February 12, 2014

A bail hearing for Thomas J. Curran, 55, of Ewing, was held in Mercer County Superior Court, Friday. Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier maintained bail for Mr. Curran at $250,000 and ordered that he is to have no contact with his alleged 11-year-old victim or any other child under the age of 16.

Mr. Curran is charged with sexually assaulting the boy in the victim’s West Windsor home where Mr. Curran was providing after-school care. He is alleged to have engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with the boy on numerous occasions between April and June 2013 and is charged with one count of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, one count of second-degree sexual assault, and one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

A 2000 report in a Lehigh Valley Newspaper (http://articles.mcall.com/2000-06-02/news/3305284/) at the time of Mr. Curran’s appointment as middle school director of the Swain School in Salisbury Township, stated that the teacher and administrator had worked in independent schools in Georgia and New Jersey.

The article stated that Mr. Curran previously served as “middle school head of the Episcopal Day School, Augusta, Ga.; science and health teacher at Morristown-Beard and Pennington schools in New Jersey, and adjunct professor of anatomy and physiology at Bellarmine College, Louisville, Ky.”

The Pennington School confirmed yesterday that Mr. Curran was employed as a teacher there from 1991 to 1996.

The fact that Mr. Curran also formerly served as dean of students and science teacher at the American Boychoir School (ABS) has raised the past specter of that school’s history (previously covered in Town Topics, including: www.towntopics.com/aug1606/story1.html).

Acting president of the American Boychoir School Robert D’Avanzo was asked for comment yesterday and issued the following official statement: “While extremely disturbing, the allegations associated with Mr. Curran’s arrest are not in any way related to American Boychoir School. Mr. Curran was employed as Dean of Students at American Boychoir School from August 2011 until June 2012 when he left for reasons unrelated to the issues currently under investigation. We have not been contacted or involved in this  investigation. At American Boychoir School, student welfare is our highest priority and the school is committed to a comprehensive child abuse prevention program.”

Since 1937, The American Boychoir School has offered boys from across the United States and around the world the opportunity to sing in what is known as the nation’s premier professional boychoir. More information on the school’s child abuse prevention program can be viewed at: www.americanboychoir.org.

In 2002, the New York Times detailed previous sexual abuse cases that took place at the school in the 1970s, 1980s, and into the late 1990s. In 2006, Richard Codey signed a bill into New Jersey law making New Jersey the 48th state to allow victims of childhood sex abuse to sue churches, schools, and other non-profit organizations for the actions of their staff.

Mr. Curran was found and arrested in Woodstock, Ga., by the U.S. Marshals NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Georgia Regional Fugitive Task Force. He was taken back to New Jersey by detectives from the prosecutor’s office and the West Windsor police after signing a waiver of extradition. His appearance in court Friday was by video from the Mercer County Correction Center. He commented that he hopes for a “speedy trial.”

The investigation is still in its early stages and, according to Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Downing, it is anticipated that other victims will come forward. Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to contact Detective Anthony Petracca of the county prosecutor’s office Special Victims Unit at (609) 989-6424 or apetracca@mercercounty.org.


Barring the predicted paralyzing effects of the latest winter storm, a group of residents who live in the neighborhood of the former Princeton hospital site will be in a Trenton courtroom on Thursday to try and overturn the Princeton Planning Board’s approval of developer AvalonBay’s revised plan for a 280-unit rental complex.

The eight members of a group known as the Association for Planning at Hospital Site LLC filed an appeal to the Planning Board’s decision last October, naming the municipality, Planning Board, the Mayor, Council, and AvalonBay as defendants. While one of the five counts, having to do with spot zoning, was rejected by the judge in a preliminary hearing, the other four, focused on concerns about density, infrastructure, the environment, taxes, and how demolition will be carried out, are still active.

“What is very important to make clear to the public is that we are in no way opposed to development,” said architect Evan Yassky, one of the plaintiffs in the suit and a neighborhood resident for the past 17 years. “We encourage it. We don’t want to see that building remain as a deteriorating hulk. We’re just looking for responsible development. We feel that it should be in keeping with the existing fabric of the town, and we want environmental issues to be thoroughly addressed. Public safety and welfare are our first priorities.”

After AvalonBay’s first application was voted down by the Planning Board, the company appealed the decision to the courts. Last April, the town entered into a consent order with AvalonBay to suspend the litigation and allow the developer to submit a revised plan addressing residents’ concerns about density and other issues. The Planning Board approved the revised plan 8-1 last July.

Members of the residents’ group question the interpretation of the consent order. “The environmental issues are very complex. In the second application, our government was misled into believing the consent order restricted questioning on environmental topics, and this was conveyed to the public,” said architect Areta Pawlynsky, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. “But in fact, it said that no new environmental submissions would be required of AvalonBay.”

Mayor Liz Lempert and AvalonBay vice president Jon Vogel declined comment for this article. But Planning Board attorney Gerald Muller said he is confident that the municipality will prevail. “We’ve laid out the whole case and briefs,” he said. “We think we have a very strong case, and we’re hopeful.”

The Association for Planning at Hospital Site LLC is not the first citizens’ group to challenge AvalonBay. Last year, Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods was a vocal presence during public hearings and presentations by the developer, but the group ceased its protests when the revised plan was approved. The newer group began by meeting in residents’ living rooms, with Ms. Pawlynsky and her husband, Yaron Inbar, as “the most powerful force in creating and galvanizing us,” said Mr. Yassky. “They were instrumental in tying people and pieces together.”

Those concerned about AvalonBay’s plans are not limited to the eight plaintiffs, Mr. Yassky added. “When the suit first went in, the plaintiff was the organization,” he said. “But the judge in the December hearing asked that the plaintiff be changed from that entity to individual residents. So the eight are the eight that were willing to have their names on the lawsuit. But overall, there are 70 to 100 people who have expressed their support and donated time and money to the cause.”

Several members of the group have spoken out at recent meetings of Princeton Council, expressing particular concerns about the discovery of an incinerator room inside the hospital building. While Mr. Vogel contended that the incinerator, which is no longer on the site, was used for burning medical records, the company agreed to monitor the room by videotaping while evidence of breaks in the drain are looked for. The Council voted to hire an independent licensed remediation professional to be part of the demolition process.

Hospitals routinely flushed toxic chemicals and radioactive materials down drain lines in the past, according to one resident who attended the January 27 Council meeting. “I think it’s cavalier to say we don’t have to worry about these things,” said Marco Gattardis, a cancer researcher. “I don’t believe them [AvalonBay]. And it’s a bigger issue than the incinerator itself. We need independent testing.”

The group has additional concerns about sewer lines. “The rezoning of the site was sold, in part, on the idea there was adequate infrastructure to support the high density,” said Ms. Pawlynsky. “What should have been known is that sewers backed up three times in 2002, and, in 2009, two more times in Henry Avenue homes. To us, that’s a big concern. The original hospital split its waste between the Witherspoon and Henry Avenue sewers. The current plan shows everything dumping into the Henry Avenue line. Who was supposed to upgrade that infrastructure? It wasn’t made a requirement of AvalonBay. One can only suppose that will be on the taxpayers’ shoulders.”

The residents have created a video, which is on their website http://aphsllc.com/wp/. The video was screened at a Witherspoon/Jackson neighborhood community meeting last week (see accompanying story). “We spent a lot of time making sure that video outlined all of the topics. What’s especially troubling is that there are so many,” Ms. Pawlynsky said.

The Thursday hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. in courtroom four at 400 South Warren Street in Trenton.


Some 25 residents of Princeton’s Witherspoon/Jackson neighborhood met Saturday at the First Baptist Church of Princeton to address local concerns. The meeting in the church basement was chaired by former Princeton Township Mayor Jim Floyd.

Among those attending were Lance Liverman and Bernie Miller of Princeton Council, Princeton Engineer Bob Kiser, and members of the Association for Planning at the Hospital Site (APHS), Paul Driscoll and Harris Street resident Areta Pawlynsky, both of whom presented a video documenting their efforts to sue the developer AvalonBay and the Princeton Municipality (see related page one story) with respect to plans for residences on the site made vacant by Princeton hospital’s relocation to Plainsboro.

Mr. Floyd, who chaired the meeting, spoke briefly about changes in the  neighborhood. “Absentee landlords and overcrowding are a recipe for future blight,” he said. “When I first came to Princeton, building codes and zoning laws were enforced, but not now. Why is that? It’s one of the ways of expediting the exodus,” he said.

Plans for the redevelopment on the hospital site came under attack by members of the APHS in their nine-minute video, featuring documentary evidence in support of the group’s suit against AvalonBay and the municipality.

Ms. Pawlynsky expressed regret that fellow APHS members Hank Pannell and Shirley Satterfield were unable to attend the meeting as she opened with a slide quoting Harvey Milk: “The American Dream Starts with Neighborhoods.”

The video claimed that the approved scheme for the hospital site does not comply with site ordinances; that environmental concerns regarding contamination of the site and demolition hazards have not been addressed; and that the impact on property taxes has not been properly looked into.

After the video, Ms. Pawlynsky and others from APHS responded to questions from the audience and announced the hearing by Judge Jacobs in Trenton, Court Room 4, 400 South Warren Street, at 2 p.m., tomorrow, Thursday, February 13.

For several in the audience, the question of subcontractors being hired by AvalonBay to remove items such as old tanks and hazardous asbestos from the building brought to mind municipal and Princeton University responses after last year’s collapse of the Dinky Canopy, a job for which subcontractors were brought in. The APHS video included footage from municipal meetings and can be viewed at: www.aphsllc.com.

Snow, Scams, and Safety

Sergeant John Bucchere of the Princeton Police Department’s Safe Neighborhood Bureau described upcoming neighborhood events such as Community Night Out and the Wheels Rodeo, which will be bigger and better this year. He also announced that the Department of Public Works (DPW) will be trimming trees on John Street as soon as weather permits, in an effort to increase the visibility of one way and speed signs.

Sgt. Bucchere also brought up the problem of telephone scams that have been victimizing people during the cold weather. Callers purporting to be from PSE&G tell residents that their bill has not been paid and that their heat and light will be cut off if they do not make payment. They then offer to take payment by credit card. “Given the dangers of living without light and heat in this cold weather, scammers are scaring people into sharing credit card information, which they then use to go on a spending spree,” he said, urging residents to be vigilant and to tell their friends and neighbors.

Witherspoon Street resident Minnie Craig spoke from personal experience in recounting one such scam call. Because she had been forewarned by a brief announcement in Town Topics and on Facebook, said Ms. Craig, she simply told the caller she was perfectly satisfied with her service, thank you, and hung up.

The issue of snow removal was a hot button topic. The executive director of the Princeton Nursery School on Leigh Avenue, Wendy Cotton, requested that a better job be done on clearing snow from the road and sidewalks on Leigh Avenue where high piles of snow had impeded access for children and parents in contrast to nearby Birch Avenue, which was clear of snow. Why does the town not recognize that Leigh is as important as Birch, especially with the presence of so many children attending the school, she asked, adding that there was a need for a sign alerting motorists to the school’s presence. Sgt. Bucchere said he would pass her remarks on to the DPW.

Sgt. Bucchere said that the police department had received several calls about residents not fulfilling their obligation to shovel snow from walkways in front of their homes. He said that the department was doing its best to work with homeowners, but pointed out that the recent ice conditions had been “unprecedented in his career.”

One other warning was made in the context of foot patrols and businesses in town. Sgt. Bucchere noted a number of counterfeit $100 bills being used.

Cabs and Parking Meters

Sue Nemeth of Bayard Lane asked about regulations for taxi cabs operating from Princeton Junction. She reported that an elderly friend had felt intimidated after arriving at the Junction late one evening and engaging a cab to Princeton. Sgt. Bucchere said that he would send out a message for spot inspections to make sure cabbies posted their licenses clearly. But Ms. Nemeth felt that more needed to be done in order to make sure there was no price gouging. She suggested the police should consider sending in undercover testers at various times of the day to explore the issue.

