December 19, 2012

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

To the Editor:

As a Princeton taxpayer who headed the Borough’s Traffic and Transportation Committee for many years, I must offer a few observations about the University’s wrong-headed determination to move the Dinky station further from downtown. My bottom line is simple (I’m sure most residents — and most Planning Board members — will have had this thought): in a time when scientists agree that climate change threatens, why make public transportation less convenient? Make no mistake; to approve this plan means more people will drive to the station and fewer people will use the rail connection, period.

Princeton is full of people expert in their fields who have testified against this proposal: among the adverse effects they have noted is hopelessly snarled traffic in the Alexander Road corridor. So not only is this decision wrong in its essence, it’s wrong in its details.

Here’s how to serve the arts: build the proposed arts complex, but maintain the current station. Princeton will not regret this outcome, just as New York City did not regret saving Grand Central station in the 1970s. As the Supreme Court wrote in that decision, “[H]istoric conservation is but one aspect of the much larger problem, basically an environmental one, of enhancing … the quality of life for people.”

Has the University’s largesse silenced those who might otherwise say that this plan offends sensibility as well as good sense? Bottom line: we know what’s right. Can we now look the other way as Princeton University trades our in-town, historic train station for better access to its parking garage?

Sandy Solomon

Bayard Lane

To the Editor:

Let it be known that on November 28, a new approach to journalism was born, on page 7 of the Town Topics. Though I had been waiting nearly two decades for this breakthrough, it took several readings for the importance of the headline to sink in. “Not Everybody Knows That Hospital Has Moved From Princeton to Plainsboro.” I know, it doesn’t sound like much, and my first inclination was to pass it by. Only when I re-encountered the headline, in the process of recycling, did the headline’s import sink in.

The article was about people still making the drive to the old hospital site in search of medical care. But on a broader scale, consider how many people labor under the burden of misinformation, and spend their lives driving their fevered thoughts to the wrong conclusions time and time again. Though this is considered the Information Age, it is equally the Misinformation Age, when lies go viral, replicating exponentially in nutrient-rich environments of resentment and fear. People are lost not only because they aren’t paying attention, but because they are being actively misled.

Fortunately, as the hospital article described, there is someone waiting at the old hospital site to redirect those who are lost. Additional signs directing people to the new hospital are now in place.

These steps make obvious sense, but ask yourself if the same steps have been taken to help people arrive at reality-based destinations in their thinking. Where, for instance, will people encounter, in an adequately redundant way, the basic facts about the human-caused transformations now underway that will change life on earth forever? Princeton probably contributes to the global problem of rising oceans and radicalized climate as much per capita as any other town, and yet there is precious little “signage” in news media — local or otherwise — directing us towards an understanding of the gravity of the situation.

An article in the pioneering style of “Not Everybody Knows” would give the basics about how human activity is warming the earth and acidifying the oceans, and that the many consequences — more destructive storms and droughts, coastal flooding, undermining of marine ecosystems, melting of ice caps, temperature rise — are playing out faster than scientists’ models had projected. It would say that sea rise is accelerating, with three feet likely this century, and 220 additional feet of rise still locked up in the ice fields of Greenland and Antarctica. It would say that the impacts of pouring climate-changing gases into the atmosphere, unlike with other forms of pollution, are essentially permanent, and continued dependency on fossil fuels will only destabilize climate and marine systems further.

That’s the sort of “signage” we need, posted like hospital signs in well-traveled places where people are sure to see them again and again, until the message gets through. The lack of it, the fact that one almost never encounters this information in daily living, reading, and listening without considerable search, is sending a very clear message: that it doesn’t really matter where we’re headed.

Stephen Hiltner

North Harrison Street

To the Editor:

Princeton — home of world-renowned institutions: Princeton University, The Institute for Advanced Study, Forrestal Research Center, Princeton Theological Seminary, et. al.; site of pivotal battles of our Revolutionary War; one-time capitol of our fledgling nation when the Continental Congress sat in Nassau Hall; home and workplace of Einstein, a name known the world over as synonymous with “genius”; a college campus widely known as the exemplar of Collegiate Gothic architecture in the U.S. — all this to be symbolized by a cubistic rendition of the Mercer Oak (which, by the way, no longer exists), an image that looks like nothing so much as … BROCCOLI?

