March 13, 2013

Meeting in open session last week in the cafeteria at the John Witherspoon Middle School (JWMS), The Princeton Public Schools Board of Education adopted a tentative schools budget for the 2013-14 school year and rejected a plan for the Valley Road School building.

The $84,248,261 budget reflects an increase in overall spending of just over 2 percent compared to last year, requiring $70,320,054 to be raised from taxes. It is expected to result in a tax hike of $148.59 for an average Princeton home assessed at $799,600.

The budget takes into account increased costs to the school district of utilities and employee health benefits. According to Finance Committee Chair Dan Haughton there will be no job cuts or cuts to school programs.

In creating the budget, the district used 2013-14 state aid figures. Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Wilson noted the loss of some $87,000 in federal funding because of sequestration. She called the amount “significant in a very tight budget.”

The budget now goes to the Executive County Superintendent of Schools for approval. A public hearing is set to place at 8 p.m. on March 21 in the JWMS cafeteria.

In spite of the 9 to 1 vote by the Board against their proposal to turn the Valley Road School building into a Community Center that would serve as a hub for area non-profits, advocates for the plan say they will not give up on their goal.

The Board adopted a seven-page resolution rejecting the 208-page proposal from the Valley Road School Adaptive Reuse Committee.

The meeting was attended by Kip Cherry, president of the Valley Road School Community Center, Inc, the 501c3 non-profit formed by the Valley Road Adaptive Re-Use Committee, and by supporter John Clearwater, a former member of the Board of Education in the 1990s and one time Board president.

Ms. Cherry urged the Board to table or delay the vote on their resolution in response to the proposal. Dan Haughton, the only Board member to vote against the resolution rejecting the proposal, supported Ms. Cherry’s request.

But in spite of Ms. Cherry’s plea, the board voted to reject the proposal, citing the Committee’s failure to provide “credible, documented assurances that it has or can secure funding adequate for the extremely extensive” building renovations. According to a consultant hired by the district, some $10.8 million would be required to renovate the building.

Another thorny issue was zoning. The committee had asked that the district be responsible for seeking the necessary zoning changes for the building’s re-use as a community center.

According to Mr. Clearwater, the group will submit an amended or a new plan.

“It’s not over,” said Mr. Clearwater, whose background is in planning, engineering, construction, and public works.

Interviewed by telephone some days after the Board’s rejection of the plan, Mr. Clearwater said that there would be more discussions and further submissions to the Board of Education. “If the Board gets responsive answers about parking and zoning then we should be able to move forward,” he said.

“Parking is a problem in this area that I call the ‘Valley Road complex,’ a resource that has been underused for generations,” said Mr. Clearwater, who stated that he would be happy to serve on the consolidated Princeton committee that has been formed to address parking issues in Princeton where there is an increasing demand for space.

“We see this building as a community facility not simply as Board of Education-owned and this is a test-case for a whole new normal of how we deal with the stewardship of public property in Princeton,” said Mr. Clearwater. “We have many underutilized buildings including the ‘Taj Mahal’ of the new Township Building. Public real-estate is a publicly owned asset. It’s use has an impact on the public purse.”

Former mayor of Princeton Township Richard Woodbridge, a staunch advocate for the Community Center plan, could not attend last week’s meeting. He commented by telephone: “I am not at all discouraged. In fact, I think we’ve made some progress in that the Board has more specifically outlined its concerns. I don’t think it has thrown out the idea of working with us. From what I’ve learned from other towns like Chatham, school boards have great separation anxieties with their old buildings. It’s a question of patience and trying to get people to work together in the same direction. Everybody should agree that the building left vacant is not doing any good, and it could be. Corner House and the Rescue Squad have dropped by the wayside and I believe that we are the only viable alternative.”

Currently, the Board of Education has no other proposals for the building, although a task force led by Fire Commissioner Lance Liverman is looking into the needs of the firehouse nearby on Witherspoon Street. The building houses Princeton Public Schools offices, and tenants Corner House and Princeton Community Television. Corner House, plans to move to the old Borough Hall at the end of April. Princeton Community Television has been offered space there too.

The school board has not ruled out using the building for educational purposes.

“This is not an exercise in instant gratification; we expect to work and work until this is done,” said Mr. Woodbridge.

When Princeton Council next convenes on April 1, an ordinance designed to make the town more environmentally sustainable is likely to be adopted. The Green Development Information Checklist was enthusiastically received by members of the governing body when it was introduced earlier this month. The initiative earned an equally warm reception from the Planning Board at its meeting last week.

More than a year in the making, the measure represents a joint effort of the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC), the town’s planning department, and the non-profit Sustainable Princeton. The checklist asks potential developers specific questions on the eco-friendly aspects of their proposals, touching on everything from wetlands to bike storage.

“What we were seeing more and more at the Environmental Commission was that projects would come in, and they weren’t addressing environmental issues at all, or were very sporadic in their approach С in sort of a piecemeal fashion,” says Heidi Fichtenbaum, a member of the PEC and an architect with Farewell Architects. “We wanted to provide guidance to developers, so when they were getting ready to start a project, they would have a place to find all of the information they needed about sustainability. It is a resource for them. In addition to outlining issues and strategies, there would be information on very specific resources they could use to assist them in answering questions about sustainability.”

The checklist is voluntary, because New Jersey is governed by the state building code which does not require developers to include green measures in their projects. “We are looking, in the PEC, at strategies to make some elements of this enforceable,” Ms. Fichtenbaum says. “But that’s the next step.”

In the meantime, the focus is on three main topics: Energy, waste, and water.

“Energy is at the top of the list because it encompasses a lot,” says Ms. Fichtenbaum. “We’re very much focused on how much energy buildings use. Right now in the U.S., buildings use roughly 40 percent of energy, and that is huge С almost half the pie. We feel like we’re at a really, really critical juncture in our climate.

“Next is waste, which contributes to greenhouse gases and pollutes our groundwater. And we’re running out of landfill space. The final piece is water — how much potable water we use, how much sanitary waste we produce. The truth is if we had no fossil fuels left on our planet, then life could still continue. But if we didn’t have access to clean water, life would not continue. You have to have sunlight and water for life on the planet.”

Several other communities, such as West Windsor, have environmental checklists for builders. Some are “yes and no” surveys, but Princeton’s is designed to be more extensive. “The usefulness of this list is to provide information to create a feedback loop,” Ms. Fichtenbaum says. “It helps the developers, and also provides an opportunity for the Planning Board to ask intelligent questions and make informed decisions.”

The list is also a way to let developers know that sustainability is important to Princeton residents. Adoption of the list could also push the town to the next level of certification with the organization Sustainable Jersey, Ms. Fichtenbaum says.

While recent difficulties surrounding developer AvalonBay’s proposal for the former Princeton Hospital site and the Planning Board’s rejection of their plan now being challenged in court are relevant, the checklist was in the planning stages long before the company came on the scene.

“The checklist addresses issues that kept coming up, time and time again,” Ms. Fichtenbaum says. “Obviously it applies to AvalonBay, but it was definitely not the impetus. This is a much bigger issue of our town that goes back a long way, and I hope it will be around for a long time.”

Developer AvalonBay’s request to fast-track its appeal of the Princeton Planning Board’s decision to reject its proposal for the former hospital site was granted last week by a Mercer County Superior Court judge. The matter is scheduled to be heard in court on April 29.

Lawyers for the Planning Board, the town, and the group Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods will appear before Judge Mary C. Jacobson to argue their case against the developer, who wants to construct a 280-unit apartment building on the Witherspoon Street site. AvalonBay sued last month to overturn the Planning Board’s rejection of their plan.

The complaint filed by AvalonBay says the developer will walk away from the project, backing out of its contract to buy the property from Princeton HealthCare System, if the Planning Board’s decision is not reversed by May 1. The developer wants to demolish the old hospital and build an apartment building in its place. The Board rejected the plan based on concerns about design standards, open space, and sustainability, among other issues.

One of AvalonBay’s contentions in its appeal of the decision is that the Planning Board violates the Mount Laurel Doctrine, which says municipalities are mandated to provide housing for low-income and moderate-income citizens. The developer’s plan would include 56 affordable units.

The lawyers for the Planning Board, the town, and Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods (PCSN) asked the judge to consider issues of jurisdiction first. “Claims that have been made deal with whether the jurisdiction of the Planning Board was correct for this type of application,” says Robert Simon, the attorney for PCSN. “If accepted, that would knock the application out of the Planning Board box and put it into the Zoning Board box.”

While Judge Jacobson’s agreement to expedite the process does not sit well with lawyers representing the town, she has said that she could be persuaded to allow more time for discovery and review if convinced it was important.

Extensive hearings on the issue up to this point have cost PCSN more than originally estimated for attorney’s fees. The group is currently raising funds to pay outstanding bills and to support the process going forward.

“By hiring highly experienced attorneys and experts we are helping to level the playing field for town residents when faced with large, legally aggressive corporate developers, like AvalonBay Communities, Inc., the number two Real Estate Investment Trust on the New York Stock Exchange,” says Alexi Assmus, of the group, in a statement. “As interveners in the case, PCSN is supporting the town’s legal defense against AvalonBay’s appeal with a complementary and independent approach that asserts that the AvalonBay plans require variances.”

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Whatever Albert Einstein might think of Princeton’s carnival-style birthday embrace of him, how could he resist this scene? Mayor Liz Lempert (on left) is obviously enjoying the moment, too, as Co-Founder of Pi Day Mimi Omiecinski of the Princeton Tour Company hands a $314.15 check to the winner of the Einstein Look-a-Like contest, 19 month old Lusia Bonner, who also won a bike from Kopp’s Cycle Shop that she may have to save for later. Other contestants are in the background. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

March 6, 2013
RENOVATIONS UNDERWAY: Almost six years after the staff of Town Topics moved from 4 Mercer Street to new quarters on Witherspoon Street, renovations are underway at the “old Town Topics Building,” that once housed Priest’s Drug Store (see front page) and was home to the staff of Town Topics newspaper for 57 years before the move to the current location at 305 Witherspoon Street.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

RENOVATIONS UNDERWAY: Almost six years after the staff of Town Topics moved from 4 Mercer Street to new quarters on Witherspoon Street, renovations are underway at the “old Town Topics Building,” that once housed Priest’s Drug Store (see front page) and was home to the staff of Town Topics newspaper for 57 years before the move to the current location at 305 Witherspoon Street. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

Readers of this newspaper often express curiosity about the building at 4 Mercer Street that has become known as the “old Town Topics building.”

Recent passersby will have noticed activity in preparation for the building’s renovation by its owner Princeton University. After being vacated by the newspaper’s staff almost six years ago, building work is now underway.

