March 19, 2014

Comedian and actor Dan Nainan will be performing at the Princeton Education Foundation’s (PEF) Annual Spring Gala to Benefit Princeton Public Schools, Saturday, April 5, at 7 p.m. at the Frick Chemistry Laboratory on the Princeton University campus.

Mr. Nainan has appeared in feature films and on network television including “Last Comic Standing.”

The University has donated the space for the annual gala, which benefits the Princeton Public School District’s school students.

In keeping with this year’s whimsical Dr. Seuss “Oh, the Places We’ll Go!” theme, the evening will feature a sumptuous tour of gourmet tastings donated by community restaurants and vendors including Mediterra, Eno Terra, Peony Pavilion, North End Bistro, Cross Culture, Alchemist & Barrister, IQuisine, Bai, and Jammin’ Crepes.

Guests will also enjoy a silent auction. Bidders may compete for a wide assortment of auction items, including a chance to be mayor for a day with Liz Lempert; a private tour with the Wilmerding Curator of American Art at the Princeton University Art Museum; and a special dinner for four at the private dining hall of the Institute for Advanced Study. Guests may also bid on dining and shopping opportunities in town, summer camps, vacation getaways, and artwork by renowned local artists.

“The Princeton Education Foundation helps to position the Princeton Public schools among the best in the country by providing funding for technology, music, science, and many curriculum enhancing programs identified by the district,” said PEF Board President Jean-Anne Madden.The silent auction will open online on or around March 20 at www.pefnj.org, when members of the public can submit bids for any of the auction items. The online auction enables bidders to participate even if they cannot come to the gala, so pre-bidding is encouraged.

The lead sponsor of this event is OnePrinceton, together with major sponsorship provided by Georgeanne Gould Moss, The Gould Group of Wells Fargo Advisors, and the W. Bryce Thompson Foundation.

To purchase tickets visit www.pefnj.org. Tickets start at $150. All tickets will be held at the door.

For more information contact: suzannelroth@gmail.com; (609) 356-0149 or jillanne36@yahoo.com; (609) 994-4441. For more on PEF, (609) 806-4214, or visit: www.pefnj.org.

elements, the high-end restaurant on Bayard Lane co-owned by businessman Stephen Distler and chef Scott Anderson, may be moving to the building on Witherspoon Street that currently houses Mistral, another of the pair’s eateries, and The UPS Store. The space now occupied by UPS will be converted into two-story setting for elements if municipal approvals are granted.

“We like the building [on Bayard Lane], but the space is a little too large for what we’re doing at elements these days. And we think consolidating operations downtown would prove better for both elements and Mistral,” said Mr. Distler, who is a vice chairman of the Bank of Princeton and owns the two buildings. “The liquor license that goes with elements would be available to Mistral, which currently doesn’t have one.”

The newly combined building would keep Mistral where it is while adding a bar for elements in the adjacent first floor space that now houses UPS. A staircase and elevator would take patrons to the second floor, where the elements dining room would be located. Formerly occupied by Music Together, it has been vacant for a year and a half.

“That space will have elements’ kitchen and a private dining space that both can share,” said Mr. Distler. “It would overlook the library and Witherspoon Street.” The downstairs bar would be 1,400 square feet, while the second floor space measures 2,800 square feet.

Elements opened in 2008, and Mistral began operations last May. While elements’ offerings include a $43 “Niman Ranch ribeye” and a $125 chef’s tasting menu (“add $75 with beverage pairings”), Mistral’s more modestly priced menu is focused on small plates, the priciest of which is “36 hour beef cheek” at $22.

“They have very different concepts, with very different experiences,” Mr. Distler said of the two restaurants. “Elements is a unique dining experience we hope to take to a higher level when we relocate, in ways I can’t describe at the moment. Mistral is more of a fast-paced, lower-priced option. The only thing in common is that they both have phenomenal food. Both of our chefs [Mr. Anderson and Ben Nerenhausen] have been mentioned by the James Beard Foundation and are up for awards this year.”

Mr. Distler said he filed an application with the town last week. The plan must first be considered by municipal staff before going to the Site Plan Review Advisory Board (SPRAB) and the Planning Board. Asked about selling the elements building, he said, “We’ve had some interest. But we’re not there yet.”

Work on an outdoor patio is currently underway at Mistral, which the owners hope will be ready this spring. While there is no timeline yet for the move of elements, Mr. Distler said he would love to have it completed by November, in time for the winter holidays. “But that may be a little challenging, depending on how long it takes to get through all the approvals,” he added. “We’re talking about not a small amount of construction.”

 

By the end of April, the Obal Garden Center, located at 518 Alexander Road, will be history. Walter Obal said Monday that the three and a quarter acre property had been sold. He was not sure what the new owner had in mind for the property but he knew it would no longer be a garden center. 

The family-run business has been supplying Princeton gardeners with plants and everything needed to keep them blooming since 1946. “It’s a little sad,” said Mr. Obal, “I put my whole life into the business, the whole family did.”

Since 1959, Mr. Obal has worked in the business that was founded by his uncle John Obal. Loyal customers have long relied on the advice and expertise of the Obal family as represented by Walter, his wife Kathryn, and their two sons Walter Obal Jr. and Tom Obal. “We are not exactly sure what’s next but we’ll probably take some time off,” he said.

The closure of Alexander Road two years ago delivered the final blow to a business that had weathered the rise of garden centers at big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Although the family had been told that the road closure would not take place until July and August, work actually began much earlier, from March through May, at precisely the most lucrative time of year for the family-run business.

“April, May and June is our busiest time and the sales made then would carry us through the rest of the year,” said Mr. Obal. “We never recouped after that.”

The sale has already been going on for over a week and will continue until mid-April. “We began gearing down last year and everything we have left, from fertilizers to tools, from plants to bird feeders, from garden statuary and ornaments to planters, must go.”

For more information, call (609) 452-2401.

 

A Drexel University student who died Monday, March 10, was in “close contact” with students at Princeton University the week before she died. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have confirmed by “genetic fingerprinting” that the Princeton University strain of serogroup B meningococcal disease matches the strain that killed Stephanie L. Ross, 19, a sophomore majoring in engineering at Drexel University.

Ms. Ross, 19, was found “unresponsive” inside her Phi Mu sorority house on March 10 and taken to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center in Philadelphia where she died.

To date, she is the ninth person associated with Princeton University to contract meningococcal disease. The other eight cases, seven Princeton University students and one campus visitor, all recovered.

“The sad news Й reminds all of us to continue to be vigilant in following good health practices to prevent the spread of this illness,” commented Princeton University spokesperson Martin Mbugua. “While it is not possible to definitively conclude how the Drexel student contracted meningococcal disease, the case indicates that the outbreak strain may still be present. We’re urging all members of the Princeton University community to continue to help prevent the spread of disease by increasing hygienic practices, and not sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, smoking materials, and other items. “

At this time, the CDC and the New Jersey Department of Health are not recommending that Princeton University cancel events or curtail activities. “Also, there is no evidence that family members and the community are at increased risk of getting meningococcal disease from casual contact with Princeton University students, faculty, or staff,” said Mr. Mbugua. “Although transmission is from person-to-person, the bacteria are not highly contagious and require sharing respiratory and oral secretions to spread.”

A high percentage of Princeton University undergraduates and eligible graduate students received two doses of the investigational serogroup B vaccine as part of a recent vaccination effort at Princeton University. There have been no new cases among Princeton University students since the vaccination campaign began on December 9, 2013.

According to the CDC, available data show that most adolescents who receive two doses of this vaccine are protected from getting meningococcal disease. However, vaccinated individuals may still be able to carry the bacteria in their throats, which could infect others through close contact.

To date, no related cases among Drexel University students have been reported and the investigational serogroup B vaccine is not currently available to the Drexel University community.

