February 13, 2013

To the Editor:

February 11 marks the Princeton Fire Department’s 225th birthday, making it one of the country’s longest operating volunteer departments.

We should all praise the exceptional people who offer their time and energy over long hours of training and risk their personal safety to protect Princeton’s residents and property.

Sima and Edward Greenblat

Leabrook Lane

PP Marchand 2-6-13She is the longest-serving elected official on Princeton Township Committee. She indexed the Papers of Woodrow Wilson and the Letters of Samuel Johnson. She has run in 19 marathons. She continues to contribute to the community in numerous ways, by serving on boards and committees, and donating her time to a variety of organizations — all the while combatting a serious chronic illness, which has not diminished her drive or sapped her spirit.

Phyllis Marchand is one-of-a-kind, a role model for what women can achieve and how one person in a position of leadership while working together with others can make a difference for many.

A New Yorker, Ms. Marchand was born in Manhattan, and was the oldest of the four children of Morris (“Mo”) and Charlotte Steinberg. She was close to siblings Steven, Laura, and Susan, and also to both sets of grandparents who lived on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.

“My father’s parents were born in Romania, and my mother’s father was born in Russia,” recalls Ms. Marchand. “My maternal grandfather took my brother Steven and me out on Sundays to a place of interest, such as on the Staten Island Ferry to go to the zoo, or on a trip to Bear Mountain. My brother and I looked forward to these outings, and so did my grandfather. Since he was not born here, he was always interested in visiting new places.

Millinery Manufacturer

“My maternal grandmother was educated, and played the piano. Music was an important part of my life, and my mother, who loved the opera, often took me to the old Met.

“My father was a millinery manufacturer, and had a company in Manhattan. ‘Phyllis’ and ‘Charlotte’ hats were two of their labels. He was also a big sports fan, especially for the New York Giants baseball team, and we’d go to the Polo Grounds to see them play. Later, after the Giants moved to San Francisco, I became a Mets fan. This has stayed with me, and I follow the Mets with a keen interest, staying up way past midnight to watch the games on the West Coast. I am also an avid fan of all the Princeton University teams.”

Growing up in New York City offers opportunities on a scale not found in many other places: Broadway plays at one’s doorstep; rides on the subway; watching the balloons blown up for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade; premier museums, opera, and many other cultural activities.

New York City children often develop an early self-sufficiency, and Phyllis was allowed to go on the subway by herself when she was 10; at 14, she went to Broadway shows with friends; she roller skated in Central Park, often skating to the park from her home on 86th Street on the West Side.

Phyllis also loved the movies, and was able to go nearly every weekend. She and her friends kept a careful eye on their favorite stars, clipping pictures from the movie magazines. “We all had photos of our favorites, and I especially loved Elizabeth Taylor and Arlene Dahl, and also Gregory Peck, Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift, and Robert Wagner.

“I also loved all the popular songs of the time, and the singers, including Nat King Cole, Eddie Fisher, and Tony Bennett.”

New Experiences

Phyllis attended P.S. 9, the neighborhood public school, through the eighth grade, where she had a particularly memorable experience with her eighth grade teacher, Miss Laubenheimer. “One day, she gave us an assignment, and asked us to write down everything we did that day. After she read what we had written, she said: ‘You have all failed!’ No one had spent any time reading a newspaper. She said we must take time — at least 10 or 15 minutes each day — to read part of a newspaper. She even showed us how to fold it, so we could read it on the subway. She was a very strict and tough teacher, but we also had interesting class trips to The New York Times and other places.”

Attending high school at the private Birch Wathen School on West 93rd Street brought new experiences. French, biology, and English literature were her favorite subjects. “I was also a cheerleader for the basketball team — this was a very small school,” she remembers. “We had only 28 students in our class. I was chair of the social committee too, and was in charge of the senior prom.”

Interestingly, Ms. Marchand’s political focus had yet to emerge. Other activities and pursuits kept her busy, and among her happiest childhood memories were the times at camp in Maine, where she spent several summers.

“I loved going to camp, and I loved Maine. I got a real sense of the outdoors. The camp was on a lake, and there was swimming, canoeing, and hiking. We went up to Mt. Washington. I really loved the camp experience, being with the other girls, the competition, and being a team member. There were kids from all over. My best friend there was from Kentucky.”

The family also rented a house in Long Island at the ocean, where Phyllis learned to swim, and she remembers very happy times there.

After graduating from high school, Phyllis chose Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. As she explains, “My high school had been so small, and Skidmore had 1200 students, so it seemed a good fit.”

Proper Behavior

Majoring in English literature, Phyllis also had time to serve as managing editor of the college newspaper, (as well as to join a “sit-in” at the local Woolworth’s to advocate for civil rights). In her major, she was especially influenced by English Professor Miriam Benkovitz, later author of several books.

“Miss Benkovitz had a PhD from Yale, and her specialty was 20th century English literature,” says Ms. Marchand. “I was so afraid of her! She was from the South and was very intimidating. One time, it was very hot, and when I went into her class, I took off my shoes. She immediately ordered me to leave the classroom. She was very strict about proper behavior.

“She was a wonderful teacher though, and very exacting and demanding. My love of Virginia Woolf was a result of the modern English course I had with her. l had many courses with her, and when I was a junior, she asked me to be her assistant, helping to grade papers, which I did for two years. We remained in touch after I graduated, and she was certainly one of the most interesting people in my life.”

After graduating with a degree in English literature as well as a teaching certificate (she had taught eighth grade English in Saratoga Springs as part of her course work) in 1961, Phyllis returned to New York City, and got a job with Crowell-Collier Publishing.

“They were doing a major update of their encyclopedia, and because they thought I had enough terminology in various areas, such as music, sports, biology, etc. to index the new articles, I was hired. I learned how to index from a wonderful mentor there.”

After working at Crowell -Collier for more than two years, she moved to Cowles Comprehensive Encyclopedia, which was associated with Look Magazine, for another indexing opportunity.

Reverse Commute

During this time, Phyllis had met Lucien Simond Marchand, who worked for D. Van Nostrand Publishing in Princeton. “Sy was from Forest Hills, but had been born in Holland,” she recalls. “We had met at a beach club in Westchester County, where we liked to play tennis, and now we were dating.”

They were married in 1964, and Mr. Marchand continued to work in Princeton, doing a “reverse commute” to the couple’s home on West 34th Street. After their son Michael was born, they relocated to Princeton in 1966.

It was an adjustment. Other than camp in Maine, and her years at college, Ms. Marchand had never lived outside of Manhattan. “I never knew about having a house and all that it entailed, but I met a lot of people through the Newcomers Club at the YWCA. I began to have friends of all ages and background. The Newcomers Club was very important to me.”

Two more children, Deborah and Sarah, were born, and Ms. Marchand remained home to care for them. Then, as she recalls, “In the 1970s, when the kids were about six, seven, and nine, someone asked me what I had done in New York. I said I had been a book indexer. This person was working at Princeton University in connection with the Wilson papers, and suggested I send my resume to Professor Arthur Link, the Wilson authority, who was editing the papers. At that time, they were looking for an indexer.

“I had very little American history background, but I ended up getting the job. The nice thing was that I could work at home, which was very helpful with the children, and this provided a flexible schedule. I was considered a consultant or Visiting Fellow, and I did this during the ’70s, ’80s, and into the ’90s.”

As Ms. Marchand points out, indexing is very painstaking, exacting work, and in the days before computers were commonplace, she did the work by hand, using index cards for every entry.