Among other concerns was the safety of children on (one way) Lytle Street where cars had been observed speeding and even driving the wrong way. Since many young children live and walk to school on this street, it was suggested that a stop sign or even a traffic light be installed to prevent a possible future disaster.

Parking issues came up too, with residents complaining that many non-residents consistently park beyond the two-hour limit on Lytle, John, and Clay streets. It had been observed that parked cars belonged to people working in town who use the non-metered residential streets in preference to metered spots on Witherspoon. “The municipality is losing revenue,” said one resident, “in addition to enforcing existing regulations, the town needs to consider changing parking regulations on these streets.” Sgt. Bucchere nodded his agreement. “I know that you are right and this is something we need to work harder to address, the two-hour zoning must be enforced.”

Don Preston of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO)also spoke at the meeting to announce two seats on Princeton Council up for re-election this June. “So far there are three candidates for these two positions and the door is open to anyone who might want to step forward.”


February 6, 2014

Round One of a trio of winter storms predicted for this week dumped some eight inches of snow on Princeton Monday, closing schools and many offices and turning roadways into slippery obstacle courses. The Princeton Police Department responded to 132 calls for service in 24 hours, about 90 percent of which were storm-related.

“That’s more than we would handle in a 24-hour period, but considering the storm it’s based on, it’s par for the course,” said Sergeant Michael R. Cifelli, who handles communications for the department. “A tree fell on a car at 25 Witherspoon Street, but that was the most unusual thing that happened.”

No one was inside the car parked outside La Mezzaluna restaurant. Most of the 37 disabled vehicles the department responded to were either stuck in roadways or had slid off. Because of the disabled vehicles, some roads were impassable and had to be temporarily closed. Route 206 between Cherry Hill and Herrontown roads and between Birch Avenue and Hodge Road; Mt. Lucas north of Poor Farm Road; Herrontown between River Road and Caldwell Drive; and the entire length of Cherry Hill Road were the most problematic thoroughfares, according to police reports.

There were seven motor vehicle crashes, none resulting in injuries. Six trees came down, and there were 20 reports of fallen wires or utility poles.

Public schools were closed Monday and opened 90 minutes late on Tuesday. The Princeton Public Library closed at 1 p.m. Monday and had to postpone one of the programs in its Princeton Environmental Film Festival. The Library opened an hour late on Tuesday. In the event of storms predicted for Wednesday and this coming weekend that could result in loss of power for residents, plans were being made to keep the building open and accessible.

“We’ve had discussions today where we’ve identified staff who live close by and can open the building if there’s a widespread power outage,” said the Library’s Communications Director Tim Quinn on Tuesday. “We’ve also been in communication with the mayor and the emergency management people. We were here for the public after Superstorm Sandy, and assuming we’ll have power, we’ll be here for the public again.”

The storm postponed trash collections for Monday and Tuesday, and also resulted in municipal court cases being rescheduled when the afternoon session was cancelled. The municipal building closed at 3 p.m. The freeB daytime and evening commuter bus routes were cancelled in the latter part of the day.

Governor Christie declared a state of emergency, the third time this winter, on Tuesday, and it remains in effect for Wednesday.

After a busy 24 hours responding to calls for assistance, the municipality’s Public Works department was scheduled to have a crew back on call starting at 9 p.m. Tuesday night to respond to problems that might arise from the freezing rain that the National Weather Service was predicting for late Tuesday into Wednesday. The police department is prepared for the third storm that is predicted for Sunday.

“In terms of road closures or accidents, we’re going to monitor and get updates out the best we can through social media,” said Sergeant Cifelli, “just to make sure the public is aware.”


The new action drama opening this week at the Princeton Garden Theatre holds special interest for a Princeton audience. The Monuments Men, directed by and starring George Clooney, alongside Matt Damon, Bill Murray and Cate Blanchett, relates the story of a group of art historians and museum directors who were involved in finding and saving artworks looted by the Nazis during World War II.

The real life Monuments Men saved countless European art treasures from theft and destruction. Among their ranks, were two former directors of the Princeton University Art Museum, Ernest T. DeWald (1891-1968) and Patrick J. Kelleher (1917-1985).

On Sunday, February 9, the Garden’s noon screening will be followed by a special presentation by one who knew both men. Alfred Bush, 81, who retired a decade ago from the University’s Firestone library after a career spanning some 45 years, will be on hand to reminisce and respond to questions from the audience. The Art Museum’s current Executive Director James Steward will also discuss his predecessors.

“I believe Joe was drafted as a private at the start of World War II but when it was discovered that he was an art historian, he was promptly promoted to the rank of Major.” recalled Mr. Bush of his friend Patrick J. Kelleher, who was known as “Joe,” in an interview with Town Topics Friday.

“Princeton was small in those days and I came to know most of the faculty, especially those in art history and English,” recalled Mr. Bush, who, like Mr. Kelleher, also hails from Colorado. After studies at Harvard, Mr. Bush came to Princeton in 1958 and worked for five years editing the papers of Thomas Jefferson before becoming curator of Western Americana in the Rare Books Department at Firestone Library. “The University was a genuinely residential college in those days. I became good friends with Joe and his wife Marion Mackie.”

“Ernest DeWald was much older than Joe and had served as a private in World War I. When the Second World War broke out, he was made a Major and put in charge of efforts to save historical and cultural monuments in Italy. He helped in the effort to try to avoid bombing such treasures and then to find and and save items stolen by the Nazis,” said Mr. Bush, who recalls Mr. Kelleher’s stories of the discovery of the famed head of Nefertiti, now in the Berlin Museum.

Mr. Kelleher was appointed head of the Greater Hesse Division of the monuments, fine arts and archives section of the United States Army’s Office of Military Government for Germany. According to Mr. Bush, the discovery of Nefertiti was one of the two greatest moments of Mr. Kelleher’s life. It happened on Christmas Eve, when the men were gathered around a collection of boxes containing historical treasures looted by the Nazis and hidden in salt mines and in remote castles. They pried open one box and discovered the magnificent treasure.

The second memorable occasion concerns St. Stephen’s Crown, the 1,000-year-old symbol of Hungarian national sovereignty. “The Hungarians were worried about what might happen when troops from Soviet Russia got into Budapest and in order to prevent the symbol of their country falling into communist hands, they brought it to Joe for safe keeping. The crown was shipped to the United States and held in Fort Knox until it was returned to Hungary in 1978. Joe authored a monograph on the crown, The Holy Crown of Hungary, said Mr. Bush.

Although such stories were known in Princeton among the friends of the art historians, both of whom were medievalists, it is only now, because of the movie, that they are being widely recognized. “Joe was a modest man,” said Mr. Bush, who has not yet seen the film but is pleased to know that their work is being acknowledged and celebrated.

Billed as the “true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history,” The Monuments Men focuses on unlikely platoon comprised of seven museum directors, curators, and art historians, who go behind enemy lines to rescue artistic masterpieces under threat of destruction as Germany’s Third Reich implodes.

“It’s a fabulous film and it does a great job of the history,” commented Tom Rizzo of the Princeton Garden Theatre after attending an advance screening by Sony in New York City. Mr. Rizzo has run the Princeton Garden Theatre in the building he leases from the University for two decades. A resident of North Jersey’s Palisades area, he and his wife Peggy, a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, are looking forward to Sunday’s special event.

Mr. Rizzo said that he was amazed to find out that people at the University had been involved. “I got a call from the assistant director of the art museum, Caroline Harris, who told me they wanted to do something to honor that involvement and I jumped at the opportunity to have someone come and talk about the real history behind the film’s story, the real Monuments Men,” he said.

Mr. Bush lives in Princeton and visits the art museum often. He also serves on the Visiting Committee of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His interest is in Pre-Columbian Art and art of the American Indian.

“Princeton’s Monuments Men: A Film Screening and Discussion” will take place at Princeton Garden Theatre, 160 Nassau Street, Sunday, February 9, 12 p.m. The film will screen again at 5 p.m. No special tickets are needed for the presentation, which follows the regular film show at noon. For tickets, call theater office: (609) 683-4656; movie recording line: (609) 683-7595; or online from www.ticketmakers.com.


If Leslie Burger has her way, the unsightly power station behind the Princeton Public Library will be history by 2020. “I’d like it to go away,” said the Library’s director, who was one of several speakers to offer her visions for the future at the third annual “Great Ideas Breakfast” held by Sustainable Princeton last week.

“I’d like to reclaim the land and build a translucent box where the community gathers for screenings and other events,” Ms. Burger continued. “It will be made of smart glass, which you just have to touch to make the box dim.”

Held at the library, where the Princeton Environmental Film Festival is continuing through February 9, the breakfast attracted members of the community interested in turning Princeton into a more environmentally friendly and sustainable place to live and work. Architect Kirsten Thoft, Mayor Liz Lempert, and Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed policy director Jennifer Coffey were among those who shared their ideas at the zero-waste event, where everything was re-used or composted.

“This is one of my favorite events, because it allows a broad cross-section of our community to talk about vision,” said Sustainable Princeton’s director Diane Landis, this week. “It’s very inspiring.”

Molly Dykstra, the founder of Green Paper Cup, shared what she called her “galvanizing moment” on a beach in Oahu, Hawaii. “It was in July, on a pre-dawn walk,” she recalled. “I had taken just a few short steps when I saw it — microplastics, where shells and seaweed would have been. They came from the Pacific garbage patch.”

Wondering how the beach could be cleaned up, Ms. Dykstra soon came to a depressing conclusion. “There is no cleaning it up,” she said. “There is no protecting our children. But we have to educate people.” Ms. Dykstra urges a ban on all single-use plastic bags. “I want to be part of a solution. I don’t want to be paralyzed,” she said. “I want to leave pristine beaches and happy, healthy children.”

Ms. Coffey of Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed told the audience that the Hopewell Township organization has been working to make a case for clean water for 65 years. “Princeton is a microcosm for water issues in New Jersey and throughout the world,” she said. “We have too much water. We also have too little. And our water is too dirty.”

Ms. Coffey’s vision for the future is an intense focus on water issues. Rain barrels will be installed in houses, and a forum based on Princeton’s water issues will be established in the next year.

Architect Kirsten Thoft, who lives in a LEED-certified home, said things don’t change quickly in the building industry. “In the past five years, I’ve tried to do better, even sneaking in green techniques without clients knowing,” she admitted. Her vision for the future involves co-housing, in which small-scale, affordable housing shares a communal building with public space and guest rooms. Developers tend to focus on building large houses for people raising families, instead of those in other stages of life. “Zoning has to change,” she added. “More developers have to start to make inroads on making housing that works for everybody.”

Others at the breakfast echoed Ms. Dykstra’s suggestion to ban single use plastic bags. Sheldon Sturges, a founder of Princeton Future, praised Sustainable Princeton for organizing the event and creating a public forum. Mayor Lempert said she expected that by 2020, Princeton will be sending waste to a facility not in Delaware, but nearby. Instead of having their leaves picked up, people will be hoarding them to use in their gardens. More recycling cans will be on Nassau street, and more children will be walking and biking to school.

“We’ll see ourselves as an innovator,” she said. “We will have greened our ordinances. We’ll be glad that in 2014, we made decisions with sustainability in mind.”

Ms. Landis said she looks forward to the breakfast every year because it helps guide Sustainable Princeton’s path for the future. “It’s pretty obvious that the waste issue runs very deep,” she said. “There is a lot of passion around improving our waste collection in town. We have a committee working on that, and that is one of the things I’m going to make clear to our board.”


January 29, 2014

At Princeton Council’s meeting Monday night, no action had been expected to be taken during a work session on the developer’s agreement with AvalonBay. But after concerned citizens and some Council members voiced anxiety about the possibility of hazardous waste left over from an incinerator that was once on the former Princeton Hospital site, the governing body voted to hire an independent licensed state remediation professional, for up to $5,000, to ensure public safety during the demolition process.

