November 6, 2013
TO HAVE AND TO HOLD: Solemn vows having been exchanged and official documents signed and witnessed, newlyweds Bob McQueen (right) and Rob Martens share smiles and laughter with Mayor Liz Lempert Friday. The same-sex couple are among the first to be married in Princeton after Governor Christie dropped the state of New Jersey’s appeal against a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court decision extending gay couples the right to marriage.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

TO HAVE AND TO HOLD: Solemn vows having been exchanged and official documents signed and witnessed, newlyweds Bob McQueen (right) and Rob Martens share smiles and laughter with Mayor Liz Lempert Friday. The same-sex couple are among the first to be married in Princeton after Governor Christie dropped the state of New Jersey’s appeal against a unanimous New Jersey Supreme Court decision extending gay couples the right to marriage. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

Last Friday started out with drizzling rain and overcast skies. But by five o’clock, the time set for Bob McQueen and Rob Martens marriage ceremony, the skies had cleared and the afternoon sun had set the fall leaves aglow.

Mr. McQueen is Princeton’s Chief Information Officer, in charge of the information technology department; he’s worked for the municipality since 1998. Mr. Martens is a professor of biology at Brookdale Community College.

The grooms wore coordinating shirts for a simple ceremony held in Mayor Liz Lempert’s office at Witherspoon Hall. Ms. Lempert conducted the proceedings. Several of Mr. McQueen’s colleagues attended and clapped as official documents were signed and witnessed by Kathy Monzo, the municipality’s assistant administrator and director of finance, and Curt Berry, an information technology specialist.

Once the paperwork had been dealt with, amid much laughter over the proper protocol, vows were exchanged. As Ms. Lempert read the familiar lines: “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health …,” the mood grew a little more subdued. Tears coursed down Mr. McQueen’s cheeks as he and his partner became “lawful wedded husbands” and exchanged rings. “From this day forward, to love and to cherish, this is my solemn vow.”

The couple met three years ago on September 13. “We’ve been looking forward to this day, ever since,” said Mr. Martens.

Although a civil union  was held August 3, Friday’s ceremony was important to both of them, said Mr. Martens, because of the “recognition at the Federal level.”

“This is definitely one of the best parts of my job,” said Ms. Lempert. “Today has been especially busy, this is my third wedding and the second same sex union. It is extra special when the couple being married has been together for some time.”

Ms. Lempert was the first in Mercer County to officiate at a same-sex marriage on Monday, October 21, when Maria Boes and Susan Levine were married shortly after the New Jersey Supreme Court announced Friday, October 18, that it had denied a stay on same-sex marriages, rejecting Gov. Chris Christie’s effort to appeal Judge Mary Jacobson’s decision to allow them. With that, gay marriage became legal in New Jersey, the 14th state to recognize it, and the first to do so in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in June striking down the Defense of Marriage Act.

Ms. Boes and Ms. Levine, who have been together for over 30 years, were the first couple in Princeton to apply for a marriage license under the new ruling and had raced to the registrar’s office as soon as they discovered that Princeton was accepting applications.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had been fighting the legalization of gay marriage in the courts for months. He vetoed a bill in the state legislature last year that would have allowed it. But on October 21, Mr. Christie withdrew his appeal, bringing an end to a decade-long legal battle. Now same-sex couples are eligible for the financial benefits of marriage that have long been the privilege of heterosexual couples, including tax, medical, and other legal benefits.

The law marks a new era for equality in the state of New Jersey.

The Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office issued three announcements last week regarding investigations of incidents that took place in Princeton.

One announcement revealed that the man charged in the reckless driving incident resulting in the death of a local rabbi has been indicted. The office also indicated there will be no charges filed related to Councilwoman Jo Butler’s 911 call last month when no emergency existed. In a third incident, involving two parking meter enforcement officers who received food and other goods with downtown businesses in exchange for not issuing parking tickets, no charges are being filed.

Eric D. Maltz, 21, of Braeburn Drive, has been indicted on one count of first-degree manslaughter, one count of second-degree death by auto, and one count of fourth-degree assault by auto in the March death of retired Rabbi Diamond, who served as the director of Princeton University’s Center for Jewish Life for many years. A Mercer County grand jury returned the indictment October 30, according to Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini, Jr. If convicted of the first degree offense, Mr. Maltz could face a maximum sentence of 30 years in state prison. He is currently free on $100,000 bail.

It was on the morning of March 28 that Mr. Maltz was driving his 2003 BMW south on Riverside Drive at a speed between 60 and 80 miles per hour in the 25-per-hour zone. He struck an unoccupied, parked Toyota Camry, which then traveled 500 feet and struck a parked Toyota Prius. Rabbi Diamond, 74, was struck and killed as he was preparing to enter the Prius. Robert Freedman, 63, who was sitting in the driver’s seat of the Prius, was seriously injured.

Mr. Maltz, who had struggled with mood swings and depression and had been previously treated at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, was driving with a propane tank in his vehicle, according to witnesses at the scene. The presence of the tank led to questions about whether he intended to harm himself by crashing his car.

911 Call

The decision not to charge Ms. Butler in the 911 call she made September 18 was announced by the Prosecutor’s Office on October 30. She was issued a warning for the call made from the Dinky station to 911, during which she asked whether she was talking to the Princeton Police or Princeton University Public Safety department but hung up when asked if she was reporting an emergency.

Ms. Butler has expressed concern in recent Princeton Council meetings about whether calls made from a cell phone are sent to municipal police or to campus safety officials. Unable to get a satisfactory answer, she decided to try and make such a call herself. She has apologized to the Prosecutor’s Office and the Princeton Police for making the call.

Parking Enforcement

The Prosecutor’s Office announced on October 29 that it would not file charges against parking enforcement officials Chris Boutote and Jon Hughes. Mr. Boutote was fired after an internal investigation into allegations that he allowed employees of local businesses to park without paying in exchange for free food and drink. Mr. Hughes was suspended for one month without pay, and reassigned to a municipal parking garage as an attendant.

In an email to reporters, Prosecutor’s Office spokesperson Casey A. De Blasio wrote, “In light of the proofs in the case, Mr. Boutote’s age and lack of prior record, our office determined that his likely sentence would have been admittance into a pretrial intervention program conditioned upon job forfeiture. This was accomplished through Mr. Boutote’s termination by Princeton, and our office felt that prosecution would not serve the interest of justice.”

Regarding Mr. Hughes, Ms. DeBlasio wrote, “Our office agreed that he was appropriately addressed through Princeton’s administrative channels.”


The water was sloshing up to the top of the Liberty Island sea wall by 11 a.m. on October 28, 2012, the day the Statue of Liberty was being dedicated following an extensive renovation project carried out by the Princeton firm Mills + Schnoering Architects. Members of the firm were on hand to help celebrate the completion of what was arguably one of their most important undertakings.

“It actually opened for half a day on that Sunday, accommodating some crowds,” Michael Mills, a partner in the firm, recently recalled. “The Secretary of the Interior and lots of dignitaries were there. It was quite an event. But Hurricane Sandy was already gearing up. And the next day, it came in and tore up the island.”

It took eight months to fix the damage caused by the monster storm. The docks, snack bar, electrical systems, and walkways were destroyed. Several buildings on the island were gutted, though the statue itself was unharmed. About 500 people had to be laid off. But by July 4, 2013, the site was officially reopened to the public.

During repairs from the storm, small generators were used to keep the statue illuminated at night until electricity could be restored.

For Mills + Schnoering, the brief dedication ceremony came after several years focused on the site. What started as a relatively simple assignment involving the staircase up to the statue’s crown evolved into a much larger task. “This was a very quick, three-month project to make the stairs up to the crown much safer,” Mr. Mills said. “It was fairly small from a design and construction standpoint. But it was also kind of a test, in a way. I think we made the National Park Service very comfortable with the idea of giving us the more significant project.”

The firm was charged with replacing the elevator and installing a new emergency elevator, designing new stairs, higher railings, reopening a closed entrance, and making the site accessible. “It was very complicated. It took a year to build and two years to design,” Mr. Mills said. “We added a ton of mechanical, too.”

Formerly known as Fort Wood, Liberty Island once housed a land battery in the shape of an 11-point star that was later used as the base on which the statue now sits. The 225-ton statue, designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, was given by France to the United States for the 1886 centenary celebration. Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, who later created the Eiffel Tower, designed the metal skeleton supporting the sculpture.

The historic site was closed for a year while work progressed. The architecture firm, which is known for its historic preservation projects, was given a full historic structures report by the National Park Service, helping them to understand the site’s significance. A surprise discovery during construction was an old armory, which they preserved.

Much of the challenge of renovating the site came from the constraints of the monument. “The idea of getting two separated fire stairs and an elevator into a space 27 feet square, and crisscrossed by the Eiffel girders that you’re not allowed to touch, presented a huge challenge,” Mr. Mills said. “Those girders were there to support straps that came down from the statue to hold her down in a high wind.”

The location in the middle of an island in New York harbor required very -specific planning and logistics. Because the docks had been destroyed by the storm, the contractor figured out a way to land at the island by hiring a World War II landing craft, Mr. Mills said. “The contractor did a wonderful job of getting materials out there. They had to deal with not only taking everything out by boat, but also the security concern,” he said. “Every boatload that went out was checked by men and dogs in Jersey City and on the island when it arrived.”

For Mills + Schnoering, the goal of the project was to make the experience of touring the statue safe and less claustrophobic. By using protective glass in some locations, they were able to create a sense of open space that had previously not existed.

Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the story of the project became more about the recovery than the project itself. But now that the site is reopened to visitors and several months have passed, the focus is back where it belongs. “This was a very special project for us,” Mr. Mills said. “It took a long time. But hopefully, the results speak for themselves.”


