March 5, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Responding to a statement issued Tuesday that they have failed to produce accurate mapping of the construction path for the proposed Princeton Ridge Transco Pipeline project, the Williams Company said that “incomplete survey permissions” prevented them from having access to the area of concern until recently. The company responded further that they have provided mapping for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to the agency’s satisfaction “for the Letter of Interpretation process.”

Williams wants to expand its natural gas pipeline through an environmentally sensitive area of the Princeton Ridge, affecting some 30 properties. The company has held public presentations and met repeatedly with the citizens’ group Princeton Ridge Coalition, representatives from the municipality, and others concerned about the impact of construction on area wetlands and wildlife, as well as safety.

“I have met with Williams officials and their consultants from Texas and Florida at least a half a dozen times, and they have always promised to do the right thing by the community,” said Jennifer Coffey, policy director of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, in a press release. “On at least two occasions, we had meetings with officials in Princeton and Trenton to discuss the incomplete wetlands mapping, and Williams promised to fix it. Their most recent mapping shows that they have done nothing to correct the problem or accurately represent the sensitive nature of the Ridge.”

The press release states further that Williams’ reports “fail to map critical regulated features of the existing right of way (ROW). These include watercourses, wetlands with active seeps and springs within and adjacent to the ROW, as well as State open waters occurring within 50 feet of the ROW.” The release quotes a report prepared by the company Princeton Hydro as saying, “Failure to accurately identify and delineate these regulated [stream and wetland] features will preclude an accurate representation of the project’s impacts.”

According to the release, the Watershed Association, the municipality, and the citizens’ group are calling on the Department of Environmental Protection to ask Williams to re-do their wetlands surveys “in compliance with the law.”

“In sum, Williams’ efforts to properly delineate wetlands and regulated waters within the Princeton Ridge segment are plainly inadequate. They call into question the accuracy and completeness of all studies Williams has commissioned in the Princeton Ridge segment. We are deeply disappointed that Williams has failed to meet its basic regulatory obligations, regardless of whether these oversights were intentional or inadvertent,” according to a letter written on behalf of the coalition by attorney Paul P. Josephson, a Princeton Ridge resident.

In an email, The Williams Company said, “We have worked in good faith with the Princeton Coalition to address their concerns, and had previously committed to them to map additional areas within a 150 foot corridor. Previously, this was not accomplished due to incomplete survey permissions. Until recently, we did not have survey access to a key property in this area of concern and therefore could not survey outside of the existing right of way.”

The email continues to say the mapping Williams provided for the state environmental agency “reflects delineations that were performed in the presence of the NJDEP, to their satisfaction, for the Letter of Interpretation (LOI) process. Additional surveys, although not required as a function of the LOI line verification process, will be incorporated as part of NJDEP’s review of Transco’s freshwater wetlands application. Transco continues to coordinate with NJDEP to provide the information necessary for the proposed project to be reviewed in accordance with the state of New Jersey’s environmental regulations.”

Barbara Blumenthal, a resident active in the Princeton Ridge Coalition, said in the release, “The Ridge is our home. The Princeton community feels great responsibility to be good stewards and protect it from unnecessary harm. There are extensive preserved lands on the ridge that the Princeton community and officials have worked hard to protect and now enjoy as open space. All we are asking is for Williams to comply with New Jersey environmental rules and conduct all the analyses they are required to do.”


The application deadline for Communiversity Festival of the Arts, the celebration of art and music that attracts more than 40,000 people to the heart of Princeton every spring, is March 1. Presented by the Arts Council of Princeton with participation from Princeton University and support from the town of Princeton, Communiversity will take place on Sunday, April 27, rain or shine, from 1-6 p.m.

A limited number of corporate sponsorship opportunities are still available. In addition to booth space, sponsors receive brand recognition at the event as well as in Communiversity advertisements, press releases and social media. All interested participants — including corporate sponsors, artists, crafters, merchandise and food vendors, and performers — should visit www.artscouncilof to download and print the appropriate application.

All submissions must be postmarked no later than Saturday, March 1, 2014. Because Communiversity is a juried event, applications postmarked after the deadline will not be considered. All accepted participants will be notified on or about March 20. Contact with questions.


A lawsuit filed by a citizens’ group seeking to block AvalonBay’s plan for a rental community on the site of the former Princeton Hospital has been dismissed. On Tuesday, Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson ruled in favor of the developer.

The residents group, Association for Planning at Hospital Site LLC, filed the five-count lawsuit last December in an effort to overturn the Princeton Planning Board’s approval of the developer’s plan for a 280-unit rental complex. Judge Jacobson initially threw out one count of the suit, saying the statue of limitations had run out on the issue. The remaining four counts were dismissed Tuesday, less than a week after a hearing in which Judge Jacobson heard two hours of testimony by attorney Steven Griegel, representing the group, and Gerald Muller, representing the Planning Board. AvalonBay attorney Robert Kasuba was also present at the hearing.

The citizens’ group listed concerns about public safety, health, and welfare issues during demolition, which Mr. Griegel said have not been sufficiently addressed. He also raised procedural concerns. Mr. Griegel said the consent order that the Town entered into with AvalonBay last April, to suspend litigation and allow the developer to submit a revised plan after their initial plan was rejected, was unfair because it left the public out. Mr. Muller countered that there is no requirement for the public to review a consent order.

On their website, the Association for Planning at Hospital Site LLC has said they are exploring their next steps. “We have 45 days to appeal this decision and will be meeting with our lawyers in the coming days to understand what options remain,” the website reads.

After hearing concerns from several residents, Princeton Council voted last month to hire an independent licensed state remediation professional (LSRP) to help ensure public safety during the demolition process. At this past Monday’s Council meeting, municipal engineer Bob Kiser said that an incinerator formerly located at the hospital, which AvalonBay officials asserted was used only for incinerating paper records, was in fact used for medical waste.

 The Council hopes to hear from the LSRP at its March 10 meeting before taking another look at the developer’s agreement.



In November of 2012, there were no commercial airplanes flying in and out of Trenton/Mercer Airport. By June of this year, the small airfield off Interstate 95 in Ewing Township will be boasting 73 flights each week to destinations ranging from St. Augustine, Florida to St. Louis, Missouri.

This unprecedented growth was the focus of a February 19 talk at The Nassau Club by Daniel Shurz, senior vice president at Frontier Airlines. The carrier took over the terminal 15 months ago and turned it into a viable alternative to Philadelphia and Newark airports. Mr. Shurz, who spoke at a breakfast held by the Chamber of Commerce of the Princeton Area, announced that the airline will add service to St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis in June.

“We love that this is an old, cheap airport,” he said. “That keeps the fares low. And we’ve kept the fares low because we have a great partner in Mercer County.”

Mr. Shurz said that more than 2.5 million people live closer to Trenton/Mercer than any other airport offering commercial service. Newark and Philadelphia are plagued by delays, making the Ewing airport a favorable option. Unlike other airports of its size, Trenton/Mercer has a runway long enough to accommodate the 138-seat Airbus 319 aircrafts operated by 20-year-old, Denver-based Frontier.