Thomas S. Fulmer

Hunt Drive

To the Editor:

I agree with Jerome Silbergeld’s letter (“Deer Victim of Hit and Run Event”) in the Nov. 28 Mailbox. There is no reason why this poor deer had to be hit the way he was. Like Mr. Silbergeld, I also am “ tired of hearing that these beautiful creatures are pests.”

Could it be that this driver and other drivers who have hit deer maybe are driving too fast? It would be a safer world for all of us — humans and animals — if we were all calmer and more attentive on the roads.

Gina Berger

Cherry Valley Road

SPECIAL STYLES: “Our motto is: ‘What makes a specialty store special.’ We specialize in custom design, and we call it comfortable elegance. That is reflected in the ambiance of the shop. There is a certain image geared to people who want to look nice.” Nick and Jennifer Hilton, owners of Nick Hilton Princeton, offer the finest apparel for men and women.

Sophisticated, elegant, and tailored clothing for men and women is the specialty at Nick HIlton Princeton. The unique studio store at 221 Witherspoon Street, opened in 2001, and has become an important resource for Princeton clients looking for fine quality fashion.

Classic American-styled clothes, many made in Italy, are highlighted, and owner Nick HIlton is a master of customized menswear, featuring comfortable elegance. The award-winning stylist represents the fourth generation of his family to dress American men. The client list includes U.S. presidents, statesmen, captains of industry, entertainers, and sports figures. Mr. Hilton’s classic yet individual designs have been featured in GQ Magazine, among others.

“My great-grandfather Joseph Hilton and his brothers came from Russia in the 1880s, and started a custom-tailoring shop,” recalls Mr. Hilton. “They opened a series of shops, called Joseph Hilton & Sons, and eventually there were 10 stores in New York and New Jersey. The name was later changed to Browning King & Co.

“My grandfather Alex Hilton, and my father Norman Hilton continued in the business. After graduating from Princeton and serving in the Navy in World War II, my father later created the Norman Hilton Country Line. He established a wholesale business that we never had before.”

Fashion Footsteps

Nick Hilton wasn’t quite sure whether to follow in the fashion footsteps of his forebears, but in fact, the interest was there, and he started out in Italy, working for a trouser manufacturer. When he returned to the U.S., he became a salesman for the family business, and found that he was to wear many hats.

“By 1975, I was head stylist, buyer, and salesman, and in 1980, I became president of the company.”

His real interest was in design, however, with a focus on softer tailoring and subtle patterns. His designs emphasized an international updated traditional style. “It’s not fashion in the sense of anything trendy or a novelty,” he notes. “We reinvent and update tradition.”

Having moved to the Princeton area in 1980, Mr. Hilton was familiar with the menswear business here, and in September 2001, he decided to open his own studio. “Originally, we had sports coats, trousers, shirts, and ties, and only our own label,” he recalls. “Then we added Hickey Freeman suits, and also sportswear, sweaters, and jeans. We now have pajamas and robes, which are very popular.

“There are definite trends in the men’s line,” he continues. “Jackets are fitted more closely to the body. Our leather jackets are styled more like blazers, with a sleeker look, and the outerwear is sleeker too. They are also multi-functional. It’s not just a rain coat, for example, but a car coat. It can be worn over a suit, and it’s waterproof, as well as lightweight. Another thing, pleated pants are just about obsolete.”

In addition to Mr. Hilton’s own designs, new lines are available this season. “New this year is the Italian duffle coat from Gimo’s and Allegri outerwear. They are cashmere, treated with Teflon, and are waterproof. We have also brought in Allen Edmonds dress shoes, Wolverine boots, and Martin Dingman informal moccasin-style.”

Pocket Squares

Easy-care, wrinkle-resistant Eton dress shirts, are very popular, and along with folded handkerchiefs, silk handprinted pocket squares are a favorite accent piece.

Cashmere scarves, also reversible scarves with wool and silk on either side, gloves from England will all get guys ready for winter. Lightweight sweaters continue to be in demand, and dark olive is a popular color generally.

