February 11, 2015

Because of icy weather conditions Monday, the meeting of the Mayor and Council that was scheduled that night was postponed until Tuesday night, after Town Topics’ press deadline.

In response to calls by Mayor Lempert and Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, among others, for a review of the state’s construction code following last month’s AvalonBay Edgewater fire, Ms. Lempert said Monday that she had been assured by State Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Richard E. Constable that his agency would be undertaking a review of the construction code.

His commitment came at a meeting of mayors in Trenton last week. Ms. Lempert said that Princeton would form a working group to make recommendations to the DCA. It has been suggested that a fully suppressed sprinkler system and masonry firewalls would have improved safety at the Edgewater complex.

The January 22 blaze destroyed a 408-unit rental community. No one was seriously hurt but 1,000 people lost their homes and possessions. It has been widely reported that the lightweight wood construction was up to code.

According to Ms. Lempert, Mr. Constable said that the review would determine “for certain” whether the AvalonBay Edgewater development was up to code. The complex was comprised of two buildings, one burned to the ground while the other was saved by firefighters. Why?

Ms. Lempert has said that she would like the DCA to hold off on approving AvalonBay’s Princeton plans until the review provides some answers. It would also make sense to wait if changes to the construction code are in the works.

“What I’m hoping is that the DCA, when they evaluate AvalonBay’s plans for Princeton, will do that based on new building codes.”

Ms. Lempert expressed her concerns to AvalonBay in a 15-minute phone conversation with John Locale, following through on her intention expressed last week that she was planning to approach the developer to ask for voluntary changes to AvalonBay’s construction plan for 280 apartments on the former site of Princeton Hospital.

Neighborhood Planning Program

In addition to a presentation from Ray Wadsworth on this year’s Spirit of Princeton Events, members of Council were due to hear a report Tuesday night from Jenny Crumiller and Patrick Simon of the Advisory Planning District Task Force.

It was expected that the report would recommend a “Neighborhood Planning Program” to provide neighborhood residents a “voice” in the planning process through improved communications between the municipality, prospective developers, and neighborhood residents and groups. Better communication would see such items as land use applications posted on the municipal website, which could in turn “encourage neighborhood meetings,” said the mayor.

Ms. Lempert described the recommendations as being “as much a service to developers as to neighborhood groups.”

“This has been in the works for a while so its good to see it come to fruition; it will improve the planning process,” said Ms. Lempert.

A review of the municipality’s “Goals and Priorities” was also on the agenda, although since a full contingent of Council members was not expected to be present, it would not be voted on until a subsequent meeting. Town Administrator Marc Dashield said Monday that the three main goals were: financial stability, a safe and inclusive community, and a well-run community. All other priorities fall within these main goals,” said Ms. Lempert.

Expansion of Mary Moss Park

Council was expected to vote on two new ordinances at Tuesday’s meeting. The first was to regulate parking on Cleveland Lane where there is currently conflicting signage. The second was an appropriation of $600,000 from the Princeton Open Space Trust Fund for improvements to Mary Moss Park on John Street. The municipality plans to expand the park through the purchase of a two-family dwelling at 31/33 Lytle Street. The purchase price of the property has not yet been determined as appraisals are underway, said the mayor. A 50 percent matching grant is expected from the Mercer County Open Space Trust Fund.

The plan is to demolish the building and use the land to extend the park, which will also be improved later this year, with the help of funding from Mercer County, that will be used for a “water spray” feature to replace the old wading pool. The renovated park is expected to open in 2016.

Visit to White House

As a participant in the “My Brothers Keeper Program,” Princeton is to be represented by Ms. Lempert at the White House this Thursday, February 12. “This program provides opportunities for kids to reach their full potential and the municipality is partnering with the school district, local clergy, and local non-profit organizations on this,” said the mayor. Human Services Department Director Elisa Neir will also be going to Washington, D.C.

Transco Public Hearing

The next Council meeting will take place on Tuesday, February 24 instead of Monday, February 23. A Transcontinental Pipeline hearing has been called for the evening of February 23. The public hearing will be held by the Department of the Environment’s Division of Land Use Regulation at 7 p.m. in the Senior Room at the Nassau Inn.

Although the late-January storm that never happened postponed the public hearing on the bike lane ordinance from January 26 to February 18, another sort of storm has been brewing among residents living on a three-block stretch of Hamilton Avenue who feel blindsided by the sudden introduction of an ordinance that would construct bike lanes at the expense of on-street parking.

The lone “no” vote when the ordinance was introduced at the January 12 Council meeting came from Council member Patrick Simon, who lives on a neighboring street. In a telephone interview Tuesday, he said he cast his vote after consulting with 21 Hamilton Avenue residents, 15 of whom were against the plan, four in favor, and two undecided. Since then Mr. Simon has twice spoken with homeowners on Hamilton and with residents on side streets. As he wrote in his January 21 letter to Town Topics, he remains unconvinced of “the merits of the proposed changes,” feeling that the public has not had “adequate input into this ordinance and the larger plans for a bicycling network throughout town.” He also shares the general concern about the difficulties the strict parking regulations would cause for the handicapped and the elderly.

Mr. Simon pointed out that the master plan put into effect in November 2013 contains no reference to the construction of bike lanes and related enforcement of no parking rules on Hamilton. Nor were residents notified of the bike lane issue in a June message announcing a meeting about plans for widening and improving the street. At the meeting, which was lightly attended, residents heard for the first time the full extent of changes being planned. Those who were there were not happy with the plan.

As a resident of the neighborhood, Mr. Simon knows from experience the complexity of the parking issue. “Whenever a big event is held at the Jewish Center on Nassau, there’s an overflow of parked cars and Hamilton is one of the main streets used.” If parking were banned there, the impact on the side streets would be significant.

Asked about how the Council would react to the arguments against the plan at next Wednesday’s neighborhood meeting, he thinks a reversal is unlikely (“You would have to flip three votes”), though he foresees the possibility of a compromise that would delay the vote. “Council has to take notice and recognize what’s been done and what hasn’t,” he said, mentioning the need to consult with the engineering department.

Other Views

Consulted about the issue, Princeton University Professor and Director of the Transportation Program Alain Kornhauser said in an email, “If we somehow wanted to better accommodate the small percentage of trips taken by bicycle, then we need to be looking at much more than the couple of blocks on Hamilton. We also need to better understand how our sidewalks are being used.”

Other residents interviewed Monday included a homeowner who rides a bike to work and downtown but finds the plan “ill-conceived,” having seen relatively little bicycle traffic on Hamilton.

Hornor Lane resident Peter Thompson, who has lived adjacent to Hamilton for 50 years, is also a frequent bicycle rider. Besides being concerned that the surrounding roads (Hornor, Stanley, Harriet, and Leavitt) are going to be relegated to the parking role that will be prohibited on Hamilton and will make the side streets “even less child (and bicycle) friendly,” he is afraid that this seems like a “bike path to nowhere” and thinks “the municipality should be spelling that out clearly now rather than presenting the overall plan in a piecemeal fashion.”

A message from Princeton Joint Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) addressing the fact that the number of cyclists on the streets seems to preclude the need for the bike lane ordinance suggested, “Many people in Princeton are cycling already, but other college towns have higher rates of cycling. Why is this? Research shows that safe street design is the single biggest factor in determining numbers of cyclists. When streets are designed with all users in mind, many more people choose to cycle.”

Patrick Simon ended his January 21 letter in terms that still hold true except for the date: “Please consider attending the February 18 neighborhood meeting to hear about what is being proposed, to share your own concerns, and to listen to the concerns of others within the community regarding this issue.”

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m., Wednesday, February 18, in the Main Meeting Room at Witherspoon Hall. The Council, Mayor Lempert, and members of the Traffic and Transportation Committee, and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee will attend. Council is scheduled to vote on the ordinance at its meeting on Tuesday, February 24, at 7 p.m.

The Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) approved a Spanish/English Dual Language Immersion (DLI) Program last week.

The pilot program will be open only to students entering kindergarten and first grade at Community Park School (CP) this September. Parents will be able to choose whether to have their kindergartners and first-graders learn partly in English and partly in Spanish.

The district is adopting a 50/50 model, in which half of the core instruction will take place in Spanish, and the other half in English.

The pilot program will be offered for a trial period of two years and only at Community Park School. If successful, the pilot may serve as the springboard for expansion of the DLI program model. Evaluation of its success will be based on several factors, including “parent interest, community demand, financial/budgetary considerations, the impact on the school’s unity and culture, impact on students who are not in the program, instructional delivery, staffing capacity, and demographic context of the district.”

CP serves a large number of Latino pupils, drawn from the immigrant community living in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood. Students who enter as first graders this fall will continue the program in the second grade in September 2016.

Math and science instruction will be given in Spanish. Social studies, English language arts and the “specials” classes of gym, art, music and library will be in English.

“I am very excited about this innovative, evidence-based initiative at Community Park,” said BOE member Andrea Spalla, who credits Priscilla Russel, the district’s Supervisor for World Languages and English as a Second Language under former Superintendent of Schools Judy Wilson, for first bringing the idea to the Board three years ago.

“It was clear that Priscilla had already been researching and thinking about the DLI concept for a long time; she made a very compelling and well-supported case for her vision,” said Ms. Spalla, adding that Community Park School is an optimal school to pilot the new program: it serves native Spanish-speaking children and families in the neighborhood; it already has several bilingual certified classroom teachers; and it’s already, in many ways, a culturally and demographically “global” school.

Parent survey responses suggested a high level of interest in the program. Several parents urged the board to vote for the pilot at last week’s meeting. “I’ve heard from many more that there is much positive ‘buzz’ about the program among CP parents,” said Ms. Spalla.

CP principal Dineen Gruchacz embraced the chance to introduce bilingual teaching. “She never once hesitated, but immediately saw the promise of a DLI program for her school’s children, and embraced the idea and the work wholeheartedly,” said Ms. Spalla.

The CP principal included several parents and many of her teachers and staff members in the planning process. According to Ms. Spalla, this has been key in establishing the pilot.

“Because this DLI program is a very different instructional delivery model than what our classroom teachers are accustomed to, and because it requires an unusually intensive level of collaboration between the DLI classroom teachers, the teachers’ involvement in the planning process and their firm support for the implementation has been not merely helpful but absolutely essential,” said Ms. Spalla. “The Board is immensely grateful for their work and their courage in taking on this exciting new challenge for our students.

While there are more than 2,000 schools nationwide with dual language programs, only three districts in New Jersey offer such instruction. After the test period, the program will be evaluated to see whether it should be expanded.

According to the district’s website, “Research over the last 30 years shows that dual language instruction can produce important benefits for students, including enhanced cognitive skills, a heightened sense of global citizenship and higher second language proficiency.”

Interested parents of students who will be entering kindergarten at Community Park this fall are being advised to attend one of two information sessions being offered at the school, on Thursday, February 12, at 9 a.m., and Tuesday, February 17, at 6:30 p.m.

A number of information sessions for parents of rising first graders have already been offered over the past months.

A lottery will be held if parent interest at Community Park exceeds classroom capacity.

For more information about the DLI program, visitwww.princetonk12.org/Dual_Immersion.

February 4, 2015

At a press conference held in the parking lot on Franklin Avenue Tuesday, Bergen County Executive James Tedesco and Edgewater Mayor Michael McPartland joined Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes, and a number of local residents who turned out to express concern about the safety of the new AvalonBay construction.

Ms. Lempert and Mr. Hughes called last week for the State Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to review New Jersey’s building code after a fire on January 22 destroyed a rental community owned by AvalonBay, the developer that will build 280 apartments on the former site of Princeton Hospital. The officials from northern New Jersey joined Ms. Lempert and Mr. Hughes in their call for more stringent measures.

The Avalon at Edgewater 408-unit apartment complex was built to code using lightweight, wood construction. While no one was seriously injured, the development burned to the ground in a five-alarm blaze, and displaced some 1,000 people.

Mr. Hughes and Ms. Lempert took slightly different approaches to the issue when interviewed Monday. While Mr. Hughes said he is not calling for new legislation, Ms. Lempert said that she is hoping for a revision of current laws.

“I’ve spent most of my life living in Princeton,” said Mr. Hughes. “What I’m interested in is for the DCA to say that this building is going to be safe. It’s in the best interest of AvalonBay, of Princeton, and the surrounding neighborhood. So I’m not calling for new legislation or a moratorium or anything like that. I just want to know from DCA that it’s safe. If its [construction is] an exact copy of the one in Edgewater, then that’s not the building for Princeton. I just want a clean bill of health. That’s all I want to see.”

