November 20, 2013

Spending on tourism in the Princeton region has climbed to an unprecedented level, according to an economic impact study released Tuesday by the Princeton Regional Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (PRCVB). Expenditures of more than $1.85 billion last year set a new record for the region and reflect a third year of continued growth.

The study, “The Economic Impact of Tourism in the Princeton Region” was carried out by Brian J. Tyrrell, president and CEO of Travel and Tourism Research and Training Associates. It credits the PRCVB as a major influence on the healthy numbers. “Strong evidence exists that the bureau’s efforts have helped to bolster the summer tourism season while contributing to growth in the fall as well,” Mr. Tyrrell wrote in the report.

Established in 2004, the PRCVB is a program of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. The Princeton region encompasses several municipalities in addition to Princeton, including Cranbury, Ewing, East and West Windsor, Hamilton, Hightstown, Trenton, Robbinsville, Rocky Hill, Pennington, Plainsboro, Montgomery, Lawrence, and Kingston.

According to the study, the tourism industry provides more than 34,000 jobs for residents of the region in area hotels, restaurants, and related businesses. Tourism expenditures in Mercer County alone were $1.13 billion last year, while Middlesex County municipalities saw $695.3 million spent. Somerset County towns had an economic impact of $42.5 million from tourism.

Food and beverages account for the most spending, at 27 percent. Coming in second was transportation spending at 22 percent, but that number is likely to increase due to the recent improvements at Trenton Mercer Airport in Ewing to accommodate the expansion of Frontier Airlines. The carrier recently announced flights to additional cities, bringing the number of routes up to 13.

“Those folks flying into the airport are staying longer and spending more than the average visitor to the region,” Mr. Tyrrell said Tuesday. “They stay overnight. They eat three meals rather than maybe one. So it’s an important impact to consider.”

Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, who was among those on hand for the announcement of the study on Tuesday, concurred. “With Frontier Airlines’ rapid expansion of service at our newly renovated Trenton Mercer Airport, countless numbers of people will have direct access to this region that they never had before,” he said. “There is enormous potential to attract visitors and continue to create economic opportunity and jobs for the entire area.”

The numbers for Princeton region tourism began to rise in 2011, when they grew by 16 percent. That compares with eight percent nationally and four percent across the state of New Jersey. “These are impressive figures for the PRCVB,” the study reads. “Backed by the strength of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce and its over half a century of commitment to industry in the Princeton region, it is expected that the promotional efforts to increase the economic impact of tourism to the Princeton region will continue to pay dividends in the future.”

The study was commissioned by the PRCVB to examine the economic impact of tourism and also evaluate the organization’s efforts to market the region.

 

November 13, 2013

According to the findings of a joint Princeton University and Princeton Municipality task force, which presented a report Saturday at the University’s Carl Fields Center, the approach to town via the Alexander Street corridor has seen a particular increase in use. And worse is to come.

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

The ASUP Traffic & Transit Task Force was formed to evaluate and make recommendations about Princeton’s long term traffic needs in view of the University Arts and Transit Project, including benefits of implementing transit from the Northeast Corridor rail line to Nassau Street.

The Committee is governed by municipal law and is made up of council members Lance Liverman and Patrick Simon; citizen volunteers Nat Bottigheimer and Kevin Wilkes; as well as Kristin Appelget and Kim Jackson of Princeton University; and Princeton Planning Director Lee Solow.

The presentation began with a review, by traffic consultant Mayuresh Khare of AECOM Technology Corporation, of existing problems and “context-sensitive solutions” to mitigate traffic that is going to increase because of local and regional developments.

Among local developments cited were the University’s expansion of graduate housing and the Arts and Transit neighborhood; the recent redevelopment of Palmer Square and Hulfish Road; and anticipated development of the former Princeton hospital site on Witherspoon and of the YMCA/YWCA on Paul Robeson Place. Among the regional developments mentioned as also having an impact on the area were the hospital’s relocation and the redevelopment of Princeton Junction at West Windsor.

Mr. Khare’s powerpoint presentation included details of trips that either originated or ended in Princeton as well as those passing through the town en route to other destinations. Using standard Department of Transportation (DOT) and federal traffic analysis models and tools and focusing on peak travel hours, Mr. Khare predicted that: “Even five years from now, every vehicle trying to reach Mercer Street from Alexander will sit in traffic for 17 minutes. At Mercer and Nassau the delay will be about 10 minutes.”

“The problems we have today will be exacerbated over time,” said Mr. Khare. “We are looking for solutions that do not involve widening the streets, are sensitive to pedestrians and cyclists, and respect the town’s historic buildings; multi-modal transportation improvements that will make traffic flow more efficient.”

The task force considered the feasibility and impact of such measures as turn restrictions, closing segments of Mercer between Alexander and Nassau and closing Witherspoon Street between Nassau and Spring streets, introducing a one way loop, either clockwise or counterclockwise in the Alexander Street/University Place area, which offers opportunities to include a bike lane and/or a mass transit lane or to extend sidewalks.

The road closure ideas were observed to shift problems onto neighboring streets. The one-way loop schemes were suggested as viable.

But council member Jenny Crumiller described the measures as “stop gap” and wondered whether “improving traffic congestion might encourage more traffic” and thereby possibly reduce the incentive that would get people out of their cars and onto mass transit alternatives. Jo Butler, also of Princeton Council, raised the question of safety if there were to be increased traffic speed.

