January 2, 2013

The reports are in. While the 2012 holiday shopping season was, for many area merchants, an encouraging improvement over previous years, not every Princeton proprietor is happy with the season’s returns. Trends toward online shopping have more than one store owner concerned about the future.

“This season was way off for us, because in my field, customers have cut down their holiday card mailing lists,” says Lewis Wildman, owner of Jordan’s Cards and Gifts in Princeton Shopping Center. “They’re sending out what I consider tacky email greetings and e-invites to parties. It affects our business because customers who would normally be ordering are not walking into the store and buying other stuff at the same time. The net effect is that business is off. The consumers tell us they love our store, but it won’t exist if they don’t support it.”

Between Hurricane Sandy, the looming fiscal cliff, and online shopping, the holiday season at JaZam’s toy store in Palmer Square was shaky at first. “We did pull it out in the end,” says owner Joanne Farrugia. “And sales were probably the same as last year. But it was erratic, slow to start, and very late until the last week. It’s because the last few days before Christmas, you can’t get anything online. The shipping does eventually come to a stop, thank God.”

Ms. Farrugia shares Mr. Wildman’s worries about future buying trends. “The retail landscape is going to be different,” she says. “It’s the big elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. And we should. There’s no point in waiting for it to take us down.”

As part of the committee behind the Hometown Princeton campaign to encourage patronage of local stores, Ms. Farrugia has thought a lot about making the public aware that buying local is important. “I think there is a real disconnect for people. They just don’t get it,” she says. “We have people who come into our store and literally say to us that they want to see it and touch it and play with it and then order it online. The thing is that we charge the actual retail price. We don’t overcharge or undercharge. That seems fair to me. What no one seems to get is that if you get it for less [online], somebody is paying for that.”

Mr. Wildman lost three big customers in one day during the holiday shopping season. “They said they were doing e-greetings instead of ordering cards,” he says. “One of those was a company that does 500 greetings. Others are cutting it out totally. People who understand and appreciate us being here came out as they normally would, but a lot of faces were missing this year. We’re not closing, but if the trend continues over the next five years, I just don’t know.”

Area stores less affected by online buying report either a status quo or increase in sales from last year. While not all of the figures are complete, proprietors have a sense of how the season has progressed.

“We had a fantastic holiday season,” says Mark Censits, owner of Cool Vines wine store on Spring Street and another in Westfield. “Princeton was even stronger [than Westfield] in terms of its growth. After a number of years of building loyalty in this market, people really count on us when they need things sent and delivered, which is one of the extra services we offer along with things like putting together wine dinners.”

Mr. Censits attributes some of his growth to a slightly improved economy. “I think people are a little bit less price-sensitive this year,” he says. “Some of it has to do with corporate events and gift-giving. They’re doing it again and people are a little more relaxed in their spending. And enjoying a nice bottle of wine with a holiday meal is something people are allowing themselves to do. People are buying more in the mid-tier price range.”

Across Spring Street at Hinkson’s stationery store, owner Andrew Mangone has been pleased to see an upswing in sales. “We had a very good season, though we got off to a rough start in November,” he says. “But December was good, and we were busy right up through Christmas Eve. The season was at least as good as last year, if not better. But we’ll have to see the numbers before we know for sure.”

New to the local retail landscape this season is The Farmhouse Store in Palmer Square. Selling home furnishings and related items, the shop, which, like Cool Vines, has another location in Westfield, has been busy. “It was our first holiday season here, and it was good,” says co-owner Kristin Menapace. “We got a lot of positive feedback about the fact that we have unique products. It was nice to get such a welcome from the Princeton community. I didn’t really know what to expect, but all in all, for being a brand new business in town, it was great.”

Princeton Tour Company’s weekend holiday trolley tours were “a complete success,” according to owner Mimi Omiecinski, who calls the rides through town “55 minutes of non-stop shameless name-dropping.” Sponsored by Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty, Palmer Square, and Hamilton Jewelers, the $15 tours were nearly sold out the first weekend after Thanksgiving. “If we didn’t sell out online, we would get so many walk-ups during the day of the tour,” Ms. Omiecinski says. “I never really know until then what it’s going to be like, but it all came together. If I get sponsored again for next year, I will absolutely do it again.”

What are the implications of consolidation for Princeton Community Television (TV30), the public access cable station created by the Borough and Township of Princeton in January of 1997?

“Our core mission will remain the same,” said Executive Director George McCullough in a recent interview. “That is to provide the public with the means, know-how, and the tools to broadcast their own programs.”

While area residents are probably most familiar with TV30 through its regular programs likeКEducation Roundtable, Skyrocket Your Business, Reed and Ponder, and Back Story, and access to archived coverage of municipal meetings, Mr. McCullough noted that TV30’s “first priority is teaching.”

An upcoming “Video Basics” class on Wednesday, January 2, for example, reviews the proper care of the cameras and accessories available for loan at the station, and teaches participants how to begin shooting with automatic settings. The one-half hour class, which is mandatory for anyone wishing to borrow field equipment, is usually held the first Wednesday of each month, and is limited to six participants. While Mr. Mr. McCullough allows that “it is nice if folks watch” TV30 programs, “I get a bigger thrill out of someone who puts together their first show or edits their first film.”

“I think it would be safe to say that Princeton TV may very well be the largest producer of local content in the state,” he added, noting that Princeton TV” is looking to develop a full digital media curriculum,”

While TV30’s Valley Road building location is likely to change in the coming months, its next home has yet to be determined. “The new government is offering us space in the soon to be vacated Borough Hall, reported Mr. McCullough. “This offer is very generous,” he said, adding however, that “the board and I are assessing if it will be good fit for us in the long haul.” Of primary concern is “the station’s tremendous growth in our memberships and in the number of people using our services. And it looks like we will be continuing on this trend for a while. Finding a space that would allow us the room to continue this growth is important to us.”

The station’s current funding sources — “member support, donations, grants, some work for hire, and franchise fees which are the lion’s share of our funding” will remain the same after January 1, although Mr. McCullough said that they will also “be seeking new sources of funding to develop Princeton/New Jersey programming.” This includes “looking to have the Princeton business community sponsoring our activities.”

“Helping to provide the community with a new facility, and offering the new government any help we can if they need it,” are givens, said Mr. McCullough. Some community officials are already members of TV30’s board, and some “have been in touch.” In the meantime, though, he is philosophical. “Princeton has its hands full at this moment. I’m willing to wait until the dust has settled.”

The station believes that their archive of online municipal meetings, a resource that began several years, ago, has been good for the community and they expect to continue doing it.

In this season of wish lists, Mr. McCullough reflected on what he would like Princeton TV’s future to look like. If the new government doesn’t need it, possible scenarios include use of the Borough’s municipal channel. What would he do with it? “Although a challenge, I would like to use this opportunity to develop a New Jersey channel much like C-SPAN. Of course it would require outside funding, but I see a need that is not being filled,” he said.

“Also on my wish list,” he added, “would be to start a low power fm (lpfm) radio station. The FCC recently expanded the number of available licenses. If the opportunity comes along it would nice to give folks the chance to have a radio show.”

December 26, 2012

This year Princeton weathered a major hurricane, opened a spanking new community park and pool, elected a mayor for the new municipality, coped with Route 1 left turn prohibitions, and prepared for consolidation, which officially takes effect on January 1. The University’s proposed Arts and Transit will become a reality, while the future of an AvalonBay development at the hospital’s former site on Witherspoon Street remains uncertain. University President Shirley Tilghman announced her retirement, effective this June, and the Township said good-bye to two retiring officials, Administrator Jim Pascale, and Police Chief Bob Buchanan.

Consolidation

Once voters approved the consolidation of Princeton Borough and Township last year, a Transition Task Force was put in place to guide the merger of two municipalities into one. This highly detailed project involved numerous subcommittees and the participation of citizen volunteers. The committees met with nearly every department in the Borough and Township to determine the most painless way to streamline operations before the new form of government is officially unveiled on January 1.

Both governing bodies named appointees to the Task Force. Led by Chairman Mark Freda, the group of 12 made recommendations on everything from office furniture to pension plans; from shade trees to trash collection. Some of the ideas they advised the governing bodies to approve must ultimately be confirmed by the new Princeton Council to be sworn in January 1. The Task Force held a public forum early this month to help inform citizens of what to expect once the new form of government goes into effect.

Hurricane Sandy

With extensive property damage and long-lasting power outages, it took a while for Princeton residents to dig out from Hurricane Sandy, a “super storm” that hit the East Coast in late October.

In an initiative that boded well for consolidation, Borough and Township police and other personnel joined forces to respond as a single entity to emergencies, issue alerts, and begin the daunting task of picking up the trees and limbs that lined — and often blocked — local streets. In his attempt to take care of a tree on his property, William Sword became the area’s only storm-related fatality.

Princeton Public Library and Princeton United Methodist Church were among the havens of light, warmth, and electricity during the first days after the storm. Opening doors to the front of the library, lobby, and community room at 7 a.m. on Thursday, November 1, the library had a record 8,028 visitors between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Princeton public school children will be attending three additional days of school in 2013 — February 15, April 1, and June 20 — to make up for days lost during the storm. Princeton University had about 50 trees come down on campus as a result of the super storm and Director of Communication Martin Mbugua noted that there were “dozens” of reports of “blocked roads, damaged vehicles, fences, and other property.” In its end-of-year commendations, Princeton Township cited the University for helping with emergency response teams, and, on election day, for making Jadwin Gym available as a polling place.

In the days following the storm, schools, businesses, churches, synagogues, and other organizations held drives that collected much-needed supplies for devastated coastal communities.

The Hospital Move

Amid much fanfare, the University Medical Center of Princeton relocated in May from its longtime headquarters on Witherspoon Street in Princeton Borough to a glittering new facility on Route 1 in Plainsboro. While only a few miles from the old location, the new, $522.7 million hospital is a world away in terms of technology and design. The 636,000-square-foot hospital is the centerpiece of a 171-acre site that includes a nursing home, day care center, a park, and additional facilities. Each of the 231-single-patient rooms have large windows and high-tech capabilities.

Nine years in the making, the new facility is closer to a large percentage of the people the hospital traditionally serves, executive director Barry Rabner said during the opening week. A special open house was held for the community in the days before the official move took place.