Republican Assemblyman Scott Rumana, from Wayne, has said he is working on legislation that will put a moratorium of up to two years on the approval and construction of multi-family housing developments until the state’s building code is revised.

“There are obvious places to look as a first step,” said Ms. Lempert. “One is the sprinkler requirements. Another would be cinderblock dividers within the complex. They’re not required, and that’s the problem. We can only hold a developer to what’s written in the law. One of the more disturbing reports out of Edgewater was that it was supposedly built to code.”

Ms. Lempert said that unlike Mr. Hughes, she is hoping that the legislature is going to take another look at the building code. “There seems to be bipartisan agreement that this is something that needs to happen,” she said. “What I’m hoping is that the DCA, when they evaluate AvalonBay’s plans for Princeton, will do that based on new building codes.”

Ms. Lempert said Monday that she had not heard from AvalonBay, but is planning to approach the company about voluntarily changing the construction plan. “They’ve already submitted their plans to the DCA,” she commented. “Under normal circumstances, DCA would review those plans based on what the law was when they were submitted. Given what’s happened in Edgewater, I think everybody can recognize that it’s not enough.

“I also think it’s in AvalonBay’s interest,” she continued. “If they’re going to try to successfully rent the apartments, they’ll need to be able to assure people that the building was built differently from the one in Edgewater.”

At yesterday’s press conference Ms. Lempert described the Edgewater complex conforming to code as “cold comfort to those who suffered the trauma of losing their homes. Clearly we need to update the codes. This is an important issue not only for Princeton but for the entire state of New Jersey.”

Mr. McPartland spoke of the 250 firefighters from 35 towns, as well as fireboats from New Jersey and New York fire departments drawing water from the Hudson River to put out the blaze. “We’re not here to place blame but we have an obligation to make sure that codes keep up with building trends and materials.”

Mr. Tedesco, a former fireman, agreed: “This isn’t about an individual company, it’s about construction in New Jersey, whether the codes allow for people to live in a safe environment.” He suggested two changes for multi-story residential units that would have made all the difference in Edgewater: requiring a fully suppressed sprinkler system and masonry firewalls. He reported that DCA Commissioner Richard E. Constable had assured him that the codes would be looked at, and in a timely manner.

Questioned as to how long such a review might take, Mr. Tedesco estimated somewhere between 8 and 16 months. Mr. Hughes suggested that if the governor got behind it, the review could be done in a matter of weeks. Mr. Hughes also spoke positively about other AvalonBay buildings in Mercer County, but pointed out that these differed from both the Edqewater and the proposed Princeton developments in being only two-story constructions.

“We can’t change what happened in Edgewater,” added Mr. Tedesco, “but we can prevent other fires like it. Princeton doesn’t have the Hudson River and access to New York and New Jersey fireboats.”


SUSTAINING PRINCETON: The 2014 Sustainable Princeton Leadership Awards were given out at the Princeton Public Library Thursday, January 29. Six awards recognized seven individuals and one downtown business. From left: Hutchinson "Huck" Fairman, Vikki Caines, Zach Woogan, Alexandra Bar-Cohen, and Penny Thomas. Not pictured: Tag Quijano, Kate Yazujian, Susie Wilson, and William and Cecilia Howard of Princeton Printer.

SUSTAINING PRINCETON: The 2014 Sustainable Princeton Leadership Awards were given out at the Princeton Public Library Thursday, January 29. Six awards recognized seven individuals and one downtown business. From left: Hutchinson “Huck” Fairman, Vikki Caines, Zach Woogan, Alexandra Bar-Cohen, and Penny Thomas. Not pictured: Tag Quijano, Kate Yazujian, Susie Wilson, and William and Cecilia Howard of Princeton Printer.

An eclectic group of citizen-environmentalists was honored by Sustainable Princeton and the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) for varied contributions to the economic health and well-being of the Princeton community at a January 29 ceremony in the Community Room of the Princeton Public Library.

Winners of the 2014 Sustainable Princeton Leadership Awards, given out by Mayor Liz Lempert and Sustainable Princeton board member and founder Heidi Fichtenbaum, include a municipal employee, three high school students, three residents, and a local business.

Chosen from 20 nominations by a volunteer review team of five individuals deeply involved in sustainability activism, the 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.

The annual awards are intended to identify and reward Princeton’s best, brightest, and greenest in their efforts to create a sustainable environment. Each nomination was reviewed for its impact and innovation. The committee also looked for unsung heroes working to create positive change.

Nominations were made 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,” said Sustainable Princeton’s Executive Director Diane Landis. “It is heartening to see the diverse types of environmental efforts going on in our community.”

The 2014 Sustainable Princeton Leadership Awards recognized seven individuals and one downtown business, whose singular activities range from planting special municipal gardens to hosting zero waste school picnics and conducting a Greenhouse Gas Assessment at a local school.

The recipients were: environmental activist Alexandra Bar-Cohen; gardener Vikki Caines; columnist Hutchinson “Huck” Fairman; high school students Tag Quijano (see story page 5), Zach Woogen, and Kate Yazujian; curbside organic waste program champions Penny Thomas and Susie Wilson; and the local business, Princeton Printer.

Ms. Bar-Cohen was honored for her volunteer work to create zero waste events and a zero waste culture at the Jewish Center and at Littlebrook Elementary School. Her advocacy on behalf of the county-wide plastic bag referendum was also recognized. She was thanked for “changing the daily habits of countless numbers of Princeton residents and, in so doing, helping to steer us all toward a more sustainable future.”

“We feel that it is important to celebrate those who go about making positive changes quietly: individuals like Alexandra Bar-Cohen who does behind the scenes nitty-gritty work that has an impact in changing habits that can be hard to change,” commented Ms. Landis Monday.

Ms. Caines went above and beyond her 9-to-5 duties at the Princeton Recreation Department with her idea for special gardens at the municipal complex at 400 Witherspoon Street, which she went on to plant and tend. Her work was commended for “bringing smiles to visitors’ faces and for providing an example of the way in which forgotten patches of dirt can be turned into thriving gardens.”

Mr. Fairman’s regular volunteer newspaper column “Huck’s Solutions” was cited for inspiring “important environmental action,” through “consistent, persistent, and successful efforts to inform our community about environmental issues.”

Several projects at Princeton Day School garnered an award for the collective efforts of students Tag Quijano, Zach “Woogie” Woogen, and Kate Yazujian, who organized an annual Harvest Dinner for 250 as well as the school’s Student Environmental Conference. In addition, the three were part of a Greenhouse Gas Assessment team and are leaders at the national Student Climate and Conservation Congress run by the Green School’s Alliance.

Constitution Hill residents Penny Thomas and Susie Wilson shared an award for their tenacious work with neighbors, the property owner’s association, and Princeton’s recycling coordinator to successfully implement Princeton’s curbside organic waste program.

As well as individual citizens (teachers, school administrators, government employees, and religious leaders, among others) the awards recognize businesses and this year, Princeton Printer was recognized as “a model and a knowledge-resource for everyone about how to run a green business.” The company has installed solar panels on its rooftop and uses soy ink.

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 to landfill by 50 percent by 2016. “We are a hub and a catalyst for change, providing information, vetting ideas, educating and exciting the community to action,” said Ms. Landis.

In addition to its website: www.sustainableprincton.org, members of the public can find out more about Sustainable Princeton through hour-long open office hours in Monument Hall on Wednesdays, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. These “tea and talks” are an opportunity to chat about sustainability concerns and ideas while enjoying a brew from local sources such as InfiniTea said Ms. Landis.

For more information, call (609) 454-4757 or visit: www.sustainableprinceton.org.

January 28, 2015

Princeton was on high alert Monday as the municipality prepared for a storm that was projected to dump over a foot of snow in the Central New Jersey area and cause high winds and dangerous travel.

“It’s been upgraded to a blizzard,” Mayor Liz Lempert said Monday morning in between meetings about how to handle the storm. “With the high winds that are being projected, we’re expecting downed trees, wires, and power outages.”

An emergency operations center at Witherspoon Hall, 400 Witherspoon Street, was planned to open Monday evening and remain available to the public as long as necessary, Ms. Lempert said. The mayor declared a state of emergency in Princeton, mandating that cars be moved off the streets to keep roads free for emergency vehicles. Residents were to be informed via a reverse-911 notification.

Princeton schools were dismissed early on Monday. Trash pickup for Tuesday was cancelled and will take place on Thursday. Also rescheduled was Monday night’s meeting of Princeton Council, which was supposed to include a hearing on an ordinance regulating parking on Hamilton Avenue to allow bike lanes.

That hearing has been moved to the Tuesday, February 24 meeting, which was rescheduled from Monday, February 23 because of a hearing by the Department of Environmental Protection that night regarding the Transco pipeline (see accompanying story). Other ordinances scheduled for hearings this week have also been rescheduled.

Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency for New Jersey on Monday. All non-essential state employees were dismissed at 1 p.m., and state offices were closed for Tuesday. Travel was expected to be brought to a standstill from New York City to Portland, Maine, by the storm. Snow totals of more than two feet were expected from southern New Hampshire to central Long Island. At the New Jersey shore, coastal flooding was expected.

While this is the first significant snowstorm of the season, there is already a shortage of salt supplies. “Everybody is running short. The priority is going to the state and the county,” Ms. Lempert said. “But we’re focusing on the main roads. We’re at about 40 percent capacity right now.”

Power outages should be reported to PSE&G at their emergency number: (800-436-7734). “And if anyone wants to report a power outage to Access Princeton (924-4141), we can help keep track and continue to advocate for power to be put on,” Ms. Lempert said.

A devastating fire last week at the Avalon at Edgewater, a Bergen County apartment complex owned by the same developer that will build a rental apartment complex on the site of the nearly demolished Princeton Hospital site, is causing renewed concerns among area residents and officials.

On Monday, Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes and Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert issued a press release calling for “an emergent review of the state’s Uniform Construction Code prior to the formal evaluation of AvalonBay’s plan to construct 280 housing units on the former hospital site on Witherspoon Street in Princeton.”

The state Department of Community Affairs is set to review AvalonBay’s plans for its Princeton development to determine whether they meet all present day requirements under New Jersey’s Uniform Construction Code. Ms. Lempert and Mr. Hughes said they will ask DCA Commissioner Richard Constable to put a hold on the review of the Witherspoon Street project until state construction codes are re-examined.

“I’ve been contacted by concerned residents,” Ms. Lempert said on Monday (see this week’s Mailbox). “And seeing the reports about this fire, one of the most alarming things is that the Edgewater complex appears to have been built to code. It certainly bears re-examination. We want to make sure that residents and surrounding neighbors will be safe. And if there is a fire there, we want to have the capacity to put it out.”

The fire on Wednesday, January 21 displaced more than 1,000 residents and caused flames big enough to be seen across the Hudson River on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, for several hours. Ruled an accident caused by maintenance workers using a blowtorch to do plumbing work in a wall, the fire produced smoke so thick that firefighters had difficulty getting through. Despite the magnitude of the blaze, only a few minor injuries were reported. But several pets could not be rescued. The fire destroyed 240 of the 480 units in the complex.

Bergen County executive and former Paramus fire chief James Tedesco III was quoted in the New York Times as saying “It was a combination of many things. Fire load and light-weight wood construction, and all built to code, but this is what happens sometimes.” He called the fire “if not the worst, one of the top two in my 39 years of firefighting.” Edgewater fire chief Tom Jacobson said, “It if was made out of concrete and cinderblock, we wouldn’t have this sort of problem.”

The blaze was not the first for Avalon at Edgewater. In 2000 while under construction, the luxury development burned down. AvalonBay settled lawsuits by people who had been displaced by the fire, and then resumed building with lightweight, wooden construction. It was that construction that allowed the flames to spread rapidly, officials have said. Governor Chris Christie has said that fire codes may need to be re-examined.

“We’re calling for this emergent review in light of the fact that the Edgewater building burned so quickly and so horrifically, despite apparently meeting all current code requirements” Mr.Hughes said in the press release.

Contacted last week, AvalonBay did not respond to a request for comment. No information about the fire was posted on the website the company has dedicated to the Princeton project, avalonprinceton.com.

The Delaware & Raritan Canal Commission (DRCC) did not approve the Institute for Advanced Study’s plans to build faculty housing on its property in Princeton close to the Battlefield State Park when it met on Wednesday, January 21.

In spite of being passed by the Princeton Planning Board, the proposal for seven single-family homes and two four-unit townhouses failed to gain enough votes for approval by the DRCC, which oversees and manages the Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park and protects the streams that feed into the canal, which supplies drinking water to 20 percent of New Jersey’s population.