AvalonBay is still waiting to close on the contract to build a complex of rental apartments and townhouse units on the site where Princeton Hospital stood until moving to Route 1 in Plainsboro over a year ago. The developer plans to hold a meeting with neighborhood residents before beginning demolition. Jon Vogel, AvalonBay’s vice president of development, said he expects the final contract to be signed in early February.

Mr. Vogel said the company has worked with municipal staff and industry experts to determine what the incinerator was used for. It has not been operational for more than two decades, he said, and was used to burn medical records only. The incinerator is no longer on the site, but the floor drain below where it once stood is a concern, according to Princeton’s land use engineer Jack West.

“We are addressing the issues,” Mr. West said, in response to a comment that AvalonBay is “running the show.” “They have agreed to find out what’s behind walls before knocking them down.” Regarding the incinerator, he added, “They’ll see if there are any breaks in the line, and if so, there will be soil testing. The staff is very involved. We’re not quite done, but we have addressed the majority of the issues.”

As part of the agreement, officials will be videotaping the review of the incinerator room. Bob Kiser, the town’s municipal engineer, said that the Department of Environmental Protection does not have significant concerns about the incinerator but does have possible concerns about the presence of underground fuel tanks.

Harris Road resident Marco Gattardis, a cancer researcher, told Council members that many hazardous materials were thrown down drains in past decades before rules on disposal were tightened. “I think it’s cavalier to say we don’t have to worry about these things,” he said. “I don’t believe them [AvalonBay]. And it’s a bigger issue than the incinerator itself. We need independent testing.”

Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said hiring an independent professional was a “no-brainer.” “We shouldn’t have AvalonBay telling us what’s safe and what’s not. Of course they’re going to say it’s safe.”

Mr. Vogel said AvalonBay was not relying on the hospital’s statement that only medical records had been incinerated. “That’s why we’re looking for drain breaks and soil contamination because we think something else might be there,” he said. “I want to be very emphatic about that.” Mr. Vogel added that the residents complaining about the process were the same ones involved in litigation with the company over development of the site. “They are really just trying to stop this project.”

Members of the audience loudly protested, with one man yelling, “Hey, we’re residents, pal!”

Noise and dust monitors are also planned for the property. Water will be sprayed over the site to prevent hazardous dust from being airborne.

Also at the meeting, Council heard from Scott Sillars of the Citizens Finance Advisory Committee about how to best manage its budget surplus and how to plan for the future. Mr. Sillars said that about 15 to 20 percent of total appropriations is recommended as a good cushion of savings for unexpected expenditures like Hurricane Sandy. Mayor Lempert called the surplus “a rainy day fund” that means the municipality doesn’t have to raise taxes if the surplus dips too low. “With a small margin, then your tax rate is going up and down every year, and you don’t have stability,” she said.

Mr. Sillars said the surplus should increase by another million dollars this year. At its next meeting on February 18, Council will review a financial debt policy. Both the surplus and debt policies will likely be adopted as part of this year’s budgeting process.

Council voted to introduce an ordinance regulating parking along portions of Alexander Street, in the commuter parking lot and the Alexander Street retail parking lot, all of which have been affected by construction of Princeton University’s Arts & Transit development and the relocation of the Dinky train station.

“This is a first step, but alone it will not solve what has become a constant source of frustration and tension for those of us who use the Dinky but don’t arrive at the new lot by 7 a.m.,” said resident John Heilner, adding, “We urge everyone who has had problems parking in the new lot to come to the public hearing on February 18.”


The eighth annual Princeton Environmental Film Festival (PEFF) opens this Thursday, January 30 at 7 p.m. with Thin Ice: The Inside Story of Climate Science, a film that was prompted by recent attacks on climate science. Filmmakers Simon Lamb and David Sington set out to discover the truth of the matter. They followed scientific researchers in the Arctic, Antarctic, Southern Ocean, New Zealand, Europe, and the United States for over three years to produce a portrait of a global community striving to understand the planet’s changing climate.

As with many of the festival screenings, Thin Ice will be followed by a discussion informed by local scientists, in this case, Elisabeth Sikes of the Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences at Rutgers, Anthony Broccoli of the Rutgers Climate Institute, and others.

This year’s festival features more than 25 films, including several shorts by students. Programs for children and other special events are designed to bring people together on issues that are both local and global.

“Everyone who attends is excited to be a part of it and it’s wonderful to see audiences so engaged, leaning forward, and really paying attention. Sometimes there is utter silence, sometimes audible gasps, and each screening usually ends in loud applause,” said library programming assistant Kim Dorman.

None of this, of course, comes about by accident. The films are carefully selected. Ms. Dorman and Festival Director Susan Conlon have viewed the films many times over.

“This year’s theme is ‘risk,’ with stories of individual acts of courage,” said Ms. Conlon, who founded the festival in 2006 (the first event took place in January 2007).

“And what all of us ‘risk’ by not taking action,” added Ms. Dorman.

One title to explore action and inaction is Bidder 70, which screens Friday, January 31, at 7 p.m. It chronicles a University of Utah student’s effort to save 22,000 acres of pristine land at the risk of imprisonment for his act of civil disobedience. Beth and George Gage, who produced and directed the film, will be on hand to discuss their work.

The “risk” theme is also evident in The Crash Reel, by Lucy Walker, Friday, February 7, at 7 p.m., about U.S. champion snowboarder Kevin Pearce and the irresistible appeal of extreme sports. During the run up to the 2010 Olympics, Mr. Pearce went into a coma. Nonetheless, he was drawn back to the sport. The film is shortlisted for an Academy Award this year.

“It’s not that we pick a theme and then search for films,” explained Ms. Conlon. “In fact, the opposite is true, we pick exceptional films and often find that there’s some common theme that develops. There are so many good films out there, and The Crash Reel is one of them.”

According to Ms Dorman, the festival’s staff “ups the ante” every year in an effort to make each festival better than the one before. The most challenging and indeed the most crucial part, according to Ms. Conlon, is finding films that people want to see.

Bringing filmmakers in to enrich the experience is another aspect that draws people back year after year. This year, more filmmakers will participate in question and answer sessions than ever before. “Watching the film with the people who made it right there in the room with you, engages you in a deeper way,” said Ms. Conlon. “And this community has a real appreciation for good filmmaking and good storytelling, so the filmmakers get a lot out of being here as well.”

Last year, the event was attended by over 4,000 people; about 5,000 are expected this year. For those concerned about the environment, it has become a tradition, a pilgrimage of sorts, at the very start of the New Year, generally a time of assessment and resolution.

“We’re pleased that the event has become a winter tradition,” said Library Director Leslie Burger, who thanked sponsors Church & Dwight Co. Inc., The Whole Earth Center of Princeton, the Friends of the Princeton Public Library, the Princeton Education Foundation and the Terra Momo Restaurant Group, in her weekly email letter, for helping to keep all PEFF screenings free.

As in past years, the event will be held over two consecutive four-day weekends, Thursday through Monday, January 30 to February 2 and February 6 to 9.

In between screenings there will be related events such as Sustainable Princeton’s Great Ideas Breakfast Friday, January 31, from 8:30 to 10 a.m., with “lightning talks” on “Sustainability in the Princeton Community, 2020 and a free, zero-waste breakfast with Fair Trade foods and beverages. The perennially popular Wallaby Tales brings wildlife educator Travis Gale and his live animals back to the library on Saturday, February 1, at 10 a.m.

Other highlights include Allison Argo’s Parrot Confidential on Friday, January 31, at 4 p.m. and Jeremy Seifert’s GMO OMG on Saturday, February 1, at 7 p.m. In the first of these, a parrot named Lou is abandoned in a foreclosed home, one of thousands of these quirky and highly intelligent birds in need of rescue. Local environmentalist Charles Leck, a retired professor of ecological sciences at Rutgers University will speak in conjunction with this film.

GMO OMG explores the corporate takeover of plant seeds. For gardeners and anyone interested in the source of their food and the global food system, this film’s examination of unknown health and environmental risks, chemical toxins, and food monopoly is a must-see.

One other film that is sure to incite discussion, is Tiny: A Story About Living Small on Friday, February 7, at 4 p.m. Produced and directed by Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith, it documents the movement for tiny homes that would fit into an average parking space and are often built on wheels to bypass building codes and zoning laws. The average size of new homes in America almost doubled from 1970 to 2010, and this film looks at six tiny homes and will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker.

Screeings will be held in the Community Room of the Princeton Public Library unless noted otherwise. For more information, visit: http://community.princeton


Just after midnight on February 2, 1946, Princeton Borough policeman Walter B. Harris was leaving a social club near his John Street home to get ready for his shift when he heard the sound of gunfire. According to newspaper accounts at the time, the 31-year-old did what any good officer would do С he ran back to the club. Attempting to stop three men, one of whom had fired a shot during an altercation, Mr. Harris was hit in the head with the butt of a gun, and then shot in the abdomen. He died at Princeton Hospital 30 minutes later.

It has taken 68 years, but Officer Harris’s valiant efforts have been officially recognized. At the meeting of Princeton Council Monday night, Mr. Harris’s two daughters and other family members were on hand to hear Mayor Liz Lempert read a proclamation naming February 2, 2014 as Officer Walter Harris Day. On Sunday, flags at the Municipal Building will fly at half-mast, and all police personnel on duty will drape their badges with black tape.

“We’re hoping to honor him every year, and we hope to get a monument to honor him in the municipal complex,” said Sergeant Geoff Maurer, earlier in the day. Mr. Maurer and Officer Chris King were instrumental in gaining recognition for Mr. Harris. Mr. Maurer began researching the late officer after consolidation of the Borough and Township police departments last year. There is a monument to fallen Township policeman Billie Ellis, who died in the line of duty in 1955, outside the Municipal Building. Mr. Maurer, knowing of Mr. Harris’s actions, thought the Borough officer deserved the same recognition.

Newspaper accounts reveal that three men from the Bronx, in Princeton to visit a relative, were involved in the incident after one of them, 19-year-old Norman L. Cross, made unwelcome advances to a woman in the club. Mr. Cross threatened to kill the woman and shoot up the club when Mr. Harris intervened and was killed. The case was tried in Mercer County court, and Mr. Cross was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20 to 30 years in prison. His brother Milton Cross, 20, was convicted of manslaughter and got eight to ten years. The third man, Earl Patterson, was acquitted.

Mr. Harris had been on the Princeton Auxiliary Police before joining the Borough force, serving just over two years as an officer before his death. He left behind a wife, Florence, and two small daughters, three-year-old Florence and six-year-old Monetta. Both were on hand, along with children, grandchildren, a sister, a cousin, and other relatives, to hear Mayor Lempert read the proclamation.

“Whereas, Officer Harris has been honored by having his name placed on the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C. among the names of officers from all over the United States who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and well-being of others,” a section of the proclamation reads, “Now, therefore, I, Liz Lempert, Mayor of Princeton, and on behalf of Princeton Council, do hereby proclaim February 2, 2014 as Officer Walter Harris Day.”

“We felt it was important as we came together as one agency to honor any officers who fell in the line of duty,” Mr. Maurer said earlier in the day. “Fortunately, we have had only two, and they both deserve to be recognized.”

Mr. Maurer and Mr. King are planning to honor Mr. Harris further, along with Billie Ellis, when they ride in the Police Unity Tour to Washington, D.C. in May.


January 22, 2014

The Princeton Police Department will undergo the final step in the process of accreditation by the State of New Jersey when it is visited by a team of assessors from the New Jersey State Association of Police Chiefs (NJSACOP) on Sunday and Monday, January 26 and 27. Members of the public are invited to offer comments on the Department’s ability to comply with those standards by means of five minute long telephone calls to (609) 924 0026 on the 26th between 9 and 11 a.m.

This will be the first accreditation following consolidation of the police departments of Princeton Township and Princeton Borough and all aspects of the new Princeton Police Department policies and procedures, management, operations, and support services will be examined during the two-day review.

“Each year we must show documentary proof that we are conforming to the standards of the Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission and every three years the State conducts a re-accreditation process,” explained Lt. Chris Morgan.

