May 1, 2015

BN 2

It truly is Earth Day every day for Landis Hackett, a senior at Princeton High School. So far, he’s met his personal goal of riding his bike to school every day this year, come rain or shine, snow or sleet. “My main inspiration is my dad, who used to bike 12 miles both ways to and from work in D.C. every day,” said Hackett, who is president of the Bike Club as well as a member of three singing clubs and boys’ lacrosse at PHS.  “I have the satisfaction of knowing that my daily communte to and from school has no negative environmental impact, and that I’m spreading the word about Princeton being a bike-able town.” The hardest days were, predictably, during those long winter months. “The single most difficult day was when it was -7 degrees without the windchill, -13 with it, and probably -20 degrees while on the bike,” he noted. Still, it never occured to him not to ride. “Now it’s a habit, and if I broke that habit, it wouldn’t feel right.”

April 29, 2015
HOME SWEET HOME: Yvonne Jackson beams at her new circumstances as a resident of Princeton Community Village (PCV) and a beneficiary of the New Jersey Affordable Housing Management Association (JAHMA) “In Time of Need” program through which she received a furniture donation from American Furniture Rental. From left: Princeton Community Housing Director Edward Truscelli, Ms. Jackson, JAHMA’s Bruce W. Johnson, and PCV administrative staff Susan O’Malley, and Mary Maybury.

HOME SWEET HOME: Yvonne Jackson beams at her new circumstances as a resident of Princeton Community Village (PCV) and a beneficiary of the New Jersey Affordable Housing Management Association (JAHMA) “In Time of Need” program through which she received a furniture donation from American Furniture Rental. From left: Princeton Community Housing Director Edward Truscelli, Ms. Jackson, JAHMA’s Bruce W. Johnson, and PCV administrative staff Susan O’Malley, and Mary Maybury.

Thanks to a program run by the New Jersey Affordable Housing Management Association (JAHMA) in conjunction with American Furniture Rental (AFR), Princeton resident Yvonne Jackson is finally able to enjoy her own new sofa, not to mention sleep in her own full size bed and sit down to dinner at her own table. Items that most of us take for granted were lost to Ms. Jackson when she became homeless.

But now, after waiting several months, her apartment in Holly House in Princeton Community Village (PCV) has new furniture courtesy of “In Time of Need,” a furniture distribution program for individuals like Ms. Jackson with compelling situations caused by fire, poverty, or similar circumstances.

A breast cancer survivor who continues to struggle with ill health — she’s had 28 operations, most recently for throat problems — Ms. Jackson moved into her PCV apartment about five months ago and just recently received her new dining room, living room and bedroom furniture.

Bruce W. Johnson, who runs the “In Time of Need” program, was on site to see the furniture’s arrival and installation by AFR, the New Jersey-based company founded in 1975 and the nation’s third largest rental provider of residential, office, home staging, and special events furniture. “Yvonne is a delightful person and was happy to have the new furniture that she had waited for so patiently while living in an empty apartment,” he said.

Interviewed at home, Ms. Jackson was thankful for her new circumstances. “I am grateful to Edward Truscelli, Susan O’Malley, Mary Maybury, and Edith Juarez for all their help and their kindness; I thank God there are still people like them. I feel very blessed.”

After months of sleeping on an air mattress on the floor, she especially appreciates her new bed. “I can roll around in comfort,” she laughed.

So how was it that the former cashier found herself in such need? “I was in the process of moving when my ID was stolen and that put a hold on everything,” she explained. “They ran up a bill and by the time the whole thing cleared I’d lost the affordable housing place that I was due to move into.” Because the apartment she was planning to move to was small, she’d already given away most of her possessions. Now in addition to no furniture, she had nowhere to go. “I was stuck,” she said.

In spite of the recent brutally cold winter weather, Ms. Jackson contemplated living in her car. Her daughter, Yolanda Shahied, lives in Maryland; her son Robert Jackson lives at Princeton Community Village, so she ended up sharing his small apartment there.

“Yvonne stayed with her son for a short time and when an apartment became free she was on top of the affordable housing waiting list,” said Susan O’Malley, who, along with PCV office staff members Ms. Juarez and Ms. Maybury, recommended Ms. Jackson to the “In Time of Need” program.

Site personnel at any JAHMA-affiliated property may submit an application on behalf of a needy resident to the program, which receives donations from AFR and Thomasville.

According to Mr. Johnson, the program has completed 49 such installations with a grand total of some $800,000 to low-income families since May 2006. “That’s retail value,” said Mr. Johnson, adding that for an organization the size of JAHMA, the amount is a significant one. “Although small in size JAHMA is a very active and effective organization, which does a tremendous amount with its resources through two programs that benefit affordable housing residents: “In Time of Need” and the JAHMA scholarships for high school students going to college.

Ms. Jackson, who enjoyed her former work as a cashier for several Shoprite stores before her ill health, grew up in the Princeton area and attended the Valley Road School. Her father Ivory Jackson and her mother Dolly Mae Jackson worked for Mount Farm apple orchards.

Born in 1955, she now looks forward to celebrating her 60th birthday in her new apartment. “My own apartment,” she laughed. “It’s so roomy!”

Before the donation, Ms. Jackson had just a few bits and pieces of furniture that friends and neighbors had given her. Above her new sofa, there’s a painted scene, a woodland path under trees in full summer foliage, a housewarming gift from her son. On the end table nearby are pictures of Ms. Jackson’s parents.

Her apartment is on the fifth floor of a six-story building at Princeton Community Village. There are elevators and a laundry room and social gathering room in the basement. The Free B shuttle and NJ Transit bus stop right outside the building and the large window of her apartment looks out onto trees and the rest of the village.