Incumbents Patrick Simon and Jenny Crumiller were re-elected to Princeton Council in yesterday’s election, while Republican Fausta Rodriguez Wertz, a newcomer to local politics lost her bid for one of the two available three-term seats.

 While Governor Chris Christie was re-elected in a landslide against Democratic challenger Barbara Buono, the numbers in Princeton at press time were 2,492 for Mr. Christie, and 3,632 for Ms. Buono.

Mr. Simon won the most votes, with 4,190 counted at press time last night. Ms. Crumiller earned 3,971 votes, while Ms. Wertz received 2,173.

Elected to Princeton School Board were incumbents Andrea Spalla and Molly Chrein, who earned 2,308 and 2,265 votes, respectively, and newcomer Thomas R. Hagedorn, who received 1,999 votes. This was the first time voters in Princeton chose school board members in the general election instead of a separate election in the spring.

Vying unsuccessfully for a seat on the school board was newcomer Meeta Khatri, who earned 958 votes. Dennis Scheil, who dropped out of the race too late for his name to be removed from the ballot, got 1,048 votes.

While the final numbers for the Mercer County freeholder race were not in at press time, Democrat incumbents Andrew Koontz and Anthony R. Carabelli received 4,206 and 4,159 votes, respectively, in Princeton. Ron “Cef” Cefalone earned 1,667 votes, and Paul “P.J.” Hummel got 1,644.

Princeton voters cast 1,833 in favor of Kip Bateman for State Senate, and 4,128 for Christian R. Mastondrea. In the race for General Assembly, 16th District, Jack M. Ciatarelli got 1,679 votes; Donna M. Simon earned 1,714; Marie Corfield earned 4,266; Ida Ochoteco earned 4,106; and Patrick McKnight got 94.

On public question number one, involving a constitutional amendment to permit money from existing games of chance to support veterans’ organizations, 4,071 Princeton voters voted yes and 1,550 voted no. On question number two, asking whether there should be a constitutional amendment to set a state minimum wage with annual cost of living increases, 4,366 voted in favor while 1,447 voted against it.


The deadline for offers to purchase the Palmer Square post office came and went last Friday, and “a number of interested parties” are being considered, according to a spokesman for the real estate firm handling the sale of the office and several such locations across the country.

While he declined to disclose just who is in the running, Alec Monaghan, first vice president of the global firm CBRE Inc., said, “These are broadly retail uses, compatible with the rest of Palmer Square.” Interest has come from both within and outside of New Jersey, he added, confirming that Palmer Square Management, which oversees the tenants of the Square, is among the bidders.

The building that has housed the Princeton Post office since 1934 was officially placed on the market this past September. The prime piece of real estate is being sold by the United States Postal Service as part of its nationwide streamlining efforts. A restaurant, retail, and gallery space have all been mentioned as possible uses for the space, which includes a historic mural painted in 1939, depicting Native Americans reacting to the arrival of European colonists.

Because the post office is listed on the state and national registers of historic places as contributing to the Princeton historic district, the postal service agreed to put an easement on the building and has been working with the New Jersey Historic Trust. The easement cannot be recorded until the building is sold.

A second round of offers will be conducted for the interested buyers this week. “The idea is to tighten everything up in terms of their purchase price, due diligence, and that kind of thing,” Mr. Monaghan said. “Within the next several weeks, we’ll look to be getting a lead bidder.”

In the meantime, the real estate firm has identified a few downtown locations as possible sites for the local post office once the Palmer Square building is sold. “We believe we have three or four good possible locations,” Mr. Monaghan said. “But if there is anyone out there with a 2,000-square-foot, ground floor retail space that we’ve missed, we’re certainly open to considering it.”

Asked whether a relocation to Princeton Shopping Center or another location with ample parking was also being considered, Mr. Monaghan said it was not. “I think a place like that is dislocated from town,” he said. “While the parking is one thing that would work, it misses on a lot of other fronts. Princeton University students and a number of commercial accounts are among the walk-in traffic. I think the parking can be figured out and satisfied in a downtown location. Princeton deserves a post office downtown.”

Mr. Monaghan said one of the locations under consideration is on Nassau Street, but declined to identify the other sites. “We’re using Palmer Square as a center point, and going from there,” he said.


On the eve of yesterday’s election, education expert Diane Ravitch spoke to a packed auditorium at Princeton High School’s Performing Arts Center on the attacks to public education by so-called “supporters of educational reform.”

Describing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as a “bully,” she said his administration is waging an “unceasing war” on the public school system. “While he rants about superintendents’ salaries and calls New Jersey’s schools ‘failure factories,’ he is short changing Abbott Districts and engaged in a ‘full-bore privatization process’ that is a radical assault on our education system, an integral part of our democracy,” said Ms. Ravitch. “Christie’s idea of educational reform is to give education away to private entrepreneurs, but schools are not consumer goods that should be for-profit enterprises; they are like public roads, public beaches, a public good for all.”

The historian and bestselling author was scheduled to speak later that evening at Princeton University and had responded to a long-standing request to come to PHS by Julia Rubin, co-founder of the Princeton-based group Save Our Schools NJ (SOS NJ).

“Ravitch is helping people understand what’s happening now in public education and the need to do something about it,” said Ms. Rubin, who began SOS NJ with other concerned parents in a Princeton living room just three and a half years ago. Since then the volunteer run movement has grown to 12,000 members with a website ( that lists, for example, where state legislative candidates stand on public education issues.

Ms. Rubin, who has a 6th grader at John Witherspoon Middle School, described the nonpartisan, grassroots organization’s goal as to educate and engage residents in support of public education and to advocate on behalf of all children.

Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Wilson, welcomed the speaker and thanked Dorothea von Moltke of Labyrinth Books for supplying copies of Ms. Ravitch’s latest title, Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, for a sale and signing by the author.

Born in Houston and now living in Brooklyn, Ms. Ravitch found a receptive audience when she spoke out against Gov. Christie’s efforts in education. “Christie is contemptuous of public school teachers; if he could, he would replace public schools with charters and vouchers.” In fact, said Ms. Ravitch, New Jersey’s schools are some of the best in the nation, ranked with those in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

Citing the efforts of Martin Luther King, Jr. to desegregate schools along racial lines, she said: “Here we are in 2013, recreating a dual school system for the haves and the have-nots. Privatization is draining students and funding from our public schools. Charters don’t serve all children; they are private corporations contracting with the government. It is easy to get high test scores when you push out the children who get low scores, the kids with disabilities, those whose first language is not English.”

Ms. Ravitch, who was recently featured on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (as can be viewed on YouTube) described the idea that student testing would weed out bad teachers as “junk science.” The emphasis on testing results in a narrowing of the curriculum, she said, citing numerous anecdotal instances to support her claims. Why is it, she wondered, that the U.S. administers more tests than any other country in the world? “Could it be because there is a fantastically active testing lobby,” she said to loud applause.

“The emphasis on testing is a distraction that is squelching the genius of this country, our problem solving ability,” she said. She compared the nation’s number of Nobel Prize winners with that of Japan, known for test-taking success. “Training to take tests doesn’t foster independent thinking or genius,” she said.

What tests do reveal, however, is socio-economic status. “America isn’t overrun with bad teachers but with children in poverty,” said Ms. Ravitch. “Everyone, whether they have children or not, must be concerned about the future of education in this country,” she said.

Retired public librarian Sharon Olson, who has no children, agreed. A fan of Ms. Ravitch, Ms. Olson has followed her blog and her writings on and in The New York Times. “I feel that teachers and education are being undervalued and that too much emphasis is being placed on competition and testing abilities rather than on the acquisition of knowledge,” said Ms. Olsen, a resident of Lawrenceville.

The Common Core standards currently being implemented in states across the nation, came in for particular criticism because, among other items, the system had not been field tested in any classrooms. In addition, Ms. Ravitch lambasted federal programs such as George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind and Barack Obama’s Race to the Top for setting unreasonable targets for American students, punishing schools, and resulting in teachers being fired if their students underperform, and unfairly branding those educators as failures.

“This is failure by design,” she said, “poor testing results are not a reflection of the quality of teachers but a purposeful effort to make public schools look bad.” She predicted a push back against the Common Core that would result in states pulling out of the system. “We know what works: experienced professional teachers, involved parents, a school library with a librarian, a nurse in every school, guidance officers.”

A handsome women with silvery hair and an appealing sense of humor, Ms. Ravitch has been described as “whistleblower extraordinaire.” A historian of education and research professor of education at New York University, she was assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education in the administration of President George H. W. Bush and was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board by President Bill Clinton.

Her books include the critically acclaimed The Death and Life of the Great American School System and Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform. A prolific author of books and some 500 articles, she has won numerous awards and been commended for careful use of data. Since April 2012, she’s been an active blogger and has some 66,000 Twitter followers.

For the last three years, she has been traveling the country leading a national battle to save public education. Her most recent book, Reign of Error, was a response to critics who said that she posed questions and gave no answers. On the contrary, she said, “I have lots of recommendations for what can be done to protect and improve public schools.”

Reign of Error argues against the idea that public education is broken and beyond repair. It describes the positives of U.S. education and suggests ways to combat the root causes of educational failure.

After her talk at PHS Monday, Ms. Ravitch responded to audience questions ranging from the apparent demise of community schools in New York City; the teaching of teachers and the Teach for America program; and what might be learned from other countries such as Finland. She was even presented with a question on how to respond to an attack on herself as an expert on education who has never been a classroom teacher. One charter school supporter questioned her assertion that charters had been co-opted by hedge fund managers and the like and invited her to come to Trenton to see for herself. Ms. Ravitch responded that charter schools were not intrinsically at odds with public education and were of value when they worked with the public system rather than in competition with it. But, she warned, major foundations, individual billionaires, and Wall Street hedge fund managers are encouraging the privatization of public education; some for idealistic reasons, others for profit.