Numerous Activities

Ms. Marchand continued to work on the Wilson papers into the ’90s, and she developed a high regard for Professor Link. “Arthur Link was extremely influential in my life. When he would praise my work, it was very special and meant a lot to me.”

Ms. Marchand became involved in numerous activities in the community, including serving on the board of McCarter Theatre (in addition to attending concerts and performances), the PTO at her children’s schools, and playing tennis and bridge. “Occasionally, I wrote letters to the papers about issues in town, such as traffic problems and open space,” she notes.

As her circle of acquaintances and friends expanded, Ms. Marchand was sought out as a political candidate. “I knew Barbara Sigmund, who was mayor of Princeton Borough,” she recalls, “and she suggested I run for Township Committee. We had a meeting with Kate Litvack, who served on Township Committee, and others, and they thought it was a chance to have a candidate with no baggage and a varied background. They knew I had kids in school, played tennis, was a member of the Jewish Center, on the board of McCarter, and was interested in preserving open space and in other issues.”

She became a candidate in the 1986 election, and won, receiving the most votes of any candidate. “I went house to house, introducing myself and talking with people. I had opinions on the issues, including regional planning, and the deer problem was beginning to get attention. I found I liked being on Committee. I did a lot of preparation, a lot of reading, and was liaison with the Recreation Board and Corner House. There was interaction with Borough Council too. Barbara Sigmund was mayor, and there was a nice working relationship then. Barbara was the town’s biggest cheerleader.”

“Marathon” Skills

Ms. Marchand also spent a lot of time listening. “Different groups and individuals came to meetings,” she remembers. “The Boy Scouts came to learn about local government, neighbors came to speak for or against issues, others came just to observe and listen. It was a real cross section of the community.”

Her ability to listen to differing opinions is noted by many of those who served and worked with Ms. Marchand. “I had the pleasure of working with Phyllis the entire time she was on Committee and served as mayor,” says Ed Schmierer former Township attorney and now attorney for the recently consolidated Princeton. “She was a very dynamic and caring individual. Her leadership style was as a consensus-builder, who worked hard to do the best she could for the community. She was a tireless worker — she brought her ‘marathon’ skills to the local government arena. She ran hard, and accomplished a lot.

“Phyllis was a very good listener; she respected the staff and listened to their recommendations, and challenged them when appropriate. The end of the day, she made the decisions. She had a tremendous amount of energy and commitment to Princeton, and was an absolutely outstanding municipal official.”

Adds former Township Mayor Richard Woodbridge: “When I became mayor in 1991, Phyllis was very supportive as a Township Committee member and a very good team player. Her legacy is that she is tremendously dedicated to the town, and was a very good and effective mayor. Also, if it weren’t for Phyllis and Kate Litvack, there wouldn’t have been a Princeton-Pettoranello program. She and Kate did the ground work in 1989.”

Sister City

Ms. Marchand is very proud of the evolution of the Princeton Township relationship with its sister city Pettoranello, Italy. “It was a pleasure to see this develop, and it was a wonderful experience to travel there over the years and meet the citizens of Pettoranello.”

Eleanor Pinelli, former trustee and president of the Princeton-Pettoranello Sister City Foundation worked closely with Ms. Marchand during this time, and their association goes back even further. “Our friendship goes back many years because I taught her children when they were in the middle school. We worked together when Phyllis was mayor of Princeton Township, and I was a trustee and later president of the Princeton/Pettoranello Sister City Foundation. Phyllis was one of the mayors who founded the sister city relationship, and has remained a strong supporter of and advocate for the foundation and its mission.

“She was an excellent mayor, honest and forthright, a great speaker, who easily fielded questions concerning controversial issues because she ‘knew her stuff’. Phyllis was and still is always there when you need her, readily available and approachable. How she manages her daily busy schedule has always been a mystery to me!”

After serving as a Committee member since 1987, Ms. Marchand was elected mayor in 1989, and then again in 1994. During this time, she continued her work as a book indexer, both for Princeton University Press projects and many others, including books on the history of the Porsche car and a biography of Jefferson Davis.

During her tenure on Township Committee, she dealt with issues including preserving open space, affordable housing, traffic problems, and the emerging dilemma surrounding the increasing numbers of deer in Princeton.

“As mayor, I felt the Township mayor should be as visible as the mayor in the Borough. I tried to expand the activities, and I met with the County Freeholders and the state legislators in Trenton. There were issues about changing laws for hunting, getting support for the extension of Route 95, which would have diverted traffic from Princeton; also Route One traffic issues, and it was also important to build alliances throughout the region.

Open  Mind

“I am very proud of initiating the deer management program, saving open space, and helping to develop a diversity of housing, including Griggs Farm and market rate senior housing. I do believe to be successful in any endeavor, including in local government, you must have an open mind and be willing to listen and be able to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. You need empathy, and you also need to be able to make decisions.”

These are all qualities that Bill Dressel, Director of the New Jersey State League of Municipalities, found in Ms. Marchand during the time they worked together. “In her capacity as mayor of Princeton Township, Phyllis was actively involved in the League of Municipalities as a member of the legislative committee, the resolutions committee, a member of the executive board, and as League president.

“I have a high regard for Phyllis. She is an honest individual, who, I think, exemplifies that which is best in local governing. I very much enjoyed working with her because she was in municipal government for all the right reasons. She was instrumental in advocating for regional and statewide policies, including property tax relief, sharing municipal services, and traffic regulation of heavy trucks on Route 206. Phyllis represented the League on statewide policies.

“She was also a charter member of the League of Municipalities Women in Government Committee, and a strong advocate for sustainable energy practices. It was a real pleasure working with Phyllis. She was always willing to provide hands-on help, and to be there to assist and get involved one-on-one.”

During the time she was on Committee and as mayor, Ms. Marchand participated in another equally demanding endeavor: running marathons, the first in 1982, when she was 42.

“I started running because I wanted to lose a pound or two, and I also ran as a surrogate for my daughter, who had committed to a run in her middle school, but then couldn’t make it because of illness. I ran a mile, and afterward, I realized I could run the mile, and I liked it. I joined the Mercer-Bucks Running Club, and met wonderful people.

Good Shoes

“I was basically a solo runner. I ran every day for enjoyment. Then, I entered the YWCA’s 3-mile race, then a 6-mile race, and I finished. Next came a half-marathon — 13 miles. Someone said to me, ‘If you finished this race, you could run a marathon.’ I thought about it and said to Sy, ‘I think I’d like to run a marathon.’ He said ‘Okay, just get a good pair of shoes.’

“Ultimately, I ran 16 New York marathons, two Boston, and one Philadelphia. One of the things I loved about running was that I could think things out, including about issues that were coming up with the Township. I was on the Planning Board, and ran by some of the sites under consideration. I could also report to Township Engineer Bob Kiser where all the pot holes were. It was first hand evidence.”

Ms. Marchand’s life changed dramatically in 2006, when she was diagnosed with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. As she explains, “It then progressed to Sezary syndrome, and these are both different stages of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.”

She began treatment immediately, and was still able to continue as mayor. It was a rigorous schedule, but she was determined to fulfill her term in office. She did step down in 2008, after having served 21 years on Township Committee, and 13 years as mayor.

During her tenure on Township Committee and after, Ms. Marchand has received numerous awards and honors. Among them are the YWCA Woman of Achievement Award, the  Elected Official of the Year from the New Jersey Municipal Managers Association, Humanitarian Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews, President’s Distinguished Service Award from the New Jersey League of Municipalities, the Philip Forman Humanitarian Award from the American Jewish Committee, and she was recognized by the New Jersey Association of Elected Women Officials for her service as president of that organization.