JAHMA is a nonprofit professional organization of property managers and owners who specialize in the development and operation of government assisted/affordable housing.

For more about In Time of Need and the donations that it depends upon, visit: www.jahma.org.

ballet whelanWendy Whelan’s retirement from the New York City Ballet last fall was marked with great fanfare and emotional tributes. In her 28 years with the company, she performed a broad range of repertory and won loyal fans for her individualistic style and distinctive approach to her roles.

Teaching a ballet class Monday at Princeton University, a day before she was to appear at McCarter Theatre in a program of contemporary choreography called “Restless Creature,” Ms. Whelan made it clear that though she still loves ballet, she isn’t exactly bereft about no longer being a principal dancer with one of the largest ballet companies in the nation.

When she was introduced to the students as “formerly a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet,” Ms. Whelan grinned and said, “Yes, formerly!” Retirement from the ballet company clearly agrees with this 47-year-old, who looks decades younger. But she has hardly been idle. In the current phase of her career, Ms. Whelan has been developing new collaborations with choreographers who take ballet to a new level.

Small and delicate but with long, sinewy limbs, she wore a gray leotard, black warmup pants and black socks — no ballet slippers. She demonstrated each step, and within a few minutes was sweating along with the students.

The 29 students in the class — 26 women, three men — had no trouble keeping up with Ms. Whelan’s movement combinations at the barre, then in the center of the room, and finally “across the floor.” Some were tall and willowy, and appeared to have years of ballet training behind them. But it was those who looked less like the standard ideal of ballet dancers that she singled out more frequently for praise.

“That’s beautiful — crystal cut and clean,” she said to a young woman after asking her to demonstrate a combination of jumps. When one of the male students leaped so high that he nearly crashed into the wall, she whooped with delight.

Growing up in Kentucky, Ms. Whelan started ballet classes at age three and performed in her first Nutcracker at age eight. She was awarded a scholarship to the School of American Ballet, the official school of the New York City Ballet, in 1981. Five years later, she was invited to join the company. By 1991, she had reached the rank of principal dancer.

Her years at New York City Ballet included performances of works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, and numerous other choreographers who worked with the company. Ms. Whelan came to be identified with the more contemporary, rather than classical pieces, and formed a particularly productive working relationship with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, who has frequently credited her as an inspiration.

Ms. Whelan had already begun collaborating with several choreographers when she danced with New York City Ballet for the final time last October. Since then, she has focused on “Restless Creature,” which premiered at the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in August 2013. The program at McCarter Theatre on Tuesday night featured her in works by Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, and Alejandro Cerrudo.

Teaching is also one of Ms. Whelan’s strengths. Challenging the Princeton students with some tricky timings, she said, “This is the most complicated it will be today, I promise you. I know you’re dealing with finals.” Quoting the late ballerina and teacher Melissa Hayden when urging the students to tighten their posteriors, she made them laugh when she said, “You’ve got to use your cheeks — all four of them.”

There is no dance major program at Princeton, but students who pursue a certificate in dance are offered a wide variety of courses in a range of genres. “You guys are awesome,” Ms. Whelan told the students at the conclusion of the class on Monday before posing with them for a group picture. “Great job.”

AT THE BARRE: Wendy Whelan, center facing right, a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet who has embarked on a new phase of her dance career, taught a master class Monday at Princeton University’s Hagan Dance Studio a day before a performance at McCarter Theatre.(Photo by Anne Levin)

AT THE BARRE: Wendy Whelan, center facing right, a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet who has embarked on a new phase of her dance career, taught a master class Monday at Princeton University’s Hagan Dance Studio a day before a performance at McCarter Theatre. (Photo by Anne Levin)

 

Witherspoon Media Group (WMG) had a wonderful time at Communiversity 2015 with a booth stationed in front of Landau Princeton. Staff members handed out copies of the Town Topics Newspaper, Princeton Magazine, and Urban Agenda New York City, while talking to local residents and visitors alike about WMG’s various publications. Princeton Magazine also added numerous photos to their instagram account, as seen below.

(Photo by Emily Reeves)

Communiversity 2015 took place on a beautiful day with picture perfect weather. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

 

(Photo by Emily Reeves)

The Princeton University Marching Band entertained the crowds. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

 

Witherspoon Media Group sales team members Robin Broomer and Kendra Russell hand out copies of the magazines. (Photo by Sarah Emily Gilbert)

Witherspoon Media Group sales team members Robin Broomer and Kendra Russell handed out copies of the magazines. (Photo by Sarah Emily Gilbert)

 

Even a little poodle named Sophie stopped by! (Photo by Sarah Emily Gilbert)

Even a little poodle named Sophie stopped by! (Photo by Sarah Emily Gilbert)

 

Communiv 5Since Communiversity was held during National Poetry Month, members of the Town Topics team collected poetry submissions from school children attending the town wide celebration last month. Olivia Tague, 8, a second grader at Littlebrook Elementary School, submitted such a colorful piece that we include it here as received. In addition, here are five poems from Landon Pesnell, 5, who attends Nassau Nursery School; Thomsen Lord, 7, a second grader at Riverside Elementary School; Ellie van der Schaar, a third grader at Princeton Charter School, and John Witherspoon Middle School eighth grader John Evered, 14. The theme of each poem is “What Princeton Means to Me.”

The Poems

The True Meaning of Princeton

by John Evered

Through the hardship of winter

The warmth of spring

And joyful summer memories

The glorious overcast of leafs

Every color

The sap of the tree

From bikers to joggers

Explorers to teachers

Expressions to a gesture

The mystical horizon

The bright futures

The promising opportunities

The comforting hospitality

Diligent neighbors

Outdoor celebrations

From ethnicity to accent

Country to country

Foreign land to American soil

Unity.