The Princeton Half Marathon began on Paul Robeson Place with runners covering a course that included the Einstein and Battlefield Breakthrough, Oppenheimer Atomic Hill, von Neumann’s Curve, the Other Side of Paradise, the Gallup Gallop, and Aaron Burr’s Killer Mile. The winner was Michael Davis of Scotch Plains, with a time of 1:21:23. (Photo by Emily Reeves)


October 30, 2013
ART IMITATES ART: This painting by Robert Beck is one of seven he did during the renovation of the Bucks County Playhouse in 2012. The artworks are part of the current exhibit at the Michener Art Museum detailing the history of the theater.

ART IMITATES ART: This painting by Robert Beck is one of seven he did during the renovation of the Bucks County Playhouse in 2012. The artworks are part of the current exhibit at the Michener Art Museum detailing the history of the theater.

The Grace Kelly exhibit that opened in Doylestown, Pa. this week isn’t the only attraction drawing crowds to the Michener Art Museum. In a cozier space connected to the lavish Kelly show, “Local Mill Makes Good: Celebrating 75 years of American Theater at the Bucks County Playhouse” is taking visitors back through the rich history of this iconic New Hope, Pa. institution, which thrived for decades, faltered in recent years, and has since been restored and reborn.

Among the diverse collection of materials on display are artworks by Al Hirschfeld, Robert Beck, Ben Solowey, Edward Redfield, and Charles Child (brother of Julia Child’s husband Paul); a blown-up photo of the audience from the 1965 opening of The Hostage, which starred Julie Harris; set models from The Lion in Winter, which starred George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst, numerous photos and posters, and a plaque from 1956 listing plays that had been performed at the theater to date. David Leopold, curator of the show, said the plaque was found in a dumpster.

“The hardest part of doing this show was that not many people kept any of the history of this place,” he said during a tour of the exhibit as it was being hung last week. “A lot of things were thrown out. But with some sleuthing, we were able to locate this wonderful stuff that came from private and public collections.”

Mr. Leopold, who has organized exhibitions for the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is a walking encyclopedia of the Playhouse. He has divided the show into five different sections, taking visitors from the theater’s founding in 1939 to its recent re-establishment as a leading artistic center.

Housed in an old grist mill on the Delaware River, the Playhouse has been the scene of debuts and appearances by such stage and screen stars as Helen Hayes, Robert Redford, Liza Minnelli, John Lithgow, Walter Matthau, Tyne Daly, Audra McDonald and Angela Lansbury, who was honored by the theater this past Monday. Another veteran was Ms. Kelly, whose appearance in the 1949 play The Torch Bearers, written by her uncle George Kelly, gets a spot on the exhibit wall.

It is a popular misconception, Mr. Leopold said, that the Playhouse was founded by George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart, Oscar Hammerstein III and other theatrical luminaries who had homes in Bucks County. The real credit goes to a man named Henry Chapin and orchestrator Don Walker, who joined forces to start a summer theater at the old mill, which had ceased operating in 1938.

“Walker ran into Chapin and his group at a party,” Mr. Leopold said. “They started talking and realized they had a similar interest in starting a summer theater that would be a kind of social gathering place for the community as well as an economic engine. They started the theater in the fall of 1939. Raising the initial $10,000 was easy, but then they had trouble. The only person they got to invest was [playwright] Moss Hart, who gave them $100. I’m sure he gave them the money just to get them out of his house.”

The first production was Springtime for Henry (fans of the 1968 Mel Brooks film The Producers will recognize that title as the inspiration for Springtime for Hitler), starring Edward Everett Horton. While the night before the opening a sodder lamp on the roof almost started a fire, the show opened on schedule and the Playhouse was on its way. A famous drawing by Mr. Hirschfeld that appeared on the front page of the New York Times’ Arts and Leisure section, documenting the event, is part of the display.

While summer theaters were popular at the time, the Bucks County Playhouse was unlike others. “It was the kinds of things they did there that made it unique,” Mr. Leopold said. “It was a laboratory for new theater and young actors, not just for established plays like Springtime for Henry, which Edward Everett Horton had done for years. Neil Simon premiered plays there. Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn first appeared together for the first time in The Fourposter on that stage before it went to Broadway.”

According to Jed Bernstein, the Playhouse’s current producing director and the man considered mostly responsible for its recent revitalization with the Bridge Street Foundation, the exhibit captures that premise. “It pays homage to the founding of the Playhouse, but it brings it all the way up to our time,” he said. “We’re returning to first principles — doing exactly what the founders did back in the 1930s and 40s. Their strategy turns out to be incredibly doable. All iconic great institutions retain their relevance. That’s what’s so thrilling.”

By the 1990’s, the Playhouse was presenting community theater rather than Actors’ Equity productions. Its reputation had suffered. In 2010, the state of the economy and flood damage caused by two major storms had forced the theater to close. But a public/private partnership headed by Mr. Bernstein led to an extensive renovation, and the theater reopened in July of 2012. Since then, it has been earning positive reviews, both from critics and the community.

This year, the Playhouse will have performances on its stage approximately 210 days. “In only a season and a half, we’re already up to 75 percent capacity,” said Mr. Bernstein, who will depart in January to become the president of Lincoln Center. His successor will be announced in the next few weeks, he said.

The Michener exhibit will include actual pre-renovation seats from the old Playhouse, as well as footage from productions staged in 1949. Some film clips of Ms. Lansbury, Tyne Daly, actor Eli Wallach and others reminiscing about their days at the theater are also part of the display. A whole section is devoted to playwright Neil Simon, whose Barefoot in the Park debuted on the stage.

The show is focused on the history of the Playhouse, but acknowledges the present and the future. “It’s not just about the past, when stars performed here because they were doing good quality theater to a discerning audience,” Mr. Leopold said. “It also celebrates the Playhouse today, because that same thing is happening.”

“A lot of things envisioned back in the 1940s are coming true again,” added Mr. Bernstein. “It’s a place for stars, for plays, and for young people to get their start. There is live music again. We work with Actors’ Equity. For theaters like this in relatively small communities that are historic in some ways, I think this is a model that will be copied. It apportions the risk in the right place.”

“Local Mill Makes Good” continues at the Michener Museum through March 2. Several special events and lectures are planned. Visit for details.


MARTIANS AT GROVER’S MILL, AGAIN: In 1938, Martians decimated most of New Jersey and set planet Earth on fire. Not really. Orson Welles (shown here in action) was responsible for the “panic broadcast” that simulated a dance program being interrupted by news of an alien invasion that caused listeners to flee their homes. Tonight at the Princeton Public Library, the 75th anniversary of the event is being marked by Raconteur Radio.

MARTIANS AT GROVER’S MILL, AGAIN: In 1938, Martians decimated most of New Jersey and set planet Earth on fire. Not really. Orson Welles (shown here in action) was responsible for the “panic broadcast” that simulated a dance program being interrupted by news of an alien invasion that caused listeners to flee their homes. Tonight at the Princeton Public Library, the 75th anniversary of the event is being marked by Raconteur Radio.

It’s been 75 years to the day since Orson Welles caused radio listeners to flee a Martian invasion. On October 30, 1938, he took Howard Koch’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’s classic The War of the Worlds, and convinced more than a million radio listeners that Martians had landed and Earth was under attack.

The fictional attack was the substance of a radio play performed with such gusto that it was mistaken for the real thing by some listeners who tuned in half way through the broadcast and didn’t hear the disclaimer about it being fiction.

Tonight at 7:30 p.m., the historic broadcast described as one of the best radio dramas of all time will be recreated in the Community Room at the Princeton Public Library by members of Raconteur Radio, a six-member team of radio enthusiasts from Metuchen.

The original broadcast was a Halloween episode of the radio drama series The Mercury Theatre on the Air, directed and narrated by Welles before he went on to become a legend of cinema. It transferred the action from turn of the century England to contemporary New Jersey.

The effect was so dramatic that the 23-year old Welles “apologized” at the end of the live CBS broadcast. He said: “This is Orson Welles, ladies and gentlemen, out of character, to assure you that The War of the Worlds has no further significance than as the holiday offering it was intended to be. The Mercury Theatre’s own radio version of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo! …. We annihilated the world before your very ears and utterly destroyed CBS. You will be relieved, I hope, to learn that we didn’t mean it, and that both institutions are still open for business. So goodbye everybody, and remember please for the next day or so the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian, it’s Halloween.”

In the late 1930s, radio was the entertainment and news information gateway to the world. Almost every home had a special spot in the living room for the radio and entire families gathered for their favorite shows.

For the simulated live newscast, Welles played the part of a Princeton University astronomer dismissing speculation about life on Mars. Thousands of listeners took the broadcast for news reports of Martians killing earthlings with death-rays at Grover’s Mill — just a stone’s throw from Princeton.

Such classic radio drama lives on thanks to Raconteur Radio, a six member team headquartered in the Old Franklin School, an historic 1807 one-room school house located at 461 Middlesex Avenue in Metuchen. The group adds a new show to its repertoire every month: theatrical stagings of vintage and original radio plays as well as pop culture parodies for live audiences.

Inspired by the former Metuchen bookstore and performance space known as The Raconteur, the group was founded by bookstore owner Alex Dawson, who is also a novelist and award-winning playwright. His forthcoming book, The Rapscallion Club, is an archeological adventure for all ages.

Raconteur Radio perform in libraries, adult communities, senior centers and schools, as well as in restaurants, bars, and, sometimes private homes. Their productions are amplified and feature theatrical lighting, costumes, and extensive sound effects.