Kip Cherry of the Save the Dinky group, whose supporters want to keep the old station on University Place and are fighting the University in court over the issue, questioned the assumptions behind the study’s predictions of growth over a 15 year period. In response, Kevin Wilkes, a former Princeton elected official, said: “These are the best models we have, based on identifiable projects that have been proposed. We may have a boom, we may have a recession, that’s the nature of the future, we don’t know, so we have to rely on the best information we have and that shows us that traffic will double on Alexander. That’s the takeaway here.”

“All of these solutions come with trade-offs, non-peak trips will be less convenient” said Mr. Simon.

After a short break, transit consultant Stephen Gazillo of URS Corporation, cited examples from Europe that were examined for ideas suitable to Princeton. He described options such as a commuter rail extension, rapid transit, bus rapid transit (BRT), light rail (LRT), personal rapid transit, enhanced bus options, among others. Of these, it was suggested that BRT or enhanced bus options, LRT, or streetcar options might be most feasible. “Not much would be required to convert the existing Dinky line to a light rail,” said Mr. Gazillo. “Some modifications would be needed: a new power station and a new maintenance facility.” Various routes were looked at, including the opportunity of serving the Princeton Shopping Center. What we need now, said Mr. Gazillo is input from the public.

Summing up, Mr. Wilkes said: “Our goal is to have a one-seat ride from the Northeast Corridor along the Dinky line and expand it to Nassau Street in some way. We would prefer a one-seat solution and would rather not sacrifice the Dinky for a bus, that would be a two-seat option. But can we afford a one-seat option? Is it appropriate? Would ridership fall off if we had a two-seat option?”

Mr Simon commented: “I hope we will come to something that is compellingly better than what we have now.”

Ms. Cherry pointed out that “the Dinky is bought and paid for” whereas a new mass transit system would be “horribly expensive.” In an email message she stated the Save the Dinky view: “Right now we have a train on a dedicated rail line. It works pretty well and every effort should be made to enhance its continued success. It’s possible conversion to light rail or street car on its existing line should be studied. The proposal to invest further funds in study of a BRT plan that the community forcefully opposed just a few years ago deserves the utmost skepticism.”

Regional planning expert Ralph Widner, the author of “Princeton: A Statistical Portrait,” a database created from official data from the U.S. Census as a tool for dealing with Princeton’s present and future traffic problems and presented to the community in March of this year at a Princeton Future meeting, commented: “About half of commuters find it more efficient to drive to the Junction and park there rather than use the Dinky. The Dinky should link into a wider network of transit so that we encourage people to move from automobile to mass transit. Replacing the Dinky isn’t going to do that if it only serves a route from the Junction, a multi-stop system would be preferable.”

Mr. Widner was one of several attendees calling for a more visionary solution to Princeton’s problems that would integrate with other municipalities in the region, such as West Windsor and Plainsboro. Taking up this point, another attendee cited the NJ Transit River Line as an example.

About 35 people attended Saturday’s event, including members of Princeton council and representatives from the University. Ms. Butler was one of several to comment on the lack of public participation.

Earlier this year, higher numbers turned out for three Saturday morning discussions on issues affecting the town sponsored by the non-profit Princeton Future and held at the Princeton Public Library.

 

A Princeton University student is receiving treatment at a local hospital after being diagnosed with meningitis. According to University spokesperson Martin A. Mbugua “the student developed symptoms of acute illness Saturday and went to the University’s McCosh Health Center, from where he was taken to a local hospital early Sunday morning.”

Tests are being conducted to determine whether this case, the seventh associated with the University since March, is related to six earlier cases of meningitis and meningococcal disease. The previous cases were caused by the meningococcal bacteria known as type B. All six people have since recovered or are recovering.

State law requires all Princeton students living in dorms to have received the licensed meningitis vaccine, which protects against most strains of the bacteria but not type B.

Mr. Mbugua said the the University “continues to work with local and state health officials, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find ways to limit the spread of disease.” University Health Services and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety are encouraging students and other members of the University community to pay increased attention to personal hygienic practices. “The University will continue to provide reminders and additional information on campus about taking precautions to help limit the spread of disease,” he said.

Similarly, Mayor Liz Lempert said yesterday that Princeton’s Health Officer David Henry has been working with the University, New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), and CDC and that information on precautionary measures would be made available to the public on the municipal website (www.princetonnj.gov).

Meningococcal disease is a severe infection of the blood or the meninges (the covering of the brain and spinal cord). When the infection is in the meninges, it is called meningococcal meningitis. Both of these infections are caused by the germ Neisseria meningitidis. But, according to the CDC, these bacteria are less infectious than the viruses that cause the flu.

Early symptoms may be similar to those of less serious viral illnesses like a common cold and include: fever, headache, body aches, and tiredness. Other symptoms that may occur are: stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, confusion, and sensitivity to light. Most people with the disease are hospitalized and treated with antibiotics.·

Precautions include: always coughing into a sleeve or tissue, washing hands frequently; not sharing drinking glasses, smoking materials, eating utensils, or drinking from a common source.

In an effort to get the word out about the disease, the University distributed some 5,000 red, 16-ounce cups with a message to students not to share their beverages.

According to the state, the cases at the University are being classified as an “outbreak.” The first was a female student who was away from campus for spring recess and developed symptoms on March 22 when returning to the area. Subsequent cases were reported, one in April, two in May, one in June and one in October. All six were caused by the Neisseria meningitidis; five of the six have the identical strain of the bacteria; four involved students living in campus dorms. The sixth had similar strain of bacteria but it could not be determined whether it was an exact match to the strain identified in the other cases. The most recent case is still being investigated; authorities are awaiting the student’s lab results to determine which type of bacteria is responsible for his condition.