Jughandle Closings

Looking for ways to ease traffic congestion on Route 1, the New Jersey Department of Transportation announced in March a decision to implement a 12-week experiment that eliminated left turns for Route 1 northbound motorists at Washington Road and Harrison Street. Protestations from the public and local officials regarding timing — the trial would coincide with the opening of the new hospital near Harrison Street — led the DOT to postpone the program until August. While the trial eased some traffic flow on Route 1, motorists were getting stuck on ancillary roads, and parents in the area were fearful for their children’s safety as cars used their driveways to make U-turns in order to correct routes affected by the jughandle closings. When demonstrations were organized by West Windsor residents on Washington Road, NJDOT Commissioner James Simpson closed down the pilot program two weeks short of its projected finish date.

Arts and Transit

Thanks to a December 18 vote in favor of its $300 million Arts and Transit proposal by the Planning Board, Princeton University can now begin to put its ambitious plan for an arts complex into action. The approval came after many contentious meetings of the governing bodies, nearly all focused on the fact that the terminus of the Dinky, which connects Princeton Borough and Princeton Junction station, will be moved 460 feet south as part of the plan.

Few had problems with the design for the Lewis Center for the Arts, which will include new teaching, rehearsal, performance, and administrative spaces designed by architect Steven Holl in a cluster of village-like buildings. Landscaped open spaces and walking paths that are part of the plan have drawn almost unanimous approval from officials and the public. This year, the University hired architect Rick Joy to design the renovation of the two Dinky station buildings, which will be turned into a restaurant and cafe.

Borough Council passed a resolution in July opposing the plan to move the station stop. And Save the Dinky, a group of citizens opposed to the idea of moving the Dinky, has filed lawsuits related to the contract of sale from 1984, when the University bought the Dinky shuttle line, and to its historical significance. See the story in this issue for details.

AvalonBay

Not satisfied with the plan for a rental complex proposed by the developer AvalonBay Communities, area residents, including those in the neighborhood surrounding the former site of the University Medical Center at Princeton, waged a relentless campaign to convince the governing bodies that it was not right for the town. Their hard work was rewarded on December 19 when the Regional Planning Board voted to deny the application. It remains to be seen what the developer’s next step will be. See the story in this issue for details.

Election

Like the rest of the country, the majority of Princeton voters supported the reelection of President Obama. Democratic Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) won an easy victory over his Republican challenger, Eric A. Beck.

Locally, Princeton voters elected Democrat Liz Lempert over Republican challenger Dick Woodbridge as the new mayor of consolidated Princeton. The six Democrats running for the new Council, Bernie Miller, Patrick Simon, Heather Howard, Jo Butler. Lance Liverman, and Jenny Crumiller were all elected. The sole Republican challenger was Geoff Aton.

Princeton voters also endorsed an open space tax of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed property value.

Historic District

A six-year dispute over whether to designate 51 properties in the town’s architecturally diverse western section remains undecided. Residents of the homes in an area bounded by portions of Library Place, Bayard Lane, and Hodge Road are divided over the question, and more than one meeting of Borough Council this year became confrontational as the residents aired their views. The Council was scheduled to vote on the issue on December 11, but an injunction filed by those opposed to the designation prevented them from doing so.

Those in favor say the designation will protect the neighborhood from tear-downs and the construction of new homes that don’t fit in with the existing architecture. Those opposed fear the restrictions that historic designation could impose on improvements and repairs to the exteriors of their homes. The question will be carried over to the newly consolidated Council.

Community Park Pool

After months of discussions about what should and should not be included, the new Community Park Pool opened on Memorial Day weekend and won kudos all summer long as record numbers of area residents signed on as members or came on a daily basis.

Improvements to the pool park included a 20 percent expansion of the diving well to accommodate more diving boards and a water slide, a fish-shaped kiddie pool, and a “family pool” adjacent to the lap pool.

Schools

As a result of consolidation, Princeton lost its “regional school district” identity and renamed itself “Princeton Public Schools.” Offered the chance to move the date for school elections to the general election in November, the School Board opted to keep it in April for this year; in December they opted to move the next election to April.

In this year’s April election, voters approved the 2012-13 Princeton Regional school budget that includes a tax levy of $63.4 million, elected new board members Martha Land and Patrick Sullivan, and reelected Rebecca Cox. Superintendent Judy Wilson acknowledged that “voter turnout was not as high as it usually is,” in the April election, but chalked it up to the fact that there was one uncontested race (Mr. Sullivan, in the Township), and a “non-controversial budget.”

In the November election, voters approved an additional infusion of $10.9 million for improvements to all of the schools’ infrastructures.

In the fall, St. Paul’s School learned that it had been awarded a 2012 “Blue Ribbon of Excellence” award, the highest prize the Department of Education can confer.

Libraries

While the Princeton Public Library’s legal status will change with consolidation, the Board of Trustees chose not to proceed with a proposal that would have merged the Friends of the Library with the Princeton Public Library Foundation. In response to board President Katharine McGavern’s suggestion that “a single organization would make more sense from an accounting point of view,” the rest of the board voted to support what former President Claire Jacobus described as “the human capital that exists in the Friends.” This year’s annual Book Sale and Children’s Book Festival were, as usual, shining events for the library.

At Firestone Library on the Princeton University campus, renovations began on a project that is expected to be completed in 2018. The estimated cost is “in the nine figures,” and is being underwritten by the University, “just as they would a new laboratory for scientists,” said University Librarian Karin Trainer.

IAS/Battlefield

It took several contentious public hearings for the Regional Planning Board to come to a decision allowing the Institute for Advanced Study to go forward with a plan for a faculty housing development this past March. In July, the Princeton Battlefield Society filed an appeal in Mercer County Superior Court challenging the approval. Along with some historians, they believe the site is involved in the historic counterattack at the Battle of Princeton during the Revolutionary War, and therefore should not be disturbed.

Despite the legal action, and the June announcement that The National Trust for Historic Preservation had named the Princeton Battlefield to its 2012 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places, the IAS plan for eight townhouses and seven single-family homes on a seven-acre section of the campus is going forward. The development of 15 homes is expected to include a 200-foot buffer zone next to Battlefield Park that will be permanently preserved as open space.


Concluding six years of discussion and dispute between Princeton University, the governing bodies, and citizens of the town, the Regional Planning Board December 18 voted to approve the University’s $300 million Arts and Transit proposal. Borough Mayor Yina Moore was the only member of the Planning Board to cast an opposing vote.

The approval allows the University to begin planning construction of the 22-acre complex in earnest. “We hope to start the early stages of the project as early as February, if not, then certainly by March,” said Bob Durkee, University vice president and secretary, late last week. “This is a multi-stage process and things need to be done in sequence, so the sooner we can get started clearing the site and working on the utilities, the sooner we can eventually get to the new buildings.”

But a group of citizens opposed to the project will likely file an objection to the Planning Board’s decision. Representing Walter Neumann, Christopher Hedges, Dorothy Koehn, Anita Garoniak, and Marco Gottardis, attorney Bruce Afran said in an email last week, “The Planning Board decision represents a failure to consider the greater needs of the community and an abandonment of any balance in our governmental dealings with the University. In contrast to the AvalonBay project, the Board virtually rubber-stamped the Arts project, raced through the application, asked virtually no questions as to this massive development and entered its resolution on three hours notice in a clear violation of state law. The approval is almost certainly illegal and subject to reversal by the courts and an appeal is being considered.”

Three lawsuits over the project are already pending in the courts. Those represented by Mr. Afran, along with other citizens, have expressed opposition to the part of the plan that requires moving the Dinky train terminus 460 feet south of its present location. Some residents at the meeting pleaded with the Planning Board to vote the proposal down, saying the relocated station will remove an important gateway to the town and make it difficult for those with disabilities to reach the new station. They also complained that the University has not listened to their comments.

But Princeton University Architect Ron McCoy said the University has taken complaints from residents into account over the past few years and studied alternatives to the plan for the Dinky move. None of those alternatives work, he claimed.

Concerns were also raised by citizens about traffic safety and environmental issues. But Planning Board member Julie Nachamkin praised the plan for its walking paths, landscaping, reduction of impervious coverage, and energy efficiency. “And it brings the community to an area of the town where no one spends any time,” she said.

Board member Peter Madison said he is looking forward to the implementation of the plan. “I have lived here for 33 years and have seen a lot of changes, and just about all have been very good,” he said “Unlike someone who sees this as the glass half empty, I see a lot of potential here.” Mr. Madison added that while the existing rail line will never be extended through the campus to Nassau Street, a new light rail line could come in with an alternative route and stops added between Carnegie Lake and Route 1. “I don’t see this as a negative thing,” he concluded. “I understand there are trade-offs.”

Brian McDonald, who heads McCarter Theatre’s Board of Directors, was enthused about the project, specifically for its plan to turn the existing Dinky station buildings across from the theater into a restaurant and cafe. “Better parking and a dining options are two of our patrons’ greatest concerns,” he said. The eateries could help bring additional revenue at a time of struggle for arts organizations.

Before casting the lone vote against the proposal, Borough Mayor and Planning Board member Yina Moore suggested approving only the arts portion of the plan. As a transportation expert who once worked for NJ Transit, Ms. Moore said there has not been enough research done on the moving of the Dinky. Board members Marvin Reed and Janet Stern cast their votes for the plan “with regret.”

Mr. Durkee said the filing of an appeal against the Planning Board will be “another example of imposing costs on the community because the community will then have to defend the process. I think it will be an easy process to defend, because the Board has worked very diligently on this project. There is little likelihood that the appeal will make any headway at all, but it will cost the community money to defend against it.”


After a five-hour meeting that began December 19 and ended in the wee hours of December 20, Princeton’s Regional Planning Board voted against developer AvalonBay’s plan for a rental community on the former site of the University Medical Center of Princeton. The vote was 7-3, with those who voted in favor saying they did so because they feared the legal repercussions of rejecting the plan. Residents in the audience who were against the proposed development rose to their feet to give the Board a standing ovation when the vote was finally cast.

The developer’s proposal for 280 apartments, 56 of which would be affordable housing, has drawn criticism from residents of the neighborhood about a design they repeatedly called “monolithic,” and concerns about environmental issues. The group Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods was represented by two lawyers during the process. The December 19 meeting of the Planning Board was the sixth devoted to the proposal.

