October 16, 2013

After reviewing some research, Princeton’s Animal Control Advisory Committee has recommended to Princeton Council that a plan to hire sharpshooters to cull the area’s growing coyote herd be scrapped in favor of an effort to educate the public about how to discourage interaction with the animals. The committee will revisit the issue next year before hunting season begins, and make another recommendation to the governing body.

“We considered recommending a culling program, and we put it in writing after our October 3 meeting,” said Council president Bernie Miller, a member of the committee. “But we’ve reviewed a lot of literature since then, and a lot of authors recommend that an education program is really the most effective way of controlling interactions between coyotes and humans. Culling is not productive, because it leads to inbreeding of coyotes and dogs and the population quickly returns to pre-culling levels.”

Coyotes don’t have any rival predators in suburban areas like Princeton, Mr. Miller said. Once they are eliminated, a new population of them moves in. There are approximately 40 t0 60 coyotes living in and around the community right now. The Institute Woods and Princeton Community Village have reported the most frequent sightings of the animals. According to Mr. Miller, the town’s Animal Control Officer Mark Johnson spotted a coyote a few hundred feet from the municipal complex a few days ago.

While they are not known to be aggressive toward humans, coyotes will go after smaller animals.  Mr. Johnson, who answered questions from Council at the meeting, advised that pet food never be left outside, because it attracts the animals. He also recommended that pets not be left outdoors.

Anyone who encounters a coyote should back away, and make eye contact. “Don’t run С that’s the most important thing,” said Councilwoman Jo Butler, who has also done some research on the issue. “If you run, it switches to a predator/prey situation,” Mr. Johnson added. “And don’t turn your back. You’ve got to be the aggressor.”

Some people have reported being chased by coyotes, and there have been reports of a dog and some cats being killed by the animals. The possibility of rabies is a concern, but Mr. Miller said the town would be vigilant about identifying potential cases. Mr. Johnson has been advised by the committee to destroy any coyote dens if he happens upon them.

“We want people to understand that we have coyotes in Princeton,” Mr. Miller said earlier on Monday. “There is nothing to fear. But they will go after pets.”

Ms. Butler suggested that state representatives come in to talk about coyotes, as they did about bears when those animals were spotted in the area last summer.

The committee had looked into the possibility of combining a coyote hunt with the White Buffalo organization’s annual deer cull. But Anthony Denicola of that group said that since the habits of deer and coyotes are very different, a cull would likely not be effective, Mr. Miller said.

The town is expected to vote for continuation of culling the local deer herd, using a mix of sharpshooters from White Buffalo and recreational bow hunters. The hunt would begin either the end of this year or early in 2014. Mr. Miller said that the ability to get state approval for the sharpshooters is contingent on the Council approving the recreational hunt.


A closed session that could have taken place at the end of Monday night’s Princeton Council meeting was voted down by the governing body after concerns by some members over information being leaked to the press. In a tie that was broken by a vote from Mayor Liz Lempert, the Council opted to hold off on the closed session until an attorney is brought in to clarify questions about confidentiality.

Mayor Lempert said she has asked attorney Bill Kearns, who served the town during the transition to consolidation last year, to come back for a training session “so that we’re all on the same page.”

Councilman Patrick Simon made a motion to hold a closed session to discuss such matters as recent litigation involving AvalonBay, the developer of the former hospital site, and negotiations with Princeton University. But Ms. Lempert said she had been approached by some Council members who felt uncomfortable about things that are supposed to kept confidential leaking to the press.

Council President Bernie Miller said that while he sympathized with Mr. Simon about the need to have a closed session, he agreed with Ms. Lempert about holding off on the meeting. “I’m reluctant to participate further in closed sessions until we all share the same understanding,” he said. “We operate like the board of directors of a corporation. There is a code you follow. Part of that code is that when you discuss things in closed session, it remains privileged for those who participate. Until we get to the point where we share that common understanding, I have great difficulty going ahead with further closed sessions.”

Councilwoman Heather Howard said she supported Ms. Lempert’s view because the Council has a fiduciary responsibility to Princeton taxpayers. Should information get out about how the town is negotiating with Princeton University, she said, or if a personnel issue becomes public, it could cost taxpayers money because of a possible lawsuit.

Councilwoman Jo Butler said she understood, but that there was pressing business to attend to. “I don’t see how not going into closed session is going to help,” she said. “It feels like a move toward less transparency in our government, not more.” Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller said she also would like to have gone into closed session. “I don’t know what more we can do … take a blood oath?,” she said.

Ms. Howard, Mr. Miller, and Lance Liverman voted against meeting in closed session, while Ms. Butler, Ms. Crumiller, and Mr. Simon voted for it. Ms. Lempert’s negative vote broke the tie. After the vote, Ms. Butler suggested that someone who can speak about confidentiality with e-mail and other electronic communications be included in the training session, and her colleagues agreed.

The training session, tentatively set for the October 22 meeting, will be held in public. The closed session could then take place at the following meeting on October 28.

In other business, Council approved unanimously a new contract for municipal administrator Bob Bruschi, including a raise that moves his salary from $170,000 to $180,000, which he will earn until the end of 2014, retroactive to September 1. Mr. Bruschi is planning to retire by the end of next year. Kathy Monzo, the town’s finance director, has been mentioned as his successor, but that has not been confirmed and the municipality could go outside to fill the job.

The Council also voted unanimously to become an intervener in the Williams Transco company’s efforts to run a natural gas pipeline through a 1.2-mile section of the Princeton Ridge. With intervener status, the governing body can have some involvement in the process. Transco recently filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to go forward with the project.


The launch of the new OnePrinceton debit card is a long-awaited and welcome event according to John Marshall, the owner of Main Street Bistro at the Princeton Shopping Center.

As a member of the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA), Mr. Marshall was one of the local businessmen who had hoped to bring a precursor of today’s card to Princeton some years ago. At that time, Bob Carr, founder of Heartland Payment Systems, was asked to present ideas for a single card that could be used for library related items and to pay for parking around Princeton. While nothing came of the idea at that time, the new and improved card that has just been launched was worth the wait, said Mr. Marshall. When Mr. Carr presented plans to the PMA in February of this year, the technology had advanced. Smartphones had changed everything.

“The advent of the smartphone in the interim has enhanced the value of the new card for users,” explained Mr. Marshall. “It’s actually a decoupled debit card,” he said, meaning that the card can be linked to any bank account you like. “So there is no forcing anyone to use a particular bank or change their relationship with their existing bank.”

“The card bypasses traditional networks [such as Visa and Mastercard] and gives monetary traction to the practice of buying local. As merchants we pay for the privilege of the brand on the card, not necessarily the function of the card or the value it delivers,” said Mr. Marshall, referring to charges to merchants for credit card transactions that can sometimes be as high as three percent.

Since OnePrinceton transactions cost less to process than traditional credit cards, local businesses are able to save and to effectively split savings between the Prince-ton-based credit card processor Heartland Payment Systems, which administers the card, and the consumer, allowing the latter to redirect those savings to the benefit of local non-profits.

According to its website, Heartland Payment Systems at 90 Nassau Street is “a Fortune 1000 company and ranked fifth in the nation for payment processing providers.”

As Mr. Marshall points out: “In turn those non-profits will urge their supporters to adopt the card and to patronize the merchants who use it. The result is that 100 percent of what is being spent stays in the Princeton community, a very sustainable plan.”

OnePrinceton benefits non-profits to the tune of 1 percent of what is spent. The idea is to encourage users to shop local and contribute to the community at the same time. Currently the card is for in-store purchases only and cannot be used at an ATM or for online purchases.

“That Jim McCaffrey has endorsed the card and made all checkout lanes at the McCaffrey’s store in the Princeton Shopping Center able to accept payment via OnePrinceton was very exciting for the PMA,” said Mr. Marshall, whose own Main Street Bistro is offering incentives to those using the card. “Between 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. we’ll take $1 off any and every item you purchase using the card or phone app, and if you don’t have the card, just ask for one and we can help you with that too,” said Mr. Marshall.

Endorsed by Mayor Liz Lempert, who used the application on her smartphone to make a purchase at McCaffrey’s supermarket last Wednesday, and by local nonprofits, OnePrinceton is a new way to pay at participating local businesses using your smartphone app or the OnePrinceton card that links directly to your checking or savings account and works just like a debit card with a PIN for extra security. It’s free to enroll.

Currently some 60 merchants are participating and more are being added all the time. “Two more came on board just this week,” said Emmalee Carr, who has been working with her father since August and is enthusiastic about the program. “When you enroll you pick a local nonprofit of your choice, so far there are 10 listed, or you can choose to share equally with all of them. You can either enroll online at oneprinceton.com or by going to one of the participating merchants. You can use a card or you can go cardless and simply use your smartphone.

“My Dad’s been talking about this for a long time and so its great to see it come to fruition; its great to be a part of it,” she said.

A version of the card that will enable users to pay for parking in town is in the works. Princeton currently uses a smart chip in parking meters and at garage access points. and OnePrinceton will be integrating smart chips into its cards.

For more information visit: www.oneprinceton.com.


October 9, 2013

A successor to Superintendent Judith A. Wilson who has led Princeton Public Schools (PPS) since 2005, was announced last night at a special meeting of the Princeton Board of Education.

When Ms. Wilson retires at the end of the year, she will be succeeded by Stephen C. Cochrane, currently an assistant superintendent in the Upper Freehold Regional School District. Mr. Cochrane will take up his post on January 1, 2014.

Mr. Cochrane, 53, is no stranger to Princeton. He lives in the town and is a graduate of Princeton University, where he gained a degree in English in 1981. After earning a master’s degree in education from Harvard University, he began his 23-year career in public education as an elementary school teacher in South Brunswick Public Schools. He has previously served as principal of Hopewell Elementary School and Timberlane Middle School in the Hopewell Valley Regional School District and as director of curriculum and instruction for Colts Neck Township Schools.

“The Board is pleased and excited that Mr. Cochrane will be the next superintendent of schools in Princeton,” said Board of Education President Timothy Quinn.

