July 8, 2015

After long drawn-out negotiations between their union and the school district, Princeton’s teachers now have a new four-year contract.

The Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) and the Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA) reached an agreement that was unanimously approved by the Board last week.

The long-awaited contract is the result of talks between BOE and PREA that began in the fall of 2013 and the cause of much criticism directed at both sides from teachers, parents, students, and taxpayers since that time.

The contract is retroactive to last July 1, when teachers had been working under the terms of an expired contract. It will expire June 30, 2018.

Under the terms of the new contract, teachers will receive a salary increase of 2.66 percent for 2014-15; 2.67 percent for 2015-16; 2.50 percent for 2016-17; and 2.63 percent for 2017-18.

According to district officials, longevity pay will be eliminated in year four of the new contract and will be incorporated into a new step system going forward.

The new contract includes increases in the stipends that teachers receive for extracurricular activities such as coaching or advising student clubs. In this case, however, the increase is not retroactive for the 2014-15 school year. The increase for year two is 2.5 percent. For years three and four, the increase is 2.25 percent.

Under the new agreement, teachers will continue to make health care contributions at the tier 4 level under Chapter 78 of New Jersey state law.

The interpretation of Chapter 78 had been a bone of contention between the two parties and the inclusion of such health care contributions at the tier 4 level was one which the teachers’ union had opposed, even after sessions with a state-appointed mediator brought in to bring the two sides to a resolution.

The new contract holds teachers to two evening parent-teacher conferences a year and offers an additional staff development day a year.

In addition, teachers who subscribe to the district’s health care benefits program will receive annual health care stipends for years two, three and four of the contract.

The agreement came just as the two sides were about to enter the expensive arbitration stage of the bargaining process known as “fact-finding,” which could have cost between $1,600 and $2,500 per day for a state appointed fact-finder. The two sides would have shared this cost.

In recent weeks, with the approach of the end of the school year, both sides met face-to-face to thrash out a deal. Hopes rose after two marathon negotiating sessions on June 2 and June 10, the first lasting 18 hours and the second 12 hours. After the second meeting, BOE President Andrea Spalla said that both parties were working to “close the remaining differences between the two sides.”

Asked Monday what had clinched the deal, BOE member Patrick Sullivan responded that “Nothing in particular ‘clinched the deal’ except many hours of listening to each other and lots of hard work. The Board’s only goal has always been to come to an agreement that is fair to our teachers and financially sustainable for our district and our children. We are grateful that the PREA worked with us to come to such a conclusion.”

Compared to earlier BOE meetings, last week’s presentation failed to draw a large audience of teachers and parents.

Princeton Council held a closed session Monday to discuss the lawsuit challenging Princeton University’s tax exempt status.

The municipality is named as a defendant in the suit, brought by public interest lawyer Bruce I. Afran in 2011 on behalf of local residents Kenneth Fields, Mary Ellen Marino, and Joseph and Kathryn King.

The suit takes issue with the tax-exempt status of University properties, arguing that they are being used for commercial functions; it challenges the University’s status as a tax exempt non-profit organization. The impetus for the suit came after a 2010 property tax reevaluation in Princeton, which resulted in increases in assessed values and therefore in property tax payments.

Princeton University is the town’s largest taxpayer and the lawsuit, which has been likened to David taking on Goliath, could have major implications for home-owners. It could potentially reduce their property taxes, which would be a boon to residents of modest or fixed incomes.

According to the University’s website, its 2014 tax payments comprise less than one percent of its 2013-14 operating budget, which was $1.582 billion.

In lieu of paying taxes to the municipality on all of its properties, the University contributes a yearly payment or PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) and makes certain properties eligible for taxation. In 2014, it paid $8.5 million in property taxes and $2.75 million in PILOT payments. For 2015 the University will make $2,860,000 in PILOT payments to Princeton as part of a seven-year agreement with the municipality that calls for four percent annual increases.

According to the Princeton Tax Assessor’s office, the University owns 1,035 acres of land in Princeton with a total estimated valuation of $1.79 billion. Some 27.6 percent of this valuation is taxable, the remainder is exempt from property taxes.

Before moving into closed session Monday, the Council looked for comments from members of the public.

But only one person from the community, Dale Meade, had turned up to speak to the Council represented by President Bernie Miller and members Jo Butler, Jenny Crumiller, and Patrick Simon. Lance Liverman had said he would be along later.

Town Administrator Marc Dashield was also a participant in the discussion as was attorney Harry Haushalter. According to his website, Mr. Haushalter’s special areas of expertise include New Jersey State taxes, local property taxation, tax litigation, and property tax abatement.

On Monday, Ms. Butler arrived clutching a June 1 cover story in a local news publication with a photograph of attorney Mr. Afran on the cover and posing the question “Bruce Afran: constitutional crusader, or skunk at the garden party?”

