August 26, 2015

Pest Alert

Princeton is known for its many tree-lined streets. The municipality earned Tree City USA status almost 20 years ago from the Arbor Day Foundation. Today, some of those trees are being threatened by a small invasive beetle, the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB). more

Art Rev

Lucy Graves McVicker is one of Princeton’s most well-loved artists. A founding member of the Princeton Artists’ Alliance, she is also a prime mover in the Garden State Watercolor Society (GSWS), which is having its 46th Annual Juried Show, “Nature’s Beauty,” at the D&R Greenway now through September 25. more

August 19, 2015

Books Genius

Pick up Genius at Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway by Siobhan Roberts and chances are you won’t be able to put it down. Just out, the book already has a waiting list at the Princeton Public Library.

Its subject is the Princeton University mathematician, or “mathemagician” as he’s been called, who invented the cult classic Game of Life back in the 70s. The game, known simply as Life, demonstrates how complexity can come from simplicity, providing an analogy for all mathematics and everything in the entire universe. more

Art Lead

Fans of the California-born London transplant Kaffe Fassett should mark their calendars now for a new show coming to the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown later this year.

“Blanket Statements: New Quilts by Kaffe Fassett and Historical Quilts from the collection of the Quilt Museum and Gallery, York, U.K.” will open November 14 and continue through February 21, 2016. more

August 5, 2015

School Lunch

Food service workers in Princeton’s public schools have a new contract with the food management service hired by Princeton Public Schools to run its cafeterias. The cost of school lunches in Princeton’s public schools will be increased as a result. more

THE PRIDE of PCV: Proud parents and residents of Princeton Community Village celebrated the scholars in their midst at a celebration for students receiving awards from the New Jersey and National Affordable Housing Management Associations (JAHMA and NAHMA). The award winners, pictured here with JAHMA and NAHMA Scholarship Administrator Bruce Johnson, are: from left: Christian James Nazario, Alana Chmiel, Celaine Sackey, Cindy Guzman, Vanessa Guzman, and Mary Ebong. Scholarship recipients not pictured: Jackie Chmiel, Jonas I. Daniecki and Phoebe Hanna.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

THE PRIDE of PCV: Proud parents and residents of Princeton Community Village celebrated the scholars in their midst at a celebration for students receiving awards from the New Jersey and National Affordable Housing Management Associations (JAHMA and NAHMA). The award winners, pictured here with JAHMA and NAHMA Scholarship Administrator Bruce Johnson, are: from left: Christian James Nazario, Alana Chmiel, Celaine Sackey, Cindy Guzman, Vanessa Guzman, and Mary Ebong. Scholarship recipients not pictured: Jackie Chmiel, Jonas I. Daniecki and Phoebe Hanna. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

 

Nine accomplished students from Princeton are the recipients of this year’s scholarships, given annually by the National Affordable Housing Management Association (NAHMA) and its New Jersey affiliate (JAHMA). more

Art ReviewA mini-exhibition on early American typewriters currently on display at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie in Cadwalader Park, Trenton, will run through November 8.

Located on the second floor of the museum, the exhibition was curated by Richard Willinger, Chair of the Museum Society’s Collections Management Committee, and a typewriter collector.

Because people stopped using typewriters many years ago when the personal computer came out, many young people have never used a typewriter. Older people remember typewriters as the standard four-bank machine with a typed sheet visible on the rubber platen in front of you. more

July 29, 2015

Amimal Control

Princeton’s new Animal Control Officer (ACO), Nate Barson, made a brief appearance at a meeting of the Board of Health last week.

Unlike his predecessor Mark Johnson, who came under the umbrella of the Princeton Police Department for most of his time with the municipality, Mr. Barson will be attached to the health department and have an office in Monument Hall. more

FISHING THE FLATS: Adventurous traveler Melanie Tucker, shown here fishing the flats in Key West, will share her knowledge of off-the-beaten track destinations in the Community Room at the Princeton Public Library, this Thursday, July 30, at 7 p.m. The travel designer will present a slide illustrated talk, “Short Sojourns: Rejuvenating Travel in Just Three Days,” as part of the Library’s summer series, “Escape the Ordinary,” which hosts writers, book groups, artists, and guest speakers. Ms. Tucker is the owner of Rare Finds Travel (www.rarefindstravel.com) and specializes in custom travel itineraries. For more information, call (609) 923.0304, or visit: http://rarefindstravel.com(Photo Courtesy of Rare Finds Travel)

FISHING THE FLATS: Adventurous traveler Melanie Tucker, shown here fishing the flats in Key West, will share her knowledge of off-the-beaten track destinations in the Community Room at the Princeton Public Library, this Thursday, July 30, at 7 p.m. The travel designer will present a slide illustrated talk, “Short Sojourns: Rejuvenating Travel in Just Three Days,” as part of the Library’s summer series, “Escape the Ordinary,” which hosts writers, book groups, artists, and guest speakers. Ms. Tucker is the owner of Rare Finds Travel (www.rarefindstravel.com) and specializes in custom travel itineraries. For more information, call (609) 923.0304, or visit: http://rarefindstravel.com (Photo Courtesy of Rare Finds Travel)

According to a recent study from the U.S. Travel Association, America is becoming a nation of workaholics, with workers taking less and less vacation time than ever before.

Travel designer Melanie Tucker has the antidote for the time-pressed traveler. With a lifetime of adventurous, off-the-beaten track trips behind her, the former Princeton resident has a wealth of knowledge of three-day breaks that can deliver the feel of a much longer vacation.  more

Bus 2

After welcoming Princeton’s new Animal Control Officer Nate Barson to the municipality (see page one story), Health Officer Jeffrey C. Grosser and the rest of the Board got down to business at the Princeton Board of Health’s regular monthly meeting last week. more

Zodiac 2

After a four-year ban that prevented him from all international travel and kept him from visiting Princeton in 2012, Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei has had his passport returned to him.

