May 30, 2012

The primary election next Tuesday, June 5 will mark the first time that Princeton Borough and Princeton Township will vote as a consolidated Princeton. With this historic change comes a re-configuration of voting districts, which means that many residents will be casting their ballots at a new location.

Where the Borough formerly consisted of 10 voting districts and the Township had 14, there are now 22 in the combined Princeton. Every voter will have a new district number.

“There is a very good chance you’ll be going to a new polling place,” says Dan Preston, president of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO). “And since the lines have been redrawn, people who live on one side of a street might be going to a different place than their neighbors across the street. The bottom line is that if you show up at your traditional spot on election day and don’t know what your new number is, you have to be prepared to possibly go to another location.”

According to the Mercer County Board of Elections, workers will be on hand at each polling place to help those who show up at the wrong spot find their assigned places to vote.

In this primary, voters will decide who will run for the newly combined Princeton council in the November general election. Borough Council members Heather Howard, Jenny Crumiller, Jo Butler and Roger Martindell; Township Committee members Lance Liverman and Bernie Miller; and newcomers Patrick Simon, Scott Sillars, and Tamera Matteo are running. Democrats Liz Lempert and Kevin Wilkes and Republican Richard Woodbridge are running for mayor.

“There has been such a level of interest this year,” says Mr. Preston. “We had 350-plus at the PCDO endorsement alone, and that’s almost double what we’ve ever had for that. So whatever the numbers have been in the past for the primary election, they should easily be doubled.”

The polls will be open June 5 from 6 am. to 8 p.m. To find out where to vote, consult the PCDO’s website which has an election district map, showing the 22 polling locations; or visit

For staff at the University Medical Center at Princeton, moving day last week presented some unique challenges. Among the 110 patients transferred May 22 from the old hospital on Witherspoon Street to the new, $522.7 million building on U.S. Route 1, were one who is 101 years old, another who weighs 550 pounds, and six women in labor.

The opening week also included an announcement by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office that the hospital’s former director of Medical Staff Services had been charged with stealing a total of $186,000 from the PCHS Medical Staff account over a year and a half.

Otherwise the carefully planned transition from Princeton to Plainsboro “went flawlessly,” according to Barry Rabner, the hospital’s CEO. “We started at 7 a.m. and were aiming at finishing by 2:30 p.m. By 2:20, we were done. And we didn’t get any negative feedback from the families or the patients themselves.”

On the first day of operations, the hospital’s new emergency room opened for business at 7 a.m., and the first patient arrived two minutes later. By the end of the first 24 hours, 135 patients had been seen, which is more than usual, Mr. Rabner said. They included eight students from John Witherspoon Middle School, involved in a bus crash on Valley Road late that afternoon. The students, members of the school’s baseball team, were transported to the hospital along with the bus driver. None of the injuries were life-threatening.

Inevitably, there were glitches during the opening week. The hospital’s management team, which has been meeting every morning and afternoon since the move, has been working on problems with signage, staff parking, and the computer system. “We have an office set up just to get feedback real-time, and then to work on solutions,” said Mr. Rabner. “It looks like things are settling down and we may be able to back down a bit with that.”

Responding to complaints that signs directing people to the emergency room were inadequate, 27 temporary signs were installed while the permanent placards are created. Nearly all of the blue “H” signs, which the communities surrounding the hospital are responsible for providing, have now been installed.

Inside the hospital, patients and their families were having trouble finding their way around. “We have to do better with the internal way-finding,” Mr. Rabner said. “So we now have greeters at each entrance, and we have deployed more volunteers to help with that. We have put up more internal directional signs. It’s going better now. Part of that, I’m sure, is because the staff are becoming more familiar with everything so they can help direct people to where they need to go.”

The hospital’s computer system also needed refining. “There are thousands of them, and getting them all to print and do everything else they need to do was an issue,” Mr. Rabner said yesterday [May 29]. “But by this morning’s meeting, it sounded like things are working as they should.”

The Arrest

The arrest of Jhoanna Engelhardt-Fullar, who was terminated from the hospital last February when the theft of $186,000 was discovered, was not unexpected by UMCP, Mr. Rabner said. Bail was set at $35,000, which she posted on May 24. Ms. Engelhardt-Fullar is charged with writing company checks to herself and making unauthorized debit card purchases between April 2010 and February 2011.

“For us, the good news was that we have an internal audit department, and they uncovered the problem last year,” said Mr. Rabner. “We called the police and terminated the employee. It’s unfortunate, but it’s being dealt with.”

Patient Response

To help gauge patient response to their experiences at the new hospital, staff members have been calling everyone who was treated during the first week, whether as an inpatient, outpatient, or in an emergency room visit. According to Carol Norris, vice president of Marketing and Public Affairs, the response has been positive. “Most patients are reporting that they were happy overall,” she said in an email. “Some patients told us that they had challenges finding their way around the campus and/or in the hospital building itself. We have addressed this by providing additional greeters and directional guides in the atrium and adding some temporary directional signage on the exterior and interior of the building, which we plan to replace with permanent signage as needed.”

Planning for the new hospital began nine years ago, and construction has been underway since 2008. When the last patient left the 93-year-old building on Witherspoon Street on May 22, nurses and staff members lined the hallway and applauded. When that same patient was brought into the new building, the same unofficial welcoming ceremony took place.

“For me personally, it was very emotional,” said Mr. Rabner. “Up until then, it was just a building. And now, all of a sudden, it’s a hospital. That was just overwhelming —- and very exciting.”

With summer’s approach, the Princeton Regional Board of Education will begin the task of changing the headings of all of its policies and documents to “Princeton Public Schools,” in accordance with a consensus reached at the Board’s recent organizational meeting. The new name reflects the fact that the system will be serving the consolidated Princetons in the near future, and will no longer qualify as a district.

Finance Committee Chair Dan Haughton also acknowledged the coming end of the school and fiscal years in his comments at last week’s meeting. “We’re finishing up the year in good financial shape,” he reported. “We’re looking at a $2 million unencumbered balance that can be moved forward for next year’s budget.” He attributed the windfall to lower-cost health benefits than had been anticipated, and the fact that a proposed charter school will not be opening in the fall.

Participation in a consortium for utilities will also save the schools some $74,000 in the coming year, Mr. Haughton noted.

Chair Dorothy Bedford reported that the Facilities Committee is preparing a final list of proposed infrastructure projects for 2013-14, including accurate construction estimates. She described the projects as falling into four categories: energy efficiency; safety and security; stewardship and assets; and improvements and upgrades.

The 2013-14 school year will also see the implementation of a new teacher evaluation system, said personnel committee Chair Martha Land, and consideration is being given to applying for one of the ten competitive grants being offered by the state to schools that preview a new principal evaluation program.

The Student Achievement Committee will focus on improvements to the English as a Second Language program; social and emotional learning; and student wellness issues, said Chair Andrea Spall. They will examine the use of high school peer groups; the use of student intervention; and the general learning environment. Conversations about “improvements to the elementary school schedule,” will continue, reported Ms. Spalla.

The Board gave the go-head to Chartwells Food Services for a fourth year in a five-year contract, but deferred a self-evaluation report until its next meeting.

May 23, 2012

As the University Medical Center at Princeton vacated Princeton Borough for its new home in Plainsboro this week, residents of the neighborhood surrounding the hospital’s old home on Witherspoon Street continued to express concern about the plans for a rental community to be built in its place.

AvalonBay Communities is contracted to build 280 units at the site of the old hospital building, which is to be demolished. While the company last month withdrew its request for fewer affordable housing units in exchange for higher density, residents remain worried about what they say is a lack of public open space throughout the complex and connected to the public sidewalks, the proposed design, and the type of environmental building standards the developer wants to use.

Early this month, Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods wrote a letter to the UMCP and its Board of Trustees expressing its concerns. “We request UMCP to honor its own commitments to the Princeton community, expressed in the consensual Master Plan and in the Princeton Borough Code [including design standards]. The hospital must push AvalonBay, or any developer, towards a design that fully reflects the hospital’s own goals,” the four-page letter reads. “UMCP cannot ethically allow devastation to follow in the wake of its departure from the Witherspoon campus.”

On Tuesday, UMCP’s Princeton Healthcare Systems responded with the following statement:

“Princeton HealthCare System cares deeply about the communities it serves and we are closely following the events surrounding the re-use of our former Witherspoon Street campus. Our contract with AvalonBay Communities (ABC) for the sale of the Witherspoon Street property gives them the right to seek governmental approvals as they deem appropriate. A process exists and is underway to evaluate ABC’s proposal. We believe the process should be allowed to follow its course and to do its work. Based on our many years of experience working with the Borough and the Township on our hospital replacement project, we are confident that the officials and the staff in both communities, working with ABC, will reach a good outcome.”

Alexi Assmus, who co-wrote the letter to the hospital, said members of the group had met informally with a hospital representative and were cordially received. “We would like to have a meeting with Barry Rabner [the hospital’s CEO] to discuss the details in the letter regarding the fact that the plans for the AvalonBay site do not follow Borough code or the town’s master plan, and that the master plan was created by the hospital along with municipal representatives and neighborhood representatives and the greater Princeton community between 2004 and 2006,” she said. “What we’d like to know is how the hospital can meet that commitment to that, given where we are now. And we’d like to discuss the details of what was actually understood and written up in the Borough code and master plan.”

Ms. Assmus said Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods is seeking independent legal counsel to get an opinion on whether the division of the Borough code which applies to design standards is enforceable or not.