The article by Vincent Xu points out that Mr. Afran has represented plaintiffs in lawsuits against Princeton University, the Institute for Advanced Study, and the town of Princeton.

The article goes on to describe Mr. Afran as a “public interest lawyer devoted to civil liberties” for his work on behalf of Save the Dinky citizen group and the Princeton Battlefield Society.

Mr. Meade, a 43-year resident of Princeton, addressed the members of the Council, to whom he is no stranger, having previously spoken out on the issue of property taxes, in particular, the ways in which they are assessed and the degree of oversight the municipality has or should have with respect to this process.

“I am an advocate of strict compliance with New Jersey statutes and IRS regulations,” began Mr. Meade, pointing out that he was once a member of the Princeton Fair Tax Revaluation Group. “The municipality should be neutral with respect to this topic,” he said. “It should not take an advocacy position but rather comply with existing statutes and regulations. What I think is missing in the area of property taxes is independent oversight. The tax assessor is paid by the municipality but the Council is not supposed to tell him how to do his job. I feel that they should maintain that position and look at both sides of the issue and not take a position.”

Mr. Meade went on to advise the Council to be “squeaky clean” on conflicts of interest. “Anyone with a connection to Princeton University should not participate in this discussion; not only should they not vote, they should not participate at all.”

In response, Ms. Butler pointed out that Mayor Liz Lempert and Council Member Heather Howard had been recused. Ms. Howard is employed by the University, as is Ms. Lempert’s husband.

After his brief comments to the Council, Mr. Meade said that he had been prompted to speak in the hopes of forcing a clarification of what the municipality’s responsibility is regarding property tax assessments.

In February, tax court Judge Vito L. Bianco denied the University’s request to have the lawsuit challenging its tax exempt status thrown out.

In April, a state appeals court declined to hear the University’s appeal of Judge Bianco’s ruling.

At that time, Mr. Afran commented: “The issue is not whether the taxpayer will win but how much of the University’s tax exempt status will remain if this goes to trial.” He estimated that if the entire University campus were valued for tax purposes, the average Princeton taxpayer could potentially see a reduction of their tax bill of between 30 and 50 percent. He described contemporary universities as “hedge funds masquerading as educational non-profits.”

The challenge to the University’s property tax exempt status will be tried in New Jersey tax court, possibly in the early part of 2016.

Thanks to an acquisition announced last week by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Princeton Battlefield State Park is 4.6 acres larger. The added land fronts Stockton Street and directly abuts the main battlefield site. Its addition raises the size of the park to 80 acres.

Purchased from the D’Ambrisi family last April, the property is said to have been key to tactical maneuvers during the Battle of Princeton, fought on January 3, 1777 a week after George Washington’s victory over Hessian troops in Trenton. It consists of slightly rolling land and a series of connected ponds and streams that drain to the Stony Brook.

According to Kip Cherry, first vice president of the non-profit Princeton Battlefield Society, the property was critical to the famous battle. Just prior to the first phase, two British units stood on the ridge of the property, behind the colonnade that now stands at the site. “Understanding these stories creates important insight into the battle and into the spirit and principles on which the nation was founded,” Ms. Cherry said in a statement from the DEP.

Partners involved in preserving the parcel include the DEP’s Green Acres Program, the New Jersey State Park Service, Mercer County, the municipality of Princeton, the Princeton Battlefield Society, and the Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS). The total purchase was $850,000. The Green Acres Program contributed $450,000 and the county gave $200,000, also providing FOPOS a $100,000 matching grant available to non-profit groups.

The municipality of Princeton agreed to take on the cost of repairing the dam on the property and demolishing the house as its contribution to the preservation effort.

“Figuring out the details about demolition responsibilities and other issues such as an existing driveway easement was not easy,” said Mayor Liz Lempert. “Thanks to the cooperation of all the partners, and the great work done by our engineering department, we were able to work these things out. In fact, the dam repairs and house demolition were already complete as of the transfer of the property to the State to add to the park.”

The Battlefield Society plans to use National Park Service grants to do an archaeological survey in cooperation with the State Park Service. It has been suggested that American and British soldiers are buried at the site.

“We feel a deep sense of honor in being able to add this land to one of the most important historic sites in the United States, especially as we get ready to celebrate Independence Day weekend,” DEP Commissioner Bob Martin said when announcing the purchase on July 1. “This acquisition shows the true power of innovative partnerships and the spirit of teamwork protecting places that are special to the people of New Jersey.”

Future plans for recreational use of the park include extending the bike path that starts at Mercer Street to Stockton Street, and possibly connecting the larger system of trails along the Stony Brook and elsewhere in Princeton.

“We always like to help add to existing parks, and this purchase will increase the public’s abilities to access and use one of the most important and beloved parks in Mercer County,” said County Executive Brian Hughes.