Most recently in September 2012, she was honored for her “exemplary and inclusive tenure as mayor” by the Princeton Chabad. She has also been invited to speak to students at her high school and college about the role of women in local government.

Medical Intervention

Ms. Marchand continues to keep a very busy schedule despite a recent additional medical problem. “In 2011, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma,” she explains, “so in 2011 and 2012, I was battling two different lymphomas. I had chemotherapy and radiation at that time, and now the Hodgkins lymphoma is in remission.”

The non-Hodgkins lymphoma requires continuous and rigorous medical intervention, however, necessitating trips to the University of Pennsylvania Hospital two consecutive days each month for photopheresis blood treatment, as well as self-administered injections of interferon twice a week to boost her immune system.

Despite this, Ms. Marchand remains positive and engaged. She currently serves on the State D & R Canal Commission, the D & R Greenway board, on SIAB — the New Jersey Site Improvement Advisory Board, and on the county board of the Mercer Council for Alcohol and Drug Addiction. She is an honorary trustee of McCarter Theatre, and she is also an advocate for Planned Parenthood, the Coalition for Peace Action, the Lymphoma Research Foundation, and Cancer Care.

When she did decide to step down from Township Committee, she was ready for a new life, reports Ms. Marchand. “Now, I could visit my eight grandchildren; I could do what I wanted when I wanted; I could read what I wanted, not what I had to.

“Music is important to me — I would have loved to meet Leonard Bernstein! — and I have enjoyed going back to the concert series at McCarter. I’m playing more bridge, and doing a lot more walking and hiking and an occasional run. I have time now to smell the flowers, and to visit friends here and elsewhere. I am enjoying old friendships that I didn’t have time for when I was mayor.

“I have also had an interesting experience with a program at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School,” she continues. “Two first year medical students are teamed with a seriously chronically ill patient as part of their training. These two students, one male and one female, shadow or follow the patient to appointments and treatments, even at home, and get to know the patient as a person. The goal of the program is to sensitize new doctors and encourage them to put themselves in the patient’s shoes. What is it like to have a chronic illness? How does it affect your professional life? Your finances, your relationship with a spouse, family, friends, or with yourself? You’re not just a number on a chart.”

Memorable Quality

Undaunted by illness, she is, as her friend of long-standing Pam Hersh, vice president of Government and Community Affairs of Princeton Healthcare System, notes, steadfast and determined. “I have known Phyllis for 35 years, since I first came to Princeton, and I can list her most memorable quality. She has an incredible ability to hang in there. On a social level, this translates to an inability to leave — she has the toughest time leaving a party, leaving a meeting, leaving a conversation — much to the consternation of her husband who stands waiting with his coat on for an hour while Phyllis is trying unsuccessfully to say good bye.

“This same quality of always hanging in there through the most difficult political, professional, and personal challenges of her life is her most laudable quality. Nothing deters her from going forward and fighting the battles that are important for her to fight. One of the most fun and rewarding battles that we fought together (along with former Borough Mayor Marvin Reed and former Princeton University General Counsel Howard Ende) was saving the Garden Theater — certainly an endeavor that was well worth it for the University students, for the Princeton residents, and of course, for Phyllis, who rarely misses a movie at the Garden.”

Traveling has been a great pleasure over the years for Ms. Marchand, and she and her husband have visited numerous countries around the world — experiencing safaris in Africa, the fjords in Norway, the islands of Hawaii, and the pleasures of Pettoranello, among many other places. And she looks forward to more travels to come.

Facing a serious illness has given her a new perspective, says Ms. Marchand. “You only have one life to lead. I realize how wonderful it is to have a family. When I was going through chemotherapy, one of my daughters went with me to cheer me up when I was getting my hair cut very short before I lost it. It was hard, but she kept a light touch, saying: ‘Vanity of vanities; all is vanity’, quoting from Ecclesiastes.

“Basically, now I feel well, and every day is a gift. This experience makes you appreciate life even more. I feel blessed.”

February 6, 2013

To the Editor:

At last Thursday’s Hospital Ordinance Task Force meeting, the committee heard that Council did not approve their recommendation to reduce the allowed density (number of units) at the site if the buildings are demolished. The issue was the number of affordable housing units at “56.” Although some members of Council may remember otherwise, transcripts and memoranda nowhere support that the number “56” units of affordable housing was an original part of discussions. The discussions were around providing 20 percent affordable. The number “56” does not appear until 14 months from the hospital’s first presentation (memorandum from Lee Solow to Bob Bruschi, August 30, 2006, and Marvin Reed, Borough Council minutes, September 12, 2006). Mr. Reed was very straightforward: “development of the hospital site is a ‘density bonus,’ that of 280 units [of which] 56 will be low/moderate COAH-qualifying houses.” Note: the current ordinance allows “up to 280 units.” A developer may choose to build fewer units altogether.

For whom was the density bonus created? The hospital. The hospital, having now gone back on its promises to the Princeton community, no longer deserves any “density bonus.” It contracted with the one buyer who only builds closed private communities, contrary to Princeton values, and it sold off part of the land destined for a town park.

An architect specializing in designing redevelopments in single-family neighborhoods should work with stakeholders and the neighbors to create a site plan and massing diagram to inform the choice of density. However, there are yardsticks available which strongly suggest that a density of 280 units or 50 units/acre is too high.

1. Task-force architect Areta Pawlynsky stated the view of smart-growth advocate Urban Land Institute: more than 2 times the density of the surrounding neighborhood is too great a burden on a neighborhood. 2 times the neighborhood density in this case is 20 units/acre or 102 units.

2. Task-force architect Heidi Fichtenbaum, presented drawings to support the opinion that redevelopment in scale and character with the neighborhood gives a maximum density of 23 units/acre or 127 units.

3. If we were to set the density at that of the surrounding neighborhood, it would be 10 units/acre or 56 units.

4. Massachusetts legislation defines anything above 8 units/acre as smart-growth density for single-family neighborhoods. In the case of the hospital site, a density above 45 units is smart growth.

5. If we want to make the hospital a site for apartments, then anything above 20 units/acre or 102 units is smart growth under Massachusetts law.

Balancing the rights and needs of the surrounding neighborhoods with those who support the building of multi-rise apartment buildings to provide housing, particularly for grad students and postdocs at the University, is important. As former mayor Joe O’Neill said, increased density is a tax on a neighborhood. The major source of jobs within walkable distance of Princeton is the University. If there is a shortage of housing for those who work at the University, shouldn’t the University be pitching in here?

Alexi Assmus

Maple Street

To the Editor:

We have all contributed in many ways to help make Princeton what it is today. We all have a stake in its future. It is a wonderful town. I wish everyone could live here, but since that is not possible, we have to make choices and decisions, and the time is now.

Do we want to concentrate all new growth in a monstrously large development ONLY because it would render 56 affordable units? We should take the long view and realize that there are several sites that are ideal for apartments and will likely be built within a reasonable time, and that they would include affordable units as well.

The hospital was always considered an inherently beneficial use and was granted zoning variances time and again. Our neighborhood lost out every time as houses disappeared and the hospital kept growing, along with the traffic. Must we continue to pay forever, for having our neighborhood degraded and for having lost part of it? This condition is now being perpetuated because of the artful deal that the hospital struck with the town. We are once again at risk.

Yes, that is how many of us in our quiet neighborhoods surrounding the hospital feel. We live quite away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Princeton. 280 units built on the site would bring more than 500 persons to the neighborhood and would be severely out of balance for the surroundings. We have never considered our houses to be in the central district of town; only an outsider would describe our area as such.