Last week, Mr. Ai posted a photo of himself on Instagram holding the document, which had been confiscated by Chinese authorities following the artist’s outspoken remarks on number of national scandals, including collapse of badly-constructed schools during a 2008 earthquake.  more

July 27, 2015

shutterstock_196336097According to an Arts and Transit Project Update from Princeton University, bike parking and bike rental at the station will be unavailable in the bike shelter on the east side of the tracks from Monday, July 27 though Friday, August 10. Alternative temporary bike racks have been installed near the station for use during this time period and signage at the bike shelter has been in place notifying users of the change. Any bikes remaining on the racks in the bike shelter on the east side of the tracks as of midnight on Monday, July 27 will be removed. For more information, contact:  bike@princeton.edu.

July 22, 2015

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson issued an injunction last week which formally stopped all construction activity on the Institute for Advanced Study’s (IAS) faculty housing project until she hears arguments from both sides, culminating in a ruling on September 3. more

TOYS FOR SMILES: Twin brothers Logan (right) and Sam Leppo are adept woodworkers who combine their skills to create simple wooden toys for children. Earlier this month they donated 50 kid-friendly toys — 25 cars and 25 dogs — to children at HomeFront’s “Christmas in July” event. Taking their ingenuity a step further, the boys have formed their own non profit group to help the less fortunate. The Hun School students plan to partner with woodworking students across the country to create handmade toys for every homeless child in America. By distributing their original designs to students in participating schools, they hope to make and donate 5,000 toys over the next twelve months. For more information, visit: www.loganandsam.org (Photo Courtesy of the Hun School)

TOYS FOR SMILES: Twin brothers Logan (right) and Sam Leppo are adept woodworkers who combine their skills to create simple wooden toys for children. Earlier this month they donated 50 kid-friendly toys — 25 cars and 25 dogs — to children at HomeFront’s “Christmas in July” event. Taking their ingenuity a step further, the boys have formed their own non profit group to help the less fortunate. The Hun School students plan to partner with woodworking students across the country to create handmade toys for every homeless child in America. By distributing their original designs to students in participating schools, they hope to make and donate 5,000 toys over the next twelve months. For more information, visit: www.loganandsam.org (Photo Courtesy of the Hun School)

Hun students Logan and Sam Leppo are twins who hope that their shared passion for woodworking will inspire others.

Over the past year, the brothers designed, cut, sanded, and assembled their own designs for hand-made wooden toys that earlier this month, they distributed to children at HomeFront during the non-profit group’s “Christmas in July” celebration. They gave away 50 kid-friendly toys: 25 cars and 25 dogs.  more

Art GardenAnyone strolling through the alleyway between Palmer Square and Witherspoon Street these days will find a tiny garden tucked away in a corner opposite the outdoor dining spot of Teresa’s Caffe.

If you haven’t yet seen it, it’s worth finding — and observing the reaction of town residents who come upon it for the first time. Passers-by are generally enchanted.

Bounded by slim logs of silver birch, the garden is just a few square feet and yet to a child’s imagination it offers a wealth of possibility. Lichen covered rocks and remnants of wood are interspersed with a selection of flowering plants, mosses, and ferns forming a “fairy garden” in a formerly unused spot.

The nurturing hand behind this miniature elfland kingdom is landscape artist Peter Soderman who is known for his playful attitude — he’s been known to describe himself as the “Jackson Pollock of Lawn Care” and the “Court Jester of Synchronicity.” more

July 15, 2015
NEW BUILD ON VALLEY ROAD: Situated on Valley Road, this new home comprises a main residential building (left) plus a garage with what looks to be a roomy apartment or studio space above. It sits on a lot flanked by more modest dwellings.(Photo by Linda Arntzenius)

NEW BUILD ON VALLEY ROAD: Situated on Valley Road, this new home comprises a main residential building (left) plus a garage with what looks to be a roomy apartment or studio space above. It sits on a lot flanked by more modest dwellings. (Photo by Linda Arntzenius)

To many Princeton residents it seems that no matter where you turn, an old house is being torn down to make way for a new – and usually much larger – residential structure. more

CREATIVITY AT REST: Landscape artist and ideas man Peter Soderman (left) and wood and metal artist Greg Napolitan take time out to enjoy Princeton’s first Parklet in front of Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street. Mr. Napolitan carved the two huge wooden benches in the parklet after being contacted by Mr. Soderman to participate in the tiny park that takes up two parking spots in front of the coffee shop. The project was a the result of a joint effort by the municipality, the Arts Council of Princeton, and several members of Princeton’s creative community.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

CREATIVITY AT REST: Landscape artist and ideas man Peter Soderman (left) and wood and metal artist Greg Napolitan take time out to enjoy Princeton’s first Parklet in front of Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street. Mr. Napolitan carved the two huge wooden benches in the parklet after being contacted by Mr. Soderman to participate in the tiny park that takes up two parking spots in front of the coffee shop. The project was a the result of a joint effort by the municipality, the Arts Council of Princeton, and several members of Princeton’s creative community. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

Visitors to Princeton’s first “Parklet” located across two parking spots in front of Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street are not only delighted by the concept and design of the space. They are intrigued by the hand behind two enormous wood benches, each of which has been carved from a single block of wood.  more

July 8, 2015

After long drawn-out negotiations between their union and the school district, Princeton’s teachers now have a new four-year contract.

The Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) and the Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA) reached an agreement that was unanimously approved by the Board last week.

The long-awaited contract is the result of talks between BOE and PREA that began in the fall of 2013 and the cause of much criticism directed at both sides from teachers, parents, students, and taxpayers since that time.

The contract is retroactive to last July 1, when teachers had been working under the terms of an expired contract. It will expire June 30, 2018.

Under the terms of the new contract, teachers will receive a salary increase of 2.66 percent for 2014-15; 2.67 percent for 2015-16; 2.50 percent for 2016-17; and 2.63 percent for 2017-18.