Speaking for the University, Kristin S. Appelget, director of community and regional affairs, said that the University is in the process of extensive interior and exterior renovations that will “provide a first floor office space for a yet to be determined University use and that the second and third floors will be three separate housing units comprising part of the University housing stock for faculty and staff.”

The front section will have apartments on its second and third floors and there will be a duplex in a three-story brick addition to the rear of the building that replaces a timber section that has been removed. This section was a later addition to the original 19th-century building. “It was removed last week and will be replaced by a new brick addition that will blend with the exterior brick and historic architectural elements,” said Ms. Appelget.

Blue Rock Construction is the general contractor for the project and the architects are HMR Architects of Princeton, on Alexander Road.

Ms. Appelget, who declined to divulge the cost of the renovation project, said that the work is expected to be completed by fall of this year.

The University’s plans for the building were approved by the Borough Zoning Board in 2010 at which time attorney Richard Goldman of Drinker Biddle & Reath explained that the University’s goal in renovating the structure was to “restore the building to its historical look.”

The building has been empty since 2007 when Town Topics newspaper, which had occupied the space since 1950, moved to a new location at 305 Witherspoon Street.

Although the building could be cold in the winter and steamy in the summer, its linoleum cracked and its paint peeling, it is fondly recalled by Town Topics staff members (including this reporter) who once worked there. While there is no one who can recall, as former owner, the late Jeb Stuart once did, the days of ticker-tape news releases and the “advances” of cold type, many at the paper today remember the newspaper’s infamous “wing mailer,” a mid-1940s labeling machine that was still in operation in the late 1990s.

The building’s location was perfect for covering town and gown and while the interior left much to be desired, the facade had charm.

The move coincided with the switch to digital production that replaced the -techniques of the -composing room where items were pasted by hand to create camera-ready-copy for delivery to the printer.

History

Over the years, the building, which dates to 1878, was used for businesses and apartments, until it was moved in 1914 some 60 feet back from its original Nassau Street location to make way for the war memorial. That’s when One Nassau became 4 Mercer. Priest’s Drug Store occupied the ground floor at that time and according to a contemporary account recorded in New Jersey Architecture by Susanne C. Hand, it was said that when the building was moved a glass of water on the counter didn’t spill a drop.

Priest’s remained in the building until 1944.

The newspaper was founded in 1946 by Princeton University graduates Donald Stuart and his brother-in-law Dan Coyle together with Don’s wife Emily, known as “Cissy,” and Dan’s wife Mary. In 1950, Town Topics moved into 4 Mercer Street.

The newspaper passed to Donald and Emily’s son Jeb in 1981. Town Topics continued as a family business until it was sold in 2001 to the current publisher Lynn Adams Smith, architects J. Robert Hillier and Barbara Hillier, and a small group of investors.

Ms. Smith had worked for Town Topics, and Jeb Stuart was convinced that she was the right person to take over the newspaper, with its loyal readership.

“It will be good to see this beautiful old building restored,” said Ms. Smith.

2013 WOMANSPACE HONOREE: Best-selling author, journalist, and advocate for injured veterans Lee Woodruff will receive the 19th annual Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award from Womanspace at a ceremony and reception on Tuesday, May 21, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton. (Photo by Cathrine White)

2013 WOMANSPACE HONOREE: Best-selling author, journalist, and advocate for injured veterans Lee Woodruff will receive the 19th annual Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award from Womanspace at a ceremony and reception on Tuesday, May 21, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton.
(Photo by Cathrine White)

Best-selling author, journalist, and advocate for injured veterans Lee Woodruff will receive the 19th annual Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award from Womanspace, the Mercer County non profit agency that provides services — 24-hour hotlines, crisis intervention, emergency shelter, counseling, court advocacy, and housing — to victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Ms. Woodruff will receive the award at a ceremony and reception on Tuesday, May 21, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton.

Named for Barbara Boggs Sigmund, mayor of Princeton Borough from 1983 until 1990 and her death in office at age 51, after an eight-year battle with cancer, the award is given each May to “a woman of distinction who exemplifies the legacy of Womanspace founder and event namesake and women like her who inspire others to greatness.” In 1995, the first honoree was Ms. Sigmund’s younger sister, the ABC political reporter Corrine “Cokie” Boggs Roberts.

Since then, recipients have been, among others: artist Faith Ringgold (2011); sports coach C. Vivian Stringer (2010); broadcaster Nancy Snyderman (2009); author Jean Kilbourne (2008); women’s economic advocate Nell Merlino (2007); legal correspondent Nina Totenberg (2006); NJN news anchor Kent Manahan (2005); playwright and director of Princeton’s McCarter Theater Emily Mann (2004); crime novelist and head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan DA’s office (1976-2002), Linda Fairstein (2003); survivors of domestic violence Ann, Pat and Sandy (2001); Star Jones, co-host of ABC’s The View (2000); and Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author Anna Quindlen (1999).

Last year, the award was presented to Dr. Stacey Patton, journalist, author, and children’s advocate whose first book, That Mean Old Yesterday, recounted her childhood experiences in New Jersey’s foster care system.

Princeton Borough Mayor

Ms. Sigmund had politics in her blood. She was the daughter of Democratic Rep. Hale Boggs of Louisiana and Corrine “Lindy” Boggs, who held the post of Congresswoman from New Orleans for some 20 years. She wrote letters for President John F. Kennedy and danced with President Lyndon Johnson at her wedding to Mr. Sigmund in 1964.

In 1972, she won a seat on the Princeton Borough council and led a successful campaign to “Save the Dinky.” Three years later she became a Mercer County freeholder. But in 1982, following a diagnosis of cancer, Ms. Sigmund had her left eye removed. With characteristic aplomb, she attended events as mayor of Princeton Borough sporting an eye patch chosen to match her outfit and when she entered the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1989, her campaign slogan was: “I’ve got my eye on New Jersey.”

Best-Selling Author

Lee Woodruff speaks and writes about ways in which good things can come out of tragedy. She came by her knowledge first hand when her husband, ABC correspondent Bob Woodruff, was seriously injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

Out of that experience came Ms. Woodruff’s first book, In an Instant, and an organization, The Bob Woodruff Foundation (ReMind.org) that helps wounded and fatigued servicemen and women and their families to receive the long-term care they need and to help them adjust and settle back into their communities.

Written together with her husband, In an Instant reached the top of the New York Times Best Sellers list after it was published in February 2007. The book led to appearances on national television and radio. The couple brought media and public awareness to the serious issue of traumatic brain injury among returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, as well as others living with the affliction.

Ms. Woodruff faced a devastating situation with resourcefulness and humor. The chronicle of her family’s journey to recovery is a compelling read.

After writing a collection of essays, Perfectly Imperfect — A Life in Progress, Ms. Woodruff launched into her first novel. Those We Love Most has been described as a “poignant page-turner about the complexities of love and marriage,” and its author compared to Sue Monk Kidd and Anna Quindlen. It has been praised by the likes of Catherine Coulter and Alice Hoffman.

Told through the perspectives of two generations within a single family, Those We Love Most chronicles the ways in which a sudden twist of fate forces family members to examine their choices, raising such questions as: Why do we hurt the ones we love? And what would we do ourselves in the face of unthinkable tragedy?

Besides her books, Ms. Woodruff has written numerous articles about her family and parenting in Health, Redbook, Country Living, Parade, and Family Fun magazines. She lives in Westchester County, New York, with her husband and their four children. She was a contributing editor at ABC’s Good Morning America before moving to CBS to join This Morning with hosts Charlie Rose, Gayle King, and Norah O’Donnell.

“Lee Woodruff’s public efforts and her writing are an inspiration to others who face tragedy in their own lives whether from the violence of war or of domestic violence. Her contributions, like those of Barbara Sigmund focus on bringing hope and the capacity for change,” said Womanspace Executive Director Pat Hart.

Womanspace

Founded in 1977 by Ms. Sigmund together with Ellen Belknap, Valorie Caffee, the late Mary Ann Cannon, and Deborah Metzger, Womanspace was formed in response to a need that was brought to light in New Jersey by the 1976 Mercer County Commission on the Status of Women. The most pressing concern of that time for women was spousal abuse, then called ‘battered wives,’ and places where victims could find help and refuge.

Womanspace created the first shelter for female victims of domestic violence and their children in Mercer County. Since its founding, Womanspace has served more than 301,076 adults and children. It provides programs for families struggling with domestic violence and sexual assault. Over 10,900 adults and children were served last year. Programs include crisis intervention, emergency shelter, counseling, court advocacy, housing services, and a 24-hour hotline: (609) 394-9000.

The annual Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award reception and fundraiser helps provide much needed funds for these programs. Jansen Research and Development LLC is the presenting sponsor. Tickets are $150 in advance, $175 at the door. There are a number of opportunities to purchase journal advertisements, tables, and other sponsorships. In addition, raffle tickets at $50 each offer a chance to win a luxurious all-inclusive trip for two adults to the Dominican Republic for a 5-day/4-night stay at the Bahia Principe Hotels and Resorts. A Silent Auction, to benefit the organization’s new children’s services program, will feature art by local artists including a piece by Faith Ringold.

For more information, contact Susan D. Klejst at (609) 394-0136 ext. 205, or sdk@womanspace.org; or visit: www.womanspace.org.

Allegations of misconduct involving Princeton police chief David J. Dudeck have been turned over to the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office. Mr. Dudeck, who has not been at work this week, may or may not return to the job.

“Dave remains the chief of the department,” said Princeton administrator Bob Bruschi on Monday. “The whole department is managing through a huge distraction. They’ll continue to do their jobs while we work our way through. He is trying to figure out the best way of dealing with this, not only from his own perspective but from the department’s perspective. I don’t know when he’ll come back, and I honestly don’t know if he will.”

It was through leaks late last week to area news outlets that it was alleged that Mr. Dudeck has made inappropriate comments to officers over the past two years. While local officials declined comment on the allegations, they did stress that they are of an administrative nature, not a criminal one.

“There is no concern that these are criminal issues,” said Mr. Bruschi. “The policy we have to deal with is set by the state attorney general’s office, and that is if a complaint is lodged against a police chief it has to be referred to the prosecutor’s office. They would conduct an investigation if there was one, but one has not been started.”

Efforts to reach Mr. Dudeck were unsuccessful.

Mayor Liz Lempert said Tuesday that it would be inappropriate for her to comment directly on the issue. “We are following the state attorney general’s guidelines on how to handle personnel matters regarding the chief,” she said. “It is also important to note that the department has been doing a great job in coming together with consolidation, and that work continues in making sure we’re delivering the best possible services to residents, seeing where we can enhance services, and staying focused on that mission.”