While other commercial airlines have tried to make a go of service at the airfield in the past, none were able to succeed. “The last one was Eastwind in 1995. They picked a good airport, they just didn’t know what they were doing,” said Mr. Shurz.

Last fall, Trenton/Mercer was closed for two months during a mutli-million dollar overhaul financed largely through federal grants. The waiting area was enlarged, a new baggage claim facility was added, and parking lots were expanded. Formerly free, parking now costs $8 a day.

Most Princeton area residents were unfamiliar with Frontier before its arrival in New Jersey. “We knew coming in that you’d never heard of us,” Mr. Shurz said. “Most people didn’t even know the airport was there. But we’re doing less advertising now, because we don’t need to. In January, not historically the best month, we filled 91.5 percent of our seats out of Trenton.”

Frontier’s Denver home is “a great place to put an airline,” Mr. Shurz said, “because we’re hundreds of miles from anywhere. We needed to find a way to diversify that airline. Trenton is the first time we’ve diversified organically and we’ve found something that works really well.”

With its expansion to St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee, Frontier will have non-stop service to 17 destinations: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago-Midway, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Indianapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Raleigh-Durham, St. Augustine, and Tampa.

“We’re attracting customers who have to pay with their own money,” Mr. Shurz said. “There are a lot more leisure customers than you might think.”

Asked whether Frontier flights are included on discount websites like Priceline, Mr. Shurz said “There is only one website you need to know: You get certain benefits when you book through our website, and you get smoking hot fares.”

Frontier will host two flight attendant recruiting seminars on March 7 and 8 at Mercer County Community College in West Windsor. Participants must be willing to relocate, hold a current passport, and be willing to spend the entire day at the event. RSVP via email at


Officers of the Princeton Police Department (PPD) received training last week on how to handle immigration status with respect to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) laws. 

“This is an important step in building trust with the immigrant community in Princeton,” said Police Commissioner Heather Howard, who also chairs the municipality’s Public Safety Committee. “In a nutshell, the Princeton Police Department will not be enforcing immigration laws. This is important for everybody. If we want a safe community, it must be safe for everyone and any victim, no matter what their immigration status, should feel comfortable coming forward to report a crime.”

The training puts into operation an order that was adopted by the department in the fall, clarifying the role of local police in relation to federal immigration enforcement. It is designed to enhance public safety by ensuring that people who are victims of, or witnesses to, crime are not afraid to cooperate with police.

“The order was the result of a long and close collaboration with the Human Services Commission (HSC) and the Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund (LALDEF). It builds on new outreach by Spanish speaking officers in the community, and sends a strong message that witnesses or victims should not be afraid to come forward and work with local law enforcement,” said Ms. Howard.

The order states: that “Local police are not charged with the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The federal government and its agencies are the authorities responsible for enforcement of immigration law Й. Immigration enforcement by state and local police would have an adverse effect in community/police relations. It is the intention of the Princeton Police to maintain positive relations with all members of the Princeton Community by providing fair, compassionate, and unbiased police service to all community members regardless of the community members’ immigration status.”

Although the order was adopted last fall, both Captain Nick Sutter, the department’s acting chief, and the Public Safety Committee felt it important to “operationalize it through officer training.”

During the training, officers received an explanation of Federal Immigration Law from local immigration attorney Ryan Lilienthal with Mr. Sutter on hand to facilitate discussion on the role of local officers. A representative of New Labor, which works with immigrant groups, spoke on workers rights and a speaker from the New Jersey Departtment of Labor discussed wage theft law.

“Last year, about 10 cases of wage theft were investigated and rectified through mediation,” said Mr. Sutter. “Increasing awareness leads to increasing reports to the police. We are not necessarily trying to make arrests but rather trying to solve the problem in a positive way. Sometimes these cases can be more complicated than they first appear and they are by no means confined to construction workers, but cross all types of professional lines.”

According to John Heilner, volunteer chair of the HSC subcommittee on immigration issues, victims might be employed by contractors, restaurant owners, landscapers, private residents, or companies who employ immigrants as cleaners or nannies.

Wage Theft

Wage theft is a crime that takes advantage of people with undocumented status. In collaboration with LALDEF, HSC, and New Labor, the PPD has created a new intake process for people to come forward and report it.

The form asks about the nature of the crime being reported, which might be something like: receiving no overtime for a 12 hour day; working 50 hours and being paid for only 30; or being charged a per diem deduction from wages for the use of tools.

“We’ve barely scratched the surface of this problem, which is widespread across the country,” said Mr. Heilner, who points out that a violation of the New Jersey State minimum hourly wage is also wage theft. The state’s minimum wage is currently $8.25 per hour, higher than the federal minimum wage.

Think of a worker who is undocumented. He or she takes on a job for a few days and then an unscrupulous employer withholds wages from someone who may feel unable to demand fair payment because he or she fears that by reporting the “wage theft,” they might fall afoul of immigration law.

The issue came to light when the PPD conducted a Community Survey last year. The Survey revealed that more was needed to reach Princeton’s immigrant population. In spite of going door to door and having the survey available in Spanish and English, the response was poor. Since then, the department has conducted neighborhood meetings, instituted bike patrols, increased foot patrols in the central business district, pursued more directed traffic enforcement, and has initiated several school-based security initiatives.

Building Trust

Last summer’s raid by ICE in Princeton resulted in an atmosphere of mistrust in the immigrant community. “We want residents to know that it was not local law enforcement officers who carried out this raid,” said Ms. Howard.

After the raid, two of Princeton’s Spanish-speaking officers spoke at St. Paul’s on Nassau Street to help calm fears. The PPD has several officers who are bilingual in Spanish and English and the Director of Human Services, Elisa Neira, is also bilingual.

Mr. Heilner points out that persons who believe they have been the victims of wage theft can come to either the Human Services Office at One Monument Drive (the former Borough Hall), the police, or LALDEF. The same intake form will be used by each.

“We are very happy with the way in which the police order drafted by Captain Sutter clarifies that local police officers are there to maintain public safety and enforce local laws not to spend time and resources tracking down the immigrant status of someone who has been here, say, for two decades and working as a family’s bread winner,” said Mr. Heilner.


Following more than a year of planning, maintenance of Princeton’s parks is being consolidated under the Town’s Recreation Department, it was announced at the Princeton Council meeting Monday night. Shifting responsibilities previously shared by the public works and recreation offices to just one department will allow the public easier access when reporting problems, said Ben Stentz, the municipality’s recreation director.

“The most common complaint we have heard from people is that they didn’t know who to call for park issues,” Mr. Stentz said. “With consolidation, it has gotten a little bit simpler, but not that much. We wanted to address this by streamlining communication and creating one-stop shopping.”