According to district officials, longevity pay will be eliminated in year four of the new contract and will be incorporated into a new step system going forward.

The new contract includes increases in the stipends that teachers receive for extracurricular activities such as coaching or advising student clubs. In this case, however, the increase is not retroactive for the 2014-15 school year. The increase for year two is 2.5 percent. For years three and four, the increase is 2.25 percent.

Under the new agreement, teachers will continue to make health care contributions at the tier 4 level under Chapter 78 of New Jersey state law.

The interpretation of Chapter 78 had been a bone of contention between the two parties and the inclusion of such health care contributions at the tier 4 level was one which the teachers’ union had opposed, even after sessions with a state-appointed mediator brought in to bring the two sides to a resolution.

The new contract holds teachers to two evening parent-teacher conferences a year and offers an additional staff development day a year.

In addition, teachers who subscribe to the district’s health care benefits program will receive annual health care stipends for years two, three and four of the contract.

The agreement came just as the two sides were about to enter the expensive arbitration stage of the bargaining process known as “fact-finding,” which could have cost between $1,600 and $2,500 per day for a state appointed fact-finder. The two sides would have shared this cost.

In recent weeks, with the approach of the end of the school year, both sides met face-to-face to thrash out a deal. Hopes rose after two marathon negotiating sessions on June 2 and June 10, the first lasting 18 hours and the second 12 hours. After the second meeting, BOE President Andrea Spalla said that both parties were working to “close the remaining differences between the two sides.”

Asked Monday what had clinched the deal, BOE member Patrick Sullivan responded that “Nothing in particular ‘clinched the deal’ except many hours of listening to each other and lots of hard work. The Board’s only goal has always been to come to an agreement that is fair to our teachers and financially sustainable for our district and our children. We are grateful that the PREA worked with us to come to such a conclusion.”

Compared to earlier BOE meetings, last week’s presentation failed to draw a large audience of teachers and parents.

Princeton Council held a closed session Monday to discuss the lawsuit challenging Princeton University’s tax exempt status.

The municipality is named as a defendant in the suit, brought by public interest lawyer Bruce I. Afran in 2011 on behalf of local residents Kenneth Fields, Mary Ellen Marino, and Joseph and Kathryn King.

The suit takes issue with the tax-exempt status of University properties, arguing that they are being used for commercial functions; it challenges the University’s status as a tax exempt non-profit organization. The impetus for the suit came after a 2010 property tax reevaluation in Princeton, which resulted in increases in assessed values and therefore in property tax payments.

Princeton University is the town’s largest taxpayer and the lawsuit, which has been likened to David taking on Goliath, could have major implications for home-owners. It could potentially reduce their property taxes, which would be a boon to residents of modest or fixed incomes.

According to the University’s website, its 2014 tax payments comprise less than one percent of its 2013-14 operating budget, which was $1.582 billion.

In lieu of paying taxes to the municipality on all of its properties, the University contributes a yearly payment or PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) and makes certain properties eligible for taxation. In 2014, it paid $8.5 million in property taxes and $2.75 million in PILOT payments. For 2015 the University will make $2,860,000 in PILOT payments to Princeton as part of a seven-year agreement with the municipality that calls for four percent annual increases.

According to the Princeton Tax Assessor’s office, the University owns 1,035 acres of land in Princeton with a total estimated valuation of $1.79 billion. Some 27.6 percent of this valuation is taxable, the remainder is exempt from property taxes.

Before moving into closed session Monday, the Council looked for comments from members of the public.

But only one person from the community, Dale Meade, had turned up to speak to the Council represented by President Bernie Miller and members Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, and Patrick Simon. Lance Liverman had said he would be along later.

Town Administrator Marc Dashield was also a participant in the discussion as was attorney Harry Haushalter. According to his website, Mr. Haushalter’s special areas of expertise include New Jersey State taxes, local property taxation, tax litigation, and property tax abatement.

On Monday, Ms. Butler arrived clutching a June 1 cover story in a local news publication with a photograph of attorney Mr. Afran on the cover and posing the question “Bruce Afran: constitutional crusader, or skunk at the garden party?”

The article by Vincent Xu points out that Mr. Afran has represented plaintiffs in lawsuits against Princeton University, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the town of Princeton.

The article goes on to describe Mr. Afran as a “public interest lawyer devoted to civil liberties” for his work on behalf of Save the Dinky citizen group and the Princeton Battlefield Society.

Mr. Meade, a 43-year resident of Princeton, addressed the members of the Council, to whom he is no stranger, having previously spoken out on the issue of property taxes, in particular, the ways in which they are assessed and the degree of oversight the municipality has or should have with respect to this process.

“I am an advocate of strict compliance with New Jersey statutes and IRS regulations,” began Mr. Meade, pointing out that he was once a member of the Princeton Fair Tax Revaluation Group. “The municipality should be neutral with respect to this topic,” he said. “It should not take an advocacy position but rather comply with existing statutes and regulations. What I think is missing in the area of property taxes is independent oversight. The tax assessor is paid by the municipality but the Council is not supposed to tell him how to do his job. I feel that they should maintain that position and look at both sides of the issue and not take a position.”

Mr. Meade went on to advise the Council to be “squeaky clean” on conflicts of interest. “Anyone with a connection to Princeton University should not participate in this discussion; not only should they not vote, they should not participate at all.”

In response, Ms. Butler pointed out that Mayor Liz Lempert and Council Member Heather Howard had been recused. Ms. Howard is employed by the University, as is Ms. Lempert’s husband.

After his brief comments to the Council, Mr. Meade said that he had been prompted to speak in the hopes of forcing a clarification of what the municipality’s responsibility is regarding property tax assessments.

In February, tax court Judge Vito L. Bianco denied the University’s request to have the lawsuit challenging its tax exempt status thrown out.

In April, a state appeals court declined to hear the University’s appeal of Judge Bianco’s ruling.