Last week, Princeton Council’s public safety committee, which includes Ms. Lempert, Heather Howard, and Lance Liverman, met with First Assistant Mercer County Prosecutor Doris M. Galuchie, who handles internal affairs of police departments. Mr. Dudeck and Mr. Bruschi also attended the meeting. “We had a two-or-three-minute briefing on it, and that was all,” Mr. Bruschi said. “It was about personnel issues, for lack of a better word, but I won’t get into specifics.”

Mr. Bruschi stressed that contrary to some previous reports, Mr. Dudeck was not issued an ultimatum to either resign or be investigated. “It is nothing like that. He’s had some discussions with the prosecutor’s office,” he said. “We’re just trying to step back and get a handle on what’s been thrown out there.”

Should the prosecutor’s office decide to launch an investigation, and there is something they need to report to Princeton Council, the governing body would then decide if any disciplinary step needs to be taken. “There is a lot of concern that this be handled professionally, and that we make sure it’s done well,” Mr. Bruschi said. “We’ve been told not to rush through the process, and to let it unfold.”

Mr. Bruschi added that while there has been no official discussion of the situation among members of the Council, they have been informed “only in the very generic sense” about the process.

Mr. Dudeck began work for the Borough police in 1983, and was chosen to lead the department following the death of former chief Anthony Federico in 2009. Last year, he was chosen to be chief of police for consolidated Princeton. He is a 1977 graduate of The Hun School and has been its head football coach for 10 years.

Prior to consolidation, Princeton Township police Chief Robert Buchanan accepted an agreement to leave the department last March. Previous to that in the Township, Chief Mark Emann left following charges involving improper trading of police weapons.

“It’s really important to have a force that’s working well,” said Ms. Lempert this week. “And whatever we have to do to get there, we will.”

At a presentation by the company that wants to install a new natural gas pipeline through a section of the Princeton Ridge, residents of the area voiced concerns about potential disruptions, property damage, and safety. More than 50 homeowners and other concerned citizens gathered at the Municipal Building on February 28 to question representatives from the Texas-based Williams Company, which owns the 42-inch proposed pipeline and wants to run it next to an existing one that was built in 1958.

Of particular concern were the effects of blasting, especially in relation to the environmental sensitivity of the area. Some 30 properties would be affected by the project, which would run 1.5 miles between the Coventry Farms development and Cherry Valley Road. Known as the Skillman Loop, the pipeline is part of the Leidy Southeast Expansion Project that would bring Marcellus shale gas from Pennsylvania. The loop is on the Transco pipeline, which runs 10,200 miles from south Texas to New York City.

Williams’ representatives could only answer preliminary questions, since the project is in the pre-filing stage. The company will apply in the coming fall to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for permission to begin construction in the fall of 2014. If it is approved, the pipeline would take just over a year to complete.

“The Princeton Ridge is an environmentally sensitive area. We have fought over this area many, many times over the years,” said Laura Lynch, who lives in Lawrence but represents the New -Jersey Sierra Club. “I strongly suggest that you do an EIS (environmental impact statement). You don’t know yet about the rocks, but we do. And you’re not going to be happy with what you find.”

The meeting was arranged at the request of local officials. Williams’ representatives said that this was the first time they had held this type of session in advance of its regular open house events, the first of which will take place April 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the Otto Kaufman Community Center in Montgomery Township. More detailed maps and plans will be available at that gathering. But a representative urged those at last Thursday’s meeting to make their concerns known.

“The time to comment is now, at the beginning of the process,” said Cindy Ivy, in charge of public outreach for the Williams company.

Questions from residents ranged from where equipment would be stored during the construction process to what impact the project would have on insurance values. An indemnity clause would be put into easement agreements, the representatives said. The project would require that the company acquire some 20 feet of new easements onto some properties located close to the site.

“We don’t want the pipeline running through our property,” said resident Christopher Barr, whose home is located near where the new pipeline would diverge from the existing line. Asked what would happen if a homeowner refuses to grant those easements, a Williams representative said that under the Natural Gas Act, “… if the Commission (FERC) approves this project, that carries with it eminent domain,” meaning the property could be condemned and the landowner forced to sell the easement rights at market value.

At a panel discussion Sunday, March 3, Pulitzer-Prize-winning author John McPhee sat down with two former governors of New Jersey, and preservation activists to discuss The Pine Barrens: The Past, the Politics, and the Future.

The doors of Princeton University’s McCosh Auditorium, which seats over 450, opened at 1 p.m. and by 2 p.m., it was standing room only.

Numerous audience members brought out well-thumbed copies of McPhee’s seminal book The Pine Barrens for the Princeton author to sign.

The panel discussion was presented in conjunction with the Morven Museum and Garden’s current exhibition, The Pine Barrens: A Legacy of Preservation, Photographs by Richard Speedy. Morven’s Director of Development Barbara Webb introduced the speakers.

In addition to Mr. McPhee, panelists were Governor Brendan T. Byrne (1974-1982) whose executive order placed a moratorium on Pinelands development and who ultimately brought about legislation for permanent preservation; -Governor Jim Florio (1990-1994), past chairman of the New Jersey Pinelands Commission; Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance; and Michele Byers, executive director of the New Jersey Conservaton Foundation (NJCF). The discussion was moderated by Michael Aron, broadcast journalist with NJN TV.

Mr. McPhee’s book was lauded for inspiring the movement to protect the New Jersey Pinelands that encompass the Pine Barrens and cover over a million acres of Southern New Jersey, a land of pine and oak forests, streams and rivers, farms and hamlets, above an underground reservoir of pure sand-filtered water.

“The preservation of the Pine Barrens speaks to the power of a book, the vigilance of citizens, and the dedication of politicians,” said Ms. Webb.

The discussion opened with remarks from Mr. Montgomery on the importance of the unique ecosystem of the Pinelands. He described the area as “a Noah’s ark of bio-diversity threatened by tempestuous seas” and said that the aquifer is “the lifeblood of the region,” supporting the state’s blueberry and cranberry industries and providing drinking water for hundreds of thousands.

The Cohansey Aquifer contains over 17 trillion gallons, so much water that if it were above ground, the entire State of New Jersey would be one giant lake about ten feet deep.

“If there’s one person without whom there wouldn’t be a Pinelands Act that would be John McPhee” said Gov. Byrne, recalling the circumstances of his interest in the region. “John and I were part of a tennis group in Princeton. When we finished playing tennis, we would talk,” said the former Morven resident.

In 1967, Mr. McPhee, now one of the nation’s most prominent nonfiction writers, published his fourth book, The Pine Barrens, a study of the region’s unique ecology and history. Threatened by proposals for a combined jetport, industrial park, and new city of a quarter million people, the Pine Barrens, McPhee concluded, seemed “headed slowly toward extinction.”

Mr. McPhee’s book ended on a pessimistic note: “Given the futilities of the debate, given the sort of attention that is ordinarily paid to plans put forth by conservationists, and given the great numbers and the crossed purposes of all the big and little powers that would have to work together to accomplish anything on a major scale in the pines, it would appear that the Pine Barrens are not very likely to be the subject of dramatic decrees or acts of legislation.”

These words were a red flag to Mr. Byrne. In the years after The Pine Barrens was published, the author’s pessimism seemed fully justified. With northern and central New Jersey increasingly densely populated and available real estate soaring in price, developers were looking to the pine forests as potential sites for large-scale development at comparatively affordable costs.

The region’s development had been restricted by limited transportation access but proposals for new highways could bring expansion.

In 1972, the New Jersey Jersey Legislature and Governor William Cahill approved a plan by the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to construct a 36-mile-long, four-lane toll expressway from the Garden State Parkway in Toms River to the New Jersey Turnpike in South Brunswick.

Such plans were abandoned after Mr. Byrne intervened, sparked by Mr. McPhee’s pessimism. “McPhee said that nothing would be done,” said Gov. Byrne. “It’s the only time I’ve known John McPhee to be wrong.”

Gov. Byrne was so moved by his friend’s descriptions that he called his deputy and said: “Stop issuing permits in the Pinelands.” When his action was questioned as being “unconstitutional,” the governor responded by signing an executive order, perhaps the most famous in New Jersey history. “I did it, and it stopped development in the Pinelands, but then it was challenged and so we introduced a bill and when that was challenged we went to the New Jersey Supreme Court,” he said. Mr. Byrne described the enormous opposition his efforts met with, not only from powerful outside interests but often from members of his own staff.

On February 8, 1979, the governor’s Executive Order established the Pinelands Planning Commission, a successor body to a review committee he’d already created. In his second term as governor, he passed the Pinelands Protection Act authorizing a comprehensive plan for the 1.1 million acre Pinelands National Reserve.

The Brendan T. Byrne State Forest (formerly Lebanon State Forest) is named for the 47th Governor of New Jersey who was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2011.

Gov. Florio who, as a member of Congress authored the House version of the bill that eventually became known as the “Superfund,” as well as the Pinelands Protection Act of 1987, also described the effect of Mr. McPhee’s book during the Nixon administration when there was great interest in oil drilling off the coast of New Jersey. “People from Louisiana were coming here and there was concern about a pipeline that would go from the Shore to the refineries on the Delaware, right through the Pinelands — there was even talk about South Jersey seceding from the state,” he recalled. “Things improved when Carter was elected but there is no doubt that Governor Byrne’s executive order did the job of maintaining the status quo until legislation was signed.”

In spite of these historic successes, Mr. Montgomery was quick to point out the need to guard against complacency. “A time will come when we’ve built on all the surrounding land and it will be threatened again,” he said, citing the recent building of a Walmart in Tom’s River for which a permit was fist denied by the state because of a threatened species of snake and then approved after some political wrangling. He said: “Making exceptions ultimately weakens legislation. It is not the case that a law is passed and its done, there still has to be vigilance.”

Noting the non-partisan nature of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance at its founding, Mr. Aron asked Mr. Montgomery whether this was still the case. Are members of the Alliance “friendly to preservation?” he asked. Mr. Montgomery responded: “Some are, some aren’t and some are there to do what they are told to do by a very powerful governorship. We in New Jersey tend to go in for bossy governors,” he said, to general audience delight as he was seated next to two former governors. “For many years, the Alliance was non-partisan, our biggest worry today is that such independence has been eroded.

Ms. Byers concurred. “If it hadn’t been for the Pinelands Preservation Act, this area would now be covered by houses,” she said, adding that so much of what has been achieved has been through personal relationships even with those who oppose preservationist ideals.