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Children played a variety of games during Saturday’s July 4 festivities at Princeton Battlefield State Park. Revolutionary War period soldiers from Mott’s 6th Company, 2nd Continental Artillery were on hand to demonstrate drill, artillery, and flintlock muskets while volunteers from Clarke House (shown here) demonstrated domestic skills of the day, and Battlefield Park Curator John Mills read the Declaration of Independence. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

July 7, 2015
Cory Booker served as the Keynote speaker at the Alumni Corps' 20th Anniversary Gala. (Image: Princeton Alumni Corps)

Cory Booker served as the Keynote speaker at the Princeton AlumniCorps’ 20th Anniversary Gala. This year’s keynote speaker was Anne-Marie Slaughter ’80. An award was also presented to Ralph Nader ’55. (Image: Princeton Alumni Corps)

Princeton AlumniCorps, an independent nonprofit organization that engages Princeton alumni in public service, selected 46 recent Princeton University graduates to serve as Project 55 Fellows.

Started in 1990 by the Princeton University class of 1955, Project 55 connects talented and committed Princeton graduates to public interest organizations in six cities across the country. Fellows spend a year working with their organization and join more than 1,500 Princeton alumni who are part of the AlumniCorps community. Two integral parts of the year-long fellowship are ongoing seminars and connecting with a mentor via the AlumniCorps’ network.

Fellows are located in New York, Washington, DC, Chicago, New Jersey, Boston and San Francisco.

Ryan Whalen, Director of Initiatives and Strategy at the Rockefeller Foundation, says of Project 55, “The Foundation has had a number of Project 55 Fellows, and we are excited to have another join the team this summer. It has been a positive and productive experience and we are looking forward to continuing it.“

Andrew Nurkin, AlumniCorps Executive Director states, “The new group of Project 55 fellows are outstanding individuals who will spend the next year contributing to and learning from the work of effective public interest organizations around the US. We expect them to live purposeful lives working to create healthier communities and a more just society.”

For a complete list of Project 55 Fellows and partner organizations, visit www.alumnicorps.org.

Howell

The Mercer County Park Commission will offer free Saturday evening hayrides at Howell Living History Farm on July 11, 18 and 25 from 5 to 8 p.m. The horse-drawn rides last 20 minutes, carrying visitors over the lanes of the 130-acre working farm.

During the program, visitors can also take self-guided tours, picnic in the picnic area and join a marshmallow roast.

Rides will leave the barnyard area every 25 minutes beginning at 5:10 p.m. with the last ride departing at 8 p.m. Rides will be given on a first-come, first-served basis to the first 200 visitors. Rides are intended for individual and family participation; groups cannot be accommodated.

A wheelchair-accessible wagon is also available. Individuals who would like to ride on this wagon should call (609) 737-3299 in advance, and ask for Kathy. The wagon is horse drawn.

On the dates when evening hayrides are offered, the farm will be closed during the day.

The farm is located at 70 Woodens Lane in Lambertville, NJ. For more information, call the farm office at (609) 737-3299 or visit www.howellfarm.org or www.mercercountyparks.org

July 2, 2015

Waiters_Race

On Thursday, July 9, local wait staff will put their tray-balancing skills to the test at the 5th Annual Waiters’ Race, an event exclusively held by the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA). The event kicks off at 4 p.m. at the Princeton Shopping Center, Harrison Street (no rain date is scheduled). The event is a celebration of the servers and staff who take care of over 60,000 guests a week throughout Princeton. Waiters and waitresses from Princeton area restaurants will race to complete a course while balancing two full glasses of water and two full BAI Beverage bottles on their trays. Last year there were 17 participating restaurants and many are expected to be back in 2015. The fastest racers – who don’t spill their teetering cargo – will take home cash prizes, an overnight stay at the Nassau Inn, champagne, cooler, and gift cards. Those interested in participating need to pre-register.  The fee is $20. Six participants are allowed to register from each local restaurant.  All participants will receive an official race day tee-shirt and goodie bag.

For further information, contact PMA Board Members John Marshall, Owner, Main Street Bistro, president@princetonmerchants.org or Jack Morrison, Owner, JM Group, jack@jmgroupprinceton.com.

July 1, 2015
ART OF THE BARN: What was once a 19th-century barn has been renovated to become a 21st-century home. A project of Princeton’s FORD3 Architects, the home is one of seven stops on the Bucks County Audubon Society’s 16th annual Art of the Barn Tour and Show. Architect Moira McClintock, a partner in FORD3, will deliver the opening talk.

ART OF THE BARN: What was once a 19th-century barn has been renovated to become a 21st-century home. A project of Princeton’s FORD3 Architects, the home is one of seven stops on the Bucks County Audubon Society’s 16th annual Art of the Barn Tour and Show. Architect Moira McClintock, a partner in FORD3, will deliver the opening talk.

