August 1, 2012

A petition to prevent legislation that would exempt New Jersey’s private colleges and universities from municipal land use oversight is circulating among members of local government and the public. As of press time on Tuesday, more than 600 signatures had been collected on the petition created by the American Planning Association’s New Jersey Chapter, with many local names on the list.

Princeton Borough Mayor Yina Moore brought up the petition at last week’s meeting of Borough Council. She urged members of the public to sign the document, which is accessible through the Princeton Borough website or at www.change.org and to contact members of the Assembly committee to which the bill has been referred. “We need to oppose this bill and assure that our community has a balance and diversity,” she said.

Mayor Moore, Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner, and the mayors of nine other New Jersey towns that are home to private colleges sent an open letter last month to the state Senate, encouraging them to reject the bill. Known formally as New Jersey Assembly Bill Number 2586 and Senate Bill Number 1534, the measure would allow institutions such as Princeton University to bypass local zoning codes under the Municipal Land Use Law. The Senate version of the bill passed on June 28, and the Assembly bill has been referred to that body’s Higher Education Committee.

A form letter on the website that citizens can send to legislators reads, “We call on members of the New Jersey Legislature to oppose this bill, which undermines the role and voice of citizens and taxpayers in the future of their own towns Й A-2586 would establish a very troublesome precedent for communities across the State.”

The legislation has been opposed by The New Jersey State League of Municipalities. Those opposed say that the local approval model is best because it promotes collaborative planning with input from the public and results in more public confidence in the process. Private universities and colleges in New Jersey currently need planning and zoning approvals from their municipalities, while public institutions do not. Public institutions can go to local municipalities for a courtesy review, which is non-binding.

Bob Durkee, Princeton University Vice-President and Secretary, said this week that private institutions such as Princeton University have a strong interest in keeping communities attractive and appealing, and are therefore unlikely to build developments that detract from them. “We understand the arguments for the bill,” he said. “But we will be responsible developers whether this bill passes or not.”

He added, “I know there is concern about opening the door to potential development that would be contrary to the interest of the community. But these institutions are all firmly embedded in their communities and care deeply about quality of life in those communities. It’s very important in recruiting faculty and staff. It’s not likely that any of them would propose developments that wouldn’t enhance the quality of life in their communities.”

Mr. Durkee pointed out that while the University’s experiences in dealing with the Princeton Regional Planning Board have been positive, recent efforts to achieve zoning approval from Borough Council, for the planned arts and transit neighborhood, have been difficult.

Mayor Goerner commented, “Working together with people and living together in one community can be difficult. But it doesn’t mean you change the rules to make it easier for you. That’s what democracy is all about — coming together and coming to solutions that work. The fact is that we are a community and will continue to be. This bill would change that dynamic and have very negative consequences on our town.”


In a victory for property owners on East Nassau Street, Princeton Borough Council last Tuesday voted to introduce an ordinance that could change zoning on the south side of the street. The measure, which would allow banks to set up shop in the zone, will next go to the Planning Board for review and then return to Borough Council for reconsideration.

Not all Council members were in favor of introducing the ordinance. Barbara Trelstad and Roger Martindell voiced their opposition, but were outvoted by Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, and Kevin Wilkes. Mr. Martindell said he didn’t think the community would benefit from the ordinance’s broad scope, which would permit not just banks, but other types of financial institutions. “I think we’re going to rue the day that we did this,” he said. Ms. Trelstad said she felt the measure was being rushed. “If we had given more time to our staff, we could have come up with a better ordinance,” she said.

Marty Schneiderman, who lives on Murray Place, agreed with the dissenting Council members. He said that he and other neighborhood residents feel there are enough financial institutions already in the area, and that businesses that are active at night, such as restaurants, would be preferable.

But business owners whose properties have been vacant for years disagreed that the ordinance was being rushed. “Two buildings on Nassau Street have been vacant for six or seven years,” said Robert Bratman, who owns the former West Coast Video store. “They were furniture stores, a Wawa, a video store, drug stores, Davidson’s Market, Wild Oats. For the Council to sit here and talk about limiting the uses when clearly the economy is struggling — we are going to continue to have empty, vacant buildings.”

Mr. Bratman added that another plus for allowing banks is that their parking lots can be used at night by patrons of local restaurants. His comments were followed by enthusiastic applause from members of the public.

Lou Carnevale, who owns the building that housed Davidson’s, Wild Oats, and Olive May markets, said it is unrealistic to not allow banks because he needs an anchor business, such as a bank, to get the property rented. Mr. Carnevale said at the last Council meeting that TD Bank is waiting in the wings to occupy a portion of the site.

“The zoning is so restrictive,” he said. “Sure, everyone wants these small stores. But they don’t necessarily bring diversity. They can bring the same kind of stores. You just approved a Subway store a few doors away from Hoagie Haven. That is not variety. That is conformity. I need a bank to anchor the site or I can’t build, and I won’t build. It is going to remain as it is.”

Other members of the Carnevale family also spoke in favor of the ordinance. “We pay taxes of almost $80,000 a year and it is killing us,” said Elizabeth Carnevale. “This has been going on way too long. It’s time for you to do the right thing.”

The Council members who voted in favor of the ordinance said that leaving the buildings vacant was not good for the neighborhood. “In reality, we have two vacant properties that have failed,” said Ms. Crumiller. “It does seem to me that smaller stores are less popular.”

The ordinance says that banks in the zone can be no closer than 500 feet from each other, and that no outdoor dining can be in areas adjacent to residential zones.


July 25, 2012

Construction and renovation crews have been a significant presence this summer in downtown Princeton and area malls. Change is underway at several retail and restaurant establishments. Much of Quaker Bridge Mall has been involved in construction, and several new tenants have been announced for neighboring MarketFair.

In Princeton Borough, crews have been busy for months gutting the inside of the former Lahiere’s restaurant on Witherspoon Street. Construction workers at the site say an American restaurant with a long bar is being installed, but an official announcement of just what establishment is moving in has yet to be made.

Up a stairway behind Redding Plumbing on East Nassau Street, there was good news this week for patrons of the Nearly New Shop, a fixture in town since the 1940s. Moira Mittnacht, who worked in the store for 12 years, has taken it over from Princeton Day School. The school announced this spring that it was going to close the shop, which was founded as a fund raiser. Ms. Mittnacht plans to reopen it the day after Labor Day.

“I just couldn’t walk away from it,” she said Tuesday morning as she shoved several bulging bags of clothing, to be picked up by the Rescue Mission, out the door. “Yesterday was bag sale day so we’re really cleaned out, but we’ll have plenty when we open again in September.”

The Nearly New Shop sells used clothing, small appliances, and books for bargain prices. Patrons range from needy residents and workers in the area to Princeton University students and professors. “The kids in the eating clubs really depend on us for their parties that have different themes,” Ms. Mittnacht said. “They email me with their party themes, and I’ll save stuff for them. Like if they’re having an 80’s night, I know what to put aside.”

Many low-income workers in the area count on the store for clothing. “Everything is clean and in good condition,” Ms. Mittnacht said. “I always have a rack of tee-shirts for a dollar, for guys who are mowing lawns.”

Ms. Mittnacht began volunteering in the shop when her children were students at PDS. The school decided to close the shop last spring in order to focus on other fund raising projects. “I’m not sure they realized the impact the store has on the community,” she said. “You wouldn’t believe the letters we were getting. People were so upset. This is a place they can shop with dignity, for quality clothing.”

Ms. Mittnacht is in the process of cleaning, decorating, and restocking the shop. She is meeting with local business people to get advice on whether to remain a non-profit, and how to continue to donate some proceeds to PDS. The store did not accept credit cards in the past, but will do so when it reopens. Hours will change slightly, opening at 11 a.m. instead of 10 a.m. Ms. Mittnacht is considering whether to make room in the shop for a seamstress.

“It’s my goal to keep the prices low and the quality high, and to just keep it going,” she said. “We’ll have all new stuff for fall.”

Palmer Square

On Palmer Square, the store that formerly housed Banana Republic is being turned into Brooks Brothers, with an expected October opening. Banana Republic has moved to MarketFair. Urban Outfitters is expected to move in November into the former Talbot’s store on Nassau Street, while Talbot’s is consolidating with its second store, formerly Talbot’s Petites, just a few doors down. Urban Outfitters will occupy two floors of the building. Talbot’s was using the second floor space for offices and storage.

Anita Fresolone of Palmer Square Management said that the announcements a few months ago of Brooks Brothers and Urban Outfitters on the office’s Facebook page generated positive feedback. “It was one of the larger responses we’ve gotten; dozens and dozens of ‘likes,’” she said. “All ages responded. We’re bringing two totally different concepts opening within a few months of each other.”

Other Palmer Square changes include the expansion of Lace Silhouettes into the spot where Bucks County Dry Goods has been located, with that store moving up the street. “That’s a success story, and we like that,” said Ms. Fresolone. “It’s a store that has been here a long time and is moving to a larger location.”

A new restaurant called Mistral is moving into the spot formerly occupied by the restaurant Zen, and before that, Ichiban, in the small strip mall at Witherspoon and Hulfish streets. This is a co-venture of Scott Anderson, the chef at nearby elements, and businessman Steve Distler, elements’ co-owner. Set to open sometime this fall, the restaurant will have about 45 seats inside with the possibility of another 40 outside. It will not have a liquor license.

Mr. Anderson told the website eater.com earlier this month that the restaurant will be casual and serve small plates. “You won’t be able to classify it as tapas or any other type of cuisine,” he said. “We’ll be doing the interpretive American cooking I’ve always talked about …. The kids from Princeton can come in and eat, or even high-schoolers who want a nice night out or are on a date.”

Mistral will have a wood-fired oven and raw bar. Mr. Anderson is working on a charcuterie program and several pastas for the menu, according to the website.

Quaker Bridge Mall

Much of Quaker Bridge Mall has been covered in protective plastic this summer as crews work on a new look for the 36-year-old shopping center in Lawrence Township on Route 1. While the anchor stores Lord & Taylor, Sears, Macy’s, and J.C. Penney will remain, several changes are underway. New retailers include Michael Kors, Pandora, Sephora, Sur le Table, Teavana, Ann Taylor, H&M, and Brighton Collectibles. The Cheesecake Factory restaurant is under construction. Another eatery will also be coming to the mall, but mall marketing director Marian Kapp declined to name it because negotiations are still ongoing.

