To the Editor:
The stubborn fact of primary education is that the greatest predictor of student achievement is having parents of high educational attainment. Princeton schools are so successful primarily due to a virtuous cycle of attracting to the community and retaining highly educated parents. Our schools are human institutions and the large amounts of money we spend on them does not guarantee them to transcend human imperfections, no matter how wonderful any individual teacher may be. For example, our experience over three years in Princeton Public Schools was that our very high property taxes were not offset by a reduction in parental workload (or an increase in academic or social achievement at school) required to keep our older disabled son from falling through the cracks as a “discipline” problem.
We were ready to leave Princeton, confident that we could achieve comparable results elsewhere with half the tax burden. As it happened, our children were lucky enough to be drawn into Princeton Charter School. Our older son, in particular, has thrived academically, emotionally, and socially over the year and half he has attended. He now spends no time in the principal’s office, and we communicate constructively with the school to navigate challenges that arise from his ADHD and ASD diagnoses. Our experiences with PCS have cemented our commitment to remain in Princeton and work to strengthen PCS and improve its service to the whole community.
We recognize that PCS is not serving enough of Princeton’s economically disadvantaged families. We therefore support the proposed changes to the lottery system because they are fundamentally about increasing access and achievement for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The lottery will be weighted in favor of those students. Kindergarten will become the main entry point to smooth the integration of students (and parents) into the PCS culture and curriculum. This will benefit all students, but especially disadvantaged ones who may need sustained intensive educator focus. Increasing the school size will further broaden access of the community to the school.
We view the Charter school as an important element of the Princeton educational ecosystem, providing an additional high quality educational option to help perpetuate Princeton’s virtuous cycle. It bears reiteration that PCS students are Princeton students: nearly all matriculate to PHS where they positively contribute to the school’s dynamism and success.
Dr. Ethan Schartman
To the Editor:
It costs less to educate a child at the public Princeton Charter School than at the other Princeton public schools.
Moreover, many parents judge this education to be more desirable, since there are more applications than available slots.
Some critics say that the proposed Charter School expansion will financially hurt the district. According to them, expanding a less expensive and more desirable option results in a net loss for the district!
Please, keep such sophistry away from our children’s education.
To the Editor:
The high quality of our public schools, including the Princeton Charter School, is something that all Princeton residents can rightfully take great pride in. However, rising fixed costs (especially healthcare) and expanding enrollment will pose serious challenges to our ability to maintain this level of excellence. Only by coming together around creative ways to contain costs that we can all embrace will we be able to secure the strength and well-being of our schools. The recent decision by the Trustees of the Charter School to submit an application to the State of New Jersey to expand is the wrong move, at the wrong time, and conducted in the wrong way (without any forewarning or input from the broader community and to be decided not by Princeton residents at all, but rather by the New Jersey Commissioner of Education).
The assertions of the Charter School leadership that this move will save the public schools money are dubious and, by all the information I have seen, simply inaccurate and self-serving. By taking $1.2 million out of the public school coffers and allocating it solely to the Charter School for the 76 additional slots sought there, the existing fiscal challenges to the school system are only compounded. I urge the Board of Trustees of the Charter School to retract their application. If they truly believe (as they claim) that their move is in the broader interests of the community, they should have the courage of their convictions and delay this move until there is a consensus in the Princeton community as to its wisdom.
Both the Charter School and the Princeton Public Schools are funded out of the same limited pool of resources — working together they have the best chance of ensuring the continued success of both. A house divided, however, cannot stand. If this application moves forward and is approved by the Commissioner of Education, it will only backfire on the Charter School to the extent that it both galvanizes vocal and sustained opposition from those, such as myself, who have not previously considered themselves opponents of the Charter School and undermines the quality of the very high school that the Charter School itself feeds into.
So I repeat my fervent request that the Charter School leadership drop their application to expand …. And I urge all residents of Princeton to voice strenuous opposition before it is too late and a chasm opens up between the Charter School and the Princeton Public Schools, to the detriment of both.