In the past, they’ve put on Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea; Jaws; From Russia with Love; The Great Gatsby; Sunset Boulevard; Casablanca; Rebecca; The Green Hornet; Sherlock Holmes & The Final Problem; The Third Man; Sorry, Wrong Number; The Maltese Falcon; The Twilight Zone; The Abominable Snowman; and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

Upcoming shows include: The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood; Flash Gordon on the Planet Mongo; Gaslight; The Man Who Would Be King; It’s a Wonderful Life; Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple; Jane Eyre; The Scarlet Pimpernel; Macbeth; Alice in Wonderland; and The Lone Ranger.

Raconteur Radio’s “War of the Worlds” is at the Princeton Public Library, Wednesday, October 30, at 7:30 p.m. and at the West Windsor Library, Thursday, October 31, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call (609) 924-9529 or visit:; for more on Raconteur Radio, contract or visit:


Dr. M. Craig Barnes was installed as Princeton Theological Seminary’s seventh president at a service at the Princeton University Chapel last week.

Mr. Barnes is also a professor of pastoral ministry.

The October 23 event featured an inaugural procession in which delegates from 37 academic institutions took part, including those from the University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582.

In addition, 18 delegates from churches and denominations in the United States and around the world participated, including the Church of Central Africa, the Mar Thoma Church of India, the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, the Diocese of Trenton of the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and the United Church of Christ.

The Reverend Dr. Neal D. Presa, moderator of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the founding denomination of the Princeton Seminary, took part in the service. Dr. William P. Robinson, chair of the Seminary’s Board of Trustees and president emeritus of Whitworth University, presided over the inauguration and Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber welcomed the new president.

Mr. Eisgruber described the relationship between the Seminary and the University as “historic and strong.”

“The Seminary and the University remain strong civic and scholarly partners,” said Mr. Eisgruber, adding that while the two institutions have distinct missions, at the core of both is “a commitment to examining questions that help us understand, support, and strengthen our society.”

In his inaugural address, titled “Beauty and Truth,” Mr. Barnes stressed the importance of finding both in “our ethics” and in “our commitment to making a difference.”

Dr. Barnes, 57, has been leading the Seminary since January. Before that, he served as pastor of Shadyside Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, Pa., and as the Robert Meneilly Professor of Leadership and Ministry at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He previously served pastorates in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Madison, Wisconsin, and at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.


Diane Ravitch, a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, will speak about her new book, Reign of Error; The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, on November 4 from 4 to 5:20 p.m. at Princeton High School Performing Arts Center, 151 Moore Street.

Ravitch is leading a national battle to save public education. She will put forth a plan for what we can do to protect and improve public schools, including here in New Jersey.

Reign of Error is a comprehensive look at today’s American school system that argues against those who claim it is broken and beyond repair. It is an impassioned but reasoned call to stop the privatization movement, which is draining students and funding from our public schools.

Ms. Ravitch argues that federal programs such as George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” and Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” set unreasonable targets for American students, punish schools, and result in teachers being fired if their students underperform, unfairly branding those educators as
failures. She warns that major foundations, individual billionaires, and Wall Street hedge fund managers are encouraging the privatization of public education; some for idealistic reasons, others for profit. She makes clear what is right about U.S. education, how policy makers are failing to address the root causes of educational failure, and how we can improve our public schools rather than destroying them.

Ms. Ravitch is a historian of education and research professor of education at New York University. She was assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education in the administration of President George W. Bush and was appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board by President Bill Clinton. She is the author of seven previous books on education, including the critically acclaimed The Death and Life of the Great American School System and Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School

Drivers who park at Princeton’s Dinky train station will be the guinea pigs for a two-year pilot program testing a technologically updated payment system that could result in cost savings for the municipality. Instead of the traditional parking meters, motorists will pay at kiosks using credit cards, smart cards, and their phones.

Princeton Council passed a resolution Monday night allowing the pilot program to begin. Staff from the town and Princeton University, which will share financing for the program, have been considering the idea for the past several months, Princeton’s assistant engineer Deanna Stockton said in a presentation to Council. The vendor Digital Payment Technologies was chosen by the joint group to install eight multi-lingual, solar-powered kiosks known as Luke II, with multiple payment options.

“This is quite exciting from a staff perspective, in that we have the opportunity to update something that is over a decade old,” said municipal administrator Bob Bruschi. The payment kiosks will be installed starting in January, Ms. Stockton said. Currently, there are about 1,100 individual parking meters along Princeton’s streets and in municipal parking lots throughout the town. Emptying and monitoring them is very time consuming, Mr. Bruschi said.

The town’s parking meter attendants have recently been the subject of unfavorable attention following reports of selective enforcement. Officer Chris Boutote was fired this month, while Jon Hughes was suspended for a month and reassigned.

Ms. Stockton said that the University would donate eight meters, at a cost of $96,000, as well as signage and striping. The municipality would spend $15,000 a year to operate the meters. In the long term, if the program goes ahead, an extended service warranty could be purchased, with various options.

Millburn and Asbury Park are among New Jersey towns already using the program. Patrons of the multi-space meters will pay for parking by keying in their parking space numbers. “What happens when there is snow and ice on the ground?”, asked Council president Bernie Miller. “How can people see the number of their space?” Ms. Stockton acknowledged that the issue was a concern, and told Mr. Miller that it would be considered during the pilot program. Posts, maps, and other means of identification could be explored, she said.

First to be tried out are spaces at the current Dinky station parking lot, Ms. Stockton said. Next, probably in February, parking spaces along University Place would utilize the new meters. Parking spots along Alexander Street, where construction for the Arts & Transit complex is underway, will get the meters in 2015.

The idea is to determine if the cost of maintaining the multi-space meters makes sense, Ms. Stockton said. Patrons can still pay by using cash, but credit cards, smart cards, and mobile apps will be encouraged. “If you’re late for a train, you can just pay for the spot by phone from the train,” she said. Users can pay from any meter, not just the one nearest their vehicle.

Asked how reliable the meters are, Ms. Stockton told Council that they can be repaired quickly if they malfunction. “They have very limited down time,” she said, having talked to staff at other municipalities that use the technology.


The environmental groups Food and Water Watch, Environment New Jersey, and the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club filed a “notice of intervention” on Tuesday, October 22, with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in Washington D.C.

The commission is the agency considering the proposal for a pipeline that would go through Princeton and Montgomery Township.

The “intervenors” oppose plans by the Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company (Transco) to expand an existing natural gas pipeline that runs through a 1.3 mile section of the Princeton Ridge between Coventry Farm and Cherry Valley Road.

According to a press release announcing the intervention, the environmental groups regard the project as cutting across “environmentally sensitive areas, important streams and forests, and critical habitat to carry gas produced through the dangerous technique of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.”

If successful, their efforts would deny approvals for Transco’s Leidy Southeast Expansion Project which proposes a 1,000 horsepower upgrade of the Mercer County Station (205) in Lawrence Township as well as other power station upgrades in the state.

As part of its process, FERC will examine an “Environmental Assessment” report. But, the “intervenors” are calling for a more thorough “Environmental Impact Statement” because of “the significant impacts the pipeline expansion will have on potential threatened and endangered species habitat, loss of forest cover and wetlands, threats to our public open spaces, intensifying and expanding the use of fracking in the Marcellus Shale, and intensifying climate change,” said Kate Millsaps of the NJ Sierra Club.

The environmentalists also urge FERC to consider the cumulative effects on the environment of the process of fracking.

They argue that FERC must also look at the potential impacts of exporting gas overseas as this pipeline will expand capacity to the southern United States where there are a number of proposals to expand export capacity and result in more drilling.

“This fracking gas pipeline will tear a scar across Central Jersey’s environment and will double down on dirty fracked gas,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ Sierra Club, agreed “There is no need for this pipeline. The purpose is to promote fracking and the burning of fossil fuels that impact clean water and promote climate change.”

The Oklahoma-based Williams Company, which would conduct the project, filed its application to do so in September and a decision is expected to come from FERC sometime next year.

With the filing of this “notice of intervention,” the environmental groups signal their right to challenge a favorable decision. The notice of intervention can be viewed at:


The owners of the former Wild Oats market property, whose proposal for redeveloping the site was rejected last week by the Princeton Zoning Board, will resubmit their request to the Planning Board, a spokesperson for the family has said.

“The Carnevales are dismayed and extremely disappointed that the Princeton Zoning Board voted to deny their request to be permitted to lease office space to other uses besides just medical and dental offices,” said Linda Fahmie, who represents the family, in an e-mail yesterday.

The board voted 5-1 against the idea, which would have allowed businessman Lou Carnevale and his family to transform the property into a four-story building with first-floor offices. Mr. Carnevale’s request runs contrary to a zoning ordinance the former Princeton Borough Council passed last December, limiting the building to three stories.

The proposal calls for a 4,500-square-foot bank, 5,400 square feet of office space, 16 apartments and 57 parking spaces. Variances would be needed for parking and office space usage. At the last minute, Mr. Carnevale’s lawyer offered to change the proposal to limit the office space to 1,000 square feet, to house a management office for the building. But the Board still voted the proposal down.

“Even their request to at least be able to have a small 1,000 square foot management office at the rear of the building to deal with the 16 residential units was denied,” Ms. Fahmie said. “Nonetheless, they [the Carnevales] remain committed to redeveloping their property and will resubmit their plans to Princeton Planning Board.”

The redevelopment plan for the building, which currently houses a CrossFit gym, has been the subject of considerable debate. Many residents of the neighborhood are opposed to the proposal, preferring to see restaurants and retail establishments at the site. The rezoning by Borough Council last year would allow banks, which the Carnevales have maintained are interested in the site while restaurants are not. But the rezoning banned parking in front of redeveloped businesses, and parking in front of the building is part of the Carnevales’ request.

A driveway that runs between the building and the adjacent property is owned by Princeton University. The University offered a 60-year license agreement for use of the driveway, but the family wanted a permanent easement. Their request for a new curb cut on Nassau Street, included because of the University’s denial of a permanent easement, is another source of contention among some neighborhood residents.