I really hope that the Task Force will do what the Planning Board charged them with, revising the zoning at the site. The Task Force should not be hobbled at the outset with demands from Council, such as the requirement for 56 affordable units. The resounding rejection of the Avalon plan makes it clear that the spot zoning of the site is severely flawed. It needs revising to be in harmony with the surroundings — urgently.

Why was a task force appointed if they are to be told what their conclusions should be? Are all their meetings and efforts on behalf of a better Princeton in vain? It is up to us to make sure that whatever is built at the site blends in with the surroundings and is a credit to our town. This is the time and this is our chance to make it happen. We will have to live with the results. My wish list: Number one priority is fewer units. The buildings should be of reasonable size and separated, not running along a whole block. Stepped back from the sidewalk would be nice and a plaza which all residents and the public can use. Walking and biking paths should cross the area from road to road. No pool. All building should be done with approved green methods. A small convenience store would be nice so tenants could pick up a few items without getting into their cars.

Berit Marshall

Jefferson Road

To the Editor:

This is to congratulate the awardees of the Sustainable Princeton Leadership Awards, presented at the Princeton Public Library on January 23 by Mayor Liz Lempert and Princeton Environmental Commission Chairman Matt Wasserman on behalf of Sustainable Princeton.

Devotion to sustainability spans generations — from Robert Hrabchak, a student at Princeton Day School, who retrofitted an old car to run on electricity, to Grace Sinden, who received Sustainable Princeton’s first “Lifetime Achievement Award.” The other awardees are: Dr. Stephanie Chorney, citizen activist; John Emmons, science teacher at Community Park School; Martha Friend, science teacher at Littlebrook School; Jack Morrison, President of JM Group and owner of Nassau Street Seafood and the Blue Point Grill; Stu Orefice, Princeton University dining services director; Bill Sachs, tree expert; and William A. Wolfe, architect.

The awards put a spotlight on citizens who have contributed in a variety of meaningful ways to lighten our footprint on the planet. Following their example, we, individually and collectively, can play a part in our everyday lives through better recycling (including food waste made into compost), greater energy conservation, planting trees, growing vegetables, etc.

Bravo to these awardees who have contributed to sustainable actions and who are an inspiration to us all.

Chrystal Schivell

Monroe Lane

To the Editor:

Having the University’s payment-in-lieu-of-taxes negotiated by the spouse of a University employee is a blatant conflict of interest. That this negotiation was done behind closed doors, with no involvement of other Council members, raises questions about its legality. That the negotiated figure was then presented to Council as a fait accompli, and that the majority of Council members quickly moved to cut off any deliberation or discussion of it and rushed to vote its approval, raises questions about their integrity. That these shenanigans took place at the very first meeting of our new town’s governing body casts a pall over what we might expect from our local government in the future. Shame!

Ken Fields

Secretary/Treasurer, Eleanor Lewis Fund, Linden Lane

To the Editor:

The proposal before the Princeton Council to prohibit underage consumption of alcohol on private property is a well-meaning initiative that nevertheless raises substantial concerns and therefore should not be lightly considered by the Council.

First, the move to expand the criminalization of alcohol use on private property would necessarily divert scarce municipal resources and attention where they might be better placed: with education as to the dangers of inappropriate or excessive alcohol use.

Second, an ordinance against underage alcohol use on private property provides an inappropriate “foot in the door” invitation to police to enter private property with “probable cause” to search for the source of alcohol use observed in front and backyards. This expansion of police power encourages official snooping that impinges on constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure which, in this post 9-11 age, is all too prevalent.

Third, such official snooping would most likely occur in the denser areas of town where the proscribed behavior would be more easily observed. If adopted, the ordinance will necessarily lead to the perception, generally accurate, that police enforcement will be targeted more at the John-Witherspoon neighborhood than at the Western Section or Riverside neighborhood, and their respective populations. That’s not a good message to send to our diverse community.

Fourth, if alcohol consumption on private property amounts to a real “drinking problem” in a certain area of town such as, say, educational campuses, an ordinance prohibition might be warranted to govern conduct there. But a blanket prohibition on underage alcohol use on private property throughout the community seems an over-broad and insensitive tool by which to unnecessarily enforce cultural values across a much broader population.

Lastly, with scarce tax dollars required to support important police activities, are we prepared to increase taxes to pay for enforcement of such an ordinance, particularly where the real consequences of inappropriate alcohol consumption can be policed by other means, such as summonses for disorderly conduct or noise ordinance violation?

In sum, the proposal before the Council sounds like an easy, paternalist way to govern, but it has many downsides that the Council should explore before adopting it.

Roger Martindell

Patton Avenue

To the Editor:

The use of hyperbole, exaggeration, and false conclusions in David Keddie’s letter promoting AvalonBay style high-density apartments for Princeton (“We Should Welcome Increased Population,” Town Topics, Jan. 23) is the kind of free speech that should not be taken seriously by readers or political leaders concerned about Princeton’s future. Does the notion that increased population density is “the best thing we can do for our tax base” mean taxes will stabilize or decline? On the contrary, taxes will rise and the quality of life in the town will decline because increased density brings with it the need for more government services, increased traffic, accidents, and higher crime rates. The idea that traffic problems will be solved by enabling “hundreds and thousands” of people to walk the streets is a frightening scenario for pedestrians and current residents alike. The solution to housing needs careful planning implemented by improved zoning and architectural design that sustains the unique character of Princeton. We don’t need high density apartment houses designed and built by sardine can factories like AvalonBay.

Louis Slee

Spruce Street

To the Editor:

As I observe the constant flow — and hear the excited chatter — of people carting windows, doors, washing machines, and other materials out of our Habitat for Humanity Restore, I’m reminded that to “restore” is to make whole.

When Habitat for Humanity opened its ReStore, its purpose was to provide a place for residents of Trenton to purchase, at low cost, quality new and pre-owned building materials, appliances, and furniture.

As we prepared for Saturday’s Grand Opening of our ReStore, I’m deeply thankful for the support we have received from all of Mercer county. Homeowners, contractors, and building supply stores have generously donated both new and reusable items to stock the shelves of the ReStore. And, equally important, local residents are shopping at the ReStore. Despite their extremely tight budgets, they are optimistic. They are investing in their homes, their neighborhood, and their community.

On behalf of Habitat for Humanity, I invite all of you to come shop and/or donate gently used goods. Meet the ReStore’s dedicated staff and volunteers; explore the aisles of the ReStore and give us the opportunity to thank you for your support of a better and brighter future.

After you visit the ReStore, I invite you to explore the neighborhood’s revitalization. Drive past homes that have been refurbished thanks to two summers of WorkCamp which brought in hundreds of students to work alongside residents. During the week after school, stop in the Learning Lab where local students have an after school program that rivals the best in any neighborhood. Or remember to come shop at the farmer’s market during the summer. There are other changes too including a new pedestrian friendly crosswalk at the intersection of Olden and Clinton.

There’s much more than I could share with you about what’s good. And so much of it is captured in the doors, windows, and paint cans carted out of the ReStore and into homes, to make them better—to make them whole.

Tom Caruso

Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity, Trenton Area

To the Editor:

I support the suggestion made by Harvey Rothberg to keep the old names for Borough Hall and Township Hall, and I agree with his two reasons, namely ease of recognition and preservation of historic names.

Perhaps a generation from now people will ask why we have both a Borough hall and a Township hall. In finding the answer to that question they will learn a bit about Princeton history, and that will be a good thing.