Suits at Nick Hilton range from $795 to $2000 and are of the highest quality fabric, including very fine wool. Sports coats are tweed, fine wool, cashmere, and silk and wool blends.

The shop includes a number of displays featuring ensembles which Mr. Hilton has coordinated to show how different colors, textures, and patterns can work together. “I enjoy helping guys and turning them on to style. I like creating a loyal customer, gaining his trust, and assisting him with his wardrobe. We always help with advice and help him put an outfit together. A large part of the business is custom. The customers who come here care about clothes, and are willing to invest in quality apparel.”

And, it’s not just men who will find the answer to their wardrobe needs. In 2006, women’s clothing was added, and that has been a big success.

“In the fall of 2005, we noticed that men were buying shearling coats for their wives,” explains Mr. Hilton. “We wanted to offer sophisticated, elegant, tailored clothing that women would enjoy wearing.”

Personal Attention

“We brought in jackets, blouses, T-shirts, dresses, and scarves,” adds Jennifer Hilton, who is the buyer for the women’s department. “We have a lot of new lines this season, including, for the first time, Moschino Cheap and Chic, also Greenstone outerwear from Holland, Missoni, Rachel Ray, Philosophy, and Jackett soft suede jackets that are machine-washable. They are extremely popular.”

In fact, a customer walked in the store wearing one! “I love it,” said the Princeton resident and long-time Nick Hilton customer. “I like to come here often. It’s the quality of the clothes and the personal attention that are so special.”

“We also have a lot of dresses now,” continues Ms. Hilton. “They are primarily dresses that can be worn to work, but many are day-to-evening, very versatile, and can be worn to events in the evening. We are also seeing lots of bright colors now, and also prints and patterns. And scarves with color blocks are very popular in different combinations, including in cashmere.”

Also popular at the store is Barbour rainwear. “This is a special favorite of younger women, including Princeton University students,” she adds. “It’s fleece-lined, lightweight, warm, and waterproof. And it is popular with all ages too.”

Three Things

Helping women to look their best is important to Ms. Hilton. “I love my customers. They come in regularly to see what’s new, and we always have something special to show them. They are all ages, and they come from Princeton and the area, including Bucks County.”

Quality is the hallmark at Nick Hilton Princeton both for men’s and women’s apparel, adds Mr. Hilton. “Quality depends on three things. One, it should stand the test of time and be durable and classic. Two, comfort is key. The garment should move with you, and the texture should be comfortable and pleasant to wear. Three, it should be aesthetically beautiful and include classical elements, such as color tone (a palette of colors that go together), content and composition.”

Nick Hilton Princeton offers tailoring and alterations, gift certificates, sales in January and July, and on-line shopping.

“We have had 11 years of uninterrupted growth, and I look forward to that continuing,” says Mr. Hilton. “How people dress and how they look is important. It can also be a sign of respect for others.”

As for himself, he says, with a smile: “I like to be dressed. I like to go around in a shirt and tie. I like to dress up. It gives me a kick!”

The studio store is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 to 5. (609) 921-8160. Website: www.nickhilton.com.


SUSHI SPECIALTIES: “A lot of people like to come and sit at the sushi bar. They enjoy seeing us make a nice sushi platter, and it’s fun for them to watch it being made. “Chef/owner John Lung (right) and assistant sushi chef Bill Zhon of Sushi King get ready to go to work at the restaurant’s sushi bar.

Chef John Lung is very proud of his popular Japanese restaurant, Sushi King at 3562 Route 27 in Kendall Park.

“My dream was always to have my own restaurant, and in 2001, I opened my first restaurant Kanoko at Routes 518 and 27. I had that restaurant for nine years. Then, last year, I was able to open Sushi King in the Town Place, and I am so encouraged to have so many customers.”

A native of Hong Kong, Mr. Lung grew up in the restaurant business. When he and his parents came to the U.S. in 1994, the family opened a Japanese restaurant in New York City.

“My father was a chef, and I learned a lot working in the family restaurant and from watching him making sushi and other dishes,” explains Mr. Lung.

