June 15, 2015

A meeting to update the public on the swattingphone threats that have plagued schools, hospitals, malls and private residences in Princeton and other parts of New Jersey in recent weeks will be held Wednesday evening at John Witherspoon Middle School. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m.

Mayor Liz Lempert, School Superintendent Steve Cochrane and Police Chief Nick Sutter are scheduled to be on hand to answer questions and provide an update on recent efforts to determine who is behind the phone threats, none of which have led to the discovery of bombs or other dangerous situations.

Mr. Sutter has met with members of the FBIs cyber crime unit to help figure out who is making the threats, most of which have been called in by computer. They are called swattingbecause they draw a heightened response from a SWAT team. At the meeting, the status of the investigations will be discussed. All are welcome.

Save Princeton Public Schools, a public advocacy offshoot of Community for Princeton Public Schools, which had planned to hold a public forum tonight, June 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Unitarian Universalist Church, 50 Cherry Hill Road, has cancelled the meeting “due to the sensitive state of current negotiations between PREA and the Board of Education.” The “teach-In” designed to provide clarity regarding the lengthy negotiations between the Board and the PREA may be rescheduled for a later date. The next meeting of the Board of Education will take place Tuesday, June 16.

The Rescue Mission of Trenton will host a community forum on opioid abuse on Tuesday, June 16. The forum is open to the public and will be held at the Mission at 505 Perry Street in Trenton. Doors open at 7:30 a.m. and the panel discussion will be held from 8 to 10 a.m. Parking is available at the Mission’s lot on 98 Carroll Street.

Last year, the number of opioid-related deaths claimed nearly 800 lives of New Jersey residents. Ongoing public education, awareness, and community support can spearhead prevention efforts and save lives.

The community forum will mark the one-year anniversary of the State of New Jersey Narcan Expansion Program. Last June, Governor Chris Christie announced the statewide expansion at the Rescue Mission of Trenton – the expansion allows first responders and law enforcement officials to administer medication in the event of an overdose.

Since the expansion, police departments across the state have implemented measures and training programs to prepare for such situations. Communities have rallied together to spread public awareness about opioid abuse and the safe disposal of prescription medication.

The community forum will feature a guest panel including: Eric Edwards, Co-Founder, Chief Medical Officer, and Vice President of Research and Development for kaléo Pharma; Paul Ressler, CEO and President, The Overdose Prevention Agency Corporation (TOPAC); Dr. William D. Stanley, Medical Director for Rescue Mission of Trenton, Medical Director for Summit Behavioral Health; Barbara Schlichting, Executive Director for Somerset Treatment Services; Meredith LoBuono, Outpatient Program Manager, Rescue Mission of Trenton. Michele Siekerka, President of the NJ Business & Industry Association, will serve as guest moderator.

“The Mission is pleased to host this community forum on such an important issue. Opioid abuse is a very real issue for so many communities and the Mission hopes that this conversation will continue ongoing, public education in an effort to save lives, “said Mary Gay Abbott-Young, Chief Executive Officer of the Mission.

The conversation is supported by the City of Trenton Department of Health and Human Services, Mercer County Office on Addiction Services, City of Angels NJ, Inc., National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence – New Jersey, Trenton Health Team, New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, and the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

Last December, the Mission received a donation of EVZIO naloxone auto injectors from kaléo, a pharmaceutical company based in Richmond, Va. Mission staff have been trained to administer the medication in the event of an overdose. kaléo Pharma will continue their efforts to widen access to naloxone and increase public education about opioid abuse by participating in next week’s forum. Eric Edwards, Co-founder and Chief Medical Officer, is a guest panelist.

The Rescue Mission of Trenton is the agency in the City of Trenton that serves the truly needy men and women who have no place to turn for shelter, food, and clothing.  2015 marks the 100th anniversary of the Mission providing a safe, clean, warm refuge for the homeless, the hungry, the transient, and the addicted.

This event is open to the public. Tickets are available by contacting samanthab@rmtrenton.org or (609) 964-0414 ext. 100.

June 12, 2015

The American Boychoir School has raised enough money to plan the coming school year, but students will board with local families instead of on campus. And the famed choral academy, which filed for bankruptcy in April, is pursuing a lease for a day school campus in the Princeton area instead of remaining at its current location in Plainsboro.

“Our traditional boarding model would be converted to a homestay model for this school year, with boys living in local homes — at least two ABS boys in each homestay home,” Rob D’Avanzo, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, wrote in an update to supporters of the school on Thursday. “We have engaged a homestay consultant and have been working with him to learn about and implement this new feature of our School. He will work with us throughout the coming school year to coordinate and supervise the entire program. We have also been in touch with various families that have offered to serve the School as homestay hosts.”

Mr. D’Avanzo said he is confident that a day school location will be secured in the coming weeks. But the change is not anticipated to be permanent.

 “The Board believes that the best operating model to achieve ABS’s mission is one in which we include boys from around the world on one fully-integrated boarding campus,” he wrote. “At this time, however, we do not have an integrated campus option readily available to us, and we simply do not have the funds to acquire or operate one. Over the next year, we intend to work to raise those funds and to find a long-term boarding home, but in the interim we plan to operate ABS on a day school campus suing a homestay model.”