The CDC is continuing to closely monitor the situation.

 

The Princeton Police Department’s (PPD) 2013 Report, its first since consolidation, reveals Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) crime statistics for Princeton that are 72 percent lower than the state average for crimes of violence and 50 percent higher than the state average when it comes to property crime. 

According to the 45-page report from Captain Nick Sutter as acting chief of the department, people in Princeton have a one in 32 chance of being a crime victim and a one in 1,235 chance of being a victim of a violent crime. The municipality is safer than 37.9 percent of other cities in the nation and its crime rate is less than 29 percent of other cities in New Jersey.

While cautioning against reading too much into the numbers, the report shows lower crime statistics since consolidation. One factor contributing to the apparent downturn is that in 2013 Princeton University began reporting its own UCR statistics. “I can say from experience that most of those crimes being reported by Princeton University are property crimes,” said Mr. Sutter in an email interview. Thus, thefts and burglaries on campus that would, in previous years, have been reported by the municipalities are now reported separately by the Princeton University Department of Public Safety.

The PPD report lists a total of 444 arrests including 15 for theft, 34 for shoplifting, 61 for driving while intoxicated, and three for serving alcohol to minors.

According to Mr. Sutter the report provides “a baseline” reference point for the future. For a number of reasons, not least of which is consolidation, it is difficult to compare the finding of this year’s report with the reports of the two previous police departments of Borough and Township. “Our intent is to provide similar reports every year going forward. I think the true comparisons will start to take place this year (2014) and moving forward as we see what the trends are in the newly consolidated municipality,” said Mr. Sutter.

Council member and Police Commissioner Heather Howard, who is also on the Public Safety Committee, described the report as “comprehensive,” “thoughtful” and demonstrating the PPD’s -“commitment to transparency.” “We will then be able to track trends and better manage our resources to meet the needs of the -community,” she said.

Asked what could be done to address the higher than average property crime rate for Princeton, Mr. Sutter said that given Princeton’s status as a destination for visitors, such a property crime rate is “not startling.” He added: “With that being said, we are always analyzing crime trends and addressing them through personnel deployment strategies and other means in an attempt to increase safety and decrease crime. I think overall the statistics show that Princeton is a safe community and in part that can be attributed to the work of the police department.”

“Clearly the report shows tremendous community policing based initiatives taking place within the department that would not have been possible prior to consolidation,” commented Mr. Sutter. “Our department has been able to sustain constant and consistent community policing efforts in 2013 that we were unable to sustain as separate entities. While the entire department operates under a community policing philosophy, our Safe Neighborhood Bureau and Traffic Bureau have been able to address community concerns immediately and sustain these efforts that patrol units are unable to do on a regular basis for a variety of reasons. Consolidation has enabled us to fully employ a needs based approach to the way we provide policing services. This is absolutely essential in addressing community concerns in a timely and effective manner.”

As documented in the report, several officers reached out to Princeton’s Hispanic community last May in a effort to reduce “a general mistrust of law enforcement.” With the help of Father Miguel Valle and St.Paul’s Church on Nassau Street and Nina Lavada and the Latinos en Progreso group at the John Witherspoon Middle School, meetings were held and questions and comments addressed. The department has made a point of not enforcing federal immigration law and of examining the crime of “wage theft.” As a result, there has been an increase in the number of calls for service from Hispanic residents of Princeton, a sure sign of increased trust in the PPD, according to the report.

Princeton Administrator Robert Bruschi underscored Mr. Sutter’s confidence in the Safe Neighborhood Bureau, which “has done a great job getting out into the community” he said. “Having an active Safe Neighborhood unit builds confidence in the department and fosters a solid working relationship with neighborhoods and businesses. This relationship can be invaluable when you are looking to reduce crime and to eliminate easy targets.”

The report also states that the PPD wants to increase the diversity of its work force, of which currently 79 percent of sworn officers are white. The goal is to have a department that reflects Princeton’s overall racial and gender composition.”

“I would hope that members of our community interpret this report as an effort at complete departmental transparency as well as an effort at increasing open communication between the department and community,” said Mr. Sutter.

“[The report] will help the public understand not only what is happening in our community but also gives important insights into how our police department operates. I hope it will generate further discussions about how to strengthen our public safety services and better serve the community,” said Ms. Howard.

“The department has turned a corner over the last year under new leadership, successfully merging two departments with two different cultures and acting nimbly to meet our needs despite a reduced force,” commented Mr. Bruschi, in reference to upcoming appointment of a new Chief of Police. “We need to lock in these gains and stabilize our leadership so that we can continue on the positive path.”

For the full PPD report, visit the municipal web site: www.princetonnj.gov.

 

Residents of the neighborhood surrounding the former West Coast Video store on East Nassau Street gathered at the Chestnut Street firehouse last week to hear about plans for a 7-Eleven convenience store proposed for the site. About 50 people listened to a presentation by a representative of the Dallas-based company and Robert Bratman, owner of the property, before posing questions and airing their concerns.

The most pressing question was whether the store will be open 24 hours a day. While Ken Barnes, 7-Eleven’s northeast development director, said that about 94 percent of the company’s 52,000 stores around the world follow that schedule, there seemed to be no possibility that the proposed Princeton store would deviate from that schedule С at least “not to start,” Mr. Barnes said, adding that unless a community has an ordinance prohibiting 24-hour operations, which Princeton does not, the company sticks to its round-the-clock profile.

That did not sit well with some residents, who said that when The Ivy bar and restaurant on Nassau Street closes at 2 a.m., patrons could head to the 7-Eleven where they might loiter and disturb the peace. “We’re very family-oriented,” one woman said. “I don’t see how staying open all night meets a need in this community. I think you’re going to need a private security force.”

Mr. Barnes responded that 7-Eleven has a security program that was implemented in 1976, and it reduced robberies at the stores “over 70 percent in that first year.” He added, “Loitering is the number one thing that kills sales in a 7-Eleven.”

Liz Chang, whose home on Murray Place backs onto the property, told Mr. Barnes she has had to call police several times over the years, especially while the property has been vacant, because of various incidents. “There are areas that are completely secluded,” she said. “I’d like to personally invite you and your team to look from my second story window, where I have seen construction workers urinating behind the building.”

Mr. Barnes said the company would be willing to install exterior cameras to aid with security.

Contrary to comments by some neighbors that the area in question is a residential neighborhood, resident Jim Levine said that the neighborhood, which is in a SB (service business) zone, is not purely residential. “It’s not what the neighborhood is about. It’s not why I moved here,” he said. “I think having a tenant in there, and a responsible tenant, is a benefit to the community.”

Asked what 7-Eleven would do for the community, Mr. Barnes said the company operates franchises and hopes to find a franchisee who is already a part of the community. “But that doesn’t always happen,” he said. “We also have market managers responsible for groups of stores. We do pay attention to our stores and don’t just leave franchisees hanging in the lurch.”

Residents asked several questions about the timing of deliveries and the disposal of garbage, which Mr. Barnes said would be in a 10-foot-by-10-foot trash enclosure with a dumpster inside.

The proposed 7-Eleven would be 4,900 square feet and include cafe seating. The rear area would be repaved and relandscaped and fencing could be installed. Questioned about lighting, Mr. Barnes said the LED lighting that the company uses would allow them to direct it away from neighboring properties.

The plan requires no variances and needs site plan approval from Princeton’s Planning Board.