Japanese Cuisine

Sushi is the specialty at the restaurant, although a complete selection of Japanese cuisine, such as teriyaki and tempura choices, is also available. Quality and freshness are key elements, points out Mr. Lung. “We serve very fresh fish and the freshest ingredients for all our dishes. It’s healthy, low-caloric, good food. We use less salt and no MSG.”

As are many of his customers, Mr. Lung is a real sushi fan. “I especially love our Butterfly roll, with lobster, mango, avocado, crunchy sweet chili sauce, and soybean seaweed; and the Kiss of Fire roll, with crunchy spicy tuna inside and white tuna jalapeno on top.

“Sushi is actually fish and rice rolled together,” explains Mr. Lung. “The fish can be cooked or fresh, and the sushi is served at room temperature.”

Choices are available as appetizers or entrees, including four pieces of fresh fish on rice, tuna roll, California roll, salmon roll, and spicy shrimp and crab roll, among many others. A special sushi roll combination could include tuna, salmon, yellow tail tuna, sweet potato, eel avocado, tuna avocado, salmon avocado, spicy tuna, spicy salmon, spicy shrimp and crab, Philadelphia shrimp avocado, and chicken tempura.

Bento Boxes

A selection of sashimi (fresh fish pieces) is also available.

Popular entrees are traditional Japanese favorites such as chicken, shrimp or salmon teriyaki, and beef Negimaki. The variety of tempura dishes, including vegetable, chicken and vegetable, shrimp and vegetable are all in demand. Entrees are all served with rice, soup, and salad.

Specialties also include the popular lunch and dinner Bento boxes, including chicken, beef, salmon, and flounder teriyaki. These are all served with rice, shrimp and vegetable tempura, California roll, miso soup, and house salad.

Mr. Lung has also introduced a new “All You Can Eat” lunch and dinner buffet special menu. Sushi, sashimi, various rolls, tempura, teriyaki, soup and salad, dessert, and more are all offered for $19.95.

Other prices include salads and appetizers from $2.50, sushi rolls from $3.50, and hot entrees from $11.95.

Popular deserts at Sushhi King are Tempura ice cream and Tempura banana, and assorted soft drinks are available. Customers are invited to bring wine if they wish.

Customers, including families with children, come from all over the area, reports Mr. Lung. “We can seat 65 people with tables, booths, and the sushi bar. We have tried to create an attractive decor, with an Asian theme, but also blending American tastes. That’s the feeling I wanted.”

Best Sushi

“I really enjoy being with the customers,” he continues. “A lot are people who came to my former restaurant Kanoko, but there are many new people too.”

Kendall Park resident Matthew Kroeper was a loyal Kanoko customer, and now comes regularly to Sushi King. “The sushi and the service are just great. It’s definitely the best sushi around.”

Catering is a growing part of the business, adds Mr. Lung. “We are very busy with catering, and we have many orders for Thanksgiving. We will be especially busy during the holidays, and I also go to people’s houses to make sushi for a party.

“I am very proud of achieving my dream to have my own restaurant,” he adds. “We want to be known as the place to go for sushi, and we want to invite everyone to come in and try our great dishes.”

Sushi King is open Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 4:30 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 to 3, 4:30 to 10; Sunday 12 to 9. (732) 821-8822. Website: www.sushiking27.com.

December 5, 2012

To the Editor:

I have lived in this community for 36 years. I frequently drive on Alexander Road to get to Route One, and I either walk to the Dinky or drive to the Dinky for travel to trains on the Northeast Corridor. I believe that public transportation is a public right, that our train link to Princeton Junction is a public good, and that our public streets should be managed for the benefit of everyone, not for a small (and privileged) subset of our population.

For these reasons, I urge this Planning Board to reject the transit portions of the University’s site plan. The proposal to move the Princeton Branch station stop south and away from town is indefensible. It will make our train link to the Junction less convenient for all of us who use it, whether we walk or bike there, whether we drive and park, or whether someone drops us off. Worse, the plan will essentially privatize our train station. For over a century we have had easy access to the Dinky from public streets. We have not had to rely on special permissions or easements from a private corporation for our ability to get to the train. The University’s plan proposes to change all of that.