Mr. Cochrane was hired after a leadership profile was developed by the Board in a process that invited input from the Princeton community. “Mr. Cochrane possesses all of the attributes Princeton values,” said Mr. Quinn. “He is a student-centered collaborative leader with a strong curricular background and an unwavering commitment to open public education. He is skilled at communicating his vision for student achievement to the many stakeholder groups that form a school community. The board fully expects he will build on the excellence that has been the focus of Judy Wilson’s leadership.”

The new superintendent was identified via a national search conducted by Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. Selected from more than 50 candidates, his contract with PPS is renewable after four and one-half years. His $167,500 per year salary is the maximum allowable under a state cap on superintendent compensation. He is, however, eligible for bonuses based on the achievement of goals agreed upon with the Board of Education.

“Our Board was presented with a slate of impressive educators, each of whom was qualified to be superintendent,” commented Board member Molly Chrein. “From this deep field, it became apparent that Mr. Cochrane was the clear choice.”

Citing Mr. Cochrane’s tenure as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction with the Upper Freehold Regional School District during “an unprecedented period of curricular growth and student achievement,” Mr. Quinn commended Mr. Cochrane for his role in conducting a comprehensive K-12 review of all curricula that resulted in the development of curriculum maps in all subject areas as well as for implementing new K-8 reading, writing, and mathematics programs in the district and working with teachers and administrators to expand electives in the middle school and to double the number of AP offerings at the high school.

Mr. Cochrane has been an assistant superintendent with the Upper Freehold District since 2007. During his tenure, the district’s Stone Bridge Middle School was selected as one of 10 schools worldwide to pilot the “Big History Project” funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the percentages of students scoring at the proficient or advanced proficient levels on state tests increased significantly and professional development for teachers expanded. He introduced the Danielson Framework for Teaching in the district in 2009 and worked with teachers and administrators to fulfill current state teacher evaluation requirements.

As part of the selection process, members of the PPS Board of Education paid a visit to the Upper Freehold Regional School District. “It was clear from a visit by members of our board to Upper Freehold Regional that Mr. Cochrane is a transformational leader universally respected by all,” said Andrea Spalla, vice president of the Princeton Board of Education. “We heard from parents, teachers, and administrators about Steve’s passion for his work and his ability to motivate everyone to focus on positive outcomes for every student, every day. Just about everyone we spoke with said some variation of this statement: ‘Mr. Cochrane is the smartest guy in any room he’s in, but he is also the most humble.’ Students in Princeton can only benefit from such leadership.”

“Mr. Cochrane’s enthusiasm for educating young people is evident when you meet him, and based on our visit to Upper Freehold, it is contagious,” said Ms. Chrein.

As for the new Superintendent, he said that he was “both honored and overjoyed to have been selected to serve the children of Princeton. I look forward to collaborating with all those who care about our kids and to giving back to the community that has given so much to me.”

According to a PPS press release, Mr. Cochrane is a top ranked amateur bicycle racer at the state and national levels.


Parking enforcement officer Chris Boutote was fired Monday following an internal investigation into allegations that, in exchange for free food and drink, he allowed employees of local businesses to park in metered spots without paying. A second officer, John Hughes, is to meet with Princeton municipal administrator Robert Bruschi today to be told his fate.

“It’s likely he won’t lose his job, but will be given a significant suspension without pay,” Mr. Bruschi said Tuesday. “He’ll face demotion to his former job, which was parking attendant in the garage.” Mr. Hughes will not be terminated because he was not involved to the same degree as Mr. Boutote, Mr. Bruschi said.

A story on the news website Planet Princeton first reported last month that the two meter readers were looking the other way while employees of Olive’s, Triumph Brewery, and D’Angelo’s Market, among other businesses, were parking without paying, often for hours at a time. Both Mr. Boutote and Mr. Hughes were immediately suspended without pay for two weeks after the story appeared.

Parking is at a premium in the downtown business district, and most meters are for two hours or less. Members of the public who park at meters and allow them to run over are almost always promptly ticketed. But employees of the businesses who placed menus, coasters, shopping bags, and other identifying items on their dashboards were left alone. According to Planet Princeton, one law enforcement source estimated that between 50 and 75 employees of downtown businesses were benefitting from the situation.

The website also reported that observers who noticed the vehicles not being ticketed contacted the police, but were informed that there was nothing the police could do. After the story came out, the Princeton police department began an internal investigation to make sure no sworn officers were involved. No evidence has emerged to link officers to the actions, Mr. Bruschi said last week.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office was notified about the case and would become involved if criminal charges were made. Mr. Boutote is a retired police officer who earned $48,109 a year as a parking meter officer. Mr. Hughes earns $44,000.


A growing population of coyotes in the wooded area bordering the Institute for Advanced Study and in the Herrontown Woods has motivated the Princeton Animal Control Advisory Committee to recommend that sharpshooters be hired to help handle the problem.

The group met last week and will present their recommendations to Princeton Council at its meeting October 14, said Princeton animal control officer Mark Johnson. “There is a big pack over at the Institute Woods,” he said this week. “I’m having a lot of complaints that they follow people around. Not everyone keeps their dog on a leash, though they’re supposed to, and that’s part of the problem.”

In the Herrontown Woods, a dog was killed by coyotes. “I’ve also had people at Princeton Community Village chased by them, going from one building to the next,” Mr. Johnson said. Requests to allow hunting at the Institute and Herrontown Woods have been submitted, but have yet to be answered.

“We have a request into the Institute, but whether they say yea or nay, that’s a different story,” Mr. Johnson said. “They have their own personal hunting group in there for deer, but we have not had any access over there for years. We also have a request in to Herrontown Woods for removal of coyotes, but haven’t heard an answer yet.”

Christine Ferrara, spokesperson for the Institute, said no decision has been made on whether to allow sharpshooters to hunt the coyotes. “We’re at the beginning of the process,” she said. “We do have bow hunters who have a structured path along which they hunt deer. It’s pretty well controlled and monitored.”

Should Council vote to approve the coyote hunt, which would be the first in Princeton, it would take place during New Jersey’s regular hunting and trapping season November 9 to March 15, 2014. Hunters would not need a special permit but would have to follow state guidelines, Mr. Johnson said.

The town has hired White Buffalo Inc. to cull herds of deer in past years. The company is based in Connecticut.

The biggest threat posed by coyotes is “severe bodily harm to children and animals,” Mr. Johnson said. “So far we’ve had people chased by them, one dog killed, and they’ve been following people around in some locations.”

Anyone followed by a coyote should try to scare the animal off. “The human is the top predator, and you have to let the coyote know that,” Mr. Johnson said. “Either turn around and run at it, clap your hands, or yell at it. Let him know that they’re not top dog. It works.”

Council’s vote at the meeting next Monday would also include annual approval for the deer management program. The initiative was created 13 years ago when deer were causing road accidents and harming vegetation.


October 2, 2013

An internal investigation into a possible scheme allowing employees of local businesses to park in metered spots without paying while meter readers look the other way, possibly in exchange for free food, has been concluded. The results, which could decide the fate of two parking enforcement officers who have been suspended without pay, will likely be discussed at the next meeting of Princeton Council, the town’s administrator said yesterday.

“The investigation is pretty much complete,” administrator Bob Bruschi said Tuesday. Mr. Bruschi said he was expecting a copy of the report the following day, and would go over it with police Captain Nick Sutter and municipal attorney Ed Schmierer before deciding on the next step. “The good news is that we looked into whether there were also concerns among [other] sworn officers and personnel, and none of that came out,” Mr. Bruschi said. “We thought there could be some allegations going beyond parking enforcement, but we have seen no evidence of that.”

The investigation was stepped up after a story about the parking meters was broken September 23 by the news website Planet Princeton. Illustrated with several photos, the story revealed that over a period of several weeks, parking officials Chris Boutote and John Hughes were not ticketing certain vehicles, many of which had cards, bags, and coasters displaying logos of local stores including Olive’s, Triumph Brewery, and D’Angelo’s Market on their dashboards. The vehicles were parked up to 10 hours at a time without being ticketed, while others were immediately tagged when their meters ran out, the story said.

The two officers, who are civilian employees of the Princeton Police Department, were suspended without pay the following day. Both are full-time employees. Mr. Boutote is a retired police officer in the former Princeton Borough.

Princeton police had been looking into the situation since the summer, based on complaints from citizens and members of the department.

“We’ve taken the matter very seriously,” said Mayor Liz Lempert. “As I’ve been saying, it’s appalling. Nobody should be getting special treatment. No one likes getting a parking ticket, but it’s important that everyone be treated the same.”

Ms. Lempert said she got a ticket in town last week. “Unfortunately, it’s not my first,” she said. “But it’s the way it should be even if my car is recognized. If I park in a spot for too long, I should have to abide by the same rules as anyone else.”

The police department has been under scrutiny in recent months. On August 28, seven officers filed a lawsuit accusing former chief David Dudeck of harassment and inappropriate sexual comments on several occasions. The suit names Mr. Dudeck, the police department, and the town.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office was informed of the recent investigation, and will be notified of the results, Mr. Bruschi said. “We will probably meet with the prosecutor’s office and that will play into our decision-making,” he said.

While the meter readers are suspended, their jobs are being done by police officers and a part-time person who is filling in, Mr. Bruschi said.


As expected, the Williams Company has filed an application with the Federal Environmental Regulatory Commission (FERC) to build a 1.2-mile natural gas pipeline extension through the Princeton Ridge. A newsletter detailing the filing, which was entered with the agency on Monday, is being mailed by the Oklahoma-based company to property owners whose homes lie within the area that is part of the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project.

Residents have been vocal about their concerns regarding certain aspects of the proposed project, particularly its potential effects on the environment. Chris Stockton, a spokesman for the Williams company, said that the input from the homeowners was responsible for tweaks and changes to the original plan.

“A lot of people would look at this and say it’s the beginning of the process,” he said Tuesday. “But it’s actually the culmination of more than a year of planning, public meetings, and conversations with landowners. After meeting with the stakeholders in Princeton, we committed to doing the construction work within the existing tree line rather than a wider corridor, to try and avoid the tree loss that would have been associated with this project.”

The fact that Williams has filed with FERC does not mean that input from the public is no longer possible. “This is a significant milestone, but it doesn’t mean that the process is over,” Mr. Stockton said. “We can still make changes. It’s just more difficult at this point.”