The reorganization makes the Recreation Department a clearinghouse for all things related to park maintenance. No new workers will be hired to accommodate the change, but four seasonal workers from public works will be shifted to recreation. Any concerns about park issues should now be reported to, a temporary email address until See Click Fix, an online system for reporting town issues, is put into play. With that system, residents will be able to include a photo of the problem.

“This is a major shift and it will take time to find its groove,” Mr. Stentz said. “I don’t want to sugar-coat this. This is an ambitious plan. It will be continually evaluated.”

Later at the meeting, Mayor Liz Lempert cast a vote to break a tie over whether to hire Trishka W. Cecil to replace Edwin W. Schmierer as municipal attorney. Both Mr. Schmierer and Ms. Cecil work for the Princeton law firm Mason, Griffin & Pierson. Mayor Lempert voted in favor along with Council members Heather Howard, Bernie Miller and Lance Liverman. Voting against the appointment were Jenny Crumiller, Jo Butler, and Patrick Simon.

Ms. Cecil will take over March 1, with a contract that runs through the end of 2014 and does not exceed $375,000. Mr. Schmierer, who was praised at the meeting by Mayor Lempert and members of the public, has been municipal attorney, serving the former Borough and Township, for more than 30 years.

Five proposals were received from firms interested in the job, Ms. Lempert said. Three were interviewed in multiple closed sessions. Before casting his vote against the appointment, Mr. Simon expressed frustration that the Council could not reach a consensus. Ms. Butler echoed that sentiment. “I think a fresh start would have been beneficial,” she said.

Ms. Lempert said she, too, was sorry a consensus could not be reached. “I cast my vote reluctantly [to break the tie],” she said. “But I think the stability and history we have with the firm will serve us well.”

The Council held a preliminary discussion of the town’s budget, the first in a series of talks that will be held through the end of April. The preliminary budget is $59.4 million, which is $950,000 less than last year despite a proposal to build a $1 million storage facility for Public Works equipment and vehicles.

The anticipated budget decrease is due to a reduction in staff from consolidation, said Ms. Lempert. Kathy Monzo, the town’s director of finance, told Council that the goal this year is a flat tax rate. Council will adopt policies for managing debt and surplus at the next meeting on March 10, Ms. Lempert said.

Also at the meeting, Princeton’s administrator Bob Bruschi urged the Council to move forward with the hiring of Captain Nick Sutter as Chief of Police. Mr. Sutter has been in charge of the department since former Chief David Dudeck left in September following charges of harassment in a lawsuit by members of the force.

After Mr. Bruschi outlined the vetting process for Mr. Sutter, which would include a public presentation and an opportunity for members of the police force to offer anonymous comments, Council members debated whether to act on the issue but ultimately took it into closed session.


What does the future hold for Princeton? Chances are, if we don’t take steps now, the answer could well be more time waiting in traffic and pedestrians jostling for space with bicyclists, motorized wheelchairs, and other personal vehicles on Princeton’s busy sidewalks. 

Notice the “we” in that last sentence? The pronoun was used a great deal on Saturday morning at the Princeton Public Library where over 60 concerned citizens turned out to contribute to a discussion on “Traffic and Transit: Issue and Opportunities,” organized by Princeton Future, the grassroots non-profit formed to “protect and enhance Princeton’s unique community and share concerns about the directions future growth and development may take.”

For one speaker the plural pronoun meant pedestrians and bicyclists. For another it meant urban planners and  local government officials. To others, including many in the audience, it meant local residents, commuters going to and from Princeton, parents, teenagers, aged persons with limited mobility, and lovers of good old Shanks’ pony.

Each speaker seemed to represent a different constituency whose interests overlapped and sometimes conflicted. But all of the above were included by someone at some point during the morning’s proceedings in presentations heard in turn from Marvin Reed, Sam Bunting, Ralph Widner, Steven Kruse, and Kevin Wilkes.

Mr. Reed, a former mayor of Princeton Borough, kicked off with “Where Are We Now?” a description of the the “circulation element of the Princeton Master Plan” as updated last November. As chair of the Master Plan Subcommittee of the Princeton Planning Board, Mr. Reed suggested that more parking structures such as the one on Spring Street are most definitely in Princeton’s future.

Walkable Princeton’s Sam Bunting, a member of the Princeton Traffic and Transportation Committee, presented “Complete Streets in Princeton, What, Where, How?”

Complete Streets are defined by urban planners as those planned, designed, operated, and maintained to enable safe, convenient and comfortable travel and access for users of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation, and to allow for safe travel by those walking, bicycling, driving automobiles, riding public transportation, or delivering goods.

Last year, the municipality incorporated complete streets into its Masterplan and hopes to have an implementation plan for complete streets and a bike route network by the end of this year.

“Think of a street as a long park, not just a way to get from point A to point B but a place where people want to walk, to rest, to be in shade. Complete streets calm traffic, accommodate pedestrians, and personal vehicles, and can offer sustainability when concrete is replaced by plantings; they can connect the community to places of historic interest and enhance the entire streetscape,” said Mr. Bunting, a relative newcomer to Princeton. His talk was illustrated with images of the pedestrian and bike path in downtown Indianapolis, known as the “Cultural Trail.”

Deflecting criticism that complete streets can be costly, Mr. Bunting said that in some cases all that is required is paint and besides, “Princeton has a rule that any such costs must be within a 15 percent increase.” He described ways of slowing traffic using painted crossings and curb bump outs. “For Princeton, not one solution is needed, but a menu of options,” he said. For more information about Complete Streets, visit the Pedestrian Joint Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee:

At the end of his talk, Mr. Bunting was asked by audience member and former Mayor of Princeton Township Jim Floyd about Princeton Planning Board’s recent decision to forego speed bumps in favor or other ways of slowing traffic. Mr. Floyd invited Mr. Bunting to take a walk down John Street, which he called “the most unique street in Princeton.” Since the policy against speed humps predates Mr. Bunting’s time, Mr. Lahnston remarked that he believed the decision was made in order to facilitate access for police and fire vehicles, for which speed humps are problematic.

Steve Kruse, also of the Princeton Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee then presented a wish list of bicycling needs in his talk: “Bicycling. What do we need, what do we want?”

A Widner Perspective

Introduced by Mr. Lahnston as “Princeton’s data maven,” regional planner Ralph Widner, a member of both the Traffic and Transportation Committee and of Princeton Future’s council, addressed “Traffic Facts and Possible Transit Strategies.”

Mr. Widner’s data places Princeton in relation to its greater surroundings. Last year, he unveiled “A Statistical Portrait,” a database of data from the 2010 U.S. Census and the 2007-2011 American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census, describing it as “a tool that will help us to argue for what is needed.”

“Goals without strategies are just wish lists and we need to think about implementation,” he said. “The previous presentations have argued eloquently for various ways of making change within Princeton but the problems we face connect to further afield. We must think strategically about all of the groups coming into, going out of, and traveling through Princeton. What is the universe of people we should focus on and how do we persuade them to use public transit rather than the automobile,” he asked.

