March 25, 2015

The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) will hold a Story Slam, the second in a series of public programs focusing on the history and transition of the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood on Saturday, March 28, at 3 p.m.

The event is part of the “The Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Stories Project,” which recognizes the importance of preserving the rich cultural heritage of Princeton’s historically African-American Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood.

The purpose of the project is to collect personal stories and create a permanent record and directory that will tie together photographic and historical collections currently housed by the Arts Council, the Princeton Public Library, Princeton University Center for African American Studies, Paul Robeson House, and the Princeton Historical Society.

The Arts Council of Princeton’s Paul Robeson Center for the Arts is located in Princeton’s Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, a historically African-American community with a rich history dating back to the 18th century.

Residents of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, which was named for its original boundary streets, were involved in the Civil Rights movement and social justice activism. The house directly across the street from the Robeson Center was the birthplace of the renowned singer, actor, film star, and human rights activist Paul Robeson.

As Princeton becomes more gentrified, residents fear that the rich cultural history of their neighborhood will be lost. Through the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Stories Project, the ACP aims to not only highlight, document, and preserve the personal stories of longtime residents, but to also create an appreciation for the influence the neighborhood has on Princeton as a community.

Project partners include the Arts Council of Princeton, Paul Robeson House, and the Historical Society of Princeton. Funding for the Stories project is provided, in part, by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

The Story Slam aims to provide an opportunity for further community engagement. All are invited to share a story, poem, or song about the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood or Women’s History Month, along with invited speakers Dr. Cecelia Hodges, Princeton High School’s poetry group, and several other neighborhood residents.

The event is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the Spring and Hulfish Street Garages and at metered parking spots along Witherspoon Street and Paul Robeson Place.

For more information, call (609) 924-8777, or visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

jwms art

John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS) eighth grader Marcelino Guevara, who moved to Princeton from Puebla, Mexico, last year stands next to his artwork titled “Ave Musical,” which he created after he attended a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, performed by the Princeton Symphony Orchestra last fall as part of the Orchestra’s Bravo! Series. “It was beautiful,” said Marcelino of the concert, the first he has attended. The young artist taught himself how to draw from a book and was encouraged to express his personal artistic response by JWMS art teacher Claudia Luongo. The work is on view in the Arts Council of Princeton exhibition, “Beethoven’s Form and Function,” through April 9.

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This year’s Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale featured a strong selection of Shakespeare and Shakespeariana. Finds and wish lists are discussed in this week’s Town Talk. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

March 20, 2015

In a unanimous vote last night, Princeton’s Planning Board approved the proposal for a 7-Eleven store to go into the former West Coast Video on Nassau Street.

The convenience store will move into the front portion of the building, which will be renovated. The Princeton branch of the U.S. Post Office will relocate from Palmer Square to the rear of the building.

The property has been vacant since the video store closed nearly a decade ago. It is owned by the Bratman family, which ran a Viking Furniture store out of the building for several years.

The 7-Eleven will be open daily but closed from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m., in accordance with a town ordinance.

March 18, 2015
POETRY OUR LOUD: Beatrice Dimaculangan (left) and Sara Zaat were selected from 12 outstanding high school students from New Jersey who competed in the state finals of the Poetry Out Loud national recitation competition in Richardson Auditorium on the campus of Princeton University on Friday, March 13. Ms. Dimaculangan, who attends Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield was selected as State Champion; Ms. Zaat, a student at Mahwah High School was the runner-up. Ms. Dimaculangan will go on to represent New Jersey at the National finals in Washington, D.C. next month. For more information, visit: www.poetryoutloud.org.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

POETRY OUR LOUD: Beatrice Dimaculangan (left) and Sara Zaat were selected from 12 outstanding high school students from New Jersey who competed in the state finals of the Poetry Out Loud national recitation competition in Richardson Auditorium on the campus of Princeton University on Friday, March 13. Ms. Dimaculangan, who attends Jonathan Dayton High School in Springfield was selected as State Champion; Ms. Zaat, a student at Mahwah High School was the runner-up. Ms. Dimaculangan will go on to represent New Jersey at the National finals in Washington, D.C. next month. For more information, visit: www.poetryoutloud.org. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

In its tenth anniversary year, the Poetry Out Loud national recitation competition for high school students knocked the socks off a Princeton audience at Richardson Auditorium on Friday at the opening of the Princeton Poetry Festival.

Twelve students, selected from some 38,000 at 162 high schools statewide, read poems in two rounds before four were selected for a final round.

Once upon a time, recitation and elocution were subjects widely taught in schools. No more. But their value is recognized nationwide throughout the Poetry Out Loud competition that began in 2005 and continues to grow in popularity, particularly in New Jersey.

According to Nick Paleologos, executive director of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the state ranks first in the nation for student and teacher participation in Poetry Out Loud and the New Jersey program is the fastest-growing nationwide. When it was first launched, just seven high schools participated. Today, 160 high schools across the state take part.

Created by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation, Poetry Out Loud state competitions take place in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

The competition began as a way of encouraging high school students across the country to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. The selection of poems that each of the 12 candidates selected Friday shows that the program has achieved its goal, at least as far as New Jersey is concerned.

Mr. Paleologos expressed special thanks to Robin Middleman, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts senior program officer; the program’s state coordinator Tammy Herman, and John Pietrowski of the Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey.

“Just imagine every high school in the state doing this,” said Assistant Secretary of State Carol Cronheim, as she presented a special video about the program.