Princeton Council will discuss whether to officially become an intervener in the process at its next meeting on October 14. That status provides access to legal submissions during the approval process, which allows the town to contest FERC’s final decision. Clinton Township, which has property on the proposed pipeline, has become an intervener, as has the New Jersey Sierra Club and the group New Jersey Environmental Action.

The review process usually takes between eight and 10 months, said Mr. Stockton. “There are various opportunities for the public to weigh in throughout the process. They’ll issue a draft environmental assessment, and the public can speak if there are any outstanding issues. And people can still submit comments to FERC.”

If approved by FERC, the construction of compressor stations for the project would begin in the fall of 2014, with pipeline construction following in the spring of 2015. The Leidy Southeast pipeline is part of a 10,200-mile system that provides natural gas transportation and storage services for markets throughout the northeastern and southeastern United States.

Since the Williams company’s plans were announced last February, citizens have met with representatives and walked the length of the Princeton Ridge with them to detail their concerns. “This pre-filing process, which we’ve been in for the past year, is designed to facilitate a dialogue between the pipeline operator and the communities,” said Mr. Stockton. “This particular project is a good example of the way the process is supposed to work because it gets the issues out early on.”

A copy of the filing is available on FERC’s website and at area libraries including the Princeton Public Library.

“We’re still listening to people,” Mr. Stockton said. “We can still make tweaks and changes.”


While local residents enjoy this pleasant fall weather, local officials are thinking ahead to what might be on the horizon.

In case you missed it, September was designated Storm Preparedness Month nationwide, which prompted Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes to begin urging residents to gear up before an emergency strikes.

“It’s time to take some simple steps to prepare your home, business, or school for the next potential disaster,” said Mr. Hughes, whose administration advises a three step approach. First make a plan. Next create an emergency kit. Then make sure that you and your family are able to stay informed. As Mr. Hughes’ team puts it “Go In, Stay In, Tune In.”

Last year, on October 26, Superstorm Sandy struck. Although Princeton and the rest of Mercer County didn’t see as much damage as the Jersey Shore, power outages affected 90 percent of the county.

Councilman Patrick Simon, who chaired the town’s emergency preparedness task force this spring and is now on the local emergency management committee, reports that the first basic emergency operation plan covering all of Princeton (uniting former Borough and Township plans) has just been approved.

“We’ve built upon lessons learned from recent experience with weather and other emergencies, and the emergency planning work done in recent years in both the Borough and the Township,” said Mr. Simon, noting that for last year, during the transition to consolidation, both municipalities coordinated the response to Superstorm Sandy through a single Emergency Operations Center. The year before, in response to Hurricane Irene, the two municipalities set up separate centers.

Unless residents are specifically told by local officials to evacuate, they should go inside, shelter there, and listen to local radio and television broadcasts for information.

As a rule of thumb, local schools and health care facilities will be the go-to places. And then there’s the town’s “living room,” as the Princeton Public Library has come to be known.

During Sandy, the library accommodated hundreds of people seeking warmth and a place to recharge their cell phones and laptops. Asked about the possibility of a similar situation this year, Library Director Leslie Burger said: “This is something we think about all the time. Hopefully we won’t have a storm this year but if we do, the library will do what it can. During Sandy and Irene, we were lucky not to lose power; as long as the library has power, we’ll be a place for people to come and connect to the internet and recharge their devices.”

Since then, the library has upgraded its wireless network and now has a system that offers connectivity that is 20 times faster than before. There is also expanded coverage in the building and outside on the Albert Hinds Plaza. “Last year, we hit capacity very quickly and some people were unable to connect to the network, that won’t happen with our new system which can also accommodate all kinds of devices,” says Ms. Burger, adding that the library already has a lot of extension cords and will “be looking to get a back-up generator at some point.”

As for staying well-informed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  suggest taking advantage of multiple media: websites, newspapers, radio, TV, and mobile and land phones for global, national, and local information.

Since family members may not all be in the same place when an emergency occurs, the first recommendation is to have a family plan for getting getting everyone back together and to a safe place. Ready.gov and FEMA suggest that each family member has a contact card with important information and phone numbers. Every member of the family should keep this card with them at all times, in a purse, wallet, or backpack. Families are advised to discuss how to contact each other, where to meet, and what to do in different situations.

A Family Emergency Plan template can be downloaded from the Ready.gov website: www.ready.gov/sites/default/files/FamEmePlan_2013.pdf.

Among other items, an emergency or home disaster supply kit should include: a three-day supply of bottled water (1 gallon per person, per day); non-perishable packaged or canned foods (don’t forget a manual can and bottle opener); a change of clothing for each member of the family; rain gear or coats depending on the time of year; blankets or sleeping bags for each member of the family; a battery powered radio with extra batteries; two flashlights with batteries; emergency candles and matches; sanitary supplies (toilet paper, handy wipes, etc.); a first aid kit and essential medications for the family, and for your pets.

Detailed lists of what to include along with other good advice are on the Ready.gov site (www.ready.gov) and on Princeton’s municipal website: www.princetonnj.gov/emerg-mgt.html.

It is recommended that residents consider two questions: what supplies and plans do they need in order to have the ability to “stay,” and what supplies and plans do they need in order to have the ability to “go,” if necessary.

Kits should comprise sturdy and easy to carry containers such as backpacks, duffel bags, or large trash containers in the event that you may have to evacuate and take your emergency supplies with you.

A small writing tablet with two or three pencils, a pocket knife or multi-purpose type tool; and between $50 and $100 money on hand in cash in case electronic teller machines are down because of lost power; and reading materials or games to help pass the time are also suggested.

Those with medical needs are being encouraged to be especially proactive and to consider buying a generator to power any medical devices, and to call 9-1-1 in the case of experiencing health difficulties of a serious nature during a storm.

“By the end of the year we expect to complete 15 plan annexes covering various aspects of emergency management in detail, including shelters and comfort centers, alerts and emergency communications, hazardous materials events, and emergency medical,” said Mr. Simon.

The booklet, “Preparing for Emergencies, What You Need to Know” is available from the Mercer County Office of Emergency Management (http://nj.gov/counties/mercer/departments/psem/), and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (www.state.nj.us/njoem/).

If you are in any doubt as to whether you have done all you can to get ready for the next storm, try the American Red Cross Preparedness Quiz. In five questions, you’ll be able to discover what more you need to do or learn.

Mr. Simon and the members of Princeton Council are encouraging all residents to register for the emergency phone notifications service, which update residents during storms and other emergencies within Princeton. To do so, visit the local government website: www.princetonnj.gov/ems-phone-register.html, where you will be able to add home and mobile telephone numbers.

For more information, visit these useful websites: US Dept of Homeland Security: www.ready.gov; State of New Jersey: www.state.nj.us; Federal Emergency Management Agency: www.FEMA.gov; American Red Cross: www.redcross.org; Centers for Disease Control: www.cdc.gov; New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services: www.state.nj.us/health.


September 25, 2013

Meeting in public session Monday, the Princeton Council voted on an ordinance that would give statutory “appropriate authority” for civilian oversight of the Princeton Police Department to Princeton Administrator Robert Bruschi.

In spite of strong criticisms and appeals to rewrite the ordinance from residents, including a former Police Commissioner and a former Borough Council member, the ordinance passed. The vote was 4 to 3, with Mayor Liz Lempert providing the tie-breaker.

The evening had a deja-vu quality about it. When the draft ordinance (an amended version of one used in the former Borough of Princeton) was introduced on September 9, similar criticisms surfaced and the Council was also evenly divided, with the mayor siding with Police Commissioner Heather Howard and Councilmen Bernard Miller and Lance Liverman in voting for the change and Council members Jenny Crumiller, Jo Butler, and Patrick Simon voting against.

Those voting for the ordinance argue that a full-time professional administrator is better able to provide oversight of the day to day running of the police in conjunction with the chief of police than a part-time council. Those against argue that civilian oversight, or “appropriate authority” as it is termed in state statutes is the responsibility of the governing body, i.e. the mayor and members of the Council.

Before Monday’s vote was called, Council heard from members of the public. Former Borough Council member Roger Martindell criticized the amendment as “inarticulate” and “self-contradictory.” He urged the council to “Vote it down.” “To adopt it would be bad policy and bad politics. We elected you to lead and take responsibility for our police department. Rewrite this ordinance,” he said.

“Everyone is confused,” said Joe Small. “It would be foolhardy to pass this knowing it conflicts with itself.”

Councilwoman Butler questioned whether the ordinance as written followed the state statute in dividing power between administrator and Council. Town attorney Edwin Schmierer responded that it was clear that the Administrator had all of the power but could delegate some -activities to Council. Mr. Schmierer defended the ordinance, which he said had gone through a number of drafts. “I don’t think it is inconsistent and the administrator can delegate some responsibilities to and review major issues with the governing body.”

Ms. Butler was not convinced by Mr. Schmierer’s response and expressed concern that adoption of the ordinance would lead to problems in the future. “When there is an emergency or some sort of a legal challenge, everyone goes back to the rule book. This ordinance is not well-written. I would like to help rewrite it to have a clear line of authority. I have a feeling we are going to need it,” she said.

The issue of civilian oversight of the police has played out against a backdrop of public concern over a recent lawsuit brought by seven police officers against the department, the municipality, and former police chief David Dudeck.

Patrick Simon also expressed the view that the ordinance as written was flawed.

But Councilman Liverman disagreed: “The ordinance is clear and I don’t think we need to feel that the world is falling apart.”

Citing his long career and acquaintance with the way in which “appropriate authority” was handled before consolidation in the former Borough of Princeton and Township of Princeton, Councilman Miller commented that “both methods worked equally well or equally poorly, both have merits and faults. I believe that [the ordinance] is clear enough as written.”

In the former Borough of Princeton, the appropriate authority was the Public Safety Committee, comprised of the police commissioner and two other Council members. In the former Township, the appropriate authority was the entire Council.

The issue was further complicated by differing interpretations of the state statute, confusion over the exact draft being discussed, and what the state of New Jersey requires of “appropriate authority.”

Ms. Howard pointed out that the ordinance amendment was made in the light of extensive research. She cited the New Jersey League of Municipalities and a New Jersey Treasury Department report.