“Let’s identify the universe of markets that could be served by public transit. Let’s talk to them and find out what they will and will not use. They’ll tell you they don’t want to change two or three times on a single journey. Then we can design a system that might include light rail, jitneys, taxis. Don’t start with the tools, start with people.”

As Mr. Widner points out, Princeton’s problems are not confined to the municipal boundary. “With some 180,000 vehicle trips passing through Princeton every day, traffic and ways to transplant auto travel with mass transit must be the focus for the next decade,” he said.

ASUP Task Force

Lastly, architect Kevin Wilkes, chair of the Alexander Street-University Place Task Force (ASUP), offered a detailed presentation of traffic and transit in the Alexander Street Corridor, including suggested changes in traffic patterns. The Task Force, he said, had looked and examined the benefits and drawbacks of options for a one-way loop on Alexander and University Place. It had also addressed the feasibility of ideas such as turning Witherspoon Street into a pedestrian precinct.

Mr. Wilkes pointed out as well that all of the event’s presentations had been made by volunteers. “The municipality doesn’t have an office to do this,” he said. “Our planning board can write documents for people who want to build and can create a desire for future change but it doesn’t have the resources to implement these designs. What we need is a planning office so that these responsibilities do not fall to community volunteers.

“Kevin hit the nail on the head,” commented Mr. Widner in a brief telephone interview Monday. “There is currently no effective way for the municipality to plan for the future. The planning committee can only react. What we need is to be able to look ahead and make predictions and for that data are required.”

Princeton Future

“Like most municipalities, we are underpowered in terms of people and resources,” said Mr. Widner. “The problem is how to make things really happen. Most small municipalities are dealing with this and there is an effort through the Central New Jersey Forum of mayors to deal with this. But, of course, one of the major problems is the dysfunction in Trenton, and I’m not simply referring to the current administration but to the refusal of the state to invest. New Jersey cannot be the major transit corridor for the United States and not invest in infrastructure.

When a member of the audience suggested that funds for some of the suggested improvements might come from raising the gas tax, there was a spontaneous round of applause. “But no one in Trenton right now would touch such a tax. And that’s why it’s time for transformational change,” said Mr. Widner. “Princeton Future and other such groups are a way to build change from the bottom up but what is needed is transformational change and we are not going to get it from the government in Trenton.”

For more information, visit:



Members of the Princeton Day School boys’ hockey team celebrate after defeating Morristown-Beard 4-3 last week in the state Prep championship game at McGraw Rink. It was the first outright Prep title since 2011 for PDS, which shared the crown with Mo-Beard last year after the teams skated to a 2-2 tie in the title game. For more details on the game, see page 32. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)


February 19, 2014

Princeton High School’s jazz ensembles are used to winning awards. The nearly 150 students who participate in the school’s band program have been recognized over the years at the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston.

But at this year’s 46th annual festival on February 8, held in front of some 5,000 people at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center, PHS musicians outdid themselves. They nabbed first place in three categories: Large Ensemble, Small Ensemble, and Vocal Jazz.

“This is the first time ever in the history of the festival that the same school has won first place in all three categories,” said Joe Bongiovi, PHS’s band director. “It’s the fifth year we’ve won for Large Ensemble. For Small Ensemble and Vocal Jazz, it’s our first win (in first place). And it’s the first time our combo has won; we’ve been second or third before.”

The eight singers and four instrumentalists in the Vocal Ensemble ranked fifth last year, said Mr. Bongiovi, who also directs the Philadelphia Jazz Orchestra. To make the jump to first place this year, the group performed jazz arrangements of three songs. “One was a Beyonce tune, ‘Crazy in Love,’ in twenties or thirties jazz style,” he said. “Then they did an a cappella version of an Adele song, her cover of The Cure’s ‘Love Song. Last was a jazz standard, ‘I Want to be Happy.’”

Five of the students were also recognized for their individual efforts: Joe Bell, Aditya Raguram, Michelle Bazile, Katherine Gerberich, and Ananth Balasubramanian.

It is the broad nature of jazz that makes it so appealing to students, Mr. Bongiovi believes. “The nice thing about jazz is that it covers so many different styles,” he said. “We’ve infused pop into it. We’ll do a lot of Michael Jackson songs with the band, for example. The instrumentations and arrangements really allow us to do so many different things. And the kids see a timeline of how it’s all connected.”

Mr. Bongiovi, who is a distant relative of rocker Jon Bon Jovi, encourages his students to study classical music. “Most of them take private lessons. Some of them go to Westminster Conservatory or have independent private teachers,” he said. “It’s really important. We apply the techniques they learn to what we’re doing.”

The festival, billed as the biggest event of its kind in the United States, is staged by the Berklee College of Music, the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world. Professors from the college serve as judges for the more than 200 schools that participate.

Mr. Bongiovi has been taking students to the festival for years. For chaperone duties, he always invites music teachers from local elementary and middle schools because of their enduring relationships with the students.

“It’s funny. Unlike English or math class where you see these kids one year and you’re done, the music teachers see them year after year after year,” he said. “The connection is really great, because we know them as people, not just as students. So this year, we had teachers from Littlebrook, Riverside, Community Park, John Witherspoon, and Cranbury schools come along. Everyone was proud.”


Prison reform is no easy matter. Prisons are overcrowded and understaffed. When it comes to education, described by Cornel West as “probably the best thing we can do for people who are in prison,” resources are scarce.

But one program, founded here in Princeton, the Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program, is tackling some of the problems head on, one inmate at a time, with the help of Princeton University (PU) students who tutor prisoners to gain their GEDs and high school diplomas.

“You don’t have to go as far as Africa or to the Middle East to give back,” the program’s executive director Jim Farrin routinely tells participating students. “You can go 35 miles away to a prison where people are in desperate need of contact and further education.”

Students like PU Senior Grace Li, who has been a program tutor for three years, provide one-on-one help in reading, writing, and math. A public policies student at the Woodrow Wilson School, Ms. Li said that the experience of working with inmates has drawn her to a career in criminal justice and prison reform. “This program has changed my world view,” said Ms. Li, “I have come to understand how mass incarceration has effects on economics, politics, and the racial relationships in this country.”

Other students speak not only about the benefits of the program for those it serves, but also of the benefits they receive. “I was able to help those who needed it most and also learned a lot about the criminal justice system and criminals in America,” commented Dan Kowalaski (Class of 2012). “One of the most rewarding things in the program was that I was able to see outside of Princeton and get entirely new perspectives on life.”

Henry Barmeier (Class of 2010 and a Rhodes Scholar) had a similar experience. “The most incredible part of the program was how it brought me into a world so close to home and yet so foreign…. I learned a tremendous amount in a very short time about the nature of incarceration in New Jersey and about the challenges and opportunities for prison education and re-entry programs,” he is quoted as saying on the program’s website.

But it’s not just university students who participate in this effort. Local taxi driver Frenel Cide, originally from Haiti, shuttles students to and from the A.C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility in Bordentown, about seven miles south of Trenton, and the Princeton campus each day, starting at 7:15 a.m. Department of Corrections Special Officer Mike Ritter, who also takes part in the program, is a staunch advocate of expanding literacy programs in prison.