Because the Institute’s property is adjacent to one of the streams protected by the DRCC, approval by the Commission, in addition to approval by the Princeton Planning Board, was needed in order for the Institute to move forward with its plans.

The hearing, which took about four hours, included comment from former Princeton mayors Chad Goerner and Phyllis Marchand, both of whom spoke in favor of the IAS plans. Those presenting the case against were Bruce Afran, attorney for the Princeton Battlefield Society(PBS) and Kip Cherry, the non-profit organization’s vice president.

The four men and two women commissioners voted 3 for and 2 against with one abstention. Since four votes are needed for the commission’s approval, the Institute’s plan was rejected. One commissioner was absent. Commissioner Ed Trzaska explained that as there are seven members of the DRCC, four yes votes are required.

The three yes votes came from Mr. Trzaska, John Loos and Bruce Stout; the two no votes were from Mary Allessio Leck and Julia Cobb Allen; Mark Texel abstained.

Following the vote, Vice Chair John Loos said quietly: “Because the motion did not get four votes, it is denied.”

“We feel that the D&R Canal Commission made the right decision,” said Ms. Cherry. “We presented the best case we could to the Commission, including very careful analysis in terms of the issues that are important to them, predominantly storm water and storm water run-off, which our civil engineer addressed in tremendous detail.”

Ms. Cherry spoke on the issue of the fill that the Institute would use. “It would would change the topography of the site and therefore the storm water distribution,” she said.

“I didn’t see the looks on the faces of the Institute personnel but my associates who did tell me that it was one of shock,” said Mr. Afran. “This is a major victory for the protection of the Princeton battlefield. The issue has now been decided. The Planning Boards’s decision has been overturned. The Institute can appeal this decision to the appellate division or they can re-do their plans.”

“We had thought that there was a good chance of winning our case,” said Mr. Afran Friday. “I hope that the Institute will accept this as a “reality check” and drop the proposal, which would destroy wetlands on the site by redirecting water downstream. We have explained this to the Institute and they are unable to show that this would not happen. What they are planning would essentially required truck loads of fill to create a platform out of what is now a bog. That’s one of the reasons this land has never been built on before, it’s wetlands. They shouldn’t even attempt to build on it. In any event this is the last piece left of the Princeton Battlefield. We know that most people in the community do not want this land to be built on. The Institute should step back.”

According to Ms. Cherry, the chair of the commission made it clear that the application had failed and it’s back to the drawing board or give up for the Institute. “The Princeton Battlefield Society would prefer that the site be added to the Battlefield State Park,” she said. “We [PBS] would be happy to initiate discussions with a consortium of organizations to propose purchase; we don’t expect the Institute to donate the property.”

“We would prefer that the IAS agree to sell the land to the state park and be preserved or to sell the development rights and keep it as preserved land. We would like to see the issue end here,” said Mr. Afran.

A request for comment from the IAS Friday elicited this brief statement from spokesperson Christine Ferrara: “At this week’s meeting of the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission, the Commission did not approve the Institute’s Faculty Housing project, although, in the vote taken, more commissioners voted for the project than against it. We do expect to continue to discuss the project with the Canal Commission, and we are confident of success in gaining the remaining approvals required for our project.”

January 21, 2015
NOT QUITE GONE YET: With Robert Burns’s birthday this Sunday, January 25, it seems appropriate to quote his line about “the best laid schemes o’ mice and men” in reference to the demolition of the last hospital building on Witherspoon Street which was scheduled for this weekend. However, work to remove a 30 foot width of the building closest to Witherspoon Street will continue from Wednesday, January 21 through Saturday, January 24.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

NOT QUITE GONE YET: With Robert Burns’s birthday this Sunday, January 25, it seems appropriate to quote his line about “the best laid schemes o’ mice and men” in reference to the demolition of the last hospital building on Witherspoon Street which was scheduled for this weekend. However, work to remove a 30 foot width of the building closest to Witherspoon Street will continue from Wednesday, January 21 through Saturday, January 24. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

So far seven of the eight buildings at the old hospital site on Witherspoon Street have been removed. The last was scheduled to “disappear” at the weekend, but due to the fact that the work had to proceed “small piece by small piece,” said municipal engineer Bob Kiser, the removal has been “more tedious than anticipated.”

In addition, delays occurred when hydraulic lines broke and had to be replaced.

As a result, the demolition was not completed as scheduled, and that part of Witherspoon Street by the site will close for another four days beginning today, Wednesday, January 21.

The work had been scheduled and roads closed Friday through Monday to coincide with schools closures for the Martin Luther King holiday when children would not be walking past the site on their way to and from Community Park School. It had been said that if the demolition was not completed this past weekend, the work would continue when schools were closed for the President’s Day holiday next month.

That plan has changed, however, and the work will proceed January 21 through January 24, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and all day Saturday. “By the end of the day, Saturday, we anticipate having a 30 foot width of building closest to Witherspoon Street removed,” said Mr. Kiser, “weather permitting.”

“We think it’s in everyone’s interests to get it done as quickly as possible,” said Mr. Kiser yesterday. Witherspoon Street will again be closed between Franklin Avenue and Birch Avenue between those times.

According to the municipal engineer, the remainder of the seven-story building will then be removed without the necessity of road closures.

Residents have continued to complain about the ongoing work. Because of the road closures, traffic was rerouted from Witherspoon Street, including NJ Transit buses, autos as well as large trucks. Local resident Anita Garoniak described “a terrible weekend on Harris Road.” Ms. Garoniak captured on video a tractor trailer attempting to turn onto Harris Road, a maneuver that she described as “dangerous and disruptive.”

“My weekend was filled with disturbances of this kind and traffic circling my house,” said Ms. Garoniak. “I was hoping that this rainy Sunday would offer some respite only to find with much dismay that the usual Sunday reprieve from the demolition noise did not occur.”

Developer AvalonBay is planning a 280-unit apartment complex but it may be some time before the demolition site turns into a construction site.

“After the last of the building comes down, there will still be work to be done removing the foundation, which is expected to take another six weeks,” said Mr. Kiser, adding that “AvalonBay is poised to start construction sometime in late March.”

Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller was to meet informally last night with residents who live near the demolition site to hear their concerns relating to road closures, debris, noise and dust.

A solar energy project that was stalled due to a shaky economy and a decline in solar renewable energy values may be back on the books. At the Princeton Council meeting on January 12, Joseph Santaiti of Gabel Associates, a Highland Park energy, environmental, and public utility consulting firm, told Council members that a healthier economy has made the project to put a solar array at a former landfill on River Road financially feasible.

It was in 2011 that the former Borough and Township created proposals for a purchasing agreement that would allow the town to lease an eight-to-ten-acre section of the landfill to a solar developer. But the idea was put on hold when the economy tanked and solar energy value “plummeted dramatically,” Mr. Gabel said.

As a result of legislation in July 2012, the market has stabilized and installation costs are now lower, he said, adding that federal subsidies which the town could take advantage of are still on the market.

Mr. Santaiti said landfill sites such as Princeton’s cannot be used for any other purposes. Solar energy projects are ideal, “giving them a function above and beyond,” he said. “It’s something we feel comfortable with. And we have to feel pretty comfortable in the market in order for us to re-engage.”

The Gabel firm would use the Cornerstone Environmental Group, which was part of the original project team, as subcontractor. The solar developer would finance, build, own, and operate the facility. Gabel would issue requests for proposals from potential developers, and the Stony Brook Regional Sewage Authority would enter into a separate agreement to buy the power. Princeton would benefit from land lease payments for hosting the facility.

The system would be sited on a portion of the landfill that is closed. The project could involve cutting down some trees to allow in more sunlight and increase returns for Princeton, Mr. Santaiti said.

Mayor Liz Lempert told Mr. Santaiti that Council is interested in the proposed project. Council president Bernie Miller thanked the company “for sticking with us,” he said. “It’s been a long road to get to this point.”

Resolutions will be prepared, along with documents required for the agreement to proceed. The law firm of Decotiis, Fitzpatrick, and Cole, which has expertise in environmental law and renewable energy matters, would be retained as part of the agreement.

“We look forward to the next discussion,” Ms. Lempert told Mr. Santaiti.

Hauling trash in Princeton this year will cost significantly more than it did last year, and for less trash.

An addition of $22.04 per ton will be collected by Central Jersey Waste Recycling Inc., which has been picking up Princeton trash in the past. Princeton Council unanimously approved the new contract at its meeting on January 12.

When Central Jersey made it known that they did not want to extend their contract unless they could get a higher price for services during the next two years, the town put the contract out to bid. One other company made an offer, and Central Jersey’s was lower. The company will be paid $73.45 a ton for this year and $74.49 for next year. The fee is based on an estimate of producing 420 tons per year.

At a press conference before the Council meeting, Mayor Liz Lempert said that calculations done with trash haulers during the consolidation process were lower than expected.

“Part of why the bid may have been so low initially was that it was a bit of a guess as to how much trash we’d be generating,” she said. “I think it was just a miscalculation.” She added, “It is a lot more than we were paying previously, but is still within the amount that was budgeted. We need someone to pick up the trash.”

January 14, 2015

An ordinance that would allow dedicated bike lanes on a stretch of Hamilton Avenue, eliminating on-street parking, was introduced at Monday’s meeting of Princeton Council following testimony by several citizens in favor of the measure.

Among other topics on the agenda were a report on the final stages of demolition for the old Princeton Hospital building, which will require closing of a section of Witherspoon Street this weekend; and a presentation on a possible solar array on the municipal landfill property on River Road. Council also voted unanimously to approve the request of the non-profit HiTOPS to hold the third annual Princeton Half Marathon on October 4.

Mayor Liz Lempert started the meeting by reading a proclamation in support of a monument to be placed outside Witherspoon Hall honoring police officer Walter B. Harris, who was shot and killed in the line of duty 69 years ago. Mr. Harris is buried in Princeton Cemetery. He will be officially honored with a ceremony and memorial dedication on January 25 at 1 p.m. “I want to thank the police department for doing the work to research Officer Harris to make sure we remember and honor him properly,” Mayor Lempert said.

If approved, the ordinance that would establish bike lanes on both sides of Hamilton Avenue between Harrison Street and Snowden Lane would be the first to be established close to the center of town. It would follow the Complete Streets transportation policy that promotes safe travel for all ages. If passed, the ordinance would be part of a project to resurface the road in March, including sidewalk and storm sewer improvements.

The down side for homeowners is that parking, currently permitted on the south side of the street, would be eliminated. “We’re never going to be able to meet everyone’s needs 100 percent of the time, so it’s a judgment call,” said Mayor Lempert. “Do you want something where you’re facilitating biking all the time, or do you want to be having something where you have parking there available every time someone wants to have a party? It’s hard to do both.”

Both sides of the street would have bike lanes, an idea endorsed by several members of the public who attended the meeting. “I think it’s a good idea to do a short piece like this,” said Heidi Fichtenbaum, who serves on the Princeton Environmental Commission. “It will tell us a lot. And I’m really excited to start addressing non-fossil fuel-burning transportation in our town.”

Diane Landis, speaking as a resident and as the executive director of Sustainable Princeton, also applauded the proposal. “Think about how we can design our town, not just around cars but around humans,” she said. Pediatrician Stephanie Charny, PEC chair Matt Wasserman, Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee member Steve Kruse, and Wendy Mager of Friends of Princeton Open Space also spoke in favor of the measure. “I have gotten along without on-street parking for 34 years, and it can be done,” said Ms. Mager, who lives on Cherry Hill Road.

But Councilman Patrick Simon, who lives near the street where the project is proposed, wasn’t so sure. Mr. Simon said he surveyed several of his neighbors and got 21 responses, only four of which were in favor of the idea. Fifteen were opposed, saying they didn’t think it was necessary or they didn’t want to lose the on-street parking. He was particularly concerned about one elderly couple who would have difficulty if the parking is eliminated. Mr. Simon was the one member of Council to vote against the measure.

Residents would have to park on adjacent streets. Some who spoke in favor of the ordinance said they have not seen many cars parked on the street. Deanna Stockton, the town’s assistant engineer, said 5,089 vehicles travel on Hamilton Avenue each year. She quoted the estimated cost of widening the road for bike lanes, including removing some trees, as $250,000. A public hearing on the issue will take place when the ordinance comes up for adoption at the Council meeting on January 26.

Reporting on the hospital site demolition, municipal engineer Bob Kiser said seven of the eight buildings have been removed. Work on the final building, which is closest to Witherspoon Street, will entail closing the road Friday and Saturday, and possibly through Monday, for safety reasons.