Helpful tutors to helpful friends

Hard workers

Determination.

———

Princeton

by Thomsen Lord

Sports, sky and shops. Bordering

Bigs like New York City and Philadelphia

Not too busy. Not too quiet. Tons

of popular restaurants. All the importants

like banks and two gas stations.

I love Princeton!

———

The Best Town Around

by Ellie van der Schaar

Princeton is best of all
places

I would please to be,

Friendly faces

As far as the eye can see.

Grocery stores,

Fashion galores!

Family parks,

Relationship sparks!

Delicious food,

Brightens your mood!

Nature surrounds, all over town

Princeton is the

BEST

Town around!

———

What Princeton Means to Me

by Landon Pesnell

Inspired by his walks home from Grover Park near the Princeton Shopping Center, where he prefers to use his puddle boots in the mud instead of staying on the path, Landon Pesnell, 5, composed this shorter-than-haiku work:

Princeton means to me

Off Roading!

———

 

For residents of the Princeton Ridge, a major focus of the past few years has been the natural gas pipeline that the Williams Transco company is adding to an existing line running through the area. Concerns about how this project will affect the surrounding environment have been paramount, particularly for members of the Princeton Ridge Coalition, which was organized soon after the plans were announced.

Construction is scheduled to begin during the middle of next month.

Recently, neighbors got some welcome news when Barbara and Michael Blumenthal, who own a 15.38-acre property on the northern side of Ridgeview Road, decided to dedicate an 11-acre portion to the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. Ms. Blumenthal, who has been a key member of the coalition, said she and her husband will continue to own the front 4.39-acre portion of the property, which includes their house. Another building, which they have used as a guest house, sits on the property they are donating and will be offered for sale.

“We started working on this a few months before I ever heard about the pipeline,” she said. “We own a beautiful piece of property, not where our house is. We purchased the second piece of property some years ago. It has a house but also includes 10 acres of forest that run behind four different properties, so it’s a big swatch of the forest. We were planning to sell the second lot we own and wanted to make sure the back portion would never be developed. So we asked for a subdivision.”

The subdivision was approved providing for the dedication of the rear portion to the Conservation Foundation. Linda MacCollum, assistant director of land acquisition for the foundation, was pleased to discover the variety of flora and fauna when she examined the property.

“I’m a birder,” she said. “I walked through the property last spring, and the number of migratory birds was just tremendous. We hit it on a perfect morning last May. The bird life was just amazing. There is an incredibly intact forest as well. There are very few invasive species, which is not easy to see nowadays. It’s just a beautiful piece of forest.”

The property will fall under the New Jersey Greenacres program, in which non-profit organizations that keep their land for open space and recreational purposes are tax exempt. The Conservation Foundation is obligated to keep the site open to the public. “We don’t have to have trails open right away, but it is open and available and we’ll post it as such and put a sign up,” Ms. MacCollum said.

Among the 15 migratory birds Ms. MacCollum saw on her tour of the property were black-throated blue warbler, black-throated green warbler, black and white warbler, northern parula, ovenbird, woodthrush, scarlet tanager, turkey, and red-eyed vireo. She also listed a red fox, and plants including showy orchis, spicebush, jack-in-the pulpit, trout lily, wood geranium, Christmas fern, and sensitive fern.

“Many of the birds we saw are neotropical migrants that have come from South America to nest here in our temperate forests,” she wrote in a letter to the Blumenthals. “While some of these birds may nest here, many will use it as a stopover and will continue farther north to breed. They depend upon forested areas such as yours to feed on insects to fuel their journeys. In the fall, they will likely pass through again, this time depending on the fruit of the Spicebush shrubs that are so abundant on your property. This important shrub produces lipid filled berries that fuel their journey back down south.”

Ninety percent of the property is wetland or flood plain. “So it’s a piece that needs to be protected,” said Ms. Blumenthal. “There is a buildable lot on it, so if we had just sold it, somebody could have asked for a subdivision and built on the upland part of it. It’s a remarkable piece of forest and the Conservation Foundation was happy to get it. So it’s a little bit of good news in the midst of the pipeline construction.”

On April 28, at 10:04 a.m., the Riverside Elementary School received a pre-recorded message that was general in nature and threatened to harm children. The school notified Princeton Police headquarters and patrol units responded to Riverside School and found the school to be safe. As a precaution, police remained at the school throughout the day. Patrols have been increased in the areas of all the schools throughout the municipality. All Princeton private and public schools were notified of the incident by the police department. Each school took actions deemed appropriate, including sheltering the children inside. The Princeton Police Department will continue to investigate the origin of the threat.

 

PHS Walk Out

Hundreds of students at Princeton High School (PHS) walked out of their classes last Thursday, April 23, in order to demonstrate their support for teachers who have been embroiled in contract negotiations with the district for the best part of a year. The peaceful walkout “was to draw attention to the issue of the teacher’s lack of contracts and the board’s lack of cooperation in negotiating a fair contract,” said senior student organizer Catherine Curran-Groome. “We also wanted to demonstrate that the students at PHS care deeply about how our teachers are treated.” Senior Crystal Abbott alerted Town Topics to the demonstration. “Our beloved teachers are doing everything within their power to both support the students and establish a fair contract that gives them the benefits that they deserve,” she said. Students began leaving the PHS building around 12:25 p.m. to gather on the front lawn. Some students held homemade signs during the peaceful demonstration and most returned to their classrooms shortly after 1 p.m. Teachers, who have been working under the terms of an expired contract since June 30, 2014, have stopped performing tasks for which they are not paid such as student clubs and field trips. In spite of reported progress, negotiations continue with the help of a state-appointed mediator. (Photo by Jennifer Lea Cohan)

Dyson BookProfessor Emeritus of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study Freeman Dyson, described as “one science’s most eloquent interpreters” in The New York Times Book Review, will be reading from his new book, Dreams of Earth and Sky (New York Review) at Labyrinth Books on Thursday, April 30, at 6 p.m.