It is unclear whether there is a common link among the cases. Although anyone can get meningococcal disease, adolescents and college freshmen who live in dormitories are at an increased risk.

Currently, there are no recommendations from the NJDOH or the CDC to cancel any activities or scheduled events on the Princeton University Campus. Nor are there any recommendations for the surrounding community to avoid contact with Princeton or Princeton students.

By classing the cases as an “outbreak,” the CDC and the NJDOH hope to “increase awareness and prompt early case recognition among members of the Princeton community and healthcare providers,” as stated on the health dept. website. The designation does not alter the recommendations for avoiding infection which are similar to those suggested for the flu.

For more information, visit: NJ Department of Health (www.nj.gov/health/cd/documents/meningococcal_faqs.pdf) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov/meningococcal/index.html).

 

Six of Princeton’s oldest, family-run businesses are joining together this holiday season to support Morven Museum & Garden.

When shoppers at Landau’s, Kopp’s Cycle Shop, Hulit’s Shoes, Princeton Army Navy, Hinkson’s, and Jay’s Cycles, show a special holiday card between November 15 and January 1, 2014, 20 percent of each purchase will be donated by these businesses to Morven Museum and Garden.

The idea is the brainchild of Robert Landau. “Robert came to us late last summer with the idea that the oldest and still family-run shops in downtown Princeton would support us by donating 20 percent of sales and we jumped at this generous offer,” said Barbara Webb, Morven’s director of development.

The program is a perfect pairing between the town and the historic house that once served as the home of the governors of New Jersey. A National History Landmark, the house was once the home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and of five New Jersey governors. After the governor’s residence was relocated in 1982, Morven went through an extensive restoration. It re-opened as a museum and garden in 2004. Today its exhibitions, educational programs, and special events highlight New Jersey’s cultural heritage.

While none of the businesses participating in the holiday program dates to Morven’s founding in the 1750s, many of the current owners have stories to tell of residents like Albert Einstein who famously patronized Hulit’s Shoes at 142 Nassau Street and Kopps Cycle Shop, now at 38 Spring Street. In operation since 1929 when it was founded by the grandfather of the current owner Chuck Simone, Hulit’s Shoes has had its fair share of celebrity visitors over the years. Brooke Shields bought shoes there when she was a Princeton student. Last year, she stopped by during the University reunion to say “hello.” Other notables include Chevy Chase, Dr. Ruth, members of the band Fish, Margaret Hamilton (unforgettable as the Wicked Witch of the West in Wizard of Oz film), and Princess Grace and Prince Albert of Monaco.

The Landau family has owned and operated Landau’s since 1914 and it has been in Princeton since 1955. Robert Landau recalls working for his parents in the store as a teenager in the early 1960s and has numerous stories to tell, particularly of the time when an English shopper asked his father if he had “hold ups.” “After my father got over the shock of thinking he might be robbed, he found out that the woman was referring to stockings that held themselves up,” said Mr. Landau. “Landau’s became the first U.S. distributor of Pretty Polly Hold Ups from the U.K. and subsequently the first in Princeton to carry the new invention of pantyhose.” Mr. Landau recalls making deliveries to Morven in the days when Governor Richard J. Hughes lived there with his family. “Gov. Hughes had something like 6,000 daughters, or so it seemed from the number of pantyhose we regularly delivered there,” laughed Mr. Landau, a born storyteller. “There’s shop local, shop small, and shop family-run,” said Mr. Landau, referring to initiatives from merchants groups. “Here we have an effort that supports all three and connects some of Princeton’s oldest businesses that are part of the town’s history with Morven and its history. Everyone of the businesses jumped at the chance to be a part of it.”

Kopp’s Cycle at 38 Spring Street is the oldest of the six businesses participating in the program. Founded in 1891, it has had several different Princeton locations, moving from Nassau to Chambers to John Street and then to Witherspoon Street before settling into its current spot on Spring Street in 1989. The store was purchased by its current owner Charles Kuhn’s father Fred (Fritz) Kuhn in 1948. Fritz Kuhn was a cycling coach at the national and Olympic levels. The Kuhns kept the business name and it is the oldest bicycle shop in the country.

In 1900, Hinksons at 28 Spring Street, opened its doors. Princeton Army and Navy at 14½ Witherspoon Street was founded in 1948. And although Jay’s Cycles goes back to 1977 at its 249 Nassau Street location, storeowner Jay Mironov said that many residents still remember his father’s hardware store on Witherspoon Street, from which his bicycle store developed. “My father ran Tiger Auto Store back in 1948 and when I found out that we were selling a lot of bicycle parts that’s when I founded Jay’s Cycles.”

Cousins John Roberto and Andrew Mangone have been in charge at Hinkson’s, officially since 2005 when the stationery store moved from Nassau to Spring Street, but their association goes back way beyond that date. Mr. Mangone’s uncle (and Mr. Roberto’s father) bought the store from Harold M. Hinkson in 1960. The business started out as Rowlans Stationary at the turn of the 20th century and before it became Hinkson’s it was named for owner Bill Sinclair who had been a clerk with Mr. Rowlans.

“We get a lot of support from the community and we’ve found our niche with a lot of items you won’t find in any big box store plus quality of service,” said Mr. Mangone.

The Army and Navy store at 14½ Witherspoon Street also prides itself on personal service. The store, now owned by Michael Bonin, was founded in 1948 by Mr. Bonin’s grandfather Joe Caplan who bought the former Hook and Ladder building on Witherspoon Street and ran the business until his son Alvin Bonin, the current owner’s father took it. Mr. Bonin was born and raised in Princeton and hopes that the store will survive into a fourth generation of the family.

