March 5, 2014

The sale of the former Princeton Hospital building to Avalon Princeton LLC, the developer with plans for a rental complex at the Witherspoon site, has closed, Princeton HealthCare System announced Tuesday.

The site includes the hospital building, its parking garage, nine houses on Harris Road, and two medical office buildings on Witherspoon Street. AvalonBay, the developer, now owns the hospital building, garage and Harris Road homes, while Herring Properties owns the medical offices, which they plan to renovate and lease for commercial and medical offices.

The hospital building will be demolished to make room for the 280-unit development of apartments and townhomes. Just how that demolition will progress is a topic of controversy and concern among residents of the area, who formed a citizens’ group, Association for Planning at Hospital Site LLC. Last week, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled against a lawsuit by the group seeking to block the development.

Members of the group say Judge Jacobson’s opinion contains factual errors, which they are discussing with their lawyers. In an email, APHC member Areta Pawlynsky said that Princeton Planning Board attorney Gerald Muller and AvalonBay lawyer Robert Kasuba’s “rewriting of environmental history” from AvalonBay’s first application “appears to have been accepted without questioning. No new environmental submissions stipulated in the consent order was interpreted as reliance on the detailed record of the first application, yet the Planning Board didn’t try to resolve those outstanding issues,” Ms. Pawlynsky wrote.

Judge Jacobson dismissed all the counts of the lawsuit filed by APHS, the second citizens’ group to form due to concerns about the AvalonBay development. Princeton’s Planning Board rejected the developer’s first application for the hospital site in December 2012. AvalonBay then sued, and the municipality negotiated a consent order with the developer, which then submitted a revised application. The Planning Board approved that submission last year.

Among the points made in her opinion, Judge Jacobson said that health and safety impacts cited by the residents’ group are not supported. But APHS disputes that conclusion with several points about environmental testing, heavy metals, and contaminants flushed into old hospital drain lines.

Princeton Council voted in January to hire a licensed state remediation professional (LSRP) after hearing several citizens air their continued concerns about the demolition. The Council is expected to hear a report by that person at its meeting next Monday before taking another look at the developer’s agreement.

Jon Vogel, AvalonBay vice president, told Council at a recent meeting that a public meeting about the demolition plan will be held once the sale is closed. Contacted Tuesday, he said the meeting is still to be scheduled.

 

At a meeting March 13 at the Chestnut Street Firehouse, residents of the “tree streets” neighborhood will have a chance to hear from representatives of 7-Eleven, the company that wants to put a convenience store into the East Nassau Street property most recently occupied by West Coast Video.

The Bratman family, owners of the building at 259 Nassau Street, have an agreement in principle to rent to 7-Eleven subject to municipal approvals. Situated next to a building owned by the Carnevale family, which most recently housed Olive May market, the large parcel has been the subject of controversy in recent years among local residents, the municipality, and the owners seeking to attract viable tenants. Princeton University also owns a portion of the site.

Mr. Bratman said last week that he hopes residents will attend the meeting with an open mind. “What people need to understand is this: The taxes are very high,” he said. “I’ve been attending Council and zoning hearings for the past five or six years and I’ve heard a consistent theme. People wanted food, as in a grocery. The problem is the density of that part of town can’t support a full-blown grocery, as Davidson’s and Wild Oats and Olive May markets showed when they came and went.

“So the question is, what can be there that can offer food? From what I understand, 7-Eleven is going through a transformation and trying to offer fresh choices like fruits and fresh sandwiches. It’s not your father’s 7-Eleven. Is it an organic grocery store? No, but I think it really is an answer to what I think people have been asking for.”

A neighborhood-wide survey completed in 2012 indicated that while residents were in favor of a food market of some sort, they were against fast food restaurants — especially those with a drive-through window. While 7-Eleven stores do not have drive-through access, they are usually open 24 hours a day.

“On their website, it says that most or almost all of their stores are open 24-7-365,” said Marty Schneiderman, a neighborhood resident and one of the people who created the survey. “There are concerns about that. If they could be closed sometime in the middle of the night, that would be a good idea. You have residences that back up right behind that property.”

Municipal Planning Director Lee Solow said last week that there is no provision in the ordinance, which was revised at the end of 2012 to be an SB (Service Business) zone, that prevents a business from being open 24 hours. A spokesperson for 7-Eleven, which is based in Dallas, said Tuesday that the store would likely be open 24 hours, but “considerable remodeling” would provide proper barriers between houses and the store.