The Board voted unanimously earlier this week to pursue the day school option. The past school year was finished early, but the school fulfilled the touring and performance commitments it had made. Founded in 1937 in Columbus, Ohio and relocated to Princeton in 1950, the School’s choirs have performed with major orchestras and conductors across the globe.

An emergency fundraising campaign with a $350,000 goal was launched to save the school after bankruptcy filing was announced this spring, and the figure was exceeded, providing “a bit of a cushion,” Mr. D’Avanzo wrote. “I have told you that we need to raise a very substantial amount of money in advance of the school year in order to be on a sound footing when school opens, and that remains the case.”

 More than $235,000 in pledges has been received for next year’s Annual Fund, representing more than 26 percent of the school’s budgeted Annual Fund income. “This is a great head start, and the more pledges of operating support we receive now, the better-positioned we will be to achieve our reorganization,” he wrote.

ABS is going forward with plans for its annual “American Boychoir Experience” summer camp, with 23 boys signed up as well as some current students. They are scheduled to perform in August at the Tanglewood Music Festival in the Berkshires, with the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra.

“We think an exciting future is within reach,” Mr. D’Avanzo wrote. “I must caution you, however, that we are still operating under the supervision of the Federal Bankruptcy Court, and we will be subject to court oversight until ABS completes a reorganization under Chapter 11. We will be working throughout the summer on myriad tasks necessary to prepare for a new year in a new place with a new model, including seeking court approval for our reorganization based on a solid long-term financial plan.”

June 11, 2015

On Wednesday afternoon, a group of protesters gathered on Nassau Street to call for the resignation of Princeton University bioethics professor Peter Singer, whose controversial views about infants born with disabilities were aired in a radio interview this spring

The remarks were made on the radio show “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” on April 16. Mr. Singer, who is known as an animal rights advocate, said it is not unreasonable for infants with disabilities to be denied treatment by private insurance companies or the government. Those babies with “zero quality of life” should not be afforded costly care, he said.

Baby dolls were placed in an open coffin in front of the campus. Protesters in wheelchairs stopped traffic on Nassau Street for about 20 minutes, but no arrests were made or summonses issued.

In a letter published on the Trenton Times website Thursday, Alan Holdsworth, a community organizer for the advocacy group ADAPT, requested that the University call for Mr. Singer’s resignation, publicly denounce his comments, hire a bioethicist from the disability community “in a comparable position to provide a platform for views that contrast with Mr. Singer’s views,” and create a disability policy program “to educate future leaders about inclusive communities.”

University spokesman Martin Mbugua issued this statement: “Princeton is strongly committed to ensuring the academic freedom of members of its community and to ensuring that the campus is open to a wide variety of views.”

June 10, 2015

Garden Tour Mill Hill

The urban gardens of Trentons historic Mill Hill neighborhood will be open to visitors Saturday, June 13, from noon to 5 p.m., rain or shine. This is the 24th consecutive year for the annual event, which draws visitors from all over the area to view some of the regions best examples of urban and small space gardening.

This years tour is themed The City Soirees: Behind the Garden Gates.Mill Hill is known for its unique collection of 19th century row homes, and many have distinctive gardens that are carefully tended by residents. Gardens are as varied as the houses they border, ranging from tidy and traditional to modern and naturalistic.

Proceeds from the tour help fund the Old Mill Hill Society Neighborhood Restoration Grant program, which aids homeowners in restoring and maintaining the areas landmarks and historically significant sites.

Tickets are $10 in advance or $15 the day of the tour, and can be purchased by cash, check, or credit card. Register and begin the tour at Artworks, 19 Everett Alley at South Stockton Street. Ample free parking is available.The maps distributed double as admission tickets. For more information, visit trentonmillhill.org.

NEW CENTER UNVEILED: Princeton is smack in the middle of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed, a 265-square-mile area in Central New Jersey that includes parts of four other counties and 25 other towns. Providing oversight for the safety of the region’s water is the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association which unveiled this new Platinum LEED-certified Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science and Education last month. The building, designed by Farewell Architects of Princeton, opened May 2. Located in Hopewell Township on the 930 acre Watershed Reserve, the new facility is at 31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington, N.J. 08534. The Watershed Reserve’s hiking trails between Hopewell and Lawrence. are open each day from dawn to dusk; Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science and Education’s hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (609) 737-3735, or visit: www.thewatershed.org  (Photo by Jeff Tryon)

NEW CENTER UNVEILED: Princeton is smack in the middle of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed, a 265-square-mile area in Central New Jersey that includes parts of four other counties and 25 other towns. Providing oversight for the safety of the region’s water is the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association which unveiled this new Platinum LEED-certified Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science and Education last month. The building, designed by Farewell Architects of Princeton, opened May 2. Located in Hopewell Township on the 930 acre Watershed Reserve, the new facility is at 31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington, N.J. 08534. The Watershed Reserve’s hiking trails between Hopewell and Lawrence. are open each day from dawn to dusk; Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science and Education’s hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (609) 737-3735, or visit: www.thewatershed.org (Photo by Jeff Tryon)

With so much water falling from the skies over New Jersey, unexpected flooding in Texas, and ongoing drought in California, the topic of water is never far from public discourse.