In casting her tie-breaking vote Ms. Lempert said: “This was an issue where there were two schools of thought. I respect all of my colleagues. They explained why they voted as they did. We are all trying to do what is best for Princeton.”

As the “appropriate authority,” Mr. Bruschi will “coordinate with the police chief with respect to the day to day operations of the department” as well as “receive, review, and forward to the mayor and Council monthly reports.” Since the Princeton Police Department currently has no chief of police, that role falls to Captain Nick Sutter, currently acting as chief until a new appointment is made.


Just what caused the collapse last week of the overhead canopy at the old Dinky train station remains under investigation. But preliminary results reveal that the accident, during which no injuries were reported, was caused by removal of a section of the canopy, according to a spokesman for Turner Construction, the company working on Princeton University’s $330 million Arts & Transit project.

Turner Construction has been issued a $2,000 fine by the town for failing to obtain a permit for the demolition work. While taking down the canopy was in the site plan for the project, the proper permit was not obtained before the canopy came down.

The accident last Thursday drew local fire and rescue personnel as well as fire departments and rescue teams from neighboring communities. Five workers had to be accounted for, and there were concerns about students who may have been illegally crossing through the construction site. The search included video cameras, thermal imaging cameras, and specially trained dogs.

“On Thursday, September 19, LVI Demolition Services removed approximately two feet of the canopy that was connected to the Dinky station so as not to damage the building when the canopy was removed,” said Turner spokesman Christopher McFadden in an email on Tuesday. “After construction crews had left the site for the day, we received notification at about 4:30 p.m. that the balance of the canopy had fallen. Emergency personnel responded and confirmed that there were no injuries.

“While the investigation continues, at this time it indicates that the remaining support structure became stressed under the weight of the canopy and fell toward the decommissioned tracks. The canopy has since been safely removed and work has resumed at the project,” he said.

University spokesman Martin A. Mbugua said Monday that investigation is continuing into the accident and more information will be available at the end of this week.

Meanwhile, members of Princeton Council have called for a full exploration into what went wrong. “I think we should treat the accident as if someone was killed, because someone could have been killed,” Council member Jenny Crumiller said at the governing body’s meeting Monday night. “What permits were issued? What inspections were made?”

The town’s administrator Robert Bruschi called the accident “an anomaly,” adding that University and municipal staff have been working closely on the project. On the subject of permits, Mr. Bruschi said, “We’re discussing that with the University. Our professional staff is working on it.”

Council members Bernie Miller and Jo Butler echoed Ms. Crumiiler’s concern. “We have a responsibility to know what happened,” Ms. Butler said. “So when there is a report internally, it should be distributed to the mayor and Council.”

Renovations to the former Dinky station are being made as part of the ongoing Arts & Transit project, which is scheduled to open in 2017. The station has been temporarily relocated while a new terminal is being constructed some 360 feet south of the current station buildings, which are to be converted into a restaurant and cafe.

Questions about the accident were posed to Kristin Appelget, the University’s director of Community and Regional Affairs, following an update she gave Council about the construction project. The next major changes will come in mid-October when a temporary road is opened. The road travels northeast from Alexander Street near the temporary Dinky station and up to University Place, she said.

Alexander Street will be closed up to College Avenue from the construction site, and the portion of University Place leading to the old Dinky terminal and the Alexander Street intersection will also be shut down while construction continues. The commuter parking lot will stay as it is, while pedestrian paths to the temporary station will be slightly altered.

Monday night’s Council meeting also included introduction of an animal control ordinance, which will be given a public hearing at the next meeting on October 14. After much discussion about cost, the Council voted to retain the law firm of Miller, Porter & Muller for legal services surrounding the merging of land use codes, at a fee not to exceed $45,000.


When the Princeton Battlefield Society gathers with the public at Battlefield Park this Saturday for “Revolution at Princeton,” a day of activities commemorating George Washington’s famous victory over the British, conversation is certain to focus on a recent development that could expand the historic park beyond its current boundaries.

Princeton Council voted at its September 9 meeting to hire a firm to survey a privately owned plot of land on Stockton Street that borders the state park near the colonnade. Acquisition of the 4.62-acre site would be the first purchase of park land since 1971, when the state bought property from the Institute for Advanced Study. The cost would be approximately $900,000. The town would contribute a sum less than $100,000, while the rest would be drawn from Mercer County and state Green Acres funds.

A spokesman for New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday that while nothing is definite yet, an agreement could be announced soon. “Our Green Acres officials have talked with Princeton about preserving the land, but anything else is a little premature,” said Bob Considine.

The property at 480 Stockton Street is owned by the D’Ambrisi family, whose house would be torn down since it is not considered to have historic value. “The D’Ambrisis agreed to this and it was wonderful that they were willing,” said Kip Cherry, first vice president of the Princeton Battlefield Society, last week. “They have taken very good care of the property, even having Rutgers come in and label the trees.”

Unmarked graves and a former quarry may be located on or near the site. “According to original accounts, there were British and American soldiers buried there, but we’re not exactly sure where,” Ms. Cherry said. “There are some bronze markers on the colonnade that explain about it, but we don’t know. At some point, we would like to use some ground-penetrating radar.”

The deal has been in the works for some time, and was complicated by the presence of a dam on the property. The tract slopes down steeply, a fact that may indicate the presence of a quarry, Ms. Cherry believes. “At the bottom of that steep area was a stream,” she said. “When Moses Taylor Pyne came along to build Drumthwacket [now the New Jersey governors’ mansion], he wanted to create a pastoral setting. He took control and created a series of ponds out of the stream. So the landscape of the stream is the historic landscape he created. There is a series of small dams, and one is on the [D’Ambrisi] property.”

Future plans for the site include a bike path that would connect Stockton and Mercer streets, Ms. Cherry said. New Jersey will celebrate its 350th anniversary next year, and a celebration at the battlefield is planned for September of next year. “We have no reason to believe it won’t be done by then,” she said of the pending land deal.

Earlier this month, Mayor Liz Lempert said the acquisition will enhance the experience of visiting the historic park. “The battle was fought obviously on more land than just the battlefield,” she said, “and one of the exciting things about this is that it does give you more of a sense of the troop movements and why certain postings were more advantageous than others.”


September 18, 2013

Amid public discontent in response to news of the recent lawsuit brought by seven members of the Princeton Police Department against the department, the municipality, and former police chief David Dudeck, Princeton Council debated the issue of the statutory “appropriate authority” for civilian oversight of the Princeton Police Department.

Meeting last week, the Council was evenly split over a proposed ordinance amendment that would give “appropriate authority” to the town’s administrator, currently Robert Bruschi, rather than the governing body of the mayor and other members of the Council.

Mayor Liz Lempert was called upon to cast the tie-breaking vote. With council members Bernard Miller, Lance Liverman, and Police Commissioner Heather Howard, Ms. Lempert voted to adopt the ordinance amendment. Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, and Patrick Simon voted against it.

Not everyone agrees with the mayor.

Citing recent reports of dysfunction within the police department, former Borough Council member Roger Martindell has expressed the view that adopting the ordinance amendment would be “a serious mistake,” based on “a fundamental misunderstanding of state law and good public policy, as well as a lack of political will.”

According to Mr. Martindell: “In a viable municipal democracy, particularly one as healthy as Princeton, the public, through its elected representatives, should have ultimate say over public safety priorities, budgets, and governance. Mayor and Council, not a bureaucrat, should be the ultimate authority over the municipality’s largest, most expensive, most essential, and most publicly-sensitive department.”

The ordinance amendment will be voted on at a public hearing Monday, September 23.

As explained by Councilwoman Butler by phone Monday, “appropriate authority” provides civilian oversight of the police department. “The chief has control over the department. If you have a civilian in charge of the department there would be no need for an appropriate authority. But when you have a uniformed officer as chief, you need civilian oversight,” she said.

Ms. Butler expressed concern that since consolidation the council has not received any monthly reports from the police department. “Such reports give you a good idea of what is going on in the community and if the only way we can get these monthly reports is to become the ‘appropriate authority,’ then that is what we should be,” she said.

“In the former Borough of Princeton, we spent some time each month going over these reports as well police rules and regulations. This is a way to have transparency and accountability. The police are an enormous part of the municipality’s budget. Two thirds of the savings of consolidation are expected to come from the police department and I don’t think it is too much to ask Council to spend 10 or 15 minutes each month reviewing the activities of the department. If we don’t know whether crime has gone up or down how do we know where to make cuts. If the administrator is the appropriate authority rather than the Council, we don’t have direct access to such information and we should all be privy to that information at the same time,” said Ms. Butler.

Asked about the ordinance amendment in a phone interview Monday, Mayor Lempert explained that it comes after extensive research by the Public Safety Committee. The committee was tasked with examining the pros and cons of having appropriate authority reside with the mayor and council, the chief administrator, or the Public Safety Committee.

In the former Borough of Princeton, the appropriate authority was the Public Safety Committee, comprised of the Police Commissioner and two other Council members. In the former Township, the appropriate authority was the entire Council.

Not that either the former Borough or Township should necessarily serve as the model for the new consolidated Princeton, Mayor Lempert was quick to point out. The new municipality is now much larger than either.

“After much research, including, among other sources, consultation with the New Jersey State League of Municipalities and a New Jersey Treasury Department report, we found that for a town of our size it was universally recommended that the municipal administrator be the appropriate authority to provide professional oversight of the police department,” said Ms. Lempert.

“Most boroughs in the state of New Jersey are small. We are the fourth largest in the state. The Treasury Department conducted a report for the similarly large Borough of Sayerville and recommended changing civilian oversight of the police department there from the mayor and council to the chief administrator,” she said, adding that the reason was mainly to avoid politicizing the police department by having a professional administrator rather than elected politicians in that role.

But the argument that having “appropriate authority” lie with council amounts to a politicization of the police department is one that Mr. Martindell and others dismiss.

According to Mr. Martindell, the “argument that politicians should not have day to day control over police operations is an ‘irrelevant platitude.’ Were the governing body to appoint itself (or any committee of its members) as the ‘appropriate authority,’ elected officials would not be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the police: the police chief would be, as clearly stated in the pertinent state statute, N.J.S.A. 40A:14-118.”