“We are a 24-hour store, and we want to be open whenever people need us,” said Margaret Chabris, the spokesperson. “If we do go forward with this, we plan to include environmentally friendly LED lighting inside and outside. Also, the direction of the lighting will be situated not to disturb nearby residents.”

The building at 259 Nassau Street was a garage before Mr. Bratman’s parents purchased it in 1964 and opened a Viking Furniture store. A Jack and Jill convenience store was on one side and a coin-operated laundry was located in the back. Mr. Bratman’s father closed the furniture store in 1986, but the laundromat remained until a few years ago.

A Wawa convenience store was installed briefly before the Bratmans leased the store to Eckerd Drugs, which was almost immediately purchased by the Rite Aid chain. Since Rite Aid already had a location in Princeton Shopping Center, they closed the Nassau Street store and sublet to West Coast Video, which closed in 2005. Rite Aid’s lease runs until 2015.

Mr. Bratman said he does not plan to do anything to the existing building. The back space has been renovated and an additional tenant is being sought.

“If they’re not making any changes to the physical property itself, the questions are whether there will be parking and for how many cars, and whether there will be landscaping to create a barrier between the headlights of the cars and the homes that are behind there on Murray Place,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “And not just little bushes. They’ll need landscaping that is significant and able to block the light.”

Ms. Chabris said that remodeling would also include a trash enclosure. Noting that area residents have said they were in favor of a local business taking over the site, she said that 7-Eleven is a franchise company. “Our goal is to provide an opportunity for a local resident, which would make it a locally run business,” she said.

Mr. Bratman sent emails to neighborhood residents informing them of the plan for 7-Eleven and the public meeting that will be held next week. Representatives from 7-Eleven are to be on hand to explain their concept for the site, which Ms. Chabris said will include an interior floor plan. “We don’t typically do this, but we will show them how the interior will look, with movable tables and seating.”

She confirmed that the 7-Eleven chain is now emphasizing fresh items. “We have a wide variety of fresh and better-for-you foods made each day and delivered,” she said.

The plan does not become official until it goes through the approval process. “We understand they want to present their plan and we look forward to it,” Mr. Schneiderman said. “We certainly also hope they will listen to people’s interests and concerns, and be responsive to what they want to do. That’s the way it works best.”

 

February 26, 2014

Officers of the Princeton Police Department (PPD) received training last week on how to handle immigration status with respect to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) laws. 

“This is an important step in building trust with the immigrant community in Princeton,” said Police Commissioner Heather Howard, who also chairs the municipality’s Public Safety Committee. “In a nutshell, the Princeton Police Department will not be enforcing immigration laws. This is important for everybody. If we want a safe community, it must be safe for everyone and any victim, no matter what their immigration status, should feel comfortable coming forward to report a crime.”

The training puts into operation an order that was adopted by the department in the fall, clarifying the role of local police in relation to federal immigration enforcement. It is designed to enhance public safety by ensuring that people who are victims of, or witnesses to, crime are not afraid to cooperate with police.

“The order was the result of a long and close collaboration with the Human Services Commission (HSC) and the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF). It builds on new outreach by Spanish speaking officers in the community, and sends a strong message that witnesses or victims should not be afraid to come forward and work with local law enforcement,” said Ms. Howard.

The order states: that “Local police are not charged with the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The federal government and its agencies are the authorities responsible for enforcement of immigration law Й. Immigration enforcement by state and local police would have an adverse effect in community/police relations. It is the intention of the Princeton Police to maintain positive relations with all members of the Princeton Community by providing fair, compassionate, and unbiased police service to all community members regardless of the community members’ immigration status.”

Although the order was adopted last fall, both Captain Nick Sutter, the department’s acting chief, and the Public Safety Committee felt it important to “operationalize it through officer training.”

During the training, officers received an explanation of Federal Immigration Law from local immigration attorney Ryan Lilienthal with Mr. Sutter on hand to facilitate discussion on the role of local officers. A representative of New Labor, which works with immigrant groups, spoke on workers rights and a speaker from the New Jersey Departtment of Labor discussed wage theft law.

“Last year, about 10 cases of wage theft were investigated and rectified through mediation,” said Mr. Sutter. “Increasing awareness leads to increasing reports to the police. We are not necessarily trying to make arrests but rather trying to solve the problem in a positive way. Sometimes these cases can be more complicated than they first appear and they are by no means confined to construction workers, but cross all types of professional lines.”