Ms. Byers spoke of the need for citizens to become personally involved with the Pine Barrens. “We need to reach out and engage the entire state on this issue. If people don’t go to the Pine Barrens and develop a personal relationship with the region, the developers will. Get out there, take your kids there and love this place,” she urged.

For all too many people in the state of New Jersey the image most associated with the Pine Barrens is that of of the “Jersey Devil,” a horned creature purportedly born to a local woman. Anyone who sees the current exhibition at Morven will have such ideas replaced through the stunning photographs by local photographer Richard Speedy. The Pine Barrens: A Legacy of Preservation features 32 of Mr. Speedy’s works alongside the story of the region’s preservation. It continues through April 14 at Morven Museum and Garden, 55 Stockton Street.

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Known locally as the “old Town Topics Building,” the historic brick edifice at 4 Mercer Street is shown here in a pre-1914 vintage photograph when its address was One Nassau Street. How did the change of address come about? Read the story on page 7. Astounding as it seems, the building was moved 60 feet back from the road in 1914 when the War Memorial was erected and Mercer Street extended. (Courtesy of the Historical Society of Princeton)

February 27, 2013
UNMISTAKABLY BEBE: Yes, that’s Princeton’s own Bebe Neuwirth in a treasured image from the archives of the Princeton Ballet Company, which became the American Repertory Ballet (ARB) in 1990. The photograph is among a collection of images and programs donated by ARB to the Historical Society of Princeton. From left to right: Catherine Biewener, Linda Edwards, Ms. Neuwirth, and Penny Kingan in Corelli Concerto.(Courtesy of the Historical Society of Princeton).

UNMISTAKABLY BEBE: Yes, that’s Princeton’s own Bebe Neuwirth in a treasured image from the archives of the Princeton Ballet Company, which became the American Repertory Ballet (ARB) in 1990. The photograph is among a collection of images and programs donated by ARB to the Historical Society of Princeton. From left to right: Catherine Biewener, Linda Edwards, Ms. Neuwirth, and Penny Kingan in Corelli Concerto. (Courtesy of the Historical Society of Princeton).

Archives from the American Repertory Ballet (ARB) and the Princeton Ballet School (PBS) have been added to the collection of the Historical Society of Princeton (HSP).

“We are delighted to have this addition to our archives of the history of Princeton,” says Eve Mandel, HSP director of programs and visitor services.

Among the items is a commemorative booklet celebrating the ballet school’s “First 50 Years,” introduced by a remark from late founder Audrée Phipps Estey (1910-2002): “It is the discipline that goes with the art of dance and the special hard drive that goes into a production that makes the outcome rewarding. In a day of fast-changing values, it is good to remember that something remains constant — the beauty of the young to which we older ones can dedicate ourselves.”

In addition to early photographs of Ms. Estey, donated material includes images of notable students like Bebe Neuwirth and guest artists such as former New York City Ballet dancers Peter Martins and Darci Kistler. There are letters of support from New Jersey governors Thomas Kean and Brendan Byrne; student memoirs, including five pages by Kit Hulit (whose father advertised his Nassau Street shoe store, Hulit’s Shoes, in programs of the day); performance playbills, and press materials such as a New York Times article which dubbed Ms. Estey as the “First Lady of Dance.” Among Ms. Estey’s hundreds of students were Meredith Monk, Douglas Dunn, Diane Partington, and Jennifer Dunning.

According to Lisa de Ravel, former ARB dancer and PBS dean of students, the gift to HSP provides an opportunity to share the school’s impact on the Princeton area. Ms. de Ravel described the process of compiling the historic documents as “a fun and challenging experience. I have gained a deeper respect for the legacy we inherited, and the artistic and educational missions we continue to carry out.”

What is now one of the largest and most respected non-profit dance schools in the nation, and New Jersey’s preeminent contemporary ballet company, had humble beginnings back in 1954 when Ms. Estey founded the Princeton Ballet Society. Before that, she had created classes at the Lawrenceville School, where her husband L. Wendell “Bud” Estey was a teacher

Ballet quickly became a part of the Princeton scene with productions at McCarter Theatre; the first, Cinderella, in 1955, featured Barbara Dilley Lloyd and Elinor Coffee and was followed by a full-length Nutcracker in 1956.

The Princeton Regional Ballet Company, formed in 1963, performed its first Nutcracker in 1964 at McCarter and has been performing it every year since, both at McCarter and at theaters across New Jersey.

In May 1968, Estey was featured in Town Topics as Princeton’s Woman of the Week. As the ballet school and company evolved, there were further name changes. The Princeton Regional Ballet became the professional Princeton Ballet Company in 1978 and then the American Repertory Ballet Company in 1990, the name chosen to reflect “its artistic image and status as a nationally recognized ballet company.” Three years later, it put on an ambitious full length production of Swan Lake.

Ms. Estey retired in 1982. She was succeeded as artistic director by Judith Leviton (1982-1986), Dermot Burke (1986-1992), Marjorie Mussman (1992-1993), Septime Webre (1993-1999), Graham Lustig (1999-2010), and Douglas Martin (2010-present), who was principal dancer with the Joffrey Ballet before joining the faculty in 1995

In 1987, the Princeton Ballet Company was named a “Major Arts Institution” by the New Jersey State Council on The Arts. That same year was their first New York season, and in 1989, they began tours of the Mid-Atlantic States.

Other highlights from ARB history include a 1994 production of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are under the direction of then artistic Director Septime Webre, which brought the author/illustrator to Princeton. The company’s repertory has included established masterpieces by distinguished American choreographers George Balanchine, Gerald Arpino, Alvin Ailey, Paul Taylor, and Twyla Tharp; cutting edge works by Val Caniparoli, Kirk Peterson, Dominique Dumais, Harrison McEldowney, Amy Seiwert, Susan Shields, and Melissa Barak; as well as works by former artistic directors Burke, Mussman, Webre, and Lustig.

Since 1986, Mary Pat Robertson has directed the Princeton Ballet school, which today enrolls some 1500 students a year, ranging in age from three through adult, with studios in Cranbury, New Brunswick, and Princeton. Its graduates have gone on to dance in professional ballet and contemporary dance companies in the United States and abroad, including the Alvin Ailey Dance Co., Netherlands Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, Twyla Tharp, New York Theater Ballet, to name a handful.

The American Repertory Ballet and Princeton Ballet School archives can be viewed by appointment at the Historical Society of Princeton. For more information, call (609) 921-6748, ext. 100 or email: research@princetonhistory.org.

Artistic Director Douglas Martin will present “An Evening with American Repertory Ballet” featuring discussion of The Rite of Spring and Romeo and Juliet, with dancers performing excerpts from each, in the community room at the Princeton Public Library, Thursday, March 7, at 7:30 p.m.

The Westminster Symphonic Choir performs with orchestras from across the globe, led by internationally acclaimed conductors. But the 220-member choral ensemble, among the jewels of Westminster Choir College of Rider University, rehearses in a cramped space known as The Playhouse, with less-than-ideal acoustics.

Thanks to an expansion plan projected to begin in July, the Choir and other students at Westminster’s Princeton campus will soon be preparing for performances in a newly renovated and constructed facility. Officials from Westminster and Rider described the proposal during a courtesy review by the Planning Board at its meeting last Thursday, February 21.

In addition to a renovation of the Playhouse, the plan for the 18.75-acre Princeton campus includes a new academic building, a general services building, some reconfigured parking, new walkways, landscaping, and lighting. Officials hope to have the improvements completed in time for the fall semester of 2014.

“The last new building on campus was the student center in 1975,” Westminster Dean Robert Annis told the Board. Mr. Annis assured the Board that enrollment will be maintained at 450 students. “We are not increasing the size of our student body or faculty. We do not intend to increase the number of recitals.”

Three classrooms and a rehearsal room with “an appropriate acoustical environment” and enough seating for the Symphonic Choir are part of the plan, Mr. Annis continued. The new building will connect in an L-shape with the Playhouse. There will be more room for student recitals. Currently, most performances are held in Bristol Chapel and in the space at Williamson Hall that was intended as a student lounge. Once the new building is constructed, “we can turn Williamson Lounge back into a true lounge for students,” Mr. Annis said.

Architect Michael Shatken of KSS Architects said the new construction will take its design cue from the existing campus. “Williamson Hall heavily influenced how the new buildings will look,” he said, praising the “Georgian quadrangle and wonderful campus plan.”

The new, 11,980-square-foot building’s portico will be modeled after that of Williamson Hall, but the new hall will allow in more natural light. The renovated Playhouse will include such architectural improvements as a small vestibule with an overhead trellis that parallels the design of the walkways. The new general services building will replace two existing buildings on the campus.

Planning Board member Jenny Crumiller asked how sustainability would be addressed. Mr. Shatken said that LEED Silver status would be pursued, and that lighting systems and mechanical systems would be very energy efficient.

Westminster does not require approval for the expansion project, because the site in question sits more than 150 feet from a public zone and the municipality has no jurisdiction. Once building permits are obtained, construction on the project can begin.

The college received approval three years ago to expand and improve its parking lot, which has been done. Last June, the first draft of its master plan was presented to the Planning Board. The school met with neighbors last December before filing its current submission.

Only one neighbor, Ken Fields of Linden Lane, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting. His sole issue was excessively bright lighting from two fixtures, which Westminster officials had already agreed to address. ”Myself and my neighbors want the Choir College to succeed, and are in favor of the master plan,” he said. “We did not want a fence, but now that the parking lot is done, perhaps it’s okay.”

Gail Ullman, who chairs the Planning Board, told Westminster representatives that she was originally dismayed at what appeared to be poor communication between the school and its residential neighbors when the project was first proposed.

“But with only one person here to comment, it seems to be okay now,” she said. “I would like to congratulate you on that.”

In all his 19 years on the job, Princeton’s Animal Control Officer Mark Johnson, has never seen a dog so cruelly treated that it died of its injuries.

The complaints that Mr. Johnson usually receives, between 15 and 20 from the public each year, are usually the result of a dog being left inside an owner’s vehicle in the heat of summer, being left outside without shelter, or not being properly fed by its owners.

And while these instances of neglect have the potential for serious harm, they are some distance from the 13 charges that Mr. Johnson has brought against Birch Avenue resident Michael G. Rosenberg.

Mr. Rosenberg has been indicted by a Mercer County grand jury for allegedly causing the death of a three-year-old female German Shepherd-mix in his care. Last month, Mercer County Prosecutor Joseph L. Bocchini Jr. announced that the 31-year-old Princeton resident had been indicted for one count of third-degree animal cruelty, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in state prison and a $15,000 fine.