With their stone walls and timber frames, Bucks County barns are prized for their architecture as well as their link to the area’s agricultural heritage. Increasingly, barns that are structurally sound are being converted into unique living or working spaces for those with the resources to take on these often daunting projects.

Seven of them in New Hope, Solebury, and Buckingham, Pennsylvania will be open to the public the weekend of July 10-12 as part of the 16th Annual Art of the Barn Tour & Show. This popular event showcases the work of accomplished local artists and sculptors. But for some, it is the barns themselves that are the stars of the show.

Architect Moira McClintock, a partner with the Princeton firm FORD3, is familiar with the challenges of converting a barn to other uses through her work on the barn at Princeton’s Johnson Education Center as well as one for members of her family. On July 10, she will officially open the tour with a talk about her experiences converting barns into living and working spaces.

“Every barn is unique,” she said last week. “What’s fascinating to me as an architect is the differences within them, and how those shape what you ultimately do with the space.”

Depending on when a barn was built, these differences can be considerable. Bucks County barns range from those built in the 1700s to some from the 1930s. “The older ones tend to be built much better than those from the twenties and thirties, when people started moving away from heavy timber construction,” Ms. McClintock said. “In a 1930s dairy barn, the upper level was a hayloft, and that’s different from earlier ones.”

Most of the large spaces in former barns are located on the upper levels. Animals were kept in smaller areas on the lower levels. “When you think about most residential design, you think about the big spaces being downstairs,” Ms. McClintock said. “When you’re working with an agricultural structure, you have to be open to the larger spaces being upstairs, rather than forcing it to be something it is not.”

Ms. McClintock was especially fond of the work FORD3 did on the barn that became the D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center. “It’s a great fit of program and space,” she said. “I also loved a project we did that is on the tour, because it was done for part of my family. We were able to re-use a lot of materials we’d saved over the years. Part of the barn had collapsed in a big snowstorm in 1996, but we were able to use the siding for interior finishes.”

That oldest part of the barn dates from 1800. Like others in Bucks County, some of its walls are stone, which presented a challenge. “A big stone wall has very little insulate value,” Ms. McClintock said. “We wanted it to be energy efficient, so we had to cover up the stone on the inside and use spray foam insulation and radiant heat. Those were the trade-offs we had to make. That’s one of the biggest challenges — deciding how to approach insulation. Do you do it from the outside, or the inside? Especially if you have post and beam structure, you don’t want to hide that. So it’s a big decision.”

At her talk, Ms. McClintock will focus on those kinds of details and experiences. “There are different things you need to think about when you’re approaching this kind of project,” she said. “There are different ways to give historic buildings, and particularly agricultural structures, viable life in today’s society. I’ll be looking at living history barns, residential conversions, and a number of case studies. Not every barn can become a living history structure. But we don’t want to lose the ones that are left.”

Discovering that a barn cannot be converted to a living space can be discouraging. “There was a couple looking to buy properties, and they had the idea of living in a converted barn,” Ms. McClintock recalled. “They found one in a beautiful setting in Bucks County. It looked fabulous from the outside. But on the inside, people had taken out the timber and built a conventional house. It was the saddest thing.”

Despite such scenarios, Ms. McClintock sees an increase in the number of barns being converted to other uses. “People are looking for ways to keep these buildings viable,” she said. “The most important thing people can do is keep the roof sound. Because once the water comes in, it’s amazing how quickly damage can occur.”

The Art of the Barn Tour and Show begins with Ms. McClintock’s talk on Friday, July 10 at 6:30 p.m. at the Audubon Visitor Center, 2877 Creamery Road in New Hope. Admission is $5 for members of the Bucks County Audubon Society; $10 for non-members.

Docents will be on hand at each location to reveal facts about the barns’ history and renovations. The tour and show is Saturday, July 11 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; and Sunday, July 12 from 12-4:30 p.m. Admission is $20 for members; $30 for non-members. Combination tickets for the talk and show are $25 for members; $35 for non-members. Visit  www.bcas.org for more information and barn locations.

