing me!”

What is the purpose of mulching? —  To conserve moisture in the soil and to suppress unwanted growth.

Ninety percent of the large and small landscaping companies are simply ripping you off and doing permanent damage to your trees and bushes. The high volcano-like dense piles of mulch that surround your trees actually contribute to the rotting of the bark surfaces and provide a moist environment for fungal diseases and insects who feed on the bark to proliferate; the volcanoes encourage surface root growth that are not true roots as they are formed from cell tissue, not root tissue; surface roots caused by a too deep surrounding of mulch discourages deep supportive root development; prevents the penetration of needed moisture to roots; and promotes extensive and destructive root girdling around the base of tree. This all weakens the health and strength of your trees and shortens their lives as they are vulnerable to diseases and to being knocked down by high winds.

For proper mulching methods you can visit the mulching blog on my website www.ourworldourchoices.com.

Judith Robinson

Salem Court

June 3, 2015

To the Editor:

This Tuesday, June 2, negotiators for the Princeton Board of Education and PREA, the teachers’ union, meet one last time to try to agree on a contract before bringing in a costly fact-finder. A key outstanding issue is the manner in which the Board will compensate teachers for the rising cost of health insurance. We urge the Board to reduce teachers’ upfront premium contributions, as we believe this is the best protection against a repeat of this year’s corrosive negotiations.

Under Chapter 78, a 2011 state law, a Princeton teacher earning $78,000 a year (the 2014 average district salary) pays between 23 percent and 33 percent of his or her insurance premiums, reducing take-home pay by $4000 to $7500. These rates, combined with previously-agreed-to austerity measures, mean that some district teachers’ take-home pay is less now than it was eight or nine years ago.

To their credit, the Board has responded to this financial strain by offering to offset teachers’ premium contributions. But rather than reducing teachers’ paycheck deductions, the Board proposes salary stipends or reimbursements. Why does this matter? Money is money. What difference does it make if the Board wants to give a stipend instead of reducing premium payments? As it turns out, it makes a big difference. Since 2010, New Jersey has capped localities’ annual tax increases at 2 percent, roughly equivalent to inflation; voters must approve any amount over that limit. But the law also grants discretionary waivers for costs local officials can’t control, including health care. Each year since 2010, over 40 percent of New Jersey municipalities have used such exceptions to exceed the 2 percent limit. Even the current Princeton municipal budget is 4 percent higher than last year’s, thanks partly to the health care waiver.

Money spent to reduce teachers’ premium contributions could help the district qualify for a health care waiver in the future, which the Board could choose to use or not. Stipends, in contrast, would not count towards a waiver, and would come from general funds. It’s not hard to imagine how this would play out in the next round of teacher contract negotiations. Health care relief would be pitted against the district’s other needs, producing more of the rancor and frustration we have witnessed over the past year.

As Princeton residents, we know that our property values – not to mention our quality of life – depend on the excellence of our public schools. Moreover, the cost of a health care waiver for the individual taxpayer need not be high. This spring, for instance, the Board used a $400,000 health care waiver that increased the property taxes on an $800,560 home (Princeton’s average assessed home value) by less than $39 a year. We consider this a small price to pay to safeguard the quality of our public education.

Joanne Rodriguez, Gennaro Porcaro, Megan Mitchell, Dafna Kendal, Adele Goldberg, Sandra Moskovitz, Mary Saudargas, Eleanor Hubbard, Nicole Soffin, Krissi Farrimond, Eric Anderson, Rebecca Rix, Janice Fine, Becca Moss, Deborah Yashar, Keith Wailoo, Nancy, Robert Swierczek, Hendrik Hartog, Elizabeth Harman, John Collins, Ron Connor, Jane Manners, Abigail Rose

To the Editor:

I am an engineer. In 2005 I was involved in a company designing high-speed computer networking hardware and systems. Coming down to the old “Dinky” train station in Princeton, I encountered John Nash. I had known his son John since he was 15. He asked me what I am doing. After telling him some of the challenges of doing high speed, he replied, “Have you thought of this?” What he described is now known as channel bonding, but after two years of working on this project we had not considered it. A beautiful mind indeed, that could come up with an instant answer in an impromptu meet-up.