The participating New Jersey high school students were Amos Koffa of Burlington County Institute of Technology in Medford; Jocelyn Hedgeman of Cobblestone Home School Association, Deptford; Lauren Palmieri of Hanover Park High School, East Hanover; Aaleah Oliver of High Tech High School, North Bergen; Beatrice Dimaculangan of Jonathan Dayton High School, Springfield; Dennis Harrington of Madison High School, Madison; Sara Zaat of Mahwah High School, Mahwah; Margaret Dods of Mainland Regional High School, Linwood; Nicole Jenkins of Piscataway High School, Piscataway; Patrick Monaghan of Red Bank Regional High School, Little Silver; Georgiana Balisage of Thomas Jefferson Arts Academy, Elizabeth; and Angela Benson of Vineland High School, Vineland. Each had competed for the place on the Richardson stage in six regional finals.

Each of the 12 delivered two poems in two rounds before the competition whittled them down to just four by this year’s competition judges: Danielle Constance of the Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey; poet and author Dawn Potter; performing artist Alysia Souder; last year’s Poetry Out Loud New Jersey winner Natasha Vargas, and poet and educator Peter Murphy.

The four who made it though tough competition to the third and final round were Ms. Dimaculangan, Mr. Harrington, Ms. Zaat, and Ms. Balisage.

Another reading before Mr. Paleologos announced the winner and runner up as Ms. Dimaculangan and Ms. Zaat, respectively. The popular decision was met with cries of joy from a large contingent from Jonathan Dayton High School that had come to cheer on their champion. Ms. Zaat’s aunt and grandparents were also seated in the audience and were very excited by her performance.

The contestants recited works classic and contemporary, both familiar and new to the Princeton audience: from Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” and Shelley’s “Ozymadias” to “Self-Inquiry Before the Job Interview” by Gary Soto and “The Universe as Primal Scream” by Tracy K. Smith, who was in the audience to hear her poem read by two students. One of the two, Ms. Dimaculangan presented Ms. Smith’s poem as her last reading before being announced as the winner.

As part of a new initiative by the state’s Poetry Out Loud team, which clearly upped the game of all those taking part this year, six mentors worked with each of the 12 contestants to hone their delivery skills.

Poetry Around the World

The event kicked off Princeton University’s 2015 Princeton Poetry Festival, a biennial event that took place Friday and Saturday. Poets from around the world read from their work and joined in panel discussions in Richardson Auditorium.

Organized by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Princeton professor Paul Muldoon under whom poetry thrives at The Lewis Center for the Arts with professors who, like Ms. Smith, are also highly regarded poets, including Michael Dickman, James Richardson, Susan Wheeler, and Monica Youn.

This year, 12 poets representing four continents participated, seven from the United States and five from abroad. The U.S. poets were Ellen Bryant Voigt, Major Jackson, Maureen N. McLane, Ada Limón, Michael Robbins, and Ray Young Bear. International poets included Ghanaian-born Jamaican poet Kwame Dawes, British poet Paul Farley, Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie, Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort, Polish poet and translator Tomasz Rózycki with translator Mira Rosenthal, and Vietnamese poet Ocean Vuong.

On Friday afternoon at the Gala opening of the festival introduced by Mr. Muldoon, Ms. Dimaculangan and Ms. Zaat read along with the festival poets. Ms. Dimaculangan will represent New Jersey in the Poetry Out Loud national competition next month in Washington, D.C.

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

The Williams Transco company has revised its plans for installing a natural gas pipeline on the Princeton Ridge. Instead of digging open trenches in the environmentally sensitive wetlands, the company would use tunneling to avoid running into the area’s boulders and bedrock.

The changes came after extensive input from local residents, many of whom spoke at a public hearing before the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) last month. Others submitted comments in writing.

Williams submitted revised electronic plans to the NJDEP last week and will be providing hard copies to Princeton this week for review by officials and residents. The company’s Leidy Southeast Expansion project affects a 1.3-mile section of the Princeton Ridge.

“We’ve been working with the NJDEP for some time to reduce impacts to the Princeton Ridge,” said Transco spokesman Christopher Stockton. “We have agreed to six bores in the ridge area that would go under streams and wetlands, instead of a trench. The bores would be about five feet deep and 100 feet long.”

Local residents who are part of the Princeton Ridge Coalition have been monitoring Transco’s plans for the $650 million project, which would add a 42-inch diameter pipeline to an existing one. “While we haven’t yet seen the details, the decision to use boring in some areas is certainly a step in the right direction,” said Barbara Blumenthal, a member of the coalition, in a statement. “We have been telling Transco for the past two years that these were exceptional quality wetlands and that they needed to find an alternative, as required by regulations.”

In a related matter, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued an administrative stay on March 11 that temporarily prevents the cutting down of trees for the project. The tree clearing had been planned to start last week, but Transco will now have to wait until the environmental issues are ironed out.

Transco originally agreed to turn off the gas in the existing pipeline during heavy construction work, but more recently indicated it would go back to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to request leaving the gas intact if the DEP did not act quickly to approve permits for the project.

“While avoiding these impacts on wetlands is critical, it is also imperative that NJDEP require Williams to turn off the gas in the existing pipeline during heavy construction work, as previously agreed,” said Coalition member Rakesh Joshi in a statement.

Princeton Council passed a resolution last month asking the NJDEP to insist that the pipeline be shut down during the construction.

A neighborhood meeting with Transco representatives and the project’s contractor, Henkels and McCoy, will be held Tuesday, March 24 at 7 p.m. in Witherspoon Hall. For more information, call the town’s engineering department at (609) 921-7077.

SAVING THE OCEANS: Ian Hinkle’s film “Reaching Blue” is among the offerings at this year’s Princeton Environmental Film Festival, opening Thursday and running through March 29.

SAVING THE OCEANS: Ian Hinkle’s film “Reaching Blue” is among the offerings at this year’s Princeton Environmental Film Festival, opening Thursday and running through March 29.