In this sequel to The Scientist as Rebel (2006), Mr. Dyson celebrates openness to unconventional ideas and “the spirit of joyful dreaming” in which he believes that science should be pursued. Throughout these essays, which range from the creation of the Royal Society in the 17th century to the scientific inquiries of the Romantic generation to recent books by Daniel Kahneman and Malcolm Gladwell, he seeks to “break down the barriers that separate science from other sources of human wisdom.”

According to Kirkus Reviews, “Readers will be delighted by the fascinating insider’s view of the scientific community and its intersection with the political establishment.

Called by The Times of London “one of the world’s most original minds,” Mr. Dyson is the author of Disturbing the Universe (1979), Weapons and Hope (1984), Infinite in All Directions (1988), Origins of Life (1986, second edition 1999), The Sun, the Genome and the Internet (1999), The Scientist as Rebel (2006) and A Many-Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe (2010). He is a fellow of the American Physical Society, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 2000 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

page1

Sidewalk artists enjoying the 45th annual Communiversity ArtsFest Sunday. This week’s Town Talk features comments from a sample of the 40,000 visitors to the Town Meets Gown celebration. Pictures and poetry from the occasion can be found on page 15. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

April 24, 2015

Stand Against Racism

At a legislative breakfast today at the Nassau Inn, the Princeton and Trenton YWCA, the organization Not in Our Town, the Princeton Merchants Association and guests including Mayor Liz Lempert, Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson, Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter, and Princeton Council members Bernie Miller and Lance Liverman gathered to show support for Stand Against Racism. Mayor Lempert, shown here, was among the speakers on this year’s theme, which is “Ending Racial Profiling.” Other speakers included sociologist Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, who chairs Princeton’s Latin American Legal Defense & Education Fund. Ms. Fernandez-Kelly stressed that while taking a stand against racism, wage theft, and other related issues is admirable, it is also important to invite members of minority communities into churches and other organizations. “It’s not enough to stand against racism. That’s just a question of good manners,” she said. “Racial profiling is very bad manners and I think we should focus on inclusion, which is a lot harder.” (Photo by Anne Levin)

April 23, 2015

A live conversation between Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked classified NSA documents to the media, and Barton Gellman ’82, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author and visiting specialist at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, who broke the story in The Washington Post, will talk place Saturday, May 2 at 10:30 a.m. on the campus in the Friends Center, Room 101. The free, public event will be livestreamed at http://mediacentrallive.princeton.edu and will be recorded.

Mr. Snowden, now living in Russia, was a former defense contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton who worked at the NSA office in Hawaii. In 2013, using the codename Verax (Latin for “truth teller”), he approached the media bout classified NSA surveillance information. Soon after, Mr. Gellman helped break the story in the Washington Post of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program, which mines data from nine U.S. Internet companies including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Facebook.

Mr. Gellman, who is also author of The New York Times bestseller “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency,” has, since June of 2013, written stories for The Washington Post about the NSA documents provided to him by Snowden. He is also a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. His professional honors include two Pulitzer Prizes, a George Polk Award, a Henry Luce Award and Harvard’s Goldsmith Prize for investigative reporting. Gellman graduated with highest honors from Princeton and earned a master’s degree in politics at University College, Oxford, as a Rhodes Scholar.

The event is co-sponsored by the Center for Information Technology Policy, the Program in Law and Public Affairs and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

April 22, 2015

page1

Writing of Nassau Hall, Scott Fitzgerald, Class of 1917, found it “not like a mother who has borne sons and wears the scars of her travail but like a patient old nurse, skeptical and affectionate with these foster children who, as Americans, can belong to no place under the sun.” (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

BACK TO NATURE: It’s adults only at a new series of courses running through the fall at the Watershed Environmental Center in Pennington. This view is from a Saturday morning field trip that was part of the first course on birds of New Jersey. Coming up are sessions on plants and flowers, insects, and trees of New Jersey.(Photo by Lynn Butler)

BACK TO NATURE: It’s adults only at a new series of courses running through the fall at the Watershed Environmental Center in Pennington. This view is from a Saturday morning field trip that was part of the first course on birds of New Jersey. Coming up are sessions on plants and flowers, insects, and trees of New Jersey. (Photo by Lynn Butler)

Offering ecology-based experiences for adults is a regular part of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association’s mission. But a new series of courses and field trips geared to grown-ups is designed to take these experiences to another level.

“We’re digging deeper with this,” said Jeff Hoagland, the Watershed’s director of education and a designer of “The Language of Nature,” which began last month and will run through the fall. “We had reached out before to staff and other experts in the community to teach classes. But that was really just scratching the surface. This is different.”

The first course, a six-session series focused on birds of New Jersey and completed last week, sold out. The next, “Plants and Wild Flowers of Woods, Fields, and Roadsides,” taught by Rider University associate professor Laura A. Hyatt, runs on Tuesday evenings May 5-20. Mr. Hoagland is hopeful that it will inspire similar enthusiasm.

“You could say that we’re preaching to the choir a little,” he said. “But what we’re doing is capitalizing on what we believe is people’s inherent interest in the environment, giving them an opportunity to really understand the ‘language’ of nature. As naturalists, we see things happen. We’re trying to shine a light on that. So we’re taking it further.”