Meanwhile, an ad hoc subcommittee including Council members Kevin Wilkes, Jenny Crumiller, and Mayor Yina Moore; William Wolfe of the Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB), Heidi Fichtenbaum of the Princeton Environmental Council, and neighborhood resident Joseph Weiss has met to discuss the issues and will reconvene next week. Mayor Moore was scheduled to deliver a progress report at the meeting of Borough Council last night.

“We met first only as a subcommittee, and then we met twice after that with the developer,” Mayor Moore said Tuesday. “We’ll have another meeting next week. I think with the good will of the landowner, the prospective developer, and citizens who are interested in contributing to the formulation of positive ideas and a spirit of cooperation, we can get somewhere.”

Ron Ladell, AvalonBay’s Senior Vice President of Development, said meetings have been “incredibly productive and positive. There are quite a few members of that committee and they represent a diverse group of interests and backgrounds. That’s very helpful to us as a developer, and we think the interaction will result in a project that will be designed in a manner Princeton residents will appreciate.”

At a joint meeting on Monday evening, members of Borough Council and Township Committee didn’t argue about the shape of the negotiating table, but they were at odds with each other over several recommendations for implementing consolidation made by Transition Task Force subcommittees.

A particular example was the Personnel Subcommittee’s recommendation that a facilitator work with the Selection Committee to ensure what Task Force member Dorothea Berkhout described as “a fair and defensible” process in the naming (and, necessarily, letting go) of municipal employees. Although the Task Force itself had already approved the recommendation, Township Mayor Chad Goerner and others suggested that the selection of a facilitator would encumber an already unwieldy process, and that members of both governing bodies were already experienced in hiring people.

Ms. Berkhout responded by pointing out that the Personnel Subcommittee felt strongly about the position of a facilitator, whose responsibilities would include the training of those participating in the selection process. “It would give the Selection Committee more comfort to know that they are doing the best that they possibly can to be as neutral as possible,” she suggested. Task Force Chair Mark Freda agreed, saying that a facilitator would foster an “air of credibility” and be “well worth your time.”

“This is a unique moment in history,” said Borough Councilwoman Jo Butler. The process involves “not hiring people” as well as hiring others, she added. “Make the process the best it can be.”

Ultimately, Borough Council voted unanimously for a facilitator, while Township Committee was split in a vote that endorsed the use of a facilitator contingent upon approval of the person filling that role. Although the Personnel Subcommittee has identified Barbara A. Lee, a former Rutgers University Dean of the School of Management and Labor Relations, as a potential volunteer, it was agreed that it was too early in the process to vote on her on Monday evening.

Another sticking point was whether senior positions in the municipality should be chosen by by a five- or six-member Selection Committee as suggested by the Personnel Subcommittee, or by all twelve members of both governing bodies. Ms. Butler and Councilwomen Barbara Trelstad and Jenny Crumiller were in favor of the latter. “We can’t agree on what chocolate we all like,” countered Township Committeeman Lance Liverman, suggesting that it would be “more precise” to have a Personnel Committee that “can really discuss the senior positions.” Mr. Goerner agreed, expressing surprise at the suggestion of using all 12 elected officials, which he described as “bad organizational management.”

In the wake of Councilwoman Heather Howard’s reminder that the Task Force had “spent a lot of time thinking about it,” and a suggestion that the public would like to see them “working together,” the two governing bodies agreed on a committee that would be comprised of two representatives from Township Committee (since three would constitute a quorum), and three from Borough Council. Decisions will be brought before both bodies if the Selection Committee fails to come to “unanimous consent” on a candidate.

It was agreed that money spent on severance packages for individuals being terminated were a one-time expense that would not compromise the annual savings promised by consolidation. “We need to act now,” said Task Force Vice Chair Scott Sillars.


Like a proud father, Barry Rabner beamed and shook a lot of hands Tuesday morning. The CEO of the University Medical Center at Princeton had barely slept the night before, as final preparations were made to move the hospital’s staff and patients from the old building on Witherspoon Street to its gleaming new home in Plainsboro, three miles away.

But Mr. Rabner showed no signs of fatigue as he welcomed patients to the $522.7 million medical complex that took four years to build. Transported by ambulance, the patients on stretchers began arriving about 7:30 a.m. Some smiled and took in their new surroundings. Others, in more serious condition and accompanied by their doctors, appeared to sleep through the momentous occasion.

Some 110 patients were being transferred from the old hospital in Princeton Borough to the new one across Route 1. The process, mapped and choreographed to the minute, was projected to take about six hours. A sign outside the entrance to the emergency room of the old hospital was in place by early morning, directing people to the new building and instructing them to call 911 if they needed emergency transportation.

“How cool is this?” said Mr. Rabner, who strolled up and down the light-filled lobby hallway of the new building, surveying the action. “What’s really great is seeing all the nurses with their noses pressed against the windows. Everyone is talking about it С and not just about the place itself. They are so excited, because they want to change the way care is delivered. It’s all been about taking care of the patients in a new way.”

The 636,000-square-foot hospital is the centerpiece of a 171-acre site that, when completed, will include a nursing home, age-restricted housing, a research building, a day care center, a park, and additional facilities. Merwick Rehabilitation Center is already located on the property. The hospital was designed to take advantage of green technology and sited to maximize natural light. All of the 231 single-patient rooms have large windows and expansive views.

Dr. Daniel Farber, an emergency room physician at the hospital, paused in the hallway to shake Mr. Rabner’s hand. “It’s a wonderful thing,” he said. Numerous people have been offering their congratulations, Mr. Rabner said, from the doctors to the housekeeping staff. “Even the volunteers, and we have over a thousand of them, are just as jazzed up as the people who are paid to be here,” he said.

Smita Shah, a hospice volunteer, was among those on hand to help new patients and their families on opening day. Ms. Shah, who lives in East Windsor, has been a hospital volunteer for years. “How could I miss out on this unique event?” she said. “I think this is an excellent facility and it will be a great service to so many people.”

Up on the maternity floor, Nicole Williams was bonding with baby Atticus, born Monday at the old hospital and the first baby to be transported to the new building the following day. Settled into her room, Ms. Williams marveled at the color-coordinated sheets and the view from her picture window. “It’s really open. You can see a lot more, and I think that makes you feel better,” she said.

Nurse and lactation consultant Dee Vandegrift, proud to be the first in the hospital to handle a baby, described the opening day as “an overwhelming feeling of excitement.” Ms. Vandergrift worked in the old building for 15 years. “The techniques we use will be so much more advanced here,” she said. “Medicine is changing, and this hospital will allow for that change.”

The hospital has been a fixture in Princeton Borough for the past 93 years. Leaving the Witherspoon Street location was emotional for some. A few weeks ago, a farewell ceremony was held in front of the building. On Tuesday at 5:15 a.m., staff members involved in the move gathered in the old hospital for the last time.

“It was very sad,” said Mr. Rabner. “The hallways are empty. All the pictures are taken down. There are people who have worked in that building for decades, like Hettie Dean — she’s been there for 56 years. One family has 26 members working there. It’s a huge tradition for them.”


May 16, 2012

Congressman Rush Holt (D-12) was joined by social service leaders from The Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton, the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition, and the Community FoodBank of New Jersey in a teleconference focusing on the passage by the House of Representatives of a bill that will eliminate a $1.7 billion social services block grant (SSBG) while preserving military spending.

“It is incomprehensible that the Republican majority would further shred our safety net in order to cut taxes on millionaires and preserve a bloated Defense Department budget,” Mr. Holt observed.

“Food is the most basic element needed to survive and work,” said Community FoodBank of New Jersey Director of Advocacy Diane Riley. “The money they’re getting now doesn’t cover what they need, but it’s something. And they’re talking about cutting that. That’s beyond foolish.”

Some 23 million people, including children, seniors, and the disabled, stand to lose health care coverage, food and nutrition assistance, midday meals, child care assistance, foster care, substance abuse rehabilitation, and juvenile justice services. With its passage by the House, the bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for further consideration.

“The majority is running the show here,” said Mr. Holt. “This ‘reconciliation budget‘ will end Medicare as we know it, slash research and education, and give huge tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.”

“Over the past ten years, The Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton has received more than $130,000 from SSBG and has stabilized the housing of more than 350 families,” reported Crisis Ministry of Princeton and Trenton Executive Director Carolyn Biondi. “We are the end of the line for these folks.”

“Clients are paying roughly 60 percent of their income on housing, so there’s very little left over,” said Ms. Biondi. “Food stamps are often not enough for vulnerable families, so they end up at the Pantry.”

“The Community FoodBank of New Jersey has seen an unprecedented 46 percent rise in the number of people in need of food assistance since the recession began,” noted Ms. Riley. “The Food Stamp program has long been a front line of defense in the alleviation of hunger and poverty.”

Ms. Riley cited “the debate about whether people really need these benefits, or if they are ripping off the system by taking them — as if they were slipping into the system to get a little bit of luxury.”

“Late last year, I joined hunger advocates to shop for a week’s worth of food with the average Food Stamp benefit for $31.50,” Rep. Holt commented. “Trying to eat for seven days on that budget drove home, in a profound and troubling way, the fragility of America’s social safety net.”

“Now is the wrong time to ignore pleas for help across central New Jersey and our country while padding the pockets of the fortunate,” he added. “Make no mistake: these cuts would increase hardship in New Jersey and set back our economic recovery at a time when too many families continue to struggle.”