“We’re getting new tiles, new railings, ceilings, skylights, and landscaping,” she said. “The mall obviously needed a facelift. We originally announced a renovation a few years ago but the scope changed slightly. There is a demand in the market for fashion-forward stores. We get that request constantly. We were listening to our customers.”

The question of whether the Nordstrom and Neiman-Marcus stores will come to the mall, as originally announced, is “on hold,” Ms. Kapp said. The mall will have a new food court on the upper level, in space that formerly housed part of the Old Navy store and other retail space. Ms. Kapp preferred not to say which eateries will be installed in the court, since negotiations are not complete.

MarketFair

Across Route 1 and slightly north is MarketFair, where four new restaurants, the West Elm furniture store, and a relocated and retooled Barnes & Noble are part of the changes targeted for the next two years. Valet parking and new business fronts are part of the plan for a village-like atmosphere.

The new Barnes & Noble “flagship” store will open in September 2013 under the company’s new design, which is focused on e-books and new publishing technology, but will still sell books. The bookstore, which will remain open during the renovations, will relocate to the north end of the mall.

The new restaurants Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze will be placed in the location currently occupied by Barnes & Noble. Eastern Mountain Sports will also be moved from its current spot to the existing Barnes & Noble space. Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace and Qdoba will be located in the mall’s west corridor near West Elm, which is being built out in the former food court space. The food court closed in late April. MarketFair officials declined to comment on whether the food court will be relocated and reopened.

The mall opened in 1986. Princeton architect Michael Graves designed new interior and exterior touches in 2008, beginning the makeover that is expected to be completed at the end of 2014.


A dramatic car fire drew crews and equipment from several local departments to the intersection of Spring and Witherspoon Streets for several hours on Saturday afternoon.

Princeton Borough Police Lieutenant Sharon Papp said that the car’s driver, Jaime Geter, later reported having seen smoke emanate from the hood of the 1999 green Dodge Stratus several times after the thermostat was replaced. Fire Inspector Ron DiLapo concluded that there was nothing suspicious about Saturday’s fire.

No one was hurt in the blaze, which destroyed the car it originated in, melted the parking meter next to it, cracked a large glass window at Tico’s Eatery and Juice Bar, and charred the nearby pavement. Tico’s remained closed on Monday afternoon, with a sign on the door reading “we need to clean and get rid of the smoke in the dining room.” The smell of smoke was still evident outside, as well.

Princeton Borough Police received a call about the fire at 2:35 p.m., Lieutenant Papp reported. As officers arrived on the scene, she said, the vehicle was smoking and some flames were visible. When using a fire extinguisher from one of the patrol cars failed to put the fire out, Lieutenant Papp noted, firemen were called in.

In addition to Mr. DiLapo and Princeton Hook & Ladder, respondents included companies from Plainsboro and South Brunswick, she reported.

“It was weird,” said Zach Smith who was in his Spring Street store, Cool Vines, when the fire occurred. In his account, employees from Tico’s “called it in,” but “it took 20 minutes for two Borough police officers to arrive.”

Mr. Smith and Savory Spice Shop owner/operator Jon Hauge reported “a lot of onlookers” stopping to watch the fire and the efforts to contain it. “They were probably too close,” suggested Mr. Smith, noting that “everyone had their cell phones out.” Both stores remained open, and Mr. Smith reported “a pretty reasonable day” of business despite the temporary street closing. Ms. Papp reported that Spring Street was reopened at 5:43 p.m., after the vehicle was towed from the scene.

Ms. Geter said that she and a friend had gone into Chuck’s Spring Street Café. After 15 minutes, they emerged to see the smoking car. Fire Inspector DiLapo was not able to determine the cause of of the fire because of the extent of the damage to the car, which was described as “beyond repair.”

Fire Department officials said that they had no information to report and referred queries about the fire to the Borough Police.

Princeton Democratic Headquarters for this year’s presidential election will open on or about September 1 at 217 Nassau Street, in the rear of a building just across the street from St. Paul’s Church.

“It’s a great, walkable location near the center of town,” enthused Princeton Democratic Community Organization (PCDO) President Dan Preston at a Sunday afternoon picnic sponsored by the organization at the Harrison Street Park.

Until a few weeks ago, the difficult real estate market made for some uncertainty about even having an office this year, Mr. Preston reported. Princeton resident Jan Weinberg came to the rescue by offering the Nassau Street site at a price that couldn’t be refused. Mr. Preston said that he paid the rent out of his own pocket using a single bill with George Washington’s picture on it.

In 2008, Princeton Democratic Headquarters were located on the second floor of 162 Nassau Street, above Nassau Interiors.

The Sunday event included what Mr. Preston described as “eating, drinking, juggling, game-playing, socializing, hearing from our candidates, and hootenannying.” Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) also made an appearance.

Committeewoman Sue Nemeth struck a gracious note as she introduced Marie Corfield, who defeated Ms. Nemeth in a bid for the Democratic nomination to represent the 16th district in the State Assembly. “Don’t feel disloyal,” Ms. Nemeth counseled her supporters as she urged them to get behind Ms. Corfield’s campaign.

Kids played with hula hoops, people refilled their plates, and enthusiasm ran high as Mr. Holt acknowledged the size of Sunday’s turnout in his comments.

Mercer County Freeholder Sam Frisby praised Princeton for voting to consolidate last November. “Princeton showed us how to do it,” he observed, describing other communities’ growing interest as a result.

Township Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert, the Democrats’ nominee for mayor of the consolidated municipality, who was a key local organizer for the 2008 Obama campaign, said that current obligations would keep her from participating as actively this time. She expressed optimism at the “good progress” being made toward consolidation, as staff “embrace it” and “long-standing issues are viewed with a new perspective.”

July 18, 2012

Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi and Acting Township Administrator Kathy Monzo will be the Administrator and Deputy Administrator, respectively, of the consolidated Princeton government, effective January 1, 2013.

At a joint meeting on Monday evening, Borough Council and Township Committee members unanimously endorsed the Transition Task Force’s Personnel Committee recommendation, which provides, they believe, for “a team approach.” Mr. Bruschi’s appointment is for one year until he retires; the length of Ms. Monzo’s tenure was not specified. Before replacing Administrator Jim Pasacale, who retired earlier this year, Ms. Monzo was the Township’s Chief Financial Officer, and it was suggested that her new responsibilities as Deputy Administrator include serving as Director of Finance in the new government. This two-person solution, it was noted, comes at no additional cost to the new municipality.

Members of both governing bodies praised Mr. Bruschi’s and Ms. Monzo’s years of service, leadership skills, and readiness for their new jobs.

Although his appointment as Police Chief of the new municipality was already in place, Borough Police Chief Dave Dudeck was given an opportunity on Monday evening to answer questions and talk about his hopes for the future.

“The most important thing is that we meld the two departments together,” said Mr. Dudeck in response to Township Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert’s question about the “biggest challenge” he sees ahead. He described differences between the current Borough and Township Police Departments not as negatives, but as representing different styles of policing that may have been determined by the demands of each municipality. He cited the tradition of more foot patrol officers in the Borough than the Township as an example, and promised to deal with “cultural differences” by “opening lines of communication.” He returned to this theme several times, adding a description of “one-on-one” meetings and concern for professional development in response to Borough Councilwoman Jo Butler’s question about “specific things being done to integrate the forces.”

Township Committeewoman Sue Nemeth wondered what residents “should expect from new police department.” Calling it “a great question,” Mr. Dudeck emphasized a “very professional department,” where “integrity is of the utmost importance” and officers interact with citizens, rather than just “hiding in a car.” He noted that one side of policing is community service, while the other side is when “tragedy” occurs. “We will be there for you,” he said.

Flanked by representatives from KSS architects who served as consultants, Facilities and Assets subcommittee chair Bernie Miller charted the steps that led to recommendations regarding utilization of the Township and Borough Halls under the new administration, and, after some discussion, both governing boards approved the plan. Mr. Miller noted that, in the interest of doing away with old perceptions, the committee had begun to use different names for the two buildings, referring to them, for example, as the “Witherspoon Building” and the “Monument Building,” respectively.

Among the sticking points was a “third option” solution that locates offices for the mayor and administrator in the Witherspoon Building, with a “satellite” office in the Monument Building. Borough Councilman Roger Martindell wondered if two sets of offices for the mayor and administrator ran counter to the notion of consolidation.

Space considerations led to the recommendation that the new Police Department be housed in the Witherspoon Building where, for convenience sake, the court facilities would also be located. “Community-oriented” departments like Affordable Housing and Health will go the Monument Building, where they may be joined by TV30 and Corner House. A request for space from the Princeton Senior Resource Center was submitted “too late” for consideration in this round of recommendations, but Mr. Miller suggested that something could be “worked out” in the future.

Another recommendation, authorizing administrators to request a proposal from KSS for the new offices was also approved, but there was some disagreement about the wisdom of a recommendation that leaves management of the project to “the professional staff.” Borough Councilman Kevin Wilkes suggested that administrators’ “plates were already full,” and that there are professional construction managers available to coordinate such projects. It was noted that the wording of the recommendation did not preclude that option, and it was passed.


The future of a stretch of East Nassau Street once known as “gasoline alley” was the focus of a meeting of Princeton Borough Council last Tuesday, July 10. The question of whether to allow banks in the area took up much of the discussion of a draft ordinance that would change the zoning of businesses between Olden Street and Murray Place from service business (SB) to neighborhood business (NB), which is the zoning for the opposite side of that portion of Nassau Street.

Some officials and neighborhood residents have expressed opposition to allowing banks on that side, preferring the mix of retail and restaurants that exists across the street. Others, such as business owner Lou Carnevale, would welcome banks to the location. Mr. Carnevale has been paying taxes for five years on the empty building that previously housed the Wild Oats market, and he is anxious to bring in TD Bank, which he said is interested in opening a branch in the first floor space.