“No one ever reasonably accused Princeton elected officials of engaging in political interference in police matters for as long as anyone remembers. In fact, the opposite is true: too frequently, governing bodies have been in the dark about local law enforcement, which has created much of the local police dysfunction that now exists,” said Mr. Martindell.

Councilwoman Jo Butler seems to agree that there is little risk of politicization were Princeton council to take on the role. “Council is accountable to the public,” she said. “With the Borough Form of government that we have here in Princeton, the appropriate authority should be the Council. If we had a different form of government that would be a different situation,” she said.

Princeton’s form of government is known as “The Borough Form,” one of many forms of local government in New Jersey. Often referred to as a “weak mayor-strong council” form, it contrasts with others such as, among others, the Township, Town, City, Village, Faulkner, and Mayor-Council Plan, also known as the “strong mayor” form, in which the mayor is independent of council and in charge of the administration of the municipality.

According to the New Jersey League of Municipalities, a Borough form of government may appoint an administrator and delegate all or a portion of the executive responsibilities to him/her.

While the ordinance amendment gives appropriate authority to the chief administrator, Ms. Lempert said that certain responsibilities will fall to the mayor and council. For example, they would handle police department rules and regulations; review police operations when necessary; receive monthly reports from the chief of police; appoint the chief and establish the size and rank structure within the department from time to time; fix the compensation of members of the department consistent with the terms and conditions of any applicable Collective Bargaining Agreements; handle police disciplinary matters within the governing body’s jurisdiction with regard to complaints filed with the Chief of Police, Public Safety Committee and Administrator; among other duties.

As the “appropriate authority,” the administrator would “coordinate with the police chief with respect to the day to day operations of the department” as well as “receive, review, and forward to the mayor and Council monthly reports.”

To read the proposed ordinance amendment prior to Monday’s public hearing, visit the municipal website: www.princetonnj.gov and select the draft ordinance from item 11 of the agenda of the Council meeting for September 9, when it was introduced.

In response to the concern expressed by Mr. Martindell and others, that by putting appropriate authority in the hands of the administrator, the mayor and council are in a “flight from responsibility,” Ms. Lempert said: “We have the opportunity to establish appropriate authority for the police department that is in line with the best practices recommended by the State of New Jersey and by experts in municipal governance. As a part-time council, we need to know when to delegate to our professional staff, especially when they have the time and the expertise to do the job.”

As far as Mr. Bruschi is concerned, his job will be to oversee the day to day operations of the police department in conjunction with the chief of police and act as a liaison with the governing body on matters of public safety. “It really is somewhat of a hybrid as some of the very critical items that would normally fall to the ‘appropriate authority’ are being directed to the governing body. Hiring and the rules and regulations of the department are two major examples. This continues to give the governing body a majority of the control.” he said Monday.

In anticipation of his new role, Mr. Bruschi plans to attend weekly Police Department meetings held by Captain Nick Sutter, currently acting as chief until a new chief is appointed.


It’s official: The building that has housed the Princeton post office on Palmer Square since 1934 is for sale. A sign advertising the availability of the 11,500-square-foot building on the green was scheduled to be posted on Tuesday.

Numerous entities have shown interest in the prized piece of real estate since the financially strapped United States Postal Service (USPS) announced last year that it was going to sell the building as part of its streamlining efforts. The facility would be relocated to another downtown site as part of the plan. One scenario would have the post office remaining in a small section of the building, but only if a buyer were to divide it up for multiple uses. And that possibility seems remote.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest in the site,” said Alec Monaghan, the broker with CBRE, the global real estate firm marketing the building. “We still don’t know where the post office is going. We have a few potential good alternatives in town that are more modern and would serve the public better. One consideration could have them remaining in the building if it was a mixed use kind of thing. A gallery has been mentioned. But I think it’s better for the office to come out of there, so it probably won’t be staying in the building.”

Among the bidders for the property is Palmer Square Management, which oversees the tenants of the square. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to buy it and diversify the tenant mix of Palmer Square,” said David Newton, vice president of the company. “Whether in terms of retail or dining or some other use, we see the building very much as a central part of the asset. Hopefully, it would be used to enhance both the square and The Nassau Inn.”

Mr. Newton said he would like to see a new look for Palmer Square East, which the rear of the building faces. “What is now the loading dock would be totally cleaned up so you present some form of retail facade,” he said. “ The front of the building, which faces the green, “is more problematic for us,” Mr. Newton added. “We don’t want to share the green, other than with shoppers and the public. We’ve put a lot of effort into maintaining it. The post office has been a very good neighbor and very low impact. We’re sad to lose them.”

The post office was the first building to open on Palmer Square, which was originally designed to include municipal buildings as well as retail establishments. “It was contemplated whether they should put Borough Hall on the green,” Mr. Newton said. “So it was always meant to be a place where central services meet with other, more mundane uses. That all of a sudden disappears, and now it goes to the highest bidder. So it’s not a particularly happy circumstance for us.”

Mr. Monaghan declined to reveal the names of any other bidders for the property, but said he imagined the buyer would be “a combination of a restaurant and retail, all retail, or gallery space. It’s really up to the purchaser,” he said. “I think a restaurant would be one of the highest and best uses. It could also be used for a company that wants to have a presence in Princeton, like a hedge fund.”

The offering of the post office building was originally supposed to be announced last month, but was postponed to allow the municipality to make sure its historical features were being properly considered. A 1939 mural depicting Native Americans reacting to the arrival of European colonists, a scene that has caused controversy in recent years because some consider it to be racist, is among the building’s historical points of interest.

The post office is listed on the state and national registers of historic places as contributing to the Princeton historic district. The postal service has agreed to put an easement on the building, and is working with the New Jersey Historic Trust. But according to a spokesperson for the Trust, the easement cannot be recorded until the building is sold.

“The building is a beautiful asset that needs to be respected, and it needs to end up with the right purchaser,” said Mr. Monaghan, who lives in Princeton. “So it’s not just the highest price. That’s our charge with the post office, but clearly it will be respectful of the town.”


When new Princeton University president Christopher L. Eisgruber addresses the University community at his official installation ceremony this Sunday, the topic of diversity is certain to be part of his speech. Last week, Mr. Eisgruber and the University’s Board of Trustees endorsed a report recommending strategies to increase diversity on campus, with a particular focus on graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty, and senior administrators.

A special committee established by former University president Shirley Tilghman spent five months investigating the topic. Deborah Prentice, the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs and chair of the Department of Psychology, led the effort with Brent Henry, a member of the class of 1969. “At the first faculty meeting yesterday he encouraged everybody to read the report,” Ms. Prentice said Tuesday of Mr. Eisgruber. “He’s eager to have people engage in the discussion.”

Ms. Prentice and Mr. Henry oversaw a 19-member committee of trustees, faculty, graduate students, and staff. The results showed that progress in efforts to increase diversity at the University since 1980 have been “uneven.” Among the conclusions: Whites dominate among faculty and undergraduates, and men are the majority among faculty.

“Our committee believes strongly that promoting diversity will make Princeton a better university — that this effort will improve our ability to attract the best scholars, the most promising students, and the most talented staff members and to create an environment in which all can flourish,” Ms. Prentice said in a press release. “We hope that the University community will embrace the values articulated in the report, and that each office and department on campus will draw on our recommendations to create a diversity plan consistent with their own goals and opportunities.”

Several recommendations came out of the report, with a focus on departmental responsibility, central support, and University-wide accountability. Specifically, academic and administrative departments should be allowed to decide how to best focus their efforts toward more diversity. The University should provide resources to departments, and monitor departmental efforts with regular progress reports.

In the press release, Mr. Eisgruber praised the report for “its acknowledgment that there is no one-size-fits-all solution” and cited the report’s “emphasis on the importance of departmental responsibility,” especially with respect to faculty hiring and graduate student recruitment. The report commends a successful graduate recruiting program in the department of molecular biology that rapidly increased the diversity of its doctoral program. Mr. Eisgruber has asked Provost David Lee and Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin to ask for proposals from departments to conduct other pilot projects, and Mr. Dobkin has been asked to create an advisory committee to oversee these projects.

The report acknowledges the University’s efforts to increase diversity since the admission of women in 1969 and the recruitment of African American, Asian American, Hispanic, and Native American students starting in the 60s and 70s. Also mentioned as having positive impacts are the establishment of the Center for African American Studies and the Program in Latino Studies, the creation of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center, and the addition of an associate dean for academic affairs and diversity in the Graduate School.

Diversification of the graduate student body has proceeded more slowly than the undergraduate. In response, Princeton “needs to make substantive changes to its culture and structure if it hopes to remain a great American and global university, where the most gifted and promising individuals from every segment of society feel welcome and thrive,” according to the study.

Ms. Prentice said that while some of the study’s conclusions were enlightening, she wasn’t really surprised by what the committee determined. “The committee was put together to deal with a problem we knew existed,” she said.


September 11, 2013

Princeton Administrator Robert W. Bruschi, confirmed on Friday that seven Princeton Police Department officers have filed a lawsuit against the Princeton Police Department, the municipality of Princeton, and former Police Chief David J.Dudeck.

The suit by officers Sharon Papp, Steven Riccitello, Daniel Chitren, Carol Raymond, Christopher P. Donnelly, Michael Bender, and Christopher M. Quaste was filed in Mercer County Superior Court on August 28. It alleges 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 officers are demanding a trial by jury. They are suing for compensatory damages for emotional stress, pain and suffering, lost promotion, employment, wages and benefits, as well as attorney’s fees and punitive damages.

The suit alleges that from 2008 until he went on a leave of absence this spring, Mr. Dudeck engaged in a continuing pattern of discrimination, and created a hostile work environment. It cites some 40 incidents in which Mr. Dudeck allegedly used crude sexual language, made crude gestures, referred to officers’ genitals or asked them about their sex lives or sexuality.

The many incidents also include one in which the police chief challenged an officer after four students at the Hun School of Princeton were charged with marijuana possession.

Since 1999, Mr. Dudeck has been head football coach of the Hun School, his alma mater. Prior to that, he was head coach of Princeton High School from 1995 to 1998, and associate head coach from 1989 to 1995.