According to John Heilner, volunteer chair of the HSC subcommittee on immigration issues, victims might be employed by contractors, restaurant owners, landscapers, private residents, or companies who employ immigrants as cleaners or nannies.

Wage Theft

Wage theft is a crime that takes advantage of people with undocumented status. In collaboration with LALDEF, HSC, and New Labor, the PPD has created a new intake process for people to come forward and report it.

The form asks about the nature of the crime being reported, which might be something like: receiving no overtime for a 12 hour day; working 50 hours and being paid for only 30; or being charged a per diem deduction from wages for the use of tools.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface of this problem, which is widespread across the country,” said Mr. Heilner, who points out that a violation of the New Jersey State minimum hourly wage is also wage theft. The state’s minimum wage is currently $8.25 per hour, higher than the federal minimum wage.

Think of a worker who is undocumented. He or she takes on a job for a few days and then an unscrupulous employer withholds wages from someone who may feel unable to demand fair payment because he or she fears that by reporting the “wage theft,” they might fall afoul of immigration law.

The issue came to light when the PPD conducted a Community Survey last year. The Survey revealed that more was needed to reach Princeton’s immigrant population. In spite of going door to door and having the survey available in Spanish and English, the response was poor. Since then, the department has conducted neighborhood meetings, instituted bike patrols, increased foot patrols in the central business district, pursued more directed traffic enforcement, and has initiated several school-based security initiatives.

Building Trust

Last summer’s raid by ICE in Princeton resulted in an atmosphere of mistrust in the immigrant community. “We want residents to know that it was not local law enforcement officers who carried out this raid,” said Ms. Howard.

After the raid, two of Princeton’s Spanish-speaking officers spoke at St. Paul’s on Nassau Street to help calm fears. The PPD has several officers who are bilingual in Spanish and English and the Director of Human Services, Elisa Neira, is also bilingual.

Mr. Heilner points out that persons who believe they have been the victims of wage theft can come to either the Human Services Office at One Monument Drive (the former Borough Hall), the police, or LALDEF. The same intake form will be used by each.

“We are very happy with the way in which the police order drafted by Captain Sutter clarifies that local police officers are there to maintain public safety and enforce local laws not to spend time and resources tracking down the immigrant status of someone who has been here, say, for two decades and working as a family’s bread winner,” said Mr. Heilner.

 

Following more than a year of planning, maintenance of Princeton’s parks is being consolidated under the Town’s Recreation Department, it was announced at the Princeton Council meeting Monday night. Shifting responsibilities previously shared by the public works and recreation offices to just one department will allow the public easier access when reporting problems, said Ben Stentz, the municipality’s recreation director.

“The most common complaint we have heard from people is that they didn’t know who to call for park issues,” Mr. Stentz said. “With consolidation, it has gotten a little bit simpler, but not that much. We wanted to address this by streamlining communication and creating one-stop shopping.”

The reorganization makes the Recreation Department a clearinghouse for all things related to park maintenance. No new workers will be hired to accommodate the change, but four seasonal workers from public works will be shifted to recreation. Any concerns about park issues should now be reported to parks@princetonnj.gov, a temporary email address until See Click Fix, an online system for reporting town issues, is put into play. With that system, residents will be able to include a photo of the problem.

“This is a major shift and it will take time to find its groove,” Mr. Stentz said. “I don’t want to sugar-coat this. This is an ambitious plan. It will be continually evaluated.”

Later at the meeting, Mayor Liz Lempert cast a vote to break a tie over whether to hire Trishka W. Cecil to replace Edwin W. Schmierer as municipal attorney. Both Mr. Schmierer and Ms. Cecil work for the Princeton law firm Mason, Griffin & Pierson. Mayor Lempert voted in favor along with Council members Heather Howard, Bernie Miller and Lance Liverman. Voting against the appointment were Jenny Crumiller, Jo Butler, and Patrick Simon.

Ms. Cecil will take over March 1, with a contract that runs through the end of 2014 and does not exceed $375,000. Mr. Schmierer, who was praised at the meeting by Mayor Lempert and members of the public, has been municipal attorney, serving the former Borough and Township, for more than 30 years.

Five proposals were received from firms interested in the job, Ms. Lempert said. Three were interviewed in multiple closed sessions. Before casting his vote against the appointment, Mr. Simon expressed frustration that the Council could not reach a consensus. Ms. Butler echoed that sentiment. “I think a fresh start would have been beneficial,” she said.