According to Mr. Farrin, the United States has 2.3 million people in prison and many are imprisoned for longer periods than those convicted of similar crimes in Canada or the U.K. “About fifty-three percent of those incarcerated in our area are inside for non-violent crimes; many for drugs or drug related offenses,” he said

Many are around the same age as their student mentors. “These are young people just like me,” said one PU student. “It can be tough to persuade an inmate that you are there simply because you want to make a difference, to help them,” acknowledged another. “One thing I learned is how to teach.” said a third.

“This has been my most rewarding extra-curricular experience at Princeton,” said Clare Herceg (Class of 2011), who describes the program as “an amazing opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of those who society often neglects.”

According to Ms. Herceg, “each visit to the prison not only allows tutors to improve the educational skills of the inmates, but also gives students the opportunity to show the inmates that people outside of the prison system care about them as human beings and believe in their ability to succeed. This experience has transformed my perceptions of the criminal justice system, educational inequalities, and issues surrounding poverty.”

“You see, this is a win-win-win program,” said Mr. Farrin. “It helps prisons by providing free tutors, it helps inmates further their education, which has been shown to effectively reduce recidivism, and it helps students, many of whom are choosing careers in criminal justice and becoming advocates of prison reform.”

Before the program took students into prisons, it researched to see if there were any similar programs out there, using college students to provide assistance to prison inmates. “We had the Rockefeller Philanthropic Advisors research this area and there was virtually nothing that involved students going to prisons near their colleges,” said founder Charlie Puttkammer. “We believe that correctional education is one of the most effective interventions in reducing recidivism and increasing employment opportunities.”

Cognizant of the potential dangers of taking young students, used to the “orange bubble” that is the Princeton University campus, into prisons, the program advises students about appropriate behavior on both sides. They are advised about what clothes to wear, not to take cell phones into prison, and never to give out personal information such as emails or addresses. When they enter the prison, they are divested of personal belongings including ID materials.

“Petey” Greene (1931-1984)

In 1960, Mr. Greene was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to ten years in Fairfax County, Virginia. Inside, he became the prison disc jockey and a role model for many inmates. He overcame drug addiction and incarceration to become one of the most notable media personalities in Washington, D.C. The actor Don Cheadle portrayed him in the 2007 film Talk to Me. 

The Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program was founded in 2007 by Mr. Greene’s close friend and mentor, Mr. Putkammer, as a non-profit dedicated to changing the state of education in America’s correctional facilities.

To this end, it recruits, trains, and transports college students and community members to local correctional facilities where they serve as volunteer tutors and teachers.

What started with a handful of volunteers at Princeton University has grown to include over 300 volunteer tutors from six universities who serve five New Jersey correctional facilities. Inmates who receive tutoring complete the GED with a 90 percent passing rate. “We hope to expand nationally in the next several years,” said Mr. Farrin, “and ultimately, through our programs, to revolutionize the state of prison education.” The goal is create a partnership with prison administrators and educators to help inmates prepare for life outside of prison.

The Petey Greene Prisoner Assistance Program is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. For more information please visit:


Many sites throughout Mercer County will offer free income tax preparation assistance to help residents prepare and file their 2013 taxes. Service is offered at most sites from early February through mid-April unless otherwise noted.

The AARP Foundation provides Tax-Aides to assist people with low to moderate incomes with 2013 tax preparation at Mercer County Connection, libraries, and other sites. Local sites include Nassau Presbyterian Church, Princeton Public Library, Princeton Senior Resource Center, and West Windsor Senior Center. For additional sites and more information, visit

The IRS VITA Program generally offers free tax help to people who make $50,000 or less and need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals in local communities.

For more information, visit or


Families and young children can take part in two upcoming events at the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association. “Insects in Winter for Preschoolers” is Tuesday, February 25 at 10 a.m. and Wednesday, February 26 at 1 p.m. On Saturday, March 1 at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., “Maple Sugar Memories” will be held. Both programs will take place at the Watershed’s Kingsford Community Room.

Registration is required for the February events and recommended for the March program. The price is $10 per child for members, $15 non-members, for the “Insects in Winter.” For “Maple Sugar Memories,” the cost is $10 per family for members; $15 non-members.

The Watershed is located at 31 Titus Mill Road in Hopewell Township. Call (609) 737-7592 for more information.

Between the mountains of plowed snow, the potholes that have made roads an obstacle course, and the icy patches on streets and sidewalks, Princeton residents have had just about enough of the winter of 2014. So has Bob Hough, the town’s director of Infrastructure and Operations. Working in conjunction with police and emergency management, Mr. Hough has been coordinating clean-up efforts since the first storm brought down trees and power lines and dumped several inches of snow on Princeton a few weeks ago.

Mr. Hough’s biggest concern can be summed up in one word: Salt. “The lack of it is a huge problem, not just here but throughout the state,” he said Tuesday morning. “We’ve had our request into our supplier for weeks. But this year, the continuous flow we’re used to has not occurred. As our supply goes down, we typically would be refilled. But they have not been able to supply us.”

Another challenge is deciding where to put the snow that is plowed. “We’ve been doing a bit of hauling in some areas, but the storm a few weeks ago took down trees and power lines, so the crew had to deal with that as opposed to moving a lot of snow,” he said. “We lost a lot of man-hours because of that. But we’re working on it.”

There are growing piles of snow in parking lots all over town. “In some of the cases where these mountains are taking up valuable parking spots, we’ll have some people delegated to moving that snow,” Mr. Hough said. The snow is trucked out to the municipality’s site on River Road, where it is piled up to melt.

The department has moved snow on streets and in lots where it has compromised safety. “This morning, we did some roads near and around the high school area, because that was a nightmare yesterday,” Mr. Hough said. “Places like senior housing and schools are critical. In addition to being able to get kids in and out of the schools, we have to be able to get in there if anything were to happen. We have to look at the global picture.”

Mr. Hough urges people who have plows or hire landscaping companies to be careful about where they dump plowed snow. “If it gets plowed into the street, that causes a tremendous problem,” he said. “We’ve been going around, talking to several of the local landscapers, saying we understand they have to do their jobs but asking them to be more aware of where they are placing snow in the street.”

While the storms earlier this winter caused major damage to trees and power lines, the more recent ones, including the few inches of snow on Tuesday morning, have not. “The damage incurred after the heavy snowstorm and the ice storm that followed was relatively significant in the town,” said Greg O’Neil, Princeton’s Municipal Arborist. Speaking during a break from plowing on Drake’s Corner Road Tuesday morning, Mr. O’Neil said that while there was a lot of breakage and uprooting of trees, it wasn’t nearly as bad as during Superstorm Sandy.

Residents can minimize damage from future winter storms by keeping their trees healthy. “Have a professional arborist come by on an annual basis to evaluate your trees,” Mr. O’Neil said. “They can determine if there are structural flaws, pruning needs, that sort of thing. And it makes a difference.”