To reach the train, we will have to go through University land to the service sector of the campus. It will be harder to get there, and the challenges will be much harder for those who are elderly or disabled. It will be less safe to walk from there at night. The University proposes to respond to the inconvenience by providing more gas-fueled shuttle service. This is an insult to anyone who cares about environmental responsibility. Instead of moving a mass transit stop to facilitate commuter car access to a parking garage, the University should encourage car pooling and other methods to cut down on auto use.

This proposal cannot be justified by any sound public policy reasons. It is not in the best interests of our community. A University that purports to teach international diplomacy should begin at home by ending its campaign to diminish our rights to public transportation.

Mary Ellen Marino

Hornor Lane

To the Editor:

We rely on the members of the Regional Planning Board of Princeton to recognize the dangers to the public inherent in the plan for the new Dinky Station complex, part of the University’s Arts and Transit project. The area in front of the new station will have to accommodate buses and cars waiting, turning and parking; pedestrians crossing the road to the station; “kiss and run” traffic; cyclists; and drivers and pedestrians stopping at Wawa. In addition, cars coming from and going to Parking Lot 7 will share an exit road with the station complex. All of this, confined in the small area set out in the University’s proposal, will cause intense congestion and endanger public safety.

Four new crosswalks on Alexander Street between University Place and Faculty Road will further impede traffic flow and put the public at even greater risk.

For these reasons we urge the Planning Board to require the University to come up with a safer plan.

Peter Kleban, Barbara Anderman

Springdale Road

To the Editor:

As we give thanks and count our blessings this time of year, the JM Group Family would like to acknowledge our generous customers and friends for their donations to our “First Annual Turkey Drive.”

We are so pleased to share the news that with your help, we donated 500 turkeys along with $1,200 to the Mercer Street Food Bank, enabling struggling families to enjoy the holiday. In addition, our “Fourth Annual Harvest Festival” raised $3,800, which we donated to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.

The volunteers at the food bank and soup kitchen were thrilled and grateful for this generosity.

We are extremely proud to be a part of such a close-knit, benevolent community, and thank you all for your incredible support of this cause.

Happy Holidays!

Jack Morrison

To the Editor:

The redevelopment of the hospital site will have a permanent impact on our community. Unfortunately, years of thoughtful planning by the community, government, and hospital have not been incorporated into AvalonBay’s proposal.

The 2006 Princeton Borough Code added requirements for a Mixed Residential-Retail-Office, or MRRO, zone as “the Witherspoon Street Campus.” This MRRO zone was created for an urban campus, not a single building. It was intended to reintegrate the hospital site into the existing neighborhood through smart, rejuvenating urban design, with affordable housing and sustainable design. AvalonBay has presented drawings of 1 large building, a figure eight in plan, with 280 residential units. Not only does AvalonBay’s proposal not satisfy the 2006 Master Plan’s intent, it simply ignores the existing neighborhood.

Section 17A-193B of 2006 Princeton Borough Code includes guidelines that are not being met in AvalonBay’s proposal. To name just a few:

The Code’s paragraph A.6: “Buildings should be designed to avoid a monolithic appearance.” The proposal: Drawings show a continuous 3-story high wall running along Franklin Ave, almost two blocks long. From Witherspoon St, the wall runs 250 ft, jogs 15 feet back, then continues for another 240 feet.

The Code’s paragraph C.3: “Careful consideration should be given to the mass and bulk of any buildings to ensure they are harmonious with their surroundings and improve the present conditions.” The proposal: Drawings show one building and have not demonstrated any consideration of the surroundings.

The Code’s paragraph D.1: “Any applicant must document that the open space provides linkages between and through the development as well as the surrounding neighborhood.” The proposal: Drawings do not indicate any public walkways crossing the whole site. An archway from Witherspoon St permits access only to the smaller of two internal courtyards, which is a dead-end without any link beyond.

The Code’s paragraph E.1: “A new neighborhood street is envisioned. Access points should be open and accessible by the public.” The proposal: No new street is proposed crossing the site.

The Code’s paragraph E.4: “A private gated community is not allowed for the site.” The proposal: The larger of two internal courtyards is not accessible to the public, rendering the majority of the site as a private gated community.

For an urban plan such as this, a developer must either follow the existing zoning in place or the developer can modify the existing zoning on the basis of a new master plan. In the second scenario, the master plan becomes the de facto code for the urban design, similar to how the building code is the basis for building design.