Reflecting on his father’s history-making “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” confrontation with Alabama Governor George Wallace in 1963, John Katzenbach recalled how his family referenced the incident in years to come.

“I can’t tell you how many jokes there were when any of us happened to walk through a schoolhouse door,” said Mr. Katzenbach. His father Nicholas deB. Katzenbach, who died at the age of 90 on May 8 at his home at the Stonebridge community in Skillman, made political history when he faced down Governor Wallace on the steps of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa to allow African American students to register.

But the younger Mr. Katzenbach and his three siblings knew their father was a hero. “All joking aside, we were very proud of it,” he said of his father’s famous showdown with Governor Wallace. “He had an extraordinary life and we’re all very proud of his accomplishments.”

At the time of the confrontation with Governor Wallace, Mr. Katzenbach was U.S. Deputy Attorney General, second in command to Robert Kennedy. His participation in the civil rights movement helped shape key legislation. He was a central player in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, serving as attorney general under President Johnson. He was Under Secretary of State from 1966 to 1969.

Before and after his years in Washington, Mr. Katzenbach called Princeton home.

“My father grew up, basically, in Princeton,” said his son, who is a novelist. “He went to Princeton Country Day School before Exeter, and returned to go to Princeton University. It was always the place he considered home. It was not merely his connection with the University, which was a powerful one, though he was not a big ‘P-rade’ kind of guy.

“It was more about his deep, abiding affection for the college. He loved New Jersey, and he felt this great tie, not only through his father, who was New Jersey state attorney general, but also his mother, who had quite a career of her own and was ahead of her time. Everything was always in a New Jersey context. He was very proud of his connection to the state and with the town.”

Nicholas Katzenbach was born in Philadelphia and raised in Trenton. His mother, Marie Hilson Katzenbach, was the first female president of the New Jersey State Board of Education. The Marie H. Katzenbach School for the Deaf in Ewing is named for her. Mr. Katzenbach was a Rhodes scholar, a law professor at Yale, Rutgers, and the University of Chicago, and a hero in World War II who spent more than two years as a prisoner of war in Italian and German POW camps.

Mr. Katzenbach left government service to work for IBM in 1969, where he was general counsel during the long antitrust case filed by the Department of Justice seeking the breakup of IBM. The case was finally dropped in 1982. His book, Some of It Was Fun: Working with RFK and LBJ, was published by W.W. Norton in 2008.

As a 12-year-old, John Katzenbach questioned his father about the famous confrontation with George Wallace. “I remember saying to my father, ‘Why didn’t you just reach over and grab him and push him out of the way?’ He said, ‘What you can’t see in all of the pictures is that there were about four big guys standing there with their hands on their guns.’”

While living in Princeton, Mr. Katzenbach had a limited involvement in local politics, his son said. “The extent of his involvement would have been in battling any leash laws if they came up,” he said, joking about his father’s affection for dogs. “I know he was very fond of Barbara Sigmund, and sometimes she called on him for things. But I don’t think he was actually engaged in local politics that I’m aware of.”

According to Sheldon Sturges, one of the founders of Princeton Future, Mr. Katzenbach did take an interest in some issues related to the town, and voted last December in favor of the creation of a Special Interest District [SID].

“Nick told me that he read ‘every word’ of our monthly agenda packages,” Mr. Sturges wrote in an email. “He led the ‘Committee of Nine’ process of Princeton Future that resulted in a consensus in 2003 for the Arts Council to move forward with its expansion. He understood that the residents of Princeton needed more financial support from his alma mater.”

Mr. Katzenbach and his wife Lydia, who survives him along with his four children, returned to Princeton after he retired from IBM. Before settling at Stonebridge, they lived in homes on Province Line Road, Library Place, and the Great Road, his son said.

“Princeton meant so much to him, not just as a University, but as a town,” the younger Mr. Katzenbach said. “He always said he liked it because it was a place where people could spell Katzenbach. It was a place that really gave him the greatest sense of comfort in a sense of being home.”

The owner of Princeton’s only rooming house has been sued for several counts of fraud and racketeering. Sanford Zeitler, landlord at 205 Nassau Street and owner of other commercial and residential rental buildings in the area, is charged with renting two former tenants space that could not be legally used, and then evicting them and unlawfully keeping their security deposits.

Attorney and Borough Councilman Roger Martindell filed two suits in Superior Court in Trenton on April 27 on behalf of Constance Messinger and Aygul Caner. Their allegations are supported by complaints from other tenants of Mr. Zeitler who clam to have suffered similar treatment over the last 15 years. Mr. Zeitler also owns Birch Realty and Princeton Telephone Answering Service, Inc., the lawsuits allege.

“There is a pattern and practice that has been repeated by Mr. Zeitler countless times,” said Mr. Martindell. “Because it is an intentional effort to illegally take advantage of tenants by theft, it’s racketeering.”

Mr. Zeitler, who did not return telephone messages left at his office, has violated a state racketeering statute, Mr. Martindell said. “He can be forced to sell his properties and get out of the real estate rental business. His properties can be put into receivership. These are extreme remedies, but they are appropriate remedies. He has become a predator victimizing local persons who are tenants in his buildings. And I say that reluctantly, because he does provide affordable rooms.”

It was late last year that Ms. Messinger rented a room from Mr. Zeitler. She secured the rental with a deposit of nearly $2,000, including the first month’s rent. She was grateful to find a spacious room that was near her job at Smith Ace Hardware in Princeton Shopping Center.

But when Ms. Messinger arrived on the appointed move-in day, Mr. Zeitner informed her that the room was no longer available and refused to return her deposit. Desperate, she agreed to take a $150 a week, 7-by-11-foot closet he offered her, which could only be entered by crossing through a bathroom shared by eight men.

“When I initially went there, he was really nice — I mean, really nice,” she said. “But all that changed. He said, take the [second] room or leave.”

Ms. Messinger said she paid to fix up the small space, which had a foul odor carried over from the broken toilet in the adjacent bathroom. She got discounted paint and other fixtures from her employer in order to fix the bathroom, but was never reimbursed by Mr. Zeitler. Instead, she said, he raised her rent by $15 a week to pay for the work.

“I just know I had to keep giving him money,” she said. “I accepted it for what it was and I tried to make it a home. It was a horrible, horrible, horrible living situation there. But I had no way out because I had no money.”

A few months ago, Mr. Zeitler called her at work and told her to come home immediately, Ms. Messinger said. When she arrived, he was packing up her belongings in plastic garbage bags. White powder to combat bedbugs was everywhere. “He wanted me out because the Borough was coming in,” she said. “They packed my stuff, and now I’m missing a binder with all of my important papers.”

As she walked out, Borough officials were coming in to inspect, Ms. Messinger said. They told her Mr. Zeitler was responsible for finding her a place to stay. He allowed her to sleep one night in a hallway, and another in a room that was rented to someone else. Again, she asked for her security deposit. “He said ‘Sue me like everybody else,’” she said.

Mr. Zeitler, who has been targeted over bedbug infestations in the past, was cited last March and given a month to cover mattresses and box springs. He has until May 31 to obtain a certificate of treatment from an exterminator.

In 2009, Mr. Zeitler settled a court action for $55,000 filed by another female tenant at another of his buildings, after charges similar to those by Ms. Messinger were made against him.

The current suits were filed April 27 and served to Mr. Zeitner last week. He has 35 days to respond. Ms. Caner rented retail space on the first floor of 205 Nassau Street, investing thousands of dollars to improve the space, the current lawsuit alleges. She was served with a zoning violation several months later because the room was not legally authorized for use as a retail establishment.

“Mr. Zeitler has been aware of both suits, but there has been no movement in either case,” Mr. Martindell said. “So our hands were forced to take court action. Yes, we settled before. But there is something to be said for taking this all the way with RICO [New Jersey’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] and putting him out of business.”

“I don’t think it’s right, what he’s doing,” said Ms. Messinger. “He’s taking advantage of people who are low income. He has to be stopped.”

May 9, 2012

For the fourth year in a row, Princeton Borough’s proposed budget includes no increase in municipal property taxes. Borough Council voted unanimously last week to reintroduce a 2012 budget, which was scheduled for a final vote at last night’s meeting of the governing body [after press time].

On the expense side, there were some changes. The $26.4 million budget is $546,000 higher than the previous year. While funding for maintenance of sewers is decreased, it is increased slightly for health, fire services, and senior citizen programs. Maintenance of Princeton Public Library is up $45,883, which was attributed to a small budget increase and the fact that employees who used to park for free in the lot at the former Merwick facility now park at no cost in the parking deck adjacent to the library.

Councilman Kevin Wilkes suggested that library employees park on the top level of the garage, which is usually not crowded, so as not to take spaces away from paying customers on lower levels.

Representing the Borough’s affordable housing board, resident Anne Neumann described a loan program currently being researched by the board and suggested the Borough fund such an initiative. The program would help residents who are unable to pay their property taxes, which for many homeowners rose substantially due to recent property revaluations. Many seniors and residents of moderate income have been struggling to make payments, she said.

“Residents who receive these loans would be able to remain in their homes longer, near family and friends. They would not be forced to sell their homes in a down market,” Ms. Neumann said, adding that this type of initiative would be preferable to a reverse mortgage. The program would not cost the Borough anything, because interest would be charged on the loans.

Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller recalled that the idea of a loan program was not looked upon favorably by residents when it was suggested after the revaluation. Ms. Neumann responded that it would be important to explain to residents that a direct loan differs from a reverse mortgage program. Councilman Roger Martindell, who heads the finance committee, encouraged the development of such a program, but that it would need to be “fleshed out.”