While one member of the public expressed support for the complex because of its percentage of affordable housing units, the comments at the meeting were overwhelmingly negative. “It’s completely out of scale with the adjacent neighborhoods,” said Joseph Weiss during a power point presentation, calling the design “a fortress.”

Princeton Borough resident Helmut Schwab said he had spoken to many people in town, most of whom were against the plan. “I plead with you. Do what is good for the citizens and vote against it or recuse yourself,” he said to the Board. Julie Roth, the rabbi for Princeton University, said there have been inconsistencies in AvalonBay’s plan. “The question is whether we have a good faith partner in AvalonBay,” she said.

Zoning for the hospital site was approved several years ago. The original developer for the site, Lubert Adler, had planned to turn the existing hospital building into condominiums with retail underneath. But the company withdrew during the 2008 recession. Planning Board member Marvin Reed, who was in the negotiations from the beginning, said the Board owed it to the neighborhood residents to reject AvalonBay’s plan because of their concerns about the design for a newly constructed complex, among other issues.

Weighing in before the vote, Planning Board member Peter Madison, a lawyer, explained his decision to vote in favor of the plan. “I have a serious concern that the applicant is in a very strong legal position,” he said. “I believe if they appeal, the case will be overturned.”

Board member Bernie Miller commented, “The question isn’t really whether there could be something better on the site, but whether we want what is proposed on the site. I have heard a lot that troubles me. It leaves me with a kind of queasy feeling of having been taken advantage of with a bait and switch here.”

During the process that began more than a year ago, AvalonBay senior vice president Ron Ladell met with an ad hoc committee to try and work out problems that neighborhood residents had with the plan. But those meetings were not successful, according to Jenny Crumiller, a member of the Planning Board who served on the committee. “It was their intent to do things the AvalonBay way, not the Princeton way,” she said. “They tweaked a bit, but they did not change it much. They are refusing to stray from their brand and realize Princeton’s uniqueness. We have standards to protect our old-fashioned neighborhoods. The overriding theme was that AvalonBay is a brand, and that’s what you get.”

The proposal called for one, two, and three bedroom apartments in a building that would reach 48 feet at its highest point. Mr. Ladell said he was offended by suggestions that he was hiding something. In his closing speech to the Board before the vote, he said that planning and zoning staff agree that the project met all local zoning requirements. “If you don’t believe me, believe your staff,” he said.

Mr. Ladell left the meeting without commenting. Efforts to reach his attorney, Anne Studholme, in the days following the meeting were unsuccessful. The University Medical Center of Princeton issued a general statement: “Princeton HealthCare System has been watching the site plan process closely. We have always advocated that the process should be allowed to occur. This part of the process is now finished. AvalonBay will need to make a decision on how it intends to proceed. We have confidence that in the end, the process will result in an appropriate outcome for the community.”


December 19, 2012

“I spent the weekend, as did many fellow heads of schools, listening to the news for any details of the story that could shed a light on how we might better protect our students from such violence,” said Stuart Country Day School Head Patricia Fagin in the aftermath of the December 14 tragedy at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut.

“Our hearts are broken for our neighbors in Newtown,” wrote Community Park Elementary School Principal Dineen Gruchacz on that school’s website. “We will be prepared on Monday morning to handle our children with love and care.”

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the students, teachers, and families of Newtown, Connecticut,” said Principal Gary R. Snyder on the Princeton High School website.

In remarks to be delivered at Tuesday evening’s School Board meeting (after Town Topics went to press), President Tim Quinn plans to say that “while this heinous act will continue to spur many substantive discussions about violence in our society and about school safety, speaking personally, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the principal and school psychologist who ran toward gunfire, and the teachers who shielded their students from bullets. Their actions were brave, selfless, and student-focused.”

In a letter to the Princeton Community, Superintendent Judy Wilson advised parents and teachers to “model calm and control; reassure children that they are safe; remind them that trustworthy people are in charge,” and “let children know that it is okay to feel upset.” In similar letters to parents and teachers, school officials like Ms. Fagin expressed their condolences to the Newtown community, described the availability of school psychologists and counselors ready to work with children distressed by the images, descriptions, and conversations going on around them, and listed additional resources that provide coping strategies.

They also reassured parents about the safety precautions in place — and now, not surprisingly, being reviewed — at each school.

“Inevitably, events like this stimulate review of our own safety procedures,” said Headmaster Jonathan G. Brougham in a letter to the Hun School community. “As the details of the Sandy Hook events unfold further, I assure you we will consider them carefully, and, if necessary, apply what we learn.”

“As you know, we have made security a priority at Stuart and have brought on board highly trained and experienced security professionals with extensive law enforcement backgrounds,” wrote Ms. Fagin in her letter to parents. “As part of our protocol, we regularly conduct various safety drills. Today we had a prescheduled lockdown drill during which faculty and staff secured the students in classrooms.

“Under normal circumstances, lockdown drills may create uneasiness, and in light of today’s tragedy, children may feel particularly ill at ease,” she added.

A message on the Johnson Park Elementary School website reported on the availability of Ms. Wilson’s district website message, adding that “we will be marshalling resources to help parents and staff members deal with inevitable questions that our children may ask (or may be too frightened to ask).”

Community-wide responses include an “Interfaith Gathering of Remembrance, Unity, and Hope” sponsored by the Princeton Clergy Association on Thursday, December 20, from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. on the Palmer Square Green in front of the Nassau Inn. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, as they try to cope with their unimaginable losses,” said Clergy Association Treasurer Robert Moore, who is also head of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action. “But let us do more than think and pray for them,” he added. “Let us remind our neighbors, friends, and families that gun violence in this nation is an epidemic and we must fight.”

Mercer County administration has also posted an online message about the shooting, noting that those who are “feeling particularly affected by this tragedy and would like to speak to someone about it ”may call Mercer County Human Services professionals Michele Madiou or Ann Dorocki, at (609) 989-6897.


At its final official meeting, Township Committee honored employees and volunteers for their help during this last year, and for their years of cumulated service.

Recognizing employees first, Mayor Chad Goerner observed that it had been a “challenging” year for them. “They underwent a certain amount of stress, and they stepped up to the challenge,” he said, referring to the unusual demands posed by the consolidation process.

Princeton University was also among the awardees on Monday evening, as Mayor Goerner presented Director of Community and Regional Affairs Kristen Appleget with a “special proclamation” that recognized the University’s role in helping to supply emergency services during Hurricane Sandy. The proclamation also noted the University’s willingness to open Jadwin Gym to voters from seven districts on Election Day, when other polling places became unavailable due to the storm. The University was cited for providing “critically needed assistance that helped return normalcy to the Princeton community.”

Members of the Consolidation Commission and the Transition Task Force were also honored for their contributions. Reviewing the history of consolidation efforts in Princeton, Mr. Goerner said that a report prepared by the League of Women Voters in 1952 anticipated much of the language used in the most recent С and ultimately successful С effort. The 1952 report described how the Borough and the Township were no longer distinctly urban versus suburban communities, and how consolidation would achieve “first rate municipal services.”

Both Consolidation Commission Chair Anton Lahnston and Mayor-elect Liz Lempert thanked Mr. Goerner for his early and sustained support for consolidation.

Making a point of saying that they were not paid for with taxpayer dollars, Mr. Goerner presented gifts to each member of Township Committee.

Township Committee will gather once more on Thursday, December 27, at 10 a.m. to do some “housekeeping.”

The continuing saga of whether to establish a historic district in Princeton’s Morven neighborhood got no closer to a decision last week at a meeting of Borough Council. At the outset, Mayor Yina Moore said that, on the advice of the Borough’s legal counsel, no action would be taken. The matter will be taken up by the newly consolidated Council next year.

Previous to the December 11 meeting, neighborhood residents opposed to designating 51 properties bordered by Library Place, Hodge Road, and Bayard Lane as historic filed an injunction, which stopped the Council from voting on the matter. According to John Heilner, a resident in favor of the designation, the injunction was filed without informing proponents of the district or their attorney.

“The only people present at the injunction hearing were opponents’ attorney and the assistant Borough Attorney,” he wrote in an email following the meeting. “Proponents of the District were not informed when it was to be held, nor was our attorney invited to participate.”

Despite the lack of a vote, Mayor Moore invited the attorneys for both sides, as well as residents who live outside the perimeter of the proposed district, to offer comment. Lawyer Mark Solomon, representing the opponents, said that the proposed ordinance was defective because under National Register of Historic Places guidelines, a historic district designation should not proceed over the objection of a majority of the property owners within the district. But Frederick Raffeto, the attorney for the residents in favor of the designation, countered that National and State criteria are not relevant at the local level.

“National and State regulations are not the same as at the local level, so they don’t apply here,” he said. “The Federal and State register process is not part of the MLUL [Municipal Land Use Law].”

The battle over whether to designate the architecturally diverse neighborhood of grand homes in Princeton’s western section has been ongoing for more than six years. Those in favor say designation would protect the neighborhood’s architectural heritage and prevent existing houses from being torn down and replaced by those that do not blend into the existing fabric. Those opposed fear that designation would impose restrictions on making changes to the exteriors of their homes. Princeton currently has four historic districts.

Mr. Solomon called the situation “a wound in this neighborhood for six years” and “a sad story of missteps.” He also said that the move is opposed “by a strong majority of the residents.” Those in favor of the designation have argued that the number is actually evenly split among those for the designation and those against it.

Among the residents from outside the district who spoke at the meeting, most were in favor of the proposal. “Historic designation provides protection from the indiscriminate destruction of existing homes,” said Alexi Assmus. “This isn’t about politics,” said Claire Jacobus. “We are talking about the history of the community. We need stewardship, not ownership.”

Scott Sipprelle, who lives just outside the proposed district in the house once owned by Grover Cleveland, spoke against the designation. “Laws don’t make and preserve history. Laws don’t make and preserve homes,” he said. “People do. There is no debate that we want preservation. It’s a question of what is the best mechanism.”

December 12, 2012

A report by an environmental consulting firm concluding that the Witherspoon Street site vacated by the University Medical Center of Princeton shows no evidence of soil or groundwater contamination was challenged Monday night at a special meeting of the Regional Planning Board. The study, carried out by Sovereign Consulting of Cherry Hill, also says that underground storage tanks at the former hospital site are not a major concern.