All purchasers need to do is present one of the postcards that Morven is sending out in the mail to some 3,500 Princeton addresses. The card can be used many times over. Hulit’s Shoes has already served its first customer in the program, even though it doesn’t officially start until Friday, November 15.

“Morven is very grateful to Robert Landau for coming up with this innovative way to encourage folks to shop at these still family-run, local shops and support the museum at the same time. It’s a win-win for us all,” said Ms. Webb.

If you don’t receive a card in the mail, you can pick one up a the museum shop or download the necessary page: www.morven.org/holiday-shop-local. Cards will also be available in the participating shops. For more information, call (609) 924-8144 or visit: www.morven.org.

 

November 6, 2013

Incumbents Patrick Simon and Jenny Crumiller were re-elected to Princeton Council in yesterday’s election, while Republican Fausta Rodriguez Wertz, a newcomer to local politics lost her bid for one of the two available three-term seats.

 While Governor Chris Christie was re-elected in a landslide against Democratic challenger Barbara Buono, the numbers in Princeton at press time were 2,492 for Mr. Christie, and 3,632 for Ms. Buono.

Mr. Simon won the most votes, with 4,190 counted at press time last night. Ms. Crumiller earned 3,971 votes, while Ms. Wertz received 2,173.

Elected to Princeton School Board were incumbents Andrea Spalla and Molly Chrein, who earned 2,308 and 2,265 votes, respectively, and newcomer Thomas R. Hagedorn, who received 1,999 votes. This was the first time voters in Princeton chose school board members in the general election instead of a separate election in the spring.

Vying unsuccessfully for a seat on the school board was newcomer Meeta Khatri, who earned 958 votes. Dennis Scheil, who dropped out of the race too late for his name to be removed from the ballot, got 1,048 votes.

While the final numbers for the Mercer County freeholder race were not in at press time, Democrat incumbents Andrew Koontz and Anthony R. Carabelli received 4,206 and 4,159 votes, respectively, in Princeton. Ron “Cef” Cefalone earned 1,667 votes, and Paul “P.J.” Hummel got 1,644.

Princeton voters cast 1,833 in favor of Kip Bateman for State Senate, and 4,128 for Christian R. Mastondrea. In the race for General Assembly, 16th District, Jack M. Ciatarelli got 1,679 votes; Donna M. Simon earned 1,714; Marie Corfield earned 4,266; Ida Ochoteco earned 4,106; and Patrick McKnight got 94.

On public question number one, involving a constitutional amendment to permit money from existing games of chance to support veterans’ organizations, 4,071 Princeton voters voted yes and 1,550 voted no. On question number two, asking whether there should be a constitutional amendment to set a state minimum wage with annual cost of living increases, 4,366 voted in favor while 1,447 voted against it.

 

The deadline for offers to purchase the Palmer Square post office came and went last Friday, and “a number of interested parties” are being considered, according to a spokesman for the real estate firm handling the sale of the office and several such locations across the country.

While he declined to disclose just who is in the running, Alec Monaghan, first vice president of the global firm CBRE Inc., said, “These are broadly retail uses, compatible with the rest of Palmer Square.” Interest has come from both within and outside of New Jersey, he added, confirming that Palmer Square Management, which oversees the tenants of the Square, is among the bidders.

The building that has housed the Princeton Post office since 1934 was officially placed on the market this past September. The prime piece of real estate is being sold by the United States Postal Service as part of its nationwide streamlining efforts. A restaurant, retail, and gallery space have all been mentioned as possible uses for the space, which includes a historic mural painted in 1939, depicting Native Americans reacting to the arrival of European colonists.

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

A second round of offers will be conducted for the interested buyers this week. “The idea is to tighten everything up in terms of their purchase price, due diligence, and that kind of thing,” Mr. Monaghan said. “Within the next several weeks, we’ll look to be getting a lead bidder.”

In the meantime, the real estate firm has identified a few downtown locations as possible sites for the local post office once the Palmer Square building is sold. “We believe we have three or four good possible locations,” Mr. Monaghan said. “But if there is anyone out there with a 2,000-square-foot, ground floor retail space that we’ve missed, we’re certainly open to considering it.”

Asked whether a relocation to Princeton Shopping Center or another location with ample parking was also being considered, Mr. Monaghan said it was not. “I think a place like that is dislocated from town,” he said. “While the parking is one thing that would work, it misses on a lot of other fronts. Princeton University students and a number of commercial accounts are among the walk-in traffic. I think the parking can be figured out and satisfied in a downtown location. Princeton deserves a post office downtown.”

Mr. Monaghan said one of the locations under consideration is on Nassau Street, but declined to identify the other sites. “We’re using Palmer Square as a center point, and going from there,” he said.

 

On the eve of yesterday’s election, education expert Diane Ravitch spoke to a packed auditorium at Princeton High School’s Performing Arts Center on the attacks to public education by so-called “supporters of educational reform.”

Describing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a “bully,” she said his administration is waging an “unceasing war” on the public school system. “While he rants about superintendents’ salaries and calls New Jersey’s schools ‘failure factories,’ he is short changing Abbott Districts and engaged in a ‘full-bore privatization process’ that is a radical assault on our education system, an integral part of our democracy,” said Ms. Ravitch. “Christie’s idea of educational reform is to give education away to private entrepreneurs, but schools are not consumer goods that should be for-profit enterprises; they are like public roads, public beaches, a public good for all.”