Ms. Neumann suggested that Princeton University’s voluntary payments in lieu of taxes could be used to fund the program. Representing the University, Director of Community Affairs Kristin Appelget told the Council that it is up to them to determine how to make use of those funds, not including the $250,000 that was reserved for consolidation costs. Mr. Martindell suggested the Borough use the funds left in its affordable housing trust, which must be spent by the summer, to pay for a loan program.

Princeton’s Regional Planning Board voted last week to recommend to Borough Council that an ordinance to preserve the existing Dinky right-of-way is not consistent with Princeton’s master plan. The 6-3 vote was taken at a discussion during the Planning Board’s meeting last Thursday. Borough Council will consider the ordinance for adoption at a public hearing on May 22.

The ordinance was introduced on April 10 and was immediately questioned by Princeton University officials. The University plans to move the Dinky terminus 460 feet south to make way for its $300 million arts and transit development. Officials have said the ordinance would not be in keeping with the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University and the two Princetons, which preserves an alternate right-of-way on Alexander Street for future transit use such as light rail.

At last week’s meeting, University Vice President Robert Durkee said the the move would place an encumbrance on University lands into the future. “It will be a gap of several hundred feet between the tracks and the new terminus,” he said. “It literally would not connect and could not connect to the new terminus.”

Establishing the existing right of way on the municipal map might not even be possible since Princeton University has already filed plans for the arts neighborhood, some of the board members said.

“I find it to be inconsistent with the master plan. I’m particularly concerned that it is inconsistent in the absence of a concurring ordinance from Princeton Township that would provide a complete right of way,” said Board member Marvin Reed.

His colleague Bernie Miller agreed. “It is completely inconsistent with the master plan and inconsistent with reality,” he said. “The right of way starts in the Borough at the Township line, but there is no companion right of way extending to the Township. Essentially what we’re creating was called in ‘Monopoly’ the short line, a 600-foot right-of-way reserved for future rail uses. It serves no purpose.”

Board member and Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller argued that the ordinance doesn’t place the governing bodies under any obligation. “It just preserves the option,” she said. “I would argue that it is supporting mass transit. The straight path is cheaper and faster. It’s more supportive of mass transit and the right-of-way that’s there.”

Borough Mayor Yina Moore, a member of the Planning Board, said she was surprised that the Board was not more assertive in taking its role to plan for future transit needs.

Several residents offered comments during the discussion, arguing that the easement is in the public domain and should cost the taxpayers nothing if a new operator takes over the train line. NJ Transit sold the land to the University in 1984, and was granted an easement as part of the deal. Under the agreement, the University was allowed to move the station only once, which it has already done, say members of Save the Dinky, which has filed a lawsuit on the issue. NJ Transit does not agree with that interpretation and has said that the University still has the right to move the station.

Resident Alain Kornhauser called it “an incredibly valuable asset owned by we the people.” Virginia Kerr said the right-of-way is consistent with the master plan. “We believe the contract only allowed one move, and that move has been made,” she said. “It would be futile for Borough Council to pass this ordinance …. This right-of-way ordinance is consistent with the master plan. Send it back with a recommendation.”

Peter Marks said he would not object to paying higher taxes in order to hold on to the Dinky. “Those of us who are eager to preserve the Dinky are willing to spend some money to do it,” he said. “I don’t want to steal anything from the University. But the University should not steal the right-of-way that belongs to the public.”

Christopher Morgan was appointed Acting Township Police Chief at Township Committee’s Monday evening meeting.

Police Commissioner Bernie Miller, who acts as the liaison between the Police Department and Township Committee, noted the importance of having a commanding officer in place, and said that Mr. Morgan had “served admirably” since taking over as senior officer on March 30, when former Police Chief Robert Buchanan retired.

Citing the importance of “readily understanding” the command structure from both “within and without” the Police Department, Mr. Miller observed that the title “senior officer” is less satisfactory than “acting police chief.” Mr. Miller and others on the Committee noted that Mr. Morgan’s salary will not change with his new title, and commended him for assuming the post at a transitional time for the Township. Mr. Morgan is scheduled to lead the department until the end of 2012.

The appointment came after criticism by Borough Council member Roger Martindell at last week’s Borough Council meeting. Mr. Martindell read a statement denouncing the attempt as “another unfortunate step in what appears to be the Township’s increasingly strident effort to attempt to influence the choice of employees for the new Princeton, based not on merit but on parochial concerns: namely, whether the candidate is a present or former ‘Borough’ or ‘Township’ employee.”

Mr. Martindell said the effort became clear about a month ago “when Township sought to bar the chairman of the Transition Task Force, Mark Freda, a former Borough employee, from becoming an employee of the new Princeton by having us adopt an unnecessary ‘conflicts’ policy that would have barred him from seeking employment in the new municipality. It is now resurfacing in this attempt to enhance the chances of a present Township policeman becoming a Chief or Captain in the new police department.”

In response to some criticism about making the appointment at this particular time, Township Committee members insisted that going ahead with it is “not a political ploy” and “not, by any means, grandstanding.” Each member had prepared comments extolling the appointment. In hers, deputy mayor and consolidated Princeton mayoral hopeful Liz Lempert reported that a member of Borough Council had called her that day asking her not to vote for the appointment.

At the meeting, Ms. Lempert responded to the request not to vote “from my perspective as deputy mayor of the Township, and one who hopes to play a role in the consolidated municipality.” She noted that having an acting township chief will have the added benefit of helping consolidate the police departments into a unified team that optimizes each member’s strengths. Mayor Chad Goerner cited “a merger of equals.”

In an email this week, Mayor Goerner responded to Mr. Martindell’s statements. “I can tolerate it if someone wants to play politics and grandstand on an issue, but I can’t sit by and allow someone to basically slander our police department based on rumors and conjecture,” he wrote. “We need to move beyond this and realize that we have two very good police departments.

“I’ve had the opportunity to meet and interact with the Borough police department with my participation in the Alchemist & Barrister charity event and they are a great group of folks. Likewise, our police department in the Township has a great work ethic and a strong team-based atmosphere. Let’s find a way to build a strong department based on a merger of equals and stop trying to one-up each other.”

Monday night’s meeting was originally scheduled as a joint meeting with the Township Committee, Borough Council, and the Transition Task Force.


May 2, 2012

Reverberations from the 2010 resignation of Township Police Chief Mark Emann amid charges of inappropriate gun trading continue to be felt with the filing of a tort claim notice on behalf of Michael Henderson and Arthur S. Villaruz, the two policemen who resigned in connection with the case. The total amount claimed by the former officers is $2.5 million.

The tort claim was filed in January, 2012 against the Township of Princeton, the Princeton Township Police Department, The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office (MCPO), and “unknown Princeton Township employees” by the law offices of Gina Mendola Longarzo of Chatham. MCPO spokesperson Case DeBlasio said yesterday, however, that they “are no longer involved with the case.”

Included in the total figure are the $40,000 and $30,000 amounts that Mr. Henderson and Mr. Villaruz, respectively, say was promised them as “compensation for terminal leave, vacation, and/or other time off.” It also covers property that had not yet been returned to Mr. Henderson and Mr. Villaruz at the time of the filing, as well as “the estimated amount of any prospective injury, damage, or loss.” The claim goes on to note that “the extent of the injuries is ongoing and will continue to be revealed and ascertained through continuing discovery.”

Late last week, Township Attorney Edwin W. Schmierer reported that “we have sent a complete inventory of all of their property to them and committed to return that property by April 30. We are ready to go and waiting to hear from them. The ball is in their court.”

“There are no payments due to them,” added Mr. Schmierer.

As of press time (Tuesday evening), neither Mr. Henderson nor Mr. Villaruz had come to claim their property.

Mr. Henderson, who was a Lieutenant at the time he stepped down, had been employed by the Princeton Township police department since 1985. Mr. Villaruz, a corporal, began working for the department as a civilian dispatcher in 1984.

The 21-page document issued by Ms. Longarzo’s office details prospective legal claims by Mr. Henderson and Mr. Villaruz, and the conversations, circumstances, and events that they believe will justify these claims.

The tort claim suggests, for example, that Mr. Henderson and Mr. Villaruz were both suspended and served with a statement of charges and notice of disciplinary action charges “as a result of the false information Chief Emann and Captain Buchanan [Mr. Emann’s successor as Police Chief] had both reported to the MCPO.” Their “official retirement” from the department was due, they say, “to the coercion and the promise that they would avoid criminal charges for failing to report the criminal actions of Chief Emann.”

Timothy Quinn is the new president, and Andrea Spalla is the new vice-president of the Princeton Regional Schools Board of Education.

At its reorganization meeting last week, outgoing President Rebecca Cox said that she was upholding a tradition established by previous presidents in serving just two, one-year terms, and then bowing out. Ms. Cox nominated her successor, saying that she and Mr. Quinn, who had been vice-president during her tenure, were “partners for the last two years,” and that he is “more than well-prepared to lead the Board.”

The reorganization meeting provided an opportunity to welcome and administer the oath of office to recently elected Board members Martha Land and Patrick Sullivan, and returning member Rebecca Cox. All three will be serving three-year terms.