Potholes continue to be a major problem in and around Princeton. “It’s bad across the state,” Mr. Hough said. “And it’s a priority. But we can’t keep the potholes dry long enough to do any real filling at this point. The staff has been taxed dealing with snow issues, and they need to get some rest. We do have a running, growing list of potholes and, hopefully, by the end of this week, we can get out and go through them. We’ll start with the main roads and work our way out from there.”

Mayor Liz Lempert admitted to some frustration with the weather but praised public works crews for their efforts. “With all the snow, there’s just not enough room for parked cars, traffic, and sidewalks,” she said Monday. “But we’re doing what we can. Our public works crews have been working extremely hard, often without breaks because of the relentlessness of the storms. They and the police have been doing a great job. The recreation department has pitched in as well, doing some of the work that in previous years the public works department used to do. I think people have been rising to the occasion.”


Princeton and other area residents who may have noticed changes in the taste of their tap water recently should not worry. Any chlorine taste reflects a switch made at the end of January from one chlorine additive to another and is part of New Jersey American Water’s annual pipeline maintenance program.

According to a statement from New Jersey American Water (NJAW), “free chlorine” was added to replace chloramine, a combination of ammonia and chlorine, at the Raritan-Millstone and Canal Road surface water treatment plants. Both methods of disinfection are approved by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.

“Free chlorine” refers to both hypochlorous acid (HOCl) and the hypochlorite (OClР) ion or bleach, and is commonly added to water systems for disinfection purposes.

The change began in late January and is expected to last through March.

“The free chlorine helps to take away some of the byproducts of the chloramines disinfectant,” said Richard G. Barnes, external affairs manager. The process is expected to take about two months.

In addition to Princeton, Kingston, Lawrence, Montgomery, and Plainsboro, the change has affected numerous municipalities throughout the area: from Bedminster to Cranbury, Flemington to Millstone, and Somerville to South Brunswick.

According to the water company it’s not unusual for customers to notice an increase in the taste and smell of chlorine in their water at such times. Water quality will be monitored “to ensure that it meets or exceeds federal and state drinking water standards.”

“When we transition the disinfection process from chloramines to chlorine, some customers may notice an increase in the taste and smell of chlorine in the water. This will only be temporary while we complete this annual system maintenance. The water is safe to drink,” states NJAW.

The annual change in disinfectant is a standard water treatment practice. “We perform this distribution system maintenance program every year as an added measure to further disinfect the pipelines in our distribution system. It also allows us to perform necessary maintenance on our chemical feed systems.”

If chlorine is not to your taste, the company makes several suggestions to remove it, such as placing water in an uncovered glass container in the refrigerator overnight, so as to allow the chlorine to dissipate. Another technique is to boil your water. A rolling boil for five minutes is recommended. If the water is then cooled, it should no longer taste or smell of chlorine. Adding a lemon slice or a few drops of lemon juice to a glass of drinking water, is another suggestion from the company.

In March, NJAW will change back back to chloramines. For updates and more information, visit:


While they may be a source of joy for school children, snow days are less appreciated by grown ups. It’s pretty safe to say that most Princeton parents and educators dread such weather-related interruptions to the school year.

Recent storms have forced the Princeton Board of Education to take a close look at the school calendar and make some changes.

As a result, the district brought students to the classroom last Friday, February 14, which was originally intended as a staff development day and again on Monday, February 17, when schools would normally have been closed for President’s Day. The YM/YWCA provided after school programs on both days.

According to Lewis Goldstein, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources, there have been six snow days so far this winter. In addition to the making up for lost classroom time on February 14 and 17, this means that four days will be added to the end of the school year.

When asked about the impact of snow days on student learning, Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane’s first response was to offer praise for all of the people who have helped minimize the number of weather-related cancellations. “Everyone focuses on closures, understandably, but I am so grateful to so many people and groups who have helped our schools stay open,” he said. “Our facilities crew and the Department of Public Works (DPW) did a fantastic job of making it possible for us to get into the schools. We also had a number of days with delayed openings and it’s thanks to a lot of people as well as the associations of teachers and staff who helped us figure out how to maximize learning for our students.”

Mr. Cochrane, who took up his post just this January, also quipped that he had spent a great deal more time than he expected looking at The Weather Channel.

In consultation with district staff, Mr. Cochrane determined that making up lost snow days earlier in the school year would be in the best educational interests of Princeton’s students. “By being able to teach on days early in the year, we have a better chance of avoiding possible scheduling conflicts for families who have already made plans for trips based on the school calendar that was set some time ago. We have already added several days to the end of the school year.”

School calendars are usually determined one or two years in advance and the 2013-14 school year was approved by the Board of Education in the spring of 2012. As is customary, it included a contingency of five “make up” days for lost school days due to weather emergencies. Three days could be added to the end of the school year and two would be taken off the number allocated for spring break.

Turning former closed dates into school days requires not only the cooperation of teachers and staff, but the consideration of numerous other issues such as transportation and food services. “This weather has an impact on everyone, families, teachers, food professionals bus drivers, staff, and students,” said Mr. Cochrane. “I have been so impressed by the support provided by the school board and from the community. The Princeton Police Department has been incredible. Student safety is always our first priority and apart from one incident when a school bus slid off the road, in which no one was injured, we have been very lucky.”

The state Department of Education (DoE) requires that school districts provide 180-days of instruction per year, but this requirement can be waived under certain circumstances. Since the DoE did not shorten the school year after Superstorm Sandy, it is thought unlikely that it will do so because of this year’s winter weather.

Changes brought about by the recent weather emergencies will affect Princeton’s kindergarten registration and elementary school moving on ceremonies, which will be rescheduled by school principals.

At present, the John Witherspoon Middle School Eighth Grade Promotion Ceremony is scheduled to take place as originally planned on Thursday, June 12 in Richardson Auditorium of Alexander Hall at Princeton University. The PHS Graduation will take place on the last day of school.

Standardized test dates for NJASK, HSPA, AP will not be affected.

Asked if there was a limit to how many days could be added to the end of the school year, Mr. Cochrane said that June 30 would be the cut off point, since that’s when teachers’ contracts end. “But this is uncharted territory for me as it is for all of us across the state,” he added.

“We use the school’s website to communicate with our parents as often and as accurately as we can as to what is happening,” said the superintendent. According to the website, if more snow days or other emergency closings keep kids out of the classroom, the Board of Education could add two further dates in June for instruction and even consider having school on Memorial Day, pending agreements with teacher and staff our associations and “the resolution of other logistical issues.”

For information or questions about changes to the school calendar, visit the home page of Princeton Public Schools:



This Battle Road snow man is fed up. Enough is enough. Even his favorite poem, “The Snow Man” by Wallace Stevens, can’t say it. Anyway, he’s never understood going from “a mind of winter” to “nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” Or maybe the poem is saying that a week from now, this snow man will be nothing and his signs will mean nothing — until another winter. (Photo by Linda Arntzenius)

February 12, 2014
MOVING TO THE FARM: It won’t happen for two years, but the Historical Society of Princeton is headed for its more rural headquarters on Quaker Road, leaving the fate of Bainbridge House, shown here, to be determined by its owner, Princeton University.