To the Community:
I would like to thank the Princeton community for giving me the opportunity to serve on the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education for the past three years. It has been a very rewarding experience and I hope my contributions have benefitted our students. I especially thank Superintendent Steve Cochrane and my colleagues on the Board for their help and advice. I heartily recommend others in the community to consider serving on the school board. Election petitions are due in five months, so this is a great time to start planning to run!
Cherry Hill Road
To the Editor:
I write in the spirit of love and respect for my community regarding the proposed Princeton Charter School (PCS) expansion. My family and I joined this community ten years ago, when both Princeton Charter School and Princeton Public Schools (PPS) were already established and high performing. We’ve enjoyed friendship, laughter, and community building with so many families from both PCS and PPS. Though my children attend PPS, we did look at PCS as an option. I count among my closest friends PCS parents. My children enjoy deep friendships with PCS students. As Superintendent Cochrane has said, they are all our children. This sentiment resonates with me.
There is goodness in our community, and when there isn’t, I’m convinced that it is the result of unintended consequences. While I think the proposed Charter School expansion comes from a place of goodness by the PCS trustees, I believe the unintended consequences will be detrimental to all our children. This, because the resulting budgetary constraints on PPS will be crippling. Any loss of budgetary strength will be detrimental to PPS. Since so many PCS children matriculate through the upper levels of PPS, it makes sense for the two entities to engage in regular communication and cooperation.
I’d like to voice support for the idea that the good people of PCS and PPS come together to reevaluate the proposed expansion of the Charter School. I support striking a more conciliatory tone and truly stepping into the shoes of the other side. Assuming bad intentions helps no one. None of us try to teach our children to assume the worst, so why should we engage with vitriol?
It is my sincere hope that the trustees of PCS and leadership of PPS will come together to discuss how best to educate all our children without unintended harmful consequences. A withdrawal of the petition to expand, a withdrawal of the Sunshine Act lawsuit, a reminder that we are all one community and can accomplish great things together. A commitment to work together for the greater good of our community and all our children.
JEAN YELOVICH DURBIN
Mt. Lucas Road
To the Editor:
The decision whether to expand Princeton Charter School (PCS) should be a community choice of how we dedicate public funds to best educate all of our children and achieve social equity, rather than a contest of personal anecdotes.
It necessitates a careful look at the impacts on fund:
Fact 1: PCS expansion will immediately take $1.16 million out of the existing school budget. (In addition to the $4.9 million it already takes.) Those redirected funds will no longer serve 91 percent of Princeton children in order to accommodate 76 new students at PCS (less than 0.2 percent of students). As explained by our superintendent, this will eliminate funds without significant cost savings. If enacted, Princeton Public Schools (PPS) will have to eliminate programs to make up the lost revenue.
Fact 2: State legislation caps annual school funding increases at 2 percent of funds. School funds from a tax increase can only increase $1.4 million under recent state law.
Therefore, taxes for everyone in town would increase just to cover the increased funding drain by PCS on our schools’ budget. To repeat: If enacted, EVERYONE in Princeton will pay higher taxes next year and in years to come to accommodate the Charter School, but our public schools would only get a very small fraction of that tax increase. PPS would then have to manage next year’s budget with anticipated increased enrollment and unavoidable annual expense increases with no significant change in funding despite increased local property taxes. The end result would be higher taxes combined with a lower quality education for the vast majority of students across the town.
These are facts, not feelings and anecdotes. No number of heartwarming stories about “my child’s experience” in either setting changes the social impacts of this unnecessary and ill-considered move. This matter is a public choice that should be made by the community at large. An unelected and independently governed board with no electoral oversight should not be making financial policy choices for the community at large. This proposal, detrimental to the community at large, should be stopped. It is a divisive and undemocratic proposal solely for the benefit of a few at the expense of the majority.
To the Editor:
I just used the last of my Chanukah candles and noticed that the label on the box showed that I had purchased them at Jordan’s in the Princeton Shopping Center.
Sadly, Jordan’s is gone.