Susan Conlon had some specific aims in mind when she began planning this year’s Princeton Environmental Film Festival. Opening at the Princeton Public Library Thursday and running through March 29, the ninth annual festival of films and speakers on a sustainable theme meets most of those goals set by Ms. Conlon, a librarian and the festival’s founder.

“We wanted to infuse creative input into the festival,” she said. “We were really looking at how to enhance the local creative involvement. We also wanted to connect with community partners. We wanted to expand — not necessarily making it bigger, but making it better with greater youth participation.”

By showing one of the films simultaneously at the library and the Princeton Garden Theatre, and by collaborating with Princeton University, Ms. Conlon has fulfilled one goal. Initiating a student film competition completes two others. “We’re expanding the reach, doing more but at the same time keeping things in the scope of what we’ve done in the past,” she said.

The festival opens with Angel Azul, a film about eco-artist Jason DeCaires Taylor’s attempt to draw attention to the depletion of coral reefs across the world. His statues, which create artificial reefs that provide a habitat for marine life, also serve as an underwater museum that raises awareness of the plight of oceans. Also focused on the sea is Reaching Blue, Ian Hinkle’s exploration of the Salish Sea and the challenges faced by our coastal waters.

In Just Eat It, filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jen Rustemeyer explore food waste and how billions of dollars of “good food” is thrown away each year in North America, where one in 10 people live with food insecurity. Antarctic Edge: 70 Degrees South follows a team of scientists who live a life at sea in a race to understand climate change in the world’s fastest winter-warming place. Project Wild Thing shows how filmmaker David Bond made it his mission to encourage families to spend more time outside instead of in front of the television screen.

Filmmakers will be on hand for numerous programs, giving talks and answering questions following the screenings. Among them are Marcy Cravat for Angel Azul, Jared Flesher for Field Biologist, George McCollough and Anna Savoia for No Pipeline Say the Friends of Nelson, Todd Darling for Occupy the Farm, and several others.

There are events specifically geared to children and families. The animated feature film Song of the Sea will be screened. The PEFF Sustainability Bowl allows children in grades 3-6 to test their knowledge in categories related to the natural world. Local author and naturalist Jared Rosenbaum leads “The Puddle Garden” story time and rain garden presentation.

This year’s festival includes more films that came in as entries rather than films that Ms. Conlon and colleagues sought out. “Filmmaking overall has become more accessible for people, so that’s one reason,” Ms. Conlon said. “But the main thing is that we’re recognized as a place for emerging filmmakers to show their work. They want to be in our festival. We’re lucky.”

pi day apple pie

Princeton Pi Day’s largest pie judging event resulted in a big win for Jammin’ Crepes which was named for the best Apple Pie in Princeton by 50 resident judges. The team from Jammin’ Crèpes shown here with owner Kim Rizk (center) show off their certificate after the pie baking competition which was coordinated by Kitchen Twins and held at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room. (Image courtesy of Princeton Tour Company)

Mark LyonsLabyrinth Books and Wild River Books invite the public to celebrate Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines at Labyrinth on March 19 at 6 p.m. A collection of stories by Mark Lyons published by Wild River, Brief Eulogies has already been called an “important landmark in the literature of multiculturalism.”

Pushcart Prize Nominee, author Mark Lyons builds “story shrines” along U.S. highways, and depicts the struggles and insights of undocumented Mexican immigrants, hospital “lifers,” returning veterans and highway philosophers, among other unforgettable characters.

“Stories worth savoring … a world rich enough to make many novelists envious,” writes the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Mark Lyons, asks us to slow down, pull over, and turn off the engine. He asks us to consider the lives of not only the deceased being commemorated, but also the people left behind by the dead, the ones doing the commemorating … deserves to be read and relished.”

Brief Eulogies constructs story shrines, or descansos (”resting places”) — intimate memorial shrines we glimpse at the edge of highways and rural roads that mark profound loss, but also serve as acts of redemption. Brief Eulogies are stories about communities and people finding ways to survive their histories, addictions, and fears.

Mark Lyons is the Director of the Philadelphia Storytelling Project (PSP), where he uses digital storytelling in his work with teens, the immigrant community and homeless veterans. Lyons` past literary work includes writing, translating and co-editing Espejos y Ventanas / Mirrors and Windows, Oral Histories of Mexican Farmworkers and Their Families, published in English and Spanish. With 25 years of experience working in the Latino community as a health worker and community organizer, he was the director of the Farmworkers Health and Safety Institute. He additionally serves as the editor of Open Borders, the Wild River Review series of immigrant stories.

Princeton poet and activist Daniel Harris will give a reading of his poems that focus on nature and the environment to benefit Friends of Princeton Open Space on Sunday, March 22 at 3 p.m., at Mountain Lakes House in the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve. The reading, which is open to the public, will include discussion with attendees and will be followed by light refreshments.

Friends of Princeton Open Space, organized in 1969, has contributed over $4.5 million in private funds and government grants to help establish over 1,000 acres of parkland and a network of trails that nearly encircles Princeton. It has collaborated with Mr. Harris in the past on issues such as protection of the Princeton Ridge and preservation of the Ricciardi property.

Mr. Harris has published two books of poetry and several works of literary criticism, as well as individual poems in numerous national poetry magazines. Professor Emeritus of English at Rutgers University, where he taught from 1981 to 2002, he has also held positions on the English faculties of the University of Pennsylvania and University of Colorado, Boulder. Earlier in March, he presented his environmental poems at the 19th annual New Jersey Land Conservation Rally in Trenton, organized by New Jersey Conservation Foundation.

The Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve is located at 57 Mountain Avenue in Princeton. Parking is available adjacent to Mountain Lakes House. There is no charge for the event, although donations to Friends of Open Space are welcomed. Mr. Harris’s books will be for available for purchase after the reading.