At that time, Mr. Afran commented: “The issue is not whether the taxpayer will win but how much of the University’s tax exempt status will remain if this goes to trial.” He estimated that if the entire University campus were valued for tax purposes, the average Princeton taxpayer could potentially see a reduction of their tax bill of between 30 and 50 percent. He described contemporary universities as “hedge funds masquerading as educational non-profits.”

The challenge to the University’s property tax exempt status will be tried in New Jersey tax court, possibly in the early part of 2016.

July 1, 2015
ARE YOU READY FOR HURRICANE SEASON? These volunteers are, from left, back row: Robert Gregory, director of Princeton’s Office of Emergency Management; Jeffery Clarke; Jerome Scott; Martin Mbugua; Jay Vaughn; Mark Scheibner; TR Johnson of the Princeton Fire Department; Kate Warren; Roz Warren; Sal Baldino, of the Princeton Fire Department; front row: Rania Salem. Fayez Azeez, Ron DiLapo. Volunteer team members not pictured are recent CERT Team graduates  Afroula Ippolito and Trish Verbeyst; and Sara Braverman, Penelope Chambers, Judy Gorberg, Steve Kolock and David Sayen, who completed an earlier class. (Image courtesy of Princeton Office of Emergency Management)

ARE YOU READY FOR HURRICANE SEASON? These volunteers are, from left, back row: Robert Gregory, director of Princeton’s Office of Emergency Management; Jeffery Clarke; Jerome Scott; Martin Mbugua; Jay Vaughn; Mark Scheibner; TR Johnson of the Princeton Fire Department; Kate Warren; Roz Warren; Sal Baldino, of the Princeton Fire Department; front row: Rania Salem. Fayez Azeez, Ron DiLapo. Volunteer team members not pictured are recent CERT Team graduates
Afroula Ippolito and Trish Verbeyst; and Sara Braverman, Penelope Chambers, Judy Gorberg, Steve Kolock and David Sayen, who completed an earlier class. (Image courtesy of Princeton Office of Emergency Management)

According to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM) the Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30. New Jersey’s tropical storm activity is typically between August and late October. All of which means that now is the time to prepare.

With hazardous weather affecting New Jersey residents on a regular basis with short- and long-term power outages and possibilities of flooding and the destruction of property, “There has been a huge push on the part of the state to encourage participation from the community and enlist volunteers,” said Princeton Director of Emergency and Safety Services Robert G. Gregory.

In recognition of this, Princeton Council President Bernie Miller and Council members Heather Howard and Patrick Simon have been instrumental in the municipality’s participation in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program, which prepares team members to assist their families, neighbors, and co-workers in the event of an emergency. They are trained to support professional and volunteer first responders, and to provide assistance themselves when first responders are not immediately available.

Twelve Princeton residents completed a seven-week CERT course this spring at the Mercer County Fire Academy that included fire extinguisher training, first aid skills, and search and rescue drills. Training was conducted by Fire Academy staff and members of the Princeton Fire Department and Office of Emergency Services.

“Our first set of volunteers graduated in April and in addition six more just went through the CERT Administrative Program of the state Office of Emergency Management including myself, Princeton Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser and Director of Human Services Elisa Neira.”

While natural disasters like hurricanes cannot be avoided, there are safety measures that might ameliorate their effects. NJOEM’s Hurricane Survival Guide for New Jersey gives advice on ways of securing the safety of families, homes and pets; advice that holds for all types of natural disasters.

Mr. Simon agrees that now is the time to plan ahead and make sure emergency supplies are in order. He suggests the guidelines provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA, www.ready.gov), which recommends that people prepare to shelter in place for at least three days in the event of an emergency. “FEMA recommends keeping at least three days’ supply of water and non-perishable food, a first aid kit, flashlights and spare batteries, a fire extinguisher, and other essential supplies,” he said.

The rule of thumb, said Mr. Gregory, is to take care of your own family first, then look to neighbors and then to the community at large. “Weather-related emergencies can be planned for,” he said, noting that one of the first things that the municipality will do is to time the opening of the Emergency Operation Centers for police, first responders, representatives from the Recreation Department, Fire Department and Rescue Squad to meet and plan for the allocation of resources.”

“I tell people not to wait until there’s an emergency, there’s a lot can be done in advance,” said Mr. Gregory. “A huge push after Superstorm Sandy to have people shelter-in-place. And it’s my experience that most people want to stay at home, where they feel most comfortable. One of the things that the public can do is to purchase a back-up generator. Having food and water for three days is another.”

What does Mr. Gregory have in his home? “My wife is great at finding charging devices and there are many options out there including portable flashlights with chargers. I have three different charging devices that I use for a computer and small devices like cell phones. If the cable is still working it’s good to be able to turn on the TV to check for news and weather updates. Radios are always good too. If people can’t afford, or if they are not able to get, a generator, these devices are most helpful. I’m also looking into getting a generator. Ideally I’d like to find one that is solar powered.”

As for hurricane season, Mr. Gregory said that according to weather experts tropical depressions that can turn into hurricanes can be expected in New Jersey from June through November, but in his experience the heightened period is August through October. Although you can’t let your guard down, that seems to be the period for this region.

“As necessary, we will open up community resource centers where people can go to find coffee and charge up their phones and computers,” said Mr. Gregory. “For a prolonged emergency, it would be possible to open up local schools and gyms so that people could take showers.”

NJOEM’s Hurricane Survival Guide suggests three steps from which the following is a very brief excerpt.

Step 1 is to stay informed, via traditional or social media. NJOEM (www.ready.nj.gov) works closely with the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center regarding storm predictions and forecasts.

The NJOEM website contains a link to New Jersey’s 21 County Offices of Emergency Management with county websites, social media tools and county alert and warning systems listed as well. Sign up, opt-in or connect to receive important local alerts. http://www.ready.nj.gov/about/association.html

Individuals can subscribe to the NJ State Police on Nixle Connect (http://local.nixle.com/new-jersey-state-police). Nixle allows verified government agencies to communicate with the public via text/SMS, email, and internet posts and unlike other social media applications, Nixle does not contain any third-party advertisements.