ARE YOU READY FOR HURRICANE SEASON? These volunteers are, from left, back row: Robert Gregory, director of Princeton’s Office of Emergency Management; Jeffery Clarke; Jerome Scott; Martin Mbugua; Jay Vaughn; Mark Scheibner; TR Johnson of the Princeton Fire Department; Kate Warren; Roz Warren; Sal Baldino, of the Princeton Fire Department; front row: Rania Salem. Fayez Azeez, Ron DiLapo. Volunteer team members not pictured are recent CERT Team graduates  Afroula Ippolito and Trish Verbeyst; and Sara Braverman, Penelope Chambers, Judy Gorberg, Steve Kolock and David Sayen, who completed an earlier class. (Image courtesy of Princeton Office of Emergency Management)

ARE YOU READY FOR HURRICANE SEASON? These volunteers are, from left, back row: Robert Gregory, director of Princeton’s Office of Emergency Management; Jeffery Clarke; Jerome Scott; Martin Mbugua; Jay Vaughn; Mark Scheibner; TR Johnson of the Princeton Fire Department; Kate Warren; Roz Warren; Sal Baldino, of the Princeton Fire Department; front row: Rania Salem. Fayez Azeez, Ron DiLapo. Volunteer team members not pictured are recent CERT Team graduates
Afroula Ippolito and Trish Verbeyst; and Sara Braverman, Penelope Chambers, Judy Gorberg, Steve Kolock and David Sayen, who completed an earlier class. (Image courtesy of Princeton Office of Emergency Management)

According to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM) the Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30. New Jersey’s tropical storm activity is typically between August and late October. All of which means that now is the time to prepare.

With hazardous weather affecting New Jersey residents on a regular basis with short- and long-term power outages and possibilities of flooding and the destruction of property, “There has been a huge push on the part of the state to encourage participation from the community and enlist volunteers,” said Princeton Director of Emergency and Safety Services Robert G. Gregory.

In recognition of this, Princeton Council President Bernie Miller and Council members Heather Howard and Patrick Simon have been instrumental in the municipality’s participation in the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program, which prepares team members to assist their families, neighbors, and co-workers in the event of an emergency. They are trained to support professional and volunteer first responders, and to provide assistance themselves when first responders are not immediately available.

Twelve Princeton residents completed a seven-week CERT course this spring at the Mercer County Fire Academy that included fire extinguisher training, first aid skills, and search and rescue drills. Training was conducted by Fire Academy staff and members of the Princeton Fire Department and Office of Emergency Services.

“Our first set of volunteers graduated in April and in addition six more just went through the CERT Administrative Program of the state Office of Emergency Management including myself, Princeton Health Officer Jeffrey Grosser and Director of Human Services Elisa Neira.”

While natural disasters like hurricanes cannot be avoided, there are safety measures that might ameliorate their effects. NJOEM’s Hurricane Survival Guide for New Jersey gives advice on ways of securing the safety of families, homes and pets; advice that holds for all types of natural disasters.

Mr. Simon agrees that now is the time to plan ahead and make sure emergency supplies are in order. He suggests the guidelines provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA, www.ready.gov), which recommends that people prepare to shelter in place for at least three days in the event of an emergency. “FEMA recommends keeping at least three days’ supply of water and non-perishable food, a first aid kit, flashlights and spare batteries, a fire extinguisher, and other essential supplies,” he said.

The rule of thumb, said Mr. Gregory, is to take care of your own family first, then look to neighbors and then to the community at large. “Weather-related emergencies can be planned for,” he said, noting that one of the first things that the municipality will do is to time the opening of the Emergency Operation Centers for police, first responders, representatives from the Recreation Department, Fire Department and Rescue Squad to meet and plan for the allocation of resources.”

“I tell people not to wait until there’s an emergency, there’s a lot can be done in advance,” said Mr. Gregory. “A huge push after Superstorm Sandy to have people shelter-in-place. And it’s my experience that most people want to stay at home, where they feel most comfortable. One of the things that the public can do is to purchase a back-up generator. Having food and water for three days is another.”

What does Mr. Gregory have in his home? “My wife is great at finding charging devices and there are many options out there including portable flashlights with chargers. I have three different charging devices that I use for a computer and small devices like cell phones. If the cable is still working it’s good to be able to turn on the TV to check for news and weather updates. Radios are always good too. If people can’t afford, or if they are not able to get, a generator, these devices are most helpful. I’m also looking into getting a generator. Ideally I’d like to find one that is solar powered.”

As for hurricane season, Mr. Gregory said that according to weather experts tropical depressions that can turn into hurricanes can be expected in New Jersey from June through November, but in his experience the heightened period is August through October. Although you can’t let your guard down, that seems to be the period for this region.

“As necessary, we will open up community resource centers where people can go to find coffee and charge up their phones and computers,” said Mr. Gregory. “For a prolonged emergency, it would be possible to open up local schools and gyms so that people could take showers.”

NJOEM’s Hurricane Survival Guide suggests three steps from which the following is a very brief excerpt.

Step 1 is to stay informed, via traditional or social media. NJOEM (www.ready.nj.gov) works closely with the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center regarding storm predictions and forecasts.