But an expert witness for the group Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Development, questioned by attorney Aaron Kleinbaum, said that the “due diligence” study carried out by Sovereign was not sufficient. The report examined records of underground storage tanks and the possibility of a septic system located under the parking garage, as well as asbestos in the empty building and hazardous materials on the site.

Allowing the developer AvalonBay to go ahead with its plan for a 280-unit apartment complex on the site without determining whether a septic system lies beneath the garage С which the Sovereign firm believes was either removed during construction of the garage or, if it exists, is now dormant С would not be the safest way to proceed, said James Peterson, who is president of Princeton Geoscience. “Septic issues still concern me,” he said. “Due diligence and a comprehensive site remediation report are two different things, with a very different approach.”

Mr. Peterson said that while the best time to have determined the existence of the septic tank was during the first phase of the investigation, it is still possible to delve further into the issue using hospital drawings and records that might show where septic tanks lie. “The lack of knowledge of the location of septic systems seems to me important,” he said. “If they’re unable to find it, it’s not as if there’s no recourse. It’s very easy to conduct, and I would do that.”

The lengthy discussion, which included much comment and cross-examinations by AvalonBay senior vice president Ron Ladell, was the latest in a series that has the Planning Board trying to meet the December 15 deadline. Mr. Ladell has said the company is not willing to extend that deadline.

The next and final scheduled meeting on the proposal is tomorrow night. Should the Board decide it is not prepared to vote on the issue, it could be carried into 2013, which is when the current Board will be dissolved due to consolidation and a new one will be appointed. The Board’s attorney Gerald Muller has said that the Board can reject the proposal should AvalonBay refuse to grant an extension.

Board chair Wanda Gunning made time for members of the public who cannot attend tomorrow’s meeting to comment at Monday’s gathering. While much of the focus was on environmental issues, local residents also expressed their concerns about sustainability and design standards.

Architect Areta Pawlynsky drew enthusiastic applause for her brief power point presentation about the scope of the project. Showing the scale of the buildings as compared to existing houses in the neighborhood, she likened approval of the project as it stands to the famous and much maligned demolition of New York’s Penn Station in 1963. “This is not just an ordinary application,” she said. “This is our Penn Station moment.”

Harris Road resident Marco Gottardis, who has worked in hospital research laboratories, told the Board that standards today are much improved from those of the 1960’s and 1970’s. “There may be a contamination field that goes beyond the septic system,” he said, referring to waste from the hospital before stricter standards were in place.

Borough Council member Barbara Trelstad was the only citizen to speak in favor of the AvalonBay plan. “The hospital needs to sell the site now,” she said. “The chosen developer is before the Planning Board with a pliant application. It is smart growth. The questions raised tonight apply to any developer, and I think you need to bear that in mind,” adding that the project “provides affordable rental housing in our community.”

The Sovereign firm was hired last month to do an independent report on environmental documents related to the proposed complex. Kenneth Paul, a principal with the firm EcolScience, which AvalonBay hired to do its Phase 1 environmental report, testified that he is in full agreement with Sovereign’s conclusions. “Is there any evidence that the site is not suited [for the development]?,” Mr. Ladell asked him. Mr. Paul replied that there was not. “Are there any outstanding issues from an environmental point of view?,” Mr. Ladell continued. “There are not,” Mr. Paul said.

While the meeting was contentious at times, some who have issues with the AvalonBay plan came away feeling that some recognition of environmental concerns had been taken into account.

“Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods was pleased to see a thorough discussion at last night’s Planning Board meeting of what is the proper environmental remediation of the former hospital site before homes are built on it,” said Alexi Assmus, a member of the group, in an email. “We appreciate the public being given time to ask questions of the expert witnesses and applaud residents’ persistence in determining what testing has been performed to date, and their careful questioning of what the process will be to find possible contamination during construction. We thank AvalonBay for bringing their environmental experts to the evening meeting.”

Tomorrow night’s Planning Board meeting, at the Municipal Complex, begins at 7:30 p.m.


Mayor-elect Liz Lempert and members of the new Princeton Council met on Friday morning in a closed session to discuss, Ms. Lempert said, “personnel matters.” Selecting a president for the governing body was presumably among the items on the agenda, though no final decision has been announced.

Ms. Lempert also reported that a “training meeting” was scheduled to take place this week. Transition Task Force attorney Bill Kearns would be present, she said, to “make sure everybody knows what all the details are in a borough form of government.”

Council members include current Township Committee members Bernie Miller and Lance Liverman; current Borough Council members Heather Howard, Jo Butler and Jenny Crumiller; and newcomer Patrick Simon, who has not held office before, but served on the Princeton Joint Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission; and the Information and Technology, and Finance Subcommittees of the Transition Task Force. Ms. Lempert is a Township resident. All seven are Democrats.

Speculation about who the Council president will be has included Mr. Miller, perhaps the most seasoned member of the newly created Council, and Ms. Howard. There has also been some suggestion that the president should be someone from Borough Council who has had experience with that form of government.

The new Princeton municipality will consist of a council governing body of six representatives and a mayor, all of whom are elected at-large. The mayor will serve a term of four years while the council members will be elected for three year terms. The mayor will not vote, but will preside over the body and break tie votes.

Because the mayor and Council have not officially assumed their respective offices, no voting can occur at any of these meetings.

In the new year, the new mayor, with the consent of Council, will be selecting members to serve on the municipality’s successor Boards, Committees, and Commissions (BCCs), with the highest priority placed on those BCCs governed by state law. In the meantime, the Transition Task Force’s Committees and Commissions Subcommittee has asked those interested in being on a committee to use the volunteer form available online at the Borough and Township websites, or to mail print copies that can be obtained at the Princeton Public Library or municipal clerks’ offices.

The next meeting of the mayor-elect and Council open to the public will be on Wednesday, December 12, at 5 p.m. in the main meeting room of Township Hall. Another open meeting will follow, in the same place, on Thursday, December 20, at 7 p.m.

The Center for Governmental Research (CGR), the Rochester-based, independent, nonprofit management consulting organization that helped guide Princeton’s consolidation and transition processes, has been retained by Hopewell Township in Mercer County to “conduct a strategic review of efficiency opportunities in its administrative functions and service delivery,” according to CGR spokesperson Vicki Brown. The project is expected to be completed mid-2013, and will cost approximately $70,400.

“I think their work is terrific, and they’re terrific to work with,” said Princeton Consolidation Commission Chair Anton Lahnston of his experiences working with CGR.

CGR President Joseph Stefko is project director and a senior consultant to the new project team, and CGR Senior Associate Scott Sittig is serving as project manager for the Hopewell initiative. Both Mr. Stefko and Mr. Sittig participated in the Princeton engagement.

Although no specific requests for recommendations were made, Mr. Lahnston recalled speaking with at least one elected official from Hopewell when he attended a Princeton Public Library open meeting on consolidation. He also remembered talking with Mr. Stefko about Hopewell.

“As I understand it, their work is focused on how to create some better opportunities for shared services,” Mr. Lahnston said. “It makes perfectly good sense to me. There are some obvious similarities with Princeton, and CGR has become familiar with this geographic area and some of the ‘inuenendos’ of the State’s Department of Community Affairs.”

“The Hopewell project is a different type of study from Princeton, in that it seeks to identify internal efficiency opportunities,” confirmed Ms. Brown. “It does not concern consolidation, but, in a general sense, the objectives are similar: reviewing operations, service and governance options in an effort to enhance quality, generate cost savings and/or improve the overall effectiveness of the Township’s operations and services to the community.”

The CGR/Hopewell project will involve a “comprehensive” review of existing municipal services and processes as a baseline for developing “a range of options for enhancing efficiency, both town-wide and within individual departments,” said Ms. Brown. Particular attention will paid to finding opportunities to reduce costs to the Township and taxpayers; free up resources that can be reallocated to other municipal and community priorities; and “enable service-level enhancements within the existing cost structure.”

Hopewell Township serves a growing population of 17,300 in a 58-square-mile area 40 miles northeast of Philadelphia. It is a full-service municipality, providing a range of services including police, public works, tax collection, court, and tax assessment. It was incorporated by the New Jersey Legislature in 1798.

December 5, 2012

With “day one” of consolidation fast approaching, the Princeton Transition Task Force hosted an informational “town hall” meeting on Monday evening at the Princeton Public Library.

Center for Governmental Research (CGR) President Joe Stefko presented an overview of the 100-plus page document described by Chairman Mark Freda as the Task Force’s “almost final” report. The current version, in its entirety, is available online at cgr.org/princeton; a final report is due to be completed by the end of this year.

Mr. Stefko has been a project manager and consultant on consolidation and transition since 2010 (“I still love to come to Princeton,” he joked on Monday). The report, he noted, includes “a process overview” detailing the identification of priority tasks and subsequent recommendations by Task Force subcommittees.

The report will serve as “an informational resource” for residents, other stakeholders, and the new governing body as they go forward with consolidation, observed Mr. Stefko. “So much of Task Force’s work was focused on the immediate, but January 1 is just day one of a new era.” By detailing each subcommittee’s responsibilities, recommendations, and the processes through which they reached their recommendations, the report provides a basis for “what should be on participants’ radar screens” after January 1. Transition Task Force subcommittees included Boards, Commissions and Committees; Communications; Facilities and other Assets; Infrastructure and Operations; Informational Technology; Personnel; and Public Safety.

Future consolidation efforts by other communities also stand to profit from the report, suggested Mr. Tefko. “When they go through this process, there’s a lot that they can learn.”

A “Guide to Municipal Offices” distributed at the Monday meeting listed the offices that are, or will be, situated in both municipal buildings. Township Hall, which is identified in the brochure as “400 Witherspoon Street,” will house the mayor and Council; Clerk’s Office; Administrator’s Office; Finance Department; Police Department; Court and Violations Bureau; and Department of Engineering. Borough Hall, or “One Monument Drive,” will be home to the Health Department; Human Services; Affordable Housing; Department of Public Works and Infrastructure; Parking Operations; and an additional office for the mayor and Administration.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Administrator Bob Bruschi describing the move. “Most of the offices have been relocated and we’re a little ahead of where we anticipated we’d be. I have to say it’s gone amazingly well.” Updates on office locations are also available at the consolidation website.