MOVING TO THE FARM: It won’t happen for two years, but the Historical Society of Princeton is headed for its more rural headquarters on Quaker Road, leaving the fate of Bainbridge House, shown here, to be determined by its owner, Princeton University.

Bainbridge House, the Nassau Street home of the Historical Society of Princeton (HSP) since 1967, will be vacated by the organization by the end of next year. The HSP made the official announcement at its annual meeting last week.

The Society will move all of its operations to Updike Farmstead on Quaker Road, purchased from the estate of Stanley Updike a decade ago. The future plans for Bainbridge House, which is owned by Princeton University, have yet to be determined. In the meantime, programming will continue at both locations.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Erin Dougherty, the HSP’s executive director. “Since we purchased the farm back in 2004, we have spent time renovating, putting up exhibitions, and doing programming. We’re now ready to make that leap, which will happen in two years.”

An official at Princeton University, to which the HSP has paid rent of one dollar a year, said last week that while no decision has been made on what to do with Bainbridge House, the exterior will be preserved because the property is part of the Historic Princeton Downtown District. “I think we learned about it just a few weeks ago, so we don’t have a plan yet,” said University Vice President Bob Durkee. “From the outside, it will continue to look like it does now. We’ll have to figure out what kind of renovations will be done on the inside depending on what we use it for. They said they expect to be out by the end of 2015, so we have time to think about it.”

According to the HSP website, Bainbridge House was built in 1766 by Job Stockton, a prosperous tanner and cousin of Richard Stockton, signer of the Declaration of Independence. The building is considered one of the finest surviving examples of Georgian architecture in the area. It was the birthplace of William Bainbridge, a hero of the War of 1812.

In 1783, the house provided accommodations for the Continental Congress. It has also served over the years as a boarding house for University students and was the home of Princeton Public Library. The exterior was restored by the HSP in 1969 to its original 18th century appearance. Nearly 70 percent of the original interior woodwork remains, as does most of the original structure. The building was completely renovated from 1991 to 1992 to make it safe, secure, and accessible.

Bainbridge House has served as an information center for the Society’s programs, as well as an exhibition space and library housing historical information and photographic archives. All of these functions will be moved to Updike Farmstead.

The six-acre Updike Farmstead includes a late 18th century/early 19th century farmhouse, a large barn built in 1892, wagon shed, corn crib, three-bay garage, garden sheds, and chicken coops. The site is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places and lies within the Princeton Battlefield/Stony Brook Settlement Historic District. It is along the route followed by Continental troops on their way to engage British soldiers at the battlefield. Brother and sister Stanley and Sarah Updike lived on six acres of the property until their deaths in 2002.

“Bainbridge House was our first permanent home,” said Ms. Dougherty. “We have taken care of it. This was a big decision for us, and now we’re on our way. We love the farm and the whole flexibility of the site, its beauty, and the history built in. It’s just second to none.”


After more than four decades of absence, the United States Navy will return to the Princeton campus this fall. A new crosstown agreement between the Navy, Rutgers, and Princeton, will revive the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) program that left the university in 1971 after being established there in 1945.

The move represents a resurgence of military training on Ivy League campuses. In 1971 The Navy and Air Force discontinued their programs at Princeton, while the Army chose to stay on and entered into a contract with the University in 1972.

“In 1980 we established a crosstown agreement between Princeton, the Air Force, and Rutgers University,” said Princeton University spokesperson Martin Mbugwa, who noted that a large number of alumni who participated in the Navy ROTC program at Princeton had been encouraging the University to bring it back “in order to give this generation of students a similar opportunity.”

With the re-establishment of the NROTC program, students will have the opportunity to earn a commission in any of the three services: U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Army,” said Mr. Mbugwa.

The NROTC Unit at Rutgers, established in March 2012, was the first NROTC Program in New Jersey in over 40 years.

NROTC spokesperson Lt. Matthew Comer explained that the long absence of the Navy training program stems from the Vietnam era when some of the partnerships between the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps and colleges and universities were dissolved. “After the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address, many Ivy League universities have once again partnered with the Navy and Marine Corps to educate and commission the future leaders of our military,” he said.

“The Navy has been working with Princeton University throughout the past year to mutually reestablish a Naval ROTC presence at Princeton,” said Lt. Comer. “We are excited at this opportunity, which will be beneficial for both Princeton and the Navy and Marine Corps. Our troops come from every corner of this country: they are black, white, Latino, Asian and Native American. They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim. And, yes, we know that some of them are gay,” he said.

This fall, students enrolled at Princeton will be able participate in the NROTC college-option program currently being offered at Rutgers. Active duty Navy and Marine Corps instructors will teach Princeton students seeking a commission in the naval service who will be eligible for two or three-year scholarships. For high school students who have already applied to Princeton for the fall semester, applications for four-year NROTC scholarships are due February 15. The program presently pays full tuition and fees for all midshipmen with NROTC scholarships.

“We are very pleased to be able to provide our students with the opportunity to participate in Naval ROTC,” said Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “I have heard from many alumni about how important this program was in their lives. I am glad that this generation of students will have access to the kinds of training that the program provides and to the kinds of leadership positions for which it will prepare them.”

“My staff and I at NROTC Unit Rutgers are delighted to integrate Princeton into our program,” said Commanding Officer Captain Philip Roos of the NROTC at Rutgers University on Monday. “Training and preparing young men and women for naval service as commissioned officers in either the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps is tremendously rewarding and we’re ecstatic about expanding this opportunity with Princeton students who wish to serve. We’re really looking forward to working together with Rutgers and Princeton on building a cohesive battalion of midshipmen that brings the best from both schools and I really feel honored and privileged to command this program during such a historic occasion.”

The NROTC has recently re-established a presence at Harvard University (2011), Yale University (2012), and Columbia University (2013). There is also an NROTC program at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Princeton University also offers an Army ROTC in addition to a separate Air Force ROTC program run in partnership with Rutgers. Princeton has offered the Army ROTC program since 1919. For program information and to apply for an NROTC scholarship, visit:


Economic development in Mercer County, capitalizing on Mercer’s competitive advantage and attracting and growing the workforce will be the focus of the Ninth Annual Mercer County Economic Summit on Thursday, February 27 at the Conference Center at Mercer County Community College.

The Summit will feature Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes delivering his “Mercer County Economic Development Report” while the keynote address will be delivered by Christopher A. Sims, 2011 Nobel Laureate in Economics for his theories of macroeconomics and reality. He is currently the John F. Sherrerd ’52 University Professor of Economics at Princeton University; he was awarded the prize during his tenure at Princeton.

Mr. Sims will provide a macro view of the national economy and its impact on the business community in the Princeton Region.