 

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Who is he and is he coming or going? His name is Bill Agress and he’s from Lawrenceville. One of the many Einstein look-a-likes who came to town Saturday for Pi Day, he has brother Einsteins in this week’s Town Talk. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

 

March 13, 2014
AT PEOPLE & STORIES BENEFIT: Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout will appear April 11 at the Nassau Club.(Photo by Leonardo Cendamo)

AT PEOPLE & STORIES BENEFIT: Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Elizabeth Strout will appear April 11 at the Nassau Club. (Photo by Leonardo Cendamo)

Little things loom large in the novels of Elizabeth Strout. Descriptions of daily rituals are richly, yet subtly detailed. The minutiae of everyday life — boiling water for a cup of tea, the creaky steps on the porch of an old house — become windows into the characters that make up this Pulitzer-Prize-winning author’s haunting stories.

“Ordinary life is what I live, and what I love,” says Ms. Strout, who will appear at The Nassau Club April 11 at a benefit for People & Stories/ Gente y Cuentos. The author of Abide With Me, Amy and Isabelle, Olive Kitteridge (for which she won the Pulitzer), and The Burgess Boys, Ms. Strout grew up in a small New England town somewhat similar to those she writes about. “Frankly,” she continues, “ordinary life is what most of us live. So just the act of acting out our lives against these ordinary routines — the food we eat, the tables we sit at, the work we go to — is mostly what we do, and that interests me.”

Ms. Strout lives in Manhattan with her husband. She always loved writing, but was wary of focusing on it full-time after graduating from Bates College. So she went to law school. “I didn’t want to keep on being a cocktail waitress forever,” she recalls. “I was young, I had a social conscience. It was the seventies. So I naively thought I’d become a lawyer and write stories at night.”

After Syracuse University law school, Ms. Strout worked in legal services for six months. Almost immediately, she knew she was in the wrong field. “I was the worst lawyer in the world! I was terrible. I couldn’t do it,” she says. “I was intimidated. I had these images of myself taking on everyone, but in reality, at that time, I was so non-adversarial. And I didn’t know that about myself.”

Having gotten married and had a son, Ms. Strout continued to write, selling a few stories to magazines like Redbook and Seventeen. She also taught at Manhattan Community College. While happy to end her legal career, she has no regrets. “I’m not sorry about the training,” she says. “Because I think it did help me to think better.”

The setting for some of Ms. Strout’s novels is Shirley Falls, a New England mill town that has seen better times. “It’s a town I made up with Amy and Isabelle, sort of a compilation of different towns I knew. We lived in very rural areas in Maine and New Hampshire. There’s some of Lewiston, Maine, where I would stay with my grandmother, and also Dover, New Hampshire. There were a number of mill towns that were quite accessible to me as a young person,” she says.

Descriptions of nature figure prominently in Ms. Strout’s novels. An example from Abide With Me: “He drove with the window down, his elbow resting on the window edge, ducking his head to peer at the hills in the distance, or at a cloud, white as a huge dollop of frosting, and at the side of a barn, fresh with red paint; lit by the autumn sun; and he thought: I would have noticed this once.”

“I did grow up in the woods,” the author says, “far away from neighbors. The truth is, I spent the first 10 years of my life playing alone in the woods. The trees, the wildflowers — they were my friends. I knew them very well and I loved them.”

The main character in Abide With Me is a young minister whose wife has died and left him with two young daughters. His ruminations about his faith are an important part of the book. While she didn’t grow up in a particularly religious home, Ms. Strout admits to a fascination with it in her youth.

“We dutifully went to the Congregational Church, fairly regularly,” she recalls. “I liked the minister we had until I was in sixth grade. I had a fixation with ministers for quite a while, and I really don’t know why. But I think, as a child, I was interested in what this minister’s life was like. He was home in the middle of the day, unlike other men. And the fact that people seemed to have this need for expression, to ministers like him, also interested me. I spent a lot of time trying to learn as much as I could about it. But I haven’t been as interested since.”

Ms. Strout doesn’t like to talk about current and upcoming projects. What she will talk about, though, is how much she enjoys writing. “One of the things I love about it is the ability to withhold judgment,” she says. “It’s a different relationship to people than one has in real life. When I go to the page, I can have a different kind of relationship with the characters. So whatever their behavior is, particularly in Olive Kitteridge, I’m making them up, and I get to turn them around and see the underbelly of their vulnerabilities. And that automatically makes them more interesting characters. Because really, most of us are more interesting than we appear.”

“An Evening with Elizabeth Strout” will be held at The Nassau Club on Friday, April 11, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 for the talk and dessert reception, or $250 for dinner beforehand with the author. For reservations and information, call (609) 393-3230 or (609) 688-8494, or visit the website at www.peopleandstories.net.

 

March 12, 2014
EINSTEIN IN SYNC: Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was visiting friends in Santa Barbara when this playful photograph was taken on February 6, 1933, shortly after he had accepted the appointment at the Institute for Advanced Study that would bring him to Princeton for the rest of his life. In celebration of his birthday this Friday, Princeton bicyclists are invited to participate in a special ride around Community Park South.(From Images of America: Institute for Advanced Study; Courtesy of the Archives, California Institute of Technology)

EINSTEIN IN SYNC: Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was visiting friends in Santa Barbara when this playful photograph was taken on February 6, 1933, shortly after he had accepted the appointment at the Institute for Advanced Study that would bring him to Princeton for the rest of his life. In celebration of his birthday this Friday, Princeton bicyclists are invited to participate in a special ride around Community Park South. (From Images of America: Institute for Advanced Study; Courtesy of the Archives, California Institute of Technology)

What better way to celebrate Einstein’s birthday than on a bicycle demonstrating the scientific phenomenon of synchrony! That’s exactly what the Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) have planned for this Friday evening.

The seven member committee comprised of Princeton residents Karen Jezierny, Steve Kruse, Laurie Harmon, David Cohen, Carolyn Sealfon, Anita Jeerage, and Sam Bunting invite bike riders of all ages to show up with helmets and night-time safety lights of course, as required by state law, and take part in a ride around Community Park South.

So much for the bicycles, where does the synchrony come in? Don’t worry, you won’t be asked to pedal in unison. Instead, participants will be fitted with little gadgets that flash and, by means of a radio transceiver, instantly synchronize with one another.

The effect is known as the Kuramoto Model for Japanese physicist Yoshiki Kuramoto, who published a model of coupled oscillators in 1975. But, as PBAC’s Steve Kruse points out, the phenomenon of collective synchronization has an even earlier connection to Princeton. Arthur Winfree, who earned his doctorate in biology at Princeton University, made a theoretical breakthrough in understanding collective synchronization. Mr. Winfree’s findings are published in his book, The Geometry of Biological Time.

One of the most widely known examples of the phenomenon occurs in certain species of fireflies in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “But collective synchrony can also emerge in non-living systems,” said Mr. Kruse, adding “and this is where Einstein ambles into the picture,” before going on to describe Einstein’s collaboration with Indian physicist, Satyendra Nath Bose,and their prediction of the Bose-Einstein condensate.

Participants in Friday’s ride may or may not be aware of the science involved. All they need to do to celebrate the wonders of synchrony is to take part in Friday’s group ride on closed paths in Community Park South.

Participation is free and open to all ages. The first 159 riders will have blinking red tail lights attached to their bicycles. As they loop around the park for a distance of at least 3.14 miles, the lights will harmonize.

Sponsored by Princeton University’s Office of Community and Regional Affairs, Princeton’s Pi Day and the municipality of Princeton, the ride will be the third “Kuramoto Model (1000 Fireflies)” community event.

Conceived by Chicago-based artist David Rueter, the first ride took place with 1,000 bicyclists at a dusk-to-dawn summer arts festival in Minneapolis; the second was at the EdgeUP art festival in Chicago.

Besides the fun element, the ride has a series purpose for PBAC, which advises the mayor and Council on ways to make Princeton increasingly safe and suitable for walkers and bikers.