The Township and Borough voted in favor on consolidation on November 8, 2011. The Transition Task Force was established by the two municipalities’ governing bodies in January, 2012. Consolidation will officially begin on January 1, 2013. A party marking this historic occasion, will follow an organizational meeting. Details of the day’s events have not yet been announced.

There will be a joint meeting of the Consolidation Commission and the Transition Task Force on Monday, December 17, at 7 p.m. in Township Hall.


It didn’t look like Chase Ealy was going to be able to help the Princeton High boys’ soccer team last week as it pursued the Group III state title.

The sophomore midfielder’s temperature spiked to 104 as he was hit with a viral illness and woke up in the hospital on Wednesday, the day PHS was facing Moorestown in the Group III state semis.

Ealy did get released and was a spectator that evening as PHS topped Moorestown 2-0 to earn its first trip to the state championship game since winning the title in 2009.

On Saturday afternoon, Ealy was in uniform as PHS took on defending state champion and undefeated Ramapo in the championship game at The College of New Jersey.

Looking pale and wan as he warmed up, Ealy was hoping to come off the bench. “I came into the game with the expectation of playing as much as coach would play me,” said Ealy.

“I couldn’t handle as much as I normally could but I was going to give it my all. I just did what I could. I couldn’t run as much as I usually do.”

With PHS trailing Ramapo 1-0 early in the second half, Ealy was subbed into the game and made an immediate impact. Using his speed and guile, Ealy corralled several balls in the offensive end for PHS.

Then with just under 18 minutes left in the half, Ealy danced the ball around a Ramapo defender and launched a cross that Scott Bechler headed home to knot the game at 1-1.

“I knew that I had boys in the box that I can always look for,” recalled Ealy. “As long as I toss up an accurate ball, I know I will have someone on the post and they were there for me.”

At the other end of the cross, senior defender Bechler finally converted on a move he has been trying for a while.

“All year I have been crashing back post hoping that one is going to slip through and finally it did,” said Bechler.

The Little Tigers kept up the heat after the tally, generating several chances, including a rocket by Bechler that was just fisted over the crossbar by Ramapo goalie Will Shiel, as the game escalated into a pulsating hand-to-hand battle with the Raiders hanging on for dear life as PHS threw everything it could at them.

The combatants ended up knotted at 1-1 after regulation play and 20 minutes of overtime with the teams being crowned as co-champions under NJSIAA rules.

While Bechler and his teammates desperately wanted the title for themselves, they were proud of their achievement as they ended the season at 18-3-1.

“No one likes to share;” Zach [Halliday] said before overtime, “I never liked sharing since I was a kid and I am not about to start sharing now,” said Bechler with a laugh.

“Looking back on it, we are kind of sorry right now because we thought we could have won it. I guess they could have won it too so sharing is alright.”

Early on it looked like Ramapo was going to make it two straight titles as it took a 1-0 lead with 23:09 left in the first half, displaying some imperious form in the process.

Even though PHS trailed 1-0 at intermission, the team was confident it could pull out the title.

“I think we were really confident coming off halftime,” said Ealy. “We have come back from being down before. We know if we get our heads in it, we can win every game. After working all season, we really weren’t going to let this game go.”

Ealy provided some sparkling work once he was inserted into the contest. “I just knew I could really help the guys,” said Ealy.

“I love to push the ball forward and that’s what we strive to do on attack. I came in and I just tried to morally pick everybody up as much as I could. They were already there, physically and mentally.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe thought his team gave its all, mentally and physically.

“It was two good teams, I thought we really had the better in terms of possession, a higher percentage of possession, and certainly a lot more quality chances during the run of play,” said Sutcliffe, whose team outshot Ramapo 17-4 on the day.

“Ramapo had one goal off of a restart, I think most of their top chances came from restarts. I just thought that our urgency and our experience and our quality just came through in the second half.”

Sutcliffe lauded the special urgency that Ealy displayed as he made the most of his limited minutes.

“He was in the hospital for three days and he found a way to recover,” said Sut-cliffe.

“He was with us at the state semifinal on Wednesday evening with none of us ever thinking he would be back on this season. He turned up at practice the other day and he felt pretty good. We inserted him into training yesterday, kept a close eye on him, and he was fantastic. So we felt if we can get him on for 10-to-15 minutes, he could make a difference and he did. What a contribution with his commitment and his quality.”

Senior defender Bechler displayed his special qualities all day long. “Throughout the 100 minutes, Scott didn’t make a mistake,” maintained Sutcliffe.

“Certainly to tie the game with a header is fantastic. Just having the  wherewithal to be on the other end of that delivery from Chase and he hit it with such authority. And then he could have won the game with that volley, credit to Ramapo’s keeper for just pulling one out of his pocket.”

Although PHS didn’t win the game, Sutcliffe is happy to have a piece of the title in his pocket.

“My brother’s team Moorestown High had a share in 2000 and in 1997 they won it; it was just a little different but it is still a state championship,” said Sutcliffe, whose team topped brother Mike Sutcliffe and his Moorestown side 2-0 in the Group III semis on Wednesday evening to punch its ticket to the title game.

“It is still a state championship and I am so proud of our guys. It has been a really demanding season with the hurricane and the injuries and the postseason. The postseason tournament was very demanding on all of us. I am so proud of them. There are 12 seniors and they gave us everything we had.”

Sutcliffe is not surprised that his players were able to meet those demands.

“First of all, the whole team is basically full-time soccer players,” said Sutcliffe, who has been guiding the PHS program for 17 years.

“It is in their blood, they love it. They are fortunate enough to grow up in a great soccer environment. They are so passionate about the Princeton shirt. These seniors when they were freshmen, they were here and we won it too. With that said, they tried to just make their mark. Beyond that, off the field, they are all very close. I think that goes a long way for them.”

Bechler, who didn’t have a shirt for the title game in 2009 as a freshman,     enjoyed making his way back to the championship summit.

“I am playing with all of my best friends; I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out,” said Bechler.

“I was on the team as a freshman. I was rostered but I didn’t have a jersey so I was over in the corner playing some juggling with the other kids who weren’t playing. I was wearing Princeton warm-ups. Ever since that year, I was thinking if I was a little bit better I could have had that ring. It has always been about getting one of my own and now I finally have the chance.”

For Ealy, who moved to the area from South Carolina this summer, getting the chance to be part of the PHS team has been special.

“I would tell you that it is the legacy; it is the history in the school and the soccer,” said Ealy, reflecting on the qualities that set the program apart. “You want to represent it and make every last wearer of the shirt proud.”

And by overcoming illness to help PHS earn a title, Ealy certainly did his shirt proud.


Arguments for and against Princeton University’s plan to move the Dinky station as part of its $300 million Arts and Transit plan continued at a meeting of the Regional Planning Board last Thursday. The board is hoping to wrap up discussions of the final site plan for the project before consolidation goes into effect on January 1.

Opposition has been expressed not so much for the plan itself, which would bring a complex of performance, rehearsal, and other spaces to the campus, but for the relocation of the train station some 480 feet south of its present location. The Lewis Center for the Arts project would turn the existing station buildings, opposite McCarter Theatre, into a restaurant and cafe.

Attorney Bruce Afran, who represents a group of citizens opposed to the move, spent much of the meeting questioning officials about such issues as pedestrian safety and traffic impact. The opposition maintains that the University does not have the legal right to move the station because of an easement that allows public transportation access over its land, and that the plans for pedestrian crossings in the area are unsafe.

But Board member Peter Madison said it was not the Board’s job to rule on those points. “We have an application here that is in full compliance with the legal zoning,” he said. “If it is, I don’t see that I have an alternative to turning this application down.” Mr. Afran disagreed, saying the Board was not limited to the question of zoning compliance, and could deny approval if they feel public safety is at risk.

Among those testifying against the proposal were planner and University transportation professor Alain Kornhauser and local architect Michael Landau. Mr. Kornhauser delivered a power point presentation in which he said the project could proceed without moving the Dinky terminus. “Princeton University can even extend Blair Walk without moving the Dinky station or the tracks,” he said, adding that traffic flow and pedestrian safety would be compromised by the proposed plan.

Mr. Landau said that the design for the new Dinky station by architect Rick Joy keeps it “hidden from the public.” He cited New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to give in to public pressure and cancel the New York Marathon after Hurricane Sandy as an example to be followed. “Why can’t we accommodate the public?” he asked, saying it wasn’t too late for changes to be made to the Lewis Center plan.

Earlier in the meeting, University Secretary and Vice-President Bob Durkee took issue with statements made at the previous Planning Board meeting by a member of the public. “We were chastised for not listening to the community,” he said. “I can tell you that we have listened … and the design reflects that.” Mr. Durkee added that other proposals were studied in detail, and that the project is consistent with the master plan.

Members of the public testifying in favor of the project included Peter Crowley, president and CEO of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce; David Newton, vice president of Palmer Square Management; and former Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand. “The plan you have before you complies with recently adopted zoning,” she said. “I think it is your obligation to move ahead.”

There will be further opportunity for public comment at the Planning Board meeting scheduled for December 19, at which there is expected to be a vote on whether to approve the plan.


November 28, 2012

They are forbidden by law to take official action until January 1. But the new Princeton Council, headed by Mayor-elect Liz Lempert, held its first preliminary meeting Monday to get a head start on what is sure to be a busy schedule once consolidation takes effect January 1.

“What we’re doing here is getting organized so we can hit the ground running on January 1,” said Ms. Lempert. While no voting was permitted, there was “a lot of housekeeping” to attend to, she added. The six members of the newly elected Council, all Democrats, were in attendance. Seated around a table, instead of on the dais, were Jenny Crumiller, Jo Butler, and Heather Howard, who are part of the current Borough Council, along with Lance Liverman and Bernie Miller, who come from Township Committee. The two governing bodies officially become one on the first day of 2013.

Chief among the topics at this preliminary meeting was trash and food waste collection. Borough residents currently have their trash picked up once a week, while Township residents use other services. Once consolidation takes effect, Township residents can either have their refuse picked up by the municipality or continue to contract privately.