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Michael Graves, who died last week at the age of 80, was among the most influential architects of his era, both locally and internationally. His admirers have celebrated him not only for his buildings that helped define the postmodern movement, and the hundreds of household products he designed, but also for his long tenure as a professor at Princeton University.

March 16, 2015

Princeton Resident Dr. Nancy Snyderman has stepped down from her position as chief medical editor for NBC News. “Covering the Ebola epidemic last fall in Liberia, and then becoming part of the story upon my return to the U.S., contributed to my decision that now is the time to return to academic medicine,” she said in a statement indicating her return to academic medicine by taking up a faculty position at a major U.S. medical school. “I have loved my nine years at NBC and I am proud of the work my team has done. Very few people get the chance to combine two professions and I have appreciated the chance to inform the public about medical updates and the plight of so many in other countries. Every moment has been an honor,” she said.

March 12, 2015

M GravesMichael Graves, the Princeton-based, internationally known architect and designer regarded as an important representative of new urbanism, died Thursday morning at the age of 80.

Mr. Graves ran Michael Graves & Associates from an office on Nassau Street. He was also the Robert Schirmer Professor of Architecture, Emeritus, at Princeton University. Locally, he designed the expansion of the Arts Council of Princeton building on Witherspoon Street as well as several private residences. Internationally, Mr. Graves’s firm designed buildings in Singapore, Japan, and Egypt.

He was also involved in product design, creating a range of consumer products for home and office use, including a line of products sold by Target stores. He taught at Princeton University for 39 years, starting in 1962.

A more extensive story will appear in the next print issue of Town Topics Newspaper.

March 11, 2015
TWO DECADES OF DANCE: American Repertory Ballet’s artistic director Douglas Martin works with former Rider University student Jennifer Gladney, who graduated in 2006.(Photo by George Jones)

TWO DECADES OF DANCE: American Repertory Ballet’s artistic director Douglas Martin works with former Rider University student Courtney Schumacher, who graduated in 2013. (Photo by George Jones)

Ballet students in search of a college education often have a hard time finding a school that will allow them to continue serious study of the rigorous technique while providing them with an academic education. Many universities that offer dance major programs are focused more on contemporary styles than classical ballet.

But Rider University has a different approach. The Lawrenceville campus partners with the Princeton Ballet School to offer advanced classes and a strong connection with the school — and its affiliated American Repertory Ballet (ARB) company — to students majoring in dance. That relationship will be honored on Saturday, March 21 when ARB holds its 30th annual gala performance and reception at Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick. Rider will receive the 2015 Audree Estey Award for Excellence in Dance Education (Estey was the founder in 1954 of the ballet company, then called Princeton Ballet Society).

“This is an amazing partnership,” said Vanessa Logan, who last August came from the Boston Ballet to become ARB’s executive director. “We are able to share our teachers and our dancers with Rider’s students, and they provide us with a space to perform. It’s wonderful to be connected to such a great institution. It was a long time coming.”

The arrangement allows some 48 Rider students not only to take classes at Princeton Ballet School’s spacious studios at Princeton Shopping Center, but also to explore internships with the school, ballet company, and other arts organizations in the area. The students perform with the Rider Dance Ensemble on the Lawrenceville campus, with ARB in its “Nutcracker,” and with ARB’s Ballet Workshop, part of Princeton Ballet School’s pre-professional training program. Many pursue teaching and administrative dance careers, some become professional performers, and others go on to graduate study in such fields as dance therapy.

“It’s pretty amazing,” said Lisa de Ravel, the ballet school’s dean of students and a former dancer with ARB. “Rider is really unique because of the way the program is structured. Allowing the students to do a lot of their work on campus but then take ballet with us here, at our extraordinary facility with our great faculty, is very special and makes it a kind of performance model. They get the best of both worlds.”

Ms. de Ravel joined ARB in 1988 and started teaching early in her career. After retirement from dancing, she started ARB’s “Plus” program, which is a conservatory within the school for dancers heading toward a professional career. After her dancing days ended, she went to Rutgers University and earned a degree in child and adolescent development. “As dean of students I’m responsible for things like mentoring and advising our high schoolers in the more intense program, and working with moms,” she said.

Programs similar to the Rider/ARB partnership are starting to take hold in other areas of the country. Ms. de Ravel cited the Boston Ballet’s arrangement with Northeastern University as an example. In her 26 years with ARB, Ms. de Ravel has witnessed the Rider program’s success, much of which she credits to the dance department chair, Professor Kim Chandler Vaccaro. “I’ve had the opportunity to see these extraordinary young people come through the program and then do great things,” she said. “One is now a faculty member with us.”

The March 21 gala celebration is not only honoring Rider, but also those who have helped with 30 years of gala leadership. Ms. de Ravel, who is also ARB’s alumni relations coordinator, has been busy interviewing past participants for a film whose trailer will be shown at the event. “I like to celebrate not only those who have gone on to professional dance careers, like Sean Mahoney, who is now with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, but also people who have worked for decades in this organization. How do you keep that feeling as you grow? That’s something that Audree Estey knew. She had a pulse on that, from the beginning. And that’s what we’re celebrating.”

LEARNING IN 3-D: For the fifth year in a row, John Witherspoon Middle School is the recipient of an ExxonMobil National Math and Science Initiative grant of $500. The grant was presented by gasoline sales manager Joseph Hooven to PPS science supervisor Cherry Sprague, who accepted the gift on behalf of the school. This year’s grant will be used to further enhance the flourishing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program at JW. Left to right: seventh grader Isai Onofrio, Mr. Hooven, Ms. Sprague, JW STEM teacher Randy Casey, and seventh grader Tracy Meng.