“I need an anchor, a triple-A tenant,” he said during the public comment segment of the meeting. Mr. Carnevale added that he would like to have a variety of businesses in the building, but he can’t get financing without a major tenant such as TD Bank. “I have tenants that want to sign, but I can’t keep them forever,” he said. The second floor of the building would have offices.

A survey conducted by Princeton Future last year indicated that many neighborhood residents would like the space to house an establishment in the style of Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. What they didn’t want, the survey revealed, was banks, fast food restaurants, or a laundromat. But during ensuing public meetings, some residents said they would be in favor of banks that were up to 5,000 square feet.

Linda Fahmie of ROI Realty, who represents the Carnevale family, said that TD Bank would fit into the neighborhood because it wants “a community orientation,” and would like to install a mural depicting historic Princeton on a wall of the facility. The branch would be 4,500 square feet, Mr. Carnevale said.

Councilman Kevin Wilkes suggested that there be 500 feet between any banks that are brought onto the street, “to limit banks on top of banks.” He was opposed to the idea of limiting the frontage of banks or other types of financial institution to 25 feet, because it could affect the design.

Also discussed was the idea of adding a boutique hotel to the mix. “That could be an interesting addition to the neighborhood,” commented Council member Barbara Trelstad. Lee Solow, Princeton’s Planning Director, voiced concerns about traffic and deliveries. But he said he would look into the matter further.

Ms. Fahmie commented that a hotel might work if it were considered as a conditional use in the zone, meaning it would have to meet certain standards. Andrea Stine, who lives on Murray Place, expressed concerns about a hotel because it would bring tourists to the neighborhood, making it “very transient.”

Area business owner Jack Morrison disagreed. “We won’t have a flop hotel,” he said, using the 16-room Peacock Inn on Bayard Lane as an example of a quality boutique hotel. “Let the market forces get down there,” he said, adding that offering more opportunities for entrepreneurs would energize the area.

Alexi Assmus, a neighborhood resident, encouraged the Council to establish small spaces on the street so that small business owners can afford to operate there. She also suggested that new businesses be LEED-certified. Responding to concerns expressed about traffic, she said, “One of the things we’re forgetting in these discussions is that 8,000 students from Princeton University use the restaurants [on East Nassau Street], all of whom walk.”

David Kinsey of Aiken Avenue said there are already eight banks on the north side of Nassau Street between Bank Street and Scott Lane. “I wonder what major national bank is not represented in the community,” he said. “The one flaw in the ordinance is opening [the street] up to banks. How many more do we need? I ask you to think really carefully about opening the south side to banks.”

Borough Council will revisit the ordinance at its meeting July 24.


The University Medical Center at Princeton scored 39th among the 62 New Jersey hospitals listed in Consumer Reports’ (CR) recent (August 2012) “Ratings of Hospital Safety” (consumerreports.org).

“Hospitals should be places you go to get better, but too often the opposite happens,” begins the CR report, a sobering fact that appears to have played out in the recent death of 12-year-old Rory Staunton from septic shock in a New York City hospital.

“We believe it is important to give consumers access to information they need to make informed choices about their healthcare, so we support efforts such as the recent Consumer Reports (CR) safety rankings,” said Princeton Healthcare System President and CEO Barry S. Rabner in an email.К“Unfortunately, the rankings relied on some older data and failed to reflect recent improvements.”

Mr. Rabner did not mention the hospital’s move on May 22 to a larger, improved facility, but noted that “our hospital has madeКsignificant improvements over the past few years related to several items factored into the rankings, including infection control, communication with patients regarding their medications, and communication prior to discharge.

“In fact, within the past 10 months, two independent organizations whose purpose is to evaluate the safety and quality of healthcare have given our hospital care their highest marks,” he added.

In a web-based list of “Quick Facts,” the hospital, now known as the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, notes that the new facility includes “231 single patient rooms with welcoming décor and amenities that reduce stress and anxiety, while minimizing hospital-acquired infections, improving patient safety, enhancing privacy, improving communications and confidentiality, and speeding recovery.”

The hospital safety rating was a first for CR, which reported “using the most current data available to us at the time of our analysis.” This included information from government and independent sources on 1,159 hospitals in 44 states. They also reportedly interviewed patients, physicians, hospital administrators, and safety experts; reviewed medical literature; and looked at hospital inspections and investigations.

A hospital’s “safety score,” according to Consumer Reports, results when six categories of hospital safety are combined into a score between 1 and 100.

Four measures of safety were actually cited in the list, which was arranged by state. Out of five scores, with five being the best and one the worst, Princeton scored two for infections; two for readmissions; one for communication; and four for scanning. The highest-scoring hospital in the state was Deborah Heart and Lung Center in Browns Mills, followed by Newton Medical Center in Newton. The lowest score went to Kimball Medical Center in Lakewood, followed by JFK Medical Center in Edison.


July 12, 2012

THE CLEAN-UP: On Monday a crew removed a large tree that had crashed into the master bedroom of a house at 80 Woodside Drive.

Saturday evening surely was a dark and stormy night for Princeton; after a day of record heat, a fast-moving, severe thunderstorm rocked the area, leaving power outages and road closures in its wake.

Township Police reported that they responded to 65 calls for service over a six-and-one-half hour period on the evening of July 7. The calls ranged from alarm activations to transformer fires. The east side of the Township appeared to be hardest hit: in all, there were 25 road closures, 15 of them due to downed power lines. Road closures were necessary in some areas, and power outages were widespread throughout the east side of the Township. As of Monday morning, police reported, all roads in the Township had been cleared and were reopened, and there were no reports of power outages.

Now comes the clean-up.

The first order of business, reported Township Superintendent of Public Works Donald R. Hansen, was to clear streets that were blocked by fallen trees. “We cut up, and pushed trees off to the side” as quickly as possible, said Mr. Hansen. Where wires were involved, work had to be postponed until PSE&G came to turn the power off. “They were very responsive this time,” Mr. Hanson reported.

The next order of business is to clear away the trees and branches that fell in residents’ back yards as a result of the storm. Although there is no definite date yet, Mr. Hansen thought residents would be asked to bring tree limbs and other debris to the curb for a brush pick-up in the near future.

Mr. Hanson corroborated the report that most of the damage had occurred in the eastern section of the Township, between Harrison Street and River Road.

Herrontown Road resident Jessica Weigmann also confirmed this report.

“The damage was very localized,” she noted. “It was almost as if a line of wind came shooting through at a very direct angle, like a wind shear or a tornado.” The line of demarcation was precise; the Weigmann’s and several nearby houses experienced severe tree damage, while others across the street had just “a few twigs” come down. Amazingly, Ms. Weigmann said, no one was hurt and there was no apparent damage to area houses or cars. More amazingly, perhaps, is the fact that properties that were damaged did not lose power in spite of having been hit so hard. Other neighborhoods did not fare so well; at 80 Woodside Drive a large tree crashed through the roof and into the master bedroom.

Ms. Wiegmann, whose family has lived in their house since 1974, thought that the clean up would take weeks. Although a large fallen tree that blocked Herrontown Road was cleaned up by midnight on Saturday, “enormous trees” remain in the area, she said. Bringing these trees curbside for a brush pickup, she thought, is not a likely possibility.


There were two recent announcements of interest for commuters and other motorists who use Rosedale Road (CR 604), and for those looking for spaces in the Community Park Pool lot.

Drivers are cautioned that on or about Monday, July 16, milling and resurfacing work will begin on Rosedale Road from Province Line Road to Constitution Hill. The Mercer County Department of Transportation anticipates that the work will take approximately ten working days to complete, weather permitting.

During construction, this section of Rosedale Road will be closed to traffic from approximately 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., weekdays only. Eastbound traffic will travel from southbound Elm Road, to right on Route 206 south, to right on Province Line Road and follow to Rosedale Road. Westbound traffic will travel southbound Province Line Road, to left on Route 206 south, to left on Elm Road and follow to Rosedale Road. Emergency access and access for businesses and residents would be permitted during this time.

Although the official announcement warned motorists to expect delays in the construction area,КTownship Engineer Robert Kiser said that he anticipates “minimal” traffic problems as the work goes on. “They’re going to keep one lane open for local traffic,” he commented. “Residents and institutions that are located along Rosedale Road will be able to get in and out, except, perhaps, for when the paving crew is right in front of their entrance. Then there may be a half hour delay.”

The Princeton Public Schools have advised those needing to visit Johnson Park Elementary School during this period to “tell the police officer who is managing the detour that you will be visiting the school.” Other institutions in the area include the Princeton Boychoir School and Educational Testing Service.

With temperatures breaking the 100-degree mark last week and record numbers of area residents and other visitors heading to the Community Park (CP) Pool, finding a parking spot in the lot there has become a challenge.

“It is very important that all pool users pay attention to and comply with all posted parking rules/signs within the CP Pool parking lot and surrounding areas,” said Recreation Department Executive Director Ben Stentz.

“Safety is our top priority,” he noted.

Maintaining clear routes for emergency vehicles of any kind “is paramount for the pool facility,” added Mr. Stentz. Parking in areas marked as “No Parking,” “No Standing/Stopping,” or “Drop-off only” creates “a dangerous situation for all pool members, for the staff, and for the emergency response personnel who might need to access the facility at any moment.”

Those concerned with parking at the pool are encouraged to visit a map of the CP lot and its vicinity that was recently posted on the Recreation Department’s website. It points out that additional parking is available in the lots behind the tennis courts and Community Park School, and that on-street parking may be found on nearby areas of Witherspoon Street, Valley Road, and Guyot Lane.

“I understand that parking has been tough due to the increased membership at the new pool,” commented Mr. Stentz. “I appreciate everyone’s enthusiasm for the new facility and I’m thrilled that so many members of our community choose to spend their time at the pool.” Again, though, he emphasized, “safety is the number one goal.”


Film fans who prefer independent artistic features over high-decibel blockbusters have flocked for decades to the Montgomery Cinema in Rocky Hill. But the future of the theater, where movies like Certified Copy and A Separation are standard fare, is currently in question.

Blame it on digital projection, the technology to which movie theaters across the nation are converting as the movie industry phases out film in favor of digital distribution. Making the switch is expensive. And for small theaters like the Montgomery, which is still showing features shot on 35 millimeter film, the cost of converting might be too overwhelming to undertake.