Ms. Lempert said she, too, was sorry a consensus could not be reached. “I cast my vote reluctantly [to break the tie],” she said. “But I think the stability and history we have with the firm will serve us well.”

The Council held a preliminary discussion of the town’s budget, the first in a series of talks that will be held through the end of April. The preliminary budget is $59.4 million, which is $950,000 less than last year despite a proposal to build a $1 million storage facility for Public Works equipment and vehicles.

The anticipated budget decrease is due to a reduction in staff from consolidation, said Ms. Lempert. Kathy Monzo, the town’s director of finance, told Council that the goal this year is a flat tax rate. Council will adopt policies for managing debt and surplus at the next meeting on March 10, Ms. Lempert said.

Also at the meeting, Princeton’s administrator Bob Bruschi urged the Council to move forward with the hiring of Captain Nick Sutter as Chief of Police. Mr. Sutter has been in charge of the department since former Chief David Dudeck left in September following charges of harassment in a lawsuit by members of the force.

After Mr. Bruschi outlined the vetting process for Mr. Sutter, which would include a public presentation and an opportunity for members of the police force to offer anonymous comments, Council members debated whether to act on the issue but ultimately took it into closed session.

 

What does the future hold for Princeton? Chances are, if we don’t take steps now, the answer could well be more time waiting in traffic and pedestrians jostling for space with bicyclists, motorized wheelchairs, and other personal vehicles on Princeton’s busy sidewalks. 

Notice the “we” in that last sentence? The pronoun was used a great deal on Saturday morning at the Princeton Public Library where over 60 concerned citizens turned out to contribute to a discussion on “Traffic and Transit: Issue and Opportunities,” organized by Princeton Future, the grassroots non-profit formed to “protect and enhance Princeton’s unique community and share concerns about the directions future growth and development may take.”

For one speaker the plural pronoun meant pedestrians and bicyclists. For another it meant urban planners and  local government officials. To others, including many in the audience, it meant local residents, commuters going to and from Princeton, parents, teenagers, aged persons with limited mobility, and lovers of good old Shanks’ pony.

Each speaker seemed to represent a different constituency whose interests overlapped and sometimes conflicted. But all of the above were included by someone at some point during the morning’s proceedings in presentations heard in turn from Marvin Reed, Sam Bunting, Ralph Widner, Steven Kruse, and Kevin Wilkes.

Mr. Reed, a former mayor of Princeton Borough, kicked off with “Where Are We Now?” a description of the the “circulation element of the Princeton Master Plan” as updated last November. As chair of the Master Plan Subcommittee of the Princeton Planning Board, Mr. Reed suggested that more parking structures such as the one on Spring Street are most definitely in Princeton’s future.

Walkable Princeton’s Sam Bunting, a member of the Princeton Traffic and Transportation Committee, presented “Complete Streets in Princeton, What, Where, How?”

Complete Streets are defined by urban planners as those planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation, and to allow for safe travel by those walking, bicycling, driving automobiles, riding public transportation, or delivering goods.

Last year, the municipality incorporated complete streets into its Masterplan and hopes to have an implementation plan for complete streets and a bike route network by the end of this year.

“Think of a street as a long park, not just a way to get from point A to point B but a place where people want to walk, to rest, to be in shade. Complete streets calm traffic, accommodate pedestrians, and personal vehicles, and can offer sustainability when concrete is replaced by plantings; they can connect the community to places of historic interest and enhance the entire streetscape,” said Mr. Bunting, a relative newcomer to Princeton. His talk was illustrated with images of the pedestrian and bike path in downtown Indianapolis, known as the “Cultural Trail.”

Deflecting criticism that complete streets can be costly, Mr. Bunting said that in some cases all that is required is paint and besides, “Princeton has a rule that any such costs must be within a 15 percent increase.” He described ways of slowing traffic using painted crossings and curb bump outs. “For Princeton, not one solution is needed, but a menu of options,” he said. For more information about Complete Streets, visit the Pedestrian Joint Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee: pjpbac.blogspot.com.