As executive director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, Jim Waltman is intimately connected with the water cycle and its disruption due to both global warming and a history of pollution that is the legacy of industrial New Jersey.

“In a word, we are all about water,” he said. “We teach people about water, the threats to it and what can be done to protect it.”

He has his work cut out. New Jersey has a legacy of pollution and contamination that we are still recovering from. “Two-thirds of our streams don’t meet clean water standards. Add to that, the changing climate in which we see more dry periods and periods of heavy rainfall coming in bigger bursts and you see that we need to recognize and prepare for changes in the water cycle,” he said. “Every time we build in a less environmentally thoughtful way, we make it more difficult for the natural water cycle. Changes continue apace.”

For decades, the Watershed Association has been doing its best to ameliorate this legacy.

With the unveiling of its new $5 million Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science, and Education, the Association is about to embark on its mission with renewed vigor.

“The plan is to use this new center as a demonstration area of what can be done,” said Mr. Waltman, who hopes that the center will inspire homeowners, businesses, schools, and municipalities to replicate its environmental sensitivity.

Located in Hopewell Township on the 930 acre Watershed Reserve, the new facility designed by Farewell Architects of Princeton opened May 2. With a wealth of innovative sustainable technologies, it has earned Platinum LEED certification, the highest level possible in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.

As befits the Association’s role, the architecture has a unique interaction with storm water, wastewater, wetlands, solar energy, geothermal heating and cooling, among other environmentally sustainable features.

“This building is all about water, water consumption, storm water run-off, wastewater treatment,” said Mr. Waltman as he pointed out the slant of the butterfly roofline. “New construction can have a negative impact on the environment and we have done so much to mitigate that, especially in terms of water which in new construction often has nowhere to go and runs off to impervious surfaces. Here the water runs off into a depression that is forming a rain garden planted with plants that like to get their feet wet. It’s just one example of new environmental strategies that we advocate.

“When we create hard surface on the landscape, like parking lots, roads, and rooftops, we alter the water cycle. Water runs off these hard impervious surfaces faster than it does from natural areas like forest, wetlands, and meadows, which cause flooding. These hard surfaces also prevent water from percolating into the soil, robbing our aquifers of essential replenishment.”

The building boasts a green roof with plants that keep the building cool, thus saving on air conditioning costs while helping reduce storm water runoff. Rain gardens full of water-loving plants reduce and purify storm water runoff and help recharge the aquifer.

Water collected from the roof is used to flush toilets and a wetlands-based sewage system filters the wastewater from its toilets, showers, and sinks and returns it back to the land.

A heat pump system circulates water 400 feet deep underground to wells that help cool it in the summer and warm it in the winter.

Besides solar panels that generate electricity and produce heat for water, the building uses passive solar with windows that capture the natural light on sunny days and interior lights fitted with automatic dimmer switches to reduce energy use on dull days.

Solar panels were donated by Recom Solar (with assistance from NRG energy).

Inside, a topographical map shows visitors the entire Stony Brook Millstone Watershed. Visitors can locate a waterway near their home and discover names that instantly connect to the Princeton area history, such as Harry’s Brook, Great Bear Swamp, Devil’s Brook Swamp, Upper Bear Swamp, Alexander Creek, Palmer Lake, Strawberry Run.

A 500-gallon tank has species of native fish and turtles (musk, mud, painted) and there are activities for children and adults alike.

The new Center was much needed, said Mr. Waltman, who has been in the job for a decade now, after working on the Galapagos Islands. “We needed more space for all of the things we do: environmental policy advocacy, leadership, education and science … we have scientists and teachers here. But all of these elements were not well-integrated because we were divided over two buildings, the old Buttinger Nature Center and the historic 18th-century Drake Farmstead that Muriel Gardiner Buttinger and her husband Joseph lived in from 1940 to 1985.”

“The idea was to build a new center that would demonstrate technologies and systems that protect water, conserve water, and conserve energy,” said Mr. Waltman. “And the building itself will allow us to expand our educational and advocacy work.”

Rather than tear down its existing 4,500 square feet Buttinger Nature Center, the Association renovated it, adding an extra 10,000 square feet with exhibition space, a laboratory, a computer learning center, conference rooms, a gift shop, kitchen, and updated staff offices.

Some $8.5 million was raised by the Association, which has 25 people on its staff, although that number grows with a summer camp program that has served 10,000 kids over the years; 400 are enrolled this summer.

Having grown up in Princeton, Mr. Waltman attended Johnson Park Elementary School and graduated from Princeton High School in 1982. His favorite part of the job, he said, is its diverse demands. “I’m constantly involved in a mix of different things, from lobbying in Trenton, to discussions on the STEM curriculum, removing a dam on the Millstone River, and talking with kids.”

His next goal is to turn from building the center to using it to advance the Watershed’s mission and he’s eager to get the message across to high school students interested in science and engineering. A one-week Watershed Academy is designed just for them during the summer.

The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association is located at 31 Titus Mill Road, Pennington, N.J. 08534. The Watershed Reserve’s hiking trails between Hopewell and Lawrence. are open each day from dawn to dusk; Watershed Center for Environmental Advocacy, Science and Education’s hours are Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call (609) 737-3735, or visit: www.thewatershed.org (where an audio-visual tour of the new Center can be viewed).