He has been placed on administrative leave from the Hun School. “In the best interests of our students, pending the resolution of these allegations, Mr. Dudeck has been placed on administrative leave from his position as head football coach, effective immediately,” said the school’s headmaster Jonathan G. Brougham in a written statement. “While we are not in a position to assess or comment upon third party allegations or litigation, the -nature of the recent accusations against Mr. Dudeck are of great concern.”

The suit also alleges that the Princeton Police Department and the Town of Princeton “aided and abetted” Mr. Dudeck’s discriminatory conduct by negligently hiring him as chief despite knowing of his behavior and by failing to discipline him. The officers claim that there was collusion to hide the police chief’s discrimination and that after Mr. Dudeck left the department on leave, they were improperly monitored by a police lieutenant and other informants.

Mr. Dudeck joined the Princeton Borough Police Department in 1983. In 2009, when Borough Chief Anthony Federico died suddenly, Mr. Dudeck succeeded him. Mr. Dudeck was appointed as chief of the Police Department for the consolidated Princeton on January 1, this year.

The suit comes after the former police chief faced allegations of administrative misconduct earlier this year. He officially retired from his post on Sept. 1, a month earlier than expected. The earlier allegations were made in a complaint filed by the Princeton chapter of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) Local 130. They were not made public and no complainants were named. 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.

“The lawsuit comes as no surprise to anyone on the Council,” said Mayor Liz Lempert at a press briefing Monday. “It came up as a risk when we discussed the possible retirement of Chief Dudeck with the PBA. Obviously we could not ask people to sign away their constitutional rights but we are disappointed that it has come to this,” she said.

Mr. Bruschi said that with the PBA-brokered agreement, “we hoped to get the issue behind us. “It was hoped that the agreement would allow everyone involved to move on,” said Ms. Lempert.

“We hope to focus on the future of the department. I am proud of the work that members of the department have done this year,” said Ms. Lempert. “They are down in number of employees and yet they are doing more with traffic and safe neighborhood units.”

Asked later in an email exchange if it was true that the earlier agreement between the PBA and Mr. Dudeck included a provision that would bar future litigation by officers in the department, Mr. Bruschi said that he was unable to comment. “The previous matter was being driven by a concern from the PBA and not by specific officers,” he said.

Since Mr. Dudeck’s departure, Captain Nick Sutter has been in charge.

Asked about the department post-Dudeck, Mr. Sutter said that everyone was “making a very conscious and dedicated effort to increase communication and to create an atmosphere of openness.”

“We are engaging all ranks of officers in weekly meetings and I have also met with all employees by department to discuss operational and other issues in an effort to improve the quality of everyone’s working conditions. We have encouraged an atmosphere of trust between our sergeants, corporals (first line supervisors), and officers by empowering our supervisors to create a team-oriented approach which will hopefully create bonds that will in turn create the trust needed for officers to bring forth any complaints or grievances,” said Mr. Sutter. “I consider our overall management and leadership philosophy to be one of flexibility and openness to change which is absolutely essential for an organization encountering what we have in the last year.”

Mr. Sutter reported that he was also meeting weekly with PBA President Ben Gering to discuss “morale, any complaints or problems, and all other relevant issues.” He hopes to get the thoughts and opinions of the entire department, to proactively address problems before they are encountered, and to engage all employees in the mission of the department.

Asked for comment on the responsibilities of running a police department that includes police officers of different ages, genders, and perhaps sexual orientations, Mr. Sutter wrote: “I and all of our employees are extremely cognizant of the importance of diversity and tolerance. We have worked diligently at promoting diversity through a comprehensive recruiting plan that is designed to create a department that is reflective, in diversity, of the community in which we serve. We take very seriously our responsibility of promoting tolerance in a department made up of men and women from all different backgrounds. In my opinion, education and training is a key component in promoting tolerance and understanding of others. To that end we conduct training in ethics and cultural sensitivity (this was done in the two former departments and is being done in the consolidated department) and are planning training that will develop the team oriented approach needed in an organization like ours.”

The town has hired the Rogers Group of consultants to analyze and report on the police force and is looking at alternative leadership models, such as having a civilian administrator. The report is due by the end of October.

Mr. Bruschi expressed concern for the morale of the police department. “From a service delivery standpoint I think it is important to say that while the legal action will be another distraction to the organization it will not impede the delivery of any public safety services.” he said.


While 9-11 remembrance ceremonies are being held today at locations throughout the area, one tribute to the tragic events of that day in 2001 remains on hold. Princeton Deputy Fire Chief Roy James, whose ongoing efforts to establish a permanent memorial at a site outside Monument Hall have been stalled by the image of a cross cut into the piece of World Trade Center wreckage that would be it’s centerpiece. He says the project is now “in a holding pattern.”

“Everyone is still on board,” Mr. James said this week. “We’re waiting for approval from the state. We decided it would be best to wait until next year to have a ceremony, when we hopefully will have approval to proceed.”

The project needs state approval because the site James has proposed for the memorial is on state property near the Princeton Battlefield Monument. The state denied his initial application. “But we have put in for a reversal,” Mr. James said. “We feel very confident that we will receive the approvals. We’re very optimistic.”

In March, 2012 Mr. James secured a 10-foot-long steel beam from the twin towers and arranged to have it transferred to Princeton on a flatbed truck, accompanied by a procession of first response vehicles and motorcycles. The beam already had a cross cut into one side, likely by rescuers working at the site of the World Trade Center collapse.

At a Princeton Council meeting two months ago, Mr. James presented a detailed plan for the site. While Council members were supportive of the idea, some had reservations because of the possible legal implications the cross could present. Then last month, the New-Jersey-based group American Atheists threatened to sue the town of Princeton if it allowed the steel remnant to be displayed on public land without allowing symbols of other religions and other groups to also be on view at the site. Attorney Bruce Afran, representing the group, sent a letter to Mayor Liz Lempert on August 23 stating the group’s intentions.

“While a steel girder certainly is an appropriate image to bring to mind the tragedy of that day,” Mr. Afran’s letter reads, “the image of the cross carved into the approximate center of the girder, as shown by published photographs, inevitably -imbues the image with religious content in a memorial to the dead of 9/11. Use of a religious symbol for such a purpose on public land is barred by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution that prohibits public acts establishing religion.”

Mr. Afran’s letter goes on to say that since those who died on 9/11 were of many different religions, the use of a singular religious image would be alienating and offensive to many. American Atheists’ position is that the beam should not be situated on public land or enabled by public funds unless it is in a designated “free speech zone.”

“This would allow anyone who wants to memorialize those who died on 9/11, not just religious groups, to do so,” Mr. Afran said this week. “The free speech zone has to allow all kinds of groups, religious and non-religious. You can’t have anything dedicated only to a religious expression. It’s unconstitutional.”

Upon receiving Mr. Afran’s letter on behalf of American Atheists last month, Mayor Lempert responded immediately. “If it ends here, it ends here,” he said. “But if the town decides to authorize its land for this memorial, then it will have a court case [on it’s hands].” Should the state grant approval for the monument without a free speech zone, “then my clients would bring the action against the state,” he added. “The issue is really the same, whether for the state or the town. This is public land, and the government can’t put up religious monuments on public land, even if funded by private money.”

Meanwhile, Mr. James is hoping to get the project back on track. Plans call for a beam placed upright, with three to four limestone pillars on each side. One additional pillar would be built by local citizens. The memorial would tell the history of the events of 9/11. There would be nine benches, each one inscribed with the name of a person from Princeton who was killed in the attacks.

“We have the steel. We just don’t have the resting spot,” he said. “It’s kind of a wait and see game at this point.”


A discussion of how meeting minutes are reported and the ongoing question of who should be appointed appropriate authority over the town’s police department dominated the meeting of Princeton Council on Monday night. The Council was evenly split on whether that authority should be the town’s administrator or the mayor and Council, forcing Mayor Liz Lempert, who only votes in the case of a tie, to weigh in.

The result was the introduction of an amended ordinance naming the administrator to the role, while delegating many of the normal duties of the appropriate authority to the governing body. A public hearing on the issue will be held at the next Council meeting September 23, before a final vote is taken.

Princeton’s beleagured police department (see story on litigation over former Chief David Dudeck) was the subject of several comments by residents during the public comment portion of the meeting. “The Princeton Police Department suffers from serious dysfunction,” said former Borough Council member Roger Martindell. “Your attention should be direct, transparent, and urgent. You must govern the department or it will govern you.” Mr. Martindell urged the Council to appoint a civilian public safety official from outside the department [see Mailbox].

Resident Dale Meade said he supported Mr. Martindell’s remarks, and quoted U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf with his own statement. ‘When in charge, take charge,” he said. “The plaintiffs in the lawsuit [against Chief Dudeck] are demanding a trial by jury, and as a taxpayer I’m demanding a trial by jury. Let’s get all the facts in public and settle this once and for all.”

Council member Heather Howard, who is the police commissioner, assured the public that these matters are taken seriously and that Council planned to discuss the litigation in closed session. “Sometimes, unfortunately, we are hampered in what we can say publicly,” she said. “These are all allegations that refer to actions before this year, and I want to make sure folks know that.”

Resident Peter Madison said, “The impression I get is that it’s not the police department running this town. It’s the police union that’s running this town.”

A work session on increased transparency and streamlined minutes was focused on how Council meetings should be recorded. The clerk’s office has been so busy with consolidation matters that the last minutes they have been able to complete were from April, said Mayor Lempert. She suggested that minutes should provide a record of votes. “But they should be less of a transcript of what each person has said,” she said. “It would be easier to keep them up to date.”

Links to the TV 30 network’s video archive of meetings will be posted on the municipal website. The videos provide a complete record of what transpires, “the best of both worlds,” Ms. Lempert said. While Council member Jenny Crumiller said she supported the streamlining, Patrick Simon expressed opposition because videos cannot be searched. “The things we say should be part of the public record, and should be easy to find,” he said.

The Council voted to implement the new system on a trial basis.

Former Borough Council member Kevin Wilkes updated Council on activities of the Alexander Street University Place Traffic/Transit Study, which was created as part of the Memorandum of Understanding between Princeton and Princeton University. The task force is composed of elected officials, municipal staff, and representatives from the University and the public. Meeting twice a month, they are charged with helping manage the flow of traffic as a result of the Arts & Transit complex at the University and several other sites under construction.