The historian and bestselling author was scheduled to speak later that evening at Princeton University and had responded to a long-standing request to come to PHS by Julia Rubin, co-founder of the Princeton-based group Save Our Schools NJ (SOS NJ).

“Ravitch is helping people understand what’s happening now in public education and the need to do something about it,” said Ms. Rubin, who began SOS NJ with other concerned parents in a Princeton living room just three and a half years ago. Since then the volunteer run movement has grown to 12,000 members with a website (www.saveourschoolsnj.org) that lists, for example, where state legislative candidates stand on public education issues.

Ms. Rubin, who has a 6th grader at John Witherspoon Middle School, described the nonpartisan, grassroots organization’s goal as to educate and engage residents in support of public education and to advocate on behalf of all children.

Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Wilson, welcomed the speaker and thanked Dorothea von Moltke of Labyrinth Books for supplying copies of Ms. Ravitch’s latest title, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, for a sale and signing by the author.

Born in Houston and now living in Brooklyn, Ms. Ravitch found a receptive audience when she spoke out against Gov. Christie’s efforts in education. “Christie is contemptuous of public school teachers; if he could, he would replace public schools with charters and vouchers.” In fact, said Ms. Ravitch, New Jersey’s schools are some of the best in the nation, ranked with those in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Citing the efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr. to desegregate schools along racial lines, she said: “Here we are in 2013, recreating a dual school system for the haves and the have-nots. Privatization is draining students and funding from our public schools. Charters don’t serve all children; they are private corporations contracting with the government. It is easy to get high test scores when you push out the children who get low scores, the kids with disabilities, those whose first language is not English.”

Ms. Ravitch, who was recently featured on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (as can be viewed on YouTube) described the idea that student testing would weed out bad teachers as “junk science.” The emphasis on testing results in a narrowing of the curriculum, she said, citing numerous anecdotal instances to support her claims. Why is it, she wondered, that the U.S. administers more tests than any other country in the world? “Could it be because there is a fantastically active testing lobby,” she said to loud applause.

“The emphasis on testing is a distraction that is squelching the genius of this country, our problem solving ability,” she said. She compared the nation’s number of Nobel Prize winners with that of Japan, known for test-taking success. “Training to take tests doesn’t foster independent thinking or genius,” she said.

What tests do reveal, however, is socio-economic status. “America isn’t overrun with bad teachers but with children in poverty,” said Ms. Ravitch. “Everyone, whether they have children or not, must be concerned about the future of education in this country,” she said.

Retired public librarian Sharon Olson, who has no children, agreed. A fan of Ms. Ravitch, Ms. Olson has followed her blog and her writings on Salon.com and in The New York Times. “I feel that teachers and education are being undervalued and that too much emphasis is being placed on competition and testing abilities rather than on the acquisition of knowledge,” said Ms. Olsen, a resident of Lawrenceville.

The Common Core standards currently being implemented in states across the nation, came in for particular criticism because, among other items, the system had not been field tested in any classrooms. In addition, Ms. Ravitch lambasted federal programs such as George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top for setting unreasonable targets for American students, punishing schools, and resulting in teachers being fired if their students underperform, and unfairly branding those educators as failures.

“This is failure by design,” she said, “poor testing results are not a reflection of the quality of teachers but a purposeful effort to make public schools look bad.” She predicted a push back against the Common Core that would result in states pulling out of the system. “We know what works: experienced professional teachers, involved parents, a school library with a librarian, a nurse in every school, guidance officers.”

A handsome women with silvery hair and an appealing sense of humor, Ms. Ravitch has been described as “whistleblower extraordinaire.” A historian of education and research professor of education at New York University, she was assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education in the administration of President George H. W. Bush and was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board by President Bill Clinton.

Her books include the critically acclaimed The Death and Life of the Great American School System and Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform. A prolific author of books and some 500 articles, she has won numerous awards and been commended for careful use of data. Since April 2012, she’s been an active blogger and has some 66,000 Twitter followers.

For the last three years, she has been traveling the country leading a national battle to save public education. Her most recent book, Reign of Error, was a response to critics who said that she posed questions and gave no answers. On the contrary, she said, “I have lots of recommendations for what can be done to protect and improve public schools.”

Reign of Error argues against the idea that public education is broken and beyond repair. It describes the positives of U.S. education and suggests ways to combat the root causes of educational failure.

After her talk at PHS Monday, Ms. Ravitch responded to audience questions ranging from the apparent demise of community schools in New York City; the teaching of teachers and the Teach for America program; and what might be learned from other countries such as Finland. She was even presented with a question on how to respond to an attack on herself as an expert on education who has never been a classroom teacher. One charter school supporter questioned her assertion that charters had been co-opted by hedge fund managers and the like and invited her to come to Trenton to see for herself. Ms. Ravitch responded that charter schools were not intrinsically at odds with public education and were of value when they worked with the public system rather than in competition with it. But, she warned, major foundations, individual billionaires, and Wall Street hedge fund managers are encouraging the privatization of public education; some for idealistic reasons, others for profit.

 

October 30, 2013

Drivers who park at Princeton’s Dinky train station will be the guinea pigs for a two-year pilot program testing a technologically updated payment system that could result in cost savings for the municipality. Instead of the traditional parking meters, motorists will pay at kiosks using credit cards, smart cards, and their phones.

Princeton Council passed a resolution Monday night allowing the pilot program to begin. Staff from the town and Princeton University, which will share financing for the program, have been considering the idea for the past several months, Princeton’s assistant engineer Deanna Stockton said in a presentation to Council. The vendor Digital Payment Technologies was chosen by the joint group to install eight multi-lingual, solar-powered kiosks known as Luke II, with multiple payment options.