Superintendent Judy Wilson and several Board members made a point of thanking area residents for approving the 2012-13 school year budget by a vote of 1,193 for and 360 against. Ms. Wilson noted that while “voter turnout was not as high as it usually is,” this may have been due to the fact that there was one uncontested race (Mr. Sullivan, in the Township), and a “non-controversial budget.”К

After his election, Mr. Quinn assumed the seat of meeting Chair, which had been temporarily filled by Board Secretary Stephanie Kennedy. He said that he looked forward to working with “a remarkable, very intelligent Board of Education that will foster collegiality and openness in community and among stakeholders.” As they do each year, the Board members then took turns reciting their Code of Ethics.

Adoption of the schools’ K through 12 curricula, including courses, textbooks, workbooks, and ancillary materials for the 2012-13 school year followed. Curriculum areas include language arts, mathematics, science, social studies, world languages; visual and performing arts, technology, career education, and physical education/health.

Incoming Finance Committee Chair Dan Haughton reported that, with the current school year winding down, the state had mandated no major purchases after April 15. Efforts to reduce costs in the coming year include a 25 percent (a “six-figure number”) discount in kilowatt hours as the result of participation in an energy-saving consortium; and a $150,000 to $200,000 savings as a result of changing the district’s prescription drug carrier. Purchasing supplies through a state arrangement will also provide a break.

Facilities Committee Chair Dorothy Bedford said that while renovations will occur at all district six schools during the coming year, it was agreed to focus on making John Witherspoon Middle School the most energy-efficient building among them.

At its public meeting tomorrow evening, May 3, Princeton Regional Planning Board will once again consider developer AvalonBay’s proposal to build a rental community at the Princeton Hospital site. A zoning ordinance put before Borough Council last week, which included concessions by the developer in response to concerns of neighborhood residents, has been sent back to the Planning Board. The ordinance is expected to come back before the Council for final approval on May 8.

At the Council’s meeting last Tuesday, AvalonBay senior vice president Ron Ladell withdrew the company’s request to increase the density of the complex by 44 units. But while some Council members expressed an interest in voting to approve the zoning that night, they took the advice of Assistant Borough Attorney Henry Chou and decided instead to reintroduce a revised zoning ordinance, which necessitates another look by the Planning Board. In addition to eliminating the density increase, the revised ordinance includes changes involving signage and a leasing office on site. By reintroducing, Mr. Chou said, the Borough avoids any potential legal challenges.

Mr. Ladell was hoping for approval that night. “This process has become way too complicated and it’s really not,” he said, adding that no one had issues with four of the seven items in question on the ordinance. “We are fully proposing to be in compliance. We will have 20 percent affordable units, including very low income, low income, and moderate income, and that is unprecedented in the state of New Jersey.”

Adding that AvalonBay would be happy to meet with a subcommittee about open space and any other issues in question, Mr. Ladell said time was of the essence. “We have to move quickly. The hospital is moving in less than a month,” he said. “It is asbestos-ridden and it is going to take some time to clean that up. To go back is a delay that is very, very difficult for us when we don’t even know that we can have a leasing office in this community.”

The University Medical Center at Princeton is moving May 22 to its new headquarters on Route 1 in Plainsboro. AvalonBay is under contract to purchase the site on Witherspoon Street. The company plans to demolish the existing building to make room for a newly constructed rental community of 280 units ranging from studios to three bedrooms.

AvalonBay originally wanted to add 44 units, which would add nine to the affordable housing component of the project while making it more profitable. The company’s concession to withdraw that request was not enough to placate those opposed to the developer’s plans. Environmental concerns over the company’s intention to use Energy Star rather than LEED green standards still figured in remarks by some members of the public at last week’s meeting.

Mr. Chou told Council that developers building affordable housing qualifying as COAH (Council on Affordable Housing) can not be forced to follow such standards.

Among those voicing support for much of AvalonBay’s plans was Kevin Walsh, an attorney with Fair Share Housing, which represents lower income New Jersey residents. “The 20 percent affordable is a good thing,” he said. “I regret that the developer has withdrawn the request for extra units. It would have resulted in more affordable housing in the community. But where do we go from here? I spend a lot of time fighting developers, but not here. This is a development that has gone above and beyond. For folks who want LEED, take your argument to Trenton.”

Resident Joe Barzilowski told Council he has concerns about trust. “They said they needed the extra units to make the project work, and now all of a sudden it is alright to go for 280 units,” he said. “Why didn’t they do that to begin with? I think we have been given clues about how much we should or shouldn’t trust the greedy corporation that wants to move into our town. I think we should learn from this experience and strengthen any ordinance that’s passed or proposed, even, so there’s little room for a developer’s interpretation. Because we want what we want, not what the developer wants and what they can benefit from.”

Also attending the meeting were several construction workers from the SEIU 32BJ union. Lisa McAllister, their spokesperson, told Council that AvalonBay contractors and subcontractors have violated OSHA safety standards on projects in Massachusetts and elsewhere. “AvalonBay is not the right developer for this project,” she said. In response, Mayor Yina Moore reminded Ms. McAllister that Borough Council’s purpose was not to select a developer, but to entertain a zoning change.

The Planning Board’s meeting will be held at the Township Municipal Complex tomorrow night, May 3, at 7:30 p.m.

April 25, 2012

Princeton Regional Planning Board concluded last week that developer AvalonBay’s request for increased density in the rental complex they hope to build at the site of the University Medical Center at Princeton conflicts with the master plan. Their 9-1 decision not to endorse the proposal was sent to Borough Council, which was to consider the zoning ordinance at its meeting last night, after press time.

The Planning Board’s vote came at the end of a four-hour meeting April 19, packed with residents of the neighborhood surrounding the hospital site. Most were opposed to AvalonBay’s request. While some welcomed developer Ron Ladell’s announcement, midway through the meeting, that the company was withdrawing its request for fewer affordable housing units in exchange for higher density, they still registered concerns.

“I am proud to announce that the request to reduce the affordable percentage from 20 to 17.3 percent is being withdrawn,” said Mr. Ladell, who is AvalonBay Communities’ senior vice president. “We are happy to provide 20 percent at the increased density of 324 units that will result in 65 affordable on-site units. This has never been done in Princeton. It would set a precedent both in Princeton and throughout the state.”

AvalonBay is under contract to buy the hospital site. They plan to demolish the seven-story building and build rental apartments. Market rate units, including studios to three-bedroom apartments, would have rents from $1,600 to $3,200 per month.

Resident Joe McGeady told the Board that the master plan’s provisions for retail, a playground, and other public areas should be retained and the zoning should not be changed. “A great opportunity is slipping through our hands,” he said. “The plan has minimum open space on Witherspoon. The town deserves better. I would hate to see us miss this chance and settle for the ordinary because an ordinance that is inconsistent with the master plan was allowed to pass through the planning board.”

Borough resident Alexi Assmus said the original number of 280 maximum units for the 5.6-acre hospital site, arrived at after numerous public meetings, was “a big compromise on the part of the neighborhood. The compromise was made in order to allow the hospital to sell the site for a higher price than if the rezoning had required a much smaller number of units. A smaller number of units would have been in keeping with the neighborhood character of single family houses.”

Raising the number of units after a contract has been signed “is bad business and is unfair to the community and to the numerous other potential buyers who are eager to redevelop the property,” Ms. Assmus added (see letter on page 10).

Some in the packed meeting room spoke in favor of the request. Borough Council President Barbara Trelstad said the extra density proposal was smart growth, serving working people who could otherwise not afford to live in Princeton. “The average home in Princeton costs $453,000. A down payment of $90,000 is significantly out of reach for most working class folks,” she said. Ms. Trelstad added that AvalonBay’s plan for usable front porches “puts eyes on the street.”

Also in favor was Sandra Persichetti, executive director of Princeton Community Housing. “Over 500 families are waiting for an affordable apartment,” she said, urging the Planning Board to take action. “We hope people learn from the past that endless conversation is not in anyone’s interest,” she said. “We do not want to see abandoned buildings and blight at the site. The project is acceptable to us as long as it is built in a timely fashion …. I urge you to think about those living in substandard conditions who don’t have a home to go to tonight.”

Grace Sinden, a founding member of Sustainable Princeton, said Princeton Borough should require or promote the idea that the developer adhere to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] standards rather than Energy Star, which AvalonBay prefers for this development. “Energy Star applies to household appliances and light bulbs,” she said. “Municipalities do not value it as highly as LEED.”

Representing the Site Plan Review Advisory Board [SPRAB], member Bill Wolfe cited concerns about the scope, style, and design standards for the complex. “SPRAB would prefer an open development, more in keeping with the neighborhood,” he said, adding that a possible compromise would be to make open space at the rental complex more accessible to the public. The “monolithic floor plans” could be broken down to vary story heights and lessen the mass, he said. “SPRAB believes LEED is applicable and should be recommended,” he said, adding that the Board is “emphatically opposed to the density bonus.”

Board member Bernie Miller said he had concerns about the lack of retail in AvalonBay’s plan. “It makes the development less inclusive,” he said. Mr. Miller also said that the figure of 280 was arrived at after careful negotiations with neighbors. “I have difficulty supporting a higher number even with the offer of providing a 20 percent affordable set-aside,” he said. “If we can’t invoke LEED standards, but perhaps if the developer stood up and said he would volunteer …. I wonder why he is not stepping forward and saying he will volunteer.”

The only member of the Board to vote in favor of the request was former Princeton Borough Mayor Mildred Trotman, who lives in the neighborhood of the proposed development. She said she had no problem with the increased density idea, and added that AvalonBay is exceeding open space standards as well as other issues. “The more I look at this, the more I think the impact on the community will be minimized compared to what is there now,” she said.