The charges result from an incident last August when Lawrence resident Tracy Stanton, an attorney working in Manhattan, left her dog with Mr. Rosenberg, who had apparently advertised himself as a dog trainer, operating out of his home. He had been recommended by a friend of Ms. Stanton’s.

Two days after Ms. Stanton left her dog Shyanne with Mr. Rosenberg, she received a call from him suggesting the dog was in need of veterinary attention. He later called again to suggest she come and pick up her dog immediately. Shortly thereafter, the dog was found unresponsive but still breathing on the front porch of Mr. Rosenberg’s residence. Shyanne died before arriving at the emergency vet hospital. Results of a necropsy showed that the dog had four broken ribs and a punctured lung.

According to the complaints signed by Mr. Johnson, Mr. Rosenberg hit Shyanne with a crop, slammed her to the ground, jabbed his fingers into her ribs, and failed to seek medical attention for her injuries.

In addition, Mr. Johnson has brought five charges against the Birch Avenue resident that relate to the treatment by Mr. Rosenberg of his own two dogs, which have since been removed from Princeton. According to Mr. Johnson, the dogs were taken to Massachussetts by Mr. Rosenberg’s former girlfriend.

Mr. Rosenberg is listed as a Megan’s Law Tier 2 (moderate risk) sex offender for having consensual sex with an underage female acquaintance. He was convicted, November 9, 2011.

The five charges brought by Mr. Johnson, are categorized as disorderly person and fourth degree crimes. Each could result in jail time of between one and 60 days and/or fines of between $250 and $1,000.

Besides responding to complaints from the public that may alert him to animal abuse, Mr. Johnson investigates stray dogs and cats, animal bites, wildlife problems, and the removal of dead deer. He also coordinates rabies immunizations for dogs and cats twice each year.

Mr. Johnson’s advice to dog owners looking for help in training their animals is to always ask for and check references from anyone who calls themselves an animal trainer or handler. “At the present time, it is not against the law to operate as a dog trainer out of your home and anyone can call themselves a dog trainer,” said Mr. Johnson. “Pet owners should be sure to check out references that reputable animal handlers and trainers are happy to supply.”

According to a letter received by Mr. Johnson from the prosecutor’s office, Mr. Rosenberg’s court appearance is scheduled for March 8.

In rural Kenya, one in 16 women die from complications during childbirth. Nearly 40 percent of children under the age of five are malnourished. Infant mortality is 10 times higher than in the United States, and outpatient and admission wards in health centers are overcrowded and understaffed.

These are only a few of the painful realities that inspired a group of Princeton University students to start a chapter of TropicalClinics for Rural Health, a charitable organization committed to providing health care to underserved women, children, and families in Kenya. One clinic has been built. To raise funds for a second, the students are preparing for their annual 5K run/walkathon to be held on the campus on Saturday, April 6. Students and member of the community are encouraged to participate.

The Princeton group is the founding chapter in TropicalClinics’ Chaptership Program, which hopes to inspire other interested students nationwide to start their own branches at high school, college, and professional school campuses. The organization was founded by Dr. Margaret Kilibwa, a native of Kenya and clinical assistant professor at the Women’s Health Institute of the UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

“We’re trying to build more clinics to make health care more easily accessible for more people in Kenya,” says Sarah Lloyd, a junior at the University and one of about 25 students involved in the local chapter. “Our job is to raise money so they can start building a second clinic.”

As a student in the University’s Global Health Certificate program, Ms. Lloyd traveled to Ghana last summer to study health care abroad. The situation there is similar to that of Kenya, which she heard about from a friend who spent part of his summer there.

“Buildings and areas in which they have clinics and hospitals are not very sanitary or developed,” Ms. Lloyd says. “If you go to a clinic, you have to wait about three hours before seeing a doctor, which can be a very long time for people who are really sick. There aren’t enough clinics. Some people live at least five or six hours away. And in rainy season, it can be impossible to get to clinics.”

The area of Kakamega, Kenya has been particularly ravaged by HIV. According to TropicalClinics’s website, the organization’s annual medical camps have served more than 3,652 people, especially women, at Kakamega. Recently, an existing five-room clinic at Kakamega was renovated into a pharmacy and treatment center to provide interim services for clients. “From this service we expect to demonstrate the project’s soundness and effectiveness to other foundations and corporate funders, community development agencies, and private funding sources for future funding of the long-term program,” the website reads.

Giving the situation a human face, the website tells the story of Muhonja, who is pregnant. “Her best hope for a safe delivery is help from a traditional birth attendant,” it reads. “If Muhonja experienced complications during pregnancy and delivery she will have to be transported on a bicycle almost 10 miles to the nearest medical facility. Many pregnant women do not make it to the medical facility; they bleed to death.”

The Kakamega clinic, when finished, will be an 80-bed medical and education center that will serve up to 500 patients a day. It will be the first in the region to offer state-of-the-art diagnostic tools, therapeutic treatment, and community outreach programs. Among the supplies and equipment needed are a blood pressure monitor, HIV testing kits, microscopes, a mammogram machine, centrifuges, laundry and kitchen equipment, ambulances, and computers.

The 5K run on April 6 winds around and through the Princeton campus. University students pay $12 to participate, and others pay $25. Everyone gets a tee-shirt. For more information, contact Ms. Lloyd at slloyd@princeton.edu.

A concept plan being floated by the New Jersey Department of Transportation to ease traffic congestion on Route 1 has residents from both sides of the highway eager to comment on its possibilities. “There is no dearth of ideas,” Anton Lahnston, chair of a committee exploring the plan, told Princeton Council on Monday night following a day of meetings with citizens of West Windsor in the morning, and Princeton in the evening, before the Council session.

“I’ve got about 40 or 41 points at this juncture,” Mr. Lahnston said. “If you live in Princeton, it’s one thing. If you live in West Windsor, it’s another.”

But the idea is to bring these communities together, along with Plainsboro and the University Medical Center of Princeton, to come up with a response to the plan, Mr. Lahnston and others involved in the meetings agree. Mayor Liz Lempert stressed at the Council session that the governing body will confer with West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh before preparing a response to the plan.

The concept was introduced early this month by the DOT, asking for feedback from Princeton, West Windsor, and Plainsboro before a decision is made on whether to proceed. There is no money for the project now, and it could cost up to $40 million.

The plan would involve widening the highway to four lanes in each direction between Harrison Street and Washington Road, eliminating the jughandles at both intersections, adding a traffic light and two jughandles for U-turns about halfway between the two roads, adding a new, circle-shaped jughandle at Washington Road at the now vacant site of a former Exxon gas station to allow drivers going south on Route 1 to cut across onto Route 571, and eliminating the light at Fisher Place. Motorists traveling north on the highway would take the new jughandle, travel south, and then turn right on -Washington Road in order to get into Princeton.

An overflow crowd packed a room at Princeton’s municipal building for a meeting of the Traffic and Transportation committee on Monday. Several of those in attendance stayed on to reiterate their concerns at the Council meeting, where Mr. Lahnston, who chairs the committee, delivered a report.

A DOT trial that closed the jughandles last August was scrapped earlier than originally planned after vociferous citizen protests. Residents attending the Monday meeting called that effort a waste of money, and some had their own ideas about how to help traffic flow better on Route 1. Eric Payne, a resident of West Windsor and a member of a citizens group called Smart Traffic Solutions, said there were four accidents in front of his house during the jughandle trial last year.

Mr. Payne has come up with his own plan for the highway. He said that an environmental impact study done in 2003 specifically recommended not to do what the concept plan suggests. “Let’s bite the bullet and get the problem fixed with an overpass, or if that isn’t possible, then by creating other access roads,” he said, adding that lights should be removed from Route 1, not added. “My plan eliminates all but one light, or at least gets it down to two.”

Josh Wilton, a real estate agent who works at Nassau and Harrison streets, recalled watching the surge in clogged traffic at that intersection from his window during the last DOT trial. He urged the committee to remember that Route 27 traffic is affected by Route 1. “Take into account that on a good day, it’s bad,” he said. During the last trial, it was “abysmal.”

At the Council session, member Jenny Crumiller asked why the DOT has not provided data on the traffic situation, specifically the recent trial that closed the jughandles last summer. Princeton engineer Bob Kiser said he thought data would be generated by the DOT if the communities express interest in developing the concept plan.

Councilman Patrick Simon commented that the traffic congestion improved on Route 1 during the trial last summer, but traffic getting on or off the highway and crossing the road was made worse.

In delivering his report about the earlier meeting, Mr. Lahnston said that people in Princeton and West Windsor have concerns about Route 1 traffic that go back decades. “We need more information from the DOT. We need to see traffic data,” he said. “We also need to put together a response to them saying yes, we want a seat at the table, but we need to partner with West Windsor and Princeton University and have everyone involved.”

Another public meeting on the issue will be held in West Windsor tonight at 7 p.m., at 271 Clarksville Road. Visit www.westwindsornj.org for more information.

If policemen come to your door in the coming weeks, there’s nothing to worry about. They are simply looking for your ideas.

The door-to-door visits are part of a new initiative to find out what Princeton residents expect of the newly consolidated Princeton Police Department.

Police Chief David Dudeck unveiled a new town-wide community expectations survey at a press conference last Friday in the Princeton Municipal building.

Beginning next week, members of the department’s Safe Neighborhood Unit will survey between 50 and 75 homes in each of five sectors of the town on Saturdays and between 5 and 7:30 p.m. weekdays. Businesses will also be surveyed.

The survey will be available online via surveymonkey.com, and on the department’s website, www.princetonnj.gov/police. It takes between five and ten minutes to complete and will be available in English and Spanish. It is expected to conclude sometime in mid-April.

“We hope to identify the needs and expectations of the community in regard to its police department,” said Chief Dudeck.

Members of the Princeton Public Safety Committee: Mayor Liz Lempert, Police Commissioner Heather Howard, and Fire Commissioner Lance Liverman received the first copies of the two-page survey.

“The Public Safety Committee opens lines of communication between the police, the politicians, and the town,” said Mr. Dudeck. “During consolidation there was a great deal of talk about community policing and now we are asking for input from the people of Princeton. Where should Princeton go with its police department? This survey is a way for us to find out what people expect of us,” he said.

Speaking about the expectations of saving money and enhanced services that consolidation has raised, Mayor Lempert said: “one of the most important things our police can do is to get out into the neighborhood and prevent problems. In the past, both police departments in the Borough and Township had versions of a Safe Neighborhoods Unit that were eliminated because of budget cuts. It is important to bring these back and to beef these up. The police department is being responsive to the community.”

“This is good news to share with the media and the town,” said Mr. Dudeck as he described the police department’s Support Services Division’s two units: Safe Neighborhood Unit and Traffic Safety, a new community policing initiative that will be proactive and quicker to respond than in the past.