“This is quite exciting from a staff perspective, in that we have the opportunity to update something that is over a decade old,” said municipal administrator Bob Bruschi. The payment kiosks will be installed starting in January, Ms. Stockton said. Currently, there are about 1,100 individual parking meters along Princeton’s streets and in municipal parking lots throughout the town. Emptying and monitoring them is very time consuming, Mr. Bruschi said.

The town’s parking meter attendants have recently been the subject of unfavorable attention following reports of selective enforcement. Officer Chris Boutote was fired this month, while Jon Hughes was suspended for a month and reassigned.

Ms. Stockton said that the University would donate eight meters, at a cost of $96,000, as well as signage and striping. The municipality would spend $15,000 a year to operate the meters. In the long term, if the program goes ahead, an extended service warranty could be purchased, with various options.

Millburn and Asbury Park are among New Jersey towns already using the program. Patrons of the multi-space meters will pay for parking by keying in their parking space numbers. “What happens when there is snow and ice on the ground?”, asked Council president Bernie Miller. “How can people see the number of their space?” Ms. Stockton acknowledged that the issue was a concern, and told Mr. Miller that it would be considered during the pilot program. Posts, maps, and other means of identification could be explored, she said.

First to be tried out are spaces at the current Dinky station parking lot, Ms. Stockton said. Next, probably in February, parking spaces along University Place would utilize the new meters. Parking spots along Alexander Street, where construction for the Arts & Transit complex is underway, will get the meters in 2015.

The idea is to determine if the cost of maintaining the multi-space meters makes sense, Ms. Stockton said. Patrons can still pay by using cash, but credit cards, smart cards, and mobile apps will be encouraged. “If you’re late for a train, you can just pay for the spot by phone from the train,” she said. Users can pay from any meter, not just the one nearest their vehicle.

Asked how reliable the meters are, Ms. Stockton told Council that they can be repaired quickly if they malfunction. “They have very limited down time,” she said, having talked to staff at other municipalities that use the technology.

 

The environmental groups Food and Water Watch, Environment New Jersey, and the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club filed a “notice of intervention” on Tuesday, October 22, with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington D.C.

The commission is the agency considering the proposal for a pipeline that would go through Princeton and Montgomery Township.

The “intervenors” oppose plans by the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company (Transco) to expand an existing natural gas pipeline that runs through a 1.3 mile section of the Princeton Ridge between Coventry Farm and Cherry Valley Road.

According to a press release announcing the intervention, the environmental groups regard the project as cutting across “environmentally sensitive areas, important streams and forests, and critical habitat to carry gas produced through the dangerous technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.”

If successful, their efforts would deny approvals for Transco’s Leidy Southeast Expansion Project which proposes a 1,000 horsepower upgrade of the Mercer County Station (205) in Lawrence Township as well as other power station upgrades in the state.

As part of its process, FERC will examine an “Environmental Assessment” report. But, the “intervenors” are calling for a more thorough “Environmental Impact Statement” because of “the significant impacts the pipeline expansion will have on potential threatened and endangered species habitat, loss of forest cover and wetlands, threats to our public open spaces, intensifying and expanding the use of fracking in the Marcellus Shale, and intensifying climate change,” said Kate Millsaps of the NJ Sierra Club.

The environmentalists also urge FERC to consider the cumulative effects on the environment of the process of fracking.

They argue that FERC must also look at the potential impacts of exporting gas overseas as this pipeline will expand capacity to the southern United States where there are a number of proposals to expand export capacity and result in more drilling.

“This fracking gas pipeline will tear a scar across Central Jersey’s environment and will double down on dirty fracked gas,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club, agreed “There is no need for this pipeline. The purpose is to promote fracking and the burning of fossil fuels that impact clean water and promote climate change.”

The Oklahoma-based Williams Company, which would conduct the project, filed its application to do so in September and a decision is expected to come from FERC sometime next year.

With the filing of this “notice of intervention,” the environmental groups signal their right to challenge a favorable decision. The notice of intervention can be viewed at: http://elibrary.FERC.gov/idmws/file_list.asp?accession_num=20131022-5025

 

The owners of the former Wild Oats market property, whose proposal for redeveloping the site was rejected last week by the Princeton Zoning Board, will resubmit their request to the Planning Board, a spokesperson for the family has said.

“The Carnevales are dismayed and extremely disappointed that the Princeton Zoning Board voted to deny their request to be permitted to lease office space to other uses besides just medical and dental offices,” said Linda Fahmie, who represents the family, in an e-mail yesterday.

The board voted 5-1 against the idea, which would have allowed businessman Lou Carnevale and his family to transform the property into a four-story building with first-floor offices. Mr. Carnevale’s request runs contrary to a zoning ordinance the former Princeton Borough Council passed last December, limiting the building to three stories.

The proposal calls for a 4,500-square-foot bank, 5,400 square feet of office space, 16 apartments and 57 parking spaces. Variances would be needed for parking and office space usage. At the last minute, Mr. Carnevale’s lawyer offered to change the proposal to limit the office space to 1,000 square feet, to house a management office for the building. But the Board still voted the proposal down.

“Even their request to at least be able to have a small 1,000 square foot management office at the rear of the building to deal with the 16 residential units was denied,” Ms. Fahmie said. “Nonetheless, they [the Carnevales] remain committed to redeveloping their property and will resubmit their plans to Princeton Planning Board.”