Mr. Wilkes said that by 2027, traffic is expected to increase markedly and design changes in the road network will be necessary. Also being looked at are strategies to extend rail service as well as building upon the existing Tiger Transit and FreeB buses. The group is nearly halfway through its work, Mr. Wilkes said, and will report to the community in October or November.


September 4, 2013

As another season at Community Park Pool draws to a close, officials are calling it a success — and not just because attendance was up.

“The most important part of our season is that it was a safe season,” said Ben Stentz, Princeton’s Director of Recreation. “When you operate a large public pool, safety is paramount. And not a day goes by that we don’t think about it and prepare, just in case we need to act. So we’ve gotten through another summer, knock on wood — the safest summer I can remember, and not just with the pool but with our camps, too. Any incidents were minor. So that is first and foremost, and it trumps everything else.”

Community Pool’s final opening hours of the season are Saturday and Sunday, this weekend and next. Hours are noon to 6 p.m. each day.

While safety issues are under control, another half million dollars is still needed to pay down the debt on the pool, which was refurbished last year to the tune of $6.5 million. At the Princeton Council meeting August 26, a status report on the fundraising campaign was delivered by Peter O’Neill, president of the Princeton Parks and Recreation Fund citizens’ group. Mr. O’Neill told Council members that although the pool has been operational and successful for two seasons, donations are still needed to bridge the gap.

“The treasury is not closed,” he said. “We are still open for business. People can go on the recreation department’s website to make a donation.”

Since the group began raising funds two years ago, 340 donations have been made. Mr. O’Neill said he is confident that the full amount will be raised. Among the options for closing the gap are raising user fees, or having the citizens’ group invest the funds already collected and transfer the money over time. “The current amount in the account is sufficient to cover $1 million in debt services over 20 years,” Mr. O’Neill said, adding that the fund wants to expand to other recreation projects.

The Council is working on amendment of an agreement from 2011, which will provide for the group, paying Princeton $50,000 a year for 20 years. Additionally, a stipulation that says the group cannot solicit funds for other projects until the entire $1 million amount is raised would be removed.

Despite the shortfall, Mr. Stentz gives high marks to the citizens’ group for their efforts. “People have to remember that the contract to build the pool wasn’t awarded until July 2011,” he said. “Between then and our opening less than a year later, this group had raised multiple thousands of dollars. This was a short time frame. From where I sit, they are saints. These are private people who have gone out and raised money on behalf of the municipality. We hope to continue to have the fund on our side for the pool and other projects.”

The Princeton Parks and Recreation Fund was created in 2008 by the recreation boards of what was then Princeton Borough and Princeton Township, as part of the Master Plan. There are various options for donating to the pool fund, including commemorative bricks and plaques. Visit www.princetonrecreation.com for more information.


Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes is the recipient of the Donald B. Jones Conservation Award from the D&R Greenway Land Trust. Mr. Hughes will be presented with the award, described as the D&R Greenway Land Trust’s “highest honor,” this Sunday, September 8 at the land preservation agency’s Annual Gala.

The award recognizes Mr. Hughes’s leadership in open-space and farmland preservation as well as his dedication to stewardship of urban and rural parks throughout Mercer County.

According to the Land Trust, Mr. Hughes has been the catalyst for the preservation of 2,873 acres of open space and farmland during his tenure. The total acreage preserved in Mercer County is almost 20,000 acres, amounting to over 20 percent of the county’s developable land.

“Quality of life is one of the most important returns to the people of Mercer County. I am extremely proud of the efforts we’ve made to preserve and restore historic properties, farmland and open space for our future generations,” said Mr. Hughes, whose staff helped to expedite the D&R Greenway’s preservation of the 400-acre St. Michaels Farm Preserve, and the nearly 2000-acre Princeton Nurseries Land in Allentown, among others.

“We can always count on Brian and his expert staff for a professional and enthusiastic response, resulting in preservation of rural and urban lands that will benefit our region’s citizens for generations to come.” said D&R Greenway President and CEO Linda Mead.

According to the Trust’s Vice President Jay Watson, the award shows “deep appreciation” for Mr. Hughes and the work of his administration. “Under his guidance, Mercer County is purchasing lands directly, significantly increasing county-owned open-space holdings. He has seen to it that the county not only preserves, but also provides thorough stewardship for lands held in their trust,” he said.

“Thanks to Brian and his exemplary staff, a wonderful land legacy is continually being created for now and future generations of Mercer County residents and their visitors,” said Mr. Watson.

Son of former Governor and New Jersey Supreme Court, Chief Justice Richard J. Hughes, Brian Hughes has lived in Mercer County most of his life, including childhood years at Morven, formerly the official residence of the governor of New Jersey and his family. In 1997, he was elected to the Board of Chosen Freeholders, serving two terms, including one term as Freeholder President.

He is also a strong proponent of the Abbott Marshlands, formerly the Hamilton/Trenton/Bordentown Marsh and has been instrumental in the creation of the new Marsh Nature Center, expected to open next year.

Mr. Hughes will receive his award at the D&R Greenway’s Annual Gala at the Johnson Education Center, One Preservation Place, off Rosedale Road, on Sunday, September 8, from 4 to 6 p.m. The event includes a jazz ballet performance by Dancespora to live music from the ReBop Jazz Band. Garden-party attire is suggested, as well as appropriate outdoor footwear. Tickets, at $75 per person, may be ordered online (www.drgreenway.org) or by calling (609) 924-4646 through September 4.


HEANEY AND MULDOON: Paul Muldoon (right) shown in a recent photograph with his mentor, Seamus Heaney, who died at 74 in Dublin Friday. In a statement posted in The Daily Beast, Mr. Muldoon said, "He was the only poet I can think of who was recognized worldwide as having moral as well as literary authority." (Photo by Mihai Cucu Courtesy of Paul Muldoon)

HEANEY AND MULDOON: Paul Muldoon (right) shown in a recent photograph with his mentor, Seamus Heaney, who died at 74 in Dublin Friday. In a statement posted in The Daily Beast, Mr. Muldoon said, “He was the only poet I can think of who was recognized worldwide as having moral as well as literary authority.” (Photo by Mihai Cucu Courtesy of Paul Muldoon)

At funeral services Monday in Dublin’s Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart for Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney, who died August 30 in a Dublin hospital at the age of 74, Princeton University faculty member and prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon spoke of “the beauty of Seamus Heaney as a bard,” of his “unparalleled capacity to sweep all of us up in his arms,” and of how he “helped all of us develop our imaginative powers.”

The services were attended by government leaders from both parts of Ireland, poets, playwrights, and novelists, the rock band U2, and actor Stephen Rea, among many others. The burial took place in a country churchyard in the poet’s hometown, Bellaghy, in south Derry.

Mr. Muldoon, who met Seamus Heaney when he was 16 and the poet was 28, made special reference in his eulogy to Mr. Heaney’s family life, observing that “the Seamus Heaney who was renowned the world over was never a man who took himself too seriously, certainly not with his family and friends. He had, after all, a signal ability to make each of us feel connected not only to him but to one another.”

Seamus Heaney’s last words, to his wife, were “Don’t be afraid.”

Asked to recommend a poem to be reprinted here, Mr. Muldoon suggested “Follower,” which he called “a great poem for the occasion. We were meant to read together on September 14 in Manchester.” The event was the Conference of Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, which Mr. Muldoon will be attending. His eulogy is printed in full under “Seamus Heaney’s Beauty” on the New Yorker blog “Page Turner.”



My father worked with a horse-plough,

His shoulders globed like a full sail strung

Between the shafts and the furrow.

The horse strained at his clicking tongue.


An expert. He would set the wing

And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.

The sod rolled over without breaking.

At the headrig, with a single pluck


Of reins, the sweating team turned round

And back into the land. His eye

Narrowed and angled at the ground,

Mapping the furrow exactly.


I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,

Fell sometimes on the polished sod;

Sometimes he rode me on his back

Dipping and rising to his plod.


I wanted to grow up and plough,

To close one eye, stiffen my arm.

All I ever did was follow

In his broad shadow round the farm.


I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,

Yapping always. But today

It is my father who keeps stumbling

Behind me, and will not go away.

—Seamus Heaney


August 28, 2013

The temporary Dinky station is up and running, and crews are set to begin taking up portions of the train tracks to make way for construction of Princeton University’s arts and transit complex. But the citizen group Save the Dinky Inc. is not letting up on its efforts to persuade the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to halt the track removal.

An attorney for Save the Dinky Inc. sent a letter Tuesday to DEP Commissioner Robert Martin in response to submissions by the University, NJ Transit, and the historic sites office of the DEP objecting to a stay that Save the Dinky had requested last week.

The objections were made “… on the grounds that the application comes too late, that there is no irreparable harm, and that Appellant’s to the DEP approval of NJ Transit’s Track Removal Project are without merit,” the letter from attorney Virginia Kerr reads. “Respondents are incorrect on all points.”

The letter asks the DEP to “immediately grant Appellants’ request for an immediate stay of the May 11 ruling [allowing NJ Transit to abandon public rights of the historic site] with instructions to NJ Transit to cease from any further work to remove track and destroy the right of way that supports the transportation function of the Princeton Railroad Station.”

Save the Dinky Inc. is currently involved in different lawsuits to try and halt the move of the station. Asked on Monday what would happen should any of those lawsuits result in orders to cease construction, Mayor Liz Lempert said, “The University knows they are proceeding at their own risk.”

For the next year at least, commuters who ride the Dinky shuttle 2.7 miles to and from Princeton Junction station will be picking up the train 1,200 feet away from the old station, which the University plans to turn into a restaurant and cafe.

Monday was the first day for the temporary terminus. Reviews were mixed.

“I think we had a very good first day,” said Kristin Appelget, who is Princeton University’s Director of Regional and Community Affairs, on Tuesday. “I was on site, and then I was out there again this morning. Things were even better and people were starting to get into their new habits.”

Sheldon Sturges, founder of the organization Princeton Future, said he found traffic to be backed up near the station when he drove over to take a look. “It was a disaster,” he said. “It’s a good thing school hadn’t started yet because it really would have been a bigger mess.”

The temporary train station will be dismantled once a new station, designed by architect Steven Holl, is built about halfway between the old station and the temporary structure. Also to be constructed is a new building for the Wawa market, which is currently on the corner of University Place and Alexander Street.