“It’s under consideration,” says Bob Piechota, owner of the Montgomery Cinema since 1972. “We’ll make a decision between September and Christmas. We’re just not sure. The cost of staying in business is extremely expensive. We haven’t upped our prices. We need to do the whole place over, and to convert to digital would be $500,000. The place is small. We don’t play a lot of commercial releases, and we have very little sales from concessions.”

The National Association of Theatre Owners, or NATO, recently estimated that anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of theaters probably won’t survive the age of digital conversion. NATO’s CEO John Fithian has been quoted repeatedly with this blunt proclamation: “Convert or die.”

While there is no danger of closing Princeton’s Garden Theater on Nassau Street, whether to go digital is an ongoing topic of conversation. “We haven’t come to a decision,” says Larry Haber, an owner since 1993. The Garden runs a mix of art and regular commercial films in a building that is owned by Princeton University. “We’re talking with the University, and no definitive decision has been made there,” he says.

To help offset the expense of digital conversions, the major studios have offered a subsidy that contributes toward the cost of new equipment. But some theaters don’t qualify for the deal, because they don’t play enough first-run films. The Garden, which does, has until September 30 to decide. “The studios are paying for a big chunk of the conversion if you order and put in at least half of their projectors by then,” says Mr. Haber. “If you don’t, then you have to [eventually] pay 100 percent.”

Digital technology is programmed by computer, which eliminates the need for a projectionist. While going digital is a cost burden for small theaters, it represents huge savings for movie studios, which stand to save millions on each release because the cost of making 35 millimeter prints is eliminated.

Proponents see digital projection as a way to add alternative content like concerts, sporting events, even video games. They also view the technology as an enhancement. “Digital cinema brings consistent quality to the movie-going experience — moviegoers will see the same crispness and clarity in the movie throughout the life of its exhibition,” reads a fact sheet issued by NATO. But local proprietors aren’t so sure.

“Digital doesn’t make the experience for the theatergoer any better. Everything — the sound, the picture — is the same,” says Mr. Haber. “So it’s kind of a conundrum. What do you do? A lot of the independents have already gone digital, and a lot haven’t.”

About two thirds of theaters in the United States have converted from film to digital projection. But many are still biding their time while they decide whether they can afford the expensive conversion and stay alive.

“We’re unique,” says Mr. Piechota. “A lot of our films are not on digital, and we’re taking it as it goes. “NATO is predicting that about 10,000 screens — not theaters — will close in the next few years. Most of those really in danger are in small towns, and that would be a shame.”

The Montgomery opened in 1972 as a single-screen theater, and moved to its current location in 1995. “We switched to art about 1974, around the time that the Garden was sold to Sameric,” Mr. Piechota says. “We saw an opening to go for some of those films and we developed a clientele.”

Time will tell whether theaters like the Montgomery will be able to stay in business. While the conversion has been slowly underway for a decade, it has seen a surge in recent years. “The shakedown years will be 2012 and 2013,” says Mr. Piechota. “It’s just part of a transition that is going to happen. For us, the future is under consideration.”


July 3, 2012

An eventful joint meeting of Princeton Borough Council and Township Committee last Tuesday included the announcement of Princeton Borough Police Chief David Dudeck as the new chief for the consolidated Princeton, a unanimous vote to put the open space referendum on the November ballot, and recommendations by several sub-committees of the Transition Task Force facilitating Princeton’s transformation to a consolidated community. There was also discussion about continuing efforts to oppose the move of the Dinky station.

Among the recommendations was a move by Corner House and TV 30 from the Valley Road School building to the lower level of what is now Borough Hall. Corner House, a counseling agency for young people, would be located in the western half, while the television station known as Princeton Community Television would be on the other side. The TV station would pay rent, while Corner House, which is a municipal agency, would not.

The Transition Task Force’s facilities committee made the recommendation, which needs approval by the full task force and the governing bodies before it can be put into action. Township Committee member Bernie Miller made the presentation, following it up with a report of recommendations that Princeton’s planning, zoning, historic preservation and engineering offices be located at the Township Municipal Building on Witherspoon Street.

Councilman Roger Martindell commented that there will be two municipal buildings after consolidation, instead of one. “If we had a Borough Hall and a Township Hall before consolidation and we will have both after consolidation, it would appear on the surface that there is no shrinkage of the footprint of the municipality after consolidation,” he said. “Is that a concern?”

Councilman Kevin Wilkes said that if the Valley Road School is emptied of Corner House and TV 30, that will make it easier for the Princeton Regional Schools to decide what to do with the aging building, which has been the subject of much debate by those who want to save it and those who favor demolition.

“It does actually show a reduction of a building,” he said to Mr. Martindell. “It doesn’t happen to be this building [Borough Hall] or Township Hall. But we’ve eliminated the two reasons that 369 Witherspoon is being propped up to keep Corner House and TV 30 going. This allows us to let the future of that building come to the fore …. It would actually save money and shrink us from three buildings to two.”

Mr. Miller also proposed the centralization of sewer operations, using projections to show the different functions of current stations on John Street, River Road, Harrison Street, and Valley Road. The initial cost would be $42,000. “This is absolutely necessary in order to maintain continuity of service and the level of service in 2013,” he said. “Our facilities are out of date and not ADA-compliant. They are in the dark age of facilities.”

The selection of Mr. Dudeck as chief of police for the united Princetons was made after a unanimous recommendation by the joint personnel selection committee of the task force, assisted by a facilitator. “We should be really, really happy as a community that we have the talent we have,” said Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi of others who applied for the job. “The two other candidates brought a lot to the table. We are clearly set up well in the police department to handle succession planning with all the talented and dedicated individuals we have working for us.”

Mr. Dudeck, who was not present at the meeting but will be asked to appear at the next joint gathering of the governing bodies, has been on the Borough force for 29 years. He has been its chief since 2009. Township officers who applied for the job were Acting Chief Chris Morgan and Lieutenant Robert Toole.

The joint governing bodies’ unanimous approval of the open space referendum means that when voters go to the polls in November, they will be asked to approve an open space tax of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed property value. If voted in, the referendum would mean a small increase for Borough voters, who currently pay one cent per $100. Township voters would see a decrease, since they now pay two cents. The open space fund are used to maintain parks and recreation facilities in the Borough, and property purchases, maintenance, and debt service in the Township.

Stressing that he was not representing the task force, of which he is a member, Jim Levine offered an alternate suggestion to have a tax of two cents instead of 1.7 cents. “My concern is that there is money being spent for open space that is out of the operating budget,” he said. “I’m fully supportive of the open space tax, just with two cents.”

Consolidation Commission member Patrick Simon said raising the rate to two cents might lessen the chance for the open space referendum to be voted in. “For those who are not as enthusiastic, the perception could be that the commission made a promise, and we are spending more,” he said. “It could be perceived poorly.”

Wendy Mager of Friends of Princeton Open Space expressed support for the 1.7 cents rate. “While it is difficult to make a case that one particular number is right, it is clear that there is quite a bit of land in the master plan that we’d still like to preserve, particularly for open space,” she said. “People are very interested in increasing the number of trails in our parks.”

In discussion of Princeton University’s plan to move the Dinky terminus 460 feet south and abandoning the transit easement on the track, it was announced that a recent request made to NJ Transit for a public hearing on the issue had been rejected. NJ Transit said, in response to a letter dated June 11, that it was not obligated to hold a hearing because service was not being eliminated.

“I would like to appeal that decision,” said Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller. “It’s inappropriate for government to make such a momentous decision that affects our citizens and transfers a huge value from the public sector to the private sector without a public hearing …. The hearing is being described as being insignificant, when it’s not.”

Councilwoman Jo Butler agreed. “I’d like to see us proceed,” she said. “People think we can do something about this. This is NJ Transit. They should come and be responsive to the citizens. I would like to press them on this.”

Anita Garoniak, president of the citizens group Save the Dinky, presented a letter to Borough Council urging them not to take no for an answer.

Ms. Crumiller noted that the Council’s efforts to get an opinion from the state attorney general have been unsuccessful, and suggested they try again. “If there truly is an attorney general’s opinion, why not have a look at it?,” she asked. The Council requested an opinion from the special transit attorney as to whether the station move and abandonment of the easement requires a special hearing.

Later last week, Save the Dinky filed an appeal from a Department of Environmental Protection ruling authorizing NJ Transit to relinquish historic site protection for the station. Earlier this year, the state Historic Sites Council found that the 1984 contract of sale between Princeton University and NJ Transit was valid, and that it included the right of way and easement as long as the University pays the expenses related to moving the station. The University wants to move the station to make way for its $300 million arts and transit development. Plans include turning the station buildings into a restaurant and cafe.


A bill (S-1534) that would exempt private universities and colleges from observing local zoning rules was passed in the State Senate late last week by a vote of 25 to 8, with seven senators abstaining. It now awaits consideration, probably some time in the fall, by the Assembly.

“The Senate vote was a blow, but now we must focus our attention on the Assembly,” said Township Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert, who will run in November as the Democratic mayoral candidate for the combined municipalities in 2013.

“The purpose of municipal land use law is to protect communities from development that threatens their character and environment,” continued Ms. Lempert. “Universities provide a great service, but that doesn’t mean they should be above the law. Princeton is particularly vulnerable because there are several institutions in town Р including Princeton University, the Seminary, and Rider Р who would become exempt from land use laws under this proposed legislation, and whose unchecked development could severely damage entire neighborhoods.”

In recent weeks both Borough Council and Township Committee passed resolutions speaking out against the bill, and both Borough Mayor Yina Moore and Township Mayor Chad Goerner were among the mayors who signed an open letter to the New Jersey State Senate opposing it.

“WeКadamantly opposeКthis legislation, which undermines and usurps local decision making and severely diminishes the role of our taxpayers,” the letter began. Other signatories included the mayors of Bloomfield, Caldwell, Hackettstown, Hoboken, Jersey City, Lawrence Township (Mercer), Madison, South Orange, and West Long Branch.

“[A]s a host community of a private institution of higher education, we view our partnership with our schools as one of mutual benefit for the entire community,” the mayors wrote.К“Schools are our partnersКin planningКfor our community, and the ‘town-gown’ relationship isКaКkey to our future growth.” The letter notes that that the “‘partnership’ must be an equal one. It is ironic that the bill descriptionКtalks about equalizing private colleges and universities, since, in fact, the bill creates an unequal relationship between these institutions and their neighbors, our taxpayers.”