The Borough’s current contract expires February 1, and bids are due in by December 6. But there will be no lapse in services. “We will be ready for residential pickup,” said Bob Bruschi, the consolidated government administrator. “We will do two mass mailings [with information] and some of it is already on the website. But we will hold the details, like when specific trash days are going to be, until we see who the vendor is going to be.”

Ms. Lempert added that Township residents who want to participate in the program must cancel their private services, if they have them, as of January 1. There will be no change in the Borough’s refuse collection.

The residential Curbside Food Waste Program currently counts about 430 Township and Borough residents as participants. The program sends food waste to a compost pile instead of a landfill and costs $240 per year per household. A new two-year proposal would continue the program at about $37 to $59 per household.

Mr. Miller asked Janet Pellichero, who is Princeton Township’s Recycling Coordinator, why more people aren’t participating in the current program. “The main issue is cost,” she said, citing the $20 a month required. The topic was to be taken up in more detail at last night’s meeting of Borough Council.

Other topics at the meeting included training and goal-setting. Ms. Lempert said she hopes to have at least one goal-setting session that would be open to members of the public. Ms. Lempert intends to hold a few more of these unofficial gatherings of the new Council before the year’s end. The next one is December 3 at 5 p.m., in the municipal complex.


The Transition Task Force’s Committees and Commissions Subcommittee met on Monday morning to discuss “filling out the complement” of committee members who will serve when consolidation becomes official on January 1, 2013.

All Boards, Commissions, and Committees for both Princeton Borough and Township will cease to exist as of December 31. In practical terms, this means all terms of office will end on that day. In the new year, the new mayor, with the consent of Council, will be selecting new members to serve on the successor Boards, Committees, and Commissions (BCCs), with the highest priority placed on those BCCs governed by state law.

“I’m encouraged,” said subcommittee member Hendricks Davis of the number of responses to the initial call for volunteers. He added, however, that “not every single seat in every single committee will be filled on January 1. The door to the stable has not been closed, and there is a continued need to reach out to people and encourage participation.”

Approximately 180 people have come forward so far; over 200 positions need to be filled. Mr. Hendricks and the other subcommittee members in attendance at Monday’s meeting, Wanda Gunning, Bernie Miller, and Gary Patteson, agreed that it is considered good practice to have a larger cadre of potential volunteers than will be needed. It was also agreed that municipal lawyers will offer guidance to committees that have not yet reached their full complement.

Mayor-elect Liz Lempert has reportedly suggested that there be “a table” offering BCC applications and information at the January 1 organizational meeting. The subcommittee is hoping that the historic nature of the meeting that day will draw a large audience, and that those who haven’t already volunteered will be moved to do so.

Until then, the volunteer form for serving is on both the Borough and Township websites and can be completed online. Hard copies of the application form are available in the Clerk’s Office at either the Borough or Township, and the Public Library. These should be submitted to Township Municipal Clerk Linda McDermott, 400 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, N.J. 08540. Questions may also be directed to Ms. McDermott at (609) 924-5704.

Volunteering for a committee does not in any way ensure that a person will become a member. Qualifications are important, and, in some instances, committee members are required to specialize or have certification in areas like engineering, medicine, or architecture. This is particularly true of some of the state-mandated BCCs, which include the Planning Board, the Construction Board of Appeals, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, Historic Preservation, the Board of Health, Human Services, and the Library Board. It was noted that Princeton-based architects are sometimes reluctant to serve on the Planning Board because of the need to recuse themselves from certain cases.

In their applications, prospective volunteers may indicate their first, second, and third choice of committees, boards, or commissions, and may serve on more than one.

Mr. Patteson suggested that there was “no conclusion to be drawn” from the response so far, except that “we have to go back and ask people.” Ms. Gunning and Mr. Miller agreed that it would be good to remind current committee members about this opportunity to continue serving the community.


If Princeton merchants have their way, the newly consolidated government will include a commission devoted to the business community. Mayor-elect Liz Lempert, who attended a meeting of the Princeton Merchants Association Tuesday morning, told the audience that she was open to that idea, which was suggested by a member of the organization.

The meeting was held at Princeton Public Library’s Community Room. Invited to talk about her future plans regarding the business community, Ms. Lempert listed strong communication, sustainability, and solving traffic problems as some of her major concerns.

“I would really like to focus on having great communication,” she said. “The website should be improved, and I’ve been looking at websites from other towns to see how we can do it better. I’d like us to become more sustainable. We don’t have easy recycling downtown, and I want to work on that, as well as energy efficiency. I want to address the long-standing problems of traffic and parking in the Borough. Whether we use satellite parking or shuttles, I don’t know yet. But it’s something I want to look at.”

Tere Villamil, the owner of La Jolie Salon & Spa, commented that Borough businesses often lose employees to stores in malls because of the high cost of parking in downtown Princeton.

Members also heard reports from Linda Mather and Scott Sillars, members of the Transition Task Force, about how the process of consolidation is progressing. Ms. Mather said that movement in the Borough and Township municipal buildings and some changes in infrastructure are results already in place. Mr. Sillars, who is vice-chair of the Task Force, said that the biggest changes are in administration, finance, public safety, public works, and the clerk’s office.

Praising consolidation, he added, “The change in efficiency and operations in government is going to be magnificent. We saw during Hurricane Sandy how Public Works and the police worked together — magnificently.”

Ms. Lempert encouraged PMA members to attend the goal-setting meetings, open to the public, that she is planning to hold at dates to be announced. The new government is “a window” allowing things that didn’t happen to become things that do happen. “There is a real opportunity to make change,” she said.

Carly Meyer, president of the PMA, said, “We get it and we’re here to play ball.”


November 21, 2012

At its Monday evening meeting, Township Committee unanimously supported a proposal to hire an outside environmental consultant to review documents associated with AvalonBay’s plans to develop the former site of the Medical Center at Princeton. In a split vote last week, Borough Council did not approve the plan (see related article).

Township Committee’s vote authorizes the payment of not more than $2,999 to Sovereign Consulting, a New Jersey-based environmental consulting and remediation firm. Although not finalized, it was agreed to proceed under the assumption that Sovereign’s fee would come out of AvalonBay’s escrow account. AvalonBay attorney Anne Studholme had suggested that the fee be borne by the municipality.

Township Committee member Bernie Miller, who is also a member of the Planning Board, noted that there was “considerable concern” about environmental issues at the site, and suggested that it was important to proceed. Township Engineer Bob Kiser thought that the review could be done “fairly quickly” and would be “consistent with the current schedule.”

Mr. Kiser spoke about the importance of removing or “properly decommissioning” abandoned tanks at the site, noting that there are at least four that “will probably need to be removed,” although current AvalonBay plans do not provide for their removal. The site straddles both the Township and Borough, and there are abandoned tanks in each; Mr. Kiser suggested that they are so “intertwined,” it would be difficult to separate a response to them.

“I feel pretty strongly that this is something that we should do,” added Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert, who chaired the meeting in Mayor Chad Goerner’s absence. “We want to make sure that we are doing our due diligence.”

In other business Monday evening the Township approved a proposal to expand First Aid and Rescue Squad headquarters at 237 Harrison Street. Expansion costs will be paid by the Squad, which already serves both the Township and the Borough.

Other agenda items included the reading of a proclamation declaring Saturday, November 24 as “Small Business Saturday.” Small businesses, the proclamation said, “create jobs, boost economy,” and “preserve neighborhoods.”

Chief Financial Officer Kathy Monzo explained a resolution extending the due date of real estate taxes to November 21 because of Hurricane Sandy. She said that the Borough would be passing a similar resolution with the same date.


A special convening of the Princeton Regional Planning Board on November 12 had members of Borough Council, in their meeting the following evening, questioning whether proper protocol was followed because of an item added to the agenda.

The Board voted November 12 to recommend that the Council hire a private environmental consultant to evaluate documentation of the former site of the University Medical Center at Princeton, where developer AvalonBay is contracted to build an apartment complex. But in a split decision, members of Council voted not to hire the Trenton firm, Sovereign Consulting.

They cited the fact that AvalonBay was not informed of the meeting, and questioned whether the consultation was necessary. “What other applicant have we required this of?” asked Councilman Kevin Wilkes. “None.”

Sovereign Consulting was recommended at a cost of $2,990, which would be paid for through AvalonBay’s Borough escrow account. A separate, lesser amount would be paid by the Township, where a smaller portion of the site is located.

“What obligations do we have to enforce remediation strategies on the applicant?” asked Wilkes. “A whole state protocol is in place for these issues. Why do we need to create our own review process when the state statute covers this?” Questioning the timing of the addition of the item to the Planning Board’s agenda, he suggested “shady behavior.” “I don’t support it,” he said. “I don’t think it was properly noticed.”

The Planning Board made their recommendation after suggestions by the Princeton Environmental Commission that a consultant be hired. In addition, the Princeton Regional Health Commission had referred the issue to the Planning Board.

Before voting on the recommendation last Tuesday, the Council allowed for public comment. “The environmental impact studies had very serious errors,” said Dodds Lane resident Jane Buttars, who is part of the group Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods. “They need to be looked at by an independent consultant.” She added, “There are public health issues at stake. No one here has had experience in decommissioning a hospital, and guidance would be helpful.”

In a memo sent to Borough Council after the meeting, Matt Wasserman, chair of the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC), requested that the Council reconsider its decision. He said that the PEC would make a financial contribution if the cost of hiring the consulting firm is at issue.

“We were very dismayed to learn that the Borough Council did not authorize an independent environmental consultant to review the voluminous amount of environmental documents associated with this application, and to consider whether additional sampling would be required, as requested by the Planning Board and the PEC. This review should include all documents submitted to the record of this application,” the memo reads. “The potential impact of this property is so important that to make a less than fully informed decision could risk the health and welfare of the future residents of this development and the surrounding community. We believe this review is vital to making a responsible decision on the application.”

Discussions of the AvalonBay proposal continued at the November 15 Planning Board meeting (see related story).

Mr. Wilkes was also critical, at the November 13 Council meeting, of a request to increase the budget for legal work by Hill Wallack, its regular law firm, and Stephen Barcan, a special attorney hired primarily to handle issues related to the issue of moving the Dinky terminus. “How did we exceed our legal budget with Hill Wallack by 40 percent this year?” Mr. Wilkes asked, referring to the request to raise the cap on the firm’s contract from $175,000 for 2012 to $245,000.