The weekend was chosen because schools are closed Friday and Monday for the Martin Luther King holiday and children will not be walking past the site on their way to and from Community Park school. Witherspoon Street will be closed from Franklin to Birch avenues from 7 a.m. Friday until it gets dark on Monday, Mr. Kiser said. Work would move to President’s Day weekend if bad weather conditions prevent this weekend’s plans.

The demolition makes way for the 280-unit apartment complex being built by the developer AvalonBay. Depending on weather conditions, Franklin Avenue may need to be closed between Witherspoon Street and Harris Road. Residents who live on Leigh Avenue between Witherspoon Street and John Street will be allowed to drive to their homes via Witherspoon Street when safe to do so. Residents on this block of Leigh Avenue should park on John Street or in the John Street Municipal parking lot when Witherspoon Street is not accessible. Up to four officers will be patrolling the site 24 hours a day during the demolition, Mr. Kiser said.

Complaints about noise levels from jackhammering have been addressed, health officer Jeffrey Grosser told Council. A sound-dampening barrier was wrapped around the garage area where concrete is being crushed. The other concern, dust particulates, has been monitored and not found to be in violation of acceptable levels.

Julian Edgren

Julian Edgren

Julian Edgren, 20, appeared in Princeton Municipal Court Monday following his arrest last week on drugs related offenses. If found guilty of charges that include a first degree crime, Mr. Edgren could face a fine of up to $200,000 and between 10 and 20 years in prison. In addition, the Princeton University student faces 11 other lesser degree counts.

Mr. Edgren, was arrested by the Mercer County Narcotics Task Force after he went to pick up packages that had been mailed to him at the University’s Frist Campus Center.

According to authorities, the packages contained drugs. Mr. Edgren was charged with multiple counts of drug possession and intent to distribute. Authorities also raided his dormitory where they found other drugs and drug paraphernalia. He is currently free on $25,000 bail.

According to Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr., last month agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Customs and Border Protection intercepted a package from overseas containing approximately seven grams of Ecstasy addressed to Julian Edgren at Princeton University. Princeton University’s Department of Public Safety was contacted and, in turn, contacted the Mercer County Narcotics Task Force for assistance.

Task force officers were assigned as surveillance inside and outside Frist Campus Center in an attempt to detain any individual who retrieved the parcel.

On Tuesday, January 6, at approximately 4 p.m., officers arrested Mr. Edgren after he signed for and retrieved the package containing the Ecstasy as well as two additional packages. One of those packages was searched and found to contain a quantity of psilocybin, commonly known as mushrooms. A search of Mr. Edgren’s dormitory room in Edwards Hall revealed an additional quantity of psilocybin, 31 marijuana cookies, and assorted drug paraphernalia.

At the time Mr. Edgren was detained, he was carrying a duffel bag containing approximately half an ounce of liquid LSD, 55 grams of marijuana, five grams of hashish, 60 Adderall pills, a laptop computer, two digital scales and $400 in cash.

The Princeton resident is charged with five counts of possession of a controlled dangerous substance, five counts of possession of a controlled dangerous substance with the intent to distribute, one count of possession of a prescription legend drug, one count of a prescription legend drug with the intent to distribute and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Officers with the prosecutor’s office, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Princeton University Department of Public Safety, the county sheriff’s office, the New Jersey State Police, and the Hamilton, Lawrence, Princeton and Trenton police, under the command of Lt. Mike Novembre, assisted in the investigation.

Mr. Novembre stated that the approximate street value of the seized drugs is $400 for the psilocybin totaling 40 grams; $420 for the Adderall pills; $1,100 for the marijuana; $500 for the LSD; $280 for the Ecstasy; and $175 for the hashish.

Despite having been charged, Mr. Edgren is presumed innocent until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. In Princeton Municipal Court Monday, he was asked whether he understood the charges against him and ordered to appear in Mercer County Criminal Court on Monday, January 26.

AGAINST TESTING: Twelve-year-old Raisa Rubin-Stankiewicz expressed opposition to the standardized tests that students in Princeton schools will be taking this spring when she testified in front of the New Jersey State Board of Education last week.(Photo by Jennifer Lea Cohan)

AGAINST TESTING: Twelve-year-old Raisa Rubin-Stankiewicz expressed opposition to the standardized tests that students in Princeton schools will be taking this spring when she testified in front of the New Jersey State Board of Education last week. (Photo by Jennifer Lea Cohan)


The New Jersey State Board of Education (SBOE) in Trenton gave members of the public an opportunity to speak about topics related to public education last week at a “public testimony session.”

More than 80 teachers, parents, and schoolchildren from across the state came to share their views including Raisa Rubin-Stankiewicz, 12, a seventh grade student at John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS). Like Ms. Rubin-Stankiewicz, many had come to express concern about upcoming PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) testing.

Designed to access the concerns of parents, the Board wished to hear “what’s happening in schools and how it’s impacting their children and families,” read the event flyer, which also quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.: “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”

Accompanied by her mother, Julia Rubin, one of the founders of Save Our Schools New Jersey, and Jennifer Lea Cohan of the grass roots organization Community for Princeton Public Schools, Ms. Rubin-Stankiewicz read her prepared statement criticizing the exams that are due to take place in Princeton’s schools this spring and the time spent in preparing for them.

“So far this year, seventh graders at my school have spent seven class periods preparing for the PARCC standardized test. We could have learned an entire unit of math or English in that time. My teachers say that there is more PARCC test preparation yet to come. That is the first reason that I oppose the PARCC test, because preparation for PARCC takes time away from real learning,” she said.

Ms. Rubin-Stankiewicz, who described JWMS as “a part of the wonderful Princeton Public School District,” went on to characterize the test prep classes as “boring and unproductive.”

“One of our prep periods was devoted entirely to a tutorial showing how to change the background color and hide information to concentrate better in an on-line testing environment,” she said. “The scary thing is that Princeton public schools actually do very little standardized test preparation compared to other school districts. They just want us to be prepared for this test that the law requires them to give. I love my school but I dread those PARCC preparation periods!”

In addition, Ms. Rubin-Stankiewicz expressed another common criticism of the testing — the expense involved. Citing the cost to the Princeton school district as “$255,000 this year,” the JWMS student questioned the impact of such costs on poorer school districts than Princeton. “To pay for the PARCC, districts are having to fire teachers or to cut programs like gym, art, music, and drama, which motivate students. Some districts have to do both,” she alleged.

Stress was another factor that the 12-year-old held against the testing. She quoted classmate Calum Binnie who contended that the tests would not only be stressful for students and teachers but for those managing the exams.

In concluding her testimony, Ms. Rubin-Stankiewicz said that she would be refusing to take part in the testing this spring.

Chances are she may not be the only student opting out of the tests in Princeton. Avowing to incorporate awareness of the downside to the PARCC exam into the efforts of Community for Princeton Public Schools, Ms. Lea Cohan added that she will opt-out her own son when he enters the third grade, the grade level at which testing is first administered.

For a schedule on public hearings on education held by the SBOE, visit: www.state.nj.us/education/sboe/meetings. Written comments may be addressed to New Jersey Department of Education, State Board Office, P.O. Box 500, Trenton, N.J. 08625-500. Anyone who would like to speak during a public testimony session, may reserve time by registering online or calling the State Board office at (609) 292-0739.

January 7, 2015

At its annual reorganization meeting on Monday, Princeton Council members Jo Butler and Bernie Miller were sworn in for new three-year terms. Mr. Miller was elected unanimously by his colleagues to serve as Council president for the third year in a row.

Some 50 people were on hand at Witherspoon Hall to witness the ceremonies, the third since consolidation merged the former Borough and Township on January 1, 2013. Mr. Miller is a former member of Township Committee, while Ms. Butler served previously on Borough Council.

“I sit here as living proof that every vote counts,” said Ms. Butler, who was re-elected over former Township Committee member Sue Nemeth by only six votes in the Democratic primary last June. “I value and respect every single person who supported me and pledge to continue working as hard as we possibly can to make our consolidation successful.”

Mr. Miller commented that Council has moved forward during the past two years to help bring the promises of consolidation to fruition. “We’ll roll up our sleeves and continue that work through 2015, and move even further in that direction,” he said.

Mayor Liz Lempert delivered a speech listing the benefits of consolidation so far, including cost savings, better services, and a more responsive government. “There was a fear that with consolidation we’d lose our identity, compromise our values, and fail to support the downtown,” she said. “If anything, as one community, we are a stronger voice for our values and have been able to deploy extra resources for center of town improvements.”

Mentioning some of the priorities for the new year, Ms. Lempert cited continuing the discussion of the Witherspoon Street corridor and retention of its character, assessing the needs of the Fire Department, furthering the ordinance harmonization process, and working with Princeton University to develop a new campus plan. Also on her list is gaining a better understanding and use of technology.

“This April, we’ll be teaming up with the library and Tiger Labs for Princeton’s first ever municipal hackathon,” she said. “This is a call to all techies of all ages to come out for an all-nighter to work on harnessing technology to address municipal challenges.”

Referencing struggles within Council during the past year, Ms. Lempert said “Of course, we may face discord; 2014 certainly had its share. We have weathered those storms and we have moved on.”

Council members were given the opportunity to speak during the meeting, and most thanked each other and the municipal staff for their work during the year. Jenny Crumiller took the opportunity to urge the public to get in touch with the governing body through email. “I’d really like to hear from you,” she said.

Just one member of the public rose to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. The owner of Amigo Taxi company asked the Council to look into the issue of unlicensed taxis operating in town. While he did not mention companies by name, he was talking about operations such as Uber, which is a ride-sharing company that uses a smartphone app to arrange rides and is operating in Princeton, along with many other cities and towns across the country.

Ms. Lempert told him that Princeton’s public safety committee is expected to take action on the issue within about a month.

The Princeton man who was charged after the March 28, 2013 Riverside Drive crash that killed Princeton Rabbi James S. Diamond and injured Rabbi Robert Freedman has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Eric Maltz, 22, had been charged with one count of death by auto and one count of assault by auto. Had he been found guilty, he faced up to 40 years in prison, a sentence of 30 years for first degree aggravated manslaughter, and 10 years for aggravated assault.

Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert C. Billmeier ruled December 23 that, at the time of the crash, Mr. Maltz met the legal definition of being insane. The judge based his ruling on the findings of an independent psychiatrist who had interviewed Mr. Maltz and reviewed his psychiatric records.

The crash happened during an apparent suicide attempt. Mr. Maltz, who had pleaded not guilty, is now in the criminal locked unit at Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, where his condition and progress will be reviewed on a regular basis.

It was around 9:40 a.m. that Mr. Diamond, 74, and Mr. Robert Freedman, 63, a former cantor at the Jewish Center of Princeton, were leaving a Talmud study group at a home on Riverside Drive. Mr. 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 BMW was traveling at a speed of between 60 and 80 miles per hour and the impact pushed the Camry into the Prius, where Mr. Freedman was in the driver’s seat.

Mr. Diamond was thrown from the car and died at the scene. Mr. Freedman was taken to the trauma center at Capital Health Medical Center, as was Mr. Maltz, who was also injured.

Mr. Maltz had a long history of mental health issues and had been released from a psychiatric facility shortly before the crash. Witnesses at the scene said he had a tank of propane gas in the passenger seat next to him. The presence of the propane tank and other records raised questions about whether Maltz intended to crash the car in order to harm himself.

Mr. Diamond was director of Princeton University’s Center for Jewish Life from 1995 to his retirement in 2003. He was executive director of Hillel at Washington University in St. Louis from 1972 to 1995 and at Indiana University from 1968 to 1972.

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Canada, Mr. Diamond earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Roosevelt University in Chicago, rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in comparative literature from Indiana University. The author of several books and numerous articles and essays, Mr. Diamond edited A Handbook for Hillel and Jewish Campus Professionals, published in 1983. He held several major fellowships and was awarded an honorary doctoral degree by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1988.

It appears that Mr. Maltz had a history of mental health issues and had tried to harm himself with a knife in 2012. The Braeburn Drive resident had struggled with mood swings and depression.

Soon after taking over as Human Services director over a year ago, Elisa Neira began hearing from teachers and nurses in some of Princeton’s elementary schools that children were coming to school on Mondays sick, tired, or hungry. They probably hadn’t had breakfast, the teachers and nurses concluded. And quite possibly, they hadn’t had enough to eat over the weekend.