“When the NJSACOP team first arrives we will provide a display of personnel and equipment and give them a tour of the station. They will inspect cells and files and review general orders. They are also expected to go on a ride-along with officers and to interview officers. Ultimately, a report will be sent to the state chiefs of police, and a decision will be made on whether accredited status will be granted” said Mr. Morgan.

“Verification by the team that the Princeton Police Department meets the Commission’s ‘best practice’ standards is part of a voluntary process to achieve accreditation, a highly prized recognition of law enforcement professional excellence,” commented Captain Nick Sutter, in a press release. “Accreditation results in greater accountability within the agency, reduced risk and liability exposure, stronger defense against civil lawsuits, increased community advocacy, and more confidence in the agency’s ability to operate efficiently and respond to community needs.”

Accreditation is valid for a three-year period during which time the police department must submit annual reports showing their continued compliance with the standards under which it was initially accredited by NJSACOP’s Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission.

According to Mr. Morgan, the standards address in detail the following five functions: Administrative, Personnel, Operations, Investigative, and Arrestee and Prisoner Handling. Among the items under scrutiny will be the handling of complaints; the recruitment and selection of personnel; procedures of arrest, search and seizure; crime scene processing such as the storage of property and evidence; and prisoner processing.

“This assessment is the last step in a lengthy process,” said Mr. Morgan of the review of the department’s compliance with 100 standards and the requirements of each.”

Members of the public can view a copy of the NJSACOP standards at the Princeton Police Department, 1 Valley Road. Besides telephoning comments on Monday, the public may also email them to cmorgan@prince
tonnj.gov, and written comments may be mailed to the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police, Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission at 11,000 Lincoln Drive West, Suite 12 Marlton, N.J. 08053. Comments must address the Princeton police department’s ability to comply with the NJSACOP standards.

For more information, contact Lt. Christopher Morgan at (609) 921-2100 ext.1831.


The Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission’s rejection last week of the Institute for Advanced Study’s plan for faculty housing marks “a major, major setback” for the organization, according to the attorney representing the Princeton Battlefield Area Preservation Society, which opposes the plan.

But a spokesperson for the Institute, which seeks to build eight townhouses and seven single family homes on land the Battlefield Society believes was pivotal during the Revolutionary War, said the ruling will be overcome. “We’re considering all of our options,” said Senior Public Affairs Officer Christine Ferrara, last Friday. “I don’t have an answer yet, but we’re looking at everything. We indeed do believe that this won’t be an obstacle.”

The Institute’s plan for faculty housing was the subject of much controversy before it was unanimously approved in March 2012 by the Princeton Regional Planning Board with one condition С approval by the D&R Canal Commission, which protects the park by reviewing development proposals.

“At the moment, this leaves them with no approval to build on the Battlefield,” said Bruce Afran, the Society’s attorney. “At present, the plan is dead. They have very few appeal prospects. They can appeal in theory, but the courts don’t set aside expert agencies’s decisions.”

The Commission, which voted 4-3 last Thursday against the plan, administers a land-use regulatory program within the area where new development could have drainage, visual or other ecological impact on the Canal Park. The area within which there could be a drainage impact is almost 400 square miles, including parts of Mercer, Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex and Monmouth counties, according to the Commission’s website.

Projects that involve an acre or more of impervious surface as of 1980 must meet the Commission’s standards for managing storm water runoff.

“The Planning Board’s approval for this is now void,” Mr. Afran said. “If they have any chance of doing this they have to start over from scratch.”

Responding to a story on the website Planet Princeton in which Ms. Ferrara was quoted as calling the vote a technical issue, Mr. Afran said, “It’s not a technical  issue. The approval was an essential part of the Planning Board’s decision. Without that, they can’t go forward because they intrude into a state protected stream corridor. The plan is actually invalid, because it intrudes into a protected environmental zone and the state says they can’t do it.”


Next week on the opening night of the Princeton Environmental Film Festival (PEFF), an eclectic group of ten local leaders will be honored by Sustainable Princeton for varied contributions to the economic health and well-being of the Princeton community.

Chosen from 18 nominations by a volunteer review team, the award winners were selected for activities such as protecting and improving the natural environment; reducing waste and/or increasing recycling; educating others about sustainable practices and conserving energy or using it more efficiently.

Nominations were made earlier this month for individuals, organizations and/or businesses that are “catalysts and models within our community and have preserved and improved the natural, social or economic fabric of our town.”

Sustainable Princeton’s goals are to reduce the town’s fossil fuels energy use by 20 percent between now and 2020 and to reduce waste by 50 percent by 2016.

Sponsored by Sustainable Princeton with support from the Princeton Environmental Commission, the annual awards identify and reward Princeton’s best, brightest, and greenest in their efforts to create a sustainable environment. As well as individual citizens (teachers, school administrators, government employees, and religious leaders, among others) the awards recognize businesses.

“This year’s winners really stood out in each of our categories: resident, business, schools and individuals,” commented Sustainable Princeton’s Executive Director Diane Landis. “It is so very heartening to see the diverse types of environmental efforts going on in our community.”

“We want to hold up the winners as role models and show how many different ways a person can get involved in sustainability, from building compost bins by hand to serving on environmental commissions and boards to clearing trails,” said Ms. Landis.

The 2013 Sustainable Princeton Leadership Award winners include Christopher Albrecht, executive chef at Terra Momo, who is known for sharing his passion for food and sustainability with students, teachers and parents in Princeton’s public schools.

Bill Cirullo, principal of Riverside Elementary School, will receive Sustainable Princeton’s Distinguished Service Award for creating and sustaining a school community that is “a model for schools across New Jersey through its gardening education program and other sustainable initiatives.”

A Distinguished Service Award goes to Gail Ullman of the Princeton Environmental Commission in recognition of her long-term role as a liaison between the Princeton Environmental Commission and the Planning Board.

At Community Park School, the efforts of Sandy Moskovitz have been marked. Co-Chair of the School’s Go Green Committee, Ms. Moskovitz has consistently modelled sustainable practices in her own life and is being honored for “inspiring students, parents, staff and teachers to do the same.”

In addition to teachers, students Lauren Gully and Anthony Teng will receive awards: Ms. Gully, a student at the Princeton Theological Seminary, for initiating and coordinating sustainability efforts there and Mr. Teng, a student at Princeton High School and an advocate of the municipal compost program, for his leading effort in building compost bins and “for being a student ambassador for sustainability.”

For her efforts on climate change, Callie Hancock of the Princeton Chapter of The Citizens Climate Lobby joins two local residents who have done stellar work in clearing trails in two local nature preserves: Kurt Tazelaar and Sally Curtis are both Friends of Herrontown Woods, where their work provides improved access for walkers.

Organizations receiving awards are: Mountain Lakes Holding Corporation, for its stewardship of Princeton’s open space and natural resources and Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart for converting to geothermal energy in 100 percent of its academic spaces and other energy efficient practices.

Mayor Lempert and Sustainable Princeton Board Member Wendy Kaczerski, who founded the leadership awards in 2008, will conduct the ceremony on Wednesday, January 29 at 7 p.m. in the Princeton Public Library as a kick off to the Film Festival.

“Each of these winners show an exceptional dedication to their particular efforts and the [awards ceremony] will be especially inspiring because of this diversity,” said Ms. Landis. “Each winner is asked to speak about why they have undertaken their work! It’s a great event.”

Both awards ceremony and the PEFF Film Festival are free and open to the public. For more information, call (609) 454-4757 or visit: www.sustainableprinceton.org.


January 15, 2014

Princeton Council was given a status report Monday night on preparations to demolish the former Princeton hospital site on Witherspoon Street. At the meeting, which drew several neighborhood residents and a group of labor union representatives concerned about safety, a representative from the developer under contract to build a rental complex at the site said a meeting with residents will be scheduled soon.

AvalonBay, the developer, has yet to close on the property. “Hopefully, that will happen this month,” said Jon Vogel, the company’s vice president for development. “We will have a neighborhood meeting after the demolition plan is approved so people understand what will happen over the next few months.”

Mr. Vogel turned the microphone over to John Mucha of Yannuzi Wrecking and Recycling Corporation of Hillsborough, the company that will handle the demolition. Mr. Yanuzzi told Council members that work will begin with the removal of underground tanks and other items, as well as asbestos, which will be removed by a separate company.

The demolition will start on the Harris Road side of the site, and continue across the property. The eight-story hospital building will be taken down by a 95-foot-high hydraulic excavator, requiring the portion of Witherspoon Street in front to be closed for one day.

“There is no wrecking ball involved,” Mr. Mucha assured Council member Jenny Crumiller when she asked how the demolition would be done. “This is state of the art wetting technology,” he said, explaining that the building’s walls will be taken down in pieces.

Most materials will be recycled at Yanuzzi’s licensed facility in Hillsborough. Masonry will be crushed, with some used as backfill. Dust will be monitored throughout the project, and the data will be turned over to AvalonBay, which in turn will turn it over to Princeton’s construction department before the site is graded, Mr. Mucha said.

Council members Lance Liverman and Jo Butler questioned Mr. Mucha about noise levels. “Will they do the masonry crushing on site? That’s really noisy,” Ms. Butler said. After questioning Mr. Mucha about the routes the trucks carrying the materials will take out of town, Council president Bernie Miller suggested that the center of Princeton be avoided.

Mr. Vogel estimated that the demolition will begin in the spring and take a few months to complete. Crews will work weekdays starting at 8 a.m., and on weekends only if necessary.

The AvalonBay project will bring 280 rental units to the former hospital site. Fifty-six units are to be designated affordable, with 13 devoted to those of very low income. The developer’s first plan for the site was turned down by the municipality’s Planning Board, but a revised plan was approved last year. Instead of one large structure, the complex will be divided into five buildings, with a park at the corner of Witherspoon and Franklin streets.

At Monday’s meeting, resident Sam Bunting told Council members that he hopes the park will be transferred to the municipality. “As long as it remains a private park, there is always the chance that it could be locked away from citizens,” he said. “It should be a fully public park, as opposed to a private park.”

Mayor Liz Lempert said that matter could be included in discussion at the Council’s next meeting January 27, when a work session on the developer’s agreement is likely to be scheduled.


The next stage of construction for Princeton University’s $330 million Arts & Transit project will begin in two weeks with the opening of the traffic circle at University Place and Alexander Road. Kristin Appelget, the University’s Director of Community and Regional Affairs, told Princeton Council on Monday night that the soft opening for the roundabout is scheduled for Sunday, January 26. The site will be ready for rush hour the following morning, barring a blizzard or other significant weather event.

The temporary traffic signal at College Avenue and University Place will continue for a time, as the University monitors how motorists adjust to the new vehicular pattern. A new pedestrian route will open in the area, Ms. Appelget said, and some parking that has been closed will also be reopened. The temporary road will close.

The Wawa market will remain at its current site at Alexander Street and University Place until the new Dinky train station opens, projected for this summer. No changes are planned at this time for the parking lot of the temporary train station. The schedules for the train and the Tiger Paw bus will continue, as will the shuttle bus that has been running between the parking lot and McCarter Theatre on the nights McCarter has performances. During the next two weeks, sidewalks along Alexander Place will be completed and new street lighting will be put in place.

The 21-acre complex of arts buildings designed by Steven Holl will include a new Wawa and train station designed by architect Rick Joy. The old Dinky train station is being converted into a restaurant and cafe.

Last month, a state Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit by the citizens’ group Save the Dinky, which was seeking to block the relocation of the train terminus. The suit claimed that the University needed NJ Transit’s approval for the move, due to a contract signed when the University purchased the land from NJ Transit in 1984. But Judge Paul Innes ruled against the group because NJ Transit has sanctioned the move.

Save the Dinky has until February 6 to appeal. Several other lawsuits challenge the move of the Dinky train station. Meanwhile, construction of the Arts & Transit complex continues and is expected to be completed in 2017.