At the meeting, the Board did endorse some of the developer’s requested zoning changes including installing signs, adding a leasing office, allowing some loft apartments, and adjusting an internal lot line.


Following several comments from the public for and against NJ Transit’s proposal to abandon the current Dinky easement, the New Jersey Historic Sites Council voted to approve the measure last Thursday during a meeting in Trenton. The 5-1 vote sends a recommendation to the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection that the transportation agency be permitted to take up sections of the track once the Dinky station is moved 460 feet south, which will make room for Princeton University’s planned $300 million arts complex.

At the beginning of the meeting, Historic Preservation Office administrator Dan Saunders explained to the Council that since the University is a private owner, the Council’s influence is limited concerning the tracks, which are still owned by NJ Transit. Even if the Council did not vote to approve the proposal, the easement would automatically be abandoned five years after the station is moved to its new location.

“They don’t need our permission to move it,” Mr. Saunders said. “It would not require an application. NJ Transit can go ahead and do it. Imagine the DEP compelling someone to continue using some historic building for a particular use. Since 1986, we’ve never done such a thing.”

Princeton University plans to design a new station for the Dinky, which connects commuters to the Princeton Junction stop on the northeast corridor line. The existing building, which is across from McCarter Theatre, would be turned into a restaurant or cafe.

Princeton Borough Mayor Yina Moore was the first to urge the Council to reject the proposal. Citing Smithsonian Magazine’s recent naming of Princeton as the twelfth most desirable small town [out of 20] in America, she said the Dinky line contributes to local quality of life. “Please prevent this abandonment by NJ Transit and vote no,” she said.

Also opposed to the proposal and to relocating the Dinky terminus, Borough Council member Jenny Crumiller said that NJ Transit and Princeton University’s justification for moving the Dinky is “because we can. The heart of the matter is that each time we take the Dinky, we connect with the past,” she added. “It if was a restaurant it would become just another pretty building with a plaque.”

Among those speaking in favor of the proposal were McCarter board president Brian McDonald and Lori Rabon, general manager of the Nassau Inn and a member of the Princeton Merchants Association and the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau. “We anticipate a new restaurant and cafe would allow guests to dine in the neighborhood of McCarter Theatre,” Ms. Rabon said. “No doubt the University will preserve both the architecture and history of the building. Why would we wait five years? Now is the time to move forward.”

Kip Cherry, a member of the citizens’ group, Save the Dinky, and a professional planner, urged the Council to put off the decision until two pending lawsuits by Save the Dinky regarding the University’s move are resolved. “The arts building can go forward,” she said. “We need the five years to allow other operators to take over the Dinky line.”

University student Josh Shulman sided with those opposed to the measure, saying he was one of 100 students who have signed Save the Dinky’s petition. Moving the station would interfere with its historic significance, he said. “We’ve been completely left out of these plans that the University is shoving down our throats.”

University vice president Bob Durkee countered by saying the issue had been discussed extensively with students on campus. Mr. Durkee also said the University’s plans include links between the old station and the new one, with commemorative markers providing information about the Dinky’s history.

Backed by a video of her husband walking to the site of the new station, Borough resident Anne Neumann told the Council that approving NJ Transit’s request “will lead to the death of the Dinky.” Pete Weale of West Windsor also urged the Council to vote against the proposal because removing the track would eliminate the possibility of the train being extended north to Nassau Street. “NJ Transit is doing the bidding for Princeton University,” he said. “The Princeton University campus is all about empire-building.”

Bruce Afran, lawyer for Save the Dinky, said making a decision on moving the tracks would be premature because litigation will take years to resolve and a certified site plan for the planned arts district does not yet exist. Mr. Afran added that the station building “is a pristine structure, not in need of rehabilitation.” Designed by noted railroad architect and engineer Alexander Shand, he said it contains the first high-level train platform built outside of a city in the United States.

Regarding history, Tom Clarke, regional manager of government and community relations for NJ Transit, said, “We get it.” The University’s 1984 purchase of the Dinky station saved the Dinky from going out of service, he said, helping subsidize the train service for the next 20 years instead of letting it lapse. Letting the proposal pass “allows NJ Transit to work with the University to improve multi-modal transit for the Princetons and the region.”


In response to Borough Council’s introduction of Ordinance 2012-7 providing for the preservation of a portion of the existing Dinky right of way, Township Committee has voted to reaffirm the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) originally agreed upon by the University, Borough, and Township for the creation of an arts and transit neighborhood.

At the Committee’s Monday evening meeting, Township Attorney Edward Schmierer opened the discussion with a report on “the fiscal and legal impacts” of the ordinance, noting that it “effectively amends the official map of the Borough.” The next step for the ordinance is a Planning Board recommendation for or against it, to be delivered in 35 to 40 days.

“Clearly, a decision will have to be made, not too far in the future, whether the Borough will exercise its option to buy,” said Mr. Schmierer. “Everyone needs to be aware that the potential cost to the municipality could be quite significant,” he said. Among the costs would be reimbursing the university for new engineering plans.

Mr. Schmierer answered “no” in response to Committeeman Lance Liverman’s question about whether the Township had been notified about the introduction of the Borough’s new ordinance. “We were notified just as the public and the University were notified,” he added.

“The ordinance is bad public policy,” said Township mayor Chad Goerner, describing it as “an attempt to contravene an agreement reached by three parties over a long period of time.” Noting that it was not in the financial interests of residents of the Borough or the Township, or, eventually, the consolidated municipality, Mr. Goerner concluded that it’s “a risk not worth taking” and suggested that Township Committee “send a clear message that we have no sympathy for it.”

In reaffirming the MOU, Township Committee members agreed that any decision that has a financial impact on the Township should be discussed in joint session, “negotiated in good faith,” and passed by both municipalities.

The Borough came in for additional criticism in a discussion about the Personnel Selection Committee for the new municipality. The Borough has requested that the committee be comprised of three members from each of the existing governing bodies. Mr. Schmierer noted that since three people constitute a quorum for Township Committee, Personnel Selection Committee votes would be binding for the Township under the Open Public Meetings Act. Borough Council would then have the ability to ratify or reject the Committee’s recommendations. The inclusion of a citizen member in place of an elected official on the Committee would not be a satisfactory solution, and an added complexity is the question of what happens when two individuals vying for the same position respectively request public and private hearings.

It was agreed that a recommendation be made providing for two representatives from each municipality on the new committee, a solution that has worked well in the past.

In other actions at Monday’s meeting, Township Committee approved the adoption of a conflict of interest policy for municipal employees, and agreed to reschedule the 2012 municipal budget public hearing for Monday, May 21.

April 18, 2012


Online Update: The school budget passed by a vote of 1,193 to 360. The Borough reelected Rebecca Cox with 387 votes, and voted in newcomer Martha Land with 405 votes. Candidate Dudley Sipprelle received 197 votes. Patrick Sullivan, who ran unopposed for the single Township seat needing to be filled this year, received 741 votes.

Residents of the Township and the Borough will go to the polls on Tuesday to vote on the 2012-2013 proposed budget for the Princeton Regional School District, and to select (or at least confirm) candidates for Board seats. Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. (Although this is after our print press time, the results will be posted on our website on Wednesday morning).

As a result of consolidation, which will take effect on January 1, 2013, this is the last year that: the system will be known as “the Princeton Regional School District” (it will change to “Princeton Public Schools”); that separate candidates will run in each municipality; and that the consequent tax rate, if the budget is approved, will be computed separately for each municipality.

Operating under a two-percent cap imposed by the state, the Board approved a total operating budget of $75,607,106 for the 2012-13 school year. The total tax levy on area residents will be $63,434,108. In the Borough the budget translates to a $337 tax increase on a house with an estimated value of $748,155. Township residents will pay $906 based on an average home assessment of $822,262.

“This year, the proposed budget carries a flat one percent increase over 2011-12,” said Superintendent Judith Wilson. “It represents the ability to maintain -programs PK-12 but allows for very little growth in any way. This is reflective of our tight economic times and also fits within the State’s restrictions on public school tax levies.” A breakdown is available on the Princeton Regional School District’s web site and Facebook page.

In addition to weighing in on the budget on April 17, residents will also have an opportunity to select new board members. In the Borough, incumbent Rebecca Cox and newcomers Dudley Sipprelle and Martha Land are vying for two seats. There is just one candidate, Patrick Sullivan, for the single Township seat that is opening up.

Princetonians will be a minority among statewide residents going to the polls in April. Presented with the option of moving school elections to the general election in November, Board of Education members voted to keep the April date, ensuring that school concerns would not be confused with issues related to other races. The Board may choose to revisit this decision in the future.

At Borough Council’s meeting last week, a spirited discussion became contentious during a presentation about efforts to preserve a portion of the existing Dinky right of way. In a 3-2 vote, Council approved introduction of an ordinance that would preserve the right of way, which would cover a 50-foot-wide segment of land on the Borough side of the Dinky tracks.

Council members Jenny Crumiller, Roger Martindell, and Jo Butler were for the ordinance, while Kevin Wilkes and Barbara Trelstad voted against it. Heather Howard recused herself because she works for Princeton University, which owns some of the property in question.

In introducing the resolution, Mr. Martindell said the ordinance would show the Council’s intent to amend the map to include the Dinky right-of-way as a public right-of-way. “If we took that step, there could be no development on that site until one year after final approval is given,” he said. “The purpose of the resolution was to preserve the public trust.”

Even though the governing bodies already negotiated a right-of-way with the University along Alexander Street, preserving the existing right of way provides more options, he said, adding that he hoped Township officials would agree and also attempt to preserve the portion that lies in the Township.