Members of the Safe Neighborhoods Unit: Sgt. Jon Bucchere, Officer Leonard “Buddy” Thomas, and Officer Dan Federico will conduct the in-person surveys. In addition, Sgt. Steve Riccatello and one other officer will be in charge of social media.

Police Commissioner Howard described the survey as a first step toward achieving the promises of consolidation. “The Safe Neighborhood Unit will bring police officers on bicycles to our streets for the sort of community police that we had to cut back on in the past,” she said, commending the police chief for getting the survey out so quickly.

Mr. Liverman said that the police presence is especially important for children. “It’s a way to create respect,” he said. “In my recollection, this is the first time that police officers will be going door-to-door.”

Sgt. Bucchere spoke about making sure the survey would reach as many people as possible. Hence the use of social media in addition to the in-person visits. “Because surveymonkey.com tallies the results of the survey, we will be able to discover the dominant needs and prioritize for the future,” added Officer Federico. “By going door-to door we have an opportunity to set a positive example and create a good foundation,” said Officer Thomas.

“We want the community to understand that we want to know their needs and how they can contribute their input,” said Mr. Dudeck. “To understand the public’s concerns we need to hear them.”

Sgt. Tom Murray, head of the Traffic Safety Unit and a 21-year veteran of the former Township police force, spoke of his delight at having two officers dedicated to his unit now as compared to the past. He said that the manpower will allow a faster response time to traffic issues. The Traffic Safety Unit is also responsible for 23 crossing guards.

Public comment is crucial to the survey’s success and ultimately to the department’s ability to address community needs. “We don’t want to be the type of police department which drives down the street and stays in our cars,” said Mr. Dudeck.

There are five questions on the two-page survey with ample space for residents’ responses. Names, email addresses and telephone numbers are optional but it is important to include a street address. The questions cover residents’ expectations of the newly consolidated police force in the neighborhood and in the town as a whole; ways in which the force can better serve; specific questions about the value of a Safe Neighborhood Unit’s various functions such as bicycle patrols, police station tours, school programs, and community events; and about the Traffic Safety Unit, including radar enforcement, school crossings, accident investigations, and overweight commercial vehicle enforcement. There is also space for additional comments and recommendations.

Besides posting information on its website, the Princeton Police Department will use social media accounts on both Facebook and Twitter to update the community on events, traffic, public safety, and other information. Twitter and Facebook allow for two way communication so the public can be involved. Nixel allows the police to receive alerts from the surrounding area.

At a meeting of Princeton Council on Monday, February 25, several opponents of developer AvalonBay’s housing plan for the former Princeton Hospital site voiced their opinions of an appeal filed February 20 by the developer in Superior Court. The appeal seeks to overturn the “illegal denial” of their plan issued by the Princeton Planning Board last December, and names the Board, the mayor, and Council as defendants.

Kate Warren, a member of the group Princeton Citizens for Sustainable Neighborhoods (PCSN), called the appeal “one more bullying tactic” by AvalonBay. PCSN has been a constant presence at meetings about the plan over the past year, challenging its density, design, and possible environmental problems with testimony from experts and attorneys. “We are asking you to put your full support behind the Planning Board’s decision,” Ms. Warren told Council.

PCSN member Alexi Assmus pointed out what she said were inaccuracies in the filing, specifically regarding affordable housing. In a statement, PCSN said, “We strongly urge Princeton Council and the Planning Board to fight the AvalonBay lawsuit against the town. We are considering all of our legal options.”

AvalonBay’s appeal asserts that the Planning Board was biased in its decision to reject the proposal for 280 rental units at the old hospital site on Witherspoon Street. “When the Planning Board voted to deny AvalonBay’s site plan application, it was clear that AvalonBay was an unwelcome corporate outsider,” the appeal reads. The developer was fully willing to comply with site plan and zoning ordinance requirements, it continues. “Unfortunately, AvalonBay’s compliance with the law was insufficient to obtain site plan approval from the Planning Board.”

The suit also contends that the Board’s decision violated the Mount Laurel Doctrine on affordable housing, and was not supported by evidence presented in several public hearings. The developer asks the court to reverse the decision and approve the project. They urge the Court to make a decision by May 1, at which time AvalonBay says it will have to back out of its contract with Princeton HealthCare System because of time and money constraints. The contract has a June 30, 2013 deadline, which the lawsuit says cannot be extended. The company also wants the court to award legal fees and other costs, which they expect to reach more than $2 million by the June date.

The hospital issued a statement last Thursday saying, “We are not a party to the lawsuit filed by AvalonBay and therefore are not in a position to comment on it.” AvalonBay also declined comment on the appeal.

Planning Board attorney Gerald Muller said Monday that he was surprised by the manner in which the suit was filed. “It’s an order to show cause, which we don’t think is appropriate here,” he said. Once the court sets up a briefing schedule, Mr. Muller added, the Board’s decision will be proven to be legal. “We think we have valid legal ground. And in our opinion, a number of standards in the ordinance have been violated.”

Mayor Liz Lempert said Monday a decision has not yet been reached on whether the task force which has been meeting regularly to discuss possible rezoning of the hospital site will be continued.

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She knows if you feed them, the gulls will come. She’s happy, the gulls are happy, the geese are geese, the others wish spring would hurry up, and it’s all happening at Lake Carnegie on the last Sunday in February. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

February 20, 2013
WINNERS ALL ROUND: At the Sustainable Princeton Leadership Awards ceremony held recently at the Princeton Public Library, those honored celebrated with the organization’s representatives and Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert. Seated from left to right: John Emmons, Science Teacher Community Park Elementary School; Martha Friend, Science Lab Teacher Community Park Elementary School; Stephanie Chorney, Green Schools Coalition Co-Chair; Diane Landis, Sustainable Princeton, Executive Director; Andrea Malcolm, Sustainable Princeton, Program Manager. Standing from left to right, Jack Morrrison, President, JM Group;  Matt Wasserman, Church and Dwight; Mayor Lempert; Grace Sinden, Environmental Advocate; Robert Hrabchack, Princeton Day School, Student; Stu Orefice, Dining Services Director, Princeton University; William A. Wolf, Architect; and Bill Sachs, Tree Expert. (Photo by Kristin S. Appelget)

WINNERS ALL ROUND: At the Sustainable Princeton Leadership Awards ceremony held recently at the Princeton Public Library, those honored celebrated with the organization’s representatives and Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert. Seated from left to right: John Emmons, Science Teacher Community Park Elementary School; Martha Friend, Science Lab Teacher Community Park Elementary School; Stephanie Chorney, Green Schools Coalition Co-Chair; Diane Landis, Sustainable Princeton, Executive Director; Andrea Malcolm, Sustainable Princeton, Program Manager. Standing from left to right, Jack Morrrison, President, JM Group;  Matt Wasserman, Church and Dwight; Mayor Lempert; Grace Sinden, Environmental Advocate; Robert Hrabchack, Princeton Day School, Student; Stu Orefice, Dining Services Director, Princeton University; William A. Wolf, Architect; and Bill Sachs, Tree Expert. (Photo by Kristin S. Appelget)

After more than six years of planning, construction of Princeton University’s $300 million Arts & Transit project is on track to start with demolition this spring. According to a schedule released by the University at a meeting of the council of the Princeton University Community earlier this month, the initial work will begin with the sidewalk in front of Forbes College, on Alexander Street, where power lines will be moved. Completion of the entire complex is projected for fall 2017.

The houses that line Alexander Street opposite Forbes and the Springdale Golf Club’s course are also scheduled to be demolished in the spring unless someone with the means to move them steps forward by April. University administration has indicated that the school will give any or all of the houses to anyone willing to relocate them. Check the municipal website www.princetonnj.gov for more information.

Soon after the conclusion of the University’s June 4 Commencement activities, traffic will be rerouted on Alexander Street via University Place and College Road for about six weeks while utility work is completed. Alexander Street is scheduled to reopen the following month. At that point, initial demolition should be completed and construction of a new commuter parking lot and temporary train platform will begin. The Dinky will be out of service for a week and replaced by bus service between Princeton and Princeton Junction.

Next fall, the temporary train platform and new commuter parking lot are scheduled to open. The train will be in operation, but riders will still have the option of taking an express bus to and from Princeton Junction until the new station, which will be located 460 feet south of the current terminus, opens in the summer of 2014. Renovation of the existing train station buildings into a restaurant and cafe will also begin in the fall, as will construction on the transit plaza, new train station, new building for the Wawa market, and the access road to the West -Garage, also known as Lot 7.

Between fall 2013 and early 2014, construction of a new roundabout at the intersection of Alexander Street and University Place will be underway. Early next year, the roundabout is scheduled to open and road detours will end. The new Dinky station is scheduled to open in the summer of 2014. Also targeted for completion at that time are the new Wawa, transit plaza, and access road to the West Garage. The Wawa will remain open at its current location until then.

The three arts buildings and public plaza in the complex are to be built between the summers of 2014 and 2017. A completion of the restaurant and cafe cannot be announced until a partner is selected to operate them.

The 22-acre Arts & Transit plan was approved by the Regional Planning Board last December. Three lawsuits have been filed by local citizens opposed to the part of the proposal that mandates moving the Dinky station south of its present location. The latest was filed in Superior Court on February 5.

SIGN OF THINGS TO COME: Rojo’s of Lambertville’s little red rooster will soon be coming to Princeton. Rojo’s owner ­David Waldman has signed the lease on 33 Palmer Square with Palmer Square Management and plans to open his new coffee establishment some time this spring, between The Bent Spoon and Thomas Sweet Chocolate.

SIGN OF THINGS TO COME: Rojo’s of Lambertville’s little red rooster will soon be coming to Princeton. Rojo’s owner ­David Waldman has signed the lease on 33 Palmer Square with Palmer Square Management and plans to open his new coffee establishment some time this spring, between The Bent Spoon and Thomas Sweet Chocolate.

Princeton will get a new coffee shop this spring when former country music guitarist David Waldman opens a companion to his Lambertville roastery Rojo’s on Palmer Square.

Mr. Waldman, who once toured with legends Waylon Jennings and George Jones and was nicknamed Rojo (Red) by Willie Nelson on account of his then red beard and ponytail, has signed the lease with Palmer Square Management for the 700 square-foot space between The Bent Spoon and Thomas Sweet Chocolate. Mr. Waldman’s Lambertville coffee roasters and cafe will remain in operation.

“We have quite a following in Princeton,” said Mr. Waldman. “Many of our customers have asked us when are we coming to Princeton and we’ve been waiting for the right time and looking for the right place for a significant Princeton presence.”