Council members were not clear as to whether the requests had to do with previous legal work, on issues related to the transition to consolidation, or were for work that has yet to be covered. Ultimately, the Council decided to put off acting on the two separate resolutions until the return of Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi, who was not present at the meeting.


Testimony on the rental community that developer AvalonBay is contracted to build at the former site of the University Medical Center continued on November 15 at a meeting of the Regional Planning Board. Postponements caused by Superstorm Sandy and a glitch in the recording equipment at the previous meeting, requiring some rehashing of testimony, slowed down the proceedings.

And time is of the essence. The Board has until December 15 to rule on the application, a deadline that AvalonBay senior vice president Ron Ladell has said will not be extended. Meetings on December 6, 10, and 13 will be devoted to further discussion of the proposed development, the Board decided at the packed gathering last week.

Many residents have expressed concerns about the environmental impact and design standards of the 280-unit development [see related stories on this page]. As described by Mr. Ladell and architect Jonathan Metz of the firm Perkins Eastman, the four-to-five story building is designed to have two courtyards, one of which is open to the public and the other which would be closed off for security reasons.

“We looked at the building as sitting in a garden,” said Mr. Metz. “One of our aims was to restore green space, to make the building interact with green space.”

Critics of the plan have said that it creates a gated community. At the previous meeting, Planner Marvin Reed said that original discussions about the site with the hospital administration provided for at least two parks to be part of the development. Mr. Ladell cited safety issues with the pool that is part of the design as a reason for making the second park private. “This is the only area the public isn’t allowed into,” he said.

Mr. Reed reiterated his point. “We had a lot of discussion about open space, where residents and neighbors would intermingle,” he said. After asking the architect to show the dimensions of the public courtyard — 96 by 110 feet — he said, “There seems to be a discrepancy between my imagination and the ordinance. I thought there would be more open space. Somehow what we thought was going to happen didn’t get codified.”

Asked by Planning Board vice-chair Gail Ullman how this development differs from others that AvalonBay has built across the country, Mr. Ladell said none have courtyards and this much open space. He added that the company has not previously had an opportunity to purchase a site with an existing parking garage, which this one has.

Mr. Metz described the apartment building as 48 feet at its highest point on one side, and 32.5 feet high on the other. “In every category of the bulk zone regulations, it exceeds or complies,” he said.

Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods (PCSN), which has its own attorney and environmental consultant, has many questions and concerns about the project and AvalonBay’s resistance to hiring an independent environmental consultant.

“AvalonBay has not followed its own consultant’s recommendation for a subsurface investigation of sewer discharges, including those from the old septic system, and PCSN strongly believes that this testing should be done,” said PCSN member Alexi Assmus in an email this week. “The only soil and groundwater testing that Avalon has performed is adjacent to the five underground tanks.”


November 14, 2012

A week after Princeton Borough and Township residents elected Democrat Liz Lempert mayor of the newly consolidated town, Ms. Lempert and her opponent, Republican Dick Woodbridge, reflected on the race that earned Ms. Lempert 6,093 votes to Mr. Woodbridge’s 3,939. Drawing more than 10,000 voters to the polls in the wake of one of the worst storms in New Jersey’s history speaks of the importance of the race to the local population.

“It was a difficult week for pretty much everyone in town,” said Ms. Lempert. “And there were many people who had their polling places changed twice С first because of consolidation and redistricting, and then a second time because of [Superstorm] Sandy. We were worried that there would be mass confusion and frustration, but by and large things seemed to go relatively smoothly. People came out to vote even though there was a lot of storm clean-up to do. It just shows that Princeton is a community that cares and that takes its voting seriously.”

Mr. Woodbridge, a previous mayor of Princeton Township who served on Borough Council for three years, is no stranger to political campaigns. He is pleased with the way this one unfolded.

“I don’t have any regrets,” he said. “I think we ran the best campaign we could. This is the ninth time I’ve run in 36 years. I’ve won some and I’ve lost some. There are things we could have done better and things we did pretty well. What I really liked about this one was the broad-based, non-partisan nature. We showed you can run a non-partisan campaign. Clearly, there was a strong sense that this town should be non-partisan, if not in political composition at least in spirit. We saw that all across the board, and that was the biggest takeaway for me.”

Compared to some races in Princeton’s recent past, this one was “relatively clean,” Mr. Woodbridge added. “There was no real mud-slinging. We tried to stay to the arguments, and it never got personal. I have no negative personal feelings against any of the people I ran against. This is a small town and you’ve got to live with people.”

There were more supporters than Mr. Woodbridge could list in the campaign ads he ran in local newspapers. “We had a number of endorsements we couldn’t add,” he said. “It was a really nice cross-section of people representing the entire town who were supportive of my kind of campaign. What can you say? You do the best you can. And the hurricane didn’t do anybody any favors.”

Even before she takes the oath of office, Ms. Lempert is planning to meet with staff and Council members of the consolidated Princeton. “We checked with lawyers and found that it’s okay for the new Council members to start meeting before being sworn in,” she said on election night. “I would like to have a goal-setting session before the end of the year.”

Expanding on those plans this week, Ms. Lempert said she hopes this type of session will become an annual exercise. “I’ve talked about it with [Princeton administrator] Bob Bruschi, and we both think it would be a useful idea to have what is essentially a brainstorming session,” she said. “There is a lot of excitement about consolidation, and there are certainly a lot of opportunities. Eventually we have to get to every good idea, but we want to be strategic about what we try to tackle in the first year because we don’t want to pull the staff in so many different directions so that nothing gets done.”

The first order of business is likely to be ensuring that the promises of consolidation are met. “We have to do a good job tracking the savings of consolidation, and make sure that we’re looking for ways to enhance services wherever possible,” Ms. Lempert added. “One of the things that I think is going to be really important in the coming year is having excellent communications — making sure we are using all forms of media to get our message out in terms of any changes there might be. We want residents to know how to get what they need from the government in the most efficient way possible.”


At an open forum this past Monday evening that focused on the search for Princeton University’s next president, members of the local governing bodies and a handful of community residents made clear their hopes for a leader with a heightened sensitivity to town/gown relations.

While all who spoke to eight representatives of the 17-member search committee expressed gratitude for the opportunity, few minced words when describing outgoing president Shirley Tilghman’s interactions with the local community. Ms. Tilghman, president of the University since 2001, announced her intention to step down at the end of the current academic year.

“Fear and intimidation has become a common theme on and off campus with the present administration,” said resident Joseph McGeady. “Tilghman apparently views the community only as an obstacle to the University’s plans.” Mr. McGeady was among the speakers who referred to a contentious Borough Council meeting in January, 2011, when Ms. Tilghman requested approval of the University’s plans for its Arts and Transit neighborhood. David Goldfarb, a former member of Borough Council, urged the committee to view a videotape of the meeting.

Led by University trustees Laura Forese ’83 and Kathryn Hall ’80, the forum was designed to hear input from local residents rather than to answer questions. Earlier in the day, the search was the topic at a gathering of the Council of the Princeton Community. Further meetings on the search are scheduled with members of the University faculty, staff, and students this week.

Resident Linda Sipprelle suggested that the new president come from the business world rather than academia. “An ideal candidate could be found among the many accomplished alumni of Princeton who have contributed to the success of business or finance,” she said. “A president with experience in the real world can best lead the University successfully into the 21st century both locally and nationally.”

Borough Council member Kevin Wilkes, who entered Princeton University in 1975, described the town of that time as very different from today. “The equilibrium has changed,” he said, referring to its metamorphosis from quiet college town to an “extraordinarily hyper” destination. “The new president should be aware and open to issues of growth,” he said. “Friction has developed as the University has grown. I would hope the new president would be open to mutual planning strategies.”

Borough resident Chip Crider, also a graduate of the University, said, “We need a new president who is the kind of guy who you’d invite over to your house if you were grilling. And we don’t have that.” He added, “The case can be made to get a president who didn’t come from an academic background. It should be someone who can get respect.”

Princeton mayor-elect Liz Lempert said she hoped the new president would be someone “interested in working on this relationship in earnest.” Princeton “could be a model for town/gown relations,” she added. “To have someone interested in engaging in that partnership is something I’d like to see.”

Borough Mayor and Princeton graduate Yina Moore described Ms. Tilghman’s attitude toward the community as “nothing but destructive” and said she “has expressed only a disdain for elected officials and the democratic process.” Ms. Moore was referring not only to the struggles over Arts and Transit, but also to a pending Assembly bill that would allow private universities and colleges to expand without municipal approval. A president who is “not dictating to the town, but in a relationship, a partnership, is much more what the community needs,” she said.

About 25 people attended the forum, which was held in a room in Robertson Hall. Bob Durkee, University vice-president and secretary, said the committee was prepared to move to a larger room if an overflow crowd had attended. While future forums are a possibility, the University is urging the public to express their views on the selection of a new president by logging onto the website princeton.edu/presidentialsearch.

“We’ve already had members of the community who have found their way to that website, and we hope more will,” he said Tuesday. “If we don’t see comments coming through, one option would be to have another conversation of this kind, or a more general one where community members and others will participate. Yesterday’s were the first. We’re just getting started and we’ll see how things go.”


Responses to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy range from official initiatives at the Federal and State level,Кto more home-spun, locally-based collections of supplies for hard-hit families in shoreline communities around the tri-state area.

In recent days, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that it had added Mercer and Hunterdon counties to its major disaster declaration that already included Monmouth, Middlesex, and Somerset counties, enabling residents and business owners in these communities to apply for Individual Assistance program assistance to help recover from Hurricane Sandy.

FEMA encourages those who have suffered loss to apply for aid over the phone at 1-800-621.3362 (FEMA), or online www.disasterassistance.gov or www.fema.gov.

Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) was instrumental in getting Mercer and Hunterdon on FEMA’s list. “Just after Sandy hit our region, I sent a letter to President Obama requesting such a declaration,” he reported. “When I toured affected areas with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on November 4, I re-emphasized the need for speedy action on the declaration. I’m pleased FEMA has responded.”