The Carnevale property has been the site of Wild Oats and, earlier, Davidson’s markets. Previously. the building housed an automobile dealership. The area of East Nassau Street is often referred to as Gasoline Alley, because it once was home to several gas stations and car dealerships.

Mr. Carnevale is the former owner of The Annex, a longtime restaurant on Nassau Street which closed in 2006.



The Arts Council of Princeton’s Annual Hometown Halloween Parade began on Albert Hinds Plaza Sunday and followed the Princeton University Marching Band to Palmer Square. The subject of this week’s Town Talk is favorite costumes. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

October 23, 2013

BookRev“That’s how I feel about life. A lot of suffering, pain, anxiety, and problems — and it’s over so quickly.”

Fans of filmmaker Woody Allen will remember this monologue by Alvy Singer, the character Mr. Allen played in the 1977 film Annie Hall. The monologue appears in a bound mimeograph of the script, a page of which is currently on display at Princeton University’s Firestone Library through next Friday, November 1.

The yellowing script is one of seven from classic Allen films that are part of the Woody Allen papers, which the Oscar-winning director, author, and actor has been donating to the library since 1980. They are on view in conjunction with an appearance Mr. Allen will make at Richardson Auditorium on Sunday, October 27 at the invitation of the Friends of Princeton University Library. Mr. Allen will answer questions from the audience at the event, which was nearly sold out as of Monday. Princeton professor Maria DiBattista, who teaches English and Comparative Literature, will host the session.

“We were surprised when he said yes,” said Ben Primer, Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections. The Friends originally invited Mr. Allen to speak at a dinner. But he declined, saying he didn’t want to lecture but would be happy to answer questions from students. The fact that the University will be on fall break did not deter him, Mr. Primer said, adding that not all students leave the campus during the fall break.

Scripts and screenplays in varying stages, in addition to Annie Hall, come from the films Midnight in Paris, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Hannah and Her Sisters, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Manhattan, Sleeper, and What’s New, Pussycat?. The 77-year-old filmmaker decided to donate his papers to the Firestone library through his acquaintance with alumnus Laurance Rockefeller. By agreement, the papers may not be photographed or copied.

The scripts are on view in the library’s Eighteenth Century Window in the Rare Books and Special Collections department, which is to the right of the entrance. Hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.

ADDING TO THE GREENBELT: A new partnership has added a wooded lot on the Princeton Ridge to a chain of properties that environmentalists hope will form a ring of preserved open space around the town. (Photo by Eric Tazelaar)

ADDING TO THE GREENBELT: A new partnership has added a wooded lot on the Princeton Ridge to a chain of properties that environmentalists hope will form a ring of preserved open space around the town.
(Photo by Eric Tazelaar)

A wooded property on the Princeton Ridge that could have been developed for townhouses has been permanently preserved by a public-private partnership involving the municipality, Mercer County, New Jersey’s Green Acres Program, and the Borden Foundation. Known as the Klepper property, the 4.3-acre lot is just north of Ewing Street with frontage on the east side of Route 206.

Preservation of the wooded tract adds to a collection of lots totaling nearly 30 acres, according to Wendy Mager, president of the Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS). The site is close to the Ricciardi property, which was preserved in 2011 by many of the same partners.

“The property is almost opposite a 32-acre parcel that belongs to the water company and has a significant conservation easement,” Ms. Mager said. “It is well-placed to make a connection to Mount Lucas Road and other preserved properties. It is part of something that Friends of Princeton Open Space has been working on for many years — not just preserving isolated pieces, but preserving a greenbelt that extends around the town.”

The parcel was first brought to Ms. Mager’s attention in 2009 by Princeton planning director Lee Solow. “He pointed out that this would be a really good property to preserve,” she said. “We had been talking about other preservation projects on the ridge. When I tried to get in touch with Anne Klepper, one of the owners of this property, I learned that she had recently passed away. So I got in touch with her daughter.”

Leslie Klepper Arkin, who lives in New York, “didn’t really have much of a connection to the property,” Ms. Mager said. “Her parents had bought it quite a number of years ago. She was really learning from us why we thought it was so important to preserve, and it wasn’t hard to convince her.”

The site includes forests and wetlands that are particular to the environmentally sensitive Princeton Ridge, and is immediately adjacent to other undeveloped lots. “These lots have mature forests and provide an important habitat for some threatened species,” Ms. Mager said. “They are also part of an important system that helps prevent flooding in areas that are down-slope from the ridge.”

The property is part of a parcel that was approved several years ago for a 49-unit development, Princeton Senior Townhomes. Environmentalists including FOPOS and the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association were opposed to the idea. A lawsuit by neighboring property owners resulted in a lower density than originally proposed, and preservation became an option.

The acquisition was completed using FOPOS’s Green Acres grant, grants to FOPOS and the New Jersey Conservation Foundation from the Mercer County open space program, funds from Princeton’s open space tax, and a grant from the Borden Foundation to cover the costs of appraisals, title work, and legal fees.

Ms. Mager said she hopes to talk with the owners of other lots that were part of the proposed development in an effort to persuade them to follow Ms. Klepper Arkin’s example and opt for preservation. “This is not the end of the story,” she said in a press release about the property. “It taught me that you should never give up on a property that is worth preserving. Projects get approved, but not all of them get built, and sometimes there is still a chance to turn things around. I especially appreciate the spirit of conservation and public-mindedness that Leslie Klepper Arkin showed in working with us.”

The property will be owned 65 percent by Princeton, 25 percent by the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and 10 percent by FOPOS.


Earlier this year, five candidates put their names forward for three open seats on the Princeton Board of Education: Molly Chrein, Thomas Hagedorn, Meeta Khatri, Dennis Scheil, and Andrea Spalla. Mr. Scheil has dropped out of the running, citing personal reasons, so there will be four candidates for the three three-year term seats when residents vote in the November 5 election.

Even though he is no longer a candidate, Mr. Scheil’s name will appear on the ballot because he withdrew after the deadline for inclusion.

In a forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters last week, all four candidates responded to questions from the League and from the public. A second forum, sponsored by the Special Education PTO, will take place Monday, October 28, at 7 p.m. in the John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS). The public is encouraged to attend.

Incumbents Ms. Chrein and Ms. Spalla have been on the Board since 2010. In addition to their seats, a third seat was made vacant when Dorothy Bedford stepped down after serving six years and moved to Pennsylvania. The remainder of her term has been served by former Board President Anne Burns.

Ms. Chrein has lived in Princeton for almost a decade and is a Womanspace volunteer. She chairs the Board’s personnel committee and is a member of the student achievement committee. She also serves on the board’s negotiations team and is the liaison to the JWMS PTO. She has two children at Princeton High School (PHS): senior Lily Hyman and freshman Nathaniel Hyman. “I am passionate about public education and believe it is crucial to our democracy,” she said.

Ms. Spalla currently chairs the student achievement committee and is a member of committees on facilities and external affairs and personnel. A former attorney, she serves as the Board’s vice president and is liaison to the PTO Council and to the PTO at Riverside School.

A Princeton resident since 1998, Ms. Spalla has two sons, both went to Community Park School: James Royer is now a 7th grader at JWMS and Benjamin Royer is a 9th grader at PHS. “My legal background and knowledge of policy, governance, finance and contracts informs all my school board work. I am dedicated to serving our community. As a public school parent, I am enthusiastically committed to participating in the district’s robust process of continual improvement, so that every child gets an excellent education, every day,” said Spalla.

A professor of mathematics at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) for 17 years, Tom Hagedorn has lived in Princeton for almost two decades. His son Nick Hagedorn is a second-grader at Community Park Elementary School. Through his involvement with the school, Mr. Hagedorn has become informed “on many of the important issues in public education.” He has been a supporter of the school’s Edible Garden, participating in garden days and tending the garden during the summer, and co-organized a Chess Club in the fall and spring of last year. “Education has been my life’s vocation,” he said. “I am passionate about educating the whole student and ensuring that each student is given every opportunity to fulfill their potential. Academics are a top priority, but our children’s success should not be measured solely by their test scores.” If elected, Mr. Hagedorn hopes to use his experience as coordinator of a TCNJ-wide program to improve student graduation rates to help solve issues that currently confront the school district. He describes two priorities: “1: to set specific five-year benchmarks to ensure continued progress on tackling Princeton’s achievement gap; and 2: to help create a strategic plan for the Valley Road building to benefit the students and the community.”

“I would solve these issues through greater dialogue between parents and the community. While consensus may not be possible, I believe open discussions enable new innovative solutions. I also favor regular forums on education issues,” said Mr. Hagedorn.

Meeta Khatri moved to Princeton two years ago after having lived in West Windsor and East Windsor. A long-time educator, she has owned and operated a supplemental education learning center in Hamilton since 2002. Both of her children, Nikita Khatri and Anush Khatri attended St. Paul’s School in Princeton. “As an educator and owner of a learning center, I instruct children pre-K through 12th grade from five different public school districts,” said Ms. Khatri. “Regular interaction with their families, over 11 years, has informed me of the critical opportunity I have to boost student achievement. At my center, kids who remain enrolled for more than 12 months achieve a year above grade level in both math and reading. This goal is achievable for all students irrespective of their socio-economic background with a very small investment of time and money.”

“As an educator, I have extensive experience of both public and private schools in Mercer County and I would like to bring a fresh perspective to the board and to education policy,” said Ms. Khatri.

Asked about challenges facing the school district at the recent candidates forum, both Ms. Chrein and Ms. Spalla described budgetary concerns, new teacher evaluation and student testing systems, and the transition to a new superintendent. “The best way to deal with all three … is to keep our priorities straight and not become reactive but to be flexible while keeping our larger goals of excellence and achievement for each child always at the forefront of our decision making,” said Ms. Chrein.