In what appeared to be a last ditch attempt to come to an agreement before negotiations move to the costly fact finding stage, representatives of the teachers’s union, Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA), sat down face to face last week, June 2, with the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE).

According to District negotiator Patrick Sullivan, both sides had agreed before the meeting to start talks at 9 a.m. and “to go on as long as it takes.”

True to that promise, the talks went on into the small hours of Wednesday morning.

“The meeting went 18 hours,” said John Baxter, PREA chief negotiator. “We did not reach a tentative agreement but scheduled a meeting for June 10, to continue talks.”

BOE President Andrea Spalla reported that the June 2 meeting “went pretty well,” with much progress being made. “I think getting a deal is definitely do-able,” she said, adding that today’s meeting was intended to “close the remaining differences between the two sides.”

The apparent shift forward comes after lengthy negotiations that have been ongoing for more than 14 months. Teachers have been working without a new contract since last July. Chapter 78 remains a stumbling block, even though, as BOE member Patrick Sullivan pointed out, 107 districts in the state have settled without any change to Chapter 78.

Last month, the District reached agreements with two other unions, the Princeton Regional Educational Support Staff Association (PRESSA) and the Princeton Administrators’ Association (PAA), replacing contracts that had previously been negotiated for 2012-15 and 2014-15, respectively.

The negotiations with PRESSA lasted eight weeks, those with PAA six weeks.

The new contract with administrators gives them annual increases for the next three years of approximately 2.39 percent, 2.38 percent, and 2.37 percent. That with PRESSA gives an annual increase of 2.5 percent for each of the next three years.

The most recent PREA offer from the District was for 2.44 percent, 2.2 percent, and 2.3 percent over the next three years.

According to 2013-14 figures, salaries for Princeton teachers range from $54,033 for a teacher on the first step with a bachelor’s degree to $108,050 for an upper level teacher with a doctorate. A teacher’s base salary goes up with level of education attained and number of years in the District. For example, a teacher with a doctorate will earn more than one with a master’s degree, who in turn will earn more than one with a bachelor’s degree. A teacher who has served 15 years or more, will earn a longevity payment. Many teachers supplement their basic salary through coaching or by teaching extra classes or doing home tutoring.

In comparison, figures for 2014-15 show that administrators earn (including longevity payments) between $107,000 and $185,415, with the average being $141,661. In West Windsor, for the same period, the average is $129,805.

No Coaching

In view of the ongoing contract dispute, coaches in the Princeton Public Schools signed a letter last month about summer volunteer activities. Coaches announced that they will not do any volunteer summer coaching or training until August because of the impasse.

Their contracts specify August 10 as the starting date for coaching. Earlier this year, in reaction to the contract stalemate, teachers stopped doing other work they are not compensated for. Twenty-four coaches will be affected.

Based on data for the 2014 calendar, they stand to lose stipends of between approximately $6,000 and $20,000. At Princeton High School (PHS), for example, an assistant football coach would earn $8,304; an assistant girls soccer coach, $5,260; and an assistant girls tennis coach, $5,039, within a range from preschool to high school between $20,060 and $90,700.

The average coaching stipend at Princeton High School, as detailed in the last PREA contract, is $7,229.69.

Save our Schools Meeting

Just in case today’s talks fail to produce a contract, Save Princeton Public Schools, a public advocacy offshoot of Community for Princeton Public Schools, is planning to hold a public forum Monday June 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 50 Cherry Hill Road “in the hopes of providing clarity and encouraging transparency about the lengthy negotiations between the Board and the PREA.

Described as a “teach-in,” the event will include members of PREA. For more information, contact saveppsnj@gmail.com. To submit a question, visit: bit.ly/1KjEyOn.

The next meeting of the Board of Education will take place Tuesday, June 16. For more on this issue, see the Mailbox on page 8.

Opera Company

For the second year in a row, The Princeton Festival was awarded “Favorite Opera Company” in the annual Jersey Arts People’s Choice Awards. Princeton Festival Chairman Costa Papastephanou and Artistic Director Richard Tang Yuk hold the award.

Riverside Elementary School presents a free evening of music and dinner Friday, June 12 from 7-9 p.m., to benefit the organization Christine’s Hope for Kids. This “Adult Night” will feature the Princeton High School Studio Band led by Joe Bonjovi.

Returning for the event is Mark Stern, jazz saxophone player and Riverside School alumnus. Participants are encouraged to make a donation to Christine’s Hope for Kids, the five-year-old organization that helps local children by teaching kids to aid other kids.

The event will be held in the Riverside School gym, 58 Riverside Drive. To RSVP, contact Bill Cirullo at (609) 806-4260 or bill_cirullo@princetonk12.org. Donations can be made online at www.christineshope.org.

Art 1

This delightful watercolor by Lisa Walsh is part of the exhibition “Works by Watercolorists Unlimited” through June 26. Each month the group of artists has been meeting, for more than 25 years, to critique their paintings on a new subject. The 18 artists show their work throughout New Jersey and annually at the Gourgaud Gallery, located in Town Hall, 23-A North Main Street, Cranbury. The artwork is for sale with 20 percent of each sale going to support the Cranbury Arts Council and its programs. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays, June 7, June 21, from 1 to 3 p.m. For more information contact (609) 395-8567, or visit: www.cranburyartscouncil.org.