From that information and some convincing data, Ms. Neira and Ross Wishnick of the town’s Human Services Commission realized that there are a significant number of children in Princeton who are “food insecure,” meaning they don’t always have food available. While 12 percent of the local school population qualifies for free or subsidized school lunches during the week, there was no help available to them during the weekends.

Send Hunger Packing Princeton (SHUPP), based on a national program, was officially inaugurated on June 9, 2013 with a fundraiser at the Garden Theater, and the program was off and running. SHUPP sends weekend food backpacks with child-friendly selections home on Fridays with some 150 children in the Princeton schools and the Princeton Nursery School.

The first meal package went out at the end of September 2013. To date, some 22,000 meals have been distributed, estimated Ms. Neira and Mr. Wishnick. A second fundraiser last September, a formalized committee, and a new, more informative website are efforts to make the program more accessible. SHUPP is planning an expansion to include sixth-to-eighth graders next month when packages will be available for students at John Witherspoon Middle School.

SHUPP is a collaboration of the Princeton Human Services Commission, Mercer Street Friends in Trenton, and the Princeton School District. “When we started fundraising here and told people there is hunger in Princeton, some people would look at us and laugh,” Mr. Wishnick said. “Others were shocked. But there’s a huge disparity in income here. Twenty percent earn $30,000 or less, and 1,450 individuals in Princeton have poverty-level incomes. Half of them have incomes that are half the poverty level, which is $6,000. How can they live on that?”

Some individuals do seasonal work, which leaves them no income at all during some times of the year. Feeding their families can be a great struggle.

In order to avoid embarrassment, the program is anonymous. A point person in each school coordinates how the meals are given to each student. But Ms. Neira and Mr. Wishnick have been pleased to learn that there seems to be no discrimination against those receiving the assistance. “There just isn’t as much of a stigma as we expected,” Mr. Wishnick said. “At Johnson Park, people just accept it, we’re told,” Ms. Neira said. “Of course, they’re still young, they don’t have cliques yet. I hope it’s the same in the middle school.”

In the future, the SHUPP board hopes to address the problem of feeding children during the summer months, when school is closed. It is an ongoing challenge. While Princeton University, Princeton Theological Seminary, The Bonner Foundation, Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller, and others were early contributors to SHUPP, funding is always a concern. “The real challenge for us is to make it financially sustainable,” said Mr. Wishnick. “We know we’re meeting a need. What we don’t know is how we can continue to get the money to meet that need.”

“One thing we have seen across the board is that there is food insecurity here,” said Ms. Neira. “There are people not eating. Parents are not eating so that their kids can eat. The problem is real.”

“We’re on the right track, it seems,” Mr. Wishnick said. “But we can still improve it. There is always more we can do. There are probably some 800 to 900 kids in Princeton who are food insecure, and we need to reach them.”

December 31, 2014

Princeton experienced another year of change in 2014 as demolition at the old hospital site on Witherspoon Street began and the new Dinky station opened despite controversy over its move. The town has become even more of a “tourist destination” with tour buses stopping frequently on Nassau Street and an upswing in tourism for the fourth year in a row. The Special Olympics came to town. And the Dalai Lama spoke to the community at the invitation of Princeton University, which also received Al Gore on Class Day.

It was a year of worrying health concerns and of upset in the Princeton Public Schools; a year of protests and demonstrations.

Winter Weather

Last winter’s frequent snow storms caused havoc on Princeton’s roads. No sooner had they been cleared, more snow arrived. Sgt. Bucchere of the Princeton Police Department described the icy conditions as “unprecedented in his career.” Princeton’s school children had so many snow days that the Board of Education had to add several days to the end of the school year. Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane, who took up his post in January, had to deal with so many delayed openings and snow days. He reported spending a great deal more time that he expected watching The Weather Channel.

Princeton Public Schools

Storms of a different kind were to come to the school district, for which 2014 would not be a happy year. Members of the Board of Education and the Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA) locked horns during negotiations that have yet to conclude with a new contract. The long drawn out talks are reminiscent of those that resulted in the 2011-2014 contract, which required mediation and took almost a year to negotiate. This (expired) contract remained in place at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

In May, teachers marched along Witherspoon Street and distributed flyers to parents to highlight their case. On June 30, they marched in front of the district offices on Valley Road carrying hand-lettered placards expressing their case for increased pay and health benefits. But in spite of hopes expressed by both sides in meetings over the summer, a state-appointed mediator had to be called in. Things had gotten so bad that members of the PREA negotiating team walked out of the October 2 bargaining session.

Negotiations stalled repeatedly over the issues of health care and salary increases, and a profound disagreement over the intent and impact of NJ law Chapter 78.

As yet, mediation has failed to bring the two sides to a new contract. The next mediated session is due on Wednesday, January 14.

Teachers were not the only unhappy employees. Food service workers went on a one-day strike in November, claiming that the new company, Nutri-Serve, which was hired by the district to provide food for students and staff had taken away their health insurance and sick day benefits. The 20 food service workers, many of whom have been in Princeton schools for years, went back to work and subsequently met with Nutri-Serve representatives.

Still, there was some good news concerning the district in 2014. In May, U.S. News and World Report ranked Princeton High School (PHS) among the top 10 Best High Schools of New Jersey for 2014. PHS earned Gold Medal status in the media report Best High Schools of 2014, coming in at number 10 of 398 high schools in the state. Nationally, PHS is ranked at number 216 in the list of more than 19,400 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia.

PHS was listed number 91 in the list of the 250 high schools across the nation that are listed as the Best in terms of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Municipal Government

Two years into consolidation, Princeton’s government is making progress on the road to merging the policies and ordinances of the former Borough and Township. State law requires the town to finish the process by the end of 2017. According to Mayor Liz Lempert, nearly all of the harmonization of the general ordinances covering administration, boards, committees and commissions has been completed, along with shade tree and historic preservation ordinances.

“In 2015 we will tackle the parking ordinances and some of the other land use ordinances,” she said, reflecting on the end of a busy year. “Reviewing all the ordinances has been a time-intensive, but useful exercise, and a way for Council to

update our laws to reflect best practices. I especially want to thank the members of the ordinance review subcommittee  —  Bernie Miller, Jo Butler and Jenny Crumiller  —  for their work in reviewing the ordinances that come before Council, as well as members of the Planning Board, Historic Preservation Commission, and Shade Tree Commission for their valuable input.”

Not all was harmonious at Witherspoon Hall this year. In January, Council President Bernie Miller and Sue Nemeth  —  both former Township Committee members  —  announced their plans to run as a slate in the June primary. Backed by Mayor Lempert, Council members Heather Howard and Lance Liverman, the slate was an effort to oust Councilwoman Jo Butler from her seat.

Ms. Butler, a former Borough Council member, was perceived by some as a deterrent to getting things done because of her tendency to ask hard questions. In the end, Ms. Butler won more votes than Ms. Nemeth, and she and Mr. Miller kept their seats on the Council.

Longtime municipal administrator Bob Bruschi retired in October after 15 years of service to Princeton. Mr. Bruschi was credited with engineering numerous initiatives and projects throughout his tenure. Many expected that Kathy Monzo, the town’s assistant administrator and director of finance, would get Mr. Bruschi’s job. But in the end it went to Marc Dashield, former township manager for Montclair. Mr. Dashield’s first day of work was October 27.

Also new to the administration this year was Jeffrey Grosser, who took over from interim health officer Bob Hary in April. Between the ongoing issues created by the demolition of the former Princeton Hospital to issues surrounding the Ebola virus, meningitis on the Princeton University campus, rabid bats, and an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness after Thanksgiving, Mr. Grosser has had his work cut out for him.

Council gave Princeton Fire and Rescue Squad (PFARS) the go-ahead in April to build a new headquarters on the site of the former public works facility at the intersection of Valley Road, Witherspoon Street, and Route 206. Since 1964, the squad has been operating out of a brick building on North Harrison Street that is too small to handle the demands of the growing town.

Mr. Bruschi and PFARS president Mark Freda were instrumental in developing a land swap in which the squad has a long-term lease on the new site. The town will continue to own the land. In turn, the municipality gets the land on PFARS’ current Harrison Street property, which also includes two adjacent houses.


The plan to turn the former Princeton Hospital site into a complex of 280 rental apartments continued to spark controversy this year, but the demolition of the old hospital finally got underway in September. Local residents and labor union representatives worried about safety made their concerns known at a Council meetings early in the year, inspiring the governing body to hire an independent licensed state remediation professional to ensure public safety during the process.

It wasn’t enough to mollify some local residents, eight of whom filed an appeal to the Planning Board’s 2013 decision to approve developer AvalonBay’s revised plan for the site. The suit named the municipality, the Planning Board, the Mayor, Council, and AvalonBay as defendants. But Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled against the lawsuit, and Princeton HealthCare System announced that the sale to AvalonBay had been completed in March.

A month later, AvalonBay balked when Council voted unanimously to approve a developer’s agreement that required additional environmental testing based on the recommendations of the independent consultant. The developer sued the town, the Council, and Mayor Lempert in May. In July, Judge Jacobson rejected AvalonBay’s attempt to order the town to sign off on a demolition plan and issue building permits. The judge ordered mediation instead to see if the issues could be ironed out. In August, another revised agreement with less environmental testing was finally approved, clearing the way for demolition to begin.

Completion of the demolition is expected in the next two months, weather permitting. Residents have been keeping a close eye on the process, making frequent calls to the town to complain about noise and air quality. While the town’s engineering director Bob Kiser has issued weekly reports to keep the public informed, some have complained that the town’s handling of demolition-related problems has been reactive rather than proactive. Crews are working east to west toward Witherspoon Street on the buildings that made up the former hospital complex.

Princeton University

Construction of the University’s $330 million Arts and Transit project continued this year with the opening of a new traffic circle in January and the inauguration of the new Dinky station and Wawa market in November. Efforts by the organization Save the Dinky to halt the move of the train station 460 feet south of its former location also continued. Lawsuits questioning the legality of the contract between NJ Transit and the University are still moving through the judicial system.

Princeton Council passed a seven-year agreement in April under which the University will make voluntary unrestricted financial contributions to the municipality of $21.72 million. The tax deal also requires the University to make one-time contributions valued at $2.59 million to several specific projects. The University also agreed to donate to the municipality the parking lot it owns on Franklin Avenue, which is estimated to be valued at approximately $1 million.

University faculty voted in September to revise its policies on sexual misconduct and the way allegations are handled. The changes brought the school into compliance with the Violence Against Women Act, which Congress authorized in March, and with Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational institutions that get federal funding.

The University made national news with a prolonged outbreak of serogroup B meningococcal disease (meningitis) in March, prompting the Centers for Disease Control to import emergency vaccines to be given on campus. Seven students were infected. The strain contracted by the students is unique to this country, which meant there were no FDA-approved vaccines to fight it here. Approval came quickly to import the vaccine from Europe and Australia.

Also drawing attention was a fall incident at the University’s Tiger Inn eating club, in which two student officers resigned following allegations that photos of an intoxicated female student performing a sexual act on another student were distributed to club members via email. Another email that went out to club members referred to an October talk on campus by Sally Frank, who gained notoriety as a student when she sued the eating clubs to force the admission of women. “Come tomorrow and help boo Sally Frank,” the email read. The words “Rape Haven” were spray-painted on the stone wall at the front of the building, but were quickly removed.

Police Department

The Princeton Police Department began 2014 by successfully completing the voluntary process necessary for state accreditation, a highly-prized recognition in law enforcement. All aspects of the new department’s operations were examined. This was the first accreditation for the department since it was formed through consolidation of Princeton Township and Borough police.

Under Acting Chief of Police Nicholas K. Sutter, who had been leading the department since the departure of former Chief David Dudeck in February 2913, Princeton’s police officers received training in the handling of immigration status with respect to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) laws. In March, it was announced that officers would not enforce immigration laws, a decision commended by Police Commissioner Heather Howard who described it as building trust between the department and members of Princeton’s immigrant community. The question of undocumented status had brought to the fore the problem of wage theft, a crime that takes advantage of people with undocumented status.

As had been anticipated, Mr. Sutter was appointed to lead the department in April by unanimous vote of Mayor Liz Lempert and members of the Princeton Council. Mr. Sutter, 43, was the only person being considered for the chief’s job. He had served with the Borough of Princeton before consolidation. His appointment was recognized with a standing ovation at Witherspoon Hall.

Other changes in the department came with the retirement of Press Information Officer Mike Cifelli, the officer credited with introducing the department to social media. Sgt. Cifelli, who graduated from the Camden County Police Academy in 1988, was hired by the Princeton Township Police Department in 1993.