The idea for the series has been in the back of Mr. Hoagland’s mind for some time. But a conversation with board member Fred Spar brought it into sharper focus. “He sat down with me one day and we started to talk. I have to confess I was really pleased to hear what was coming out of his mouth as a board member,” Mr. Hoagland said. “He feels the same way I do — that it’s one thing to learn on one level about these aspects of nature, but it’s another thing to dive in deeper.”

Mr. Hoagland is especially enthused about the approach Ms. Hyatt will take with the upcoming course on plants and flowers. “It’s a mixture of old-school tools and hi-tech gadgets,” he said. “She’ll have a plant press, which is a nice, hands-on and rather basic technique. And she’s bringing a piece of equipment I hadn’t heard of before, that you can put around a plant to indicate how much photosynthesis is taking place. All of this allows people to get up close and personal and discover the magic of these things we walk by every day.’

In September and October, Mercer County Community College associate professor Amy Iseneker Ricco will teach “Insects of New Jersey,” with field sessions on insect collection, identification, and preservation at the Watershed Reserve. Next is “Trees of New Jersey,” with specific dates and location still to be named. All of the courses are designed to appeal to learners of all levels, Mr. Hoagland stressed.

“Sometimes these might feel almost like college courses, and that can sound intimidating,” he said. “But we have a whole range of learners, from people who are new to this to people who have some depth of knowledge already. And the teachers have been chosen to carefully accommodate that.”

Fees for the courses vary according to how many sessions are being taken and whether a student is a member of the Watershed, starting at $185 for one session and ranging to $840 for four. Visit www.thewatershed.org for more information.

The hope is to make the series a regular part of the Watershed curriculum. “We might offer some of the same courses next year, as well as some new ones,” Mr. Hoagland said. “There is a feedback loop we need to digest once we get into this further, and that will help us determine the next step.”

In celebration of National Bike Month, the Whole Earth Center will once again be committing Random Acts of Community throughout the month of May. This town-wide program was created to thank and reward bicyclists for choosing to bike rather than drive in Princeton.

Started 10 years ago with $125 in gift cards from the Whole Earth Center, this year’s participants include 26 Princeton businesses plus McCarter Theatre and the town of Princeton. A combined total of over $2,000 in gift cards will be given away this May.

Once a week, on an arbitrarily chosen day, time, and street corner, a representative from the Whole Earth Center will give the first five bicyclists who pass by a “Thank You for Bicycling” packet of gift cards from local businesses.

The certificates in each packet have a combined value of $70 to $120. The following will be given away each week: a $25 gift card from Whole Earth Center, a $25 Terra Momo gift card, a $25 JM Group gift card, a $25 gift card to the Nassau Inn, two tickets to any play in McCarter Theatre’s 2015-16 drama season, $5 from small world coffee, two free ice creams or cupcakes from the bent spoon, two $10 gift cards to Kopp’s Cycles, a $10 gift certificate to the Princeton Record Exchange, a $10 gift card from jaZam’s, a $10 gift card to Olive’s, a Princeton Pillow from the Princeton Tour Company, a $10 gift card to Hinkson’s, a $5 gift card to greendesign, a $5 gift card to P.J.’s Pancake House, $5 to Dolceria, $5 to Princeton Soup & Sandwich Company, three vouchers for a free sandwich at Olsson’s Fine Foods, and two vouchers for a free spice blend from Savory Spice. During May, two $20 Princeton SmartCards and two $10 gift cards to Labyrinth Books will be given away to cyclists.

“Bicycling brings so many benefits to Princeton and should be encouraged and rewarded,” says Whole Earth Center manager Jennifer Murray. “This program is our way of thanking bicyclists for their contribution to the quality of life in our town.”

For many years, the Whole Earth Center has rewarded shoppers who bike to their store. Biking customers can choose to either receive $1 back on purchases of $15 or more or to participate in a punch-card reward program where, after 10 punches on their Pedal Power card, customers who bike to the Whole Earth to shop receive $10 off on bike accessories at Kopp’s Cycles.

The Whole Earth Center is located at 360 Nassau Street in Princeton. To find out more about National Bike Month and Bicycle Friendly Communities, visit the League of American Bicyclists’ Web site at www.bikeleague.org.

With rapid-fire delivery, cognitive scientist and linguist Steven Pinker gave an abbreviated version of the highly researched and heavily supported arguments in the 800 pages of his 2011 book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Monday night to a packed audience in Princeton University’s McCosh auditorium.

Members of the public as well as students and faculty came to hear the Harvard professor who is listed among the world’s top 100 public intellectuals (Prospect Magazine) and today’s 100 most influential people (Time magazine).

Once described in Britain’s Financial Times as “a handsome man” with a hairstyle befitting Led Zeppelin’s front man Robert Plant, Mr. Pinker, who was born in Canada in 1954, studied experimental psychology at McGill University. He has spent most of his career bouncing back and forth between Harvard and MIT.

The award-winning author has written for the New York Times and The New Republic. His books include The Language Instinct (1994), How the Mind Works (1997), The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002), and The Stuff of Thought (2007).

He conveyed his seemingly contrary-to-contemporary-experience ideas with remarkable clarity, explaining the claim that humans are currently living in an era that is less violent than any previous period of human existence. And he is not just referring to wars but to violence in the family, in neighborhoods, between tribes, and between states. According to the author and the statistics that back up his assertions, people today are less likely to meet a violent death, or to suffer from violence or cruelty at the hands of others, than people living in any previous century.

In his book, Mr. Pinker attends to the skepticism that has greeted his ideas in six chapters of support. On Monday night, he began his talk with the words, “Believe it or not, violence has declined.”