Eric D. Maltz pleaded not guilty last week to causing the death of Rabbi James Diamond when his speeding car struck Mr. Diamond and another man on Riverside Drive on March 29, 2013. Mr. Maltz, 21, was arraigned January 7 in Superior Court in Trenton. He has been charged in a three-count indictment that he recklessly caused the rabbi’s death.

The indictments include one count of first degree aggravated manslaughter, one of second-degree death by auto, and one of fourth-degree assault by auto. Mr. Maltz, who lives on Braeburn Drive, is currently free on $100,000 bail and is scheduled for a status conference in court on March 6, according to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s office.

It was around 9:40 a.m. on March 29 that Rabbi Diamond, 74, and Rabbi Robert Freedman, 63, a former cantor at the Jewish Center of Princeton, were leaving a Talmud study group at a home on Riverside Drive. Rabbi Diamond was getting into the passenger side of a parked Toyota Prius when a BMW driven by Mr. Maltz crashed into the front of an unoccupied Toyota Camry parked in front of the Prius. The impact pushed the Camry into the Prius, where Rabbi Freedman was in the driver’s seat.

Rabbi Diamond was thrown from the car and died at the scene. Rabbi Freedman was taken to the trauma center at Capital Health Medical Center and later released. Mr. Maltz, who was traveling at a rate of speed between 60 and 80 miles per hour, was also taken to the trauma center and released. He was later transferred to Trenton Psychiatric Hospital.

Mr. Maltz had struggled with mood swings and depression and had previously been treated at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. He was driving with a propane tank in his vehicle, according to witnesses at the scene.

If convicted of the first-degree offense, Mr. Maltz could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in state prison, according to Mercer County Prosecutor’s office spokesperson Casey diBlasio.


January 8, 2014

Princeton Council president Bernie Miller and former Princeton Township Committeewoman Sue Nemeth announced Monday that they plan to run together for Council in the June Democratic primary. This means three people will be vying for the seats currently held by Mr. Miller and Councilwoman Jo Butler.

Mr. Miller and Ms. Nemeth, who served on Township Committee, have the official backing of Mayor Liz Lempert and Council members Lance Liverman, both of whom also served on Township Committee; and former Borough Councilwoman Heather Howard. Ms. Butler, who was a member of Borough Council before consolidation, has been known for being outspoken and pressing for further discussion on several issues.

“There is some discord on Council. Everyone is aware of it,” Ms. Nemeth said on Tuesday. “But I respect everyone’s service. People work hard and mean well. What I bring to the table is a little bit of a different kind of sensibility. I’m an organizer from way back. I like working with people. I have a long record of successes. People will sit down with me, as they have in the past.”

Ms. Butler confirmed Tuesday that she will run again in the next election. “I think we’re a fortunate community in that we have a number of people willing to commit themselves to public service,” she said. “Anyone is free to run for office if they want to.”

Ms. Butler cited her record as an advocate for further transparency in government, fiscal responsibility, and accountability as evidence of her success in office during the past year on Council and the previous two years on Borough Council. “I’ve been a watchdog on these issues and will continue to be,” she said. “We have had a zero tax increase as long as I have served. The tax rate in the new municipality has decreased. I pushed to have an oversight committee on legal expenses, which saved us thousands of dollars.”

A public relations specialist at the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, Ms. Nemeth ran for New Jersey State Assembly last year instead of seeking reelection to the consolidated Council. She lost the primary to Marie Corfield. Mr. Miller was a business executive for many years, and served as a Captain in the U.S. Air Force. He has been a member of Princeton’s governing bodies for over ten years.

“I’ve worked with Sue to consolidate Princeton, create the Princeton Ridge Preserve, rebuild the Community Park pool complex, and negotiate productively with Princeton University,” Mr. Miller said in a press release. “She’s an effective leader who delivers.”

Ms. Nemeth and Mr. Miller will seek the formal endorsement of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) and support of the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee in March. Ms. Nemeth said they will hold a series of coffees for members of the public this month and next, at locations to be announced. “These are not fundraisers,” she said. “They are for people to talk about their concerns, and more importantly, their hopes and dreams. Princeton has become a powerhouse economically in the region, and we have to manage that role.”

Praising Mr. Miller, Ms. Nemeth said, “We have complementary skills. We were a good team before and will be a good team again. We work well together. He has a very sharp intellect and has been an amazing mentor of mine for years.”

The press release announcing the Miller/Nemeth campaign lists several other supporters from the community, including former Princeton Township Mayor Chad Goerner, Princeton Planning Board member Gail Ullman, Princeton Environmental Commission member Wendy Kaczerski, and Scott Sillars, who ran for Council last year.

Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller, who served with Ms. Butler on Borough Council before the two were elected to Princeton Council, said she will back Ms. Butler’s quest for re-election. “I’m fully behind her,” she said. “I support Sue and Bernie’s right to run, and I think competition is healthy. But I was surprised by the support of the other Council members for ousting Jo, and so will vigorously support her. I think we need her on the Council, because she is independent and speaks truthfully, and always in the best interests of the town.”


Following a celebration honoring Princeton municipal staff for their efforts during the first year of consolidation, Mayor Liz Lempert and Princeton Council got down to business last Thursday evening at the first Council meeting of the year. By the time the gathering drew to a close, just as snow began blanketing the parking lot of Witherspoon Hall, the governing body had sworn in incumbents Jenny Crumiller and Patrick Simon and re-elected Bernie Miller to the post of Council president. 

Addressing the crowd of staff members, officials, and municipal workers during the party, which included a large cake donated by McCaffrey’s market, Ms. Lempert described the consolidation of the Borough and Township as “a little like throwing together two rival football teams.” She added, “This year has been a challenge as we’ve had to adjust to new roles and responsibilities, and to new faces.”

Ms. Lempert also thanked volunteers from the community and acknowledged honors and awards given to Princeton during the year, from such organizations as the League of American Bicyclists, the New Jersey Historic Preservation Office, and the American Library Association. She concluded by mentioning the town’s earning of a AAA bond rating, which recognizes good fiscal management.

At the Council meeting, each member was given an opportunity to speak. Ms. Crumiller noted that 2014 will include the replacement of administrator Bob Bruschi, who will retire at the end of the year.

“We will have to decide whether to finally build a cold storage garage for our heavy machinery or continue to allow expensive equipment to rust and deteriorate ahead of its time from exposure to the elements,” she said. “It looks like we’ll face a controversial request from the University for rezoning lower Alexander Road.”

Councilwoman Jo Butler noted that almost all of the municipal staff has experienced significant change during the year. She thanked Princeton University, the State, Mercer County, and the Department of Community Affairs for their financial contributions to consolidation. Councilman Lance Liverman praised Princeton Police Captain Nick Sutter and Corner House director Gary DiBlasio for their efforts during the year.

Councilwoman Heather Howard cited savings and improved services in public safety as a positive result of consolidation, but recognized difficulties that were encountered. “Let’s be clear — there’s no doubt that the police department faced challenges earlier in the year, but it has responded under Captain Sutter’s leadership and worked tirelessly to strengthen relations with the community,” she said.

Ms. Lempert’s remarks at the meeting focused on the successes of consolidation, both direct and indirect. “Consolidation has also jolted us out of autopilot and forced us to re-examine all our practices and develop a fresh set of operating procedures,” she said. “This year saw us adopt a new personnel manual and a new conflict of interest policy. We adopted a police ordinance, and laid the groundwork for accreditation of the new department. We negotiated a three year contract with the police union, and we balanced fairness to employees and consideration of the taxpayers while harmonizing salaries.”

Among other highlights of the year cited by the mayor were better collaboration among agencies that provide public and affordable housing, a formal agreement between the police department and the University’s public safety department, and a revised plan for a rental community at the old hospital site by the developer AvalonBay. Ms. Lempert acknowledged the grass roots groups Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods and the Princeton Ridge Coalition for their advocacy regarding AvalonBay and the expansion of the Transco pipeline, respectively.

She cited Assemblyman Jack Ciatterelli, who was present at the meeting, and the New Jersey League of Municipalities for work in opposing Assembly Bill 2586, which would have exempted Princeton University and other educational institutions from the town’s land use regulations.

The mayor praised Councilwoman Howard and her work with the town’s Health Department for making it possible for same sex couples to wed within hours of the legalization of same sex marriage. “That allowed our residents to not wait a second longer for their equal rights, and allowed Princeton to be the first town in Mercer County and among the first in New Jersey to host a same sex marriage,” said Ms. Lempert, who performed the weddings.

She concluded her remarks by comparing consolidation to a marriage saying, “Now that we’re hitched, after decades of dating, I’m happy to say we’re enjoying the fruits of our union.”


In late December of last year, a civil suit by the non-profit Save the Dinky (SDKY) group championed by local residents Anne Waldron Neumann, Peter Marks, Rodney Fisk, Walter Neumann, Christopher Hedges, and others, was heard in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County Chancery Division. 

The lawsuit claimed that Princeton University and New Jersey Transit lacked “the power and authority to move the Princeton branch terminus of the Dinky train,” citing a 1984 contract in which NJ Transit sold the station land and buildings to Princeton University, retaining an easement over the property for public transportation purposes.

Judge Paul Innes dismissed the suit on the grounds that nothing in the 1984 agreement or in a 1996 amendment prohibited the station move. “Princeton University is permitted to propose, and NJ Transit is permitted to approve, a plan to relocate the train station and rail terminus 460 feet south within the Dinky Station property,” stated his December 23 decision.

Although their suit was dismissed, opponents of the Dinky move have been heartened by at least one of Judge Innes’s pronouncements, his statement that approval of any Dinky station move resides with NJ Transit and not Princeton University.

According to Judge Innes, the easement granted to NJ Transit in 1984 means that “NJ Transit has the sole power ‘to expand, reduce, terminate or alter the type of passenger-related services within or serving the station parcel,’ if in its opinion, conditions warrant it. The easement expressly reserves the right of NJ Transit to approve any alterations to the improvements located or constructed in the station property.”

“Judge Innes agreed with our assertion that the 1984 contract did not give the University the right to move the terminus. Instead, he said that that NJ Transit retained the power to approve or not approve plans. Basically, the judge said the buck stops with NJ Transit on the plans to move the Dinky,” said Save the Dinky President Anita Garoniak.

NJ Transit has not objected to the University’s plan to relocate the station. Its representatives have said that the move is within the scope of the 1984 contract.

Save the Dinky, which describes itself as a “rail passenger advocacy group,” claimed in a recent press advisory that “NJ Transit has said again and again that the contract obligated it to agree to the University plan to move the terminus, and the University has said again and again that the contract gave it the ‘right’ to make [the move].” According to Ms. Garoniak, the court ruling is clear. “The judge said that the buck stops with NJ Transit,” she said.

According to Save the Dinky, Judge Innes made it clear that NJ transit did not have to agree to the station move, as it has claimed. Nor did NJ Transit delegate its power to the University.

The aforementioned SDKY press advisory also states that Judge Innes’s ruling was important because “it affirms that the cutback of rail service to Princeton to benefit Princeton University was in fact a decision by New Jersey Transit. “The Judge may not have agreed with the entirety of our position, but he put to rest the pretense that NJ Transit had a contractual obligation to agree to the University’s plan to shorten the Dinky line to facilitate an additional road to a campus parking garage,” said Ms. Garoniak, citing the court’s statement that “Princeton University has no authority to act unilaterally” and “no right to alter the service to the Dinky in any way without the express approval of NJ Transit.”

The SDKY group hopes to make a decision on whether or not to appeal Judge Innes’s decision by the end of this month after consultation with their attorney.

Meanwhile, the group is pursuing another line of offense against the Dinky move. Today, in Trenton, one of their attorneys will present an appeal based on the Dinky Station status as a historic site and as an operating railroad, one of two pending state appellate court challenges by SDKY to the station relocation.

The Princeton Railroad Station on University Place was added to the New Jersey Register of Historic Places in 1984 as an “Operating Passenger Railroad Station.” As such, permission for any change would have been needed from state authorities. Did the Department of Environmental Protection do its job in protecting the historic integrity of the site? This lawsuit is one of several filed by residents opposing the station move as part of the University’s $300 million Arts & Transit project.