A spokesperson for the Institute for Advanced Study said that they did not have a comment on the success of the bill in the State Senate.

Princeton University Vice President and Secretary Robert Durkee referred to remarks he had made earlier in the week at a Township Committee meeting. “Since all colleges and universities exist to serve the public good, we believe it is appropriate to equalize their standing before land use agencies,” he observed. “Since these institutions are firmly embedded in their communities, they have a compelling interest in helping to meet community needs even as they meet institutional needs. Unlike other developers, they don’t have the option of pulling up stakes and going elsewhere.”

Noting that “[i]f this bill becomes law, we would continue to consult with the Planning Board and its staff on major projects and we would hope to benefit from their perspectives and suggestions,” Mr. Durkee cited the University’s “long history of working effectively with the Planning Board on projects we have brought to that board for review, although frequently the costs of review add significantly to the cost of a project, and not always with offsetting benefit.”

The mayors, not surprisingly, did not agree. “S-1534 would establish a very troublesome precedent,” they wrote. “While the bill itself applies only to the host municipalities of private colleges and universities, a very dangerous precedent could be established, allowing other non-profit institutions who similarly serve a ‘public mission’ to argue that they should also be exempt from local zoning control. The logical extension of this could impact every community in this State.”


Independence Day is a Federal holiday; all local post office branches will be closed, and there will be no mail delivery.

Other Princeton area locations that will be closed on July 4 include Township offices; Borough Hall; the Princeton Public Library; and all branches of the Princeton University Library system.

Also closed: both Princeton Historical Society sites, Bainbridge House (158 Nassau Street) and Updike Farmstead (354 Quaker Road); Corner House counseling center (369 Witherspoon Street); and The Arts Council of Princeton (102 Witherspoon Street). The Princeton Senior Resource Center (Suzanne Patterson building, behind Borough Hall) will be closed on both July 3 and 4.

Places that will remain open include McCaffrey’s Princeton location (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.), and Shop Rite of Montgomery (6 a.m. to midnight). Palmer Square Management reports that although the Square is not required to be open on July 4, individual stores may choose to remain open. The same will be true at the Princeton Shopping Center.

The Community Park Pool will observe weekend hours on July 4, opening at 11 a.m. and closing at 8 p.m.

The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management warns that heat is often  referred to as the “silent killer,” in contrast to tornadoes, hurricanes, and other natural hazards with more dramatic visual effects. For more information regarding heat-related emergencies and a list of the County Emergency Management Offices, log on to www.ready.nj.gov, or visit the National Weather Service Heat Safety Page www.weather.gov/om/heat/index.shtml. The U.S. Center for Disease Control Heat Safety Page (http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/extremeheat contains information about the signs and symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Call 2-1-1, New Jersey’s toll-free, confidential help line, for information about heat safety resources.

In Princeton, Township and Borough administrators encourage residents to be familiar with area cooling centers. They include the Township Police Department Lobby at One Valley Drive, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week; Princeton Public Library, open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m.; the Princeton Senior Resource Center, open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except July 2 through 4); and the Borough Hall Lobby at 1 Monument Drive, which is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Note that several of these will be closed on July 4.

For more information or to contact other local cooling sites, call the Mercer County Office on Aging at (877) 222-3737. In addition to making cool sites and home cooling appliances available, the County also offers a “Warmline” via the Office on Aging. During daytime hours, residents can call (609) 989-6661 or toll-free (877) 222-3737 for assistance in coping with the heat. During non-business hours, residents should call 9-1-1 if they experience heat-related problems.

———

June 27, 2012

Princeton University vice president and secretary Robert Durkee spoke about strains in town-gown relations at Monday evening’s Township Committee meeting.

The occasion was a Committee vote on proposed state legislation regarding private universities and the zoning process. If passed, Senate Bill 1534 and Assembly Bill A2586 would exempt private universities from land use law; Princeton University, Rider University, and other private educational institutions of higher learning would no longer require approvals from municipalities to launch development projects, enabling them to proceed more quickly with their plans.

Citing the University’s inability “to pull up stakes” like other developers and move elsewhere, Mr. Durkee described the University’s “good history” of working with the Princeton Planning Board. Suggesting that the bill originated in other areas of New Jersey, he noted that even if it becomes law, the University would continue to consult with the Planning Board about future growth.

Later that evening, Township Committee unanimously voted to oppose the legislation.

In his comments, Mr. Durkee thanked Committee members for the opportunity to speak; there had been no chance for public comment before Borough Council’s vote not to endorse the new legislation, he said.

Mr. Durkee referred to recent developments,” that have been “cause for serious concern.” He described the year-long struggle, largely with Borough Council, before the new Arts and Transportation neighborhood could even be proposed, and worried that, despite consolidation, some members of the new governing board will be current members of Borough Council who would continue “to politicize the planning process.”

While agreeing that the Township has enjoyed a positive professional relationship with the University and that the lines of communication should remain open, Mayor Chad Goerner responded to Mr. Durkee’s comments by citing the need for having “checks and balances in place.” Residents, who come to Princeton “for a reason,” don’t pull up stakes, either, he observed.

Area activist Kip Cherry spoke in support of Mr. Goerner’s comments, describing the bill as “a proposed declaration of war against land use planning.”

The Senate bill is sponsored by Senators Paul Sario (D-Passaic) and Robert Singer (R-Monmouth). In the Assembly, the bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Salem) and Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-Passaic). The bills could be voted on as early as the end of June.


What was reported last week as a difference of opinion between the Consolidation Commission (CC) and the Transition Task Force (TTF) about a proposed consolidated Princeton employee benefit package known as “paid time off” (PTO), is, said TTF chair Mark Freda on Friday, “perhaps” just a “miscommunication.”

Consolidation Commission members had expressed concern over what appeared to be the Task Force’s endorsement of the Personnel Subcommittee’s recommendation that non-union employees revert to PTO and be subject to fewer days off.

“The full TTF did not want to see a reduction in the total benefit to staff,” said Mr. Freda. “The TTF asked the two administrators to meet with the non-union staff of the two towns to get their feedback and suggestions around this topic of paid time off. The full Task Force was awaiting the recommendation from the staff and administrators to come back to them,” he added.

Referring to a joint Township-Borough meeting scheduled for June 26 (after press time), Township Administrator Kathryn Monzo confirmed that she and Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi would “present staff recommendations to the joint governing bodies on Tuesday evening.”

Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner reportedly said that he would not vote to support the PTO measure at the June 26 meeting. “We have to keep in mind that we’ve put our staff through a tremendous amount of stress this year, waiting to see what their benefits structure is going to look like, and having that still be incomplete is unacceptable,” he is quoted as saying.

Chairman Anton Lahnston was also planning to attend the Tuesday evening meeting to express the Commission’s concerns.

In other comments responding to issues raised by the Commission, Mr. Freda noted that he “wasn’t told before the[ir] meeting that this would be a topic on the CC agenda, and since I wasn’t there to hear the actual discussion, I can only provide comments based on some assumptions.

“There should be no immediate concern that any benefit will be reduced,” he added. “I would be surprised if the administrators and staff come back with a recommendation that they would feel harms them in any way.”

Another point of contention that is expected to come up on Tuesday night is whether or not a “blended” open space tax of 1.7 cents should be adopted by the new municipality. Borough residents currently pay an open space tax of one cent on every $100 of assessed property value, while Township residents pay two cents on the same assessment.

The consolidation plan was developed by the ten-member Commission, which consists of Township and Borough representatives, with assistance from the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), a nonprofit management consulting organization with expertise in government management and municipal consolidation processes. The Transition Task Force, which has been charged with implementing the plan, consists of 12 members: five voting members each from the Borough and Township, and one alternate each. The Task Force also includes both the Borough and Township administrators. CGR Vice President Joseph Stefko, who has been a point person for both the Consolidation Commission and the Task Force, was unable to publicly comment on the apparent misunderstanding about proposed benefits.


The Route 1 jughandle trial postponed from last March is scheduled to begin on August 6, it was confirmed this week. James Simpson, State Department of Transportation Commissioner, said at a meeting of the Central Jersey Transportation Forum on Monday that the project, an experiment that will block off the Route 1 jughandles at Washington Road and Harrison Street, will last about 12 weeks unless it there are early indications of its ineffectiveness. The goal of the experiment is to improve safety and reduce traffic congestion.

Members of the Princeton Merchants Association, who met with transportation department officials last February to express their concerns about the project’s impact on local business, plan to hold a special meeting tomorrow, June 28, to make sure they are prepared for any changes the trial might bring.

“We’re going to reconvene and strategize on how we can monitor and assist with management from the business community,” said Kevin Wilkes, a member of Borough Council and architect at Princeton Design Guild. “I’m eagerly anxious to see what happens with this. Everyone is full of predictions. The test, from everything I hear, is going to be well managed.”

The project’s announcement last February drew protests from area residents as well as business owners. Among their worries was the possible increase in traffic after the May opening of the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, which is located just north of Harrison Street on Route 1. Officials stressed that while they understood concerns, the traffic problems needed to be addressed. To allow for the opening of the hospital, the DOT agreed to put off the experiment until August.

“I certainly haven’t heard any complaints about hospital traffic since it opened,” said David Newton, of Palmer Square Management. Mr. Newton was among those most concerned about the impact of the jughandle trial last spring. He is cautiously optimistic that the project will not cause problems.

“We will have to wait and see until the trial commences,” he said. “We did have an understanding with the DOT that they will monitor the situation carefully, and they demonstrated their ability to work with us since the hospital moved. Like everything else, one has to be positive on these things. If it’s the wrong thing, knowing Princeton there will be a huge chorus and outcry. And if it’s the right thing, nobody will be nice enough to tell them that.”

Drivers going north on Route 1 during the trial will no longer be able to make a U-turn or a left turn into Princeton using the jughandles. Alternatively, they will need to turn off at Alexander Road or proceed north to Scudders Mill Road and double back. Motorists will also be prevented from turning right onto Varsity Avenue so that the street is not used as a shortcut. U-turns, but not left turns, will be allowed on Fisher Place.