NJ Alert is a free, voluntary, and confidential emergency alerting system that allows NJOEM officials to send email or text messages to cell phones and other email enabled devices during an emergency event. To sign up for NJ Alert, visit: www.njalert.gov.

Step 2 is to make a plan with family members as to how to stay close and
connected; designate an individual outside of the state to serve as a family point of contact, since after a disaster it is often easier to call out-of-state than within the affected area; after a disaster, all family members should make contact with the designated individual. Try choosing a certain time for everyone to check in.

Step 3 is to gather emergency supplies, many of which can be found around the home. NJOEM’s “Hurricane Kit” includes a 2 week supply of these emergency necessities together with clean-up and repair supplies stored in a safe place.

In addition to basics necessities, residents are advised to gather together important documents such as social security cards, birth certificates, marriage and death records, wills, insurance policies, deeds and mortgages, computer file backups, and personal photographs, as well as important phone numbers and prescriptions.

To download the complete NJ Hurricane Survival Guide, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/njoem/plan/pdf/070214_hurricane_survival_guide.pdf

Additional information can be found on the Princeton Office of Emergency Management web page at www.princetonnj.gov/emerg-mgt.html, and at the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA’s public education site for emergency preparedness, www.ready.gov.

The municipality encourages all residents to register for the Mass Notification System at http://www.princetonnj.gov/ems-phone-register.html, or in person at the municipal clerk’s office in Witherspoon Hall, 400 Witherspoon Street. A list of emergency phone numbers is on the municipal website (princetonnj.gov)

Another CERT training course for Princeton volunteers will take place this fall. For more information, call Robert Gregory of the Department of Emergency and Safety Services, 1 Monument Drive, at (609) 497-7632.

After well over a year of negotiations, the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) and the teachers’s union, Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA) issued a statement Thursday announcing a “Memorandum of Agreement for a successor contract.”

Today, July 1, marks the end of a year in which teachers in Princeton Public Schools have worked under the terms of an expired 2011-2014 contract. In spite of lengthy negotiations that began as early as fall 2013, their union and the Board failed to come up with a new contract.

Talks dragged on as both sides became entrenched over their respective positions on salaries and health benefits. A major stumbling block was conflicting interpretations of the State of New Jersey’s Chapter 78.

Even sessions with a state-appointed mediator failed to move the parties closer.

It looked as though the next step would be non-binding arbitration for which an independent “fact finder” would be called in at a cost of between $1,600 and $2,500 per day, to be split between the BOE and the PREA.

Spurred by this, both sides moved to meet face-to-face in order to thrash out a deal before the close of the school year. Hopes rose after two marathon negotiating sessions on June 2 and June 10, the first lasting 18 hours and the second, 12 hours. After the second meeting, BOE President Andrea Spalla said that both parties were working to “close the remaining differences between the two sides.”

The above-mentioned statement from Ms. Spalla together with PREA President Joanne Ryan, reads: “We are pleased to inform the Princeton community that the negotiating teams of the PREA and the Board of Education for the Princeton Public Schools have signed a Memorandum of Agreement for a successor contract. Further details of the new contract will be published
once the PREA membership
and the Board of Education have voted to approve the new agreement. We are eager to move forward together to provide the very best educational experiences for our community’s children. Both the PREA and the Board of Education are grateful for the patience and support of the entire Princeton community and we look forward to continuing to serve you.”

In May, after eight weeks of negotiations, the District reached an agreement with the Princeton Regional Educational Support Staff Association (PRESSA), representing support staff.

Also in May, after six weeks of negotiations, an agreement was reached with the Princeton Administrators’ Association (PAA), representing principals, assistant principals and supervisors, but not central office administrators.

The new contract with administrators gave them annual increases for the next three years of approximately 2.39 percent, 2.38 percent, and 2.37 percent. Administrators agreed that contributions to their healthcare premiums would remain at the highest “Tier 4” levels set forth in Chapter 78. The union agreed to several cost-saving measures in their healthcare benefits package, including health insurance deductibles of $100 per staff person and $200 per family for  in network healthcare providers for the most popular plan and the option of a health savings account plan with a $2,000 deductible. The district would contribute 60 percent of the deductible, or $1,200, for that option.

The new contract with PRESSA gave an annual base salary increase of 2.5 percent for each of the next three years. The support staff union agreed that employees’ contributions to their healthcare premiums would remain at the highest “Tier 4” levels set forth in the state law known as Chapter 78. The union agreed to several cost-saving measures in their healthcare benefits package, including the elimination of the most expensive health insurance plan, health insurance deductibles of $100 per staff person and $200 per family for in network healthcare providers for the most popular plan, and prescription cost containment measures. Employees can also choose a health savings account plan with a $2,000 deductible. The district would contribute 60 percent of the deductible, or $1,200, for that option.

The most recent deal offered to teachers by District included an annual increase in base salary of 2.44 percent (retroactive to July 1, 2014).

As yet, no details of the Memorandum of Agreement or of a new contract have been forthcoming. The Board was due to meet in closed session and then in public session Tuesday night after Town Topics press time.

fourth-of-july-flag-cake

Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year and there will be enough history-inspired events to fill the entire day, not to mention a few that take place on the run up to the event.

This year’s traditional fireworks display, courtesy of the Spirit of Princeton, will take place on Thursday, July 2, at 9 p.m.

The community is invited to come early and enjoy their own picnics on the fields next to the Princeton University Stadium, along Western Way. The site will open at 7 p.m. so that everyone can settle in for the 16th Annual Independence Day Fireworks, which will take place rain or shine. Only lightning will cancel the spectacle in red, white and blue.