“Because bike-riding commuters often need to ride in the dark, PBAC starting making plans in late 2012 for an event that would highlight night-time bike safety,” said Mr. Kruse. “New Jersey law requires bicycles to be equipped with front and rear safety lights, and low-cost LED lights can transform a cyclist from invisible to highly visible, particularly on those streets that are not well-lit.”

The ride starts at 8 p.m. and participants should plan to arrive at the Community Park South parking lot around 7:30 p.m. for registration and to have the tail lights attached. The tail lights will be re-used and should be returned at the end of the ride.

“Thanks are due to Ben Stentz and the folks in Princeton’s Recreation Department who are working to make sure that the paved bike path around Community Park South is clear of snow/ice and other debris such as branches,” said Mr. Kruse, who emphasized that since the path has no reflective striping, headlights are a must for every participant.

To pre-register and guarantee participation in the ride email princetonmimi@gmail.com.

Pi Day Events

The “Fireflies Ride” is just one of a host of activities at this year’s Pi Day.

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

“Every year something new gets added that I can’t believe wasn’t always a part of the event,” said Ms. Omiecinski. “Last year it was Princeton University’s Rubiks cube club, this year Tetsuya Miyamoto, the inventor of KenKen, will be joining us, and I’m really excited about the new Princeton Pi pizza competition, which is sure to become one of our annual core events.” The competition takes place on March 14, at 3:14 p.m. Contestants will have five minutes to choose from all the ingredients at Princeton Pi to create the best pizza. Judges include Mayor Liz Lempert and Superintendent of Princeton Regional Schools Steve Cochrane.

As well as tours and talks by famed physicists, other highlights include a Pi recitation contest, an apple pie contest, a pie-throwing contest, and a Dinky ride with Einstein.

Events begin Thursday, March 13, when author Charles Adler presents “Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction” at the Princeton Public Library at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, the fun starts at 9 a.m. with a Pie Eating Contest at McCaffrey’s, followed by kids events at the Princeton Public Library: the Kids’ Violin Exhibition, the Einstein Look A Like Contest and a “Happy Birthday Einstein!” party at 11 a.m. at the Princeton Historical Society. Tetsuya Miyamoto will appear at noon, followed by a KenKen Tournament for Teens (and other teen-spirited humans).

“The whole town ‘gloms’ onto the celebration and brings the distinctive creativity of Princeton to the event. It feels as if Pi Day has always been here,” said Ms. Omiecinski.

Advanced registration and early arrival are recommended for Pi Day events. For more information and a full schedule of events, visit www.pidayprinceton.com.

 

Denise Wiles Adams is this year’s Isabel Bartenstein Garden Lecture speaker, to be presented by Morven Museum & Garden at The Present Day Club, 72 Stockton Street, on March 27 at 10 a.m. Light refreshments and a book-signing will follow.

Ms. Adams is a historian and lecturer on the topic of ornamental plants and American garden design and the author of Restoring American Gardens, a book of history and horticulture that documents the changing plant palette of American gardens.

Tickets are $30, or $25 for Friends of Morven. Space is limited and reservations are required. Call (609) 924-8144 x106 or email msheridan@morven.org.

 

The Princeton Senior Resource Center will host a Lunch and Learn session entitled “It Could Be Poison” on Friday, March 21, at 12:00 pm at the Suzanne Patterson Building, located behind the former Borough Hall.

Every year, between 2 to 4 million poisonings occur in the United States, according to the New Jersey Poison Control Center. Unintentional poisoning can be caused by over-the-counter, prescribed, or illegally obtained pain medications and sedatives; antidepressants and other medications prescribed for various health conditions; drug and alcohol interactions; and even household cleaning products.

At the PSRC event, Barbara Vaning, EMT Instructor and member of Princeton HealthCare System’s Community Education and Outreach Program, will speak about identifying poisons, how poisons can enter the body, dos and don’ts of using medications and household cleaners, and what to do if you suspect poisoning.

The program is co-sponsored by Princeton HealthCare System. Participants should bring their own lunch. Beverages and dessert will be provided. To reserve a spot, call (609) 924-7108. There is no charge.

A resolution to approve a developer’s agreement for AvalonBay’s plan to build rental units on the former Princeton Hospital site was tabled by Princeton Council Monday. At a meeting, the governing body decided to allow more time for consideration of comments by an independent inspector, as well as environmental and safety concerns voiced by members of the neighborhood surrounding the Witherspoon Street site.

The Council voted to retain licensed remediation professional Ira Whitman, for an amount not to exceed $3,000, allowing him to return for the next meeting on March 24. Mr. Whitman was hired to evaluate issues related to AvalonBay’s demolition plan and a medical waste incinerator that was once on the site. The developer wants to tear down the existing hospital building to make room for the rental community.

While AvalonBay has agreed to changes suggested by Mr. Whitman about soil testing and additional air monitors, some Council members and local residents were not satisfied С particularly when Council member Patrick Simon asked Mr. Whitman if he had negotiated with AvalonBay about how much sampling of the soil should be done.

Mr. Whitman admitted that he removed some of his original recommendations at AvalonBay’s request. This led Mr. Simon to say he wants to see the original, pre-negotiated draft before making a decision. The revelation about negotiations fueled some of the comments by members of the public.

“I’m shocked,” resident Joe Small admonished the Council. “You hired an expert to give you an independent report, and he didn’t do it. He negotiated.” Members of the audience applauded his remarks.

AvalonBay closed last week on the sale of the hospital, which moved nearly two years ago to Route 1 in Plainsboro. The developer plans to build 280 residential units for moderate, low-income, and very-low-income families once demolition is complete. The company’s initial proposal was rejected by Princeton’s Planning Board. A revised plan was approved last year. A group of local residents known as the Association for Planning at Hospital Site LLC sued to block the development. But Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled against them two weeks ago. The group is considering an appeal.

Mr. Whitman recommended that AvalonBay conduct more soil testing than the developer originally planned (before and during the demolition) for mercury, cadmium, dioxins, and other substances. Instead of one air monitor, he recommended installing four. There was considerable discussion about the medical waste incinerator, which was not mentioned in a report by AvalonBay’s environmental consultant EcolSciences. When the existence of the incinerator was reported in recent months, AvalonBay vice president Jon Vogel told Council it was used to burn medical records only. But it has since been confirmed that medical waste was also disposed of in the incinerator.

“My position is that there must be an environmental investigation associated with the incinerator,” Mr. Whitman said, adding that discarded needles and blood-soaked bandages are among the materials that may have been incinerated, and certain hazardous substances can be generated as a result of the process.

Mr. Whitman called the developer’s demolition proposal “overall a very good plan.” But he has concerns about the possible presence of PCB’s in concrete that is to be crushed during demolition. Illustrating with aerial photographs, Mr. Whitman said the hospital’s early buildings were constructed between 1918 and 1927. A medical waste incinerator was built between 1963 and 1969 but has not operated on the site since the 1980s or 1990s, he added.

But Areta Pawlynsky, another member of the citizens’ group, used drawings and aerial photographs to challenge Mr. Whitman about his findings. “There were at least two incinerators,” she said. “It’s on the 1948 floor plan. Why do you say there wasn’t one there until the 1960s?”

Commenting by email the following day, Ms. Pawlynsky accused the hospital, AvalonBay, and some representatives of the municipality of using a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

“The fact that this was allowed to happen in the least affluent and minority neighborhood is environmental injustice,” she said. “Following in the Planning Board’s careless footsteps, Council isn’t demanding testing for heavy metal and radioactive residue from the hospital’s first 50-60 years of generating hazardous waste, before the era of environmental regulation; review of this was specifically excluded from Dr. Whitman’s scope. Yet in response to a question last night, Dr Whitman confirmed that heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, and lead can’t disappear from soil. The fact that there are no plans for independent monitoring during demolition, especially for lead in an area with many children, will create a disparate environmental impact.”