The NJOEM website contains a link to New Jersey’s 21 County Offices of Emergency Management with county websites, social media tools and county alert and warning systems listed as well. Sign up, opt-in or connect to receive important local alerts. http://www.ready.nj.gov/about/association.html

Individuals can subscribe to the NJ State Police on Nixle Connect (http://local.nixle.com/new-jersey-state-police). Nixle allows verified government agencies to communicate with the public via text/SMS, email, and internet posts and unlike other social media applications, Nixle does not contain any third-party advertisements.

NJ Alert is a free, voluntary, and confidential emergency alerting system that allows NJOEM officials to send email or text messages to cell phones and other email enabled devices during an emergency event. To sign up for NJ Alert, visit: www.njalert.gov.

Step 2 is to make a plan with family members as to how to stay close and
connected; designate an individual outside of the state to serve as a family point of contact, since after a disaster it is often easier to call out-of-state than within the affected area; after a disaster, all family members should make contact with the designated individual. Try choosing a certain time for everyone to check in.

Step 3 is to gather emergency supplies, many of which can be found around the home. NJOEM’s “Hurricane Kit” includes a 2 week supply of these emergency necessities together with clean-up and repair supplies stored in a safe place.

In addition to basics necessities, residents are advised to gather together important documents such as social security cards, birth certificates, marriage and death records, wills, insurance policies, deeds and mortgages, computer file backups, and personal photographs, as well as important phone numbers and prescriptions.

To download the complete NJ Hurricane Survival Guide, visit: http://www.state.nj.us/njoem/plan/pdf/070214_hurricane_survival_guide.pdf

Additional information can be found on the Princeton Office of Emergency Management web page at www.princetonnj.gov/emerg-mgt.html, and at the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA’s public education site for emergency preparedness, www.ready.gov.

The municipality encourages all residents to register for the Mass Notification System at http://www.princetonnj.gov/ems-phone-register.html, or in person at the municipal clerk’s office in Witherspoon Hall, 400 Witherspoon Street. A list of emergency phone numbers is on the municipal website (princetonnj.gov)

Another CERT training course for Princeton volunteers will take place this fall. For more information, call Robert Gregory of the Department of Emergency and Safety Services, 1 Monument Drive, at (609) 497-7632.

An exhibition titled “On Their Walls: Area African American Collectors and Their African American Art” will run at the Trenton City Museum at Ellarslie in Cadwalader Park, Trenton, from Saturday July 11 through September 13. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, July 11, from 7 to 9 p.m.

A gallery talk focusing on collecting African American art will take place Sunday, July 26, at 2 p.m. and the exhibition will be on display in conjunction with the Trenton African American Cultural Festival held in Cadwalader Park August 15.

Curated by Kali McMillan, the exhibition will showcase works of art by a select group of African American artists collected by four local African American women.

Highlights of the show include five serigraphs from the “Prevalence of Ritual Portfolio” by Romare Bearden completed in 1974 as well as a few rarely seen paintings by noted Trenton artist Tom Malloy. The artists in the exhibition range from established to rising local and international artists, including Frank Morrison, Sanford Biggers, Ellen Powell Tiberino, and Mercy Moyo.

Ms. McMillan, a former West Windsor resident, is an art historian who recently earned her masters in art history from the University of Glasgow: Christie’s Education, London. Her thesis “How Ya Like Me Now?” explored issues of redefining black identity in contemporary art. Ms. McMillan received her BA in art and art history from Colgate University. Also an accomplished photographer, her work has been exhibited both in the U.S. and abroad. She was selected as an emerging photographer at Milk Underground Gallery New York City in the fall of 2011. She currently is a cataloguer at an estate auction house.

“This exhibition is not only an assortment of fantastic works held in private collections created by a wide range of African American artists, but it visually translates the role of ritual and tradition in the African American experience and shows how artists use their lives and stories to convey these multi-generational values,” said Ms. McMillan.

The exhibition includes pieces collected by New Jersey resident Diana Tyson who also fosters the development of emerging female African artists including Mercy Moyo. When asked why she collects art, Ms. Tyson said, “My collection reflects my life: experiences that I have had, social commentary, and flights of fantasy inspired by abstract works.”

The exhibition is free and open to the public. For more information, visit ellarslie.org.

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PICTURE THIS: Each year, the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ) recognizes architectural projects that exhibit design excellence in one of four categories: open (meant for any building type); residential, historic preservation and interior architecture. Awards are made for built or un-built designs. This year, Princeton’s ikon.5 Architects won a Merit Award in the Unbuilt category for the above design for a new Training, Recreation and Education Center for the Newark Housing Authority. Inspired by the geometric clash of the city’s urban grid and idyllic Weequahic Park in southern Newark, the building would feature two interlocking triangular wedges, the walls of one would be transparent, and the other opaque. The community center will feature a gym, aerobic room, meeting rooms and childcare center. For more information, visit www.aia-nj.org. (Image courtesy of ikon.5 Architects)