Dr. Nash was quite sane and clear-minded at that time and remained so until his tragic death. He was not always so. For years I had seen him walking along Nassau Street slowly and laconically, often chain-smoking. Or he was in Firestone Library’s lobby sitting and staring. The scene was repetitive and boring. A day in the life of the real John Nash was not the material for an entertaining movie. But in our meeting, he also said, “You know my son John suffers from mental illness.” And he said it as if he had never been there and done that!

When the movie A Beautiful Mind was made, I signed on for a bit part, that of an academic. We were on the set 19 hours one day and got digitally multiplied to look like an auditorium full of 2500 people. The filming was done in the Newark Performing Arts Center, which was used to represent an auditorium in Scandinavia. After about a dozen hours of hurry-up-and-wait and only one meal, a lot of the extras were getting crotchety. For me, it helped having been a graduate student, since we had become immune to horribly long hours!

How did John, Sr. snap out of insanity and futility? He claims that he did not use drugs and I had good corroboration that that is true. In the movie, Nash says he knows he has a problem, but that he will solve it, because that is what he does. The psychiatrist replies, “You will not solve it because the problem is with your mind.” That was 1950s psychiatry. Today, thanks to tools we did not have in 1950 such as functional MRI, we know the brain is made of components. Some may be functioning well and others not. Nash used some functioning parts of his mind to test others. If he observed a situation, he asked several other persons what they perceived. If they agreed with what he saw, he said to himself, it is confirmed. If several agreed with each other but not with him, he said, I reject this. After a while, he snapped out of it. A “self-exorcism?’ Not many have the ability to do this, but in effect this seems to be what happened in the case of John Nash.

Arch Davis

Vandeventer Avenue

To the Editor:

I would like to bring attention to the fact that the Arts Council of Princeton has almost no classes for working adults. I was currently enrolled in a comic workshop, and my mom wanted to join. She was dismayed to find out that it was only for pre-teens and teens. The Arts Council had suggested that she look for any other classes she would be interested in, but there were none that would fit her schedule.

You see, during the weekdays, most classes for adults are between 9 a.m. and noon. As most know, a working adult usually starts work at 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. or later as well as making time for family and chores. These classes are opened to teenagers too. Approximately 20 percent of the classes are in weekends, 22 percent at night, and the others are in the morning while approximately 25 percent are in the early afternoons of weekdays, which is not a convenient time either.

Some working adults want to take a class, but are not allowed due to the time constraints. These adults want to learn something new or continue a class in art but the Arts Council feels that they will be able to gain more money from the new generation rather than the old one.

Regarding the classes on the weekends, a number of them take all day, 9:30am-4:30 p.m. Most adults would choose a movie day or family time over a seven-hour class.

Although the Princeton Adult School offers classes such as these, this is no excuse for the Arts Council not to cater to other potential clients as they also have interesting and diverse classes adults would like that are taught by professionals in the business. This issue must be addressed as it will allow for the arts community to grow as well as adding new revenue for the Arts Council by focusing on a different target audience. With classes available for working adults, some high-profile men or women might make a donation to the arts community, too.

I suggest that the Arts Council should look to the future and the possibility that this program might strengthen the community in the arts by offering classes to adults from 7:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m.

Rachel Bierman

Grover Avenue

To the Editor:

Over the past two months a group of residents has sought a compromise solution for 31-33 Lytle Street that would retain the porch, façade, character and scale of its 1870’s house, provide two units of badly needed affordable housing, and still expand Mary Moss Playground (MMP) which has occupied the corner of Lytle and John Streets for about 80 years.

We are now very close to a solution involving a nationally renowned builder of low cost housing. The projected economics of this project will provide Princeton with two units of affordable housing at a cost lower than what the Town has paid over the last 3-4 years. It was believed 20-25 years ago that there should not be too much affordable housing concentrated in the Witherspoon-Jackson area. Now the neighborhood has changed with a real diversity of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic class. Every study as well as common sense says that this is a great benefit for low income families and their children. The vast majority of neighborhood residents who have spoken at two Princeton Council meetings, a special session on this subject, and last Saturday’s meeting of the W-J Association have spoken strongly in favor of additional affordable housing in their area. Lytle Street is just a short walk from jobs in downtown Princeton; elementary, middle and high schools; the library; and the Arts Council.