Even taking the worst cases in the 20th century, Nazi Germany and Russia, Mr. Pinker debunked the claim that the 20th century was the most violent in human history. While the Second World War is said to have caused 55 million deaths, the Mongol conquests of the 13th century caused an estimated 40 million deaths in a world which then had just one-seventh the population of the mid-20th century.

Since 1945, we have seen a “long peace” in which, for 66 years, the great powers, and developed nations in general, have not fought wars against one another. The past, he said, has seen decades long wars: the 30 Years’ War, the 80 Years’ War and the Hundred Years’ War; the 20th century gave us the “Six-Day War.”

Mr. Pinker presented graphic comparisons drawn from history: paleolithic forensic anthropology, the causes of death in different eras, archaeology, contemporary or recent hunter-gatherer societies, pre-state societies in which life was, as Hobbes put it: “nasty, brutish, and short.”

A graph showed a massive decline in the number of the homicides in England from 1200 to 2000. “This is not to say that the decline will necessarily continue,” said Mr. Pinker, before moving on to discuss the causes of such declines, from the introduction of states that replaced tribal raiding and feuding with industry and trade. Replacing personal revenge and retaliation with a state monopoly on the use of force made everyone better off.

He suggested that the development of printing and the spread of literacy, the mixing of people during the Enlightenment, increasing empathy from novels and journalism led to a decrease in cruelty with people beginning to look askance at practices once taken for granted: slavery, torture, despotism, dueling, and extreme forms of cruel punishment. Apparently sawing a person in half was an accepted form of judicial punishment.

The empowerment of women also has had a pacifying influence, and the world would be more peaceful if women were in charge. Changing norms have come to present war as no longer a legitimate option except as a last resort. Where once war was regarded as heroic, glorious, manly, and thrilling, it is now seen as stupid, wasteful, and cruel. Other norms have prompted declines in corporal punishment, spanking, child abuse (both physical and sexual), and increases in vegetarianism.

Mr. Pinker considered and then rejected the idea that human nature may have changed, citing the example of Germany, once the most bellicose and now the most pacifist country in Europe. Change in such a short period could not have an evolutionary explanation, said the author who believes that human nature has both propensities to violence and inclinations towards peace and cooperation.

His title, he explained, comes from a remark by Abraham Lincoln. Our better angels are self-control, empathy, a moral sense, and reason. What brings them out? Giving the state and justice system a monopoly on violence, gentle commerce, an expanding circle of empathy (as Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University, has documented in his 1981 book The Expanding Circle) and the “escalator of reason.”

In less than an hour, Mr. Pinker demonstrated the breathtaking scope of the book, which Mr. Singer, has called “supremely important.”

“To have command of so much research, spread across so many different fields, is a masterly achievement,” said Mr. Singer in the New York Times Book Review, October, 2011.

Mr. Pinker not only “convincingly demonstrates that there has been a dramatic decline in violence,” said Mr. Singer, he is “persuasive about the causes of that decline.”

The Better Angels of Our Nature poses some very big questions: are human beings essentially good or bad? Has the past century witnessed moral progress or a moral collapse? Along the way, Mr. Pinker also addresses links between the human rights movement and the campaign for animal rights, why homicide rates are higher in southern U.S. states than in northern ones, whether aggressive tendencies are heritable, whether declines in violence could be attributed to genetic change, even the way in which a president’s I.Q. correlates with the number of battle deaths in wars in which the United States is involved.

In a moment of levity the speaker suggested that news media pulls the popular imagination away from considering these declining trends. “It’s rare for a reporter to stand in front of a school with the news that there have been no shootings here today,” he said.

Since his book was written in 2010, Mr. Pinker said that he had updated some of his material to include the Syrian Civil War, which he said “had wiped out about a dozen years of progress.”

But what of the future? This question didn’t arise during Mr. Pinkers presentation on Monday. But, as Peter Singer has pointed out: “Pinker is an optimist, but he knows that there is no guarantee that the trends he has documented will continue. Faced with suggestions that the present relatively peaceful period is going to be blown apart by a ‘clash of civilizations’ with Islam, by nuclear terrorism, by war with Iran or wars resulting from climate change, he gives reasons for thinking that we have a good chance of avoiding such conflicts, but no more than a good chance.”

Founded in 1912, the free public Vanuxem lecture series has previously presented speakers like J. Robert Oppenheimer, John von Neumann, and more recently Neil deGrasse Tyson. For further information, visit lectures.princeton.edu.

Community Park School (CP) will celebrate 10 years of its school garden on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22. Each student will make one “recycled” plastic flower from yogurt cups that have been saved by Principal Dineen Gruchacz and

others, decorate it with colorful cast off fabric and tissue paper, and hang all the flowers on the fence surrounding the school’s Edible Garden.

At 2 p.m, Mayor Liz Lempert, along with representatives of the Princeton Environmental Commission, Sustainable Princeton, and Princeton School Gardens Cooperative will join students and teachers in viewing the decorated garden, and in singing an environmental song led by CP Science Teacher John Emmons, one of the garden’s steadfast supporters during his seven years at the school, teaching classes in the garden and leading efforts to add an innovative Prairie Garden, Light and Shadow Gardens, and a Community Forest.

Teachers Elizabeth Czelusniak and Adam Blejwas, along with Karla Cook, whose daughters attended CP as elementary school students, remember the early days of the garden as ones that required them to involve as much of the school and larger community as possible.

Ms. Czelusniak found time in her schedule to take every class out at least once. Mr. Blejwas, the school’s Spanish teacher, grew Latin vegetables such as tomatillos with students, and joined them in making salsa from the garden’s harvest.

Ms. Cook, a longtime food journalist, was inspired to lead efforts for school gardens as an academic tool to connect children to the food on their plates, to each other and to the world around them. Other Community Park parents joined teachers and community members, and with input from people like Dorothy Mullen, longtime Riverside School Garden Educator, constructed the first raised beds and fence for the “Edible Garden.”