June 9, 2015
GRAND PRIZEWINNER: Lawrence Township resident Puttita Sae-Wang, 11, won this year’s Trash ArtStravaganza with her “Party Dress” design of a two-piece garment made from cinched, fringed, and ruffled newspaper. (Photo by Laura Fuchs Photography)

GRAND PRIZEWINNER: Lawrence Township resident Puttita Sae-Wang, 11, won this year’s Trash ArtStravaganza with her “Party Dress” design of a two-piece garment made from cinched, fringed, and ruffled newspaper. (Photo by Laura Fuchs Photography)

In collaboration with Princeton University, the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) will present the annual Trash ArtStravaganza exhibition in ACP’s Taplin Gallery at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts from June 12 through June 26. There will be an opening reception on Friday, June 12 at 4 p.m.

The sustainable art-making contest, held annually during Communiversity, will feature work in three age categories, from young children to adults. Entries range from beautiful dresses and jewelry, elaborate and whimsical sculptures and multimedia pieces, to a fantastical city of figurines, vehicles, and dwellings, all fashioned from trash and recycled materials.

The grand prize was awarded to Puttita Sae-Wang, an 11-year-old Lawrence Township resident who designed a two-piece dress from cinched, fringed, and ruffled newspaper. Ms. Sae-Wang donated her $1,000 award to the Princeton Junior School, a non-profit organization. Her entry will be highlighted during the Trash Art Exhibition.

Trash ArtStravaganza, a grassroots organization, began in 2010 at Princeton University’s Sustainability Open House. Its objective is to raise awareness for non-profit organizations that work to sustain the earth’s environment and communities. This year’s contest at Communiversity ArtsFest 2015 welcomed entries from town and gown and helped raise awareness of sustainability endeavors at Princeton University and beyond. For more information on Trash ArtStravaganza, visit http://www.princetontrashart.com/home.html.

Starting on Saturday, June 13, University Place will be closed to through traffic from College Road to Alexander Street due to work to repair the crosswalk adjacent to the Berlind Theater. This closure is expected to remain in place for three to four weeks. A detour for vehicular traffic will be in place for the duration of the closure. A temporary traffic signal at the intersection of College Road and Alexander Street will be operational while the detour is being used. Local access to and from the metered diagonal parking spaces along University Place south of College Road, adjacent to the McCarter Theatre Center, will be maintained via the College Road-University Place intersection. Pedestrian and bike paths in the area will be shifted during this construction phase. Signage will be posted.

For more information, call (609) 258-8023, or visit: http://www.princeton.edu/artsandtransit, where you can download an updated map showing vehicular, pedestrian, and bike detours.

June 8, 2015

Princeton Police Department reported two further incidents of false public alarm and terroristic threats. An unidentified caller telephoned Riverside Elementary School, 58 Riverside Drive, this morning shortly after 10 a.m.; a similar call was made an hour later to Johnson Park School, 285 Rosedale Road. So far no arrests have been made.

June 3, 2015

PRade 2

It’s 68 P-Rades and counting for this member of the Great Class of 1947, cooling his heels here with his significant other. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)


SEATS ON THE STREET: At the new “Princeton Parklet” installed in front of Small World Coffee’s Witherspoon Street locale last week, the cafe’s owner Jessica Durrie, right, and the Arts Council of Princeton’s Maria Evans, left, helped prepare the temporary urban oasis for the crowds arriving to celebrate Princeton University’s Reunions.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

SEATS ON THE STREET: At the new “Princeton Parklet” installed in front of Small World Coffee’s Witherspoon Street locale last week, the cafe’s owner Jessica Durrie, right, and the Arts Council of Princeton’s Maria Evans, left, helped prepare the temporary urban oasis for the crowds arriving to celebrate Princeton University’s Reunions. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

With parking spaces a precious commodity in Princeton, one might expect the temporary removal of two spots from a prime location on Witherspoon Street to inspire a certain amount of grumbling. But a rustic, Adirondack-style seating platform that has materialized in front of Small World Coffee seems to be doing just the opposite.

During Princeton University’s Reunions last weekend, alumni and locals found temporary respite from the heat and the crowds at this public “parklet.” They relaxed on the benches and sipped drinks under a row of hanging plants. Invited to feed the two parking meters to show support for future examples of this kind of public art, they dug into their pockets.

A joint effort of the municipality, the Arts Council of Princeton, local architect Kirsten Thoft, landscape artist Peter Soderman, George Akers of Material Design Build, and other volunteers, the parklet will be in place from two to four months. The project follows along the lines of other “street seats” in San Francisco, Vancouver, Seattle, and Philadelphia. The Witherspoon Street parklet is the first of its kind in Princeton, though a miniature version was briefly installed last summer.

While collaborators admit to some grousing from the public over the loss of two parking spaces, those complaints are in the minority so far. “I don’t have official numbers of the meter collection, but anecdotally I’ve checked every time I’m there, and the meter has always been full,” said Mayor Liz Lempert. “The response has been fantastic. The artists and architects who built it did a magical job. You can see people break into a smile when they see it.”