The Planning Board is responsible for making sure that this design complies with the 2006 Master Plan’s intentions and guidelines. According to the Planning Board’s on-line mission statement, its first of 6 listed responsibilities is:

to assure that all permitted development is designed so as to be as harmonious as possible with the surrounding neighborhood.”

Yaron Inbar

Harris Road

To the Editor:

Tomorrow, December 6, critical Planning Board hearings continue on AvalonBay’s proposal to stick a gated “private community” into Princeton’s emerging downtown. Hearing dates are December 6 (Thursday), 10 (Monday), and 13 (Thursday), all at 7:30 p.m. (Township Complex). Come, speak out; help our Planning Board deny AvalonBay’s effort to violate Borough Code and the Master Plan, which both aim at a rejuvenated, diversified neighborhood.

From the outset, AvalonBay has ignored design standards, which Code pointedly characterizes as “a framework within which” any developer must work. The term “framework” does not allow dismissal. While AvalonBay has slurred design standards as “vague” (“subjective”), legal practice insists that each individual design standard be evaluated on its own merits. Furthermore, the developer (not the Planning Board) must prove that a specific standard is “vague”; only a judge may give a final ruling. Planning Board members may rightfully maintain that AvalonBay must heed a specific design standard — or they can deny the application. This situation also obtains if a developer claims that following a design standard is “cost-generative” (thereby governed by laws for developments with affordable housing components): the developer must present a baseline cost before claiming that adhering to a specific standard is cost-generative, and a judge must rule on that claim in court.

An important design standard reads: “Any applicant must document that the open space provides linkages between and through the development …” (17A-193B.d.1; see also 17A-193B.e.3). Requiring documentation from a developer is not a “vague” stipulation, nor is the phrase “through the development.” AvalonBay might fight the standard — and lose. The corollary to both standards, added late in the drafting of Borough Code, belongs to “legislative history”: “The development shall have [note that the verb mandates] an enhanced system of public open spaces and pathways” (17A-193B.d.4). “Enhanced”: a comparative adjective. “Enhanced” over what? — the hospital’s present footprint. AvalonBay disregards plain English — and has, indeed, subtracted the present walkway from Witherspoon to Harris.

Sometimes Mr. Ladell has shimmied, affirming that his development does indeed comply with a specific design standard. Can he really switch back and forth between honoring and trashing design standards en masse, claiming they are “vague”? On November 15, he claimed compliance with this standard: “New construction should be concentrated in the central portion of the site and building setback should increase as building height increases” (17A-193B.a.8). To manage this claim, he included the entire garage as part of the site — though he has otherwise argued that the “site” is only what’s in his major site plan application (the new residences). His argument that the northerly wall of apartments (abutting the garage) would be the highest point was deceptive. The real center is the swimming pool — and there are no changes in building height (setbacks) throughout a perimeter structure that is always 52 feet high (not counting additional lofts).

Planning Board members will doubtless not be duped by Mr. Ladell’s disingenuous rhetoric. They should deny his application and vote to weave a renewed site back into a welcoming neighborhood.

Daniel Harris

Dodds Lane

To the Editor:

Recently I learned that a graffiti outlaw wrote an expletive on signage at the entrance of Princeton Township. Even though this sign will most likely be removed and replaced with a new one when the consolidation becomes official, I firmly believe that the graffiti should be removed as quickly as possible. I have written letters to two members of Princeton Township Committee that I sincerely hope will result in the quick removal of the graffiti. Studies have shown that when graffiti goes uncorrected it creates more graffiti.

Ethan C. Finley

Princeton Community Village

FARMHOUSE FAVORITES: “There are furniture stores and gift stores. We combine the best of each, and many of the items we carry are exclusive to us. You won’t see them everywhere.” Kristin and Ron Menapace, owners of The Farmhouse Store on Palmer Square, are shown near a display of the store’s popular accent pillows, scarves, and intriguing miscellany.

The Farmhouse Store at 43 Hulfish Street is barely a month old, and customers can’t wait to see the latest items.