PICTURE THIS: Each year, the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ) recognizes architectural projects that exhibit design excellence in one of four categories: open (meant for any building type); residential, historic preservation and interior architecture. Awards are made for built or un-built designs. This year, Princeton’s ikon.5 Architects won a Merit Award in the Unbuilt category for the above design for a new Training, Recreation and Education Center for the Newark Housing Authority. Inspired by the geometric clash of the city’s urban grid and idyllic Weequahic Park in southern Newark, the building would feature two interlocking triangular wedges, the walls of one would be transparent, and the other opaque. The community center will feature a gym, aerobic room, meeting rooms and childcare center. For more information, visit www.aia-nj.org. (Image courtesy of ikon.5 Architects)

The Princeton-based architectural firm ikon.5 Architects has been awarded a Merit Award in the Unbuilt category by the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA-NJ) for its design of a new Training, Recreation and Education Center for the Newark Housing Authority.

The community center will feature a gym, aerobic room, meeting rooms and childcare center. Its design was inspired by its location in Newark, and it will benefit the surrounding community.

As conceived by ikon.5, the community center will be housed in one building composed of two interlocking triangular wedges. One wedge is transparent, and is designed to contain meeting and educational facilities, while the adjacent building, with its opaque walls, will be used for recreational activities. The unique creation was inspired by the geometric clash of the city’s urban grid and idyllic Weequahic Park in southern Newark.

“The design’s two triangles represent an important and iconic trait of this city,” said Joseph G. Tattoni, FAIA, principal of ikon.5 Architects. “The final product will demonstrate the complementary nature of the two components, which will combine to create a multi-use community facility that will benefit the entire neighborhood.”

The 22,000-square-foot building will feature a gymnasium, fitness and aerobic room, community meeting rooms, locker room and showers, childcare center, and a library and study area. The center is a welcomed addition to the surrounding community and is expected to rejuvenate the residential community.

“ikon.5 Architects has created something special and demonstrated how creative architecture can contribute to the reinvigoration of a neighborhood,” said Kimberly Bunn, president of AIA-NJ. “Despite the project’s tight budget constraints, ikon.5 utilized efficient design techniques to create a low-cost building that is visually dynamic and will meet the community’s need.”

The project was commissioned by the Newark Housing Authority and will serve the residential Dayton Neighborhood in the South Ward of Newark. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority both contributed funding.

The AIA-NJ Annual Design Awards program recognizes architectural projects that exhibit design excellence in one of four categories: Open (meant for any building type), Residential, Historic Preservation and Interior Architecture. Projects are further designated as either Built or Un-built. To be eligible, projects must be either located in New Jersey or designed by an AIA-NJ architect. Submitted projects are evaluated during the organization’s annual Design Conference by a group of distinguished architects from throughout the country.

For more information, visit www.aia-nj.org.

Art Fashion 2

Charles Sheeler’s 1928 photographic portrait “Madame Lassen Seated in an Armchair,” won’t be on display at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown until 2017, but it will be worth the wait to see the exhibition “Charles Sheeler: Fashion, Photography, and Sculptural Form.” The museum has just received a grant of $300,000 from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage to mount the exhibition. For more information, call (215) 340-9800, or visit: MichenerArtMuseum.org. (Image Courtesy of Charles Sheeler / Vogue; © Condé Nast).

Lambertville’s Downtown Performing Arts Center (PAC) has announced a six-week summer class schedule focusing on Teen and Adult Acting, Tap, Ballet, Jazz and Contemporary Dance. Classes will take place on Tuesday evenings between 5 and 8 p.m. from July 7 through August 11 at the Downtown Performing Arts Studios located at 54 Mt. Airy Village Road in Lambertville.

This six-week intensive study is designed for students of all skill levels. Classes, taught by performing arts professionals some of whom have had long standing relationships with the Downtown Performing Arts Center, will enhance performance techniques.

Teen and Adult Acting will be taught by Stephen Stahl. Stahl is an internationally renowned writer and director who received his early training at The Hedgerow Theatre under Jasper Deeter and Rose Schulman. He then moved to New York and studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actor’s Studio. Stahl’s workshops have helped numerous actors build the self-assured courage needed to achieve successful characterization. Through exercises that include improvisation and vocal projection, students will learn how to properly embody a character and do so while at ease in front of an audience.

Stahl, a Bucks County native, has had numerous theatrical and film successes both in the United States and abroad. In 2006 Mr. Stahl won the top award for “Best Director” and “Best Featured Thriller” for his film “Consequences” at the International Independent Film and Video Festival held in Los Angeles, New York City and Cannes, France. Stahl has worked with Jason Bateman, Phyllis Hyman, Evander Holyfield, Billy Joel, Kitty Kallen, Hall & Oates, Grant Shaud, Julie Gold, Joyce Heyser, Clint Holmes, Bobby Rydell, Peggy King, Divine, James Ingram, and Teddy Pendergrass.