For the fourth year, Herb Taylor, vice president and corporate secretary of the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia will be returning to give national and local economic updates. He will provide another perspective on the regional and statewide economy. In addition to the addresses, a panel will discuss how businesses can attract and grow their workforces. Kevin Cummings, of Investors Bank; Kristen Ballinger, of Otsuka; Sharon Marnien, of Sparta Systems; and Scott Needham of Princeton Air Conditioning will share success stories of attracting and retaining employees and their families, including working with generational and cultural differences.

The Economic Summit will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. on February 27 at the Conference Center at Mercer County Community College. Tickets and sponsorship packages are available. For more information, call Cheri Durst, director of events at (609) 924-1776, ext. 105, cheri@princeton or visit

The Princeton Area Community Foundation (PACF), the community foundation serving central New Jersey, has awarded $460,000 in competitive grants to local nonprofit organizations that build social capital and provide opportunities to low-income individuals and families.

The grants, supporting organizations that create shared will and networks to tackle community problems, target greater Mercer County through the “Greater Mercer Grants,” the Community Foundation’s signature program.

“These grants are made possible through generous community members — individuals, corporations and foundations — who come together to support the well being of our region and its most vulnerable citizens,” explained Nancy Kieling, Community Foundation president.

One grant category supports low-income individuals and families, focusing on programs and organizations working to make a sustainable difference in the lives of community members in need. “We support specific programs in food, shelter, education, youth development and other services, as well as unrestricted support for well-run, robust organizations that focus on the needs of Mercer County residents,” said Kieling.

The second category helps build the region’s social capital through increasing the strength and cohesiveness of communities, in line with the Community Foundation’s objective to bridge the divide across geographic and cultural boundaries.

“We believe that building communities with strong, diverse relationships will help us begin to solve the big problems we share,” Kieling said. “As neighborhoods are strengthened, we gain the power to tackle the big issues of unmet needs and imbalances of opportunity. As people and groups develop real, sustainable relationships across towns and cultural/economic barriers, we can share our strengths and resources and collaborate on our region’s shared opportunity.”

The grants are as follows: CASA of Mercer County ($25,000); HiTOPS ($25,000); The Intersect Fund ($25,000); NAMI Mercer ($20,000); New Jersey Agricultural Society’s Farmers Against Hunger program($20,000); Progressive Center for Independent Living ($25,000); Rescue Mission of Trenton(20,000); UIH Family Partners ($25,000); Urban Promise Trenton ($25,000); Artworks Trenton ($35,000); CityWorks ($40,000); Isles, Inc. ($50,000); Trenton Area Stakeholders, Mill Hill Child & Family Development Center as fiscal sponsor ($25,000); People & Stories/Gente y Cuentos ($25,000);VolunteerConnect ($25,000); Homefront ($15,000); Interfaith Caregivers of Greater Mercer County ($25,000); YMCA Trenton ($10,000).

The Community Foundation collaborates with the Harbourton Foundation, NRG Energy, and charitable funds established at the Foundation by individuals and families to support this signature program, including: Tristan Beplat Fund, Blair Family Fund, Charles L. and Ann Lee Brown Fund, James E. & Diane W. Burke Fund, Judith and William Burks Fund, Jane M. Campbell Fund, Esther Y. Eure Fund, Archer & Thomas Harvey Fund, Robert Wood Johnson Jr. Fund, Kuser Arts Fund, LVC Fund, Princeton Youth Fund, Leroy E. “Brick” Purvis Charitable Fund, Barbara B. Smoyer Memorial Fund, Marjorie R. Smoyer Fund, Stanley C. Smoyer Fund, Speir Fund, Frank E. Taplin Jr. Fund, Weymar Fund, Whitehead Fund, Willy N. Fund; and advised funds including: Jim and Jean Davidson Fund, Norman and Nancy Klath Fund, McAlpin Fund, Russo Philanthropic Fund, Thomas Fund, Reichelderfer-Blair Fund, and the Myra and Van Zandt Williams Jr. Fund.

For more information, visit:


A bail hearing for Thomas J. Curran, 55, of Ewing, was held in Mercer County Superior Court, Friday. Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier maintained bail for Mr. Curran at $250,000 and ordered that he is to have no contact with his alleged 11-year-old victim or any other child under the age of 16.

Mr. Curran is charged with sexually assaulting the boy in the victim’s West Windsor home where Mr. Curran was providing after-school care. He is alleged to have engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with the boy on numerous occasions between April and June 2013 and is charged with one count of first-degree aggravated sexual assault, one count of second-degree sexual assault, and one count of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.

A 2000 report in a Lehigh Valley Newspaper ( at the time of Mr. Curran’s appointment as middle school director of the Swain School in Salisbury Township, stated that the teacher and administrator had worked in independent schools in Georgia and New Jersey.

The article stated that Mr. Curran previously served as “middle school head of the Episcopal Day School, Augusta, Ga.; science and health teacher at Morristown-Beard and Pennington schools in New Jersey, and adjunct professor of anatomy and physiology at Bellarmine College, Louisville, Ky.”

The Pennington School confirmed yesterday that Mr. Curran was employed as a teacher there from 1991 to 1996.

The fact that Mr. Curran also formerly served as dean of students and science teacher at the American Boychoir School (ABS) has raised the past specter of that school’s history (previously covered in Town Topics, including:

Acting president of the American Boychoir School Robert D’Avanzo was asked for comment yesterday and issued the following official statement: “While extremely disturbing, the allegations associated with Mr. Curran’s arrest are not in any way related to American Boychoir School. Mr. Curran was employed as Dean of Students at American Boychoir School from August 2011 until June 2012 when he left for reasons unrelated to the issues currently under investigation. We have not been contacted or involved in this  investigation. At American Boychoir School, student welfare is our highest priority and the school is committed to a comprehensive child abuse prevention program.”

Since 1937, The American Boychoir School has offered boys from across the United States and around the world the opportunity to sing in what is known as the nation’s premier professional boychoir. More information on the school’s child abuse prevention program can be viewed at:

In 2002, the New York Times detailed previous sexual abuse cases that took place at the school in the 1970s, 1980s, and into the late 1990s. In 2006, Richard Codey signed a bill into New Jersey law making New Jersey the 48th state to allow victims of childhood sex abuse to sue churches, schools, and other non-profit organizations for the actions of their staff.

Mr. Curran was found and arrested in Woodstock, Ga., by the U.S. Marshals NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force and the Georgia Regional Fugitive Task Force. He was taken back to New Jersey by detectives from the prosecutor’s office and the West Windsor police after signing a waiver of extradition. His appearance in court Friday was by video from the Mercer County Correction Center. He commented that he hopes for a “speedy trial.”

The investigation is still in its early stages and, according to Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Downing, it is anticipated that other victims will come forward. Anyone with information regarding the case is asked to contact Detective Anthony Petracca of the county prosecutor’s office Special Victims Unit at (609) 989-6424 or