Also this year, the department acquired its first K9 Unit. K9 Officer Harris, a 16-month-old Czech Shepherd, who graduated from the New Jersey State Police K9 Academy with handler Corporal Matthew Solovay, served his first day of active duty on Friday, June 13. K9 Harris is named in remembrance of Princeton Borough Police Officer Walter B. Harris, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on February 2, 1946.

In August, Dashawn J. Cribb, 25, and Donald Stephen Mathews, 36, joined the department as the first new hires since consolidation:

Due in part to the efforts of Princeton’s Animal Control Officer Mark Johnson, Michael G. Rosenberg, the former Birch Avenue resident charged with animal cruelty, received the maximum five year sentence in October. Mr. Rosenberg, also a registered sex-offender, was charged with causing the death of a three-year old female German Shepherd mix named Shyanne which had been left in his care for training purposes

Pi Day Events

Founded by Mimi Omiecinski in recognition of Princeton’s most famous resident and the happy coincidence that Albert Einstein’s March 14, or 3/14, birthday matches the first three digits of the mathematical constant Pi, Pi Day has grown each year since it began in 2009 to include local merchants, the Historical Society of Princeton, the Princeton Public Library, and scores of clubs, groups, academic institutions, non-profits, musicians, authors, and interested locals.

This year’s event included a new Princeton Pi pizza competition judged by Mayor Liz Lempert and Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane as well as tours, talks, a Pi recitation contest, an apple pie contest, a pie-throwing contest, and a Dinky ride with Albert Einstein (or at least someone who looked just like him).

Year of the Bicycle

The town’s active Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) joined in the Pi Day celebrations with a demonstration of the scientific phenomenon of synchronicity. The seven-member committee comprised of Princeton residents Karen Jezierny, Steve Kruse, Laurie Harmon, David Cohen, Carolyn Sealfon, Anita Jeerage, and Sam Bunting gathered bike riders of all ages for a ride around Community Park South (wearing helmets and safety lights of course). Participants were fitted with flashing gadgets that synchronized by means of a radio transceiver in an effect known as the Kuramoto Model, named after Japanese physicist Yoshiki Kuramoto.

In December Princeton University launched a new bike sharing program from the new Dinky station. Run by Zagster, the program began with just ten bicycles. It is hoped that it will ultimately take off and be extended to the community at large.

Health Concerns

In August, after two bats taken from two homes on Linden Lane had tested positive for rabies virus, Princeton’s Health Officer Jeffrey C. Grosser warned residents, especially those in the Linden Lane area, to keep a safe distance and call the Princeton Police Department or the Animal Control Officer if they discovered bats inside their homes.

The death of Mercer County preschooler four-year-old Eli Waller from the Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) prompted the office of Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes to release a statement offering support and coordination in response to infectious disease outbreaks.

Representatives of local hospitals, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), municipal health offices, emergency management, emergency communications, and universities and colleges, as well as epidemiologists from the New Jersey Department of Health, met with the Mercer County health officer in late August to raise awareness and ensure countywide communication among first responders with respect to this virus and the Ebola virus. And Princeton’s Public Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser worked in coordination with Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane and the District’s Director of Plant Operations Gary Weisman to ensure cleaning protocols already in place were up-to-date for such viruses as EV-D68.


The world’s concerns with respect to the Ebola virus were brought home to Princeton in October when resident Dr. Nancy Snyderman was flown back from Liberia where she had been reporting on the Ebola outbreak in Monrovia.

The NBC News Chief Medical Editor and Correspondent had placed herself under voluntary quarantine with her crew after a cameraman on her team tested positive for the disease. The co-worker was treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and has fully recovered.

Ms. Snyderman had agreed to a voluntary 21-day quarantine at her home in Princeton. But after she and members of her crew were spotted in a vehicle outside the Peasant Grill restaurant in Hopewell as they waited for a take-out lunch order, the quarantine was mandated by the State and members of the public were outraged. The news prompted calls for Ms. Snyderman to resign.

Ms. Snyderman, 62, subsequently issued an apology via a statement read during the NBC Nightly News broadcast by Anchorman Brian Williams. In her first television appearance since the quarantine break, on the Today Show with host Matt Lauer, Ms. Snyderman apologized for “scaring my community” by violating the self-imposed quarantine after exposure to the Ebola virus.

Transco Pipeline

Just a few weeks ago, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a project by the Williams Transcontinental, or Transco, company to build a 42-inch pipeline through sections of the Princeton Ridge. The approval, which resident activists of the Princeton Ridge Coalition expected, came after a second year of meetings and negotiations between the company and the local group about safety and harm to the environment.

Last August, FERC did an environmental assessment of the project and decided that approving the plan “would not constitute a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment,” a conclusion disputed by the Coalition and environmental groups. The company met with the Coalition and the town’s engineering director to develop a revised construction plan that paid attention to construction issues.

FERC’s recent approval of the project drew harsh criticism from officials of the New Jersey Sierra Club. The Coalition is currently reviewing FERC’s approval of the plan and have until mid-January to decide whether to file for a re-hearing.

IAS Faculty Housing

The Institute for Advanced Study’s plans to build faculty housing on its property adjacent to the Battlefield State Park finally received approval from the Princeton Planning Board after years of attempts to thwart it by the Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS). Members of PBS had repeatedly described the Institute’s plans to build eight townhomes and seven faculty homes as “destruction of the heart of the Princeton Battlefield” and “the destruction of hallowed ground.”

The IAS faculty housing would sit on seven-acres between existing faculty homes and the Institute’s main campus. A 200-foot buffer zone alongside the Battlefield Park would be permanently preserved as open space.

Affordable Housing

Princeton’s Mayor Liz Lempert and members of Princeton Council have suggested that they would like to see more affordable housing in Princeton. But the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) has stated that the municipality has a “zero” obligation” to provide more. Princeton currently has about 463 affordable units with a waiting list of some 1,900. Basing its recommendations on census data rather than on-site surveys, COAH also recommends that developers planning large projects be required to set aside 10 percent for affordable housing. Princeton has had a 20 percent set aside for several decades.

Town Topics focused on Princeton’s commitment to Affordable Housing, with a “Princeton Perspectives” series of articles focused on diverse socioeconomic lifestyles and living options in the municipality. The series introduced Princeton residents, some newcomers and others with deep roots in the community, some living in subsidized housing, others who purchased on the open market. Stories focused on a Princeton couple who were among the first to buy into the upscale Residences at Palmer Square, an immigrant family from Ghana renting an apartment in Griggs Farm, a mother and daughter purchasing through Princeton’s Affordable Housing Program, and a family of four who bought their Mt. Lucas Road home on the open market in an area where tear-downs are happening with greater incidence.


In the November election Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman became the first person of African American descent to represent New Jersey in Congress as the Representative for the 12th District. After Rush Holt announced in February that he would not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives, the main candidates were Ms. Watson Coleman and Republican Alieta Eck. Four candidates vied for three 3-year term seats on the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education. After Ms. Shamsi and Ms. Witter tied in the election, the latter won the final count by just two votes. Ms. Shamsi lost her seat on the Board after serving one three-year term.

The race for the U.S. Senate seat was won by the Democratic candidate Cory Booker who beat Republican candidate Jeff Bell.

This year’s ballot included a County Question proposing a 5 cent fee for single use plastic shopping bags in an effort to induce shoppers to use recyclable bags. While the proposal was favored by Princeton voters, it was rejected county-wide.

Freedom Summer

2014 marked the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer and many in Princeton recalled their participation in the 1964 campaign to register African-Americans in Mississippi to vote. In  November, civil rights activist Robert Moses came to the John Witherspoon Middle School to launch the traveling exhibition “Risking Everything: A Freedom Summer Exhibit for Students” and speak to the community. One of the most influential black leaders of the civil rights movement, Mr. Moses initiated and organized voter registration drives, sit-ins, and Freedom Schools for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He led the campaign to bring a thousand volunteers — primarily enthusiastic young white supporters — to Mississippi to encourage African-American voters to register to vote, to provide education via summer schools, and to convene a more representative delegation to attend the Democratic National Convention.

Protests, Discussions, And Demonstrations

Demonstrations by teachers and some 20 placard-carrying protestors highlighting the issue of wage theft on Nassau Street in May, were followed by an August 24 rally protesting the fatal shooting by a white police officer of the unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The organization Not in Our Town (NIOT) offered concerned locals a chance to continue to speak about racism after the rally at the Princeton Public Library. Co-sponsored by NIOT and the Princeton Public Library, the special event, “Continuing Conversation on Race,” aimed to provide a safe and confidential place for frank and meaningful discussion in the wake of the rally that had seen well over a 100 protesters march down Nassau and Witherspoon Streets to Hinds Plaza. Before the end of the year, Princeton residents took to the streets again to protest racial injustice.


The passing of William Hurd Scheide at age 100 on November 14 marked the end of an era in Princeton. The noted humanitarian, Bach scholar, and philanthropist made contributions  —  intellectual as well as financial  —  to numerous local organizations as well as civil rights, music, and the preservation of rare books and manuscripts. His home on Library Place was the setting for annual gatherings of Princeton alumni of a certain age during Reunions. Mr. Scheide graduated in the class of 1936.

Paul Sigmund, who died at 85 on April 27, was a retired politics professor at Princeton University and director of the Latin American Studies Program. Husband of Princeton Borough Mayor Barbara Boggs Sigmund, who died in 1990, Mr. Sigmund was a published author and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, among other achievements.

Ann Harris Yashuhara died at 82 on June 11. A logician and computer scientist, she was known for combining her Quaker faith with action focused on peace, social justice, and racial equality. Many knew her for her work with the organization Not in Our Town.

Architect Thomas S. Fulmer, Princeton University mathematics professor Edward Nelson, Princeton Community Housing founding member Theodore M. Vial Sr., artist Thomas George, novelist Julian Moynahan, and youth advocate Elizabeth Erickson were among the other notable Princetonians who died this year.

Comings and Goings

Generations of residents who relied on Obal’s Garden Center on Alexander Road for plants and everything needed to keep them blooming were saddened to learn of its closing last spring. The family-run business, supplying Princeton gardeners since 1946, was not the only long-term establishment to reach the end of the line. Also announcing its closing was The Silver Shop, the oldest store on Palmer Square.

Other stores to close on Palmer Square included Urban Grace, which was replaced by Pacers Running. Corkscrew Wine Shop expanded, and Luxaby Baby is departing at tne end of this month, with no replacement yet announced.

The downtown store A Place to Bead closed its doors this year. In Princeton Shopping Center, Mathnasium math tutoring and learning center opened. New restaurants include Jammin’ Crepes on Nassau Street, Mamoun’s on Witherspoon Street, and most recently, Taco Truck in Princeton Shopping Center. The Alchemist & Barrister on Witherspoon Street renovated and opened a second bar, while Teresa Caffe on Palmer Square added outdoor seating.

After George Washington’s army had defeated the “fearsome Hessians” at Trenton, his soldiers took on the British at Princeton on January 3, 1777. “Trenton was the first great cause of hope, a brave and truly brilliant stroke…With the victory at Trenton came the realization that Americans had bested the enemy, bested the fearsome Hessians, the King’s detested hirelings, outsmarted them and outfought them, and so might well again…” wrote Revolutionary War historian David McCullough.

This Saturday, the 238th anniversary of the Battle of Princeton will be marked at Princeton Battlefield State Park with a battlefield tour on the day that it was fought and at the same time as the battle took place. The Princeton battle is described as a “crucial turning point in the American Revolution.”

Sponsored by the New Jersey State Parks Service, the Old Barracks Museum, and the Princeton Battlefield Society, the one-and-a-half-hour tour will begin at 7 a.m. Attendees are urged to arrive before the start of the tour, which begins at the Thomas Clarke House, 500 Mercer Street.

Led by re-enactor and British army historian William P. Tatum III, the tour will describe the movements of American and British units at the same time of day as the original battle.

According to Jerry Hurwitz, president of the Princeton Battlefield Society, the tour will explain how the battle, the first won by Washington’s army against the professional British Army, was a crucial turning point in the American Revolution.

It is hoped that visitors “will come away with a better understanding of the rigors of 18th-century combat and a deeper appreciation for the engagement at Princeton, Washington’s strategy, and his winning counterattack,” said a press release.

“Trustees also will be on hand to discuss the continuing struggle to preserve key segments of the battlefield and ongoing work to stabilize the Thomas Clarke House, the last surviving witness structure on the core battlefield,” said Kip Cherry, first vice president of the Princeton Battlefield Society, who announced that Phase 1 of the Clarke House restoration has just been completed.