The redevelopment plan for the building, which currently houses a CrossFit gym, has been the subject of considerable debate. Many residents of the neighborhood are opposed to the proposal, preferring to see restaurants and retail establishments at the site. The rezoning by Borough Council last year would allow banks, which the Carnevales have maintained are interested in the site while restaurants are not. But the rezoning banned parking in front of redeveloped businesses, and parking in front of the building is part of the Carnevales’ request.

A driveway that runs between the building and the adjacent property is owned by Princeton University. The University offered a 60-year license agreement for use of the driveway, but the family wanted a permanent easement. Their request for a new curb cut on Nassau Street, included because of the University’s denial of a permanent easement, is another source of contention among some neighborhood residents.

The Carnevale property has been the site of Wild Oats and, earlier, Davidson’s markets. Previously. the building housed an automobile dealership. The area of East Nassau Street is often referred to as Gasoline Alley, because it once was home to several gas stations and car dealerships.

Mr. Carnevale is the former owner of The Annex, a longtime restaurant on Nassau Street which closed in 2006.

 

October 23, 2013

Mayor Liz Lempert has decided to recuse herself from discussions with Princeton University regarding payments in lieu of taxes. She made the decision despite the opinion of the town’s conflict of interest attorney Ed Schmierer that her participation does not pose a conflict even though her husband is a professor at the University.

“There has been too much focus on me and my participation, when all the focus should be on the content of the discussions with the University,” Ms. Lempert said in a written statement released yesterday to Town Topics. She planned to read the statement at the conclusion of Princeton Council’s meeting last night.

“In the best interests of the community, I am going to step aside and leave the discussions over the University’s contribution or PILOT [payment in lieu of taxes] in the hands of the Council,” she continued. “I have full faith in Council President Bernie Miller to lead a successful team.”

It was last August that Mr. Schmierer, who also serves as Princeton’s municipal attorney, expressed his view that Ms. Lempert’s participation in the negotiations was not improper. Her husband, Ken Norman, is a tenured professor of psychology. “Not only is the probability of any conflict remote or insignificant, any conflict is non-existent,” Mr. Schmierer wrote in an opinion. “The fact that her husband is a tenured professor, who does not stand to benefit in any manner from the voluntary agreement to be negotiated with Princeton University, cannot reasonably be deemed to have any influence on the mayor’s judgement.”

Mr. Schmierer based some of his opinion on the fact that there have been past mayors with connections to the University who negotiated with the institution, such as the late Barbara Boggs Sigmund, and Marvin Reed. He did recommend that Council member Heather Howard, a full-time employee of the University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, recuse herself from the discussions.

The issue of whether Ms. Lempert should or should not participate in the negotiations with the University has generated much discussion during the public comment portions of recent Council -meetings. While some have spoken in favor of her taking part, many have said it would be a conflict of interest.

“I want to make clear — I am not stepping aside because I believe I am conflicted,” Ms. Lempert’s statement concluded. “Rather, I am concerned my participation has become a distraction at a time when Council needs to be functioning effectively on this matter. The debate should not focus on me, but rather on the content of the negotiations and the strategy surrounding obtaining the best outcome for the town and taxpayers. I will make myself available to Council if they seek my advice, but I am stepping aside from the negotiating table.”

 

Of the three candidates vying for two three-year terms on Princeton Council in the November 5 election, two С Democrats Patrick Simon and Jenny Crumiller С are current members of the governing body. The third, Republican Fausta Rodriguez Wertz, is a newcomer to local politics.

In recent conversations via e-mail and in person, the incumbents outlined their accomplishments and shared their aspirations for the future. Ms. Rodriguez Wertz, a resident of Princeton since 1977, spoke of her community involvement in both professional and volunteer capacities. Raised in Puerto Rico, if elected she would be the first Latina to serve on a Princeton governing body. She edits a blog about issues affecting the United States and Latin America.

“As far as I can tell, there has never been a Hispanic member of Borough Council or Township Committee and now Princeton Council,” she said during an interview at her home. “But I’m concerned that there should be participation for any immigrant, not just Hispanics. I’m also concerned about taxes, which are so high that they are driving people away from Princeton. And it’s not just people who have lived in town. There are a large number of Hispanics in town who work here, and they won’t be able to stay.”

Ms. Rodriguez Wertz said spending and taxes are the most critical issues for Princeton. She is worried about the town’s debt. “I voted for consolidation, being an optimist,” she said. “But consolidation issues have not been concluded. There is a $135 million debt. And the Master Plan hasn’t been updated.” She also thinks more attention should be paid to traffic problems in town. “Recently, I saw six trucks double-parked on Nassau Street,” she said. “There is no one addressing that problem right now, and it needs to be dealt with.”

She praised Princeton’s police department for its recent efforts to reach out to the local Hispanic community. “The police want the kids to feel they can come to them,” she said. “They seem to be very interested in neworking with the community.”

A recent vote to file less comprehensive minutes of Council meetings does not sit well with Ms. Rodriguez Wertz. “I’m not happy about the minutes being reduced. I’m very big on transparency,” she said. Regarding town/gown relationships, she said it is important to prevent an adversarial relationship. “Princeton looks the way it does because of the University,” she said. “And the University gains from Princeton being such an interesting and diverse community.”

Ms. Rodriguez Wertz said she agrees with the opinion of conflict of interest attorney Ed Schmierer that Mayor Liz Lempert should be permitted to participate in negotiations with Princeton University over payments in lieu of taxes. But Ms. Lempert has decided to recuse herself from those discussions [see story on page one].