While the temporary station is in use, free shuttle bus service is being offered by the University to meet every train that stops at Princeton Junction. To board the buses, passengers will need NJ Transit tickets that show Princeton as either their destination or origin. Municipal and NJ Transit buses are also operating.


When Mayor Liz Lempert and members of Princeton Council met on Monday evening, they heard, among other business, an announcement by representatives of the Valley Road School Adaptive Reuse Committee (VRS-ARC) that it had been approached by an investor/developer interested in taking on the project.

Kip Cherry, attorney Bruce Afran, and former Mayor Dick Woodbridge spoke briefly about the VRS-ARC project and announced a proposal from Sustainable Energy Financing Program (SEFP) and its representative Larry Sprague.

SEFP looks for adaptive reuse projects that cost in excess of $2 million and present sustainable energy saving opportunities. According to Mr. Woodbridge, many of their projects have involved former school buildings and they are currently working on projects in Brick Township and in Philadelphia. SEFP would provide all of the funding necessary to convert the Valley Road Building into a community center with space for local non-profit groups as conceived by VRS-ARC.

The announcement, which was made during the public comment portion of the Council session, prompted Princeton resident Joe Small to comment. Describing the building as a “century-old piece of junk” which needs “uncalculated resources in order to be put into a useful state,” Mr. Small criticized the idea of renovating the Valley Road building and said that another non-tax paying property would not be in the best interests of Princeton taxpayers. Instead, he said, what is needed is taxable property, and in particular low income housing. By email Tuesday, Mr. Small explained that “if the Valley Road School building were to be sold to the highest bidder, taxpayers would no longer have to pay for upkeep on the under-utilized property and revenue would flow into the treasury from the now taxable property.” Since Princeton lacks adequate housing for its public employees (including teachers), Mr. Small suggests that turning the property into housing would benefit the entire community. “Although tax revenues might not be as high as if the property were sold and used for commercial (office, retail) or market rate residences,” he concedes, “there would still be a net gain for the taxpayers.”

“Giving the property to a non profit or leasing it at subsidized rates, might benefit those charities that would occupy the building and their clients but would not bring in any tax dollars or benefit all of the taxpayers for whose benefit the property is currently held, be it by the School Board or the municipality,” he wrote.

After Monday’s meeting, Mr. Woodbridge commented briefly on Mr. Small’s idea of selling the building to a developer. He suggested that if the School District were to do so, it might be in violation of the original deed of purchase.

Mr. Woodbridge was also quick to point out that, as yet, negotiations with Mr. Sprague and SEFP are at the beginning stages. While he admitted to feeling optimistic after a first meeting with Mr. Sprague and confident that investors in a public/private partnership would entail no cost to Princeton taxpayers and would satisfy the demands of a School Board resolution in March, he emphasized that these were early days. “We can do this.” he said.

In order for any such plans to move forward, however, VRS-ARC envisions the cooperation of Princeton Council and the Princeton School District, which bought the building from the former Princeton Township for $1. VRS-ARC wants Princeton Council to buy from the School District that part of the building they wish to turn into a community center so as to move ahead with their plans.

Mr. Sprague has expressed an interest in meeting with Mayor Lempert and Mr. Quinn, president of Princeton’s Board of Education.

Asked for comments, Mr. Quinn who attended the meeting Monday, responded by email: “The Board’s March resolution unequivocally rejecting VRS-ARC’s proposal did not envision a scenario under which the Board president would revisit that proposal with the inclusion of a private investment firm. As such, I will not meet with Mr. Sprague. I would only do so with the knowledge and consent of the full Board after a thorough vetting of their proposal by the district administration and the Facilities Committee. I think for me to meet with a private investor interested in a public property without following protocol would be entirely inappropriate.”

Mr. Quinn said he was “baffled” that the VRS-ARC announced the interest of an investor to Council, which does not hold title to the building. “The Board’s process for 369 Witherspoon is unchanged by this announcement since we are unaware of any details of VRS-ARC’s plan,” he said.


After a lengthy debate at its meeting Monday evening, Princeton Council voted down an ordinance regarding appropriate authority of the town’s police department. A new ordinance was introduced, naming the mayor and Council, rather than the township administrator, as the appropriate authority. A public hearing on the revised ordinance will be held at the Council’s September 9 meeting before a final vote is taken.

While Council member Jo Butler argued in favor of naming the mayor and Council for the post, Mayor Liz Lempert said Tuesday that she was frustrated by the vote. “We’ve had several meetings to discuss this, and we should be adopting recognized best practices which is to make it the administrator,” she said. ”We shouldn’t be playing politics with our police force and that’s one of the main reasons why it’s recommended that the appropriate authority be the administrator, to take the politics out of the police.”

Ms. Butler said yesterday that the appropriate authority’s role is to provide civilian oversight of the police force. “When you look at who that might be, it’s important for it to be the Council, because it is the most accountable,” she said. “Providing public safety is the most critical function we do, and I think it’s so important that we’re accountable to the public.”

Monday night’s meeting also included information from Princeton’s municipal attorney Ed Schmierer that Council member Heather Howard won’t be part of discussions regarding Princeton University’s voluntary financial contribution to the town. Ms. Howard is employed by the University as a lecturer at the Woodrow Wilson School, which Mr. Schmierer said presents a conflict of interest.

Mayor Liz Lempert, however, who is married to a tenured faculty member, was advised by Mr. Schmierer last week that she can take part in the upcoming talks. In an opinion he provided to Council, Mr. Schmierer said that “any conflict of interest is non-existent.”

No date has been set for the negotiations with the University, Ms. Lempert said in a press conference before the Council meeting Monday. “We will be pursuing a multi-year agreement,” she said. “It helps in planning for our budget to know what the amounts are going to be.”

Asked at the press conference whether she supports the idea of the University paying taxes, Ms. Lempert said “It’s a complicated issue.” Ultimately, she added, “I believe that they want to be a good neighbor, they want to be good citizens, and they want to do their part.”

The Council was planning to discuss which members should take part in the negotiations in closed session following the meeting.


Township engineer Bob Kiser reported to Council about recent meetings between the Williams Transco company, the municipality, and members of the citizens’ group the Princeton Ridge Coalition regarding a natural gas pipeline the company wants to add to the environmentally sensitive Princeton Ridge.

As a result of the meetings, which included a walk along the length of the line, Transco agreed to narrow the right of way from 80 to 50 feet. “This will greatly reduce the amount of disturbance on the ridge,” Mr. Kiser said. “They also agreed to update their plan on which trees will need to be removed.”

Mayor Lempert praised the Princeton Ridge Coalition for their diplomatic handling of the situation, calling them “one of the most amazing neighborhood groups I’ve ever seen. They have approached it in a really impressively effective way.”

Transco is expected to file its plan with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in mid-September. Following that date, Council will decide whether it wants to officially intervene in the process.

Post Office

The Council voted to pass a resolution regarding the sale of the building on Palmer Square that houses the Princeton post office. The resolution expresses the community’s need to maintain a post office in the central business district.

Mayor Lempert thanked U.S. Representative Rush Holt’s office for interceding in what was going to be the sale of the post office this month. The postponement means the Council now has 30 days to comment on the issue before the office is put on the market.

Some sealed bids have been submitted for the building. The New Jersey Historic Trust is negotiating an easement with the Postal Service, and the Trust will hold the easement. Mayor Lempert said it is important that whatever goes into the former post office needs to comply with historic and zoning ordinances.


August 21, 2013

As NJ Transit and Princeton University prepare to close the Dinky train station on August 26 and move passengers to a temporary platform and waiting room 1,210 feet away, the citizen group Save the Dinky has asked the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to temporarily halt the approval it granted NJ Transit last year to dismantle the existing station.

The emergency application was filed with DEP Commissioner Bob Martin and with Rich Boornazian, the assistant commissioner for Historic and Natural Resources, who approved NJ Transit’s request to abandon historic protection for the station in order to accommodate the University’s plans for a $330 million arts neighborhood. Plans call for the station’s two buildings, which are across University Place from McCarter Theatre, to be converted into a restaurant and cafe, while a new station designed by architect Steven Holl will be built 460 feet to the south.

Save the Dinky filed the stay application because the relocation of the station could include removal of train infrastructure and shortening of the track. An appeal of the 2012 decision is not due to be heard until later this fall.

The temporary platform is scheduled to be open for a year to 18 months. The University is planning to put an access road to its Lot 7 parking garage over the existing train line. According to a press release from Save the Dinky, the relocation project will “Й have an irreversible and catastrophic effect on the station by ending the station’s transportation function, removing its character-defining elements, and destroying a railroad right-of-way dating back to 1865, through abandonment and conversion to non-rail use.”

The Dinky carries passengers between the campus and the Princeton Junction train station, which is on the Northeast Corridor line. The station was built in 1918 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Sites in 1973. According to the Save the Dinky website, late Princeton Borough Mayor Barbara Sigmund formed a committee in the early 1970s to save the line when the financial crisis of the railroads threatened to eliminate the Princeton Branch. Ms. Sigmund was mayor when NJ Transit sold the Dinky station complex to the University in 1984.

Save the Dinky wants to preserve the buildings as they are, along with a right-of-way to the station, but the University has maintained that it has the right to relocate the station and convert the buildings for another use.

Anita Garoniak, president of Save the Dinky, said in the release, “If we cannot get a stay, we will have no station left to argue about by the time the courts rule.”

Save the Dinky is involved in three other legal actions to try and save the station. The group is also part of a petition made by railroad passenger groups asking the federal Surface Transportation Board to rule that NJ Transit needs federal approval before pursuing its plans to abandon the station.

The current DEP application maintains that the requested stay is not only appropriate but in the public interest. “A stay will preserve the subject matter of the appeal and preserve confidence in the neutrality of the administrative processes that have been established under law to protect New Jersey’s historic environmental resources,” it reads.

Charles Montange, the Seattle-based attorney representing Save the Dinky in connection with the federal regulatory aspect of the case, said that it is not unusual for developers to acquire railroad property without complying with federal law.

“NJ Transit has frequently ignored federal regulations and is pretty much ignoring them here,” he said. “Their argument is that they don’t think it applies. I don’t think they’ve thought it through.”