New This Year

For the first time, a living history re-enactment organized by the Trenton’s Old Barracks Museum will focus on the militia company of Charles Willson Peale, best known today for his paintings, especially the famous portraits of Washington. In the winter of 1776/1777, Peale was a Lieutenant in the Philadelphia militia serving with Washington’s army. On January 3, Peale and his militia were in the thick of the Battle of Princeton.

“In his day, Charles Willson Peale was famous as a painter, scientist, museum curator, and as a political radical,” said Matt White, a master’s degree student in history at Rutgers University — Camden. “Peale’s Company contained a cross-section of Philadelphia’s wide range of ethnic groups: Germans, African-Americans, the Dutch, Swedes, Welshmen, Irish, Scotch-Irish, Scottish, and English.”

As Mr. White explained, “Peale’s company included the notable and the nondescript: a future mayor of Philadelphia and lowly laborers who would die in the poorhouse; his company was itself a representation of the nature and the politics of Philadelphia’s revolution. Peale’s company, in short, can help us to understand Philadelphia’s Revolutionary experience and how it affected the events of the winter of 1776-1777.”

Attendees should wear warm clothes and stout shoes or boots for walking over variable ground. Admission is free (donations to the Princeton Battlefield Society for the restoration of the Thomas Clarke House are appreciated) and parking is available. To take part, email: princetonbattlefieldsocinfo@gmail.com. For more information, visit: www.theprincetonbattlefieldsociety.com.

HSP Commemoration

Also on Saturday, January 3, the Historical Society of Princeton offers two programs commemorating Washington’s “cunning attack on the British,” and their “stinging defeat” of the enemy.

Families with children aged 8 and up can learn about the battle by examining war artifacts and visiting historical hot spots, including Nassau Hall and the Princeton Battle monument during an approximately one hour program that begins at Bainbridge House, 158 Nassau Street, at 10 a.m. Tickets are $4 per person and, since space is limited, registration is suggested.

A 90-minute program, suitable for teens and adults, begins at the Princeton Historical Society’s Updike Farmstead, 354 Quaker Road, at 1 p.m. The tour will follow a portion of the trail Washington took from Trenton to the Princeton Battlefield with stops at the Stony Brook Meeting House and cemetery. The tour is included with museum admission of $4. To register, contact Eve Mandel at eve@princetonhistory.org or (609) 921-6748 x102.

For more information, visit www.princetonhistory.org.

December 24, 2014

Local activists keeping an eye on plans for the 42-inch pipeline project that would run through the Princeton Ridge have 30 days to review the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) recent approval of the project. FERC announced last week that it was giving the go-ahead to Williams Transcontinental, or Transco, to begin construction.

While FERC’s decision allows Transco to proceed with its plans, citizens have a month to file for a re-hearing. “We were expecting the decision,” said Barbara Blumenthal, president of the citizens’ group known as the Princeton Ridge Coalition. “Now we’ll review it and see whether the conditions they have required of Williams match the promises that were made to us during our negotiations. Then we can decide on what action to take next.”

While the announcement of FERC’s approval was not unexpected, it provoked strong responses from environmentalists. Known as the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project, the portion affecting Princeton and Montgomery would add a second line to run natural gas through an area that contains bedrock, boulders, and environmentally sensitive wetlands. A line that was installed there in the 1950’s is no longer capable of handling increased production, Transco has said.

FERC has stated that the project will not significantly impact the surrounding community. Environmentalists differ, saying that it fails to evaluate the cumulative impact in favor of looking at each loop of the project separately.

“FERC has rubber-stamped another pipeline. This pipeline is being cut through New Jersey to serve utility companies in the South,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, in a written statement. “This pipeline has nothing to do with bringing gas to people in New Jersey. We do not need the gas and we do not need the pipeline. Once again FERC ignores the environment and public health and safety. This project will carry polluting fossil fuels through environmentally sensitive areas and across public lands and should have been rejected. For far too long FERC has been on the side of the companies it is supposed to regulate rather than the people they are supposed to work for, us.”К

In a statement last week, Transco said, “This federal authorization is a major milestone for the project and the culmination of a tremendous collaborative effort more than two years in the making. We appreciate the efforts of all of those who participated in this process. Once in service next winter, the Leidy Southeast project will provide additional natural gas supplies to local distribution companies and power generators all along the East Coast, bolstering supply reliability and contributing toward stabilization of the prices consumers pay for energy.”

According to Kate Millsaps, the New Jersey Sierra Club’s conservation program coordinator, “This dirty infrastructure will cause irreparable harm here at home in the Princeton Ridge, Sourland Mountains, and other protected and environmentally sensitive areas. FERC is not only ignoring and writing off these impacts, but also the damage this project will have on the region by allowing fracking operations to move more gas to market and increase production. As a result of this pipeline, the communities the infrastructure runs through and those near drill sites will see more air and water pollution.”

Since the project was first proposed nearly two years ago, residents have been meeting with Transco to air concerns about safety and the effect on the environment. About 30 miles of new pipeline will be installed through Mercer, Somerset, and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey, and in two counties in Pennsylvania. The Skillman Loop, approximately 6.36 miles long, is the one affecting the Princeton Ridge.

This past September, Coalition members and Princeton engineer Bob Kiser met with Transco about revising the construction plan due to safety concerns. Last month, Princeton Council passed a resolution extending work hours for building the pipeline so Transco can turn off gas to the existing line before doing the necessary work to make room for construction equipment.

On Monday of this week, Princeton Ridge Coalition members Rob Goldston and Jean Grossman were interviewed by Joan Goldstein of the TV30 show “Back Story,” which will be aired Wednesday, December 31 at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, January 4 at 5:30 p.m.

In response to mention of the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro (UMCPP) in the December 16 issue of The New York Times, Town Topics contacted president and CEO of Princeton HealthCare System Barry Rabner for comment on the newspaper article’s unfavorable comparison between UMCPP and other hospitals regarding the cost of an echocardiogram test.

The article by Elisabeth Rosenthal compared the $5,435 bill for the procedure at UMCPP to that at Beth Deaconness Medical Center in Boston ($1,714) and St. Alexius Medical Center in Bismarck, North Dakota ($403). An even higher bill of $11,579 was cited for the Crozier-Chester Medical Center Upland, Penn. Elsewhere in the article, seven teaching hospitals in Boston, affiliated with Harvard, Tufts, and Boston University, were said to charge an average of about $1,300 for the same test and the cost in Philadelphia ranged from $700 to $12,000.

Yesterday, Mr. Rabner sent this statement in response: “Medicare was established in 1965 and at that time it paid hospitals what they charged. Today, 50 years later, Medicare and other government payors pay all hospitals a fixed amount based upon the patient’s medical problem. However, hospitals are required by Medicare to state their charges on all bills sent to all patients even though “no one” pays the charges on the bill. In fact, all payments for care are significantly less. Insurance companies pay rates they negotiate with the hospital and people paying themselves pay a percentage of what Medicare pays. People unable to pay receive the care they need. According to the New Jersey Hospital Association, University Medical Center of Princeton’s average income from serving patients (operating revenue per adjusted admission) is below the average for similar hospitals in New Jersey.”

Subsequently contacted by phone, Mr. Rabner explained further. “The charges that people see on their bills have no bearing on what individuals or insurance companies pay. If you look again at the graph in Ms. Rosenthal’s article you will see the figures that were paid to the various hospitals for the procedure.”

The graph citing the bills for the various hospitals mentioned above also shows figures paid to hospitals for the test echocardiogram as follows: $419 for the procedure at UMCPP; $474 at Beth Deaconness Medical Center; $393 at St. Alexius Medical Center. and $407 at Crozier-Chester Medical Center.

As Mr. Rabner explained, the higher figures “are an artifact from a system that was set up 50 years ago. This information is being presented in a way that is not useful to most people. My mother is 93 and when she sees these figures, which are required to be there by Medicare and other insurers, her heart starts pounding. There is no relationship between the bill and the amount that we get paid. As people read the bill, they will see that they are responsible for a fraction of this amount.”

So why are these numbers required? Mr. Rabner couldn’t say, but he did report that UCMPP had tried from time to time to simplify its bills. “But we cannot change what is required by Medicare and other insurers,” he said. “What [payment] we receive is a result of contracts with insurance companies and Medicare. All hospitals have contracts with payers and that’s how much we get paid.”

Unlike cans of beans in the supermarket, medical procedures do not have an off-the-shelf purchase price. Their prices are set by negotiation with individual insurers and vary accordingly.

Asked whether he had explained this to the New York Times reporter, Mr. Rabner said that he had not been contacted by her.

The New York Times article was one of a series examining the costs of common medical procedures such as colonoscopy and joint replacement and their role in the high cost of health care in the United States. Last week the focus was on Princeton resident and retired math professor Len Charlap, 76, who had an echocardiogram prior to an elective cataract surgery at UMCPP in 2012 and then another echocardiogram at a different hospital in 2013.

As reported by Ms. Rosenthal, Mr. Charlap’s first test was performed by a technician, prior to Mr. Charlap’s elective cataract surgery, at UMCPP, described as a community health facility, and lasted less than 30 minutes; the second took place “at a premier academic medical center in Boston” and is described as taking three times as long and involving a cardiologist.

Mr. Charlap was bothered by the disparity in the bill for the two procedures: about $5,500 for the half hour visit with the technician and $1,400 for the Harvard teaching hospital for a much more elaborate test. “Why would that be?” he asked.

Ms. Rosenthal also compares the costs of the procedure in other countries such as Belgium ($80), Germany ($115) and Japan, where the price ranges from $50 to $88 depending upon the age of the machine. In Britain’s National Health Service, all echocardiograms are done in hospitals without charge. In 2012, New Jersey had the second-highest charges for echocardiograms in the nation, amounting to 8.4 times Medicare’s approved rate.

Ms. Rosenthal also notes that the higher figures are charged to insurance companies and patients usually pay much less depending upon their medical insurance. Because Mr. Charlap, 76, is on Medicare, which is aggressive in setting rates, he paid only about $80 toward the approximately $500 fee Medicare allows. But many private insurers continue to reimburse generously for echocardiograms billed at thousands of dollars, the article contests.

Local residents have criticized the new UMCPP facility for its apparent luxury. Built at a cost of more than $500 million, the facility boasts a curving atrium decorated with artwork from the hospital’s permanent collection.

For the full text of Ms. Rosenthal’s article, “The Odd Math of Medical Tests: One Scan, Two Prices, Both High,” visit: http://nyti.ms/1sz0UFe

Every year since 2004, Patriots’ Week celebrates the history-changing events that took place on the streets and surrounding fields of downtown Trenton in 1776.

This year’s activities begin as usual the day after Washington’s Christmas Day crossing of the Delaware and continue through the end of the year. Then the scene moves to Princeton (see story in next week’s Town Topics).

Billed as the region’s “largest celebration of the life and times of the Revolutionary War,” Patriots’ Week 2014 will feature more than 30 activities for adults and children. The event is produced by the Trenton Downtown Association (TDA) in collaboration with The Rockhopper Creative, The 1719 William Trent House, First Presbyterian Church, Trenton Friends Meeting House, Wyndham Garden Hotel, Masonic Temple, Trenton Battlefield Tours, and the Old Barracks Museum, which has been staging Battle of Trenton re-enactments for more than 20 years.

The program has grown to include cultural events that focus on the role of women and African Americans.

This year, in addition to the popular re-enactments of the First and Second Battles of Trenton, musical performances, lectures, and historic site tours, actor Noah Lewis will portray the African American soldier and wagoneer Ned Hector.

According to Mr. Lewis’s website (www.nedhector.com), Edward “Ned” Hector (c. 1744-1834) was a freeman, a teamster, and an artilleryman with Colonel Proctor’s Regiment. He fought at Germantown and Brandywine, where his courage during the army’s retreat was noted. After the war, he lived with his family in a log cabin in Conshohocken, where Hector Street was named in his memory in 1850.

Mr. Lewis is the author of Edward ‘Ned’ Hector–Revolutionary War Hero and is currently working on a biography of the soldier, whose story he discovered while researching his own ancestors’ connections with the Civil War and the Revolutionary War. Mr. Lewis will share the American patriot’s story on Friday, December 26, at 4 p.m. at the Masonic Temple Library.

“Patriots’ Week is an opportunity to remind people of Trenton’s important contribution to our national heritage and world history” said TDA Executive Director Christian Martin. “The festival pays homage to our past and presents an opportunity to highlight some of the rich cultural treasures that are still here today.”