Neighborhood resident Joseph Weiss told Council he thinks AvalonBay gave “false information” to the Planning Board. “The story of the incinerator, the trajectory of that story, gives me great concern,” he said. Evan Yassky of the citizens’ group urged Council to have an independent testing agency on site during demolition, adding, “Hospital: Please come clean and tell us now whatever is in the soil, so we can remediate.”

Potholes

At the end of the meeting, Council got a progress report from Robert Hough, director of Infrastructure and Operations, about repairs to potholes caused by repeated snowstorms and frigid weather this winter. Mr. Hough recommended an $800,000 plan to repave some of the roads that are in particularly bad shape. Normally, the municipality spends $300,000 on such repairs.

The town has been doing cold-patching on area roads, but Mr. Hough said that practice is a “band-aid” that only provides a temporary solution. Sections of Harrison Street, Mercer Road, Elm Road, Quaker Road, Mount Lucas, and Terhune roads have been the most seriously affected. “My fear is that this is only the beginning,” Mr. Hough said. “We have people out every day. We’ve got other areas to do. We need to do it right.”

 

Palmer Square Management has decided not to lease a storefront on Hulfish Street to the Princeton post office, as previously planned. But the branch, a presence on Palmer Square since 1934, may move to the East Nassau Street neighborhood as part of the former West Coast Video location. The front of that building is being considered as a location for a 7-Eleven store.

Alec Monaghan, first vice-president of CBRE Inc., the real estate firm handling the post office sale, said Tuesday that the West Coast Video site is on the table as a new home for the post office, which must move because it’s Palmer Square building is being sold to a California-based developer. “It would be on the side of the building or the back,” he said. “It has pretty good visibility and there is parking. A whole population lives at that end of town, too. I feel good about it.”

Mr. Monaghan said he has spoken to Robert Bratman, whose family owns the former West Coast Video building, about the possibility. Mr. Bratman said Tuesday that if the deal went through, the post office would be located where a laundromat used to be. “I think it’s a good idea,” he said.

The United States Postal Service wants to move the Princeton branch to a smaller site as part of a nationwide downsizing effort. CBRE is also representing other post office locations. Princeton’s current post office is 12,000 square feet, and the move to 51-53 Hulfish Street would have meant scaling down to 2,000 square feet. The East Nassau Street site is approximately 2,300 square feet, Mr. Bratman said.

The Postal Service was in the process of negotiating a lease with Palmer Square Management, but the management company has decided not to go through with the deal.

“Mostly this is because I was hoping to keep it as a retail or dining use,” said David Newtown, vice president of Palmer Square Management. “I hope they find somewhere in the downtown. They have been very professional in their dealings with us, and I hope the right outcome occurs.”

Postal Service spokesman Raymond Daiutolo said yesterday that the decision was a disappointment. “We learned that the location is no longer available, so we have to go back to square one,” he said. “That means we have to solicit again for an alternate location for retail operations.”

Mr. Monaghan said the Hulfish Street site was “a triple A location,” and also expressed disappointment at the decision. But the company is looking for alternatives. In addition to the West Coast Video possibility, they are considering another downtown location. “I can’t disclose where it is, because it has a tenant in it,” he said.

Keeping the post office in a downtown location has been a priority since the move was announced in 2012. Some people have expressed an interest in moving it to Princeton Shopping Center, where there is ample parking, but that option is not favored by the municipality and by Princeton University, which wants to keep the site within walking distance of students.

“I have encouraged the post office to explore that possibility [East Nassau Street] as well as others,” Mayor Liz Lempert said in an email yesterday. “It is important to maintain a post office in the central business district and we are working with the post office to try and find a spot that meets their needs and the needs of the community.”

 

At last week’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) information session held in the Princeton Public Library’s Community Room, local residents were offered free advice on choosing and signing up for medical coverage.

People turned out to ask questions about using the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov and to seek advice on comparing plans, alternatives to the government site, the pros and cons of using an insurance agent, and whether they should apply by phone or on paper.

The event was hosted by the Princeton Public Library in conjunction with Princeton Human Services, the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, and Enroll America, the education and outreach non-profit that launched a national Get Covered America campaign last year to raise public awareness of new health insurance options.

In the brief press conference that followed, Mayor Liz Lempert urged all Princeton residents to take advantage of the ACA and any assistance that they may be eligible for. According to a mayoral public service announcement in support of President Obama’s health care initiative, available on the municipal website princetonnj.gov, “82 percent of New Jerseyians who have enrolled in the federal marketplace have received federal help.”

During the four hour session, about 55 people tapped into the expertise of 10 certified application counselors as well as three representatives of New Jersey insurance providers. Some were looking for answers to specific questions, others were hoping for general information to get them started. Several were ready to enroll right on the spot. “The session helped a lot of people know what they need to do by when and how to get it done,” said Event and Library Associate Shelly Hawk.

The three HMO companies offering plans on the New Jersey exchange are AmeriHealth New Jersey, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey and Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey.

AmeriHealth New Jersey describes itself as “the only health insurer focused solely on the state of New Jersey.” Its website (www.amerihealth.com) offers a variety of health plans for individuals as well as small- or mid-sized business, and municipalities. For more information on its ACA compliant plans, in the bronze, silver, gold and platinum categories, call (888) 879-5331.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (BCBSNJ) is transitioning its members to new ACA compliant health plans and has information on its website (www.horizonblue.com) or by phone: (800) 224-1234.

Health Republic Insurance of New Jersey (HRINJ) is a new non-profit, consumer operated and oriented plan that was established in response to the Affordable Care Act. It describes itself as a co-op with no private shareholders, “so all of our profits go toward ensuring that the individuals and small businesses we serve get the healthcare they need.” It offers plans in the categories: Core, Solid, Prime, and Catastrophic through its website newjersey.healthrepublic.us and can be contacted by phone: (888) 990-5706, or by email: info@newjersey.healthrepublic.us.

“The library was thrilled to be the central location for this community collaboration spearheaded by Princeton Human Services,” said Ms. Hawk. “Ensuring the public has access to resources concerning the ACA is a top priority for the library and this event was a follow up to a more general introduction to the ACA with Human Services and the Medical Center that was hosted in November.”

“Enroll America provided knowledgeable and friendly trained facilitators who answered questions and helped people enroll onsite, as did the University Medical Center, which continues to do so daily at their site,” said Ms. Hawk.

In March 2010, President Barack Obama’s comprehensive healthcare reform, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), was signed into law.

ACA requires all citizens to have medical insurance and metes out a penalty for those who do not comply. The penalty for not having coverage in 2014 is $95 or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater. In 2015, the penalty rises to $325 or 2 percent of income, whichever is greater: and in 2016 it will be $698 or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater. The deadline for people to sign up for health coverage for this year is March 31.

For those on a low income whose employer does not offer health benefits, there is a tax credit that can be applied to the monthly cost of insurance up front or taken into account when taxes are filed at the end of the year. To find out if you are eligible for a subsidy, visit: healthcare.gov. If you are eligible, you must apply for coverage through this website.

All plans offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace must include a core set of essential health benefits and fit into one of four tiers: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. according to monthly premium cost and percentage of medical coverage.

Those who do not qualify for a subsidy may still apply through healthcare.gov, apply directly to a healthcare provider, or go through an insurance agent.

Although there are some exceptions, and subsidies vary according to income and number in a household, some general rules apply. If you are the only person in your household and your yearly income is between $11,490 and $45,960, you may qualify for lower premiums on a Marketplace insurance plan. If your yearly income is between $11,490 and $28,725, you may qualify for lower premiums and out-of-pocket costs for Marketplace insurance.