Temporary barriers will be used to put the project in place. The DOT is collecting traffic volume information throughout the Borough and Township, as well as in West Windsor and Plainsboro prior to and during the trial period. Traffic data is also being measured by Princeton University.

Officials at the DOT said that if the restrictions do not reduce congestion, or make the traffic worse, the trial will be terminated. For details and diagrams of the changes that will be made under the trial, go to www.nj.gov/transportation” and click on the blue button near the top of the page labeled “NJcommuter.com and select “Construction Updates” from the drop-down menu and click on “Route 1 Pilot Project.”


June 20, 2012

Princeton Borough Council voted unanimously last week for a resolution expressing their opposition to legislation that would exempt private universities from following local land use laws. Two bills, which have been moving through the New Jersey Senate and Assembly, “would put neighborhoods and entire communities at risk” if passed, said Councilman Roger Martindell.

If the legislation is enacted, Princeton University, Rider University, and other private educational institutions of higher learning would no longer require approvals from Princeton to launch development projects. Councilwoman Heather Howard, who works for Princeton University, abstained from the vote.

“Developments could occur without any reviews from the Planning Board,” Mr. Martindell said. “Princeton University owns somewhere in the range of 40 percent of the land in the Borough. Add the three institutions of higher learning in Princeton together, and this would become a total company town. There would very little we could do to form the kind of community we want. These bills could be a disaster for Princeton.”

The Senate bill is sponsored by Senators Paul Sario (D-Passaic) and Robert Singer (R-Monmouth). In the Assembly, the bill is sponsored by Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Salem) and Assemblyman Thomas Giblin (D-Passaic). The bills could be voted on as early as the end of June.

According to the bill in the Senate, private universities and colleges “are subject to local zoning controls by the municipalities in which they are located and must obtain approval from those local authorities for all campus development. The approval process often can be quite time consuming and expensive. This results in the delay of important educational programs and facilities for students attending the institutions as well as the diversion of critical funding away from educational purposes.”

The legislation has also been opposed by the state League of Municipalities.

In other action at the June 12 meeting, attorney Richard Goldman of Drinker Biddle & Reath, which represents Princeton University, spoke in response to comments made at the previous meeting criticizing a request for records in lawsuits related to the move of the Dinky station. Councilman Martindell had spoken out on June 6 about the law firm’s request for more than six years of records from the mayor, staff, members of governing bodies, and others, calling it “outrageous” and “overly broad and burdensome.”

Mr. Goldman spoke during the public comment section of last week’s meeting. “I feel compelled to at least respond in kind,” he said, saying he was surprised that the request had created such a furor because it followed standard procedure. “As lawyers, it is our obligation to find out as much information as we can,” he said. “We haven’t sued anyone. All we’ve done is in the ordinary cause of discovery.”

Mr. Martindell replied that the request was “a fishing expedition casting a very wide net.”

Residents from the neighborhood of Scott Lane and Bainbridge Street expressed varying opinions about the issue of whether to extend sidewalks on Scott Lane. After listening to several opinions, the Council voted 4-2 in favor of an ordinance to build the sidewalks.


A check from Princeton Education Foundation (PEF), representing $113,500 in donated funds to the Princeton Public Schools for improvements in technology, music, and vocal equipment in the elementary schools, was presented to the Board of Education at its most recent meeting.

PEF is a nonprofit that raises money each year to support local public school initiatives. This year’s gift is comprised of contributions from several different sources, including the PowerUp PRS! Technology campaign, which the Princeton Education Foundation is overseeing in concert with the school district; two gifts from district PTOs; and from PEF itself.

Other new technology will be made available next year through an approved New Jersey State contract, providing $453,385 for the purchase of iPad, MacBook, iMac computers and related supplies. The new equipment will enable instruction in specific language arts, math, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills in elementary grade pre-kindergarten through grade 1 classrooms; grade 6 through 8 math and science classrooms; and grade 9-12 English, math, science, and world languages classes. Individual teacher-issued technology will also be upgraded where needed.

In response to proposals received by district health benefits broker Connor Strong Buckelew, the Board approved the appointment of Express Scripts/Medco as the prescription benefits carrier, effective July 1, 2012, replacing BeneCard, whose contract will terminate effective June 30, 2012. The change was made in response to a perceived “need to control rising health care costs, and in an effort to save money for the district and the staff paying contributions towards coverage.”

Incoming staff include Princeton High School (PHS) Spanish teacher Maria Benedetto; John Witherspoon Middle School Science teacher Janet Gaudino; Caitlin O’Connor, a new fourth grade teacher at Littlebrook Elementary School; and PHS Social Studies teacher Patricia Manhart. All of their appointments are effective September 1.

Last week’s meeting also included recognition of retiring staff members for their many “years of service to Princeton children.”

The Board of Education will meet again Wednesday, June 20, at 5:30 p.m. at the Valley Road Administrative Building. They will discuss personnel issues and contract ratification, and participate in a workshop about their work in the coming school year. The meeting is open to the public.

The Princeton Public Schools’ website is www.prs.k12.nj.us.

For more information about the Princeton Education Foundation, visit www.pefnj.org.


Once Princeton voters approved consolidation last November, Anton Lahnston began thinking about how to document the process of combining two communities into one. The chairman of the Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission, Mr. Lahnston knew that the joining of Princeton Township and Princeton Borough, through the efforts of the Transition Task Force created for the job, presented a unique opportunity.

“In November and December, people were saying that Princeton is breaking new ground,” he recalled this week. “So I said, here is an opportunity С really more of an obligation С that the community has to tell this story.”

From experience, Mr. Lahnston felt strongly that waiting to tell that story until the process was over was not the way to proceed. So he took measures to get the job done “in real time,” he said. He first approached the State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for funding. While they applauded his idea, they were not able to provide financing.

So Mr. Lahnston began to look around for alternatives. What he found, eventually, was a group of students from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The five-member group of interns, headed by Princeton native Logan Clark, has been on the job ever since, attending meetings of the Task Force and keeping records of the complex process. They are volunteering their time and receiving no course credit.

The students are currently scattered across the country during the University’s summer break, working on various internships, and will pick up the story when they return in the fall. For Mr. Clark, who is interning at the State Department in Washington, the process so far has been informative, though the group is still in the information-gathering phase of the project. “We’re really trying to suspend judgement for the immediate future,” he said. “We’re keeping open minds, trying to soak up as much information as we can while it is still fresh in the minds of the people involved.”

Advising the students is Heather Howard, a Borough Council member and a lecturer in Public Affairs and director, State Health Reform Assistance Network, at the Woodrow Wilson School. “For the students, this is an exciting way to see government at work,” Ms. Howard said. “All eyes are on Princeton now. This may be the closest they actually get to government in action, and I think it’s been really interesting for them.”

The students are tracking the key subcommittees of the Transition Task Force. They have met with the DCA as well as with State representatives about how to shape their work. They have also talked with a consultant from CGR (the Center for Governmental Research Inc.). “The State wants to make sure this gets written up in a way that will be helpful to other communities,” Ms. Howard added. “We hope our story helps other communities thinking about taking on consolidation.”

Mr. Clark was appointed chair of the community service and pro bono consulting group of the graduate student government at the Woodrow Wilson School in January. Through family friends in Princeton, he met Borough Council member Barbara Trelstad and Mr. Lahnston, who told him about the need for documenting the consolidation process. Interested, Mr. Clark put together a team. They have been meeting regularly since last April.

The project has provided a rare opportunity to view municipal government at work. “Sitting in on meetings and combing through the various minutes posted on line, it can be a bit perplexing,” Mr. Clark said. “I don’t have a whole lot of experience in local government, but I think I could say that given the magnitude of the endeavor and the degree of difficulty, they are doing a fairly good job. A lot of them are professionals in other fields, volunteering their time. They are proceeding, actually, at a fairly quick rate. In many cases, Princeton is an exemplary town. We’re trying to extract the lessons and best practices that can be gleaned.”

While the group isn’t able to take on every issue involved in the Transition Task Force process, they are documenting the major issues. “It won’t take into account every detail, but it is something that will stand them in good stead in terms of their own learning,” said Mr. Lahnston. “This is complex, there is no question about it. There are a lot of moving parts, a ton of individuals involved, and a lot of egos and political agendas, and you’ve got to work through all of that. It’s a great opportunity for them.”

The students hope to make their documentation something that appeals to a wide audience by weaving in some narrative and story lines as they go along. “Ultimately, we want this to become something people want to read,” said Mr. Clark. “It shouldn’t be just for some esoteric audience. We want other citizens to be able to read this and have something that is engaging in format. We want it to be approachable for people of any professional background.”


June 13, 2012

Township Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert, who is a mayoral hopeful for the consolidated Princeton, and Committeewoman Sue Nemeth, will be the Township’s representatives on the Transition Task Force’s Personnel Selection Committee. The Committee will oversee the selection and placement of municipal employees after consolidation. It consists of members of both current governing bodies.

The names were announced at Monday evening’s Township Committee Meeting.

Acting on a recommendation from the Transition Task Force, Township Committee also approved the appointment of Barbara A. Lee, a former Rutgers University dean of the school of management and labor relations, as facilitator for the Selection Committee. Ms. Nemeth described Ms. Lee as “highly qualified” and “very much interested” in the position. Ms. Lempert cited the candidate’s years of residence in Princeton, and long-standing interest in serving the community.

In anticipation of consolidation, a proposal to reconcile the different levels of Open Space Tax currently collected by the municipalities was also approved on Monday. The rate, which was studied by the Joint Finance Committee, among other groups, recommends a blended rate of 1.7 cents per every $100 of assessed property value.

The Township currently collects 2 cents on every $100 of assessed property value; the Borough receives 1 cent. A reciprocal motion recommending the “neutral” rate will be presented to Borough Council for approval.

Attorney Ed Schmierer and Administrator Kathy Monzo led the discussion, noting that time is of some concern in order to get a referendum question about the Open Space Tax on the November ballot. On Committeeman Bernie Miller’s suggestion, it was agreed that there will be a brief explanation under the ballot listing to make it clear that this is not a “new” tax.