Visitors are asked to follow the rules that exclude alcoholic beverages and, because of the newly-installed artificial turf, they are asked not to smoke.

The event is free and open to all, with parking at University Lot 21 below the fields adjacent to Faculty Road. Parking is also available on streets nearby and in the University parking garage on Prospect Street.

The non-profit Spirit of Princeton not only sponsors the free July 4 fireworks but also the Memorial Day Parade as well as the Flag Day celebration, and Veteran’s Day ceremony. For more information, visit www.spiritofprinceton.org.

So much for the fireworks, now for the flintlocks, which will feature, appropriately enough, on Princeton Battlefield Park, at 500 Mercer Road (Princeton Pike) when numerous re-enactors will mark Independence Day on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also free, this event seems to draw more and more visitors to Princeton each year. Many bring a picnic lunch and enjoy not only the park and the hiking trails of the adjacent Institute Woods but the period demonstrations that are intended to bring history to life.

The use of flintlock muskets as well as artillery drill will be demonstrated by soldiers of the Revolutionary War period from Mott’s 6th Company of the new 2nd Continental Regiment of Artillery. Named for Gershom Mott, who was born in Middletown, New Jersey in 1743, “Mott’s Artillery” was involved throughout the war, in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and then as far South as Virginia.

At the Thomas Clarke House, which will be open for tours and a small exhibition of Revolutionary arms, visitors will be treated to demonstrations of domestic skills of the era and there will be period games for children.

At noon, there will be a talk on the Battle of Princeton, followed at 1 p.m. by a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

If you’d like to sign the Declaration for yourself, head over to Morven Museum and Garden on Stockton Street, where a July 4 Jubilee will be in full swing, having started at noon. This is where you are likely to spot Benjamin Franklin (as portrayed by history enthusiast B. David Emerson) taking his afternoon constitutional.

Morven’s Independence Day Jubilee is also free and it will run, weather permitting, until 3 p.m.  What better place to mark the day, since the museum is the former home of another Declaration-signer, Richard Stockton.

Besides the historic house itself, which will be open and includes an exhibition of 19th-century chair making in New Jersey, “Of the Best Materials and Good Workmanship,” as well as yesteryear demonstrations on how ice-cream, bread, paper and guns were made, there will be live bluegrass music on the front porch from the Ocean Country Band. Plenty of barbecue will be for sale from the Oink & Moo BBQ food truck.

Arts Council of Princeton instructor Libby Ramage will be on hand to help visitors draw inspiration from the exhibition and create their own chalk or oil pastel rendering of a chair. And  historical interpreter Stacy Flora Roth will share the importance of tea in the early days of America with “Revolutionary Tea!” Why was it so important that fashion-conscious families posed for portraits with their tea sets? Did Great Britain lose its American Colonies over “the cup that cheers”? Ms. Roth is the one to enlighten you along with a fund tea lore, history, songs and poetry.

Visitors to the Morven Museum & Garden event, at 55 Stockton Street, should park in the Princeton Theological Seminary lot opposite or in the Monument Hall parking lots, as there will be no parking at Morven because of the many children expected to be on the grounds. The event will be cancelled if there is prolonged rain.

For more information on Ms. Roth and Mr. Emerson, visit their shared website:  http://historyonthehoof.com/. For more on Morven and the event, call (609) 924-8144 or visit: www.morven.org.

June 24, 2015
SEWARD JOHNSON ON BROADWAY: Famed sculptor and philanthropist J. Seward Johnson will be in New York City’s Garment District today, Wednesday, June 24, to open an exhibition of of 18 of his most iconic and popular pieces, selected from Grounds for Sculpture’s “Seward Johnson: The Retrospective,” which was scheduled to close last September, but has proved to be so popular that it has been extended to July 1 of this year (www.groundsforsculpture.org). “Seward Johnson in New York, Selections From the Retrospective,” can be seen in Garment District plazas on Broadway, between 38th Street and 39th Street until September 15. (Image courtesy of Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc.)

SEWARD JOHNSON ON BROADWAY: Famed sculptor and philanthropist J. Seward Johnson will be in New York City’s Garment District today, Wednesday, June 24, to open an exhibition of of 18 of his most iconic and popular pieces, selected from Grounds for Sculpture’s “Seward Johnson: The Retrospective,” which was scheduled to close last September, but has proved to be so popular that it has been extended to July 1 of this year (www.groundsforsculpture.org). “Seward Johnson in New York, Selections From the Retrospective,” can be seen in Garment District plazas on Broadway, between 38th Street and 39th Street until September 15. (Image courtesy of Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc.)

If you’ve strolled down Broadway through New York City’s Garment District in recent months you will have observed some intriguing public art on display in the city streets. Donna Dodson and Andy Moerlein’s colossal bird sculptures constructed out of maple saplings stopped pedestrians in their tracks between 36th and 41st streets.

The latest artwork to be unveiled there promises to do the same. Eighteen life-size sculptures by J. Seward Johnson will be on show on Broadway between 38th Street and 39th Street.

Mr. Johnson will open the exhibition, today, June 24, between 11 a.m. and noon, at a reception at which he is expected to reflect on a lifetime of creative achievement. The New Jersey artist has been paying homage to American society through realistic bronze sculptures for almost half a century.

The artwork on display has been selected from the retrospective of Mr. Johnson’s work at Grounds For Sculpture (GFS), the sculpture park and arboretum he founded on the site of the old New Jersey Fairgrounds in Hamilton.

Mr. Johnson led the team that transformed the once derelict site into a showcase for prominent and emerging artists. The park evolved as an offshoot of Mr. Johnson’s foundry, The Johnson Atelier.

The renowned sculptor and philanthropist has dedicated his career to public art. His life-like bronze and monumental figures are familiar sights throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. His best known works are lifelike sculptures in his “Celebrating the Familiar” series, which draws attention to the details of ordinary life: a nap on a park bench, a trip to the grocery story, the pleasure a child takes in an ice cream cone.