January 2, 2014

According to Lewis Wildman, owner of Jordan’s of Princeton, the cards and gifts store in the Princeton Shopping Center, business this holiday season has been “flat to under.” While his store saw as many customers as in previous years, and they were all in good spirits, they were not spending as much. “People were buying less and thinking carefully about where to spend their money,” said Mr. Wildman. “Everyone’s Christmas list was shorter and the Internet isn’t helping.”

One bright spot, said Mr. Wildman, was his store’s new toy section where products by the Melissa and Doug brand are doing well. “Any mother with young children knows these lego-type items, crafts, stamps, and art supplies for ages two to eight.”

Sales of children’s toys proved to be up for Jazams as well. “If it weren’t for the snow, we’d have had a record-breaking end-of-year. Even so, it’s been incredible,” said Jazams owner Joanne Farrugia. Speaking by phone Monday from New York City while visiting with her six-year-old son Felix, she described her Princeton store at 25 Palmer Square East as “very busy” and the pop up store that Jazams created in partnership with PlayMobil on Hulfish Street as “more fun than anything.”

Felix, it seems, also had a good end of year with Santa bringing him a castle, a train, a ball, and “one of those things you stand on to watch the trains go by,” he said when handed the phone by his mother. “That’s a pedestrian bridge for his train,” explained Ms. Farrugia.

A call to the Bent Spoon at 35 Palmer Square West failed to elicit comment, but a recorded message noted that the store was “booked up for orders through January 5.” The store is known for introducing seasonal products and its latest flavor of ice cream, “Spruce Tree,” is tickling a few winter palates.

Hank Siegel of Hamilton Jewelers, who was in the Princeton store through Christmas Eve and in the Hamilton store in Florida on Monday, observed a very successful holiday season in Princeton. “We had new clients as well as friends of the Hamilton brand returning as they have done for a number of years.” What were the most popular items this year? A Hamilton brand bracelet that came in two sizes overlaid in white, yellow or rose gold for $95 sold so well that the store had to increase production. Diamond stud earrings, which Mr. Siegel said are popular year-round, were also strong this year in a range of sizes and prices from a few hundred dollars to many thousands of dollars.

Henry Landau of the clothing store on Nassau Street also reported “a very strong holiday season” with sales up from last year.

Relatively new in Princeton, the Farmhouse Store on Hulfish has found its niche. “We opened in the fall of 2012 and people didn’t know who we were at first, now that they have found our unique items, we did really well,” said owner Ron Menapace. Selling especially well were items from the store’s “geography” collection: tea towels, glasses, and pillows from states across the country. “These make great hostess gifts,” said Mr. Menapace.

But Cathy Barasch, assistant manager of Kitchen Kapers on Hulfish, voiced similar feelings to those expressed by the owner of Jordan’s in the Princeton Shopping Center: decent foot traffic not always translating into sales, with customers doing a lot of browsing and price comparing, and possibly shopping online.

Such comments are in accord with the reported last minute surge in online sales, encouraged by bad weather, that caused big businesses like Amazon, Kohl’s and Wal-Mart to be swamped and unable to deliver packages in time for Christmas.

Reports from IBM estimate that Internet sales jumped 37 percent on year over the pre-Christmas weekend. UPS was caught out when the volume of air packages exceeded its capacity. Online demand was much greater than the company had forecast, said a UPS spokeswoman. FedEx and USPS also suffered delays.

One other factor affecting sales, was the shorter-than-usual holiday season. “The season took a long time to get started and it was shorter this year,” said Ms. Barasch. “While the last few days have been good, it was slow getting there.”

With Thanksgiving falling in late November, there seemed to be less time for holiday shopping this year. The short season may also have affected sales at Labyrinth Books where Dorothea von Moltke reported “a good holiday season, though not as strong as the previous two years.”

“In general, it was another season in which on many days we were happy to find ourselves in a store bustling with people excited about books. This is what makes this the most fun time of year,” said Ms. Von Moltke.

New for the store owner, this year, were the number of customers asking that Labyrinth match the prices of books on the online retailer Amazon. “It appears that price-matching is becoming more of a trend and of course price-conscious shoppers are not looking to be educated about the many reasons why a brick and mortar store can’t compete with prices from an online retailer that doesn’t need to break even let alone make a profit on book sales,” commented Ms. Von Moltke. “In the Amazon business model, books are loss-leaders for cosmetics, appliances, etc,” she explained.

While sympathetic to such requests, Ms. Moltke said: “we are still trying to figure out how to respond in this situation since often we are dealing with a customer who in fact would prefer to shop local but for whom the world of heavily discounted pricing online has become the new normal even though it is destructive for just the sort of businesses he or she may be hoping to support, and we would like to honor the fact that they have bothered to come into our store.”

One anecdote Ms. Von Moltke shared from this year’s shopping experience demonstrates why customers still value the local small business experience. It happened on Christmas Eve just after the bookstore had locked its doors. Two latecomers knocked at the door begging to be let in. One needed a children’s book, any children’s book would do, the other needed a copy of the Bible. Although anxious to get home, Ms. Von Moltke’s colleague re-opened the store and helped them find what they needed. Try that at Wal-Mart.


When Princeton Council gathers for its annual reorganization meeting this Thursday evening, Mayor Liz Lempert will reflect on the first year of a consolidated Princeton while voicing her hopes for year number two.

This first official gathering of the year begins at 5:30 p.m. following a reception for members of the municipal staff. “Our reorganization meeting will be held one year and one day after we officially consolidated,” Ms. Lempert said in an email. “It’s an opportunity to look back over the course of the year and reflect on what we’ve accomplished and take stock of what still lies ahead.”

One accolade Ms. Lempert is likely to mention is a “Winner of the Year” citation in the political journal Politifax from December 18, 2013. Princeton was named as one of eight winners: “The Township and the Borough completed their amalgamation with a minimum of strife and a considerable tax savings for their citizens,” the citation reads.

The meeting will include such business-as-usual tasks as the naming of agreements for professional services, the swearing in of incumbent Council members Jenny Crumiller and Patrick Simon for new terms, and the naming of the Council president, which Ms. Lempert said she assumes will be current President Bernie Miller.

The mayor will also deliver a talk, the main points of which she outlined in her email.

“I’m proud of our record — we lowered municipal taxes, shrank the budget, extended residential trash pick up, and added dedicated traffic and safe neighborhood units to our police force,” she said. “We put a comprehensive emergency preparedness plan in place, and are better prepared to deal with major weather events, extended power outages, and other crises.”

Consolidation “jolted us out of autopilot and forced us to re-examine how we do business,” she continued. “This year saw us adopt a new personnel manual and a new conflict of interest policy. We adopted a police ordinance and lay the groundwork for accreditation of the new department. We negotiated a new three year contract with the police union. And we adopted an ordinance to harmonize salaries.”

Ms. Lempert also mentioned some new traditions, “including having the president of Princeton University, Chris Eisgruber, come speak with Council about shared goals and developing a relationship of respect for working out disagreements.” Mr. Eisgruber attended a Council meeting last month and voiced his interest in returning next year.

At Council’s final meeting of 2013 last week, several resolutions were introduced. A supplemental agreement with The Rodgers Group, the consulting firm that recently released its study on the Princeton Police Department, was voted on, not to exceed $2,000. The Council also voted to approve a resolution to supplement a three-year Strategic Technology Plan, not to exceed $20,000.


December 26, 2013

The biggest story of 2013 unfolded on the first day of the year as Princeton Borough and Township made their consolidation into one community official. A standing-room-only celebration, held in what was formerly the Municipal Building and is now known as Witherspoon Hall, marked the beginning of a new era for the town.

Town Topics asked Anton Lahnston, who chaired the Princeton Consolidation and Shared Services Study Commission, how he would rate Year One of the long-awaited merger. While acknowledging bumps along the way, he is generally encouraged by how the process had gone, giving much credit to the municipal staff. “On a scale of one to ten, I’d give it a seven or eight,” he said. “It’s not easy, and we never said it was going to be.”

Mr. Lahnston cited services to the community, the merger of the police force, and savings as key to consolidation’s success. Public works and responsiveness have improved, the police force has melded together despite unrest involving the departure of chief David Dudeck, and savings are on the right track. Allowing for those “bumps along the way,” he said he is encouraged by developments in all three areas. What concerns him the most is a “lack of harmony” among members of the governing body.

“The most comments I get from people are about the functioning of the Council,” he said. “There has been some time lost because of this. Some things need to be handled by the governing body prior to Council meetings, and some of the debates have gone on much too long. But the mayor has done a fabulous job in trying to keep things moving. I think there are some real opportunities for improvements as we move into the next year.”


After the Planning Board rejected its plan for a 280-unit rental community at the former site of Princeton’s hospital on Witherspoon Street, the developer AvalonBay filed a lawsuit challenging the decision, naming the town, the Planning Board, Mayor Liz Lempert, and the Council as defendants. The defendants and the developer then entered into a series of quiet meetings and finally came to a compromise.

With even-tempered Jon Vogel as representative instead of the more combative Ron Ladell, AvalonBay revised its plans and brought them before the Planning Board at the end of June. Promising greater permeability, five buildings instead of one large edifice, a scaled-down swimming pool and other adjustments, the plan was approved in July.

The group Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods withdrew its opposition to the proposal despite continuing concerns about scale, sustainability, and the effect on the character of the neighborhood. But as a result of the group’s efforts, AvalonBay agreed to donate $70,000 to the Arts Council of Princeton toward the inclusion of public art in the project.

No date has been set for demolition of the old hospital building.

Princeton University

Between a new president, a major bomb threat that remained just that, and an epidemic of meningitis, the ivied institution on Nassau Street was the subject of widespread news coverage this year.

Christopher L. Eisgruber, the University’s former provost, formally succeeded president Shirley M. Tilghman at a ceremony on September 22 on the front lawn of Nassau Hall. Mr. Eisgruber graduated from Princeton and first joined the faculty in 2001 as a Constitutional scholar. Since taking office, he has stressed his commitment to diversity and inclusivity of the University community, particularly with the endorsement of a study on the subject by a trustee committee.

Helicopters circled overhead and television news trucks were parked outside the campus June 10 during a daylong search for explosives after a bomb threat was called in for multiple buildings. The University evacuated students, faculty and staff to different sites including the Princeton Public Library, the Nassau Inn, and the Arts Council buildings, telling them to stay away from campus until otherwise advised. But by 6:30 p.m., the campus was reopened and all returned to normal. The University’s Department of Public Safety investigated the threat with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. But no bomb was found and no culprit was named.

The first case of meningitis B on the campus was reported in March. By early December, eight cases had been diagnosed. In November, the State of New Jersey had declared an outbreak of the disease, which is spread through sharing drinking glasses and utensils, smoking materials, and kissing. The Centers for Disease Control was brought in, and recommended that all Princeton undergraduates, graduate students living on campus, and other members of the community with medical conditions be vaccinated.

Though the vaccine has yet to be formally approved in the United States, special permission was given for it to be dispensed. More than 5,200 received the shots this month. A second round will be available in February. Those who were infected with meningitis B, which can be fatal, are recovering.

Arts & Transit

Princeton University began construction on its $330 million Arts & Transit project during the summer. The complex of performing arts and education buildings, public plazas, a new Dinky train station and new Wawa market has been the source of controversy among those opposed to moving the train terminus 460 feet to the south.

A temporary train platform was installed some 1,200 feet south of the original train buildings, which are to be turned into a restaurant and cafe managed by Princeton’s Terra Momo Group. Save the Dinky Inc. has filed lawsuits and an emergency appeal to try and stop the move. As recently as this month, residents opposed to the relocation of the station asked University President Eisgruber, at a meeting of Princeton Council, to change the course of the construction project.