Jane Kupin

Erdman Avenue

To the Editor:

Princetonians have two opportunities coming up to learn about one of Princeton’s early visionaries. The Veblen name is most commonly associated with Thorstein Veblen, the famous economist and social critic. But his nephew Oswald’s legacy shines as bright, extending beyond the world of ideas and taking multiple physical forms across our fair town.

Who is Oswald Veblen? Well, imagine Princeton without the Institute for Advanced Study, Albert Einstein’s long residency, the Institute Woods, and Herrontown Woods. Veblen’s vision, initiative, and persistence played an instrumental role in making all of these possible.

Called a “woodchopping professor” of mathematics, he combined a midwesterner’s bucolic sensibilities with the European heritage of his ancestors and his English wife Elizabeth. This combination can be seen in the many European scholars he helped bring to America during the Nazi rise to power, and the hundreds of acres of Princeton’s woodlands he worked to spare from development.

This combination, too, can be seen in the house and farm cottage he and Elizabeth donated to the county, which now stand boarded up at the edge of Herrontown Woods. The 1920s prefab house has European touches in its balconies, woodwork, and woodland setting.

This Sunday at 11 a.m., as part of the Princeton Public Library’s Environmental Film Festival, I’ll present a portrait of Veblen’s multifaceted legacy, and discuss efforts to save the house and farmstead they left in the public trust. More information on the film festival’s last weekend of films can be found at princetonlibrary.org, and additional information on Veblen is at VeblenHouse.org.

In addition, the Institute for Advanced Study is currently hosting an exhibit on Veblen’s legacy at their archive’s reading room (library.ias.edu/archives).

Stephen Hiltner

North Harrison

January 30, 2013

To the Editor:

Bill and Judy Scheide are indeed “Forever Young” and the overflow crowd at the January 18 concert to celebrate Bill’s 99th birthday, and support the Community Park Pool, demonstrated by cheers and applause the esteem with which this much loved couple is held, as well as appreciation for the superb musicianship of the concert performers.

The English Chamber Orchestra, under the vibrant direction of Maestro Mark Laycock, began the program with Sir Arnold Bax’s Dance in the Sunlight, a lively, romantic and complex score. It was followed by Antonio Vivaldi’s Winter, brilliantly played by violinist Stephanie Gonley.

Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, eloquently and humorously narrated by Malcolm Gets, prompted an acquaintance sitting next to me to remark that her eight-year-old granddaughter, who plays the piano, would have learned a great deal and enjoyed this piece.

It was a pleasure to welcome pianist Andrew Sun back to Princeton University’s Richardson Auditorium. His nimble “Variations on Happy Birthday to Bill Scheide” were made up of musical birthday greetings assembled by Samuel Barber for Mary Curtis Book Zimbalist’s 75th birthday. The piece was a recent acquisition by the Scheide Library and performed for the first time.

Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, completed the inspiring program. Through his mastery of the composition, Maestro Laycock, fluidly, energetically and skillfully inspired the English Chamber Orchestra to perform at their highest level. I know I speak for the community in expressing my sincere thanks to Bill and Judy for this memorable evening!

Linda Sipprelle

Nassau Street

To the Editor:

On behalf of the Princeton Recreation Department and the Princeton Parks & Recreation Fund, we want to thank the community for its incredible support of the Community Park Pool, which was the beneficiary of last Friday night’s birthday concert for Mr. William H. Scheide. Our community was once again blessed with the opportunity to listen to wonderful music, support a good cause, and revel in the good will that always accompanies a Bill and Judy Scheide Concert.

The concert was a smashing success and all of the money received from sponsors and ticket sales will go toward continuing the Recreation Department’s mandate to keep user fees as low as possible in order to continue to provide access to all members of the Princeton community. The pool has become the town’s summer backyard, and the support shown last Friday night is compelling evidence of how important that is to the community.

The Recreation Department is grateful beyond words for this wonderful support.

Ben Stentz

Executive Director of Recreation

Peter O’Neill

Chairman of Princeton Parks & Recreation Fund

To the Editor:

The idea of guns in our schools is disconcerting at best, and untenable, at least. In addition to making school a pretty scary place for children to be, carrying a gun most likely will deter many fine teachers from practicing their profession. I am wondering if some type of a “Life Alert” device might be worn by adults in the school? While not a perfect solution, and perhaps, simplistic, it may be an effective one.

Robin L. Wallack,

Former President

Princeton Regional Board of Education,

Mercer County Board of Vocational Technology

To the Editor,

There is an ongoing discussion about the appropriate density for the former hospital site. Current zoning for the MRRO zone, created specifically for the site of the hospital buildings, is for 280 units or 50 units per acre, a number arrived at by estimating the number of apartments that could fit into the hospital towers. Many remember the community discussions over rezoning the site for residential use in 2004-06 — it was said that the density would be lower if the hospital buildings came down.

What is a reasonable density if the hospital buildings do come down? I would argue that we should look at the gross density currently permitted in zoning. In the former Township, density ranges from 1.8 to 12 units/acre. In Mixed Use zones in the former Borough, like the MRRO zone, the maximum density is 14 units/acre. Density in the hospital neighborhood is lower than this. Our zoning allows densities higher than 14 units/acre only if there is 100 percent income restricted or age-restricted housing. In the highly-acclaimed design for the Merwick and Stanworth sites, the numerous two to three-story buildings will be built at 14 and 12 units/acre. The university designed open space and playground areas for everyone’s use and pedestrian and bike path connections between the sites and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Much of the discussion has centered on the supposed benefits of smart growth — concentrating development in the center of towns. This does not mean, however, that the higher the density the better. Architects and planners advocate designing buildings in context with their neighborhoods. The minimum smart-growth density in Massachusetts is 8 units/acre for single-family units, 12 units/acre for two- and three-family units and 20 units/acre for multi-family apartments. The 20 unit/acre density — or 112 units on the former hospital site — is already more than double the density in the surrounding neighborhood.

The Task Force is moving in the right direction by considering 39 units/acre or 220 units for the site. Unfortunately, with densities over 35 units/acre you lose a sense of having individual buildings — you get massive bulk and long-runs of frontage like the plans that AvalonBay presented.

Personally, I believe that the density of the Merwick/Stanworth sites is appropriate for the former hospital site. The John-Witherspoon neighborhood, with Merwick/Stanworth on one side and the MRRO zone on the other, averages 14 units/acre. Let’s do the same for the MRRO zone: 14 units/acre or 78 units for the former hospital site. This density will allow for a development in keeping with the scale and character of the neighborhood, as required by Borough Code and the town’s Master Plan. It will allow for green open space and throughways for people to walk and bike through the block (like at Merwick/Stanworth). Green space, walkers, and bikers make town living highly sustainable. Higher densities will bring more traffic, the possible busing of elementary schoolchildren, lower property values and higher taxes for Princeton residents.

Ken Gumpert

Leigh Avenue

To the Editor:

As former mayors with spouses who worked at Princeton University, and as a Princeton professor who was married to a former mayor, we were surprised to see that two Council members had questioned whether Mayor Liz Lempert has a conflict of interest in meeting with University representatives to discuss the terms of the University’s 2013 contribution to the municipality.

Princeton has a long history of mayors with connections to the University. All of us in recent memory — Barbara Sigmund, Cate Litvack, Dick Woodbridge, and Marvin Reed — spoke frequently with University representatives and negotiated with them. It is part of the mayor’s job.

Paul Sigmund, Cate Litvack,

Dick Woodbridge, Marvin Reed

To the Editor:

Princeton citizens who want to help ensure that AvalonBay doesn’t submit a new application to build “AvalonPrinceton” (!) should contact Planning Board members right away.