GFS opened its doors to the public in 1992 with works by Mr. Johnson and contributions from notable artists such as Clement Meadmore, Anthony Caro, Beverly Pepper, George Segal, and Isaac Witkin. “Seward Johnson: The Retrospective” opened there in May of last year. Although it was scheduled to close last September, the show drew so many visitors that it was extended to July 1 of this year.

“There has been a remarkable response from both the media and the continuing flood of visitors to the park, local and international,” said Paula Stoeke, the exhibition’s guest curator. “This gathering of sculptures will never be seen all together again and I encourage everyone to plan a visit.”

The GFS exhibition sculptures chosen to spend their summer in the city include several of the artist’s signature “man on the street” bronzes. Princeton residents are familiar with such works. One of the artist’s first public pieces, The Newspaper Reader, was made for the municipality and sits outside Monument Hall. Another, Out to Lunch, is in Palmer Square. Both were created in the 1970s, when Mr. Johnson hoped to encourage people to “get back out-of-doors” at a time when a crime wave had them avoiding public spaces. “I wanted to put sculptures into parks to act like decoys and entice people back to parks,” he explained in a 2012 Princeton Magazine interview.

In addition, tourists and New Yorkers alike will be able to enjoy one of Mr. Johnson’s most charismatic trompe l’oeil painted bronzes, a three-dimensional version of a sailor kissing a nurse in New York’s Times Square on VJ-Day at the end of World War II. Perhaps his most famous work, Unconditional Surrender, has been displayed in Times Square, San Diego, Sarasota, and Rome.

Incidentally, owners of the copyright to the image, made famous by LIFE magazine photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, refused Johnson permission to use it, so Johnson based his work on a slightly different photograph of the kissing couple taken by another photographer and in the public domain.

Among the iconic pieces on show in the Garment District is his Forever Marilyn, a three dimensional version of a photograph of the star with her white skirt billowing around her legs from the updraft of an air vent from the New York subway; a scene from the movie, The Seven Year Itch.

Also on view on Broadway will be some of Mr. Johnson’s well-known 3-dimensional life-scale tableaux of paintings by the French Impressionists. Visitors to GFS are fond of inserting themselves into his take on Renoir’s The Boating Party, titled Were You Invited, from his “Beyond the Frame” series. The park also boasts the artist’s rendition of Claude Monet’s Garden at Sainte-Addresse and Edouard Manet’s Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe. 

The general popularity of these works stands in marked contrast to the reception that met Mr. Johnson’s first major show at the Corcoran Gallery. “Beyond the Frame: Impressionism Revisited,” was panned by critics, one of whom likened the feeling it gave him to that of riding a Ferris Wheel after eating a sardine milkshake.

The artist relishes the memory of that response and credits the critic for doing him an enormous favor. “People flocked to the show to see what all the fuss was about,” he once said.

At 85, Mr. Johnson has more than 450 life-size cast bronze works featured in city parks and museums worldwide including in London, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Kiev, Sydney, and Osaka. Often hailed as “America’s most popular sculptor;” he was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2013.

The retrospective at Grounds for Sculpture includes works indoors and out. One of the most monumental pieces is The Awakening, a 70-foot long giant emerging from the earth whose 17-foot arm extends dramatically into the sky. For this and other works such as his interactive rendition of Mona Lisa called A Reason to Smile, and Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring á la Johnson titled The Nature of Obsession, you will have to visit Grounds for Sculpture before the show ends on July 1. For more information, visit www.groundsforsculpture.org.

“Seward Johnson in New York, Selections From the Retrospective” at Garment District plazas on Broadway, between 38th Street and 39th Street, will run until September 15.

MEET CULEX PIPIENS: Although it’s only three to seven millimeters long, the common house mosquito, Culex pipiens pipiens, can not only feed on human blood it can spread the West Nile virus. Given the chance, it’s the female of the species that feeds on the blood of birds and humans, while males enjoy pollen, nectar, and plant juices. The one shown here is about to strike. Clearly it doesn’t live in Mercer County, which runs a highly sophisticated Mosquito Control program said to be on the cutting edge of mosquito management. So be thankful you’re not in London, England, where a subspecies Culex pipiens molestus lives in the London Underground. Mercer Counthy residents can call on mosquito inspectors to help with their mosquito problems. (Photo from Shutterstock)

MEET CULEX PIPIENS: Although it’s only three to seven millimeters long, the common house mosquito, Culex pipiens pipiens, can not only feed on human blood it can spread the West Nile virus. Given the chance, it’s the female of the species that feeds on the blood of birds and humans, while males enjoy pollen, nectar, and plant juices. The one shown here is about to strike. Clearly it doesn’t live in Mercer County, which runs a highly sophisticated Mosquito Control program said to be on the cutting edge of mosquito management. So be thankful you’re not in London, England, where a subspecies Culex pipiens molestus lives in the London Underground. Mercer Counthy residents can call on mosquito inspectors to help with their mosquito problems. (Photo from Shutterstock)

It’s that time of year again. Recent rains have not only been good for gardens, they have provided the perfect conditions for mosquitos to breed. This week is National Mosquito Awareness Week (June 21 through June 27) and Mercer County has been deep into its Mosquito Control Program since mid-March when Dr. Insuk Unlu, who supervises the program, began looking at the insects during their larval stage.

“Adult surveillance began the first week of May,” said Ms. Unlu. “Ninety percent of our operations involve larviciding to prevent adults from emerging, and when there is a need, we target adult mosquitoes with insecticides only as a last resort.”

The County has also started a program of countywide disease surveillance and a multi-year study of the Asian Tiger mosquito. “We conduct operational research to better fine-tune our control measure,” said Ms. Unlu, adding that research conducted by the program has found drain pipes to be a major habitat for the Asian Tiger. “We have modified our control measures to take these habitats into consideration.”