I do not know why the new owners of the shopping center chose to terminate the lease on one of Princeton’s most useful stores.
If I needed an unusual card or eclectic gift item, I could almost always find it there. In addition there was always the owner Mr. Wildman’s smiling face.
STANLEY ROSENBERG, MD
To the Editor:
I was never a student or teacher at Westminster Choir College, but over the years I have attended many a concert there and, as a playwright, I have had the pleasure of working with some of its amazingly talented students. The Westminster student body is relatively small, but every student I have ever met has been seriously, passionately devoted to singing or musical composition or the playing of one or more instruments. These fine young people know why they are there and seem to grow and thrive on Westminster’s beautiful Princeton campus. It is rare that a small American college can fit so harmoniously, as it were, into a quiet residential section of a bustling university town.
There is no doubt that Rider University has the right to pull the students and teachers out of Westminster, ship them down to Lawrenceville, and sell the Choir College campus. Some of the students will go, some will not, but the Choir College, even if it keeps that name, will never be the same school. The quiet and beauty of the campus, not to mention the charming relationship between the College and its neighbors, have had a lot to do with why the College has attracted so many outstanding students. All such benefits will be lost if Rider abandons the Westminster’s campus.
Perhaps the folks at Rider should think about why they wanted to own Westminster in the first place. Surely it was not to make big bucks; rather, it was to acquire a small but enormously prestigious institution that could be a true asset to the Rider family. I gather that there were other schools like Yale and Juilliard that wanted to acquire Westminster, but Rider won out, in part by suggesting that it would keep the Choir College in Princeton rather than move it away. I hope that the management at Rider will remember what was said to the Westminster people at the time of the merger and will honor the spirit in which the merger between the two schools took place.
MARVIN HAROLD CHEITEN
To the Editor:
In my recently published booklet called the Story of Maxwell Lane, I showed that the name “Maxwell’s Field,” applied to a portion of the Institute for Advanced Study’s (IAS) land contested by the Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS), was historically impossible. Mr. Robert Maxwell bought and moved into the property in 1925. His purchase included the whole area housing the Battlefield and the Institute campus, from the southwest side of Princeton Pike down to the Delaware and Raritan Canal. This vast property was known as Mercer Manor, defined and named by Job Olden when he bought it from his father in the 1830s. As far as I know the term “Maxwell’s Field” was first used (invented, I believe) by the PBS in its polemics against the IAS. Happily the dispute between the IAS and the PBS is now resolved. However, the incorrect nomenclature lives on. In his statement announcing the territorial resolution, the Institute’s director used the discredited title “Maxwell’s Field,” and now the Town Topics article, “Surprise Accord Ended Battlefield Strife,” published on January 11, used it more than once. It is a small point, but then scholarship is comprised of small points brought together to make up historical truth.
Marilyn Aronberg Lavin
Priscilla Alexandra Waring
Priscilla Alexandra Waring, 72, passed away on Thursday, December 15, 2016, at her home in Newtown, Pa. following a brief illness.
Ms. Waring was a long-time resident of Princeton and Pennington, Washington Crossing, Pa., and has resided in Bucks County since 2001.
She received her early education at Saint Paul School in Princeton and graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, Washington D.C.
Formerly senior vice president and director of Gallup and Robinson, Inc., an advertising and marketing research firm serving Fortune 500 clients, she was a frequent speaker at international and national conferences. Ms. Waring was owner of Gryphon Group LLC, a market research firm, and for the past 12 years was a realtor associate with Weidel Realtors and licensed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Ms. Waring had been a member of Princeton Rotary for many years.
Priscilla is the granddaughter of the late Alston and Beulah Waring, prominent citizens of Solebury Township, Pa. The farm they purchased in the late 1920’s became part of the Honey Hollow Watershed, a designated historic landmark. In 2014 Priscilla donated the family archive, which includes family memorabilia and publications by and about the Warings to the Solebury Township Historical Society. She carried on their legacy with a lifelong passion for history, conservation, and love of nature, gardening, and service to her community.