Maria Evans, artistic director of the Arts Council of Princeton, said she has heard “a little bit of complaining. Its people’s knee-jerk reaction, where they say ‘I can’t believe you took a parking space’ but then they say ‘But it’s really cool, I can live with that.’ From what’s been on Twitter and Facebook, the general public’s opinion is at least 95 percent positive.”

It was Ms. Lempert who suggested the idea for the parklet to Jeff Nathanson, executive director of the Arts Council. After being put on the back burner for a while, the concept was revisited when Ms. Evans invited Ms. Durrie and her husband, Mr. Akers, over for dinner one night. “I knew if I could get her support as a merchant that the Small World location would be great for the maiden voyage,” Ms. Evans recalled. “They were on board. He’s a master carpenter and terrific builder, and I knew he’d build a great structure. Then we talked to Peter Soderman, and he was completely in.”

Ms. Evans met with Princeton Planning Director Lee Solow, who helped coordinate the project. “He was terrific. He told me we needed an architect and that’s where Kirsten Thoft got involved. All of these people worked pro bono. The town paid for materials, but everything else was for free. Lots of favors were used up.”

By the time Ms. Thoft came on board, ideas for the design of the parklet were already in place. “They wanted something temporary, but that could be re-used,” she said. “My involvement was to make sure everyone was on the same page regarding safety, ADA compliance, and those kinds of concerns. So it was not about my personal vision. And these things are a large part of what an architect does, anyway.”

But Ms. Thoft likes the design, and compares the project to the pop-up beach that appears during summers along the Seine in Paris. “I think it’s part of a continuum of public park spaces,” she said. “It can be re-used and turned into something else, which was part of the intention. These things are becoming more popular.”

The parklet was built at the firehouse on Harrison Street. “After we had Kirsten’s drawings, we started parceling out the work,” said Ms. Evans. “The Public Works department made the platforms, and George built it at the firehouse a few weeks ahead. A colleague and I stained the whole thing. It was a coming together of everybody’s dedication to get the thing done in time for Reunions, which Jessica wanted.”

The project was installed last Saturday, and a formal dedication will take place tomorrow (Thursday) at 5 p.m.

Along with the benches and tree-trunk tables that are under an overhang, there is additional seating outside the overhang. Ferns in tree-trunk planters and succulents planted in chunks of logs are part of the verdant setting. Ms. Evans is adding pieces of art to the parklet. “I will invite artists who can do work that is visible from all sides and weatherproof,” she said. “It could really be a fun thing.”

Also planned is a system for parking bikes and a dog hitching post. As for the idea of asking the public to fund future public art projects by feeding the meters, that came from an unexpected source. “I teach art at Stuart Country Day School, and my students came up with the idea of not closing the meters,” Ms. Evans said. “So now, the sculptor Bob Evans is making a Venus flytrap shell to go on the meters, so people will have fun feeding them. It’s been incredible the way people are putting money in.”

Ms. Evans hopes future parklets will draw other artists, architects, and designers with new ideas. “Like Jazams — wouldn’t it be fun to make it an extension of the toy store?” she asked. “I think maybe with the merchants it will change from space to space. We need to go forward and figure out how to fund this thing in the future.”

The D&R Greenway Land Trust’s annual Down To Earth Ball will take place this Saturday, June 6, at 6:30 p.m. at the barn complex, St. Michael’s Farm Preserve in Hopewell.

The event celebrates the region’s farm heritage, while supporting the mission of D&R Greenway, with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner and dancing. Tickets cost $125 per person and sponsorships are available.

“This night is planned to celebrate our farming heritage and the bounty of the land,” says D&R Greenway Land Trust President & CEO Linda Mead.

Guests are encouraged to “dress west” and wear comfortable kick-up-your-heels shoes. Enjoy the tunes of the Tone Rangers Band, dance around the bonfire, test your luck with barnyard games, march in a farm parade, gaze at the stars, and savor the fresh air!

D&R Greenway’s mission is to preserve and care for land and inspire a conservation ethic, now and for the future. Preserving farms creates an agricultural economy that offers fresh, healthy local food. This year’s Down To Earth Ball celebrates keeping the garden in Garden State, and supporters who have preserved the farms on which farmers grow our food.

As of May 27, in-kind donations of food and other services have been offered by Blue Moon Acres Farm Market, Brothers Moon, Brick Farm Market/Double Brook Farm, Camden Bag & Paper Co., Cherry Grove Farm, D’Angelo Italian Market, Griggstown Farm, Joe Canal’s Discount Liquor Outlet, McCaffrey’s Princeton, Tasha O’ Neill Photography, Pennington Quality Market, Sowsians Landscapes, and photographers Mary Michaels, Richard Grant, and Sheila and Carl Geisler.

For more information, call (609) 924-4646 or email Deb Kilmer at dkilmer@drgreenway.org; visit: www.drgreenway.org.

Music Aeolus

Composed of Alan Richardson — cello, Nicholas Tavani and Rachel Shapiro — violin, and Gregory Luce — viola, the Aeolus Quartet, currently the Graduate Resident String Quartet at the Juilliard School, will perform a free concert at Richardson Auditorium on Thursday, June 18 at 7:30 p.m.