“It’s a linchpin for further extending the right of way to Nassau Street, a tool for a tool kit,” Mr. Martindell said. “It enhances value to our community, including the University, and I heartily endorse it.”

University Vice President and Secretary Bob Durkee did not mince words in his remarks to the Council opposing the ordinance. Starting with “Given all the ridicule directed at Sarah Palin for the bridge to nowhere, it is surprising that members of Borough Council are proposing a right of way to nowhere.” Mr. Durkee complained that University officials were not informed of the proposed ordinance. “There was no prior discussion and no attempt to collaborate and cooperate,” he said, adding that the proposal was a way to undo the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) reached last year between the University and the governing bodies regarding the University’s planned $300 million arts and transit neighborhood.

The right of way would end at the border of the Borough and Township, where there will be no rail connection after the Dinky station is moved 460 feet south of its current location, Mr. Durkee said. He told the Council, “I think you’ve received bad advice,” adding that the right of way would require an up-front payment that would also cause problems in the newly consolidated Princeton, because officials would have to decide whether to purchase the land or allow the right-of-way to lapse, he added.

Speaking after Mr. Durkee, Borough resident Peter Marks said, “Mr. Durkee’s comments bring about two words: brazen and insolent.” Conversely, Borough resident Chip Crider criticized Council for putting forth the measure and questioned whether it was legal. “When the zoning was passed, you agreed with me that it was time to move on. What happened? It is crazy as far as I can see,” he said. “Your continued bickering is harming our town.”

Opposed to the measure, Councilman Wilkes said it would damage progress that has been made in negotiations with the University. “We won’t get anything done if we don’t have the full cooperation of everyone,” he said. Council President Barbara Trelstad agreed, saying the ordinance would put the MOU in jeopardy. She added, “I am extremely disappointed in this community.” The exchanges during the meeting had “risen to a level that has gone beyond civility,” she said.


Controversial zoning changes proposed for AvalonBay, the developer of the apartment complex planned for the 5.6-acre site being vacated by the University Medical Center at Princeton, are on the agenda of tomorrow night’s public meeting of the Regional Planning Board. Following the Planning Board’s review, the zoning amendment will be sent back to Borough Council, which is expected to vote on it at a public hearing on April 24.

Currently under contract to purchase the hospital site on Witherspoon Street, AvalonBay wants zoning amended to allow for increased density of apartments to 324 units, up from the approved number of 280. But the developer does not want to increase the number of affordable housing units beyond the 56 that are already required. AvalonBay is not seeking to increase the allowable size of the complex, and is conforming to the height and setbacks originally established for the 280 units.

Weighing in on the issue this week, Councilman Kevin Wilkes, who is a candidate in the June 5 primary for the Democratic nomination for mayor, said he thinks AvalonBay should be allowed to add more units, but only if they include a 20 percent affordable housing threshold in their plans.

“The hospital is moving out in five weeks and we’ve discussed this eventuality for eight years,” Mr. Wilkes said in a printed statement. “Now the Princeton community is faced with the consequences of this departure. The first purchaser of the hospital main campus walked away from the deal they negotiated as local residential sales prices plummeted. When a new developer emerged, AvalonBay, they indicated they wanted to build new rental housing at the site and remove all but one of the existing institutional buildings on the site. They have put forth a proposal that is mostly in conformance with the zoning standards that we passed in 2006 for the redevelopment of the site except for two significant changes,” he said, referring to the request for more units and a reduction in affordable housing units.

Ronald S. Ladell, Senior Vice President of Development for AvalonBay, said this week that the company wants to build 324 units and 17.3 percent COAH -[Council on Affordable Housing] eligible units. “We’ve also offered nine additional workforce housing units, so they’re not COAH-eligible. And that’s what the ordinance says,” he said.

For the past several weeks, residents of the neighborhood surrounding the hospital have protested the increased density request as well as other aspects of AvalonBay’s proposal for the site. Many of them voiced their views at the April 10 meeting of Borough Council. More than 100 have signed an online petition opposing the plans.

Mr. Ladell said many of their claims are unfounded. Regarding comments about a lack of access to open space, he said the complex will have a park fronting it on Witherspoon Street. “We exceed the requirement for depth of open space into the site by over 100 percent.”

He also addressed complaints about the proposed complex’s “monolithic” appearance and uninspired architectural design. “Monolithic? Eyes of the beholder,” he said. “The entire streetscape is stoops and patios. The setbacks far exceed the requirements. There are three types of facade treatments. There are architectural elements. We’re eager to get to the point of talking about design standards, but we’re still at the ordinance point right now.”

To concerns that the rental complex will not adhere to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design [LEED] rating system, using the system known as Energy Star instead, Mr. Ladell responded, “We’ve had great success with LEED in high-rises built in a non-combustible manner. But in New Jersey, nearly all of our communities are wood or stick-built, and Energy Star has been a tremendous success in sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint. We plan on using an environmentally sustainable program and our preference would be to use Energy Star.”

Mr. Ladell said assertions by neighborhood residents that the rental complex will house 1,000 people are “completely inaccurate.” He added that AvalonBay has submitted reports of a traffic study, concluding that the difference between having 280 and 324 units is one additional vehicle every three minutes during peak time. “That’s what we see the impact to be, which we view as not significant,” he said. “The increased density is very beneficial to the community in many ways, without any detriments.”

Touching on the issue of traffic volume in his statement, Mr. Wilkes said, “As long as the traffic studies indicate that the additional units will result in a negligible increase in traffic, we should support the variance for additional units but we should hold firm on our requirement for the 20 percent set aside of COAH marketable rental apartments.”

If AvalonBay were to conform to the 20 percent affordable housing standard, 65 new affordable rental apartments would be included in the complex. “Princeton can then elect to apply those 65 affordable apartments to its earlier affordable housing obligation under the state’s COAH, for which Princeton could potentially receive double bonus credits for a total of up to 130 credits,” Mr. Wilkes said. “Or, the town could apply those new units to COAH’s Third Round ‘growth share’ obligation, which would meet a very large percentage of that obligation.” Both scenarios represent “significant gains for our community and would be in line with Princeton’s longstanding tradition of progressive affordable housing policies.”

“Princeton has a long tradition of hospitality to the needs of those who rent and we should be accessible to those who are not sufficiently wealthy to be able to purchase in town,” he continued. “This community provided affordable housing to its residents long before other municipalities were talking about it. In addition, supporting our position requiring a 20 percent affordable share will embolden us to hold firm with future developers who come before us seeking to redevelop significant portions of our existing residential fabric with new replacement housing.”

Mr. Ladell said that no private developer has ever built 20 percent affordable housing, “or even 15 percent. Some have been as low as two percent affordable set aside.” His response to the 20 percent suggestion is that rental communities are only required to do 15 percent. “Our proposal is to exceed the 15 percent by nine units, then exceed it again by nine more for workforce housing, which is deed-restricted and income-limited for 30 years,” he said. “Some members of Borough Council are supportive of workforce housing. Five years ago when the ordinance was adopted, the governing bodies and staff wanted to write an option for workforce housing.”

The Planning Board meeting Thursday, April 19, will be held at the Municipal Building starting at 7:30 p.m.

April 11, 2012

As the May 22 date draws nearer, Princeton Township Committee held a “work session” at its Monday evening meeting, detailing the “old” hospital’s move to the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.

Susan Lorenz, Vice President of Patient Care Services and Chief Nursing Officer, and Vice President for Government and Community Affairs Pam Hersh described plans for moving patients at the Princeton hospital site to the new facility on opening day. The new campus will include a medical office building attached to the hospital, an education center, a health and fitness center, a skilled nursing facility, a pediatric services facility, and a 32-acre public park.

Estimating that there will be approximately 110 patients to be moved, Ms. Lorenz described how ambulances — including pediatric ambulances — will accomplish the transfer in about six hours, with a patient leaving once every four minutes.

There will be no gap in emergency room services; the current emergency room will close at 7 a.m. on May 22, just as the new one is opening, and both will be fully staffed. There will be a one-week curtailment of non-emergency services, said Ms. Lorenz, citing caesarean sections as an example.

The use of traffic light preemptor devices by ambulance drivers will ensure a quick ride to the new facility, said Ms. Hersh, thanking the town for endorsing their purchase by the hospital. Bus service will be available for non-emergency access to the campus, which Ms. Hersh described as “easy to negotiate.”

Ms. Hersh reported that Outpatient Clinic director Margaret Lancefield had been “eloquent” in expressing concern about how the move would affect the clinic’s patients, many of whom are used to walking to the hospital on Witherspoon Street. It was agreed, Ms. Hersh said, that the level of service for clinic patients should be the same as for other patients, and the hospital offered to provide on-demand transportation for patients who typically walked to the clinic. “But we found that clinic patients don’t like to do that,” said Ms. Hersh, and so they will be eligible for free rides on the bus which will -otherwise cost $1.50. On-demand capability will remain however, using shuttles and cabs. Ms. Hersh also pointed out that “75 to 80 percent” of the clinic’s patients come from east of Route 1. Over 19,000 patients a year reportedly visit the clinic.

The new hospital’s community health information center, which will be staffed by bilingual, non-medical personnel, will provide transportation-related information; information about area community health programs; and “basic health information.”

After the move, the current hospital site will be “in limbo,” said Ms. Hersh, and round-the-clock security personnel will ensure its safety. Landscaping and maintenance will continue, and at the Borough’s request, a final “clean-up” will be done by October. The wide use of signs at the old site was promised to avoid confusion among those patients who continue to go there.