Ms. Monzo noted that revenue from the Open Space Tax not only enables the acquisition of properties, it provides for their preservation, development into parks and recreational areas, and improves debt service options.

Ms. Nemeth emphasized the importance of continuing to collect an Open Space Tax without a “lapse” that would endanger preservation and future acquisitions. She noted that on a recent Recreation Department survey, residents indicated that parks and trails were high on their list of this area’s assets.

Open Space President Wendy Mager lauded the proposal and cited the importance of giving voters opportunity the opportunity to participate in the decision.


AvalonBay, the developer under contract to build a rental community at the site of the now-empty University Medical Center of Princeton, has filed a site plan with the Regional Planning Board. Details of the plan, which was revised after meetings of an ad hoc subcommittee made up of representatives of local government, the developer, and a citizen representative, were the topic of often heated discussion at a meeting of Borough Council last week.

Ron Ladell, senior vice president of the AvalonBay company, told those gathered that while he knew it would not please everyone, he hoped that the changes to the plan would be acceptable to most. The company filed the site plan last Friday, two days after the meeting.

Residents of the neighborhood have expressed repeated concerns about scale, access, sustainability, and other issues related to the 280-unit community targeted for the site, which was vacated by the hospital for a new building in Plainsboro last month.

The ad hoc design committee, which included Mr. Ladell, Borough Mayor Yina Moore, Council members Jenny Crumiller and Kevin Wilkes, resident Joseph Weiss, Princeton Environmental Commission member Heidi Fichtenbaum, and Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB) member Bill Wolfe, have met during recent weeks to try to address residents’ concerns. “We’ve come to some point of progress,” Mayor Moore said at the meeting. “We continue to seek the kinds of improvements that would make for a better community, if this developer seeks to continue with the application.”

Now that the application has been filed, the zoning is locked in under the “time of application” rule that exempts it from any further changes.

“The zoning is in place. We are not going to change it,” Mr. Ladell said. “We expect to file a conforming site plan imminently, and we look forward to site plan hearings at the Planning Board as soon as possible so that the empty hospital building will not have to remain and we can start our work as soon as possible. We appreciate the time and effort put forth by the ad hoc committee over the past many weeks and we look forward to our full site plan presentation and further input from the community.”

There was plenty of input at the meeting. Numerous neighborhood residents lined up to ask questions and offer comments about the amendments to the plan, from how demolition of the current building would proceed to whether asbestos would be properly removed.

Changes to the design of the complex to rise in the hospital’s place include a lower building height and reduction of the mass of the building, as well as the addition of an archway to be built at the front of the complex on Witherspoon Street. While a few people expressed support for the revised plan, most continued to voice opposition, saying the changes were not enough.

One particular sticking point was AvalonBay’s intention to build a pool in the courtyard. When one person suggested putting in a community garden instead of a pool, especially in light of the fact that the newly renovated Princeton Community Pool is blocks away, Mr. Ladell responded that all AvalonBay communities have pools. “It is very valued, it is very prized, and people expect it,” he said.

In response to complaints that the property will be a gated community, without access to the surrounding neighborhood and in conflict with Borough code, the ad hoc committee added the 20-foot-high, 25-feet-wide archway and opened up an interior courtyard to the public while reserving a second area for residents of the complex. The height of the building was reduced in some areas by two stories and other areas by one. Those heights make the building similar in scale to Lambert House, which is currently on the site. The developers are allowed seven stories, with up to 67.5 feet in height. The plan calls for heights ranging from 32.5 to 48 feet. The existing hospital building is 119 feet high.

Architect Jonathan Metz of Perkins Eastman Architects said nothing on Henry Street, including the parking garage, will change as part of the plan. The Witherspoon Street and Franklin Terrace first floor units will have front porches, and be accessible directly without entering the main building. Those apartments located on the side will have terraces or decks, also providing direct access to residents. All of the street facades will have sidewalks and green plantings.

The building’s facades will vary in style, according to suggestions made by the ad hoc committee. The massing will be different due to varied heights, architectural elements, and stairwells.

Resident Mary Clurman asked Mr. Ladell not only about why there is a plan for a pool, but also why Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards are not being used in the complex. As he has said in the past, Mr. Ladell replied that the company uses the less-stringent but common standards known as Energy Star, and that will not change. Current zoning guidelines do not require LEED.

Other residents expressed dissatisfaction with the revised courtyard design, saying it only provides one way in and out and that neighborhood residents should be able to walk through.

Sandra Persichetti, executive director of Princeton Community Housing, praised the project for its inclusion of 20 percent affordable housing units. “I have 500 people on a waiting list for affordable units. Instead of worrying about the color of siding or the width of an archway, think about those 500 people without homes,” she said.

Resident Daniel Harris, a member of Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods, responded that no one in the room was opposed to affordable housing. He added that the group wants a list of sustainable elements to be submitted to the Planning Board not later than three weeks after AvalonBay files its site plan.

The revisions do not change the status of the homes on Harris Road that are included in the AvalonBay deal, Mr. Ladell said.The buildings at 281 and 277 Witherspoon Street were retained by the hospital and will remain.


A request for copies of more than six years of records by lawyers representing Princeton University in lawsuits related to the Dinky has angered at least one member of Borough Council. At the governing body’s meeting last week, Councilman Roger Martindell called Drinker Biddle & Reath’s request “outrageous,” and said that he, for one, did not intend to comply.

“This request is overly broad and burdensome, and it violates a first amendment right to communicate with constituents,” he said, to applause from some members of the audience. “Every single person, mayor and employee would have to spend hundreds of hours going through material going back to January 2006. It is totally outrageous.”

The law firm has asked for copies of all records of correspondence between the mayor, members of Council and Borough staff, consultants, and members of the citizen group Save the Dinky between January 2006 and the present. “Copies of any communications, including but not limited to meetings, discussions, conversations, telephone calls, faxes, electronic mail, instant messaging, memoranda, letters, notes, telecopies, telexes, conferences, etc.” are mentioned in the filing.

“They want all communications that were ever made in writing in any form whatsoever, between the mayor, and then-Council people and Borough employees and any representative of Save the Dinky, Inc. from January 2006 to now,” Mr. Martindell said this week. “This would take literally hundreds of hours of people going through their emails and files, to comply with that request. It is going to paralyze municipal government. And it is overly broad, because it doesn’t even identify who the representatives of Save the Dinky are. It names a few people, but for all I know Save the Dinky has hundreds of members. And who is representing them? Am I supposed to guess?”

Named in the request are “any member or representative of Save the Dinky, including but not limited to Kip Cherry, Anita Garoniak, Anne Waldron Neumann, Peter Marks, Rodney Fisk, Walter Neumann, Christopher Hedges, Zafina Hosein, Rachel Koehn, and or Dorothy Koehn.”

At the Council meeting, Councilman Kevin Wilkes agreed with Mr. Martindell that the request was too broad. “Do we have a list of their memberships?” he asked, regarding Save the Dinky. Councilwoman Jo Butler said that it would be impossible to meet the request for records within the seven days granted under the state law. Bob Bruschi, the Borough Administrator, said the Borough would need at least 30 days to provide the documents required.

There are two lawsuits currently pending related to the move of the Dinky station from its current location opposite McCarter Theatre to a site 460 feet south. One of the suits has to do with the zoning ordinance approved by Borough Council, which allows the project to move forward. The other has to do with the contract between Princeton University and NJ Transit related to the relocation.

Mr. Martindell said he will not comply with the request for records “absent a written memo saying we must.” He also suggested that Borough police not comply either. “Because until we get some specific guidance on the issues, we could spend hundreds of hours on this,” he said. “We shouldn’t be just jumping to disclose information that takes so much time to get. From my point of view, until we get guidance from our attorney, we shouldn’t be doing anything.”


June 6, 2012

Township Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert will be the Democratic nominee for mayor of the municipality that will be created when the Borough and the Township consolidate on January 1, 2013.

Unofficial vote counts on Tuesday evening indicated that Ms. Lempert received 2,055 votes; her opponent, Borough Councilman Kevin Wilkes, received 1,105.

Richard C. Woodbridge, who ran unopposed as the Republican mayoral candidate, received 481 votes, and Geoff Aton, the single Republican candidate for Council, garnered 438 votes.

Democratic winners on Tuesday who will run for Council in the November election included Borough Councilwomen Jenny Crumiller (1,923 votes), Jo Butler (1,755 votes), and Heather Howard (2,187 votes); Township Committeemen Bernie Miller (2,170 votes) and Lance Liverman (2,208 votes); and Consolidation Commission member Patrick Simon (1,941 votes). Other candidates who ran were Borough Councilman Roger Martindell (1,041 votes); Scott Sillars (1,413 votes); and Tamera Matteo (1,326 votes).

Although Sue Nemeth won locally with 2,175 votes to Marie Corfield’s 729, she lost her bid for a seat in the Democratic General Assembly to Ms. Corfield. Donna Simon (463 votes) ran unopposed as Republican nominee.

This was the first time the Borough and the Township voted as a consolidated Princeton, and many area residents found themselves voting in new locations as a result of the newly created 22 voting districts. Previously, the Borough had 10 districts and the Township 14.

The purpose of the primary election, which is held the first Tuesday after the first Monday in June, is to nominate party candidates who will run in the general election, and to elect party members of the State and County Committees.


Princeton University’s 265th Commencement Exercises concluded on Tuesday, June 5 with the awarding of degrees to 1,230 undergraduate members of the Class of 2012, five from other classes, and 832 graduate students.

The events began Sunday with the traditional Baccalaureate Ceremony in the University Chapel, and continued Monday with a rain-soaked Class Day event on Cannon Green featuring actor Steve Carell as keynote speaker. Later that day, columnist George Will, a 1968 Princeton graduate, was featured speaker at the Hooding ceremony for graduate students, which was moved inside to McCarter Theatre. Finally on Tuesday, University President Shirley M. Tilghman presided over the graduation of the class of 2012 in front of Nassau Hall.

President Tilghman’s speech at the conclusion of the Commencement exercises stressed the importance of a liberal arts education, even in demanding and depressing economic times. “I reject the notion that a liberal arts degree has suddenly become obsolete,” she said. “No. We are not about to administer the last rites for a liberal education.”