The new cafe will offer a selection of certified organic and sustainably grown coffees brewed by various devices such as Chemex, Hario, CONA vacuum, Turkish, Clever, French Press, or Aeropress. Besides coffee Rojo’s will also have a selection of teas, and tea brewing accoutrements. Brewing equipment and accessories will be available for purchase.

Rojo’s Princeton will open around 7 a.m. to catch the morning crowd and will serve locally baked goods.

Mr. Waldman has said that he wants to “raise coffee IQ,” and like the Lambertville operation, Rojo’s Princeton will offer public coffee tastings. Its trained baristas will give tutorials in how to make a good cup of coffee, espresso, and tea.

Rojo’s Roastery is a small batch artisan coffee roaster which imports, roasts, and sells beans from some 25 countries. It also works with architects and designers to build or renovate cafes, sells equipment, and trains baristas. Its products are currently sold in Princeton at Whole Earth.

Described as the “Wizard of Java” for the meticulous attention to the process by which green beans are sampled, analyzed, and experimentally roasted and sometimes blended, Mr. Waldman opened his Lambertville roastery in 2006 in a semi-industrial building along the Delaware River. Rojo’s uses a rare vintage 1956 gas-fired Probat UG-15 coffee bean roaster that was formerly used by a family business in the French town of Lille.

The Lambertville store was Mr. Waldman’s first departure from the music world. A native of Philadelphia, he is a classically trained musician who was drawn to Nashville where he had a successful career playing pedal steel guitar at the Grand Ole Opry.

A resident of Hopewell Borough for the past 28 years, Mr. Waldman says that he is committed to developing direct, sustainable, and financially beneficial relationships with small independent producers. Of the 85 or so coffee growing countries, 24 are among the best, he says. He buys from small volume growers, many of whom may be too small to sell their beans through the conventional coffee trading industry, in Central America, South America, and Indonesia.

A lot of his product can be labeled “Fair Trade,” but says Mr. Waldman, his social responsibilty philosophy and practice go beyond the scope of Fair Trade. “We work directly with small farmers so that they can make a living wage.” Seventy five to 80 percent of Rojo’s beans are the result of what Mr. Waldman calls “relationship buying.” Rojo’s typically buy a small grower’s entire crop.

“There is definitely room for another coffee place in Princeton,” he says. “Each coffee shop has its own identity and I’m not concerned about competition, there’s plenty of room for all of us.”

Asked for comment, Jessica Durrie, owner of Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street, agrees with Mr. Waldman. She has been expecting another coffee establishment to open in Princeton for some five years and is pleased to see another relatively small local business rather than a large chain. The arrival of Rojo’s, says Ms. Durrie “will help to grow and maintain the unique retail landscape that Princeton has to offer. I had lunch with David many years ago, before he opened Rojo’s and while he was crafting his vision in the coffee business, he’s passionate about what he does.”

For more on Rojo’s in Lambertville, call (609) 397-0040, or visit: www. rojosroastery.com.

When Princeton Council’s Traffic and Transportation Committee meets next Monday to discuss the latest concept that the New Jersey Department of Transportation has released regarding traffic woes on Route 1, one issue is certain to take priority: Making it easier to get into town.

“We would like to see reasonable access to Princeton from the three major roadways С Washington Road, Harrison Street, and Alexander Road,” says Anton Lahnston, who chairs the committee. “So we would hope that any reconfiguration would allow the community to be served in that way.”

The committee’s meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at 5:30 on February 25, preceding the Council’s 7 p.m. meeting at the Municipal building. On hand will be representatives from Princeton’s engineering and police departments, as well as a liaison from Princeton University.

The DOT released its concept early this month at a meeting attended by Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert, who asked Mr. Lahnston to consider the proposal at a Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting. The concept comes several months after a failed experiment last summer to reconfigure traffic on Route 1, which involved closing the jughandles at Washington Road and Harrison Street. The trial was discontinued after residents of the Penns Neck section across Route 1 complained about a heavy influx of traffic, and commuters entering their neighborhood to make turns and avoid traffic delays.

Among the ideas being floated by the DOT are widening Route 1 to four lanes in both directions, eliminating the jughandles at Washington Road and Harrison Street, eliminating the jughandle and traffic light at Fisher Place, building new jughandles on both sides of Route 1 about halfway between Washington Road and Harrison Street, and constructing a partial traffic circle and light at Route 1 and Washington Road. That would allow motorists going south to turn left onto Route 571 toward the Princeton Junction railroad station.

Joseph Dee, spokesman for the DOT, stressed last week that the concept being considered is just that: a concept.

“When the commissioner pulled the plug on the pilot program last year, he made a commitment to continue to work with the communities to find a solution to chronic congestion along this corridor,” he said. “This proposal, which is just a concept that we shared with local officials, was an effort to focus discussions on an idea that we put together as a way to help alleviate congestion. The point was to say, take a look, let us talk you through it, then take it back to your residents and see what the sense is.”

As proposed, the improvements would cost roughly $35 million and handle anticipated traffic volumes for 20 years, Mr. Dee added. “This is a starting point for a conversation. We’ll see what the feedback is from Princeton, West Windsor, and Plainsboro, as well as from Princeton University and the hospital,” he said. “We’ll see if they like it or dislike it, or maybe have some good suggestions. It is not a plan or a project being designed, funded, or in engineering.”

Mr. Lahnston said he hopes the Traffic and Transportation Committee meeting will result in a report of some sort for Council. “My sense is that we’re probably going to come back to the Council with not so much an opinion on ‘yes or no, we support this,’ but as we see the advantages and disadvantages,” he said. “We’ve been closely involved in all of this over the past year, and we have the jughandle trial fresh in our minds. We’re relying heavily on our engineers to give us advice.”

One idea proposed in the past has been to build an overpass, but that is prohibitively expensive. “There is a big concern about the expense of this whole thing,” Mr. Lahnston said. “This concept seems to be something the state could afford, and that is an important factor.”

Newark Mayor Cory Booker spoke to the eighth grade assembly at John Witherspoon Middle School Tuesday as part of a school-wide celebration of community, student service, and kindness.

Mayor Booker was invited to speak on the subject of “Making a Difference and Contributing Towards Community” by JWMS Principal Jason Burr, who described the mayor as “an incredible teacher and leader in the State of New Jersey who has advocated small acts of kindness that can lead to significant and powerful change.”

The event opened with a performance of the “Star Spangled Banner” followed by presentations from student leadership groups, and the JWMS “Do Something” club.

Prior to Mr. Booker’s arrival, the assembly gathered in the packed auditorium, watched a slideshow of inspiring images with shots of Mr. Booker interspersed with those of Martin Luther King, Jr, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Jimmy Carter, Bono, and others. The words of Maya Angelou, Yo-Yo Ma, Mother Teresa, and Mr. King, Jr. were featured, as were images of soup kitchen volunteers, Red Cross workers, soldiers, flags, and Habitat for Humanity. The slide show opened with Mother Teresa’s words: “It is not how much we do but how much love we put in the doing,” and ended with Mr. King’s statement: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

After being welcomed as a “champion of social change and educational reform,” Mr. Booker received rousing applause from the audience that included members of the Princeton Public School’s Board of Education, Mayor Liz Lempert, and past JWMS Principal William Johnson.

Mr. Booker spoke about his life and his parents. “Feel free to laugh,” he told the assembly as he described personal tales of embarrassment and loss of self-confidence. Although told with much humor, Mr. Booker’s stories had a serious message. His parents , both of whom attended college and went on to work for IBM, had made it clear to him that he was the inheritor of a great legacy. His father, who was born poor in the segregated South, spoke to him of a “conspiracy of love” that had brought people together in hard times and that had financially supported his attendance in college in the -early 1960s. He described his parents’ experiences during the era of “sit-ins” as depicted in the movie Mississippi Burning.

In describing the New Jersey Fair Housing Council that had conducted “sting” operations uncovering the practice of prospective black home buyers being told that a house had been sold when it was still on the market for prospective white buyers, he shared his own story of his family’s move from Washington, D.C. to New Jersey. “This is what happened when I was less than a year old. This is the story of me, standing on the shoulders of thousands of people who struggled for fairness.”

Mr. Booker shared his father’s saying: “You drink deeply from wells of opportunity and freedom that you did not dig” and told the students that they have tools that previous generations did not have.

Speaking of his time as a student at Stanford when his self-esteem failed him, he had everyone laughing as he recalled how anger had prompted him to lash out at a fellow football player: a 350-pound, 6’8 tall mountain of a man whose nickname was “Dr. Death.” “He hit me so hard that 3,000 miles away in New Jersey, my mother felt my pain,” he exaggerated to humorous effect. The experience challenged him to make decisions about his life and he urged students to set goals for themselves and to live with a purpose. “Real poverty is ‘poverty of the spirit,’” he said. “You have to commit yourself to being excellent. None of you were born to be average.”

In closing, Mr. Booker quoted lines from Langston Hughes: “O Let America Be America Again: “O, yes, I say it plain, America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath — America will be!”

Mr. Booker was elected mayor of Newark in 2006 and is serving his second term. The third African-American mayor of that city, he is a graduate of Stanford University and the Yale Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.

In 2009, after Barack Obama took office as president, Mr. Booker was offered and turned down an opportunity to lead the new White House Office of Urban Affairs Policy, citing his commitment to the city of Newark.

Over the past few years, Mr. Booker has come to prominence well beyond Newark. He gained a reputation for personal involvement in public service when he took part in a 10-day hunger strike in order to draw attention to the dangers of drug dealing on city streets. He lived on a “food stamp” budget to raise awareness of food insecurity, shoveled the driveway of a constituent who asked him to do so, opened his home to hurricane victims, rescued a dog from freezing winter weather and a neighbor from a house fire.

Last December, he announced that he was thinking about running for the seat in the United States Senate currently occupied by Frank Lautenberg. It was rumored that Mr. Booker might challenge New Jersey Governor Chris Christie when he comes up for re-election later this year. But last month Mr. Booker ended the speculation about a challenge to Mr. Christie when he filed the necessary papers for forming a campaign committee toward his goal to run for the Senate.

Besides Mr. Booker’s talk, two student video presentations, each highlighting a good cause, were shown. Members of “Hands of Kindness,” spoke about giving back to the community. The group’s two constituents, “The Busy Bees” and “The Leaping Frogs,” have written letters to troops, gathered 500 canned food items for Crisis Ministry, raised $300 in cookie sales, and organized clothing drives for families in need. Student Council members described the success of their candygrams fundraiser in support of the annual school’s trip to Washington, D.C. Members of the “Do Something” club, which meets twice a week at the school to plan fundraisers and organize drives took center-stage as teacher Kirsten Riley described and commended their efforts.