Gallery 14 member Charles Miller is showing a series of photographic works, such as his “Chapel Yard,” shown here, in the Goodkind Gallery at Gallery 14 in Hopewell through June 28. “The Emerald Island has a strong attraction to all travelers,” said the photographer. “It is known for it’s beautiful scenery and quirky style.” The photographs were taken on a recent visit and capture the spirit of the land and its people with a mix of the contemporary and the historic. Work by Lambertville photographer Jim Amon will also be on display in the main gallery exhibition, “Beauty is the Hook.” Gallery 14 is located at 14 Mercer Street in Hopewell. Hours are weekends, noon to 5 p.m. and by appointment. For more information, call (609) 333-8511, or visit: http://photogallery14.com.


A persistent drizzle couldn’t dampen the spirits of the 1,268 undergraduates and 885 graduate students awarded degrees at Princeton University’s 268th Commencement Tuesday. Held, following tradition, on the lawn in front of Nassau Hall, the ceremony also included the awarding of honorary degrees to artist and social activist Harry Belafonte; the University’s Gordon Y.S. Wu Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, David Billington; retired U.S. Army general Ann Dunwoody; former New Jersey Supreme Court justice Deborah Poritz; retired associate justice of the Supreme Court John Paul Stevens; and Peruvian novelist and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. (Photo by Eric Quiñones Courtesy of Princeton University, Office of Communications)

May 28, 2015

Members of the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood are asking members of the public to join them on Saturday, May 30, from 9:30 a.m. at the  First Baptist Church of Princeton at the intersection of Paul Robeson Place and John Street. On the agenda for discussion are the following topics: Affordable Housing, Historic Neighborhood Designation, Communiversity: Saturday or Sunday?, Consolidation: Positive/Negative?

A continental breakfast will be available.

May 27, 2015

Reunions Weekend gets off to a spirited start Thursday evening when activist Ralph Nader is presented with the inaugural Princeton AlumniCorps Award for Civic Engagement. The honor is to be bestowed during the 25th Anniversary Gala Celebration of the organization at the Westin Princeton. More than 250 alumni are expected to attend.

The award recognizes those who have made significant contributions to civic life and inspired others to pursue public interest work. Mr. Nader, a member of Princeton University class of 1955, was a founder with other members of his class of the Princeton Project, now named Princeton AlumniCorps, in 1989. The organization was started as an independent nonprofit dedicated to connecting students and recent graduates to public interest jobs.

“In Ralph Nader, we have chosen a civic leader whose many accomplishments include inspiring the creation of the first independent organization of alumni dedicated to the public interest.” said Andrew Nurkin, Executive Director of Princeton AlumniCorps. “The spirit of engagement inspired by Ralph Nader continues to drive change in Princeton’s campus culture and provide alumni of all ages with experience and training for civic leadership.”

At Thursday’s event, the keynote speaker will be Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO of New America. She will join in a conversation with Princeton University Professor Stan Katz on public service and higher education.

From 1993 to 1997, Princeton graduate Michelle Obama served as a Project 55 mentor in Chicago. In a letter of congratulations to Project 55, the first lady wrote, “My time with Princeton Project 55 helped me to understand that having access to and encouragement toward service can have a profound effect not only on the arc of a career, but also on the strength of our communities.”

Renamed PrincetonAlumniCorps in 2010, the organization has placed more than 1,500 graduates in one-year public interest positions through the Project 55 Fellowship Program.The model has been emulated by more than 30 other alumni groups, including Harvard, Stanford, and Bucknell universities.

 More recently, AlumniCorps has added programs that support alumni through a lifetime of service. The Emerging Leaders program trains early-career nonprofit managers to be future heads of nonprofit organizations. The ARC Innovators program connects alumni with significant career experience to pro bono projects at nonprofits across the US. With more than 1600 program alumni and a network of more than 500 nonprofit partners across the country, Princeton AlumniCorps is committed to growing and engaging multiple generations of civic leaders.

HACKING AWAY: At the Princeton Public Library, on June 6 and 7, the first Code for Princeton Civic Hackathon will use technology to help come up with new ideas and solutions for the town, and maybe beyond. A brainstorming session preceding the Hackathon takes place this Sunday, May 31, at the library.

HACKING AWAY: At the Princeton Public Library, on June 6 and 7, the first Code for Princeton Civic Hackathon will use technology to help come up with new ideas and solutions for the town, and maybe beyond. A brainstorming session preceding the Hackathon takes place this Sunday, May 31, at the library.

You don’t have to be a technology expert to take part in the Code for Princeton Civic Hackathon at Princeton Public Library June 6 and 7. All are welcome — even technophobes. You just have to be interested in building solutions for the local community.

“We’re using technology to help us address some of our problems,” says Mayor Liz Lempert, who has been enthusiastically plugging the event in recent weeks. “The idea is to get a new perspective on some of the issues we face as a municipality and are grappling with as a community. We’re looking at the issues through a different lens, bringing in residents who might not be typically engaged. This is a way to get some fresh eyes on some issues.”

The two-day event is part of the June 6 National Day of Civic Hacking, organized by Code for America. Princeton’s Hackathon is a collaboration between Code for Princeton, the Municipality of Princeton, and the library. Using publicly released data, technology, and design processes, participants will collaborate on projects in areas including renewable and sustainable energy, politics and elections, volunteerism and civic participation, environmental and geospatial data, and cycling and transportation.