So far, Princeton Council has not proactively picked up on this idea, but rather proposed expanding MMP across the whole property — to which most neighborhood residents are strongly opposed. Community Park with playground equipment, both large and toddler pools, is just a few blocks north; there is a small playground behind the Y and Dorothea’s House a few blocks south; and the open space owned by the University leading to Stanworth is even closer.

If you care about these issues please come out and speak for 2-3 minutes at the Princeton Council meeting on Monday June 8 at 7 p.m. This will be our last chance to make the best use of 31-33 Lytle Street, a scarce piece of land in downtown Princeton.

John Heilner

Library Place

To the Editor:

I was delighted to learn that this August McCaffrey’s will celebrate its 23rd year as a member of the Princeton Community. McCaffrey’s is fortunate to be able to implement its desires to do the right things for the community and our Earth. I applaud them for that action. With a record of a 3:1 vote to support a bag ordinance and the use of a fee, we residents should have that right.

Opponents in the plastics industry work hard to fight bag ordinances at the local level because they work. The argument that is often voiced to convince local elected officials not to enact a ban is to let grocers and merchants reduce single use bag use voluntarily. But voluntary measures don’t work, bag ordinances work. Those that enact a fee, result in a 60-90 percent reduction of bag use.

McCaffrey’s has a rebate program and offers reusable bags. Both policies are commendable; however, these policies, like education, don’t result in creating a real, measurable impact. If they did, we would have statistics to show a significant reduction in the number of single bags that McCaffrey’s buys. To date, I do not believe that a single grocery chain in the U.S. has verifiable numbers showing a bag ordinance passed in their local town hurt their business.

McCaffrey’s is 3.8 miles from the Shop Rite and 6 miles from Wegman’s. Gas costs approximately $2.57 a gallon and the average MPG is 24 miles. A McCaffrey shopper would have to spend .40 cents (4 bags) to go to Shoprite, and 80 cents (8 bags) to go to Wegman’s. Does it really seem plausible that a McCaffrey’s customer, possibly one shopping there for years would undertake the expense and inconvenience to not shop at our local, loved McCaffreys?

I frequent both local grocers shopping at McCaffrey’s because it is a local store that provides unique value. I love picking up specialty desserts without a pre-order, running into my friends and knowing the Manager Steve Carney and some of the staff by first name. As a mother of a special needs child, the fact that they employ special needs individuals is appealing. I feel “community” at McCaffrey’s.

When discussing the bag ordinance, with a merchant, resident or individual that works in Princeton, I poll them to see why they shop at McCaffreys.

The replies:

McCaffrey’s has great quality and variety of prepared foods. The store has an extensive salad bar with fresh fruit, vegetables, greens, and interesting salads. Convenience and good parking. It is our local grocer — you run into everyone. Organic and kosher food offerings.  McCaffrey’s has excellent customer service. They treat their employees well and that translates into very friendly employees.·They listen to customers.

Does it seem possible that all the good will created over 23 years could be undone by a 10 cent bag ordinance? Would you stop shopping there over a 10 cent charge?

Bainy Suri

Chestnut Street

To the Editor:

I write to support the concerns of Valley Road residents who find the proposed asphalt bike path, which will replace the pedestrian sidewalk, as environmentally intrusive, unnecessary, and unaesthetic.

I want to raise additional safety concerns that are being ignored. The first is the inability of residents on the bike-lane side of Valley to safely walk from their homes. If they walk along the bike path, they may get hit since they have no right-of-way. If they cross the road, then they are jay-walking and at high risk from the high traffic volume and excessive speeding. They have no pedestrian rights. For children, these safety issues are a concern and, in fact, makes it almost impossible for my grandchildren to visit and go to the shopping center.