Mr. Burr praised a long list of volunteer activities carried out by individual students on their own time out of school, from entertaining the elderly in retirement homes to donating inches of hair to Locks of Love.

“Mayor Booker has become legendary for gestures of care and kindness within his community, and I am impressed by similar activities by our students,” said Mr. Burr.

“Use it or lose it or give it to someone else who will use it,” says Dick Woodbridge, former mayor of Princeton Township, in reference to the oldest part of the former Valley Road School building at 369 Witherspoon Street.

Earlier proposals for the building’s future had been received by the Board of Education but in the face of estimated costs of some $10.8 million, the school district had postponed any decision until after consolidation of the Princetons.

Now that consolidation is here, it’s time to take action, especially since the building’s condition is deteriorating, says Mr. Woodbridge.

“The leak in the roof could well develop into a public safety issue,” says Mr. Woodbridge. “We would like to repair it but we have no authority to effect the repairs,” he says, noting that no money has been allocated for the building’s maintenance for many years. “This is a public property that has been grossly neglected,” he said.

The building in question sits between the new Town Hall and the newly refurbished portion of the former school that houses the administration for Princeton Public Schools on its Valley Road side. “No one is taking responsibility for it and we would like to take on that responsibility. We want to rehabilitate but we can’t do that until we have rights to it. We want it to be a community center and we estimate that it will cost some $2 million to refurbish it. Perhaps its footprint needs expanding somewhat, we are willing to be flexible,” says Mr. Woodbridge.

The buildings last two tenants, Corner House and TV30 have been offered alternative space in the former Borough Hall. Corner House has accepted the offer and plans to move late March. TV30 has not.

According to Kip Cherry, president of the non-profit formed two years ago to raise money for the building’s renovation, Valley Road School Community Center, Inc., the local public access television station is still considering its options and hopes to remain as a tenant of the municipality, which took over responsibility for the building from the Board of Education last spring.

“Under the leadership of George McCullough, TV 30 has grown in recent years,” says Ms. Cherry. “Borough Hall doesn’t have the potential of the space TV30 now occupies, where it is a tremendous and easily accessible resource for the community, but in spite of the station’s creativity and output, the uncertainty of its position has thwarted its growth,” she said.

Mr. Woodbridge serves as liaison to the municipal cable TV committee and is a longtime member of the TV 30 Foundation. He is also involved with the Valley Road Adaptive Re-Use Committee, which formed the Valley Road School Community Center, Inc. The non-profit organization recently received 501c3 tax exempt status from the IRS and has a detailed plans to turn the building into a community center with space leased to non-profit organizations.

The plan’s details are in the 208-page proposal drawn up by Ms. Cherry, the non-profits’ president, and submitted to the Board of Education in 2011. The proposal would turn the old portion of the Valley Road School into a nonprofit hub. “We have non-profits who would love to get in there and pay rent and we are trying to memorialize this with a letter of intent,” said Mr. Woodbridge.

At the same 2011 meeting, Princeton Borough and Princeton Township submitted a proposal that would demolish the school and build a new complex to house Corner House, the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, and an expanded fire station. The rescue squad has since decided to expand at its current site on Harrison Street and a task force is currently studying the feasibility of expanding the fire house on the Valley Road site.

The Community Center plan includes studio space for TV30 as well as two black box theaters and a cafe that would be operated by autistic adults. “Besides the more routine rental agreements for space, we have innovative ideas that include a proposed rental charge for shared spaces, which allows nonprofit users to be charged for space only when they are using it,” said Ms. Cherry. “The plan calculates the costs of operating the building and demonstrates that the revenue, at very reasonable rental rates, would more than cover the operating costs,” she said. “What we are hoping for is a collaboration, a public-private partnership, that will allow our efforts to be endorsed by the School Board and the Princeton Council, so that we can raise the funds to cover immediately needed repairs and renovations.”

Ms. Cherry, who grew up in Princeton and attended the Valley Road School, said that the issue is not one of nostalgia. An advocate of historic preservation, Ms. Cherry said: “Princeton has a rich fabric to protect and this building played an influential role in the 1940s and 1950s in establishing Princeton as one of the best school districts in the nation.”

According to Ms. Cherry, the building was given to the people of Princeton in 1918. It was in the hands of the school district but owned by the Township until 2002 when the Township sold it to the school district for a nominal fee of $1. “Neither the Township nor the school district has taken responsibility for its maintenance and that responsibility now falls to the new consolidated Princeton,” she said, citing agreements beginning in 1979 between the School Board and Princeton Township for the older portion of Valley Road School fronting on Witherspoon Street. “This is not just the School Board’s problem but a problem for the municipality,” she said.

The website of the Princeton Public Schools has a timeline summarizing the actions and decisions by the Board of Education regarding the building beginning with a public forum on the issue held in October 2007.

In 2008, several scenarios for the building’s future were put forward by KSS Architects of Princeton. The scenarios were listed in three categories: 1) maintain all or some of the structures; 2) demolish everything and rebuild a large building or buildings; and 3) demolish everything, build a smaller building and sell part of the land. Cost ranged from $5.5 million to $24 million for a full rehabilitation.

Experts later recommended that the board stop investing in 369 Witherspoon because of the prohibitive cost of repair and upgrade as estimated.

“What is needed,” said Mr. Woodbridge, “is for the building to be looked at in the context of the other civic buildings now concentrated at the bottom of Witherspoon Street, making it a no-brainer for a community center.”

Mr. Woodbridge was also a student at the Valley Road School from third to eighth grade. And while he acknowledges a sentimental attachment to the building, his plans are all practical. “The building is built like a fortress with walls that are four bricks thick and while it has not been well maintained over the years, with no money from the school budget allocated for its maintenance, it is not without future possibility,” he argues.

One other scenario that Mr. Woodbridge suggests is for Mayor Liz Lempert to appoint a Valley Road Building Committee to look at the issue, or to consider forming a charrette.

A charrette is an intensive planning session where citizens, designers, and others collaborate on a vision for development. The process can allow all participants to be mutual authors of any plan that develops through brainstorming and design activity.

“A charrette could bring an outsider with no agenda together with stakeholders from the Foundation, the Town, Princeton Public Schools, TV 30 and the Fire House,” said Mr. Woodbridge.

“With consolidation, the Town has a lot on its hands,” said Mr. Woodbridge. “If they don’t have time to deal with this, they should appoint a committee to look into it and explore what has to be done.”

 

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Zoe and Mia Al-Zubaidy share a moment at the Arts Council of Princeton’s president’s Day workshop Monday. That’s Zoe with Lincoln and Mia with Washington. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

February 13, 2013
LOVE AT SMALL WORLD: Local photographer Christine Ferrara captured the warm glow of Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street last Friday at the start of the opening reception for “The Love Show.” Ms. Ferrara was among more than 40 local artists featured in the show/art sale which runs through March 5 and benefits HiTOPS.(Photo by Christine Ferrara)

LOVE AT SMALL WORLD: Local photographer Christine Ferrara captured the warm glow of Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street last Friday at the start of the opening reception for “The Love Show.” Ms. Ferrara was among more than 40 local artists featured in the show/art sale which runs through March 5 and benefits HiTOPS. (Photo by Christine Ferrara)

With unexpected snow storms and freezing downpours interspersed with teasing signs of spring, February can be one bleak month.

For the past four years Small World Coffee on Witherspoon Street has brightened the February gloom with a month-long community art show. Aptly titled “The Love Show,” the event raises funds for a local community non-profit. This year, the proceeds go to HiTOPS, the teen and young adult health center on Wiggins Street.

Some 100 people turned out last Friday night for the show’s opening reception. The coffee shop was transformed into a gallery and party space devoted to art in visual, musical, and culinary forms: with DJs spinning and baristas passing around treats donated by Olives and The Bent Spoon.

Many of the artists brought friends and family along to mingle with the store’s loyal customers, members of the community, and small world employees.

Four years ago, when Ms. Durrie and her team formulated the plan to curate a community art show, the month of February was chosen as a time when such festivity would be most welcome and the love theme was a natural. “We decided to make it a fundraising event as well as an art event accessible to all,” said Ms. Durrie. “We liked the concept of an opening party that would be so full of energy celebrating art and artists, with hors d’oeuvres and live music, so much fun that it would warrant asking for a suggested donation of $20,” she said.

Participating artists are asked to create pieces in response to the word ‘love,’ in broad or specific terms. “We are always inspired by the range of talent and creativity and thank all of the artists,” said Ms. Durrie. “We are so thankful for all of the wonderful entries, but alas, we only have so much space on our walls.”

In addition to the sale of the artwork, the coffee shop also sells love show t-shirts ($24.95) and stickers ($1), from which all of the proceeds benefit the selected not-for-profit. “While each of these fundraising efforts may be small in cash value, I am a big believer in the power of many small good gestures,” said Ms. Durrie. “That is one of the sub-themes of the show.”

Past beneficiaries have been the Arts Council of Princeton (2010), the D&R Greenway Land Trust (2011), and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (2012). In order to “spread the love around,” says Ms. Durrie, Small World Coffee decided to select a different not-for-profit each year so that different organizations would have an opportunity to get their message out to a potentially new audience. “What I did not realize when we decided to do this was how great it would be to get to know all of the different not-for-profits. I’ve truly enjoyed learning more about each of them and expanding my knowledge of our community.”

To date the coffee shop has raised some $1200 all told. This year, more is hoped for. “The bad weather on opening night may or may not allow us to exceed our goals, but it is not too late for people to come in and buy our stylish love show t-shirts or purchase a piece of original art work.”

Friday’s weather presented some challenges. While snow arrived, the scheduled performers, Motorfunker DJs from WPRB did not, necessitating a last minute change of plans. “But the strength of our Small World community came through,” said Ms. Durrie, who called local musicians Chris Harford and Matt Trowbridge to save the day by bringing in their sound system and turntables and DJing the dance party at the end of he evening.

More than 40 local artists: painters and photographers participated. Many donated the proceeds from the sale of their work, or a part thereof, to HiTOPS, which promotes adolescent health and well-being and is the only free-standing health center focusing exclusively on youth in New Jersey. Founded by nurse practitioners and health educators, it has been providing risk reduction education and health promotion to youth for the past 25 years.

“The event wrapped up at 11 p.m.,” said Ms. Durrie. “It was a good night.”

The Love Show continues through March 5 at Small World Coffee, 14 Witherspoon Street, Monday through Thursday 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.

For more information on HiTOPS, call (609) 683 5155 or visit: www.hitops.org.