“I for one will miss the easy access to the emergency room,” said Committeemen Bernie Miller, citing the fact that he raised six children in Princeton. “It’s going to leave a hole for some of us.”

“I think you’re going to be surprised because it’s so easy to go to the new hospital,” responded Ms. Hersh, noting that for many people, the new location will be closer. Although 99 percent of Princeton residents currently use the hospital, she noted, they account for only 30 percent of its patient base.

A “community open house” on May 12 will provide an opportunity to become familiar with the new campus.

“Consent agenda” items at the meeting included “separation agreements” for Police Chief Robert Buchanan and Township Administrator James J. Pascale, who both retired effective March 31.

Princeton University’s “voluntary payment” to the Township for 2012 will be $750,000, which is $250,000 more than last year. The additional money will be used, it was agreed, for consolidation costs.

The Princeton Battlefield Society has filed a lawsuit to block the Institute for Advanced Study’s (IAS) plan to build faculty housing on land it owns bordering the Princeton Battlefield. Filed in Superior Court in Trenton last Thursday, April 5, the suit says that the project, which was approved by the Regional Planning Board last month, would destroy the site of General George Washington’s historic counterattack against the British during the 1777 Battle of Princeton.

The suit also states that a 1992 settlement agreement between the Institute and Princeton Township took away the Institute’s right to build on the site. “This was addressed in the Township meeting by our lawyer, and refuted with a statute that says we do indeed have the right to build residences for our faculty,” says Christine Ferrara, senior public affairs officer at the IAS.

The Institute plans to build 15 faculty homes, eight of which are townhomes, on seven acres bordering the battlefield. An additional 10 acres adjacent to the Park would be preserved as open space. The focus of four packed Planning Board meetings since last fall, the plan was amended after suggestions by historians James McPherson and David Hackett Fischer to reduce the size of one house, preserve more open space, and move the tree line screening the houses. The historians, who met with IAS director Peter Goddard to try and mediate between the Institute and the opponents to the plan, also recommended building a path through the Institute property with interpretive signage commemorating the Battle of Princeton.

It was that amended version that was approved by the Planning Board on March 1. The Battlefield Society says it will separately appeal that decision.

The opponents of the project maintain that the development “will completely obliterate the Battlefield site that has remained untouched for the last 235 years,” said Bruce Afran, attorney for the Battlefield Society, in a press statement. “The Institute housing plan will destroy what is probably the most significant Revolutionary War site left in the United States along with critical archaeological and historical evidence.”

The Battlefield Society members say further that the project will bury important artifacts under a 10-foot artificial plateau, and destroy valuable wetlands. “The proposed cluster housing project will destroy one of the most valuable archaeological sites in the United States,” says Battlefield Society president Jerald Hurwitz, adding that the 1992 agreement denied the IAS the power to build cluster housing on the site since cluster housing was not in the E-2 zoning code at the time of the settlement. Cluster housing was not approved in E-2 zones until 10 years later, the complaint states.

The plan’s opponents say they will also take legal action regarding unreported wetlands on the site they say the Institute did not disclose when it sought permission from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to build the houses. “These wetlands were mapped by the Institute itself in 1990,” Mr. Afran said, “but they were not disclosed by the Institute when it applied for permission to build the current housing project.”

Responding to the allegations, Ms. Ferrara said, “The unanimous approval of the Planning Board certainly speaks to the fact that we have what we need to move forward. And the plan approved with amendments by Mr. Hackett-Fischer and Professor McPherson yields the greatest solution for the Battlefield itself in terms of enhancing it with additional open space, interpretive signage, and pathways for the public.”

The Transition Task Force approved a $149,050 budget at its meeting last week.

Questions about differences between “Task Force costs” and “transition costs” reflected some uncertainty about how to define expenses among Task Force members. Borough Mayor Yina Moore was among those who called for clarification, and Borough Administrator Bob Bruschi agreed that “we need numbers.”

“The budget is for the work of the Transition Task Force and is a subset of our total transition costs,” said Task Force member and Township Mayor Chad Goerner after the meeting. “It includes consulting costs, legal costs, and other costs directly attributed to the work of the task force.”

“We’re sort of working with two budgets here,” said Acting Township Administrator Kathy Monzo at the meeting. “Some expenditures that were listed in the Task Force budget were moved to transition costs.” Ms. Monzo reported that the two budgets were being tracked separately, and that there would be “updates as we go forward.”

“There will be other costs associated with the transition, and these were estimated in the Consolidation report,” she added. These “other costs” will come out of municipal budgets, and, at the- meeting, Task Force Chair Mark Freda noted that “each administrator is carefully watching what is being spent” and appropriately identifying each expenditure. Some of these costs will be eligible for state reimbursement.

Also at the meeting, Center for Governmental Research consultant Joe Stefko reported that he would be sending an updated “priority task map” in the coming days. The map, which may be found online, provides a timeline for the sequence of steps to be taken in preparation for consolidation. Mr. Stefko described it as “a living, breathing document” that changes every couple of days. An immediate example was his suggestion that the deadline for “designating folks in key administrative positions for day 1” be moved from May 15 to some time in April, “so governing bodies can implement the process by mid- May.”

It was also agreed that a review of the new municipality’s organizational structure will occur in mid-May.

Jim Levine reported that the Personnel Subcommittee was working on devising severance arrangements and work force sizing options, and would bring a “full proposal” to the Task Force’s next meeting. Mr. Stefko concurred with the subcommittee’s interest in giving current employees “a very full picture.” Ms. Monzo noted that “cross-pollination” had already begun in some areas, where employees from both the Borough and the Township have the same insurance coverage.

Facilities subcommittee member Bernie Miller called the Task Force’s attention to Phase 2 of the timeline, which will look at the housing of the new administration. He reported that the committee is working with KSS Architects to determine the costs of an updated plan. While the Township has approved the KSS contract the Borough has not, and there was some uncertainty about whether or not KSS had begun to work.

A joint Borough/Township meeting with the Task Force was scheduled for Tuesday, April 10, after press time.

April 4, 2012

Former Township Mayor and Borough Council President Richard C. Woodbridge, a Republican, has announced his candidacy for mayor of the consolidated Princeton. Mr. Woodbridge joins current Council member Kevin Wilkes and Township Committee Deputy Mayor Liz Lempert, both Democrats, in the race. Ms. Lempert was endorsed last month by the Princeton Community Democratic Organization {PCDO}.

Current Borough Mayor Yina Moore, who had opted to run for Council rather than mayor, did not file a petition by the April 2 deadline to be a candidate in the Democratic primary. At press time, Ms. Moore had not commented on whether she is dropping out or will choose to run as an Independent.

In the Council race, Republican Geoff Aton announced his candidacy this week and is running unopposed. Mr. Woodbridge has been endorsed by the local Republican Municipal Committee, and will run unopposed in the Republican mayoral primary.

“After hearing from many on both sides of the political aisle and listening to numerous citizen concerns, I have decided to enter the race for mayor,” Mr. Woodbridge wrote in a press release issued last Friday. “I believe now is the time for Princeton to elect someone with experience and fresh thinking, who believes in true inclusiveness and non-partisan cooperation.”

On Monday, Mr. Woodbridge spoke further about his decision to run. “I’m doing this largely because of friends suggesting I do so,” he said. “It probably was inspired by some editorials that were out there in early February. People said, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a really contested race here?’”

A 1965 graduate of Princeton University, Mr. Woodbridge became a patent attorney and has maintained a patent and trademark practice in Princeton since 1973. He is currently a partner with Fox Rothschild LLP. Raised here, he attended the Nassau Street and Valley Road schools before graduating from The Lawrenceville School.

“I’m probably the only candidate who has seen Albert Einstein in the flesh,” he said, recalling the time his father -pointed out the famed scientist walking across the Harrison Street bridge.

His familiarity with the two municipalities is among his qualifications for the job, Mr. Woodbridge said. “I grew up here. I went to local schools. I know the town and have seen a lot of changes,” he said. “I think change is good and change is inevitable, but this period of change with consolidation is really as dramatic as we’ve ever seen. There are a huge number of special issues that go along with this kind of change in government.”

Consolidation is not the only challenge that would come with the role of mayor. “You can’t spend all your time just fighting fires,” Mr. Woodbridge said. “You have to think beyond that. There are financial challenges as well. The town has gotten so expensive that it’s hard for families to stay here. Taxes and expenses are so high. But we also have to look forward to where we want to be. So it’s dealing with the day-to-day stuff as well as looking to the future.”

Mr. Woodbridge is a 20-year veteran of the Princeton Fire Department. He has served as Police, Public Works and Fire Commissioner, among other municipal posts. “I have had the pleasure of working for both towns, seeing changes and knowing the context of all those changes,” he said. “My interest is trying to take us to the next level.”

Mr. Aton, a member of the Township Zoning Board, was a candidate for Township Committee in 2011. Married to a Democrat, he said in a statement, “It is a new era in Princeton. It is also time for a new approach to government. It is time for an end to partisanship. pettiness, and bickering. It is time for a responsible government that puts the people of Princeton above politics.”

The candidates running in the Democratic primary for six seats on the new Council are current Council members Jenny Crumiller, Jo Butler, Heather Howard, and Roger Martindell; Township Committee members Bernie Miller and Lance Liverman, and newcomers Tamera Matteo, Scott Sillars, and Patrick Simon.