On February 7, the Planning Board will adopt a resolution that “memorializes” their 7-3 vote against AvalonBay (Board attorney Gerald Muller is drafting the resolution). Current Board members who voted against AvalonBay (Jenny Crumiller, Wanda Gunning, Bernie Miller, Marvin Reed, and Gail Ullman) have full legal rights to modify any and all language in the resolution so that it accurately reflects their positions.

Voting members should take care that the final resolution banishes AvalonBay from Princeton — not simply that Princeton doesn’t like AvalonBay’s specific site plan, but more: that Princeton doesn’t want any mark of AvalonBay here at all.

AvalonBay has shown they won’t partner with our community, no matter what the design. As Jenny Crumiller lamented about their refusal to negotiate reasonably with the Borough’s ad hoc committee, “The overriding theme was, ‘AvalonBay is a brand and that’s what you get’” (PB hearing, 12/19/12).

Here are other reasons why Planning Board members should make sure the resolution closes the door on any attempt by AvalonBay to reapply.

AvalonBay refused to consider local retail stores, desired by many (“We don’t do retail in midrise developments”), and refused to participate in Princeton’s recycling and composting program (“We’re not in the composting
business”). Avalon lags its competitors in sustainable building practices and rejected a push by 48.6 percent of their shareholders to commit resources to significant green measures; any building they did would be already “obsolete,” as Heidi Fichtenbaum noted (PB hearing, 12/19/12).

AvalonBay cannot be trusted. They tried to cover up difficulties with hospital site remediation — matters of public health. Their urban planner plagiarized work from their architect (who also misrepresented the size of the sliver of park by cropping the illustration). The AvalonBay team cheated in representing their open space, claiming as “theirs” portions of land they would not even own! Their architect deliberately misunderstood Borough Code so that he could falsely compare AvalonBay’s “superior” megablock to the existing hospital towers — and chose not to show the monolith in relation to neighborhood buildings so that no one could really grasp its gargantuan scale. Their “plan” for solid waste involved using both the garage and the Franklin Avenue service drive in ways not legally permitted by Borough Code.

AvalonBay’s legal representation was “barely legal.” Ron Ladell played both attorney and witness (an “inappropriate” straddling of roles). He tried to halt cross-questioning of their urban planner by the environmental attorney for Princeton Citizens (an unprofessional and almost malfeasant intervention). Attorney Studholme whispered advice to the urban planner while he was being cross-questioned by PCSN’s land-use attorney — virtually a forbidden practice.

With behavior like this, for over a year, who needs AvalonBay at all? They have squandered trust and credibility. Other developers will serve our community better. The Planning Board must insist that their resolution fully reflects their outright opposition, and the community’s, to AvalonBay’s presence.

Jane Buttars

Dodds Lane

To The Editor:

I’d like to say to the new Princeton Planning Board that when dealing with a new developer for the hospital site, the developer must keep the neighborhood in mind: the height of the apartment buildings, the green space, and that there be no private pool because the tenants could enjoy and support our new Community Park pool that’s right down the street. Not having a private pool could allow more space for low, low income rental units within the affordable units. Remember, “affordable” is not affordable for all Princeton citizens. There should be some more low, low income units with rents below $1,000 per month. There’s a long list of people waiting for low income housing in Princeton, which still shows the need for it.

After sitting through many long planning board meetings listening to the AvalonBay presentation, I hope AvalonBay will completely disappear from the hospital site developers’ list because I don’t trust them. The arrogant, bullying attitude of the AvalonBay developer was unbelievable and we don’t need that kind of unneighborly attitude in Princeton.

Minnie Craig

Witherspoon Street

To the Editor:

I enjoyed reading in last week’s paper about the new appointees to the Princeton Public Library’s Board of Trustees (“Ringing in the New, Library Board Welcomes Six New Members,” Town Topics, Jan. 23). As we welcome them to their new positions and wish them all luck, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank the trustees whom they replaced (in addition to the former mayors): Alison Lahnston, Ira Fuchs, and Richard Levine. During their years of dedicated service, Alison, Ira, and Dick brought impressive skills, careful and creative thinking, and sound judgment to the job of governance, working always to nurture the library’s innovative spirit while helping to ensure its financial stability.

I would also like to thank Director Leslie Burger for her gifted leadership, her unparalleled fund-raising vision and abilities, and her inspiring commitment to the highest levels of excellence for the library and all its programs and services. It was a privilege and an honor to work with Leslie, and with all the trustees, over the last ten years, and I thank them for both enriching my time there, and for their longstanding service to the community.

Katherine McGavern

Past President, Princeton Public Library

January 23, 2013

To the Editor:

It’s great to be living in a united Princeton!

I note that there’s concern about the possible re‑naming of Borough Hall and the Township Municipal Building (or complex). There’s even been talk of a contest for consideration of the best names for the old buildings.

Here’s a serious and sensible suggestion: In our new united Princeton, the former Borough Hall should retain its name, that is, Borough Hall. The former Township Municipal Building (or complex) should retain its name, that is, Township Hall.

There are two major and cogent reasons why this is a good idea: (1) Everyone will know where to find a particular department or service. For example, Administrator, Court and Violations, Tax Collection, and Police in Township Hall; and Public Works, Recycling and Refuse Collection, Vital Statistics, and Fire Safety in Borough Hall.

And (2) preservation of the old names honors and memorializes our history. The 200-year history of the Borough of Princeton and the 175-year history of Princeton Township deserve to be commemorated and preserved in our collective memory.

Retaining the names of these historic (albeit modern) buildings does not lessen our acceptance and recognition of, and pride in the new united Princeton. I hope that this suggestion will be considered seriously by the mayor and Council and others concerned with the matter.

Harvey Rothberg (MD)

Bertrand Drive

To the Editor:

Nelson Mandela insightfully noted, “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Last year over 500 of our Mercer County children were living in a place other than their own home. When the child welfare agency determines that child abuse and/or neglect has occurred, a child is removed from the home and placed in out-of-home placement i.e., foster homes or group homes or residential facilities.

The plight of the child after being removed from an abusive situation and placed in the child welfare system turns into a difficult journey, one impossible for a child to navigate through on his or her own.

Fortunately, that is where Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) steps in. CASA recruits, screens and trains volunteers in the community to advocate in court for children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect and are now in out-of-home placement. The mission of CASA is to find safe and permanent homes as quickly as possible so the children don’t languish in the child welfare system.

Through regular visits with the child, in addition to interviews with caretakers, teachers, therapists, and child welfare workers, the CASA volunteer provides up to date information on how the child is doing and includes it in a comprehensive written report, along with recommendations for services that are disseminated to all of the legal parties, including the Family Court judge.

In Mercer County, we greatly need more volunteers. There are many good souls in the area who want to protect all of our children and judge it a basic human right to have a home and family of their own. Visit our website at www.casamercer.org or call (609) 434-0050 to become a CASA volunteer.

Lori Morris

Executive Director, CASA of Mercer County, Inc.

To the Editor:

Princeton is in a unique position within the surrounding region as the one place that can provide a car-free lifestyle. While residents of West Windsor or Montgomery face the daily requirement to fight traffic on Route One or Route 206, the historic core of Princeton, built before the advent of the automobile, provides a critical density of employment and amenities built for walking rather than driving. Many in the heart of town live without owning a car and many others only drive once or twice a week for groceries.