She is predeceased by her parents, Theodore R. and Barbara G. Waring of Princeton; and her sister, Winifred B. Waring.
Interment will be at Princeton Cemetery on Saturday, January 21, 2017 at 1 p.m.
Arrangements are under the direction of Kimble Funeral Home, Princeton.
Donations accepted via www.GoFundMe.com/Priscilla-Waring-Memorial-Fund.
Extend condolences and remembrances at TheKimbleFuneralHome.com.
John C. Sapoch, Jr.
John C. Sapoch, Jr. passed away peacefully on January 13, 2017. Beloved husband, cherished grandfather, devoted father, step-father, brother, and uncle, Jack’s impact on those around him was deep and lasting and he will be profoundly missed. He was a member of Princeton University’s Great Class of 1958. A legend in the annals of Princeton University football, he captained the 1957 team perfecting the single wing offense during his seasons as starting quarterback. A protégé of Princeton Coach Charlie Caldwell, Jack was awarded the venerable John Prentice Poe Award and was named to the 1957 Associated Press All-Ivy and All-East first team. Just prior to graduation, he turned down an offer by Vince Lombardi to play with the Green Bay Packers. He received his MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, returning to Princeton to serve as Secretary for the Committee for Alumni Associations, Director of the Princeton University Conference, and finally as a Corporate Officer in the position of Assistant Secretary of the University. Jack went on to a successful career in management consulting, first with the J.P. Cleaver Company and then as CEO of SINC and Princeton-Pacific, Inc., where he became a distinguished authority on transportation management.
Born and raised in Allentown, Pa., Jack spent his happiest years in southern California married to Ava Anttila. During their time on The Strand in Manhattan Beach, their annual Fourth of July celebration was legendary. Together they built a home rooted in generous devotion to family and friends. Their door was always open to an ever-growing community of friends and colleagues. This included a strong connection to the Finnish community and the Finnish Consulate where Ava has maintained an active leadership role through the years. Jack was a mentor to many. A good listener, strategic in his advice, he gave you the confidence to believe in yourself. From that, all things were possible.
Predeceased by his parents, John C. Sapoch, Sr., and Dorothy Rems Sapoch; his sister, Sally Mengels; and his parents-in-law Ari and Raija Anttila; Jack is survived by his beloved wife Ava; sister Dotty and her husband Bill Clayton (Falls Church, Va.); sons John and his wife Jamie (Hopewell); Bill (Montclair) from his first marriage to Betty W. Sapoch (Princeton); step-sons Wyatt Bloomfield and his wife Johanna (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) and William Bloomfield and his wife Maria (Minneapolis, Minn.); loving grandchildren, Emily and Jack Sapoch; and Charlotte, Beckett, Alec, and Helena Bloomfield, among many other relatives.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, a donation in Jack’s memory can be made to the charitable organization of your choice or to the Princeton Football Association either online at makeagift.princeton.edu/athletics or via check to Princeton Football Association, Princeton University, PO Box 5357, Princeton, 08543.
Helge Willem Leeuwenburgh, 85, passed away peacefully in his Princeton, New Jersey home on January 10, 2017, after a long, brave fight against cancer. Helge is survived by his wife Carolyn; his three children Mark and his wife Joanne, Erika and her husband Steve, and Todd; and four grandchildren Zachary, Alexandra, Sophia, and Emma. He is also survived by his brother Wim, residing in the Netherlands, with his niece Astrid and nephews Geert and Tony.
Helge was born June 27, 1931 in Nykobing, Denmark to Ragnhild Hostrup and Antonie Leeuwenburgh. He grew up with his two brothers, Willem and Jens, in Amsterdam. He graduated from the Het Amsterdams Lyceum in 1949 and studied at the University of Amsterdam before entering the Royal Netherlands Navy where he served as a signal officer stationed in Suriname.
He and his wife, Carolyn, met in the Netherlands in 1955. They moved to the United States and then married in 1957. They settled in Brooklyn Heights, New York, where they started a family, and he became a United States citizen. In 1970, the family relocated to Princeton, New Jersey.