Honorary doctoral degrees were awarded to “queen of soul” singer Aretha Franklin; Hall of Fame coach Peter “Pete” Carril, who led the Princeton University men’s basketball team for 29 seasons; and to Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padron. Also honored were Joan Wallach Scott, the Harold F. Linder Professor in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study; Joseph Taylor Jr., a Nobel laureate and the James McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics Emeritus at Princeton; and Karen Uhlenbeck, the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair in Mathematics at the University of Texas-Austin.

At Class Day, the Class of 2012 honored John Witherspoon Middle School student Derek DiGregorio and welcomed him to their class. Derek, who suffers from the rare genetic disease Ataxia Telangiectasia, is a gold medalist in Special Olympics bowling despite the limitations of his disease, and is a fixture at Princeton University sports events. “Derek has been a great supporter of the class,” said Class of 2012 vice president Nick Pugliese as he presented Derek with a white Class of 2012 jacket. A non-profit organization, Derek’s Dreams, raises funds to spread awareness about his condition.

In his speech at the Hooding Ceremony, Mr. Will told the graduate students to keep their connections to Princeton while pursuing their careers. “There is a way for you to reciprocate Princeton’s affection for you, and to repay your intellectual debts to it,” he said. “It is by remaining involved with the University here, and with others who have gone forth from the Graduate School to seed the world with trained intelligence … You have the best the world has to offer — a Princeton degree attesting to a Princeton education.”

———

President Tilghman’s Speech

It gives me great pleasure to continue the tradition of serving as the metaphorical bookends to your Princeton education by having the first word at Opening Exercises and the last word at Commencement. Four years ago, I predicted at Opening Exercises that your time at Princeton would fly by at warp speed, and I have heard from many of you over the past few weeks that it did just that. And while you may be experiencing nostalgia for your days at Princeton, I hope that those feelings are leavened with a well-deserved sense of accomplishment mixed with exhilaration and anticipation for what is ahead. After all, today we should focus on the future — your future. Otherwise, we would call this a Termination Exercise, rather than Commencement.

But for a moment, let me look back at the many ways you have left your mark on this institution, just as it has left its mark on you. You filled this campus with the sound of music, the beauty of dance and the power of theater to both enlighten and entertain. On the playing fields you covered yourself with glory, with the men’s squash team, under head coach Bob Callahan ‘77, winning a national championship and the women’s field hockey team claiming its seventh straight Ivy championship. You spoke up for fairness and equality, lobbied for environmental sustainability, kept bees, sustained dialogues on race, watched birds, engaged in entrepreneurship, promoted cheese consumption, solved Rubik’s Cubes, argued for education reform and, last but not least, assisted those who are less fortunate. You showed that it is possible to debate the most pressing issues of the day with civility and an open mind. You dazzled your teachers in classrooms with your commitment to learning, and your theses and dissertations will reside in Mudd Library as a testament to your intellectual gifts. It has been a privilege — and a great deal of fun — to have borne witness to your journey through Princeton.

Four Years Ago

At those Opening Exercises four years ago, I posed a challenge that Adlai Stevenson ’22 presented to the Class of 1954 at its senior banquet: “Before you leave, remember why you came.” I suggested at the time that it is never too early to start thinking about that dictum. Today it is almost too late, but I hope as you do leave you will continue to think about why you came.

In my address I tried to suggest as strongly as I could that you should not be thinking about your Princeton education as preparation for a specific job and even went so far as to suggest that a Princeton education is intended to prepare you not for a single career, but for any career, including ones that have not yet been invented. In a world that is changing as rapidly as ours, developing the capacity to learn new things is as critical as how well you think or how much you know. Your education is intended to be a vaccine against early obsolescence.

That was then. This is now, four years after one of the most significant downturns in U.S. economic history. Unemployment was 6.1 percent in the fall of 2008; today it is between 8.2 percent and 18 percent, depending on how you count those who are underemployed or who have given up looking for work. So you might well be thinking to yourself, “Was this investment of my time and my family’s resources in a liberal arts education a good decision in light of recent events?” And for those of you who have just completed doctoral degrees, you might be wondering whether your preparation for a career in the professoriate will be rewarded with opportunities to teach the liberal arts to the next generation.

If you are asking yourself those questions, you are not alone, for economic hard times always elicit calls for more goal-oriented education. Let me give you some recent examples of this kind of thinking. Last October Florida’s Governor Rick Scott was quoted as saying, “We don’t need a lot more anthropologists in the state. … I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering and math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on, those types of degrees, so when they get out of school, they can get a job.” Last year one of the campuses of the State University of New York eliminated the departments of French, Italian, Russian, classics and theater in an effort to balance the budget, clearly signaling the lower status of the humanities and the arts compared to the revenue-generating sciences. Even former Harvard University President Larry Summers joined in the fray, questioning the continuing validity of General George Marshall’s plea to a Princeton audience in 1947 when he said: “I doubt seriously whether a man can think with full wisdom and deep convictions regarding certain of the basic international issues today who has not at least reviewed in his mind the period of the Peloponnesian War and the Fall of Athens.” Summers suggested in a New York Times op-ed that skills in data analysis would be more valuable to today’s college graduate than learning from history.

It is ironic that these calls for more outcome-oriented education in the U.S. come at precisely the moment when other nations are racing in the opposite direction. They have taken note of the immense creativity of the American economy over the past 50 years, and have concluded that education in the liberal arts promotes in citizens innovation, independent thinking and the ability to work across disciplinary boundaries. From the United Kingdom to Sweden, Australia, India, China and Bangladesh, educators are experimenting with more holistic educational curricula for their students, believing that education that specializes too early and too narrowly produces well-trained technocrats but few innovators.

Madison at Princeton

It will hopefully come as no surprise to any of you that I reject the notion that a liberal arts degree has suddenly become obsolete. To make my case, I will invoke the story of an early Princeton graduate, as told to me by Hunter Rawlings, Princeton Graduate Class of 1970 and the former president of both the University of Iowa and Cornell. The graduate is James Madison, Princeton Class of 1771, who was, to be sure, no ordinary student. He arrived at Princeton in the fall of 1769 from his home in Virginia. He opted to take the freshman exams immediately — you could think of these as the forerunner of AP exams — and after excelling in them, he began taking courses as a sophomore. For the next two years he immersed himself in Latin and Greek, philosophy, natural science, geography, mathematics, and rhetoric, and actively participated in debate, helping to launch what is now the American Whig-Cliosophic Society. After completing all his requirements in just two years, he found himself at a loss as to what to do next, having no desire to follow the traditional professions of that day, the law or the ministry. So, adopting that time-honored tradition of all Princeton students — procrastination — he persuaded President John Witherspoon to allow him to stay on for a year and continue his studies in Hebrew and political philosophy, thereby becoming Princeton’s first, if unofficial, graduate student. At the end of that year, still not knowing what he wanted to do, he did what any sensible young college graduate does these days — he journeyed from one orange bubble to another in Orange, Virginia, where he lived with his parents for another four years. Now I can’t claim that he lived in the basement, but other than that missing detail, the story certainly sounds like a contemporary one.

Madison to Madison

Eventually, he found his calling — he embraced the patriot cause and became a leader in the crusade to found a free and independent nation. He went on to author a number of the most important documents that guide our nation to this day: the Virginia Plan, the blueprint that became the framework for the U.S. Constitution; some of the most influential Federalist Papers, which were key to the ratification of the Constitution by the states; and the Bill of Rights. But my favorite story about Madison involves George Washington’s first inaugural address in 1789. Washington rejected the 73-page draft prepared by a friend and turned instead to Madison to write the one that he eventually delivered to a joint session of Congress. The speech was such a great success that Congress decided it needed to respond. They asked Madison to draft the response. Washington was so touched by their response that he felt a need to send a thank you note, and, sure enough, you guessed it — he asked Madison to draft it. So these key early exchanges between President and Congress were really Madison talking to Madison in public!

Without taking anything away from Madison’s towering intellect, I would argue that the years he spent at Princeton, engaged in the study of subjects such as mathematics and political philosophy, powerfully prepared him for his life’s work. His studies with Witherspoon gave him the opportunity to grapple with the ideas on which this nation was founded, ideas stretching from ancient Greece to the Scottish enlightenment; they disciplined his ability to marshal and then defend a well-constructed argument; deepened his moral sensibility; and they honed his writing and speaking skills, all of which were critical to his success in public life.

While what constitutes a liberal education today includes areas of study that could not have been imagined in Madison’s time — neuroscience and, yes, anthropology — the qualities of mind and character that a liberal education is intended to impart remain the same. Just as the nascent United States depended upon well-educated individuals who brought historical perspective, political theory and a sympathy for the complexity of human nature to the task of designing a new nation, both this country and the dozens of others represented on this lawn today need thoughtful, open-minded and well-informed citizens to chart their course and influence their future. No, we are not about to administer the last rites for a liberal education.

This is not to say that a liberal arts education is the only valuable form of education. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the great strengths of the U.S. higher education system is its immense diversity, with post-secondary educational institutions of many kinds preparing for meaningful careers everyone from performing artists to nurses to video game designers, teenagers and grandparents, in small classrooms and large online communities. This rich tapestry of opportunity is essential for a well-functioning society.

What I am saying is that to be successful in the 21st century, just as in the 18th century, a society requires citizens who are steeped in history, literature, languages, culture, and scientific and technological ideas from ancient times to the present day. They need to be curious about the world, broadly well-informed, independent of mind, and able to understand and sympathize with what Woodrow Wilson referred to as “the other.” Our colleges and universities need scholars who have dedicated themselves to the life of the mind, to preserving the wisdom of the ages, to generating new knowledge and a deeper understanding of the past, and to passing that knowledge and understanding on to the next generation.

I am also saying that a liberal education is a privilege that brings with it a responsibility to use your education wisely, as much for the benefit of others in your community and nation and the world as for your own private good. So, as you walk, skip or run through the FitzRandolph Gates today, as citizens of this and many other nations, I hope you will carry forward the spirit of Princeton and the liberal education you have received. The future is now in your hands. And I expect you to do as you have done at Princeton — to aim high and be bold!

My warmest wishes go with you all.