In response to the same question, Mr. Hagedorn also identified financial pressures on the schools as a pressing issue as well as the challenges of the new state-mandated evaluation system. In addition, he called for “community expertise” on the future of the Valley Road School building and the achievement gap. “The district should work with the community to create specific plans to meaningfully close the achievement gap within the next five years,” he said.

Closing the achievement gap for low-income students was also a priority for Ms. Khatri who suggested “providing extra after school and in school attention on a daily basis, for as long as it takes.” To address unfunded state mandates, she raised the idea of students taking standardized tests digitally online. The burden of state-mandated evaluations. she said: “can be best achieved by providing as much information to those being evaluated in a timely manner, transparency within the process will ensure minimum strife. In the long run evaluations should happen on a regular schedule, with a process of feedback and remediation in place.”

The next candidates forum takes place at JWMS Monday, October 28 at 7 p.m. following an Open House from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.


Princeton Councilwoman Jo Butler is being investigated by the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office for a 911 call she made on September 18 from the Dinky train station parking lot when no emergency was apparent. Contacting 911 without an emergency is a fourth degree indictable crime in New Jersey.

Princeton Patch, the online news website, first reported last Wednesday that Ms. Butler had made the call, which went to the Princeton Police dispatch. When an operator responded, Ms. Butler asked the dispatcher whether she was calling Princeton University’s Department of Public Safety or Princeton Police. When the dispatcher ignored her question and asked the nature of the emergency, Ms. Butler hung up.

The operator then called back. Ms. Butler said she was “an elected official” and did not mention an emergency. Ms. Butler has since said she made the call because of concerns she has about which organization responds to such calls.

Ms. Butler has been particularly vocal about this question. At the September 23 Council meeting, she asked whether calls made from a cell phone are sent to the town’s police or the University’s public safety department. Princeton police lieutenant Chris Morgan said, at first, that the university’s internal security program would get the call. Kristin Appelget, the University’s Director of Community and Regional Affairs, said she thought a call to 911 from a cell phone, made from the parking lot, would be directed to the town, adding, “But let’s clarify that.”

Asked for comment this week via email, Ms. Butler said she cannot voice an opinion while the matter is under investigation, but added, “This is an issue about which I have expressed much concern.”

Assistant Mercer County Prosecutor Kathleen Petrucci said yesterday that the case is still under investigation.


ACTIVE LEARNING: “The boys feel free to express themselves in the classroom. They can move about and be active, which can promote learning at a young age,” says Olen Kalkus, founding headmaster of Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart. In the photo, second graders in the Lower School have selected an unusual setting for their reading assignment.

ACTIVE LEARNING: “The boys feel free to express themselves in the classroom. They can move about and be active, which can promote learning at a young age,” says Olen Kalkus, founding headmaster of Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart. In the photo, second graders in the Lower School have selected an unusual setting for their reading assignment.

Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart is set apart from other independent schools in several ways. First, it is an all-boys day school, offering a traditional curriculum from Junior K through eighth grade.

Equally important, it is part of the network of the Sacred Heart Schools throughout the United States and around the world. Its near neighbor is Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart whose student enrollment is all girls, except for its pre-school, which accepts boys up to four years old.

In addition, Princeton Academy has a strong focus on the importance of character development and values. “I’m a big believer that character and values are embedded within the culture of the school,” says founding headmaster Olen Kalkus. “They are instilled here, and values and character are shown in how the boys treat each other and how the staff and faculty interact.

“200 years ago, it was expected that values would be taught in school. Over time, our society has gotten away from that, but at Princeton Academy, it is an important part of our mission, which is shaped by the Goals and Criteria adapted by the network of Sacred Heart Schools around the world.”

Guiding Principle

As explained in the school’s mission statement,

(1) “A personal and active faith in God is the guiding principle of Princeton Academy’s education, which is offered to students of all faiths.”

The other principles include:

(2) “A deep respect for intellectual values with the goal of helping each boy become a self-reliant thinker, reader, and learner.

(3) A social awareness which impels to action.

(4) Building community as a Christian value.

(5) Personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom.”

Princeton Academy opened its doors in September of 1999 at 1128 The Great Road. The location on 50 acres was formerly home to a private residence, built in the 1930s, and later became Our Lady of Princeton Convent.

“The idea for the school started with a small group of parents about 15 years ago, who wanted to establish an all boys School of the Sacred Heart,” explains Mr. Kalkus. “It began with 34 students, kindergarten, first grade, and combined second and third grade, and four full time and three part time faculty.

“Today, we have 225 students, a 40-member faculty on a 50-acre campus. 50 percent of the student body is Catholic, and 50 percent members of other faiths. Parents of students of other religious denominations like the idea of an all-boys school and the values we emphasize at Princeton Academy.”

The school’s focus on educating boys is centered on the belief that at the earliest ages, boys develop and learn differently than girls. “We’re built around the Sacred Heart values and the current research on how boys develop and learn,” points out Mr. Kalkus. “Developmentally, boys progress more slowly verbally than girls. These differences are more pronounced at younger ages, and we need to keep the boys engaged to help them develop a love of learning. I believe we are the only all-boys elementary school in the state of New Jersey.”

Active and Energetic

Boys are active and energetic, and don’t sit quietly at a young age. These factors are all taken into consideration at Princeton Academy. Classrooms are configured so that boys can move about and be active.

“We combine academics, play, and activities. Physical education, recess, and exercise are very important,” says the headmaster. “Studies have shown that cognitive skills are also developed through exercise and play. During recess and after school, the youngest boys just like to play. It’s like the old-fashioned neighborhood, where all the kids got together for unstructured games and sports. This can be a great learning experience. Our teachers understand boys’ development and that they need to be active, and that indeed, activity serves to engage boys’ brains.”

“Boys do better when they are active. They need to burn off energy,” agrees Princeton Academy director of admission Tom von Oehsen. “Some of our classes  begin with running. There is a lot of activity in the classroom.

“Sometimes, boys stand at their desk and move about. We accommodate to the fact that boys need to move, and then they will learn better.”

Princeton Academy has produced an enlightening video featuring many of its concepts regarding educating boys. Included are five principles.

(1) “Boys learn best when they are navigators of their own learning.

(2) Boys learn best deductively.

(3) Boys learn best when given clear goals and feedback.

(4) Boys learn best when they are not afraid of failure.

(5) Boys learn best through relational experiences.”

Academic Excellence

“We emphasize an environment that motivates, excites, and interests a boy, that helps him think he is involved in his learning,” explains Mr. Kalkus, who also enjoys teaching a weekly seminar for eighth graders on decision-making and how the brain works.

The school is committed to academic excellence, and the curriculum is challenging, beginning in kindergarten. “Today’s kindergarten is more like first grade,” notes Mr. Kalkus. “It is all-day, and focuses on reading and writing, not just play and activities. Throughout all grades, we have small class sizes, with 12 to 16 students. In kindergarten and first grade, there is a teacher and assistant, so there is a lot of individual attention. Also, teachers are available after class to give extra help.

“Our curriculum is similar to that of many independent schools, and additionally there is a spiritual aspect to our school. We offer very broadly-oriented religion classes. We study the Old Testament, the New Testament, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and other faiths.”

An added feature in the Middle School is “Tea Time” in the religion classes. “ The idea is that with one cup of tea, you may be a stranger, with the second, you are a friend, and with the third cup, you are family,” explains Mr. Kalkus. “The boys really look forward to this.”

A love of reading is encouraged from the earliest grades, and the school has an excellent library. The boys often spend time there after school finishing homework assignments or reading. “We definitely try to introduce boys to the pleasure of reading at a young age,” says Mr. Kalkus.

Of course, technology is a major focus in most schools today, including at Princeton Academy. “We do a lot with technology,” he continues. “In the lower schools, iPads and lap-top computers are available in Junior kindergarten through fifth grade, and our fourth graders are creating power point presentations. We provide sixth, seventh, and eighth graders with iPads, and there is a clear reduction in paper use. The iPad can become a text book, note book, and library. The possibilities and versatility are amazing.”

Appropriate Use

“Also, we focus on instructional technology with the first year of the iPad. We want to emphasize appropriate use of technology. We currently have four mobile lap-top computer labs. Each mobile lab contains 16 Apple Macintosh wireless lap-top computers. The mobile labs enable teachers to bring the ‘computer’ lab into their classrooms to enhance the subject matter of the current lesson. Thus, the computer is used as a tool of the curriculum rather than becoming the curriculum. We are building content knowledge and 21st century skills.”

Princeton Academy has an innovative approach to learning another language; it focuses on only one: Spanish. Junior kindergarten students start leaning Spanish, and continue through eighth grade. “I believe it is more important to know one other language thoroughly,” notes Mr. Kalkus.

As part of its curriculum, the school offers classes in the arts, such as music and visual arts, and the students also perform in a musical production every year.

After school programs and sports are important at Princeton Academy. The sports program includes soccer, cross-country, basketball, squash, wrestling, baseball, lacrosse, and tennis. Boys in the Middle School have an opportunity to be on a team and compete with other schools in the area. “The boys learn how to compete appropriately,” points out Mr. Kalkus.

Other after school programs include computer programming, strategic games, music, and drama, as well as a homework club.

“The boys can do their homework after school,” says the headmaster. “We believe in academic excellence without piling on homework. It’s finding the right balance.”

Community Service

Caring for other people and the world around them is emphasized at the school. Helping others through community service is stressed at all grade levels. As Mr. Kalkus points out, “We have all-school projects in which the boys gather produce and give it to food kitchens. And we also have division projects, when every grade level establishes its own service project. The Middle School has a relationship with HomeFront, and invites HomeFront children here to play games.