Ms. Cook’s work at Community Park inspired her to co-found the Princeton School Gardens Cooperative (PSGC), a unique, community-scale non-profit group, with Ms. Mullen, Fran McManus and Diane Landis Hackett. The PSGC, which fosters garden- and food-based education in the classroom, the cafeteria and the community, first constructed and filled edible gardens at all of the public schools in town, and still assists in fund-raising for garden educators and for garden maintenance.

In addition to funding from PSGC, the CP garden is supported by the school district and the school’s PTO. The funding goes for supplies and to pay an award-winning garden educator Priscilla Hayes, who has been leading gardening and sustainability efforts since the 1990s, when she originated programs in the Robbinsville Township schools as part of her Recycling and Clean Communities work.

In recent years at Community Park, parent Stephanie Chorney, has helped coordinate efforts in the school gardens and co-chairs the PTO’s Go Green Committee with Sandy Moskovitz. Community Park also has a Food and Flavor Health Residency with Fran McManus and coordinated by another parent, Lee Yonish. This program highlights tastings of some fruits and vegetables grown in the school garden.

andreas labyrinthAndreas Huyssen will read  from his new book Miniature Metropolis: Literature in the Age of Photography and Film (Harvard Univ. Press $39.95) at Labyrinth Books on Thursday, April 23 at 6 p.m.

Mr. Huyssen shows how writers from Baudelaire and Kafka to Benjamin, Musil, and Adorno created the metropolitan miniature to record their reflections of Paris, Brussels, Prague, Vienna, Berlin, and Los Angeles. Contesting photography and film as competing media, the metropolitan miniature sought to capture the “visceral feeling of acceleration and compression that defined urban existence. But the form did not merely imitate visual media, it absorbed them, condensing objective and subjective perceptions into the very structure of language and text and asserting the aesthetic specificity of literary language without resort to visual illustration.”  The author argues that the miniature subverted the expectations of transparency, easy understanding, and entertainment that mass circulation newspapers depended upon.

According to Anthony Kaes, University of California, Berkeley, “This book will serve as an invaluable guide to the wide variety of miniature writings that emerged in the modern age. Huyssen’s close readings of these literary gems highlight the ways in which they responded to new modes of sensory experience. A brilliant study of literature in the era of visual media.”

Andreas Huyssen is professor of German and comparative literature at Columbia University. He is the author of Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory; After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism; Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia; and Other Cities, Other Worlds: Urban Imaginaries in a Globalizing Age.

———

TRACKING OUR TREES: Having served as a tree climber and worked as assistant director of horticulture at New York’s Central Park, Princeton’s new arborist Lorraine Konopka knows her way around an urban landscape.

TRACKING OUR TREES: Having served as a tree climber and worked as assistant director of horticulture at New York’s Central Park, Princeton’s new arborist Lorraine Konopka knows her way around an urban landscape.

Since taking over from Greg O’Neil as Princeton’s arborist this past February, Lorraine Konopka has been bracing herself for the arrival of tiny visitors that could alter the town’s landscape. They are emerald ash borers, and they are a major threat.

“We’re told that it’s not a matter of if. It’s when,” said Ms. Konopka, who joined Princeton’s staff after nine years as Hanover Township’s arborist and two previous decades working for Manhattan’s Central Park Conservancy. The troublesome insects have yet to be detected in the branches of Princeton’s ash trees — which number somewhere around 1,700 — but they have been found in nearby Bridgewater and across the Delaware River in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. The town is conducting tests to try and monitor a possible invasion.

Dealing with the ash trees is only one aspect of Ms. Konopka’s new position. She commutes from Morris County, where she lives with her family. Ms. Konopka’s husband is the Central Park Conservancy’s Director of Mechanical Services. Their children are 17 and 21.

“Princeton is a beautiful town,” she said. “There is so much to see and do. I love history, and of course there are so many beautiful trees. There is a lot of work to be done, but I have a great crew and everyone on the staff has been so supportive.”

Growing up on Long Island, Ms. Konopka always knew she wanted to work outdoors. “My dream as a child was to go out west and be a forest ranger,” she says. “As it turned out, I take care of the urban forest. It just kind of happened that way.”

After graduating from college, Ms. Konopka worked for a private tree company as a tree climber. “You wear a saddle and rope, you prune off dead branches, and take down trees that need to come down,” she said. Today, she is a tree expert certified by the New York and New Jersey Departments of Environmental Protection, and an arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture.

Ms. Konopka was hired in the early 1980‘s by the then-fledgling Central Park Conservancy to help refurbish its trees. The park was not in good shape at the time. “There was graffiti everywhere, there was dead wood everywhere. It was not a place that people wanted to go or where they felt safe,” she recalled. “You look at those old pictures and you can’t believe it looked that bad. Because now, it’s beautiful and everyone wants to go there.”

The Conservancy was formed in 1980 with a mission of rescuing the park. The public/private partnership became a historic management agreement between the Conservancy and the City of New York in 1998, and the nonprofit organization today raises 75 percent of the park’s annual budget. Through public education programs and special signage throughout the park, the Conservancy has turned it into a major destination. But that creates another challenge. “People love the park, but they can consume it to death,” Ms. Konopka said. “So there is this need for constant maintenance.”

After the Conservancy completed its first big project, which was renovating the expanse known as the Sheep Meadow, its administrators realized they would need to raise more money to keep it healthy. “So they started hiring young 20-somethings and I was one of them,” Ms. Konopka said. “I did just about everything there. I ran the tree crew. I worked my way up to assistant horticulturist. I stayed for 20 years.”