At the end of his talk, Mr. Bunting was asked by audience member and former Mayor of Princeton Township Jim Floyd about Princeton Planning Board’s recent decision to forego speed bumps in favor or other ways of slowing traffic. Mr. Floyd invited Mr. Bunting to take a walk down John Street, which he called “the most unique street in Princeton.” Since the policy against speed humps predates Mr. Bunting’s time, Mr. Lahnston remarked that he believed the decision was made in order to facilitate access for police and fire vehicles, for which speed humps are problematic.

Steve Kruse, also of the Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee then presented a wish list of bicycling needs in his talk: “Bicycling. What do we need, what do we want?”

A Widner Perspective

Introduced by Mr. Lahnston as “Princeton’s data maven,” regional planner Ralph Widner, a member of both the Traffic and Transportation Committee and of Princeton Future’s council, addressed “Traffic Facts and Possible Transit Strategies.”

Mr. Widner’s data places Princeton in relation to its greater surroundings. Last year, he unveiled “A Statistical Portrait,” a database of data from the 2010 U.S. Census and the 2007-2011 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census, describing it as “a tool that will help us to argue for what is needed.”

“Goals without strategies are just wish lists and we need to think about implementation,” he said. “The previous presentations have argued eloquently for various ways of making change within Princeton but the problems we face connect to further afield. We must think strategically about all of the groups coming into, going out of, and traveling through Princeton. What is the universe of people we should focus on and how do we persuade them to use public transit rather than the automobile,” he asked.

“Let’s identify the universe of markets that could be served by public transit. Let’s talk to them and find out what they will and will not use. They’ll tell you they don’t want to change two or three times on a single journey. Then we can design a system that might include light rail, jitneys, taxis. Don’t start with the tools, start with people.”

As Mr. Widner points out, Princeton’s problems are not confined to the municipal boundary. “With some 180,000 vehicle trips passing through Princeton every day, traffic and ways to transplant auto travel with mass transit must be the focus for the next decade,” he said.

ASUP Task Force

Lastly, architect Kevin Wilkes, chair of the Alexander Street-University Place Task Force (ASUP), offered a detailed presentation of traffic and transit in the Alexander Street Corridor, including suggested changes in traffic patterns. The Task Force, he said, had looked and examined the benefits and drawbacks of options for a one-way loop on Alexander and University Place. It had also addressed the feasibility of ideas such as turning Witherspoon Street into a pedestrian precinct.

Mr. Wilkes pointed out as well that all of the event’s presentations had been made by volunteers. “The municipality doesn’t have an office to do this,” he said. “Our planning board can write documents for people who want to build and can create a desire for future change but it doesn’t have the resources to implement these designs. What we need is a planning office so that these responsibilities do not fall to community volunteers.

“Kevin hit the nail on the head,” commented Mr. Widner in a brief telephone interview Monday. “There is currently no effective way for the municipality to plan for the future. The planning committee can only react. What we need is to be able to look ahead and make predictions and for that data are required.”

Princeton Future

“Like most municipalities, we are underpowered in terms of people and resources,” said Mr. Widner. “The problem is how to make things really happen. Most small municipalities are dealing with this and there is an effort through the Central New Jersey Forum of mayors to deal with this. But, of course, one of the major problems is the dysfunction in Trenton, and I’m not simply referring to the current administration but to the refusal of the state to invest. New Jersey cannot be the major transit corridor for the United States and not invest in infrastructure.

When a member of the audience suggested that funds for some of the suggested improvements might come from raising the gas tax, there was a spontaneous round of applause. “But no one in Trenton right now would touch such a tax. And that’s why it’s time for transformational change,” said Mr. Widner. “Princeton Future and other such groups are a way to build change from the bottom up but what is needed is transformational change and we are not going to get it from the government in Trenton.”

For more information, visit: www.princetonfuture.org.

 

February 19, 2014

Between the mountains of plowed snow, the potholes that have made roads an obstacle course, and the icy patches on streets and sidewalks, Princeton residents have had just about enough of the winter of 2014. So has Bob Hough, the town’s director of Infrastructure and Operations. Working in conjunction with police and emergency management, Mr. Hough has been coordinating clean-up efforts since the first storm brought down trees and power lines and dumped several inches of snow on Princeton a few weeks ago.

Mr. Hough’s biggest concern can be summed up in one word: Salt. “The lack of it is a huge problem, not just here but throughout the state,” he said Tuesday morning. “We’ve had our request into our supplier for weeks. But this year, the continuous flow we’re used to has not occurred. As our supply goes down, we typically would be refilled. But they have not been able to supply us.”