LEARNING IN 3-D: For the fifth year in a row, John Witherspoon Middle School is the recipient of an ExxonMobil National Math and Science Initiative grant of $500. The grant was presented by gasoline sales manager Joseph Hooven to PPS science supervisor Cherry Sprague, who accepted the gift on behalf of the school. This year’s grant will be used to further enhance the flourishing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program at JW. Left to right: seventh grader Isai Onofrio, Mr. Hooven, Ms. Sprague, JW STEM teacher Randy Casey, and seventh grader Tracy Meng.

After being suspended with pay for a week, Princeton’s long-serving animal control officer Mark Johnson is no longer employed by the municipality as of March 2.

But the terms of what Town Administrator Marc Dashield described as “separated employment” have not been disclosed. It is unclear from the terminology used by the municipality whether Mr. Johnson voluntarily resigned or whether his employment was “terminated.”

Mr. Dashield would give no explanation to Town Topics with respect to the matter after it was raised during Mayor Liz Lempert’s regular press briefing Monday. He said he could not discuss the terms of the separation.

The news came not long after Mr. Johnson’s suspension on February 23, the same day on which charges he had brought against a Princeton resident had been dismissed in Princeton Municipal Court. The timing led some to wonder whether Mr. Johnson had been suspended because he had written tickets which were later questioned. But in an online article in Planet Princeton yesterday, Krystal Knapp attributed Mr. Johnson’s suspension and later departure as being due to the municipality’s discovery that it was unaccountably low on rabies vaccine.

On Monday Mr. Johnson said that his employment with the municipality had been “terminated” but would not comment further.

Mr. Dashield would say only that the municipality has offered Mr. Johnson a separation agreement, which he has not yet accepted. “The agreement gives him time to review the terms. Therefore, I am unable to comment any further on the issue or share the terms.” Dashield did not respond to a requests for comment on what prompted the “separation.”

Having served as Princeton’s animal control officer for over two decades,  Mr. Johnson is well-known to the community for incidents that include removing bats and unwanted animal intruders into homes and keeping track of sightings of deer, foxes, coyotes, and bears.

einstein pi daySix years into spearheading Princeton’s annual Pi Day celebrations, Mimi Omiecinski has noticed a shift in the way the town approaches this annual event celebrating its famous former resident, Albert Einstein.

“It’s like the town is now the conductor of Pi Day,” said Ms. Omiecinski, a transplanted southerner who heads Princeton Tour Company and brought Pi Day, an event celebrated in communities worldwide, to Princeton in 2010. This year’s commemoration is Saturday, March 14, which is the famed theoretical physicist’s birthday and also happens to be the numeric equivalent (3.14) of the mathematical constant Pi. Events will take place all day at the Nassau Inn, Princeton Public Library, and other locations throughout town.

“It’s planned, it’s organized, but it’s almost like jazz in that everybody takes their own interpretation,” Ms. Omiecinski continued. “The people who run the non-profits organizations, and the merchants — they’re the unsung heroes. I put it on, but everybody does their own thing.”

Einstein lived in Princeton, mostly at 112 Mercer Street, for more than two decades when he was affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Study. The man who came up with the theory of relativity and won the Nobel Prize for Physics was also an unassuming resident who liked to take long walks and ride his bike through town.

This year’s Pi Day events include the familiar pie-eating contest at McCaffrey’s Market, the Pi recitation, the Einstein lookalike contest, and rides on the Dinky train with an Einstein re-enactor. But every year brings a new set of sub-themes. One that has recently captured Ms. Omiecinski’s attention is music. Einstein was passionate about music and was an accomplished, if amateur, violinist who played with the community’s orchestra.

“He loved playing the violin. People have suggested that he wasn’t particularly great at it, but he was committed to it,” said Ms. Omiecinski. “He played because he loved it, for the love of music.”

Several events on Saturday will pay tribute to Einstein’s musical proclivities. The first is at 9:30 a.m. at the Nassau Inn, when The Westminster “Chorchestra,” an ensemble of young cellists aged 11 to 17 from Princeton’s Westminster Conservatory of Music, will play works by Bach, a Renaissance piece, and two “Sailor Dance” melodies. Next is a “Kids of All Ages Violin Exhibition” sponsored by Princeton Symphony Orchestra, featuring children aged three to six, many of whom may come dressed as Einstein.

Miss Amy, a popular area musician who entertains children, will do a “Fitness Rock & Roll” interactive concert at noon, while Kids Music’Round will lead a parade at 1:59 p.m. to celebrate Pi. The first 314 people to assemble will be led in a circular path through Palmer Square, ending up with music back at the Nassau Inn. At the Princeton Public Library from 2 to 3:30 p.m., Kip Rosser will give a concert on the theremin, the first fully electronic musical instrument, which is played without physical contact from the hands of the player.

Other activities throughout the day include a chess demonstration, a self-guided Pub and Grub tour of Einstein’s favorite hangouts, two “Happy Birthday Einstein” parties held by the Historical Society of Princeton, a “Once in a Lifetime Teacher Video Contest,” a bike tour, a Kenken lecture and demonstration, a cocktail-making class at the Peacock Inn, and a mini-production of Steve Martin’s play Picasso at the Lapin Agile.

Local merchants will be pricing certain items at $3.14. Commemorative bracelets will be on sale to benefit the Princeton Education Foundation. More than 9,000 people are expected to descend on the town for the celebration, said Ms. Omiecinski. To keep up, she has hired Roy, her favorite local taxi driver, to ferry her from venue to venue during the day.

“There are Pi Day celebrations all over the place, but ours is the only one that takes place in the place where Einstein actually lived,” she said. “What I love about Princeton’s Pi Day is that we have something different every year in addition to the signature events. There is a real, sincere passion for this celebration.”