The popularity of apartment living in dense, walkable neighborhoods has skyrocketed in recent years. Those of us who grew up in isolated suburban homes and spent half our youth in the car being driven from one activity to the other are very attracted to a life with fewer parking lots and highways. Access to this lifestyle in Princeton however has been frozen in time. According to the census, the population of the former Princeton Borough is lower now than it was in 1950. While enrollment and employment at the University and in town has exploded in the past 60 years, the supply of housing within walking distance has remained essentially the same due to the effects of restrictive zoning. Instead of greater population density we’ve seen an exponential rise in the number of cars commuting into town with the attendant need for ever more parking and roadwork.

What’s the solution? Princeton needs apartment buildings like the one from AvalonBay so recently rejected by the Planning Board. The only solution to un-met demand is to increase the supply of housing. The solution to our traffic problems is to enable the hundreds and thousands who would prefer to live in walking distance to do so. The best thing to do for sustainability is to allow apartment living in town. The answer to our water runoff issues is to allow population growth to be accommodated at greater densities in town rather than amidst the suburban, car-dependent sprawl. The best thing we can do for our tax base is to encourage these many single and childless households to locate in Princeton rather than only allowing single-family homes which bring far more children to the schools. Opponents argue that four- and five-story apartment buildings aren’t in keeping with Princeton’s neighborhoods. Right in the heart of town, at Nassau and Witherspoon, the First National Bank built a five story office building as far back as 1902. That building covers the entire lot and the historic core of town has many similar structures. It’s that very density of population, employment, and amenities that makes Princeton something other than just a commuter suburb. We should welcome increased population density in town, or else we will continue to live with increased density of traffic and asphalt.

David Keddie

David Brearly Court

To the Editor:

If Princetonians want to see something sad, they should drive down Alexander Street. Between the WaWa and Skillman Furniture, opposite the golf course, Princeton University is demolishing the pleasant mid-nineteenth-century houses that grace this major entry into Princeton.

These houses were considered for historic preservation some years ago, but protection was never granted, Why? Sometimes municipalities don’t get around to doing things they should do. And maybe historic preservation seemed less urgent for houses that already have gaps between them.

In contrast, northern Alexander Street’s 1834 houses remain intact within the protected Mercer Hill Historic District. But isn’t protection nearly as urgent for the few remaining houses below the WaWa that suggest how beautiful this streetscape also was?

And isn’t it cynical of the University to begin making way for arts classrooms by tearing down houses? Yes, the University owns those houses, and, yes, it has every legal right to destroy them. But, although the University’s arts classrooms recently received Planning Board approval, the development is still the subject of litigation. No fewer than three lawsuits seek to enjoin the University from building arts classrooms and moving the Dinky.

Shovels in the ground would be met with an injunction. Demolishing history and charm is a cheap way to create a fait accompli. Must Nassau Hall destroy an authentic gateway to its historic campus and our historic town, especially when a new University president will soon be appointed, one who may know better what our university owes itself and us?

Anne Waldron Neumann

Alexander Street

January 16, 2013
DINING OUT: “We like to offer comfort food. We have larger portions, with an attractive, straightforward presentation. Our food is from different cultures, and we take the best features of each, and come up with a unique cuisine.” Chef/co-owner Mark Valenza of Za Restaurant in Pennington is shown in the popular Wisteria Garden, which offers al fresco dining in warm weather.

DINING OUT: “We like to offer comfort food. We have larger portions, with an attractive, straightforward presentation. Our food is from different cultures, and we take the best features of each, and come up with a unique cuisine.” Chef/co-owner Mark Valenza of Za Restaurant in Pennington is shown in the popular Wisteria Garden, which offers al fresco dining in warm weather.

Za Restaurant is a special place. Its distinctive “cross cultural comfort cuisine” delights many diners, both regulars and those discovering the restaurant for the first time. Its welcoming setting and decor, featuring colors of yellow, pink, coral, and burgundy, with handsome shade panels, fresh linens, and hanging lanterns invites customers to linger over lunch or dinner.

Opened in 2006 at 147 West Delaware Avenue in Pennington (across from the Pennington Market), Za is the creation of brothers and co-owners Mark and Chaz Valenza. Chef Mark, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute (voted top of his class by the Master Chef faculty), had also worked at the Frenchtown Inn in Hunterdon County, and at Nodo and The Triumph Brewing Company in Princeton.

“It was always Mark’s hope to have his own restaurant,” says Chaz Valenza, who oversees the business end of the restaurant. While the menu is upscale, the atmosphere is relaxed and informal, he adds. “What is really unique about us is that we are not a stuffy ‘quiet’ restaurant. There is no dress code; it’s ‘come as you are’, and we want people to relax and enjoy themselves. We offer comfort food, and we want people to come and be comfortable in the restaurant.”

The cuisine, which has received consistently high praise from food critics in many publications, is an intriguing blend of wide-ranging cuisines from Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Latin America, and the U.S.

Big Favorite

“All the food is cooked to order, and the ingredients are fresh. We include local products, and everything is fresh every day,” notes Chef Mark Valenza. “Our food is unique.”

Lobster is a big favorite at the restaurant, he points out, and it is available in seven different versions. Lobster comprises one third of the dinner sales, and there are also lobster salads and lobster quiches.

Another popular choice is apricot lemon quail with tabouleh and pico de gallo salsa, featuring a combination of flavors and tastes from the middle east and Latin America.

Grilled items include pork, steak, salmon, and quail. “We have the finest prime rib-eye steak,” says Chef Mark. The blackberry Berkshire pork chops, another popular choice of customers, are served over a bacon, potato, English pea, and pepper hash, finished with blackberry cognac sauce. They are hormone-free, corn fed, and farm raised.

The marsala chicken schnitzel, served with wilted garlic spinach, sauteed mushrooms, large Japanese bread crumbs, and marsala wine sauce, is a big favorite. Another favorite is sole bonne femme, poached filet of sole, served over saffron pepper rice in a broiled shallot and mushroom cream sauce.

“Our goat cheese salad is always in demand, and can be a side order or an entree with chicken or shrimp,” adds Chef Mark. “It is our most popular salad, and includes Montrachet goat cheese dredged in Japanese bread crumbs, served with mixed greens, green apple cranberry chutney, and white balsamic vinaigrette.”

Cross Cultural

Another popular salad is Arabian lentil and spinach salad, with hot cumin and coriander and green lentils, served with sauteed spinach, cherry tomatoes, curried pistachio nuts, and raisins.

In keeping with the cross cultural theme of the menu, Indian naan flat bread is served with entrees and is also included with “Zaanwiches”, the variety of sandwiches available for lunch. Ham, Swiss cheese, and sage; cheddar cheese, hot cherry peppers and sage; blue cheese and Granny Smith apples; and bacon, cheddar, with green onions are among the popular sandwiches.

In addition, “Zaiders”, a boxed lunch, featuring two grilled hamburger sliders with American cheese, caramelized onions and pickle, served with boardwalk fries or green salad, are offered. Individual tandoor oven pizzas, with fontina cheese, spicy tomatoes, and crispy tandoori naan bread are another lunch favorite. A variety of pasta dishes is also available at lunch.

Desserts are a big favorite at Za, especially the delectable chocolate souffle with homemade whipped cream, creme brulee, and key lime pie, among other delicious choices.

Coffee, tea, and a variety of soft drinks are offered, and set-ups are provided for customers who bring wine. There is no corkage fee.

Prices cover a wide range, with lunch sandwiches and salads from $7.99; boxed lunch Zaiders are $8.99. Dinner entrees are in the $20, $30, and $40s.