Ms. Crumiller, who serves on the Zoning Amendment Review and Master Plan subcomittees, wrote in an e-mail that she is looking forward to working on revising the Master Plan and land use ordinances. “I hope to advocate for neighborhoods and to work to protect the character and especially the scale of neighborhoods in our land use ordinances going forward,” she said. “I’m also going to be working on the committee that will be forming Advisory Planning Districts, which were promised as extra protection for neighborhoods after consolidation.”

Ms. Crumiller served on Borough Council for two-and-a-half years before being elected to Princeton Council last year. Along with two other members of Council, she has recently been reviewing general municipal ordinances.

“Familiarity with operations and knowing how government works is invaluable in this work,” she said. “I hope I can continue!”

Mr. Simon said he is satisfied with the way consolidation of the former Borough and Township has proceeded so far. “This year we have successfully implemented consolidation, and due to careful management of personnel and operating costs, we were able to implement a cut in the municipal property tax rate,” he said in an e-mail. “In doing so we have continued the careful fiscal management of recent Democratic municipal governments from both former municipalities.”

He added that Princeton Borough had not raised municipal property tax rates for four years prior to consolidation, while the Township had not raised them for two years. “We set the municipal property tax in Princeton’s budget this year three quarters of a million dollars lower than the combined municipal property tax budgeted five years ago, and we did that while extending an important municipal service, residential garbage pickup, into the former township. The municipal property tax has shrunk as a proportion of the overall property tax in recent years as well, and in 2013, the municipal portion is only 22 percent of Princeton’s total property tax bill. The rest goes to the county and to the schools.”

Mr. Simon chaired the Emergency Preparedness Task Force this past spring, and currently serves on the local Emergency Management Committee. “This fall we approved the first basic Emergency Operation Plan covering all of Princeton, and by the end of the year we expect to complete 15 plan annexes covering various aspects of emergency management in detail, including shelters and comfort centers, alerts and emergency communications, hazardous materials events, and emergency medical,” he said.

His first year on Council has been enjoyable, Mr. Simon said. “I chose to run again simply to have the opportunity, if the voters in Princeton approve, to continue to work on these and other important issues for the community.”

 

On September 19, the canopy covering the platform at the old Dinky station collapsed shortly after demolition workers had left for the day.

The canopy awning, which had sheltered commuters traveling between Princeton and Princeton Junction, fell onto the bed of the railroad track. No one was injured.

After the collapse, Princeton Council asked Princeton University for a report of the incident which occurred as work is being done for the University’s Arts and Transit project.

Turner Construction Company is at work on this project and had hired subcontractor LVI Demolition Services, Inc. to remove the canopy.

After the accident Turner Construction was issued a fine of $2,000 by Princeton’s building department for doing work without a permit.

The report was prepared by Edward M. Card of Turner Construction and submitted to the University on October 7 and to the Princeton Council on Tuesday, October 15.

It is clear from the report that neither Turner Construction nor its demolition subcontractor put temporary supports in place to hold up the canopy while it was being removed as is customary in such cases.

The report, which makes no mention of temporary supports, describes the events on the day of the accident. Representatives of Turner and LVI met at 7 a.m. to plan for the canopy demolition. At around 2:30 p.m., LVI workers cut a two-foot wide section of the canopy connecting it to the station building in preparation for the removal of the canopy during the next two days. They then left for the day at 3:15 p.m.

According to the report, an LVI foreman and a Turner superintendent saw no evidence that the canopy was misaligned or exhibiting stress. The canopy collapsed at around 4:30 p.m.

Emergency rescue teams from multiple state and local agencies were called in to find out if anyone had been trapped in the debris. They worked until about 9:30 p.m. at which time clean up operations began.

When asked Monday about the report, Princeton Administrator Bob Bruschi said in an email: “Our building/construction people have looked at it and I’m satisfied. As far as going forward they will follow the normal procedures. We look at this as a very unfortunate anomaly. The university is always very good at moving through the permitting process and adhering to all of the laws. They didn’t expect it to come down.”

But Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller was highly critical of the report, describing it as “inadequate to say the least.” On Monday, she commented: “If it was offered as a reassurance of some sort, it did the exact opposite. But I doubt the University is satisfied either.”

According to Ms. Crumiller, the report fails to answer the basic questions “of why precautions were not taken to avoid the collapse of the structure, why the possibility of the collapse does not seem to have been anticipated and why it was apparently a surprise. The report describes construction company workers cutting out sections of the canopy that connected it to the buildings, leaving, and then the canopy collapsing after they left. It’s as if they had no idea what they were doing.”

As for future safety, Ms. Crumiller wants to know what the University and its construction company are doing. “Our construction permitting process is intended to ensure safety. The University should explain why its contractor failed to apply for the proper permit.”

In a memo accompanying the Turner Construction report, Town engineer Robert V. Kiser wrote that the University will, as a “precautionary measure,” engage a “peer review of the demolition work plans for the two remaining structures to be removed in connection with the arts and transit project.”

“They [the University] have taken other measures to make sure they adhere to all permits and safety standards. If they follow the normal procedures as they have in the past and there have been no problems I would fully expect that there would be no problems in the future,” said Mr. Bruschi.

The Arts and Transit development and the new Dinky station located about 460 feet south of the old station are scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.

The report from Turner Construction will be on the agenda for discussion by Princeton Council when it meets in public session Monday, October 28 at 7 p.m. in Witherspoon Hall.

 

October 16, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information visit: www.oneprinceton.com.

 

October 9, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October 2, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

September 25, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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