AN AMERICAN MUSIC ICON: Paul Simon surprised the audience of over 800 Princeton University students, faculty, and staff with a performance of “The Sound of Silence.” Simon joined poet Paul Muldoon for a discussion of musical influences past and present, citing musicians like the Everly Brothers and Ladysmith Black Mambazo(Photo by Denise Applewhite)

AN AMERICAN MUSIC ICON: Paul Simon surprised the audience of over 800 Princeton University students, faculty, and staff with a performance of “The Sound of Silence.” Simon joined poet Paul Muldoon for a discussion of musical influences past and present, citing musicians like the Everly Brothers and Ladysmith Black Mambazo (Photo by Denise Applewhite)

Internationally renowned singer-songwriter Paul Simon visited Princeton University recently to talk about his career and his most recent work in a discussion facilitated by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Princeton Professor Paul Muldoon. The Grammy award-winning artist also offered an impromptu performance to a capacity audience of over 800, mostly made up of students and joined by faculty and staff at Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton campus. The event was presented by the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Performance Central.

In a relaxed conversation with Muldoon, Simon discussed a range of topics including his most recent work, his early influences, the current state of the music industry, and the challenges artists face in today’s world. He also took questions from Princeton students in the audience.

When asked about his earliest musical influences he noted the doo-wop groups of the 1950s, Elvis Presley, and particularly the Everly Brothers, saying he was in awe of Phil and Don Everly as a teen, calling them the best-sounding duo he had ever heard. He recalled a 2003 concert in which he and Art Garfunkel, reunited for a world tour, invited the Everly Brothers to come out of retirement to be guest performers.

In talking about his most recent musical endeavors, Simon described his current interest in the work of 20th-century composer Harry Partch, who composed microtonally, closely looking at the range within each note. Partch contended the western scale of 12 notes in an octave was actually 36 notes and did not fully represent the range of notes. Partch invented instruments to play microtonal intervals. Simon had an opportunity to play and record with these instruments for the new songs he is working on. He played a recording of one of these new songs, “The Insomniac’s Lullaby.”

When asked about the prospects for a young songwriter starting out today, Simon noted the challenges of the current economics of the music business. “We are living in an anti-art age,” he explained. “The world is now a brutal place and obsessed with speed and wealth.” He noted the biggest problem with the music industry today is that it is more about the packaging of the artist controlled by a small number of large corporations. There are a few huge stars but many talented, struggling artists. However, he believes this will change, predicting the industry will see a shift similar to the one that occurred in the 1960s, ushered in by the young people studying music today. His best advice to budding songwriters: work hard; there are no shortcuts.

Simon also expressed concern about the growing financial resources spent on presidential campaigns in the U.S., with those processes being heavily influenced by a very small group of extremely wealthy individuals. He observed that artists have valuable perspectives on life, but politicians don’t ask artists for their opinions on important issues. He recalled that when he was working on the album Graceland in South Africa, the artists and musicians with whom he collaborated had the best understanding of South African politics. When asked what it was like working on Graceland with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, he said, “It was one of the great learning experiences of my life.”

Princeton’s oldest a cappella group, The Nassoons, opened the event with a performance of a medley of songs from Simon’s album, Graceland.

Prior to the public talk, Simon visited a creative writing/music course taught by Muldoon, “How to Write a Song.” In this popular course, Muldoon leads students with varied backgrounds in music and creative writing in the creation of new songs. Working in small teams, the students are asked to compose music and write lyrics each week that respond to such emotionally charged themes as contempt, gratitude, revenge, desire, disgust, joyousness, remorse, loneliness, despair, and defiance. Simon is the most recent in a series of guest artists who have joined Muldoon and the 26 enrolled students throughout the semester. He spent three hours with the students earlier that afternoon, listening to and critiquing the songs the songwriting teams had created that week. The students will perform songs from the course in a public concert at the end of the semester.

During his distinguished career, Simon has been the recipient of many honors and awards including 12 Grammy awards, three of which (Bridge Over Troubled Water, Still Crazy After All These Years, and Graceland) were for Albums of the Year. In 2003 he was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award for his work as half of the duo Simon and Garfunkel. He is a member of The Songwriters Hall of Fame, a recipient of the Hall of Fame’s Johnny Mercer Award, and is in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Simon and Garfunkel and as a solo artist. His song “Mrs. Robinson” from the motion picture The Graduate was named in the top ten of The American Film Institute’s “100 Years 100 Songs.”

To learn more, visit http://arts.princeton.edu.

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Kwame Dawes

Kwame Dawes

Poets from around the world will read from their work and hold panel discussions at the 2015 Princeton Poetry Festival, a two-day biennial event presented through the Lewis Center’s Performance Central Series. The Festival will take place March 13 and 14 in Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall on the Princeton campus. Organized by Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and Princeton professor Paul Muldoon, the Festival will open with the New Jersey State Finals of Poetry Out Loud, a national poetry performance competition for high school students.

Princeton University has a longstanding tradition of nurturing poets. From Revolutionary War poet Philip Morin Freneau, class of 1771, to major post-war poets William Ralph Meredith ’40, Galway Kinnell ’48, and W. S. Merwin ’48, to acclaimed contemporary poet Emily Moore ’99, hundreds of renowned graduates have studied poetry and creative writing at Princeton. Today, poetry continues to thrive at Princeton under the direction of such renowned poets and professors as Michael Dickman, Paul Muldoon, James Richardson, Tracy K. Smith, Susan Wheeler, and Monica Youn.

This year’s 12 poets represent four continents. Seven poets from the United States include Ellen Bryant Voigt, finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award; Major Jackson, winner of a Whiting Writers’ Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Maureen N. McLane, winner of the National Critics Circle Award in autobiography; as well as Ada Limón, Michael Robbins, and Ray Young Bear, a member of the Native American Meskwaki Nation.