[Another source of sadness for preservation-minded citizens was the demolition of a string of 19th century houses on Alexander Street to make room for construction. The white clapboard buildings, owned by the University, were not considered historically significant. But they formed a gateway, valued by many, into town. Though the University ended up offering the homes free to anyone willing to move them — a costly prospect — there were no takers].[above para could be cut, if need be]

All has not gone smoothly during construction of the arts campus. In October, a 200-foot section of the canopy collapsed at the station. While no one was injured, the accident led members of Council to request a close look at what caused the collapse, which was blamed on a faulty support structure, and whether proper permits were used. The University initiated its own peer review of the accident.

One aspect of the construction that has gone more smoothly than expected is the rerouting of traffic on Alexander Street and University Place. For the most part, motorists driving between Route One and downtown Princeton have been able to snake through without significant delay. Construction is proceeding in stages and completion of the entire project is targeted for fall 2017.


Although Princeton has been certified bronze by the organization Sustainable Jersey, the town wants to be upgraded to silver. With that effort in mind, a “municipal green team” was announced in October to include Mayor Liz Lempert, local officials, and Diane Landis of Sustainable Princeton. The idea is to score 350 points by improving efforts toward a greener town. Helping to get the effort off the ground was a $10,000 grant from Princeton University’s Office of Community and Regional Affairs.


When the Oklahoma-based Williams Company announced its plans to install a new, 1.2-mile natural gas pipeline through a section of the Princeton Ridge last February, a red flag went up among residents of the Ridge. How would the work, which would involve blasting and considerable construction, affect this environmentally sensitive area?

In a big way, it turns out. Citizens who formed a group called The Princeton Ridge Coalition did their homework and raised their concerns with Williams in a series of meetings. The company listened, and recently responded by saying they may possibly turn off an existing pipeline during the project, if it is approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

As a result of efforts by the citizens’ group and the municipality, FERC has also asked Williams to explore a plan that would take the new pipeline to a location west of the route currently being pursued. Princeton Council voted in October to file for “intervenor” status, which gives the town the option to request a new hearing by FERC and a chance to appeal decisions. Construction on the pipeline, which is part of the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project bringing Marcellus shale gas from Pennsylvania, could start in the spring of 2015.


In October, the website Planet Princeton revealed that two parking meter enforcement officers were allegedly allowing some downtown businesses to park at expired meters in exchange for free food and drink. Both attendants were suspended without pay the day after the story was broken. An investigation was quickly conducted by the town, resulting in the firing of officer Chris Boutote and the reassignment of colleague John Hughes. No criminal charges were filed.[this paragraph could go as well; if left in, it should be part of the police section] \]


There were no major surprises in Princeton’s General Election this year. Council members Patrick Simon and Jenny Crumiller, both Democrats, were re-elected over newcomer Fausta Rodriguez, running as a Republican.

Princeton Police Department

On January 1, 2013, David Dudeck was appointed as Chief of the newly consolidated Princeton Police Department. The following month, after he had announced that the department would conduct a door-to-door survey of Princeton residents and businesses as to what they expected of the police, Chief Dudeck was absent from his post amid allegations of administrative misconduct. An agreement between Mr. Dudeck and the police union, in which the former agreed to retire, obviated an investigation into the chief’s conduct by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. After a long leave of absence, he retired September 1. Meanwhile, the daily operation of the Department was in the hands of Captain Nick Sutter.

In August, seven officers filed a lawsuit against Mr. Dudeck, the Princeton Police Department and the municipality of Princeton. The suit alleged that the officers, all of whom were members of the former Borough police department before consolidation, were “discriminated against and harassed” based upon “their gender, sexual orientation and disability.”

The municipality hired the Rodgers Group to report on the police force and considered alternative leadership models, such as having a civilian administrator to be the statutory “appropriate authority” for oversight of the force. In September, Council gave “appropriate authority” to the town’s administrator, Robert Bruschi, as opposed to the governing body of mayor and Council. Mayor Liz Lempert was called upon to cast the tie-breaking vote in the decision. The question of police oversight was a hot-button topic this year for residents and council members, especially in the context of the chief’s forced retirement and lawsuits.

Earlier this month, the 83-page Rodgers Report recommended, as a priority, the appointment of a new chief from within the department rather than a civilian public safety director. Acting Chief Captain Nick Sutter was singled out for praise. Council hopes to make a decision about the appointment in the New Year.

This year, in May, Princeton Police and Princeton University’s department of public safety updated an agreement that clarifies who does what. Accordingly, unarmed campus police will take all routine service calls for incidents on University property. In a situation that threatens public safety, a critical incident in progress, say a kidnapping or a threat with a deadly weapon, then the armed Princeton Police would respond until the situation is under control.

Princeton Public Schools

As a result of consolidation, what had been the Princeton Regional School District became Princeton Public Schools (PPS). The Board of Education began 2013 by completing a bond sale in January. The Chicago-based investment firm Hutchinson, Shockey, Erley & Co. beat out competitors for the $10,980,000 bond at a net interest rate of 1.43 percent. According to Stephanie Kennedy, business administrator for Princeton Public Schools, the “historically low lending rate” was lower than-anticipated, yielding substantial savings to Princeton taxpayers. The debt service was more than half a million dollars less than originally projected. One factor leading to the lower interest rate was Moody’s rating of PPS as Aaa, a rating held by only a handful of school districts in New Jersey.

[In February, Newark Mayor Cory Booker visited John Witherspoon Middle School, at the invitation of principal Jason Burr, to address the eighth grade assembly as part of a school-wide celebration of community, student service, and kindness. Mr. Booker was welcomed as a “champion of social change and educational reform” and received rousing applause from the audience that included members of the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education, Mayor Liz Lempert, and past JWMS Principal William Johnson. [above paragraph could be dropped]]

In November, voters elected three new members of the Princeton Board of Education: Molly Chrein, Thomas Hagedorn, and Andrea Spalla. Ms. Chrein and Ms. Spalla have been on the Board since 2010. Mr. Hagadorn filled the seat made vacant when Dorothy Bedford stepped down earlier in the year. It had been filled in the interim by former Board President Anne Burns.

New PRISMS School

In January, after the American Boychoir School had relocated to Mapleton Road, its old home at 19 Lambert Drive, was purchased by the Bairong Education Foundation for a new Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science (PRISMS). The new private coeducational boarding school for 9th through 12th grades, with some day students, opened with a pilot program this fall and expects to be fully operational by the fall 2014. Former Illinois Secretary of Education Dr. Glenn W. “Max” McGee was appointed as Head of School in August.

Princeton Public Library

Consolidation meant a name change for the Princeton Public Library. When six new trustees took their seats on the board a the start of the year one of their first duties was to sign a document that formally changed the library to “The Free Public Library,” from “Joint Free Public Library of Princeton,” “joint’” indicating that it served both the Borough and the Township. The six new board appointees were Mayor Liz Lempert, Audrey Gould, Ruth Miller, Kevin Royer, Pamela Wakefield, and Barak Bar-Cohen.

After holding the line on budget for the last four years. the Library asked for an increase this year, citing increased costs for health benefits, unemployment and disability insurance, and pension contributions.

Once again the Library brought top authors to town, including Jhumpa Lahiri, the Pulitzer Prize winning Indian American author of The Namesake and Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook. The latter was chosen for Princeton Reads, the town-wide literary celebration held every other year. Local Authors Day in April featured Admissions author Jean Hanff Korelitz, along with more than 40 other local writers. The Friends of the Library’s annual benefit in October, featured Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Remnick in conversation with Princeton’s own John McPhee and Paul Muldoon.

Filmmakers also found a place at the Library with Superstorm Sandy and its legacy much on the minds of participants at the Seventh Annual Princeton Environmental Film Festival in January. [In February, the 105th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was celebrated when Looking for Lincoln, the documentary written by Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. was screened. A second documentary, based on Douglas A. Blackmon’s Pulitzer-Prize winning book, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II was also shown. bracketed part could be dropped]

Some 86 authors and illustrators in children’s literature took part in the Library’s annual Children’s Book Festival on Hinds Plaza in September. According to librarian and festival director Allison Santos, the event is now one of the largest of its kind in the country. It featured Princeton-born authors Ann M. Martin, famed for her Baby Sitters Club series, and award-winning author and illustrator Brian Lies whose New York Times bestselling bat series includes Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Ballgame, and, appropriately enough, Bats at the Library.

Valley Road Building

In March, Princeton Public Schools Board of Education rejected a plan to turn part of its Valley Road building into a Community Center that would be a hub for area non-profits. In a seven-page resolution they rejected the 208-page proposal from the Valley Road School Adaptive Reuse Committee (VRS-ARC). The resolution said that their proposal failed to provide “credible, documented assurances that it has or can secure funding adequate for the extremely extensive building renovations.” According to a consultant hired by the district, some $10.8 million would be required to renovate the building. Nonetheless, advocates of the community center, John Clearwater and Kip Cherry, said they would not give up. The building’s last two tenants Corner House and TV30 moved to Monument Hall.

In May, Preservation New Jersey included the Valley Road School on its annual list of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Places in New Jersey and the VRS-ARC launched a campaign to put the question of saving the building on November’s General Election ballot. The campaign failed when municipal attorney Edwin Schmierer advised the municipality that the question could not be on the ballot because the building is not owned by the municipality but by the Princeton Public Schools, which bought the building for $1 from Princeton Township in 2002.

Princeton Borough and Princeton Township had submitted a proposal for the building in 2011 that would demolish the school and build a new complex to house the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad and an expanded fire station. With the Board of Education voting this month to appropriate funds for a future demolition project (see story, page X), the long saga of Valley Road Building may be coming to an end.

Princeton Future

The grassroots non-profit organization, Princeton Future, formed to protect and enhance Princeton’s unique community and share concerns about future growth and development provided three opportunities for residents to join in discussions this year. Its members are “wary of piecemeal, project-by-project development and, instead, seek broad community support for integrated solutions that balance the benefits of economic growth with the values of neighborhood identity, historic preservation, environmental sustainability, aesthetics and social equity.”

Focusing on the question: “A United Princeton Looks at the Future: What Do We Want Our Town and Region to be in the Next 20 Years?” the group, brought in planning experts to discuss what, why, and how to effect change. In March, some 50 residents turned out to learn about a new information tool created by regional planner Ralph Widner who unveiled a database culled from U.S. census information that will be valuable for future decision-making and planning purposes. The issue of traffic loomed large.

In November, Mr. Widner and others listened to the findings of a joint Princeton University and Princeton Municipality task force, which presented a report on the Alexander Street corridor.

The Alexander Street/University Place (ASUP) Traffic and Transit Task Force looked at problems and potential solutions, including transit options along the Dinky line between Princeton Junction.


It took several contentious public hearings this past March 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. But it wasn’t long before the Princeton Battlefield Society, which opposes the plan, took action to stall the project. In July, the Battlefield Society filed an appeal in Mercer County Superior Court challenging the approval. Along with some historians, they believe the site is the center of 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 TheКNational Trust for Historic PreservationКhad named the Princeton Battlefield to its 2012 list ofКAmerica’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.

So far, the Princeton Battlefield Society and its attorney Bruce Afran have brought three suits that could stall the Institute’s plans.

Other Changes

Downtown Princeton saw some changes this year with new eateries Agricola and Mistral, a new Jack Wills store on Nassau Street, the addition of the Lambertville coffee roastery, Rojo’s, and a renovation that allowed Hamilton Jewelers to expand its range of merchandise when it closed its Lawrenceville store early in the year. The new Jack Wills is the first such store in New Jersey for the British brand of home goods, clothing and accessories for men and women. The Princeton Theological Seminary finished its new library, and the Princeton Family YMCA opened its renovated athletic facility, named in honor of Jim and Nancye Fitzpatrick with new cardio equipment, strength training, and free weights. The University began renovating the Old Town Topics Building. Corner House and TV 30 moved from the old Valley Road Building to Monument Hall and the Post Office on Palmer Square (see story on page 1) found a new owner.