Kick-Off Events

The Fifes and Drums of the Old Barracks Museum kick off the events on December 26 at 10 a.m. at the Wyndham Garden Hotel on West Lafayette Street where a free celebratory Colonial brunch with historians, re-enactors, elected officials and community leaders is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson and Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson will welcome visitors.

A panel discussion on “Being George Washington” follows at noon, with at least five Washingtons expected to take part. After that, flag history expert Roger S. Williams will discuss “Flags of the Revolution” at 1 p.m. and Stacy Roth will present “Over Here, Molly Pitcher” at 2 p.m. in the Masonic Temple Library at 100 Barrack Street. Ms. Roth’s dramatic presentation highlights the lives of women during the American Revolution. “Molly reminisces about the days when she accompanied her husband through summer battles to winter encampments from Valley Forge to Monmouth to Morristown,” said Ms. Roth.

A highlight will be the Colonial Ball at the Wyndham Garden Hotel on Friday, from 7 to 10 p.m. Described as something of a “Revolutionary War Prom, the event draws people come from all over who invariably wear period clothing and long dresses for the occasion. Tickets are $17.76 in advance, $25 at the door; $20 for Old Barracks Members. There is a cash bar. For more information, call (609) 396-1776.

Historical re-enactments are scheduled to take place on Saturday, December 27, with the First Battle of Trenton at 11 a.m. Visitors can follow the battle from the first cannon shot fired on Warren Street to the final skirmish in Mill Hill Park. At 3 p.m., The Second Battle of Trenton re-enactment will start at the First Presbyterian church, 120 East State Street with the Continental Army withdrawing to the Assunpink Creek Bridge at Mill Hill Park. And just as on January 7, 1777, three attempts will be made to take the bridge.

Sandwiched between the two battles, at 1 p.m., author and historian Larry Kidder will relate the history of the story of the men of the First Hunterdon militia regiment and their families, in the crucial month of December 1776, and how they helped ensure that the Continentals got to the right place at the right time to surprise and defeat the Hessians in Trenton. The talk, titled, “The Local Militia and the Battles at Trenton,” which is based on research for a book, will take place in the Masonic Temple Library.

“The Battles of Trenton and the events that took place here literally turned the tide of the Revolutionary War,” said Event Director Joseph Kuzemka. “We’ve made it a point to recreate that era with both interactive and educational events that will be sure to satisfy even the most staunch of history buffs.”

Other Highlights

Ongoing events include planetarium shows at the New Jersey State Museum Planetarium on 205 West State Street, which will present the sky as it was when George Washington crossed the Delaware. Among the many tours on offer will be the New Jersey State House at 125 W. State Street, including a special “Hidden Treasures of the State House” on Monday, December 29, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., which offers a behind the scenes peek at one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating capitol buildings. Visitors will be taken from the basement to the attic. For more information, call (609) 847-3150.

Other highlights include Scrabble at Classics Books, 4 West Lafayette Street, the popular Revolutionary Pub Crawl (taking in Checkers at 14 South Warren Street, Settimo Cielo at 17 East Front Street, Mill Hill Saloon at 200 South Broad Street), dinner with George and Martha Washington at the Trenton Social at 449 South Broad Street and film screenings such as Ten Crucial Days: The Road to Liberty with a lecture by David Emerson, the star of the movie, and The Crossing, starring Jeff Daniels.

Musical performances include “A Delightful Recreation” by The Practitioners of Musick on December 26 at 3 p.m. in the Trenton Friends Meeting House at 142 East Hanover Street, where there will also be a program of Shape Note Singing.

Most of the events are free, but tickets are required for the Colonial Ball, and food events, such as tea at the restored 1719 William Trent House at 15 Market Street, Trenton’s oldest building and a National Historic Landmark.

William Trent House

The New Year will be celebrated in Scottish fashion at the Trent House with a traditional Hogmanay, Saturday, December 27, at 12:30 p.m. Bagpiper Patty Downey will celebrate Trent’s Scottish heritage with a program of winter and Scottish music, also performed by members of the Capital Singers of Trenton. No reservations are needed for the event, hosted by Trenton Councilwoman Marge Caldwell-Wilson; there will be complimentary refreshments.

On Sunday, December 28, at 2 p.m., Susan McLellan Plaisted of Heart to Hearth Cookery, will offer a Colonial Tea and explore the etiquette and meaning of tea in colonial times. The tearoom will be set with linens and the famous pink china that was custom-made for the Trent House. Ms. Plaisted will demonstrate the accoutrements and visitors will sample three types of tea and homemade gourmet desserts, authentic to the period. Period dress is welcome but not required. Tickets are $18, $15 for supporters and reservations are required, pre-payment appreciated. Seating is limited For reservations, call (609) 989-0087 or trenthouseassociation@verizon.net. For more information, visit: www.williamtrenthouse.org.

Space is limited for many activities, so call beforehand. For a full schedule of Patriots Week events, program descriptions, and to purchase tickets, visit: patriotsweek.com.


December 17, 2014
An early morning bus accident just north of Carnegie Drive sent the driver, who was alone in the vehicle, to the University Medical Center at Plainsboro. Although he had to be extricated by rescue and fire personnel, his injuries were not life-threatening. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Police Department)

An early morning bus accident just north of Carnegie Drive sent the driver, who was alone in the vehicle, to the University Medical Center at Plainsboro. Although he had to be extricated by rescue and fire personnel, his injuries were not life-threatening. (Photo Courtesy of Princeton Police Department)

At 7:12 a.m. on Tuesday, a Coach USA Suburban bus traveling north on Route 27 crashed into a tree just north of Carnegie Drive. According to the Princeton Police Department, the vehicle swerved when it approached the rear of a 2002 Subaru wagon that had stopped facing north to turn into a private driveway.

The bus swerved to the right and struck the Subaru’s right rear bumper with it’s left front end, according to police. The bus continued to veer right and hit a tree by the roadside.

No passengers were traveling on the bus, which was enroute from Princeton to New York at the time. The driver, Derek Roberts, 53, was hurt, but his injuries are not life-threatening, police said. He was transported to the University Medical Center at Plainsboro after being extricated from the bus by Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad with assistance from the Princeton Fire Department.

Kingston resident Tim Chase was taking his children to school when he passed the bus just a few minutes after the accident. “The police had just gotten there with a couple of fire and rescue people and they were walking toward the bus,” he said. “You could see the driver kind of crushed against the glass, and he wasn’t moving.”

Mr. Chase was relieved to hear the driver’s injuries were not life-threatening. “It looked like the tree was right at his feet,” he said.

The impact caused extensive damage to the front end of the bus, which was towed from the scene by Stewart’s Towing of Belle Mead. The Subaru sustained damage to its body and undercarriage and was towed from the scene by Kovi Towing of Rocky Hill. The driver, 60-year-old Ted McKnight of Princeton, was not injured.

Princeton-Kingston Road remained open while the investigation was carried out, but traffic was limited to one lane. The section of the roadway has a slight curve, which has caused problems in the past. The crash is still under investigation. No summonses had been issued as of Tuesday afternoon.


Princeton Council has unanimously adopted an ordinance mandating that businesses near residential neighborhoods close their doors between 2 and 5 a.m. The vote at Monday night’s special meeting came after an amendment suggested by Council President Bernie Miller to monitor the measure during a period of three years, after which the ordinance would expire. A task force will be named to evaluate the ordinance’s effect on economic development and the quality of life in the community.

The controversial ordinance has been the subject of much discussion at recent Council meetings. Residents, mainly from the “tree streets” neighborhood, have been in favor of the measure because they believe it will curtail noise from businesses near their homes. Many area merchants have been opposed to the measure because they feel it is restrictive.

Robert Bratman and Lou Carnevale, who own the former West Coast Video and Wild Oats Market, respectively, have been especially vocal in their opposition. Mr. Bratman wants to bring a 7-Eleven to his site, and that company’s business model is for a 24-hour establishment.

The measure was set to be voted on at last week’s Council meeting, but Mayor Liz Lempert held it off because of the absence of Mr. Miller. Mayor Lempert broke a Council tie last month in order to introduce the ordinance. Previously, Council members Lance Liverman, Heather Howard, and Mr. Miller had been in favor, while Jo Butler, Patrick Simon, and Jenny Crumiller had not.

In comments before the vote was taken, resident Daniel Harris said he was troubled by the opposition of the Princeton Merchants Association to the ordinance. “People who live here, who can still afford to live here, enjoy the freedom of a small town,” he said. Merchants may “prefer a commercial metropolis.” Resident Kip Cherry said she was in favor of the ordinance because restrictions are needed to maintain quality of life. “I think we are anticipating that as Princeton moves forward, either we become more like a city or remain more like a town,” she said. “We want to remain more like a town. 24-hour retail is not the way to do it.”

Resident Chip Crider spoke against the ordinance, saying it was based on fear of the unknown. “You have a noise control ordinance,” he said to Council. “If it’s not enforceable, then change it.”

Pharmacies and medical care operations are exempt from the ordinance, as are businesses in zones near Princeton University. Also not affected are restaurants that have liquor licenses. The ordinance requires that businesses wanting to remain open past 2 a.m. can do so for up to six days a year, but have to get permission from the town’s administrator Marc Dashield or Police Chief Nick Sutter.

Several Council members thanked Mr. Miller for coming up with the amendment, which was slightly tweaked before the final vote was taken. Mr. Simon had proposed exempting the central business district, Princeton Shopping Center, and the Clifftown shopping strip from the measure, but the governing body would have had to start the discussions over again in January if that change had been made. Council decided not to incorporate it.

Mayor Lempert also thanked Mr. Miller for coming up with a compromise. “We talk a lot about being proactive, and this is a way to do that,” she said.


Twenty food service workers at Princeton Pubic Schools (PPS) went on strike last Thursday to highlight their dispute with Nutri-Serve Food Management, the company hired by the school district in June to manage its food service program.

The 20 are members of the SEIU, the Service Employees International Union. The union’s mission is “to raise standards at work and improve conditions in our communities so that one day ‘working poor’ will be a contradiction in terms.” It represents cleaners, property maintenance workers, doormen, security officers, window cleaners, building engineers, and school and food service workers, as well as railroad and factory workers.

Many of the school cafeteria workers make in the region of $9 an hour and have been serving food to Princeton’s school children for more than a decade.

The district had been warned of the possibility of a strike at the November 18 public meeting of the PPS Board of Education (BOE) when several food service workers appealed to Superintendent Stephen Cochrane and members of the Board for help in making their case to Nutri-Serve. At that time, Board member Patrick Sullivan said that since the Board is not party to the contract between Nutri-Serve and its employees, “there is nothing that the Board of Education can lawfully do to influence the talks between those parties.”

After the BOE unanimously approved a $61,245 food service contract with Nutri-Serve Food Management, Inc. for the 2014-15 school year, existing cafeteria staff were offered jobs with the new contractor, which replaced Chartwells School Dining Services. Chartwells had been serving Princeton’s schools for the previous 15 years. The change had been lauded on health grounds. Nutri-Serve serves more than 80 other school districts in New Jersey.

The company has said that cuts are necessary because of rising costs. It has eliminated paid holidays, paid sick days, paid time off for jury duty, and has cut planned wage increases in half. Employees found out about the changes when they didn’t get paid for the Labor Day holiday. It became clear that their existing 2013-16 contract would not be honored by the new employer.

The workers also claim that the new company has cut the number of uniforms provided to them from six to two.

According to the union, however, it is customary for a new employer to honor the terms of an existing contract until a new contract is negotiated.

SEIU 32BJ union spokesperson, Ana Maria Cruz, said that the workers are due to meet with Nutri-Serve representatives at the Princeton Public Library tomorrow, December 17, at 3 p.m.

During their strike, the cafeteria workers picketed outside Princeton High School as snow fell. They protested changing terms of employment by Nutri-Serve. They accused their employer of not informing them of changes in their working conditions or terms. According to their union, it is unfair for a new contractor to take over without telling workers of changes or negotiating in good faith with the union. Several schools were unable to serve breakfast because of the strike. The strikers returned to work Friday.

According to Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane, during the one-day strike, Nutri-Serve “brought in their management team along with additional workers to prepare and serve meals according to the established menu. As I understand it, the food service workers then voted to return to work. I am hopeful that any outstanding issues between the union and Nutri-Serve will be resolved in their next negotiations session.”

A request for comment from Town Topics to Nutri-Serve via Food Service Director Joel Rosa elicited this response: “Unfortunately, Nutri-Serve is not accepting any interviews on the subject matter at this time. Perhaps after the negotiations have been settled, our company will be more open to answer your questions.”