It was 9/11 that made Ms. Konopka decide to move on. “I was a commuter, and I was in Central Park that day and there were F-16’s flying overhead. My kids were seven and four, at home. I couldn’t get there,” she says. “I had been thinking that the juggle was getting tougher, but that was the catalyst. So I came west of the Hudson and got a job working with a tree company, then some work for a consultant and some nursery work, before I heard about the job in Hanover.”

Here in Princeton, where she applied for the arborist job after her hours in Hanover started to be cut back, she is especially grateful to have the support of the town’s Department of Public Works. “The most important thing for me, being a tree expert, is safety,” she said. “We’re working hard to try and take care of the problems you have with big, old trees with dead wood or storm damage sustained after a few years of very rough weather.”

As for those emerald ash borers, she says, “Insect issues are always out there. These are things that happen in our natural world, but this is a pretty big threat. Out in the midwest they’ve lost millions of ash trees due to this. And it isn’t just about aesthetics. This affects the furniture industry, and the baseball bat industry.”

Explaining how the ash borers inflict their damage, Ms. Konopka says, “The insect comes in and drills a little hole in the upper canopy of the tree, so you don’t see it right away. It lays its eggs, goes through its life cycle, and hangs out for a few years. They aren’t terrific flyers, but they do move around from tree to tree. By the time you see the symptomology of the decline, like dead branches, the tree has already been ill three to five years while the insect population is growing.”

Princeton is participating with New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s study of the insects. “In early May, we will put up a couple of traps in some ash trees to get a sample of what insects are around,” Ms. Konopka said. “We haven’t confirmed that we have them here just yet, but they are nearby.”

There are methods of preventing the spread of disease. “You can inject the trees with chemicals that are a preventative,” she said. “We’re hoping to try and stay ahead of it. We want to identify where the trees are in good health, especially those that have more historical value or are in a more prominent location, to maybe consider this kind of treatment. But it does come down to budget and what you can do. It’s not like we’re in Central Park, where you have a non-profit group that raises money.”

firemen art

Members of the independent artists group Art+10 will showcase their skills as part of Communiversity, April 26, from 1 to 5:30 p.m. with an open house demonstration of painting and photography at the Chestnut Street Firehouse, 13 Chestnut Street. The event highlights Princeton Engine Co. No. 1, which was founded in 1794. Artists will paint portraits of firefighters, fire trucks, equipment, and the building itself. Shown here is Jim Bongartz’s “Firemen Engine 3.” The Chestnut Street station has been home to the fire company since 1949 and houses memorabilia of a rich history and of the families that have served. On the rosters now you can find grandfathers, fathers, sons, daughters, in-laws, and cousins. The motto above the door is “We lead, let others follow.” The paintings will be for sale with a portion of the proceeds donated to the Fire Company. (Image Courtesy of the Artist)

Morven in May, the annual juried exhibition and sale of contemporary, American-made crafts by 35 artisans from around the country, will take place May 1-3 on the Great Lawn at Morven Museum at 55 Stockton Street.

All of the art is displayed in gallery-style booths. In addition, plants including fragrant heirloom flowers, new varieties of annuals and perennials, flowering shrubs, and select items propagated from Morven’s own gardens will be for sale.

The weekend kicks off on the Great Lawn with a Friday evening preview party before opening to the public for two days of art and garden treasure hunting. All proceeds help fund the museum’s exhibitions, historic gardens, and educational programs. The preview plant sale for Friends of Morven is May 1, 1-3:30 p.m. The Preview Garden Party is 6:30-9:30 p.m. For tickets to that event, which start at $125, call (609) 924-8144 ext. 113.

The public hours for the craft show and plant sale are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 at the door ($8 for Friends of Morven) to the craft show. No tickets are necessary for the plant sale. For more information, visit www.morven.org.

pr record exchange

The world-renowned Princeton Record Exchange marked 35 years in Princeton Friday on National Record Store Day. As usual, fans and collectors lined up well before the doors opened. In this week’s Town Talk you’ll find out some of the special items people were looking for. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

orson theater

Princeton Garden Theatre will screen five films honoring the late actor, director, writer, and producer Orson Welles beginning on May 6. One of Welles’ best-loved films, “Citizen Kane,” will be shown on May 14 at 7:30 p.m. For a complete listing of events, visit www. thegardentheatre.com.

April 17, 2015

The New Jersey State Police have released a composite of the suspect from the criminal sexual contact that occurred on Friday, April 10, in the area of Franklin Avenue near Jefferson Road, where he grabbed the buttocks of a 15 year-old female walking to school.  The male is described as Hispanic, 5’5” – 5’7”, 30 – 40 years of age, thin build, black hair, brown eyes, wrinkled complexion, and wearing a gray hoodie jacket, green puffy vest, and blue jeans.

Anyone with information should contact Detective Benjamin Gering at (609) 921-2100 ext. 1840  or email bgering@princetonnj.gov.

 criminal suspect

At a meeting Monday night, Princeton Council introduced an ordinance that would turn a four-bedroom house on Hilltop Drive into a group residence for developmentally disabled adults. The municipality is providing $400,000 toward the purchase, which will earn affordable housing credits toward Princeton’s Fair Share Affordable Housing Obligation.

 While the town will contribute to the purchase, it will not own the property. Money for the project would come from Princeton’s affordable housing trust fund. Youth Consultation Services would run the home, providing any extra funding for the purchase and renovations.

 Low or moderate income residents from throughout New Jersey with developmental disabilities would be eligible for a room in the residence, but one room would be reserved for a Princeton resident.

 The ordinance comes up for public hearing and adoption at Council’s meeting on April 27.