“It has been held in many other cities,” said Ms. Lempert, who will hold a pre-Hackathon brainstorming session this Sunday at the library from 3-4 p.m. “It’s really a fun, community event. We’ve all been doing some prep work. On our end, we’re putting together big data sets in a format that people can use. The idea is that these would be posted online for people to use during the Hackathon, and afterwards. It’s part of our effort to be more open and transparent, not just sharing information but doing it in a way that’s going to be usable.”

Everyone is welcome at the Hackathon, but space is limited. The event begins at noon on Saturday, June 6 with a coffee hour and team formation. Following a keynote address by Major League Hacking Chief Executive Officer Mike Swift, Ms. Lempert will officially kick off the session, which continues through midnight. Hacking will resume at 8 a.m. Sunday with submissions due by 11 a.m.

Also planned for Saturday are programming classes for children. My Robotic Friends is for grades 1-5 at 1:30 p.m., and Scratch Programming is geared to grades 6-8 at 3 p.m. There will be space for hardware aficianados. For updates on workshops, speakers, and other events, visit codeforprinceton.org.

The brainstorming session this Sunday, May 31 is designed to discover what problems people want programmers and hackers to work on during the following weekend’s event. “Some might relate to the data sets we’ve put together, and some to sets we’ll still need to put together,” Ms. -Lempert said. “Depending on what the information is, we might be able to scramble and get something up and running for use during the Hackathon. Or it might just be a good idea we’ll work on.”

University professors, high school students, and other computer buffs are excited about the event. “In an ideal situation, we end up with an idea for an app that could be really great not just for Princeton, but for other towns around the country,” Ms. Lempert said. “In coming months, we can look into potentially developing it. But even if we don’t get a usable product, just having lots of residents engage with this data and come together can lead to ideas and solutions and to new perspectives”

Sponsors are hoping the Hackathon will be the first of more to be held in the future. Originally, the event was planned for April, but it coincided with one that Princeton University was holding. “It has generated a lot of excitement,” Ms. Lempert said. “One of the things I love about it is that it has already brought new people to the table who hadn’t been involved in the past.”

There will be prizes awarded for notable efforts — nothing fancy, though. “When hackathons first started, they would attract people to participate by offering big prizes,” Ms. Lempert said. “But fortunately for us, people seem to be moving away from that. It’s more for the camaraderie and the community. So I might take some of the winning teams out for ice cream.”

The Princeton Health Department wants to remind residents that rabies infected wildlife continues to pose a risk to people and pets. Rabies is almost always 100 percent fatal once a person or animal begins to show symptoms. Protecting pets by keeping them current on their rabies vaccine is an important buffer between wildlife rabies and human exposure. Indoor animals should also be vaccinated as rabid bats are frequently discovered by pets in the home.

“Princeton had the highest number of animals testing positive for rabies in Mercer County in 2014,” said the town’s health officer Jeffrey Grosser, adding that cats as well as dogs should be vaccinated. “Not only does the vaccine keep your pet safe, but it can help keep you and your family safe as well,” he said.

To protect themselves and their pets, residents should avoid wildlife and animals you do not know, keep pets on a leash, never feed or touch stray animals, teach children to tell you if they are scratched or bitten by an animal, and call the doctor and local health department if bitten or exposed to saliva or blood. Also, contact your veterinarian if your pet was exposed to a bat, raccoon, skunk, or other wild carnivore. Perform a 360-degree “walk-around” of your home, looking for openings in the exterior bats can use as an entry. Openings should be closed only after it is determined no bats are inside the home or the attic.

Dogs and cats are not considered immunized until 28 days after receiving an initial rabies vaccination, so they should not be left outdoors unattended. Every year, 30,000 to 40,000 Americans are potentially exposed to rabies, requiring costly and uncomfortable human rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. For more information, call the Princeton Health Department at (609) 497-7608.

Following the May 19 incident in which Princeton Police responded to a residence on Jefferson Road concerning a computerized threat made against its occupants, the department released the statement printed below. The Jefferson Road threat was phoned in to police headquarters and was a computer-generated voice. Police officers at the scene found the residence to be secure and the threat unfounded. The residents were not at home at the time. The threat was similar in nature to other recent threats received in Princeton and other areas throughout the state and country. Princeton detectives continue to investigate the source of these threats.


“Over the last several weeks our police department, our public schools, private residences and local businesses have received generalized threats that appear to be computer generated by the perpetrator(s). These threats have been general in nature and indicate an imminent threat to those to whom they are directed. Each threat received a full police response and subsequent investigation. In each case the threats were determined to be unfounded and deemed a hoax.

Our department learned early on in these investigations that we are one of several communities statewide and many communities nationwide that are receiving similar threats. We believe that all of our incidents are connected to each other as well as connected to the other state and national investigations. We are currently coordinating investigative efforts to determine the source of the threats with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies including the Office of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New Jersey State Police. We are also working closely with our local educational partners to maintain a safe and secure environment for our students and faculty.

We will continue to communicate any future incidents through our alert systems and the media. We ask all community members to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity immediately by dialing 9-1-1.”