UMCPP’s Carolyn Schindewolf was one of several professionals available to offer advice. She described the list of items to have available during an enrollment session with a counselor: Social Security Numbers or document numbers for legal immigrants; employer and income information for every member of the household who will need coverage (pay stubs or W-2 forms); and policy numbers of any current health insurance plans covering members of the household.

UMCCP is an official Certified Application Counselor organization and will continue to offer advice through March 31, the end of the enrollment period. It provides enrollment assistance at a number of locations. For a list of times and locations, see princetonhcs.org/calendar.

For more information, visit: GetCoveredAmerica.org, HealthCare.gov, or call (800) 318-2596.

For information sessions organized by UMCCP, visit: princetonhcs.org/calendar, or call (888) 897-8979 to schedule an appointment with a counselor. Walk-ins are also welcome and will be seen on a first come, first-served basis, when counselors are available.

Information Sessions

A Certified Application Counselor from Princeton HealthCare System’s Community Education and Outreach Program will provide an overview of New Jersey’s health insurance marketplace; how it works; who qualifies; how to enroll; and more on Wednesday, March 12, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hickory Corner Library, 138 Hickory Corner Road, East Windsor; and on Thursday, March 13, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Hamilton Area YMCA John K Rafferty Branch, 1315 Whitehorse-Mercerville Road, Hamilton; and on Monday, March 17, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the West Windsor Library, 333 North Post Road, Princeton Junction; call (609) 275-8901 to register.

 

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Though its primary purpose is permit people using a parking lot to get from their cars to the tow-path between the D&R Canal and Lake Carnegie, the recent break in the winter weather makes it hard not call up the chorus of Simon and Garfunkel’s song about another, bigger bridge, only with one word changed, “looking for spring and feeling groovy.” (Photo by Emily Reeves)

 

March 5, 2014
COPPERWOOD MOVING FAST: Copperwood architect and developer J. Robert Hillier’s housing community for those over 55, nears completion on Bunn Drive among 100 foot tall trees of the Princeton Ridge Preservation. With sustainable features such as sedum roofs, low energy appliances, and recycled rainwater irrigation, interest is strong for the 153 units that will be ready for residents this June.

COPPERWOOD MOVING FAST: Copperwood architect and developer J. Robert Hillier’s housing community for those over 55, nears completion on Bunn Drive among 100 foot tall trees of the Princeton Ridge Preservation. With sustainable features such as sedum roofs, low energy appliances, and recycled rainwater irrigation, interest is strong for the 153 units that will be ready for residents this June.

Anyone walking or driving around Princeton recently couldn’t fail to notice changes afoot. While The Residences at Palmer Square are now complete, several other residential communities are approaching their finish lines. 

The view from Paul Robeson Place and John Street shows new homes for the families of Princeton University faculty and staff rising where Merwick Care Center once stood.

On the other side of town, alongside Lake Carnegie, the University’s newly built apartments and townhomes for graduate students are scheduled to be ready this summer.

And on Bunn Drive, surrounded by a preserved forest that is part of the 200-acre Princeton Ridge Preservation, Copperwood, Princeton’s first market-rate senior housing development, is almost ready to be occupied.

Palmer Square Residences

With the sale of its first fully-furnished town home model, Palmer Square Management has unveiled a second to introduce the public to The Residences at Palmer Square’s varied living alternatives, luxury, and design.

The model has seen quite a bit of foot traffic from the public as well as realtors and two new condominium buildings and two new rental buildings are now available.

“The completion of most of the construction has now brought the community to the point where buyers can immediately experience the living spaces, quality of construction, upscale finishes and appointments, and the homes’ integration into the overall Palmer Square and downtown Princeton communities,” said spokesperson George Cahn. “Because of that, we’re seeing prospective buyers who first visited Palmer Square three and four years ago now returning to see the finished product and it’s making a difference. Seven homes have sold, including six townhomes and one flat. Three new rental residences have been leased since the new buildings opened a couple of weeks ago.”

According to a press release from Palmer Square Management, the recent completion of significant construction has allowed for immediate occupancy and more than 50 percent of the first phase of the multi-story complex has been sold, with closings underway.

Two- and three-bedroom townhomes from 2,622 to 3,084 square feet are priced from $1,775,000 to $2,195,000. Two- and three-bedroom flats ranging from 1,623 to 4,130 square feet are priced from $1.245 million to $3.4 million.

“Once we completed construction of the first phase of multi-story townhomes and single-level flats, we experienced an increase in sales activity,” said David Newton of Palmer Square Management, adding that interest in new rental
opportunities has always been high.

In response to the demand for rentals, Palmer Square Management released newly-completed condominiums and rental residences with monthly rents from $4,800 to $8,600.

For more information or to make a private appointment to view the fully-furnished townhome and single-level models, call (609) 924-3884, or visit www.palmersquareresidences.com. The sales center at 112 Victoria Mews is open Monday through Friday, 10 to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Merwick, Stanworth, Lakeside

The homes visible from Bayard Lane and John Street are a mix of apartments and townhouses, including affordable units available to local residents with low-to-moderate incomes. Eight townhouse buildings and three mid-rise buildings have a total of 128 units. According to a University update, the first phase of the project is due to be completed July 1, followed by phase two, the construction of 198 units at the Stanworth site.

This new construction is part of the University’s housing plan for faculty, staff, and graduate students. Accommodation for the latter is taking shape on the site formerly occupied by Hibben and Magie apartments and will provide homes for some 715 graduate students in 74 three and four bedroom townhomes and 255 apartments that have a variety of configurations: one-bedroom, one-bath; two-bedroom, one-bath units; and three-bedroom, three-bath units. Some of the units will be fully furnished.

Lakeside Graduate Housing is also due to open this summer.

The buildings have been designed and built according to Princeton’s sustainability standards and the University will seek LEED silver certification for them from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Copperwood

The list of qualified potential renters for the 153 Copperwood units on Bunn Drive has grown to 320, arguing the need for even more apartments of this kind in the Princeton area.

“This is the only active adult rental project within 10 miles of Princeton and interest is very strong with 24 units already spoken for,” said Copperwood architect and developer J. Robert Hillier (a Town Topics shareholder).

The sustainable development sits on four acres in the middle of 21 acres of woodlands, of which 17 acres is dedicated to conservation in perpetuity, and is surrounded by the Princeton Ridge Preservation.

“Copperwood looks in great shape for its expected end-date of June 1,” said Mr. Hillier. “The project is just about two thirds done. We are about to start putting up the sheet rock walls so you can really see the interiors taking shape and we expect to have models to show by the beginning of next month.”

The community is arranged in five buildings around a piazza with landscaped gardens on top of a sunken garage. Elevators from the underground garage serve each floor of each building. Amenities include full time concierge services, a fitness center, a cafe/lounge/library, a party/meeting room and a bicycle storage room. Parking will also accommodate electric cars.

Walkways, gardens and
piazzas separate the buildings, whose exteriors are designed to blend with the wooded surroundings. Ground-floor units have private patios. Other units look out onto woods or gardens.

The project was originally scheduled to open in the fall of 2012 but the discovery of more boulders than originally expected and severe weather caused delays. Many of those boulders, incidentally, ended up restoring the New Jersey shore after Sandy.

The 55+ Active-Lifestyle Community has 153 luxury rental apartments offered in multiple designs and ranging in size from 718 to 1426 square feet.

Depending upon finishes, size and location within the complex, the units will rent from $2,230 to $4,100 a month. Twelve of the units will be affordable housing and all include assigned parking in the private, underground garage.

Sustainability

“It’s a real example of sustainable design unlike any within 100 miles of Princeton,” said Mr. Hillier, who describes the project as “enabling people who have spent their lives in Princeton to downsize and continue to live here. They have never been able to do that before in this quality of environment.”