Great Meal

The restaurant, which is popular with families, couples, and singles, can seat 76 in its two dining rooms, as well as 48 outside in its Wisteria Garden area in nice weather. It is also available for private parties.

Both Chef Mark and Chaz Valenza are very encouraged with the growing popularity of their restaurant. “We have been successful even during the difficult economy and the storms we’ve had. We try to turn every customer who comes into a repeat customer. We look forward to even more people finding us. And when someone says they had a great meal with us, it makes us feel really good!

“Also, even if people can’t come all the time, we hope they will come for a special occasion, a birthday or anniversary. It will be something to look forward to.”

Reservations are recommended, and Za is open for lunch Monday through Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinner 5 to 9, Sunday 4 to 8. (609) 737-4400. Website: www.zarestau
rants.com.

FINANCIAL FITNESS: “We offer a boutique service with a holistic approach and very personalized service.” Elizabeth and David Scafa are partners in Scafa Financial Services LLC in Pennington, and provide full service financial and investment planning.

FINANCIAL FITNESS: “We offer a boutique service with a holistic approach and very personalized service.” Elizabeth and David Scafa are partners in Scafa Financial Services LLC in Pennington, and provide full service financial and investment planning.

There is a world of uncertainty out there. The fiscal cliff, the president — Congress impasse, unemployment, the problems of the European Union, the Middle East conflicts — all of these can weigh in on the health and stability of the U.S. economy — and it makes people worry.

Will I lose my job? Will I find another? What about my investments? Will there be money for my kids to go to college? Will I have enough when I retire? Will I be able to retire?

Many people are seeking the advice of professionals to help them with these and other financial concerns. It is more and more of a specialized world today, and most people need help navigating its twists and turns.

Elizabeth and David Scafa, partners in Scafa Financial Services LLC, have been helping their clients for 30 years, first in New York and then in New Jersey. They consolidated their practices in 2004 in West Windsor, and recently moved to 54 Route 31 North in Pennington.

Financial Quarterback

They are both Certified Public Accountants (CPAs), and also investment-licensed and insurance-licensed. Elizabeth Scafa is a certified financial planner (CFP), and David Scafa is a personal financial specialist (PFS). Wealth management areas they emphasize in their practice are investment management, cash flow and debt management, family risk management, retirement planning, education planning, estate planning, business planning, and special situations planning.

“We focus on being our clients’ financial quarterback,” explains Mr. Scafa. “Our relationship with them is deep-rooted. We’ve had clients for many years, and we are looking after their best interests. 95 percent of them are more worried than they were before. We hear more about their fears and what is important to them.”

“The key is that there is always worry, fear, and uncertainty,” adds Ms. Scafa. “You have to have a plan. The challenge is to try to explain to clients the possibility of what might happen and how to plan so they can weather the storm, if there is a problem.”

A diversified portfolio is essential, agree both partners. “Investment is based on a time horizon. Investments for a 20 year-old can be more aggressive; as people get older, the investments are more conservative.”

Number One Concern

Retirement is the number one concern of most clients today, they add. “People want to be sure they will have enough money. We are living in an age where people need help managing their retirement assets. Employers are not doing this now. And, people are living longer. You have to focus on ‘how do I project what I will need in the future?’”

Assisting their clients with these and other financial issues is very satisfying for both Scafas, who are also husband and wife, and each has a specialty. Ms. Scafa focuses on financial planning, and Mr. Scafa on taxes. They are also licensed to provide life and disability insurance and long-term care insurance.

“Tax preparation and tax advice dovetails together with financial planning and management,” points out Mr. Scafa.

“A lot of clients are knowledgeable today, and they want to know what is happening and often make suggestions. We always keep clients informed about their investments,” says Ms. Scafa, who has enjoyed working with numbers from the time she was a child. “I knew in the eighth grade, I wanted to be an accountant.”

Successful Advisor

She has recently been recognized by H.D. Vest Financial Services as one of its most successful advisors, and she received the prestigious H.D. Vest Excellence Award. She is also a member of the New Jersey State Society of Certified Public Accountants, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Mercer County Estate Planning Council, and member and former secretary of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners.

Mr. Scafa has had long experience working with the New York City government, holding several positions. He was formerly deputy chief accountant for the City of New York. He is also a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants, and the Mercer County Estate Planning Council.

Scafa Financial Services has been recognized for the past four years in the “Accounting Today” publication as a top firm in the business of financial services combined with public accounting.

Helping clients achieve their goals is their biggest reward, says Ms. Scafa. “I enjoy the satisfaction we get in helping people. We can come up with an actual plan based on the client’s goals and objectives and manage the program, adjusting it along the way. We feel we are helping them with their money and also understanding finance.”

“We are always the voice of reason for our clients,” adds Mr. Scafa. “We always have their best interests in the forefront. We are involved in continuing education, keeping up with new regulations and trends. This is a very challenging profession. You put in a lot of hours, but we really enjoy it. We also have had great word-of-mouth from our clients. We operate our practice with a focus on personalized service and attention, and our clients know they can count on us.”

Scafa Financial Services can be reached at (609) 750-0002. Website: www.scafafinancial.com.

To the Editor:

Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods (PCSN) wishes to thank the entire Princeton community for its help in rejecting AvalonBay’s application to build a fortress-megablock on the old hospital site that would have destroyed all chance to return the site to appropriate neighborhood scale. The Planning Board’s 7-3 vote to deny the application was a firm announcement that the new consolidated Borough will not be bullied into submission by a national corporation. Among those to be thanked:

The Planning Board (PB): for its tireless review of the application, its commitment to the Master Plan and related documents going back to 2004 — that is, its commitment to public policy and the public interest as attested by citizens working on urban planning for nearly a decade. The Planning Board upheld Design Standards, stating that they were not all “subjective” and could not be tossed out; two members asserted that AvalonBay had essentially ignored Design Standards. They also defended the fundamental commitment to publicly usable open space. They scorned the monolith. They told outside corporations they could not take over our Princeton. Even those members who voted to approve the application publicly stated that they disliked the design (but were swayed either by the 20 percent affordable housing component — required of any developer — or by concern that AvalonBay would appeal).

Municipal staff: for its long-term wrestling match with complex site plans and related documents, often inconsistent or lacking required information, and for its final memorandum to the PB firmly stating how much information AvalonBay had not provided as of December 19!

Our public citizen-activists: no fewer than 36 speakers argued against the application with passion, exactitude, and deep understanding of the site plans and their dangers to the community. They spoke eloquently. Their visual presentations had outstanding value in showing the Planning Board how destructive to neighborhood values this development would be. The Planing Board heard quotations from testimony dating back to 2005, as PCSN has recovered and transcribed Planning Board hearings.

The PCSN legal team and urban planner: Robert Simon, after questioning the Planning Board’s legal right to judge the application, systematically exposed problems of “permitted use” in AvalonBay’s case. Aaron Kleinbaum probed issues of environmental safety and has notified the community that an ad-hoc “see or smell” method of evaluating possible carcinogens, among other contaminants, is not sufficient. Peter Steck showed that AvalonBay did not meet the bulk requirement for 20 percent open space for “both public and private use” and was actually over 25 percent under the legal requirement.

Contributors who have helped fund our professional team: many have stepped up, in difficult economic times, to protect Princeton’s future. They have realized that, while we need both rentals and 20 percent affordable housing, we must not have them at the price of destructive development.

Princeton can do better. We are committed to returning the site to human scale. If AvalonBay sues, we believe the Planning Board will prevail. We know that you will continue to support our efforts. We thank you deeply.

Robin Reed

Member, PCSN, Leigh Avenue