FEMA assistance for affected individuals, families, and businesses may include rental payments for temporary housing for those whose homes are unlivable; short-term lodging assistance for evacuees who are not able to return home for an extended or indeterminate period of time following the storm; grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance to make damaged dwellings safe, sanitary, and functional; and grants to replace personal property and help meet medical, dental, funeral, transportation, and other serious disaster-related needs not covered by insurance or other federal, state and charitable aid programs.

Filling out the paperwork for FEMA may be daunting for some, and Mr. Holt said that those requiring assistance should call him at (609) 750-9365.

With area blood supplies down more than 6,000 units from hurricane disruptions, New Jersey Blood Services (NJBS), a division of New York Blood Center (NYBC), is asking for post-hurricane emergency blood donations. “We anticipated some of the potential effects of Hurricane Sandy, and delivered blood in advance to our 200 partner hospitals,” said NYBC Vice President Rob Purvis. “Our first priority remains getting them whatever they need for the care of patients, including the surgeries that had to be delayed last week. Plus — with the holiday season right around the corner — we’re in a tough spot.” The need for blood is constant, whatever the weather or holiday, noted Mr. Purvis. The shelf life of platelets is only five days; the shelf life of red blood cells is 42 days. About one in seven people entering a hospital needs blood.

To find out how and where to donate blood, or for information on how to organize a blood drive, call (800) 933-2566 or visit www.nybloodcenter.org.

Locally, area chefs Max Hansen of Max Hansen Catering; Josh Thomsen from the soon to be opened restaurant, Agricola; Manuel Perez from The Peacock Inn; Mark Silverman from the Bedens Brook Club; Scott Anderson of elements; and The Bent Spoon’s Gabby Carbone, will be preparing food and providing services for a cocktail party fundraiser at the Bedens Brook Club in Skillman on Sunday, November 18, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. To attend, contact co-organizers Teresa Danko at TMDanko@aol.com, or Holly Schade, at holschade@aol.com. The event is $250 per seat for “red level” participants, and $150 per seat for those at “white level.”

Also locally, the online resource Princetonscoop.com has embarked on a program to “RestoreOurShore.” Initial efforts focused on collecting supplies and food for the approximately 200 first responders on Long Beach Island who were without water, gas, or power. Drop-off sites and more target areas will be described at the site in the coming days.

Donations from Princeton residents enabled D’Angelo Market representatives to transport a truck full of donations to St. Francis de Sales Church in Rockaway, N.Y. last week. “Folks and volunteers at the Recovery Center were praising the quality of the donations with emotion,” they reported. Donated items included heavy coats, blankets, socks, underwear, scarves, and gloves. Baby supplies included wipes, diapers, bottles, formula, and baby food, sorted for distribution to areas of Rockaway, Far Rockaway, and Broad Channel. Princeton residents also remembered the elderly, donating adult diapers and vitamin fortified products like Ensure.

PSE&G advised that they expected almost all of Princeton Borough and Princeton Township Residents to have power restored by the end of Saturday, November 10. Area residents who are still without power should call PSE&G at (800) 436-7734.

Borough and Township officials sounded a cautious note by reporting that while “the majority of the town has received power, we are not backing down in our communication with PSE&G to get power to those that still are without. In fact, we share our residents’ frustration as we have tried to get specific areas in which PSE&G projects a longer duration for power restoration so that residents can be notified so that they can make alternative plans and we can also better direct our resources.”


November 7, 2012

Democrat Liz Lempert will be the new mayor of consolidated Princeton. At press time the unofficial vote count was 6,093 for Ms. Lempert, and 3,939 for Republican opponent Richard Woodbridge.

“I’m thrilled,” Ms. Lempert said last night when the numbers came in. “It looks like there was a really strong turnout. We were worried that with the storm, there would be a lot of confusion. But it looks like things went more smoothly than expected.”

Township and Borough votes were counted together in this election. Consolidated Princeton now has 22 voting districts.

In the Presidential election, Princetonians overwhelmingly supported President Barack Obama with 7,903 votes. Republican challenger Mitt Romney received 2,474 votes.

The six Democrats running for Council seats were all elected: tentative vote counts were Bernie Miller with 7,114; Patrick Simon with 7,090; Heather Howard with 6914; Jo Butler with 6,903; Lance Liverman with 6,861; and Jenny Crumiller with 6,807. The Republican challenger, Geoff Aton, received 3,533 votes.

Democratic Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) won handily over his Republican challenger, Eric A. Beck, with 7,964 votes to Mr. Beck’s 2,071. Democratic Senator Robert Menendez defeated Republican candidate Joe Kyrillos with 7,474 votes to Mr. Kyrillos’s 2,554.

Princeton voters endorsed an open space tax of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed property value. Because the Borough and the Township will cease to exist as separate entities on December 31, it was necessary for this year’s ballot to include a question authorizing the joint tax. The new tax will enable a united Princeton to continue stewardship of its recreation and passive open space and make key acquisitions contemplated by the joint Master Plan.


Some semblance of normalcy was restored by the beginning of this week as Princeton residents continued to assess and respond to the property damages and electrical outages caused by Hurricane Sandy.

By Monday, schools and local government offices had reopened, and Princeton Community TV was up and running after storm-related closures. Superintendent Judy Wilson advised children and staff returning to buildings that had been without heat for some days to bring sweaters and sweatshirts “in case schools are chilly or we lose power again.”

The New Jersey Education Association officially cancelled a convention originally scheduled for November 8 and 9 in Atlantic City; schools, which had previously been scheduled to close on those dates, will be open on November 8 and 9 for full days of classes. While acknowledging that this scheduling change may be a hardship for families who had planned a long weekend vacation, Ms. Wilson noted that “with five days lost already and winter still ahead of us, capturing two full November days is critical and far better instructionaly than late June.” A Board of Education Meeting, already rescheduled for Thursday, November 1, was rescheduled again for Tuesday, November 13.

“Our schools were spared much damage,” Ms. Wilson reported. “The buildings and grounds fared well and what needed to be addressed in terms of downed trees, generators, etc., was taken care of right away by our exceptionally dedicated custodial, grounds, and maintenance staff. They prepared well, covered the buildings throughout the storm, and have been on double duty since.”

Township administration has announced that the due date for taxes has been extended until November 20.

At the beginning of this week, Governor Chris Christie announced the availability of a “health hotline” that will answer hurricane-related questions about food/water safety, and cleaning and mold removal. A 2-1-1 human services hotline is open 24/7, he said, and public health officials are available to take calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends at (866) 234-0964.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved funding for counties throughout the state. “Across New Jersey and all the impacted states, we are continuing to deploy people, assets, and resources in response to this storm,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano during a weekend visit to New Jersey to survey Sandy’s impact and to meet with state and local officials, first responders, and volunteers to discuss ongoing response and recovery efforts.

In the meantime, President Obama and the U.S. Department of Transportation released $10 million in emergency highway funding to help get New Jersey’s highways and roads back in working condition. The funding will be distributed to the New Jersey Department of Transportation to help restore traffic services, establish detours, and perform emergency roadway repairs on federal-aid roads and bridges that were damaged.

Locally, Princeton University had about 50 trees come down on campus as a result of the hurricane and Director of Communication Martin Mbugua noted that there were “dozens” of reports of “blocked roads, damaged vehicles, fences and other property.

“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, about 800 University employees worked in shifts to provide services for undergraduate and graduate students who remained on campus during fall recess, and to keep other critical campus functions running,” said Mr. Mbugua. No injuries were reported as “hundreds of employees worked through the night Monday to switch most of campus to power from the University’s cogeneration plant, clear roadways, check buildings, and provide general security.”

Even before officials had cancelled the New York City marathon, Princeton Borough and Township Police Departments and administrators decided to postpone the HiTOPS Half-Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, November 4. “The safety of the runners, volunteers, officers, and all others involved in making this event a success is the highest priority,” officials noted.

The Princeton Arts Council’s “Dining by Design” has been rescheduled for December 1. Executive Director Jeff Nathanson reported that a number of Arts Council programs and events will be rescheduled, and some will just have to be cancelled. Until Monday morning, the Arts Council building was without power, including phone and internet service. “We did everything we could to communicate with the public,” said Mr. Nathanson. “Staff used the Conference Room at the public library. The library’s support was fantastic, and we really appreciate it,” he added (See page 5 article). To check on Arts Council updates, visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.com.

Although electricity has been restored, the Princeton Senior Resource Center in the Suzanne Patterson building was still without heat at the beginning of the week, and classes were cancelled.

The Princeton Family YMCA got power back Sunday around 3 p.m. CEO Kate Bech reported that the building would be open “on a limited basis,” and that child care programs and after school programs are running. “The pool should reopen by Tuesday,” she said, and the cardio room is available to members. “We welcome anybody from the community to use our locker rooms if they are in need of a hot shower,” she added.

At Infini-T and Spice Souk on Hulfish Street, co-owner Mary Fritschie reported that one of her regular customers organized a drive and asked to use the location to drop things off. She described the response as “massive, just wonderful,” noting that a steady stream of non-perishables including diapers, foam mattresses, warm blankets, canned foods, and cleaning supplies have been dropped off in front of the cafe since 7 a.m. on Saturday.

D’Angelo Italian Market on Spring Street in Princeton is also collecting contractor trash bags, work gloves, batteries (all types), flashlights, winter jackets, kleenex, Clorox wipes, toilet paper, candles, matches, and baby supplies (diapers, baby wipes, etc,) to help residents of Breezy Point and Rockaway, two areas badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. On Monday, a member of the D’Angelo family transported a truck full of donations to St. Francis de Sales Church in Rockaway, New York. Additional information on shelters, the application process for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and social service is available at www.nj211.org/hurricane.cfm. Additional information about hurricane and flood recovery is also available at www.state.nj.us/health/er/natural.shtml.

The storm also caused The Historical Society of Princeton to reschedule its 2012 House Tour for this Saturday, November 10, instead of the originally scheduled date of November 3. The tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will include five properties.

Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath did not prevent fans of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra from attending a concert Sunday afternoon at Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus. On the contrary, there was a full house for the performance led by Music Director Rossen Milanov, who revised the program when some rehearsals had to be canceled and many musicians could not get to Princeton [see music review page 26]. Last-minute tickets at $25 were offered to brighten spirits, and they were quickly sold.