Another challenge is deciding where to put the snow that is plowed. “We’ve been doing a bit of hauling in some areas, but the storm a few weeks ago took down trees and power lines, so the crew had to deal with that as opposed to moving a lot of snow,” he said. “We lost a lot of man-hours because of that. But we’re working on it.”

There are growing piles of snow in parking lots all over town. “In some of the cases where these mountains are taking up valuable parking spots, we’ll have some people delegated to moving that snow,” Mr. Hough said. The snow is trucked out to the municipality’s site on River Road, where it is piled up to melt.

The department has moved snow on streets and in lots where it has compromised safety. “This morning, we did some roads near and around the high school area, because that was a nightmare yesterday,” Mr. Hough said. “Places like senior housing and schools are critical. In addition to being able to get kids in and out of the schools, we have to be able to get in there if anything were to happen. We have to look at the global picture.”

Mr. Hough urges people who have plows or hire landscaping companies to be careful about where they dump plowed snow. “If it gets plowed into the street, that causes a tremendous problem,” he said. “We’ve been going around, talking to several of the local landscapers, saying we understand they have to do their jobs but asking them to be more aware of where they are placing snow in the street.”

While the storms earlier this winter caused major damage to trees and power lines, the more recent ones, including the few inches of snow on Tuesday morning, have not. “The damage incurred after the heavy snowstorm and the ice storm that followed was relatively significant in the town,” said Greg O’Neil, Princeton’s Municipal Arborist. Speaking during a break from plowing on Drake’s Corner Road Tuesday morning, Mr. O’Neil said that while there was a lot of breakage and uprooting of trees, it wasn’t nearly as bad as during Superstorm Sandy.

Residents can minimize damage from future winter storms by keeping their trees healthy. “Have a professional arborist come by on an annual basis to evaluate your trees,” Mr. O’Neil said. “They can determine if there are structural flaws, pruning needs, that sort of thing. And it makes a difference.”

Potholes continue to be a major problem in and around Princeton. “It’s bad across the state,” Mr. Hough said. “And it’s a priority. But we can’t keep the potholes dry long enough to do any real filling at this point. The staff has been taxed dealing with snow issues, and they need to get some rest. We do have a running, growing list of potholes and, hopefully, by the end of this week, we can get out and go through them. We’ll start with the main roads and work our way out from there.”

Mayor Liz Lempert admitted to some frustration with the weather but praised public works crews for their efforts. “With all the snow, there’s just not enough room for parked cars, traffic, and sidewalks,” she said Monday. “But we’re doing what we can. Our public works crews have been working extremely hard, often without breaks because of the relentlessness of the storms. They and the police have been doing a great job. The recreation department has pitched in as well, doing some of the work that in previous years the public works department used to do. I think people have been rising to the occasion.”

 

Princeton and other area residents who may have noticed changes in the taste of their tap water recently should not worry. Any chlorine taste reflects a switch made at the end of January from one chlorine additive to another and is part of New Jersey American Water’s annual pipeline maintenance program.

According to a statement from New Jersey American Water (NJAW), “free chlorine” was added to replace chloramine, a combination of ammonia and chlorine, at the Raritan-Millstone and Canal Road surface water treatment plants. Both methods of disinfection are approved by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.

“Free chlorine” refers to both hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and the hypochlorite (OClР) ion or bleach, and is commonly added to water systems for disinfection purposes.

The change began in late January and is expected to last through March.

“The free chlorine helps to take away some of the byproducts of the chloramines disinfectant,” said Richard G. Barnes, external affairs manager. The process is expected to take about two months.

In addition to Princeton, Kingston, Lawrence, Montgomery, and Plainsboro, the change has affected numerous municipalities throughout the area: from Bedminster to Cranbury, Flemington to Millstone, and Somerville to South Brunswick.

According to the water company it’s not unusual for customers to notice an increase in the taste and smell of chlorine in their water at such times. Water quality will be monitored “to ensure that it meets or exceeds federal and state drinking water standards.”

“When we transition the disinfection process from chloramines to chlorine, some customers may notice an increase in the taste and smell of chlorine in the water. This will only be temporary while we complete this annual system maintenance. The water is safe to drink,” states NJAW.

The annual change in disinfectant is a standard water treatment practice. “We perform this distribution system maintenance program every year as an added measure to further disinfect the pipelines in our distribution system. It also allows us to perform necessary maintenance on our chemical feed systems.”