It is easy to understand why. The attractive store is filled with a variety of intriguing “conversation pieces,” from jewelry to furniture. And much, much more!

Opened the end of October by Ron and Kristin Menapace, it is the second Farmhouse Store in New Jersey. The first was opened in Westfield by Mr. Menapace’s brother.

Originally from Hillsborough, Ron Menapace had worked in the pharmaceutical business, and lived in California before changing careers.

Center of Town

Impressed with the success of The Farmhouse Store in Westfield, he decided to embark on a new adventure, and opened a similar shop in Princeton. “The big difference coming from the corporate world to this is the connection we have with the community here,” says Mr. Menapace.

Adds his wife and co-owner Kristin Menapace: “We wanted to be in the center of town, and Palmer Square was a perfect match for us. We want to make the store unique to Princeton.”

They certainly have! From jewelry to lamps to rugs to scarves, pillows, and throws to clocks and candles, dishes, trays, and mugs to farm tables, hutches, and rocking chairs, decorative stars to greeting cards to fingerless mittens, the selection is never-ending.

“Our signature is our barn wood,” explains Mr. Menapace. “We use barn wood from farm houses to make furniture, and the Farmhouse Store makes its own furniture. It can be custom-designed as to color, finish, size, etc. In just a very short time, we have already sold farm tables, coffee tables, and benches.”

The range of furniture includes beds, cabinets, and hutches with different finishes. There are also handsome upholstered and slip-covered sofas and chairs. Floor lamps featuring both wrought iron bases and hand-blown bases, with beaded fabric shade catch the eye; and accent pillows, including charming farm motif and “Flying Pigs” design, are great gift ideas. Serving dishes in the shape of artist’s palette, and small orange and black cheese trays with “Princeton parking violation” design are fun to add to your entertaining mosaic.

“Many of the items are small batch artisan goods. You will find uncommon treasures,” points out Kristin Menapace. “We have unusual artwork from an Atlanta artist who emphasizes inspirational sayings with her work.”

Front Porch

For example, wooden picture frames with the following sentiment:

“It was the barn for the square dance on Saturday night.

It was the front porch to rock on.

It was the trim that said the hard work paid off.

The only thing worse than tearing down an old building

Is not re-using the wood that created its beauty.”

There are specialties for children, such as “100 Gathered Thoughts (For My Beautiful Child)”, featuring note pads with tear-off sayings.

It is also not every shop in which you will find money pots! The collection of Taramandi Etruscan money pots, hand-thrown in Italy, feature bright colors and designs. As the attached message explains: “Once the first coin is dropped, the money pot must be fed until full, upon which it must be smashed whilst making a wish. Money pots bring good fortune, and can hold up to $500 with nickels, dimes, and quarters.”

Jewelry, from delicate to dramatic, is a big favorite at the store, and includes a complete selection, with many pieces in silver. Unusual pendants feature genuine pressed flowers, leaves and herbs.

Wine stoppers and wind chimes, dish towels and glasses with states of the U.S. motif, clay pottery, soup mugs with scenes of Grand Central Station, the Empire State Building, and other NYC favorites, silk flowers, amazing “Gurgle Pots” — fish-shaped pitchers in all colors that actually gurgle when filled with water … the list goes on and on.

Great Resource

“We have something for anywhere in your house,” says Ms. Menapace, “and we are a great resource for hostess and housewarming gifts.”

The wide price range will also please customers. From $1.99 for a little sequin bracelet to $2000 for furniture, and everything in between. Examples include scarves, which start at $13.99, the all-important cheeseboard with dipping bowl and knife at $34.95, cheese platters made from rustic wood scrub boards under $20, and miniature vases at $19.99.

“My little daughter loves to bring me dandelions, and we never had a vase small enough for them,” reports Ms. Menapace. “Now, we have very tiny vases, which are just fine for dandelions!

“I really enjoy talking with all our customers,” she adds. “I like to know where they’re from and what they’re looking for. Personal service is very important, and either Ron or I are always here.”

The Farmhouse Store offers complimentary gift packaging and wrapping, and is open Monday-Wednesday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10 to 8:30, Sunday 12 to 5. (609) 688-0777 www.facebook.com/thefarmhousestoreprinceton.