But even though the County runs a highly sophisticated Mosquito Control program, Mercer County Executive and Princeton resident Brian M. Hughes noted in a recent press release that mosquitoes remain a reality in the area throughout the warmer months. He urges residents to be vigilant about emptying vessels that contain water and can attract mosquitoes.

“Our nationally recognized Mosquito Control operation is on the cutting edge of mosquito management,” said Mr. Hughes. “To ameliorate the risks from mosquitos to local residents, our office practices what is known as Integrated Mosquito Management (or IMM) to suppress mosquito populations in Mercer County; both larval and adult surveillance programs are the backbone of our operations.”

In addition, said Mr. Hughes, the program responds to residents who call for help. “Traditionally, every spring our inspectors treat mosquito habitats such as flooded areas, woodland pools, and catch basins for mosquito larvae. They also respond to every service opportunity they receive and take measures to help residents with their mosquito problems,” he said.

Along with mosquitoes, Mr. Hughes urges residents to familiarize themselves with tick species that can put them at risk for severe illnesses such as West Nile virus, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme disease.

Dr. Unlu advises the following measures all summer long to keep mosquito numbers low:

  • Empty out water from containers in and around your backyard such as buckets, recycle bins, and potted plant saucers
  • Store tires indoors or away from rain; check for tire recycling programs in your area
  • Empty and replace water at least once for bird baths
  • Do not forget water plus 7 days equals mosquitoes
  • Make sure drain pipes slope downward. These drain pipes are dominated by Asian tiger mosquito immatures, and this species is an aggressive day biter
  • Maintain your pool. Remove water from tarps and pool covers.

“Residents can use any repellent endorsed by the EPA and CDC,” said Ms. Unlu. “My personal favorite one is oil of lemon eucalyptus followed by DEET and picaridin.”

“Eliminating standing water is probably the most important thing to remember when preventing or controlling mosquito problems,” said Joe Conlon of the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA), which advocates the suppression of mosquitoes for the health of the public at large, and is headquartered in Mount Laurel. “Keep it in the back of your mind during all outdoor activities—even remember to irrigate lawns and gardens carefully to prevent water from standing for several days,” he said. AMCA has a handy trick for Mosquito Awareness Week: bear in mind the Three D’s of prevention: Drain, Dress and Defend.

Drain water containers at least once per week; Dress in long sleeves, long pants, and light-colored, loose-fitting clothing; and Defend the home by keeping windows, doors and porches tightly screened. Mr. Conlon also recommends the use of oil of lemon-eucalyptus.

For more information, contact Mercer County Mosquito Control (609) 530-7516.

With the end of an archeological survey on the site where it plans to build housing for its faculty, the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), looked ready to announce preparations for the construction last week.

A press briefing was called for members of the media on June 17. But at the last minute, the briefing was cancelled and a statement issued instead.

According to the statement, the Institute has reached an agreement with the Princeton Battlefield Area Preservation Society (PBS) under which work at the 7-acre site close to the Princeton Battlefield State Park will be limited to construction of a security fence.

An Institute spokesperson said that the press briefing is to be rescheduled for a later date in July, pending the outcome of a suit brought by the Battlefield Society.

In the meantime, both IAS and PBS have agreed to keep mum.

“The parties agree that there will be no public statements about the agreement and the schedule of construction activities until that time,” said the IAS spokesperson.

The court ruling is expected next month. Until then, work on the housing project is on hold.

The housing project has faced several legal battles over the years.

PBS has long opposed the Institute’s plans for seven single-family homes and two four-unit
townhouses. They have raised environmental concerns and argued that building on the site would destroy a part of the battlefield where British and American forces fought in January 1777 during the Revolutionary War.

The Princeton Planning Board, however, unanimously approved the project last November.

Then, in January, the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission, which oversees and manages the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park and protects the streams that feed into the canal, heard arguments from PBS that construction at the site would negatively impact wetlands.

After reviewing the Institute’s plans and hearing from both sides, the DRCC voted on the issue. The six commissioners present voted 3-2 in favor of the IAS. There was one abstention. According to the DRCC’s rules, four votes are necessary for approval. So, the IAS plans failed to gain approval.

But in February, the DRCC commissioner Mark Texel, who had abstained in January, brought a motion to reconsider the previous month’s vote. This second vote approved the Institute’s plans by a majority of 5 to 2 votes.

Having received the DRCC’s approval, the Institute looked ready to move ahead with its plans following the completion of an archaeological study.

Calling the second vote “an illegal do-over,” however, PBS attorney Bruce Afran challenged the reversal of the DRCC decision on behalf of the Battlefield Society, arguing the illegality of revoting after the agency had denied the application.

In March, Mr. Afran also filed an appeal of the Princeton Planning Board’s approval in Mercer County Superior Court.

At the time of his appeal of the DRCC ruling, Mr. Afran said that “If overturned, it would leave the Institute with few options.”

Archeological Report

When the Institute received approval from the Princeton Planning Board, it agreed to carry out an archaeological survey at the site in advance of construction. That survey, the third at the site, has just been completed.

Last week, the Institute released a report on the survey’s findings.

Conducted by the archeological firm, the Ottery Group, in stages over the past year, the survey is documented in an interim report available on the IAS website (www.ias.edu).

The report includes details of the survey’s methodology and technologies, including magnetometry, electromagnetic induction, ground-penetrating radar, 122 shovel test pits, three test excavations and two complete metal detection surveys. It describes the site, known as Maxwell’s Field, as “a significant archeological site and historic landscape associated with the Battle of Princeton.”

Of the 663 artifacts collected, ten related to the Battle of Princeton: five musket balls and five pieces of grapeshot. These artifacts, together with those recovered from previous surveys of the site will be analyzed and then transferred to the State of New Jersey.

The Institute’s archaeological protocol provides that an archaeologist will be on site to monitor construction activity that might encounter additional artifacts.

A link to the report is available on the Institute’s website: https://www.ias.edu/ias-statement-faculty-housing.