International poets include Ghanaian-born Jamaican poet Kwame Dawes, British poet Paul Farley, Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie, Belarusian poet Valzhyna Mort, Polish poet and translator Tomasz Rózycki, and Vietnamese poet Ocean Vuong.

“We are pleased to bring some of the best poets in the world to Princeton,” notes Mr. Muldoon, the Howard G.B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities, “and to provide this venue for sharing their diverse work with our students and the wider community including middle and high school students.”

The Festival will open on the morning of March 13 with the New Jersey State Finals of Poetry Out Loud, when 12 high school students will compete for the state title and the opportunity to represent New Jersey at the national finals in Washington, D.C. among others.

A gala opening reading will follow in the afternoon when the New Jersey Poetry Out Loud winner and runner-up will perform, followed by a reading by all 12 Festival poets, introduced by Muldoon. A panel discussion and lecture will complete the afternoon with a reading by four of the poets in the evening. On Saturday the Festival will continue with an afternoon reading and panel discussion and conclude with an evening reading. While featured poets come from around the world and write in numerous languages, the readings, discussions, and panels will be in English.

Tickets for the Princeton Poetry Festival are $15 for each day, free for students, and $25 for a two-day Festival Pass and are available through Princeton University ticketing by calling (609) 258-9220, online, or at the Frist Campus Center ticket office. The Finals of Poetry Out Loud is free, however advance tickets are required and can be reserved through University ticketing.

To learn more about the Festival, including a detailed schedule of events and information on the poets, and the more than 100 other events presented each year by the Lewis Center for the Arts visit: arts.princeton.edu.

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bryn mawr book sale

Now in its 84th consecutive year, the Bryn Mawr Wellesley Book Sale, the largest and oldest used book sale on the East Coast, will open with a preview on Friday March 20.

Books are donated by Princeton University scholars, local celebrities, and ordinary book lovers. Proceeds support college scholarships for young women from central New Jersey.

Patrons will find over 85,000 books including non-fiction, fiction, trade, hard back, soft cover, rare and collectible books, recipe books, beautiful coffee table volumes, and photography books among others. They are organized into 60 topics and displayed for easy browsing.

“Every sale is a little different, based on book donations in the past year, and the 84th sale is remarkable for an extra-large children’s section and rare books in the Collector’s Corner section,” says Director Elizabeth Romanaux.

Tickets for the preview day, March 20, are $25 per person and are available on the preview sale page of the website. Remaining days are free. Collector’s Corner is open the same hours as the rest of the sale except where noted.

Hours: Friday, March 20 ($25), 10 a.m.–6 p.m.

Saturday, March 21, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

Sunday, March 22, 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

Monday, March 23 (½ price except most Collector’s Corner books), 10 a.m.–8 p.m; Collector’s Corner open 10 a.m.–3 p.m.

Tuesday, March 24 ($10 a box day) 10–3 p.m.; Collector’s Corner closed.

For more details visit http://bmandwbooks.com.

The Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County will host an all-day garden symposium, “Bringing Life to the Garden,” on Saturday, March 21, at Stuart Country Day School, 1200 Stuart Road, in Princeton. Several specialists will be on hand to deliver talks and interact with those in attendance.

Elizabeth Murray, artist, restorer and photographer of Monet’s Gardens; Kelly D. Norris, a 20-something horticulture manager at Greater Des Moines Botanical Gardens; Mike Raupp, entomologist at the University of Maryland nationally known as the “bug guy” on radio and TV; Janet Macunovich and Steven Nikkila, professional gardeners, authors and educators; and Barbara J. Bromley, Mercer County Horticulturist, will be featured. Details, as well as registration form and fees, can be found at www.mgofmc.org/symposium. Registration by mail is required and early registration is strongly recommended.

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Teammates on Princeton University’s 1965 NCAA Final Four squad, former Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters ’67 (left) and former U.S. Senator and NCAA Player of the Year Bill Bradley ’65 meet up as the 50th anniversary of the run was celebrated at Jadwin Gym Saturday. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

March 4, 2015

Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert has sent a letter to Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Richard Constable outlining recommendations for changes to the current code for multi-family housing, with the goal of improving fire safety.

The DCA is undertaking a review of New Jersey’s construction and fire codes, and has asked for input from municipalities across the state. Concerns have been especially high among local residents in recent weeks since a devastating fire at a Bergen County rental community owned by AvalonBay, the developer building a rental complex at the former site of Princeton Hospital.

The recommendations are focused on the use of lightweight wood construction in large, multi-family developments. If lightweight wood construction continues to be allowed in New Jersey, Princeton Council recommends several provisions be added to the state’s fire and building codes, according to the letter.

The provisions dictate that all new multiple family housing buildings meet NFPA 13 requirements, that they require masonry stairwells and elevator shafts, that they be build with masonry fire walls from foundation to roof line with rated roof assembly eight feet horizontally off the firewall, and require tighter intervals of draft stopping and fire stopping, and add to inspection requirements.

Also, if a loft or mezzanine meets the criteria for habitability it should meet the code definition and criteria for a floor level. Any penetration through a firewall must be permitted and inspected. The state should immediately create the same type of to-year permitting and certification process that would enable each municipality to inspect existing firewalls for backflow preventers, the letter reads. “Many contractors either are not required to take out permits for work done in attics or they are illegally performing the work in an unseen space. Firewalls are compromised and residents are unaware of the severity of the potential hazard,” the letter concludes.