Users of this “bike path to nowhere” also face dangers of being hit at cross-streets unless they dismount and walk their bikes across intersections that have some of the highest accident rates in town. Hardly a useable bike path. I myself am an avid biker and a “share the road” bike lane would meet all the needs of bike users, as has been done everywhere else in town. In fact in the 38 years I’ve lived on Valley Road, I’ve observed a very limited number of bike riders.

The rebuilding of Valley Road offers many opportunities to reduce traffic and excessive speeding, and thereby improve the quality of life for residents. Over the last 10 years there has been a huge increase in traffic using Valley Road as a bypass between Route 206 and Harrison, which isn’t its designated role in the town’s master plan, and often travelling in excess of 40 mph when there is a 25 mph speed limit.

Sensible solutions exist: adding 4-way stop signs at cross streets would slow traffic and wouldn’t impact emergency vehicles using sirens; adding a “share the road” bike lane would effectively address the needs of bike riders; closing off Valley Road for Route 206 north-traveling vehicles would reduce using Valley Road as a by-pass (as was suggested after the Township building was completed). These are solutions that improve the neighborhood. Yet we’re hearing of plans that negatively impact the neighborhood.

I join my fellow residents in urging Mayor Lempert and the town’s engineers to consider the significant negative impacts and safety concerns raised by this bike path and to withdraw this plan.

Eric Wood

Valley Road

May 27, 2015

To the Editor:

This August, McCaffrey’s Food Markets will celebrate our 23rd year as a member of the Princeton Community! Throughout these years, we’ve focused on providing excellent service, superb community relations and top-quality products to the Princeton area. We’ve also worked very hard to be good corporate citizens, through charitable efforts and solid environmental practices which are outlined below:

McCaffrey’s Markets has cut our landfill waste stream by more than 50 percent by:

• Initiating a food composting program

• Recycling cardboard shipping cartons

• Recycling plastic film

• Starting a single-stream recycling program

• Donating thousands of pounds of food per year to those in need

McCaffrey’s has reduced our energy consumption by:

• Replacing older, inefficient refrigeration equipment with state-of-the-art models that use 20 percent less energy

• Swapping older, fluorescent bulbs with high efficiency L.E.D.s

McCaffrey’s has reduced the impact of single use bags by:

• Offering a rebate on every reusable bag used at our store

• Selling reusable bags at check-out to encourage green behavior

• Recycling 75 percent more plastic bags than we purchase during the year, by encouraging consumers to bring bags from other sources in addition to those obtained at McCaffrey’s

All of the efforts outlined above are simply the result of our desire to do the right thing for the community and our Earth, rather than the result of a government mandate. Recently, there has been an effort in Princeton to impose a 10 cent per bag fee on our customers for every single use bag that leaves our store. While we understand the intent of the proposed ordinance, we cannot support it, as we believe that consumer education and choice are a far more equitable solution to the issues caused by single use bags. We believe continued collaboration between McCaffrey’s and those concerned about our environment can be of tremendous benefit. What’s more, the proposed ordinance would place McCaffrey’s at a significant competitive disadvantage. None of our competitors operate within Princeton which means that none of them would be subject to the mandatory bag fee.

We strongly encourage Mayor Liz Lempert and the Princeton Council to consider all of the above mentioned practices and successes, as well as McCaffrey’s desire to work together with environmental groups that want to better educate consumers about “best” eco-friendly practices, before deciding the fate of this proposed ordinance.

James J. McCaffrey

President, McCaffrey’s Market

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

Robert De Martino

Princeton-Kingston Road

To the Editor:

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

Walter R. Bliss, Jr.

Moore Street

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

Toby Israel

Walnut Lane

Days Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington D.C

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

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

Exploring Ecuador

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

May 20, 2015

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

Becca Moss, Janice Fine

Nassau Street,

Robert Dodge

Maple Street

To NJ Transit:

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

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

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

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

Andrew Koontz

Freeholder, Mercer County

To the Editor:

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

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

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

Ilona Melker, Neil Melker

Valley Road

To the Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timothy J. Shields,

Managing Director

Emily Mann,

Artistic Director