Sustainable features include sedum roofs to harvest rainwater for irrigation and toilets, semi-pervious driveways and walkways, energy efficient lighting, and environmentally-friendly food waste disposers.

Mr. Hillier, who grew up in Princeton, likens the 300,000 square feet construction to a modern European hilltop village. “Copperwood will satisfy an unmet need for senior rental housing in Princeton and will provide luxury living and convenience to the active adults here,” he said.

“It is a pleasure to finally be able to deliver housing that enables Princeton residents to downsize and yet continue to enjoy this amazing community of Princeton,” said Mr. Hillier.

For more information, call (609) 688-9999, or visit: www.copperwoodprinceton.com.

 

“Speakology: the Art and Science of Speaking — for Kids” is a new course geared to those aged 7-17, to be held at Tigerlabs, 252 Nassau Street, March 15-April 19. Speakology founder Dana Lichstrahl will run the classes from 4-6 p.m. for six consecutive Saturdays.

Speakology founder and Princeton resident Dana Lichtstrahl has since 2011 been striving to ensure that young people can verbally express themselves with grace and ease, anywhere, anytime, with anyone. In an age of “technological expression” comfortable, face-to-face communication is “essential, and critical for advancement”, she says. Deals are most often sealed, and agreements made, in person.

“Educating kids on the fundamentals of communication when they are young benefits everyone and everything.” adds Ms. Lichtstrahl, a communications professional for more than 20 years whose credits include leading the public relations and publicity campaigns for the launch of the Bank of Princeton in 2006. Tigerlabs, where the SPEAK
OLOGY classes are held, is also the home of 8ANDUP (8andup.com), another kids’ curriculum focused on entrepreneurship.

For more information, or to register, visit http://speakology.us/contact-reg/ Seating is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

On Wednesday, March 12 at 4:30 p.m., Gareth Evans, Chancellor of the Australian National University and former Foreign Minister of Australia, will give a lecture, “After Syria: The Future of the Responsibility to Protect,” in Wolfensohn Hall on the Institute of Advanced Study campus. 

Another lecture at Wolfensohn Hall is scheduled for Wednesday, March 26 at the same time, when Vladimir Voevodsky, professor in the school of mathematics at the Institute, will speak on “Univalent Foundations: New Foundations of Mathematics,” The lecture is in honor of the Princeton Adult School’s 75th Anniversary. The Institute supports and shares the Adult School’s mission to promote and foster lifelong learning and exploration in the Princeton community and beyond.

The Institute is located at 1 Einstein Drive. Call (609) 734-8000 for information.

———

 

Last year was enormously eventful for the Princeton Police Department. 2013 began with consolidation of the Borough and the Township police departments. 

Then Chief David Dudeck retired amidst allegations of of harassment and discrimination and a civil suit by seven police officers against him and the municipality; new immigration laws came down from the Federal Government; and the department was scrutinized in December by the Rodgers Group at the culmination of a year-long accreditation process.

Now, one of the Rodgers Group recommendations is about to be realized as Princeton Council readies to appoint a new chief of police. Mayor Lempert has said that the announcement of a new chief would likely be be made this month.

Capt. Nicholas K. Sutter, a police officer for almost two decades, appears to be a shoo-in for the job. He served with the Borough of Princeton before consolidation and he has been leading the department as acting chief since last February’s departure of former Chief Dudeck.

The mayor has frequently commended Mr. Sutter in his role as acting chief.

Asked for comment on the most challenging aspects of his job as acting chief over the past year or so, Mr. Sutter said: “I would say the complete operational integration of both departments and sorting through the myriad of issues that went along with such a huge project was definitely the biggest challenge.

“I have described the consolidation of the two previous Princeton Police Departments as two families coming together as one. While many families share many things in common they each have their own traditions, customs, values, and histories that are not easily changed or forgotten. A police department is not unlike a family with all the dynamics that accompany those relationships. The success of this organization rests in the immersion of these former customs and traditions of the former departments into the identity and culture of our new department.”

But what was challenging, said Mr. Sutter, has also proved rewarding as he has witnessed the evolution of a single department as new relationships have formed.

The acting chief has little time for those who forecast disaster and claim that the department was dysfunctional and that the two police departments would never get along. “I’m here to say that it did work, we are harmonizing extremely well together and we are looking forward to a successful future,” said Mr. Sutter. The challenges of consolidation and the issues that came along with it, have resulted in a much stronger police department, he said.

Rodgers’ Recommendation

According to Princeton Administrator Robert W. Bruschi, the Rodgers Report was a factor in the decision to appoint a new chief from within the department. For Police Commissioner Heather Howard, the Rodgers Group was an important factor pointing to the selection from within the department and with some urgency too.

Last December, the Rodgers Group, a public safety consulting firm hired to report on the health and culture of the Princeton Police Department, urged the municipality to make hiring a permanent leader for the police department a top priority.

Furthermore, the report recommended that the town promote a chief from within departmental ranks. “The department has coalesced around its current leadership and interjecting an outside public safety director would upset the apple cart, and not add any value to the equation,” said Mr. Rodgers, adding that stability of leadership would be crucial to the successful transformation of the post-consolidation merger of the Borough and Township police departments and he praised Mr. Sutter in his role as acting chief.

“Their findings were informed by anonymous surveys of all members of the force, in addition to many focus groups with employees and outside community members and stakeholders,” said Ms. Howard, adding that “personally [I] have heard tremendous feedback and support from the public for the new department and its current leadership.”

Mr. Sutter’s years as a second in command and full year leading the newly formed department make him a valuable asset, said Mr. Bruschi, adding that “His attitude and his dedication are helping to lead our department to becoming a progressive department with an emphasis on the community policing. Many departments say they have adopted that policy but when it comes down to it I would put our activities and accomplishments up against any department.”

“Captain Sutter has done a tremendous job over the last year,” agreed Ms. Howard, citing the acting chief’s melding of the two distinct Borough and Township cultures, introduction of new community policing and traffic bureau services, and doing more with less to protect the public through administrative efficiencies and smart management. He has also strengthened relations with the community, including for example, specific initiatives with the immigrant community, said Ms. Howard. “We are very fortunate to have his leadership.”

More than anyone perhaps, Bob Bruschi is well-placed to speak about the acting chief. Since Mr. Bruschi was appointed “appropriate authority” for police oversight, he has met with Capt. Sutter almost daily. “If we don’t have a sit down we almost always have a phone call,” he said.

Still, the dysfunctional department stigma is not an easy one to shake off.

Asked what safeguards have been put into place to make sure there will be no recurrence of events such as those leading to the lawsuit against former Chief Dudeck, Mr. Bruschi commented that “more than policies, which are already in place, what was really needed was the feeling in members of the department that they could come forward to speak about unresolved issues. Captain Sutter is extremely approachable and I’ve made it clear to the PBA as well as at the staff meetings that I’ve attended that any issue or concern that they feel can’t be addressed within the department or isn’t being addressed should come to me,” he said.

Ms. Howard pointed to a number of reforms to “improve the functioning of the department.” She cited, for example, the adoption of best practices and the appointment of the town administrator as the appropriate authority, a departure from past practice, as well as the development of a strategic plan for the department. “Captain Sutter has shown tremendous leadership over the past year and has instituted regular meetings with his leadership and the broader department to improve communication within the department,” she said.

The appointment will be a matter for the entire council.

 

Eden Autism Services presents its 20th Annual Princeton Lecture Series at Princeton University’s McDonnell Hall on Friday, March 21. For families and professionals, Princeton Lecture Series is an open forum where leading authorities in the field present new findings and future possibilities for the treatment and awareness of autism. In addition to the keynote presentations, the day will conclude with a question and answer panel discussion comprised of experts in the autism field. 