In the early 1970s, he began his career in travel for the Netherlands National Tourist Office and concurrently managed the import-export of Dutch cheese into the country. Afterwards, he pioneered low-fare group travel in the United States with his business partner Sir Freddie Laker. Subsequently, he founded Overseas-Charter-A-Flight and, as president and chief executive officer, led the company for over a decade. In the 1980s, he was a sought-after independent tour operator organizing and leading groups in China, throughout the United States, and Europe for Rider University and Westminster Choir College, amongst other educational institutions.
He enjoyed bicycling, hiking, the outdoors, and time with family. He was a global citizen, respected and admired by family, friends, and colleagues for his intelligence and compassion. He will be remembered fondly as a patient husband, loving father, and friend.
A Memorial Service to celebrate his life will take place on Saturday, January 28, 2017 at 11 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton, 50 Cherry Hill Road, Princeton, New Jersey 08540.
In remembrance of Helge, donations can be made to the American Cancer Society or the American Diabetes Association.
Reading over the artist’s shoulder, you know who the hero of the occasion is at Monday’s Martin Luther King Day Community Event at the Arts Council of Princeton’s Paul Robeson Center. It was a day of live performances, interactive improv, listening, learning, sharing, and making art. (Photo by Emily Reeves)
University Medical Center of Princeton (UMCP) has opened the Center for Pelvic Wellness, giving women and men affected by pelvic floor disorders a central location where they can access comprehensive, coordinated care and additional resources to address their needs.
Pelvic floor disorders include urinary incontinence and recurring bladder infections; pelvic organ prolapse; constipation or fecal incontinence; pelvic pain; and sexual dysfunction. These conditions can affect anyone but are much more prevalent among women. One of four women in the United States have one or more symptomatic pelvic floor disorders, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. more
Leticia Fraga has announced she will make another run for Princeton Council in the next election this year. The terms of Bernie Miller and Jo Butler will become available. Mr. Miller has said he will not run for another term, while Ms. Butler has yet to make a decision. more
Rutgers Master Gardeners, who recently received Awards for Excellence at a conference of the Rutgers Master Gardeners Association of New Jersey. Pictured with Barbara J. Bromley, Mercer County Horticulturist (far right) are front, Greenie Neuburg, Princeton; and standing rear from left to right Louise Senior, Princeton; Kay Danbury, Lawrenceville; and Pat Lagunas, Princeton.
On Saturday morning, February 11, people across 33 cities in 10 states will participate in the ninth annual Cupid’s Chase 5K run, presented by Community Options, Inc. The Princeton run starts at Princeton Shopping Center on North Harrison Street, with registration at 8 a.m. and the race beginning at 10 a.m. more
The Arts Council of Princeton is nominated for Favorite Gallery, Favorite Adult Art Classes, and Favorite Art Camp in the Discover Jersey Arts People’s Choice Awards. Pictured here is their building, Paul Robeson Center for the Arts.
CLARINET MASTERCLASS WITH DAVID KRAKAUER: On Saturday, January 28 from 2 to 5 p.m., the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) continues its masterclass partnership with Westminster Conservatory with a PSO BRAVO! Masterclass with clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer. Advance reservations are required via princetonsymphony.org or by phone at (609) 497-0020.
On Saturday, January 28 from 2 to 5 p.m., the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) continues its masterclass partnership with Westminster Conservatory with a PSO BRAVO! Masterclass with clarinet virtuoso David Krakauer. more
Boheme Opera NJ is delighted to present a semi-staged performance of Gioacchino Rossini’s comic opera, The Barber of Seville at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) in Ewing on Sunday, January 29 at 3 p.m. The performance will take place at the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall on the campus of TCNJ. Members of the Boheme Opera Orchestra will be on stage with the cast and Boheme Opera Men’s Chorus Ensemble. Artistic Director Joseph Pucciatti will conduct, assisted by Howard Zogott as stage director. There will be a Mayo Concert Hall lobby reception for audience members directly after the production. Reserved tickets for the performance are $50 and $30, now available online at bit.ly/BONJ_Barber_TCNJ and also via TCNJ’s audience services specialist at (609) 771-2585. more
See below for the January 10, 2017 Special Princeton Council Meeting.