“Some of the students come up with their own ideas. For example, the boys have a fundraiser for SAVE, and have created animal toys. Also, the Chaplain let us know about a family that had lost everything in a fire. The boys decided to adopt the family for Christmas, and collected food and gifts for them.”

Instilling a sense of gratitude among the boys is another focus at the school. Each Friday, the entire student body and faculty gather to offer “Friday Thank Yous.”

“The time of thanks begins with words of welcome and reminds everyone of this wonderful week of exploration and learning they have experienced,” says Mr. Kalkus. “It is good to go through life with a healthy sense of thankfulness. I believe that this thankfulness (not guilt) can guide us to become more compassionate people and a more compassionate community.”

The boys come up with gratitude for everything from “thanking my dad for driving me to school” to “thanking my teachers” to “thanking Tommy for sharing the swing with me” to “thanking my classmates for welcoming me into the school.”

Many of the parents (who occasionally join in the Friday Thank You sessions) are also very pleased with Princeton Academy’s combined focus on academics, character, and values. As a non-Catholic parent of a Middle School student explained: “It’s the values and the education that are so important. I’m a Hindu, but love, kindness, and compassion are emphasized at Princeton Academy, and these don’t belong to just one religion.”

Respect and Brotherhood

Added the father of a Lower School boy: “There’s a strong sense of brotherhood and respect for others. The school is consistent with the values we are trying to instill at home.”

Princeton Academy has recently completed phase one of a renovation of many of its buildings. New state-of-the-art science and prep labs, 10 new classrooms, a Junior K/K suite, and larger student common areas are now available.

Geothermal wells were installed on the school’s grounds to provide an alternative source of energy. All of the building and renovation projects will reinforce Princeton Academy’s commitment to environmentally-responsible and sustainable designs. In addition to the new geothermal heating and cooling system, the project includes features such as skylights for improved natural light and state-of-the-art insulation and energy efficient electrical fixtures. When combined with plans to add on-site solar energy, these features will create an opportunity to reduce the school’s energy consumption requirements.

“We try to express the importance of this to the boys,” remarks Mr. Kalkus. “To change behavior, you need immediate feedback. For example, if boys fill up their own water bottle at the water fountain in the Middle School, a register shows how many plastic bottles have been saved from going to a land fill. Recently, the number was 4,659.”

Remaining renovation work at the school will include a new music wing with both instrumental and choral music rooms and practice rooms, a new infirmary, a larger space for the visual arts, and a technology center.

In honor of its upcoming 15th anniversary in 2014, the school plans a series of celebratory events, which will include speakers and various happenings throughout the year.

Timeless Values

Princeton Academy prides itself on its commitment to providing a diverse student body, and financial assistance is available to students. It is the school’s mission to extend its educational philosophy to a broad community of students.

“We’re about educating boys in the best way to help them grow into young men of character,” points out Mr. Kalkus. “It is so important to offer the timeless values of the Sacred Heart. You need an anchor to navigate the storm of change in the world today. The pace of change keeps increasing so rapidly.

“We want our boys to become critical thinkers, problem-solvers, communicators, and collaborators. The school recognizes that both the successes and failures of students is an opportunity for development. We offer an environment in which students have the freedom to learn how to accept responsibility for their actions, to feel pride in their achievement, and to grow from mistakes. In order to have innovative discovery, you need to have a strong foundation. The school’s mission is to develop young men who, when faced with the challenges of these times, will make the right choices.”


Mayor Liz Lempert has decided to recuse herself from discussions with Princeton University regarding payments in lieu of taxes. She made the decision despite the opinion of the town’s conflict of interest attorney Ed Schmierer that her participation does not pose a conflict even though her husband is a professor at the University.

“There has been too much focus on me and my participation, when all the focus should be on the content of the discussions with the University,” Ms. Lempert said in a written statement released yesterday to Town Topics. She planned to read the statement at the conclusion of Princeton Council’s meeting last night.

“In the best interests of the community, I am going to step aside and leave the discussions over the University’s contribution or PILOT [payment in lieu of taxes] in the hands of the Council,” she continued. “I have full faith in Council President Bernie Miller to lead a successful team.”

It was last August that Mr. Schmierer, who also serves as Princeton’s municipal attorney, expressed his view that Ms. Lempert’s participation in the negotiations was not improper. Her husband, Ken Norman, is a tenured professor of psychology. “Not only is the probability of any conflict remote or insignificant, any conflict is non-existent,” Mr. Schmierer wrote in an opinion. “The fact that her husband is a tenured professor, who does not stand to benefit in any manner from the voluntary agreement to be negotiated with Princeton University, cannot reasonably be deemed to have any influence on the mayor’s judgement.”

Mr. Schmierer based some of his opinion on the fact that there have been past mayors with connections to the University who negotiated with the institution, such as the late Barbara Boggs Sigmund, and Marvin Reed. He did recommend that Council member Heather Howard, a full-time employee of the University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, recuse herself from the discussions.

The issue of whether Ms. Lempert should or should not participate in the negotiations with the University has generated much discussion during the public comment portions of recent Council -meetings. While some have spoken in favor of her taking part, many have said it would be a conflict of interest.

“I want to make clear — I am not stepping aside because I believe I am conflicted,” Ms. Lempert’s statement concluded. “Rather, I am concerned my participation has become a distraction at a time when Council needs to be functioning effectively on this matter. The debate should not focus on me, but rather on the content of the negotiations and the strategy surrounding obtaining the best outcome for the town and taxpayers. I will make myself available to Council if they seek my advice, but I am stepping aside from the negotiating table.”


Of the three candidates vying for two three-year terms on Princeton Council in the November 5 election, two С Democrats Patrick Simon and Jenny Crumiller С are current members of the governing body. The third, Republican Fausta Rodriguez Wertz, is a newcomer to local politics.

In recent conversations via e-mail and in person, the incumbents outlined their accomplishments and shared their aspirations for the future. Ms. Rodriguez Wertz, a resident of Princeton since 1977, spoke of her community involvement in both professional and volunteer capacities. Raised in Puerto Rico, if elected she would be the first Latina to serve on a Princeton governing body. She edits a blog about issues affecting the United States and Latin America.

“As far as I can tell, there has never been a Hispanic member of Borough Council or Township Committee and now Princeton Council,” she said during an interview at her home. “But I’m concerned that there should be participation for any immigrant, not just Hispanics. I’m also concerned about taxes, which are so high that they are driving people away from Princeton. And it’s not just people who have lived in town. There are a large number of Hispanics in town who work here, and they won’t be able to stay.”

Ms. Rodriguez Wertz said spending and taxes are the most critical issues for Princeton. She is worried about the town’s debt. “I voted for consolidation, being an optimist,” she said. “But consolidation issues have not been concluded. There is a $135 million debt. And the Master Plan hasn’t been updated.” She also thinks more attention should be paid to traffic problems in town. “Recently, I saw six trucks double-parked on Nassau Street,” she said. “There is no one addressing that problem right now, and it needs to be dealt with.”

She praised Princeton’s police department for its recent efforts to reach out to the local Hispanic community. “The police want the kids to feel they can come to them,” she said. “They seem to be very interested in neworking with the community.”

A recent vote to file less comprehensive minutes of Council meetings does not sit well with Ms. Rodriguez Wertz. “I’m not happy about the minutes being reduced. I’m very big on transparency,” she said. Regarding town/gown relationships, she said it is important to prevent an adversarial relationship. “Princeton looks the way it does because of the University,” she said. “And the University gains from Princeton being such an interesting and diverse community.”

Ms. Rodriguez Wertz said she agrees with the opinion of conflict of interest attorney Ed Schmierer that Mayor Liz Lempert should be permitted to participate in negotiations with Princeton University over payments in lieu of taxes. But Ms. Lempert has decided to recuse herself from those discussions [see story on page one].

Ms. Crumiller, who serves on the Zoning Amendment Review and Master Plan subcomittees, wrote in an e-mail that she is looking forward to working on revising the Master Plan and land use ordinances. “I hope to advocate for neighborhoods and to work to protect the character and especially the scale of neighborhoods in our land use ordinances going forward,” she said. “I’m also going to be working on the committee that will be forming Advisory Planning Districts, which were promised as extra protection for neighborhoods after consolidation.”

Ms. Crumiller served on Borough Council for two-and-a-half years before being elected to Princeton Council last year. Along with two other members of Council, she has recently been reviewing general municipal ordinances.

“Familiarity with operations and knowing how government works is invaluable in this work,” she said. “I hope I can continue!”

Mr. Simon said he is satisfied with the way consolidation of the former Borough and Township has proceeded so far. “This year we have successfully implemented consolidation, and due to careful management of personnel and operating costs, we were able to implement a cut in the municipal property tax rate,” he said in an e-mail. “In doing so we have continued the careful fiscal management of recent Democratic municipal governments from both former municipalities.”

He added that Princeton Borough had not raised municipal property tax rates for four years prior to consolidation, while the Township had not raised them for two years. “We set the municipal property tax in Princeton’s budget this year three quarters of a million dollars lower than the combined municipal property tax budgeted five years ago, and we did that while extending an important municipal service, residential garbage pickup, into the former township. The municipal property tax has shrunk as a proportion of the overall property tax in recent years as well, and in 2013, the municipal portion is only 22 percent of Princeton’s total property tax bill. The rest goes to the county and to the schools.”

Mr. Simon chaired the Emergency Preparedness Task Force this past spring, and currently serves on the local Emergency Management Committee. “This fall we approved the first basic Emergency Operation Plan covering all of Princeton, and by the end of the year we expect to complete 15 plan annexes covering various aspects of emergency management in detail, including shelters and comfort centers, alerts and emergency communications, hazardous materials events, and emergency medical,” he said.

His first year on Council has been enjoyable, Mr. Simon said. “I chose to run again simply to have the opportunity, if the voters in Princeton approve, to continue to work on these and other important issues for the community.”