Speaker Dr. Margaret L. Bauman of Boston University’s School of Medicine, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, will address the issue of medical co-morbidities. V. Mark Durand, autism spectrum disorders authority and professor of psychology at the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg, will present “Understanding and Treating Severe Behavior Problems in Persons with ASD.” Paul Wehman of Virginia Commonwealth University will present “Youth with Autism: Toward Full Participation in the Community.”

“As we celebrate 20 years of amazing speakers, we also look back at the many developments that have taken place over the past two decades,” says Carol Markowitz, Chief Operating Officer of Eden Autism Services. “In the early nineties, prevalence rates for children in the United States affected by autism were 1 in 10,000; today that number is 1 in 88. Eden remains committed to providing quality services to individuals with autism and their families as well as to the autism community at large. We are delighted to again bring together an impressive group of leaders in the field who will explore and explain new and positive actions being taken to enhance the quality of life for those with autism.”

“The Princeton Lecture Series is not to be missed,” says Kim Picariello, mother of a child with autism. “As a mom to a nonverbal ASD 5-year-old, I look forward to it each year. I’m always encouraging my son’s therapists to attend with me as well, knowing how impressed they’d be by the speakers and the information shared that day … it’s an enlightening experience to anyone wanting to learn more about living with autism. Each year I’ve walked out of that Princeton lecture hall feeling empowered by the information and motivated by everyone I met.”

Additional highlights include a special presentation by the Honorable Helen E. Hoens, Justice New Jersey Supreme Court (former), and parent of an adult with autism; and a pre-conference symposium by Dr. Durand on Thursday, March 20 in Monroe Township, where he will present “Overcoming Obstacles to Successful Behavioral Intervention.“

Admission to the Lecture Series is $75 for general public and $25 for students, and includes continental breakfast and lunch. Registration begins at 8:15 a.m. Symposium pricing is also $75/$25. There is special pricing for those who sign up for both the Lecture and Symposium. CEU hours and BCBA credits are available.

For more information, or to register visit princetonlectureseries.org or call (609) 987-0099 ext. 4010.

The body of a 23-year-old man believed to have jumped to his death from the roof level of the Spring Street Parking Garage was found by a police officer early Tuesday morning. The victim’s vehicle was parked on the top level of the garage.

“At 6 a.m., one of our patrol officers came across an unresponsive male on Spring Street,” said Princeton Police Captain Nicholas K. Sutter on Tuesday. “The officer began life-saving measures but it became apparent that the man was deceased. We are operating under the assumption that this was a suicide and that the man jumped from the roof of the Spring Street Garage. Our investigations have shown that he entered the garage and drove to the top level, where his vehicle was found.”

Captain Sutter said that the man was a resident of Princeton, but was not enrolled at or affiliated with Princeton University. While the identity of the man was known to police as of Tuesday afternoon, it will not be released until his relatives are notified.

Asked whether there were any signs of alcohol, Captain Sutter said, “There was nothing at the scene to indicate that alcohol was involved, but we will need to do a lot more investigating over the next day or two in order to say more.”

Spring Street was closed for approximately two hours Tuesday morning while police dealt with the incident.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The scene took place on a recent Saturday near the kiosk on Nassau Street during a lull between snow events. “Buddy Girl,” the snowiest object in sight, appears to be communicating a serious longing for cookies to the Girl Scouts of Troop 71839, 6th graders from John Witherspoon Middle School, and Troop 71835, kindergarteners from Johnson Park School. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

 

February 26, 2014
GROUP THINKING: Members of the Princeton High School team competing in the Science Bowl seem cool, calm, and collected as they figure out the answer to a bonus question in the round against the Bergen County High School team on Saturday. The PHS team reached the 10th round of the U.S. Department of Energy’s New Jersey Regional High School Science Bowl on Saturday at the Princeton Plasma Laboratory before their defeat. From left: Alexander Jin, Stephanie Ren, Rye Anderson, and Enric Boix.(Photo by Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications)

GROUP THINKING: Members of the Princeton High School team competing in the Science Bowl seem cool, calm, and collected as they figure out the answer to a bonus question in the round against the Bergen County High School team on Saturday. The PHS team reached the 10th round of the U.S. Department of Energy’s New Jersey Regional High School Science Bowl on Saturday at the Princeton Plasma Laboratory before their defeat. From left: Alexander Jin, Stephanie Ren, Rye Anderson, and Enric Boix. (Photo by Elle Starkman/PPPL Office of Communications)

Teams of middle and high school students from Princeton and across the state took part in the U.S. Department of Energy’s New Jersey Regional Science Bowl on Friday and Saturday at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL). 

Thirty-two teams competed in a University Challenge-like competition, buzzing their answers against the clock.

On Friday, 16 middle school teams of four to five students participated. John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS) placed second and took home the “School Spirit Award” for staying on after they were knocked out to cheer on others. The J Droids of Warren, will go to the National Science Bowl finals in Washington D.C., in April.

On Saturday, 32 teams of 200 high school students competed. At around 1 p.m., Princeton High School took on Bergen County High School. But before the two teams faced-off against one another in what would be a fast-paced, question and answer format, testing their ability to solve mathematical problems as well as their knowledge in the categories of earth science, energy, general science, mathematics, physics and life science, they first had to check their buzzers.

The round began with multiple choice questions. In a nod to the techno, the choices were listed not as the usual A B, C, or D, but as W, X, Y, or Z.

For those too quick on the buzzer a penalty gave points to opposition, but only for a wrong answer. So there was an incentive to buzz quickly if you were sure of the answer and a disincentive if you were not entirely sure. Such judgment on the part of the players is what differentiates winners and losers.

Questions ranged from the understandable to the mathematical. An example of the former is “Which of the following is a deciduous conifer: Norfolk Pine, Western Hemlock, Southern American Larch, or White Cedar?” An example of the latter is: “Solve for x: 27 to the power of 6-x equals 9 to the power of x-1.” Algebra to some, Aaargh to others. A correct answer to a multiple choice question earned a bonus knowledge question.

In spite of the fast pace, the atmosphere in the PPPL auditorium was relaxed, even festive, with student participants at ease with the competitive environment. What at first sight seemed a recipe for stress, turned out to be high schoolers enjoying themselves. They were having fun with sometimes mystifying questions.

As the PHS team score advanced from 8-0, 8-8, 40-32, 94-68 and finally 112-68, there was a degree of mounting tension, but mostly there was fun. On several occasions Bergen County HS gained four penalty points because of interrupts by members of the Princeton team.

PHS Coach Tim Anderson, who teaches Advancement Placement (AP) environmental science, as well as astronomy and oceanography, was astonished when his team faltered on one oceanography question. “They should have gotten that one,” he said.

Mr. Anderson reported his pride in their performance overall. He has reason to be happy since PHS students taking part in last week’s “Shore Bowl,” the regional competition of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, held at the Rutgers Institute of Marine and Coastal Science, triumphed and will move on to compete with other regional champions in May.

Of the local teams at the PPPL on Saturday, PHS went the furthest before their defeat in the 10th round. In the final 13th round the winner was State College, Pa., which receives all-expenses-paid trips to Washington, D.C. to compete in the finals.

Besides JWMS, a team from the Princeton Charter School also competed at the middle school level. Other high schools competing were Princeton Day School, Trenton Catholic Academy, East Brunswick High School, The Lawrenceville School, Montgomery High School, Lawrence High School, Stuart Country Day School, West Windsor Plainsboro North, West Windsor-Plainsboro South, and South Brunswick High School.

Now in its 24th year, the National Science Bowl is one of the nation’s largest science competitions. It aims to support interest in science and mathematics and more than 225,000 students have participated in the annual event since it began. This year, it was expected to draw about 9,000 high school and about 5,000 middle school students from across the nation.