Town Topics Newspaper will be posting videos of all future municipal meetings.
See below for the January 9, 2017 Princeton Council Meeting.
Town Topics Newspaper will be posting videos of all future municipal meetings.
To the Editor:
We are writing in response to the letters from parents of Princeton Charter School (PCS) students in support of its expansion. Parents writing to local press advocating expansion often focus solely on what a good school Charter is and how great it’s been for their children. The debate here is not and has never been about whether or not PCS is a good school. No one is asking PCS to close and nothing is lost by PCS if the school does not expand.
We think that it is important to simplify the point of the debate: can PPS (Princeton Public Schools) afford to hand over $1.2 million of taxpayer dollars without negative effect on the other 3,700 students PPS is obliged to educate? No, it can’t. Just simple, uncomplicated arithmetic. (We will skip over the second debate here, with regard to the broken governance that allows this to happen at all. PPS, with it’s elected board, being asked to hand over $1.2 million of taxpayer’s money to another, un-elected and unaccountable school board).
The arguments that expansion of PCS would “save the district money” and that it “costs less to educate a PCS student than a PPS student” are specious. Simply removing the cost associated with special needs children does NOT render this an “apples-to-apples” comparison. Please refer to the work done by Dr. Julia Sass Rubin, professor with the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers, available on the Facebook Keep PPS Strong site.
We will offer two other significant costs that last week’s writer did not consider in the “apples-to-apples” comparison: the cost of running a high school, (Charter does not have one) and the cost of Princeton Public Schools ESL (English as a Second Language) program, (Charter serves 0 students in this category). Just two examples of several other factors needed to make a complete and fair comparison of per student cost.
Hopefully, the expansion will not happen and our school district will not be weakened. The high school is particularly vulnerable and if our class sizes surge and/or we lose programs, we risk slipping in our state and national rankings. Not a stretch to understand property values could thereby go down. All of which should be of concern to PCS parents, as 90 percent of their PCS graduates end up at PHS. Also of concern to any Princeton property owner. This is not just a school issue.
We enjoy the hugely diverse demographics of Princeton Public Schools. We would be glad to see PCS implement the weighted lottery system next year under any circumstances. We are disappointed to see that PCS had lost ground on socio-economic diversity, with only 1.4 percent of students being of low income for this school year as compared to 11 percent in 1990. Even at double weighting, this is still a lottery. PCS should do all it can to enroll AND retain these most worthy students, in an effort to truly be the “no child left behind” school referenced in last week’s Letter to the Editor.
Jim and Valerie Walker
To the Editor:
We, the undersigned, have all served Princeton as elected public officials, and we understand the critical importance of transparency, democratic representation, and accountability to the community whose tax dollars fund our public assets. The Princeton Charter School trustees’ application to expand the Princeton Charter School by 76 students, at a yearly cost of at least $1.16 million dollars, apparently was planned by the charter school trustees without any notice to or input from the Princeton Public Schools or the greater Princeton community, which is responsible for funding this expansion if approved. Forcing the Princeton school district to pay an additional $1.16 million annually to the charter school, plus even more in transportation costs, will be devastating to our public schools. These increased costs to the public school district would consume most of its entire allowed 2 percent yearly budget increase.
We are all proud of our excellent, open enrollment public schools, ranked among the best in the nation. The Princeton public schools represent generations of taxpayer investment, are our town’s most valuable public assets, and the foundation of strong property values. If this expansion is approved by the state Commissioner of Education, it will surely and irreparably erode the quality and value of these public assets — and negatively impact the 3700 children who now attend the public schools.