On September 19, the canopy covering the platform at the old Dinky station collapsed shortly after demolition workers had left for the day.

The canopy awning, which had sheltered commuters traveling between Princeton and Princeton Junction, fell onto the bed of the railroad track. No one was injured.

After the collapse, Princeton Council asked Princeton University for a report of the incident which occurred as work is being done for the University’s Arts and Transit project.

Turner Construction Company is at work on this project and had hired subcontractor LVI Demolition Services, Inc. to remove the canopy.

After the accident Turner Construction was issued a fine of $2,000 by Princeton’s building department for doing work without a permit.

The report was prepared by Edward M. Card of Turner Construction and submitted to the University on October 7 and to the Princeton Council on Tuesday, October 15.

It is clear from the report that neither Turner Construction nor its demolition subcontractor put temporary supports in place to hold up the canopy while it was being removed as is customary in such cases.

The report, which makes no mention of temporary supports, describes the events on the day of the accident. Representatives of Turner and LVI met at 7 a.m. to plan for the canopy demolition. At around 2:30 p.m., LVI workers cut a two-foot wide section of the canopy connecting it to the station building in preparation for the removal of the canopy during the next two days. They then left for the day at 3:15 p.m.

According to the report, an LVI foreman and a Turner superintendent saw no evidence that the canopy was misaligned or exhibiting stress. The canopy collapsed at around 4:30 p.m.

Emergency rescue teams from multiple state and local agencies were called in to find out if anyone had been trapped in the debris. They worked until about 9:30 p.m. at which time clean up operations began.

When asked Monday about the report, Princeton Administrator Bob Bruschi said in an email: “Our building/construction people have looked at it and I’m satisfied. As far as going forward they will follow the normal procedures. We look at this as a very unfortunate anomaly. The university is always very good at moving through the permitting process and adhering to all of the laws. They didn’t expect it to come down.”

But Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller was highly critical of the report, describing it as “inadequate to say the least.” On Monday, she commented: “If it was offered as a reassurance of some sort, it did the exact opposite. But I doubt the University is satisfied either.”

According to Ms. Crumiller, the report fails to answer the basic questions “of why precautions were not taken to avoid the collapse of the structure, why the possibility of the collapse does not seem to have been anticipated and why it was apparently a surprise. The report describes construction company workers cutting out sections of the canopy that connected it to the buildings, leaving, and then the canopy collapsing after they left. It’s as if they had no idea what they were doing.”

As for future safety, Ms. Crumiller wants to know what the University and its construction company are doing. “Our construction permitting process is intended to ensure safety. The University should explain why its contractor failed to apply for the proper permit.”

In a memo accompanying the Turner Construction report, Town engineer Robert V. Kiser wrote that the University will, as a “precautionary measure,” engage a “peer review of the demolition work plans for the two remaining structures to be removed in connection with the arts and transit project.”

“They [the University] have taken other measures to make sure they adhere to all permits and safety standards. If they follow the normal procedures as they have in the past and there have been no problems I would fully expect that there would be no problems in the future,” said Mr. Bruschi.

The Arts and Transit development and the new Dinky station located about 460 feet south of the old station are scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.

The report from Turner Construction will be on the agenda for discussion by Princeton Council when it meets in public session Monday, October 28 at 7 p.m. in Witherspoon Hall.



The Princeton University Marching Band opened festivities on Hinds Plaza Sunday. October 20, when the sixth annual Princeton Reads began with activities around the themes in this year’s selection, Matthew Quick’s novel, “The Silver Linings Playbook.” (Photo by Emily Reeves)


October 18, 2013
PRESENTING “PADIDDLE”: The cover of this latest work by local poet and teacher Betty Lies features a vintage photograph of her parents. Ms. Lies read from this, her third and newest collection of poems, in the Princeton Public Library last Saturday, October 11.

PRESENTING “PADIDDLE”: The cover of this latest work by local poet and teacher Betty Lies features a vintage photograph of her parents. Ms. Lies read from this, her third and newest collection of poems, in the Princeton Public Library last Saturday, October 11.

In a launch of her third book of poetry at the Princeton Public Library, Saturday, Betty Bonham Lies jumped right in with the poem that opens Padiddle, and sets the tone for the first of the book’s three sections.

“Sex everywhere;/the earth/hums dark with sex/last summer’s swinging seeds/are coupling in/the most unlikely corners.” So begins “Panspermia,” after the epigram explains the term as the “hypothesis that the seeds of life are ubiquitous in the universe and may have been delivered to Earth and … other habitable bodies.”

Sex and love, memory and marriage feature large in this book, which follows The Blue Laws and The Day After I Drowned. Ms. Lies’s work can be heartbreaking and funny, often both at the same time.

In The Day After I Drowned she writes of profound loss, her husband’s illness and death. In Padiddle, she gives us scenes from her own marriage as well as celebrations of couples and coupling. Judy Rowe Michaels puts it this way: “Betty Lies revels in possibility of form, wordplay, music, and above all, in the possibilities of coupling … pairs of words marry their way into metaphor, and she sees possibilities even in the most unlikely couples.”

Ms. Lies’s imagination yields some surprising pairings here: Emily Dickinson and Elvis, Paul Bunyan and Julia Child, Zeus and Amelia Earhart. My favorite is “At the Ball, Johnny Depp Approaches Miss Austen” but “Martha Stewart Drops in on Beowulf’s Mead Hall,” comes in a close second. Ms. Lies knows how to entertain.

“Of course, most of these pairings don’t turn out that well,” she told the audience, before describing the source of her “Sleeping with Wiglaf,” inspired not so much by the hero from the Beowulf epic as by her son’s cat of the same name. “Wiglaf was separated from his mother too early and had some intellectual and social problems, the saddest thing was that he used to suck his little paw,” she said.

Beowulf, pussycats, the vast soupy cosmos, all are grist for this poet’s wit. Her subjects range across a vast landscape of imagination, from the classical to the whimsical. From a Japanese temple dedicated to broken sewing needles to fabric softener. Even, she said, in a television anchor’s blooper, launching into a poem from an earlier collection. In reporting fires in the mountains behind Santa Barbara the newsman had spoken of “erotic” rather than “erratic” winds.

In case you are wondering, the book’s title, “Padiddle,” comes from a night time driving game: a kiss for every one-eyed car (i.e. with only one headlight working) spotted. One of my favorites from Padiddle is short enough to quote here in its entirety:


The moon’s long horn dips deep

in the cup of ocean.

Let’s have a jamboree:

You be the oak,

I’ll be the sky,

I’ll be the jewelweed,

you be the bee

and sting me till I die.

Ms. Lies read the poem inspired by the circa 1930 photograph of her parents that appears on the book’s cover. It shows Bonnie and Bert (oddly enough he is Bonnie, a nickname derived from his last name of Bonham, and she is Bert, short for Bertha, a name she hated, said Ms. Lies) on the day of their engagement. “The Two of Them,” is a loving tribute to her parents and it opens the books second section.

In the third section, are poems written after the death of Ms. Lies’s husband. As Ms. Michaels notes, Ms. Lies “isn’t afraid to look back and knows ‘The air keeps moving/for a while/after the flute has stopped.”

Ms. Lies came to Princeton in 1961 and taught English at Stuart Country Day School for 25 years. She also taught at The College of New Jersey and is a Distinguished Teaching Artist for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and a Geraldine R. Dodge Poet for the the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. She currently teaches at Princeton’s Evergreen Forum and is a cherished member of the local US1 Poets’ Cooperative, for which she guides the annual journal, U.S.1 Worksheets, as its senior poetry editor. She has earned the Governor’s Award in Arts Education and been awarded several fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

With her son, Brian Lies, the noted children’s book author and illustrator, she wrote a guidebook for teachers of creative writing: The Poet’s Pen: Writing Poetry with Middle and High School Students (1993). Brian Lies is known for his bats series: Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Library, and others. He is a regular at the Library’s annual Princeton Children’s Book Festival.

Another of Ms. Lies’s titles, Earth’s Daughters: Stories of Women in Classical Mythology, was facilitated by a stay at the Vermont Studio Center. It was written to address the imbalance she perceived in existing books on mythology which featured gods, heroes, and monsters prominently and women only marginally.

For Ms. Lies, poetic inspiration comes from images or scraps of language, her process is one of discovery. “I try not to write about ideas because that never works,” she said. “If I know what I’m thinking it doesn’t work; you have to discover that by writing. I tell a child: surprise yourself, don’t try to control the poem, take your hands off the controls and let your poem soar.”

Although she wrote poetry all through her childhood, which was rural rather than urban, a fact that surfaces in her work, she more or less gave it up when she reached college, where it was discouraging to find a canon of “only dead, white, European and American male poets.” It wasn’t until the late 80s when Ms. Lies was already a seasoned teacher that she rediscovered her muse. Having invited poet Lynn Powell, then a Princeton resident, into her English class at Stuart, and working together with her students on assignments set by Ms. Powell, Ms. Lies began to write. At Ms Powell’s urging, she joined the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative and then went on to found, with several other U.S.1 members, the Cool Women group. It was fellow member of the Cool Women group, Lois M. Harrod, who gave Padiddle it’s shape, said Ms. Lies. “Lois actually put the poems in order, then formatted it all on her computer to send to the publisher. I am intensely grateful to her.” Padiddle is published by Cool Women Press.

Ms. Lies’s Saturday reading took less than 20 minutes and seemed even shorter. At one point a member of the audience was heard to whisper to another, “She’s sensational.”

Fellow poet Scott McVay praises Padiddle as the work of a “wise conscious woman.”

The poet, now working on her next collection, has set herself a high standard to follow Padiddle. But, since the intrepid Ms. Lies is about to embark on a trip to the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon, her readers can be confident of even more surprising discoveries.