At last week’s meeting of the Princeton Pubic Schools Board of Education, the final meeting of retiring Superintendent Judith A. Wilson’s nine-year tenure, a vote was taken that might seal the fate of the Valley Road Building. 

The Board voted unanimously (member Molly Chrein was absent) to appropriate funding for the demolition of that part of the Valley Road School that fronts Witherspoon Street.

Board President Tim Quinn took pains to point out that what was being voted on was not approval to demolish the building but rather the “approval to appropriate funds to prepare for the demolition of the building.” Experts, he said, would need to be hired to determine the cost of demolition.

The revised resolution that passed at the meeting includes no estimate of costs associated with demolition but does say that the funds should, if possible, be included in the budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year “or the first available budget where funds can be appropriated” and that “the Board will entertain proposals for the use and purchase, where possible, of the land at 369 Witherspoon Street.”

Any move to demolish the building is bound to be controversial. Advocates hoping to save the historic structure have brought plans to the Board of Education and to Princeton Council in the hope of turning it into a community center and hub for area non-profits.

For a brief round up of recent history of the building see page 8.

The meeting was attended by Kip Cherry, president of the Valley Road School Community Center, Inc, the 501c3 non-profit formed by the Valley Road Adaptive Re-Use Committee (VRS-ARC), and by John Clearwater, a former member of the Board of Education in the 1990s and one time Board president. Both regard the building as an asset belonging to the people of Princeton and wish to see a community facility. Mr. Clearwater has described it as a “test case” for “how we deal with the stewardship of public property in Princeton.”

The VRS-ARC has found a developer specializing in adaptive reuse projects who is interested in taking on and financing the project. Mr. Clearwater again raised the issue of whether the Board has the right to sell the property, which previously belonged to the township and was sold to the Board of Education for the nominal sum of $1.

Some local officials want to demolish the building and use the space to expand the fire house on Witherspoon Street. But as yet, there has been no decision beyond raising funds for demolition.

At the same meeting, the Board unanimously approved a raise for principals and supervisors. The increase for the 2014-15 calendar year provides a 2.4 percent raise and a $100 increase in longevity pay for those administrators currently receiving it.

Superintendent Wilson retires on the last day of the year. She will be succeeded by Stephen Cochrane who will take up his post at the start of the New Year. A special video thanking her for her service was shown at the Board meeting.

Former Board President Anne Burns who was appointed last May to serve the remainder of Board member Dorothy Bedford’s term after the latter had moved from Princeton, was thanked for her contribution to the Board. She will be succeeded next month by new member Tom Hagedorn.


Negotiations with a California-based development company are underway for the sale of Princeton’s post office on Palmer Square. Once the arrangements are completed, the branch will move to a smaller site on the Square at 51-53 Hulfish Street, according to a spokesman for the real estate firm that is brokering the deal.

LCOR Ventures is the buyer of the historic building that has housed the Princeton post office since 1934. The company is not ready to comment on just how the space would be used. “They don’t know yet,” said Alec Monaghan, first vice president of CBRE Inc., the real estate firm handling the sale. “It could be a single user. Or it could be multiple users, as in shops, or a restaurant.”

David Newton, vice president of Palmer Square Management, cautioned Monday that the sale of the old building is still pending. “It’s still subject to the lease getting finalized, and we’re hopeful that will happen soon,” he said. “I think it’s very, very important that the post office stay in the downtown where there is easy access from the University.”

CBRE is also representing other post office locations throughout the country as the United State Post Office downsizes. LCOR is a national developer specializing in public/private partnerships, according to the company’s website. The firm’s list of projects includes Terminal 4 at JFK International Airport.

The Princeton post office will be scaling down from 12,000 to about 2,000 square feet if the deal is finalized and it moves to its new home on Hulfish Sreet, currently the temporary location of a toy store. The office should be up and running by early to late May, according to Mr. Monaghan.

“I think it’s going to be a wonderful space,” he said. “There’s more light. Even the clerks I talk to at the post office are happy about it. It’s better for them and it’s definitely better for the public.”

Some residents were hoping that the post office would relocate to a site like the Princeton Shopping Center, where there is ample parking available. Others hoped it would move from Palmer Square to the middle of downtown. The new location has some on-street, metered spaces in front and is opposite the Chambers Street parking garage. “I look on it as a positive that it’s not in the middle of town,” said Mr. Monaghan. “It’s a better location for a quick in and out.”


December 18, 2013

The Princeton Board of Education and the school community gathered in the Learning Commons of the John Witherspoon Middle School, yesterday to say farewell to Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Wilson.

The event was described as a tribute to the “beautiful work of Ms. Wilson over many years of great dedication” and the bright new space of the JW Learning Commons was a fitting venue. Ms. Wilson looked poised as always as she greeted old friends, former students, past and current board members.

Board of Education President Tim Quinn spoke in tribute to the outgoing Superintendent who has led the district since 2005, the year in which the American Association of School Administrators named her New Jersey’s Superintendent of the Year. As he spoke, screens around the room portrayed student achievements in a slide show of middle schoolers performing on musical instruments, playing sports, working at their computers, and showing off awards certificates. It was a time for hugs, laughter, plans to get together for post-retirement lunches, and a few tears, too.

In March, Ms. Wilson announced her intention to retire on the last day of this year. Her retirement brings to a close a distinguished 35-year career in public education during which she served as an English teacher, reading specialist, curriculum supervisor, assistant superintendent, and superintendent.

“During Judy’s time here, an already well-regarded district became even better,” said Board of Education leader Tim Quinn of a period in which Princeton adopted a standards-based curriculum for pre-K through grade 12 that is implemented among all schools and at all grade levels. Ms. Wilson led a district-wide effort to increase student achievement overall while narrowing gaps between students, particularly among economically disadvantaged students. She initiated a system to monitor individual student achievement through regular formative assessments and expanded professional learning opportunities for teachers and administrators.

“The Princeton Public School district is a very special community of leaders and learners in all positions: volunteers, teachers, support staff, administrators, parents, and especially students,” Ms. Wilson wrote in her letter announcing her retirement to the Board of Education. “My life has been influenced in many positive ways and my thinking and learning have been strengthened by the work of leading this complex, dynamic, and successful district. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many exceptional board members, educators, and staff members over the years.”

In a profile interview for this newspaper (Town Topics, April 11, 2007), Ms. Wilson described the Princeton school district as: “a very vibrant living organization that ties together everyone across the community. When I think of community, within the schools or in the wider context, much of it is about relationships and connections and understanding what it means to be a living organization, not just an institution.”

Ms. Wilson began her career with a Bachelor of Science in English and Education from West Virginia Wesleyan College, followed by a Master of Arts cum laude in Reading Education and then doctoral studies in Language and Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Her classroom teaching began in Camden County, in middle school English. She was assistant superintendent in the Southern Regional School District in Manahawkin from 1987 to 1995, and then spent a decade as superintendent of the Woodbury School District.

When she joined Princeton Regional Schools, she said that the size of the district was a draw: small enough for her to get to know her staff and students. Ms. Wilson said that she approached each day by expecting the unexpected. “School days are often unpredictable and each day has to be approached with openness and the expectation that something new, or different, or a problematic event will arise. If your mind is not open to that as part of the reality of the day, then I think it must bring a lot of unnecessary frustration, angst, or negative emotion. I have to go into every day knowing that not only will there be lot of work to do and challenges to meet but that probably before the end of the day there will be something that I didn’t expect, perhaps something emergent or even urgent that I have to deal with.”

“I work with an incredible team of support staff, faculty, and administrators. The joy of the work is being able to tap their talents and build the capacity to direct people’s energy and ideas so that it reaches our students. This is an explosive time for research and we are educating children for the 21st century to be global learners and global citizens.”

As a child, Ms. Wilson was fascinated by libraries, books, and reading. In high school, she worked part-time in the public library after school and on weekends. When she first declared a major in college, it was in library science and she holds a New Jersey Media Specialist certificate that she has never put into practice. On her first day at work in Princeton, she went to the Princeton Public Library to get her library card and it’s to the library that she admits to slipping away to once in a while, to the café and to browse the new titles. In retirement, she said, she may well undertake some volunteer activity involving libraries.

In that 2007 interview, Ms. Wilson confessed to one weakness: a passion for dark chocolate. There were plenty of chocolate chocolate chip cookies on hand yesterday.

Ms. Wilson’s replacement, Stephen Cochrane begins his tenure January 1, 2014.


This December 25 thousands are expected to gather on both sides of the Delaware River to watch the reenactment of George Washington’s daring 1776 river crossing.

Police Lieutenant John Godzieba of Langhorne, Pa. will channel the famed general as he delivers an address to some two hundred re-enactors in Continental military garb.

After the general’s speech, weather permitting, Mr. Godzieba as Washington will be rowed across the river with his men in three replica Durham boats and a small river boat.

This will be Mr. Godzieba’s fifth year in the role. At 6’4”, he looks made for the part. “I get that a lot,” he said. “Washington was 6’3” and people tell me that I really look like him, although some wonder why I don’t have white hair. What they don’t realize is that when he crossed the Delaware, Washington was 45 years old and his hair was reddish brown.”

In his role as General Washington, Mr. Godzieba has learned much about the man he portrays. “I’ve digested a lot of biographies and know a great deal about 18th century warfare. Perhaps being a re-enactor for 22 years helps, but I have the sense that he ruled by consent, listening to his officers,” said the police lieutenant. “I like to think I share some of his qualities: he’s a little bit self-conscious, doesn’t like speaking in public, and likes to look his best. Also, he loved his farm as you can tell from the letters he wrote back home to his nephew. I think he was a homebody at heart, moved by a deep sense of duty to his country.”

The reenactment celebrates the historic action in the winter of 1776 during the War of Independence. The crossing and subsequent battles at Trenton and Princeton are reputed to have turned the tide in the affairs of the patriots fighting for independence against colonial rule.

The Continental Army had experienced nothing but defeat and were a pretty ragged and downcast bunch. The campaign in New York had not gone well. The Battle of Long Island had been lost and the army forced to retreat across New Jersey to Pennsylvania. Soldiers lacked food and warm clothing; enlistments were expiring and desertion was rife.

A victory was desperately needed when Washington devised his bold plan to cross the Delaware under the cover of darkness and attack the British garrison at Trenton, about 10 miles downstream and manned by some 1500 Hessian soldiers. On December 25, 1776, 2400 men made the crossing, beginning in the late afternoon after the sun had set. Candle-lit lanterns provided little light. According to letters and diary accounts, the weather was bleak; rain had turned to sleet and snow. The river is believed to have been in flood at the time, and the crossing was dangerous.

The Americans were ferried by fishermen from Marblehead led by Colonel John Glover. The bad weather prevented two supporting divisions led by Generals Cadwalader and Ewing from making a similar crossing further downstream, so Washington had to go it alone. In spite of the lack of support, Washington’s unexpected attack resulted in the surrender of the Hessian force within an hour. The success gave the patriots new hope.

Mr. Godzieba has gathered a wealth of information about Washington’s life and interests, from details about his famous dentures to his passion for dogs. “When I first started out, I was invited to participate in a fundraising dinner where the host’s two young children were Washington aficionados. They knew everything and asked all sorts of questions that I couldn’t answer, like what was the name of Washington’s dog. I decided I’d never be caught out like that again,” said Mr. Godzieba, who rattles of the names of the General’s dogs: True Love, Tippler, and Sweet Lips, among others.

As for this year’s crossing on December 25, Mr. Godzieba expects success. “With all the snow we’re getting in the Delaware Watershed up in New York state, the water level should have risen enough for us to get over to New Jersey.”

The 61st Annual Christmas Crossing of the Delaware will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. on December 25 at Washington Crossing Historic Park, 1112 River Road, Washington Crossing. Starting around 1 p.m., actors in period costume will set out from the McConkey’s Ferry section of the Washington Crossing Historic Park on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. Founded in 1917, the Washington Crossing Historic Park has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Admission is free and the event can be observed from the Jersey side of the river. For more information, call (215) 493-4076, or visit www.ushistory.org/washingtoncrossing.