The nine private citizens on the charter school trustees board are not democratically elected by our community. Although they are required to comply with the same transparency requirements as our elected school board and town council are, the trustees’ meetings don’t seem to be properly noticed, and their meeting minutes are often not published for months. The trustees themselves have said the expansion proposal is the result of “months of careful planning,” yet few, if any, public records reflect this. Our duly-elected public officials and the entire community only learned of the proposal less than 2 days before its filing. The charter school trustees’ secretive decision-making process, and the unfairly sudden announcement of their proposal, compound the anti-democratic, unjust nature of their harmful expansion proposal. The Princeton community and our children deserve better. For these reasons the Princeton Charter School trustees should withdraw their expansion proposal.
William Patterson Court
To the Editor:
The members of the Westminster Community Orchestra would like to thank the greater Princeton community for their generous support of our annual Christmas/Chanukah Sing-a-Long concert collection. At this past December’s concert, audience members contributed 124 pounds of food and nearly $300. In the four years we have held these concerts, we have collected a total of 400 pounds of food and over $850. Food donations have been delivered to Arm in Arm (formerly the Crisis Ministry), while the monetary donations have been sent to organizations such as the Rescue Mission of Trenton, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, HomeFront, and Womanspace.
We are truly grateful for our audiences’ thoughtfulness and are happy to be able to help these worthwhile organizations. We look forward to collecting even more donations at next year’s event.
Conductor, Westminster Community Orchestra
To the Editor:
For decades, Princeton has deployed the same controversial leaf and yardwaste collection policy. The logic goes that homeowners and landscape crews can conveniently pile leaves and yardwaste on the streets, which the town then collects and composts outside of town. But there’s also considerable illogic at work. The illogic plays out in many ways: expense, confusing schedules, the hazards of blocked traffic and bike lanes, global warming gases from all the mechanized scraping, hauling, vacuuming, and composting, substantial nutrient runoff into streams, impoverished and hardened urban soils, bias against homeowners on busy or narrow streets, widespread ordinance violations, and a scarred streetscape. And did I mention the annoying, interminable groan of leafblowers as landscape crews eviscerate a client’s yard of every last leaf in order to create a street hazard?
There’s nothing malicious here, just as we mean no harm by each contributing to the collective radicalization of the planet’s climate while keeping our homes comfortable, running errands, or visiting grandma. The road to hell is paved with unintention.
As with climate change, most of the downsides from current leaf/yardwaste policy come from a lack of containerization — the use of public space as a dumping ground. As a culture, we curbed this impulse long ago by containerizing trash and recyclables. Visitors from the west coast, where yardwaste is also containerized, are baffled by our messy streetscapes. Cities with tree cover similar to ours, like Durham, N.C. and Ann Arbor, Mich, also require containerization, using a combination of yardwaste bags and convenient roll-out containers.
The ongoing debate over Princeton’s leaf/yardwaste policy has remained paralyzed by two opposing contentions. First is the common claim that homeowners couldn’t possibly utilize all their leaves in their yards. But those massive piles of leaves are mostly fluff. A more optimistic claim comes from the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC), which contends that containerization combined with a “leave the leaves” approach would be sufficient for the vast majority of households.
I used to think that better education would solve the problem. As a former PEC member, I wrote Princeton’s Guide to Leaf Management, available online. But calls for better education put the onus on environmentalists to somehow get the word out, and mere words cannot compete with the overwhelming visual. What people see and imitate is leaves piled in the street, not the largely invisible backyard composting and mowing of leaves back into the lawn.
Guesstimates put the cost of current policy at close to $1 million per year. Our policy stalemate could prove even more costly in the future, as Princeton is considering spending millions more to put a roof over its armada of leaf collection vehicles. Before we enshrine a collection policy with so many downsides, we deserve a full accounting of all direct and indirect costs, and test alternatives. I call on Princeton to mount a leaf management “challenge” in which a group of homeowners who claim that loose leaf collection is necessary agree to manage their leaves/yardwaste for a year with leaf corrals, mulch mowing, and containerized collection.
It’s time we use our resourcefulness and adaptability to find solutions, rather than endure year after year the downsides of current policy.
Stephen K. Hiltner
North Harrison Sreet