If chlorine is not to your taste, the company makes several suggestions to remove it, such as placing water in an uncovered glass container in the refrigerator overnight, so as to allow the chlorine to dissipate. Another technique is to boil your water. A rolling boil for five minutes is recommended. If the water is then cooled, it should no longer taste or smell of chlorine. Adding a lemon slice or a few drops of lemon juice to a glass of drinking water, is another suggestion from the company.

In March, NJAW will change back back to chloramines. For updates and more information, visit: www.amwater.com/alerts/alert.

 

While they may be a source of joy for school children, snow days are less appreciated by grown ups. It’s pretty safe to say that most Princeton parents and educators dread such weather-related interruptions to the school year.

Recent storms have forced the Princeton Board of Education to take a close look at the school calendar and make some changes.

As a result, the district brought students to the classroom last Friday, February 14, which was originally intended as a staff development day and again on Monday, February 17, when schools would normally have been closed for President’s Day. The YM/YWCA provided after school programs on both days.

According to Lewis Goldstein, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, there have been six snow days so far this winter. In addition to the making up for lost classroom time on February 14 and 17, this means that four days will be added to the end of the school year.

When asked about the impact of snow days on student learning, Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane’s first response was to offer praise for all of the people who have helped minimize the number of weather-related cancellations. “Everyone focuses on closures, understandably, but I am so grateful to so many people and groups who have helped our schools stay open,” he said. “Our facilities crew and the Department of Public Works (DPW) did a fantastic job of making it possible for us to get into the schools. We also had a number of days with delayed openings and it’s thanks to a lot of people as well as the associations of teachers and staff who helped us figure out how to maximize learning for our students.”

Mr. Cochrane, who took up his post just this January, also quipped that he had spent a great deal more time than he expected looking at The Weather Channel.

In consultation with district staff, Mr. Cochrane determined that making up lost snow days earlier in the school year would be in the best educational interests of Princeton’s students. “By being able to teach on days early in the year, we have a better chance of avoiding possible scheduling conflicts for families who have already made plans for trips based on the school calendar that was set some time ago. We have already added several days to the end of the school year.”

School calendars are usually determined one or two years in advance and the 2013-14 school year was approved by the Board of Education in the spring of 2012. As is customary, it included a contingency of five “make up” days for lost school days due to weather emergencies. Three days could be added to the end of the school year and two would be taken off the number allocated for spring break.

Turning former closed dates into school days requires not only the cooperation of teachers and staff, but the consideration of numerous other issues such as transportation and food services. “This weather has an impact on everyone, families, teachers, food professionals bus drivers, staff, and students,” said Mr. Cochrane. “I have been so impressed by the support provided by the school board and from the community. The Princeton Police Department has been incredible. Student safety is always our first priority and apart from one incident when a school bus slid off the road, in which no one was injured, we have been very lucky.”

The state Department of Education (DoE) requires that school districts provide 180-days of instruction per year, but this requirement can be waived under certain circumstances. Since the DoE did not shorten the school year after Superstorm Sandy, it is thought unlikely that it will do so because of this year’s winter weather.

Changes brought about by the recent weather emergencies will affect Princeton’s kindergarten registration and elementary school moving on ceremonies, which will be rescheduled by school principals.

At present, the John Witherspoon Middle School Eighth Grade Promotion Ceremony is scheduled to take place as originally planned on Thursday, June 12 in Richardson Auditorium of Alexander Hall at Princeton University. The PHS Graduation will take place on the last day of school.

Standardized test dates for NJASK, HSPA, AP will not be affected.

Asked if there was a limit to how many days could be added to the end of the school year, Mr. Cochrane said that June 30 would be the cut off point, since that’s when teachers’ contracts end. “But this is uncharted territory for me as it is for all of us across the state,” he added.

“We use the school’s website to communicate with our parents as often and as accurately as we can as to what is happening,” said the superintendent. According to the website, if more snow days or other emergency closings keep kids out of the classroom, the Board of Education could add two further dates in June for instruction and even consider having school on Memorial Day, pending agreements with teacher and staff our associations and “the resolution of other logistical issues.”

For information or questions about changes to the school calendar, visit the home page of Princeton Public Schools:
www.princetonk12.org/Home%20Page.

 

February 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snow, Scams, and Safety

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cabs and Parking Meters

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

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

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

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

 

February 6, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

January 29, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

January 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

January 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

January 8, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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