UPSTANDERS, NOT BYSTANDERS: Riverside School art teacher Ashley Kennedy, left, and counselor Ben Samara, right, collaborated on a children’s book that helps kids step up to defend others who are being bullied or teased. “Sage Stands Up” is projected for a fall release.(Photo by Anne Levin)

UPSTANDERS, NOT BYSTANDERS: Riverside School art teacher Ashley Kennedy, left, and counselor Ben Samara, right, collaborated on a children’s book that helps kids step up to defend others who are being bullied or teased. “Sage Stands Up” is projected for a fall release. (Photo by Anne Levin)

In his job as school counselor at Riverside Elementary School, Ben Samara sees his share of children who have been bullied. He also talks to kids who have watched others be teased and want to help, but are afraid to intervene.

It is those children Mr. Samara and his colleague, Riverside art teacher Ashley Kennedy, are targeting in Sage Stands Up, a children’s book on which they have collaborated and hope to make part of a series. A “kickstarter” campaign to raise $6,000 for a limited first run was more than two thirds of the way to its goal this past Monday — and that’s with another three weeks to go.

“It’s really about standing up for others,” said Mr. Samara during an interview in his office. “When bystanders become what we call upstanders, it dramatically reduces bullying.”

“These kids are young. They don’t really want to be bullies,” adds Ms. Kennedy. “You want those who are strong to guide the ones who might be a little lost. It’s really about kids teaching kids.”

Mr. Samara has always been a writer. At the College of New Jersey, he majored in professional writing and journalism before earning a master’s degree in school counseling. “I do a lot of reading to kids here at school, and I have noticed that the content in books about bullying isn’t always right or entertaining or accessible,” he said. “So I thought, why not do my own?”

To illustrate the book, Mr. Samara called on Ms. Kennedy, with whom he has served on committees at Riverside devoted to anti-bullying. She was on board right away. Her experience as a commercial photographer as well as an illustrator helped shape the vision for the book, which combines the two forms. Color illustrations are mixed with black and white photographic backgrounds.

“I wanted the kids here at Riverside to literally see themselves in the book,” said Ms. Kennedy. “So that’s why I used both illustrations and photography. I have illustrations of kids placed with photographs of places that are familiar, like our school hallways, so that they can identify.”

Both educators see an alarming rise in bullying, both locally and on a more widespread basis. At Riverside, they try to be pro-active rather than reactive. Posters urging children to be “upstanders” are strategically placed in every classroom and in hallways. “We work with kids so they know how to deal with the problem,” said Mr. Samara. Ms. Kennedy added, “It’s about developing empathy before an incident happens.”

In Sage Stands Up, the main character is named Sage for a reason. “It means wisdom, which is important,” said Mr Samara. “And Sage is often a girl’s name, so giving it to a boy is part of the idea of not pre-judging, and standing up for who you are. My favorite part of the book is the fact that even after Sage learns what to do in a bullying situation, he’s still scared. But at the end of the day, he follows through. This is definitely a scenario that we’ve heard about many times. So it really rings true.”

Ms. Kennedy has taught at Riverside since September 2013. Prior to coming to Princeton, she taught at a high school in West Caldwell and did commercial photography work. Mr. Samara has been Riverside’s guidance counselor since 2009.

The colleagues plan to gauge the community reaction to the book before deciding their next step, but they are hopeful that more books are in their future. They have done test readings at Riverside, with overwhelmingly positive reactions from their young critics.

Mr. Samara has finished writing the story; Ms. Kennedy still has a few more illustrations to go, this winter’s incessant snow having hampered some of her photography efforts. An initial run of 1,000 copies is projected for the coming fall.

“This is an idea we’ve generated together and hope to follow up on,” said Mr. Samara. “I think it’s addressing something that most kids can relate to.”

On Sunday, March 15 from 3 to 5 p.m., “ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize Your Life In ‘The Era of Endless‘ will take place at Princeton Public Library. Co-Sponsored by Chadd of Princeton-Mercer County and the library, the event will feature speaker Judith Kolberg, Author of ADD-Friendly Ways to Organize your Life and founder of Fileheads Professional Organizers.

For those with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) who are avid information-seekers but soft on decision-making, the ‘Era of Endless’ information can be particularly overwhelming. At the event, participants will discuss powerful ADD-friendly strategies for getting the upper hand.

Donald F. Denny Jr., MD

Donald F. Denny Jr., MD

The Princeton HealthCare System (PHCS) Foundation presented the 2015 Physician Philanthropist of the Year Award to Donald F. Denny Jr., MD, a board certified radiologist who serves as senior vice president for medical affairs at PHCS.

Dr. Denny received the award from Gerard A. Compito, MD, chairman of the PHCS Foundation Board of Directors, during the PHCS Medical Staff’s annual dinner on February 12. The Foundation presents the award annually to a University Medical Center of Princeton (UMCP) physician whose service and leadership as a volunteer have enhanced not only the PHCS Foundation’s fundraising goals but also the missions of other nonprofit organizations throughout the greater central New Jersey community.

Dr. Denny is the fourth recipient of the award. Previous awardees included William P. Burks, MD, Peter I. Yi, MD, and Margaret L. Lancefield, MD, PhD.

Dr. Denny was co-chair of the Physicians Development Committee (with Dr. Yi) and served on the Leadership Gifts Committee during the Design for Healing campaign, which supported construction of the new UMCP. The Physicians Development Committee helped raise more than $5 million from over 460 physicians and their
families.

Dr. Denny and his wife, Catherine, hosted events in their home for the Foundation and Design for Healing campaign. Dr. Denny continues to work with the Foundation to support new service line fundraising initiatives. In addition to their work with the Foundation, the Dennys also are regular financial supporters of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Trinity Counseling Service, Isles, Mercer Street Friends, McCarter Theatre and other nonprofit groups in the Mercer County region.

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