Beginning and Intermediate Tap will be taught by Jill Palena. Jill has been performing leading roles at various venues throughout the Bucks County region for over 15 years including the Bucks County Playhouse and Washington Crossing Open Air Theatre.

Tina DiMichele will head classes in Intermediate and Advanced Jazz and Contemporary Dance. Tina studied tap, ballet and jazz from the age of seven with the Debra Sparks Dance Works in Philadelphia (now in Newtown) winning several awards and a scholarship to study at the Rock School.  She graduated from NYU in 1997 with a degree in Dance Education and went on to choreograph, teach and perform in New York, Switzerland and Paris.  She is a regular performer at the Open Air Theatre.

Advanced Tap and Intermediate Ballet will be taught by Sharon Rudda. Sharon holds a B.A. in Performing Arts with a focus on Ballet from La Roche College and further trained at Bravo Dance. She regularly appears in productions at the Washington Crossing Open Air Theatre.

The Downtown Performing Arts Center’s Tuesday evening classes begin on July 7 and continue through August 11. For information on summer classes, tuition fees, performing arts camps and more, visit www.downtownpac.com or call (609) 397-3337.

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Bucket Brigade

John Witherspoon Middle School’s 240 eighth graders finished the school year with a service project for Mercer County’s homeless families Monday, June 22. They formed a “bucket brigade” to load hampers full of home supplies for HomeFront families in their community. From left Olivia Rist, Isabel Figueroa and Molly Trueman carried some of the 40 laundry baskets filled with home cleaning supplies and summer camp essentials. (Photo courtesy of JWMS)

Art Desert 1

This watercolor by Sheila Norton, a member of the Ewing Art Group, will be featured along with that of other members of the group in an exhibition at PEAC Health and Fitness, 1440 Lower Ferry Road, Ewing, during July. The Ewing Art Group is Comprised of a small group of local artists who come together to cultivate their passion for art and further develop their works. The group shows its work locally in Ewing, Pennington, Hopewell, Lawrence and the surrounding areas. In addition to the PEAC show, members have work currently on display at Terhune Orchards. PEAC’s Art on Display program features a different local artist or organization each month and is open to the public. For more information, call (609) 883-2000, email bdipierro@peachealthfitness.com or visit www.peachealthfitness.com.

After well over a year of negotiations, the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) and the teachers’s union, Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA) issued a statement Thursday announcing a “Memorandum of Agreement for a successor contract.”

Today, July 1, marks the end of a year in which teachers in Princeton Public Schools have worked under the terms of an expired 2011-2014 contract. In spite of lengthy negotiations that began as early as fall 2013, their union and the Board failed to come up with a new contract.

Talks dragged on as both sides became entrenched over their respective positions on salaries and health benefits. A major stumbling block was conflicting interpretations of the State of New Jersey’s Chapter 78.

Even sessions with a state-appointed mediator failed to move the parties closer.

It looked as though the next step would be non-binding arbitration for which an independent “fact finder” would be called in at a cost of between $1,600 and $2,500 per day, to be split between the BOE and the PREA.

Spurred by this, both sides moved to meet face-to-face in order to thrash out a deal before the close of the school year. Hopes rose after two marathon negotiating sessions on June 2 and June 10, the first lasting 18 hours and the second, 12 hours. After the second meeting, BOE President Andrea Spalla said that both parties were working to “close the remaining differences between the two sides.”

The above-mentioned statement from Ms. Spalla together with PREA President Joanne Ryan, reads: “We are pleased to inform the Princeton community that the negotiating teams of the PREA and the Board of Education for the Princeton Public Schools have signed a Memorandum of Agreement for a successor contract. Further details of the new contract will be published
once the PREA membership
and the Board of Education have voted to approve the new agreement. We are eager to move forward together to provide the very best educational experiences for our community’s children. Both the PREA and the Board of Education are grateful for the patience and support of the entire Princeton community and we look forward to continuing to serve you.”

In May, after eight weeks of negotiations, the District reached an agreement with the Princeton Regional Educational Support Staff Association (PRESSA), representing support staff.

Also in May, after six weeks of negotiations, an agreement was reached with the Princeton Administrators’ Association (PAA), representing principals, assistant principals and supervisors, but not central office administrators.

The new contract with administrators gave them annual increases for the next three years of approximately 2.39 percent, 2.38 percent, and 2.37 percent. Administrators agreed that contributions to their healthcare premiums would remain at the highest “Tier 4” levels set forth in Chapter 78. The union agreed to several cost-saving measures in their healthcare benefits package, including health insurance deductibles of $100 per staff person and $200 per family for  in network healthcare providers for the most popular plan and the option of a health savings account plan with a $2,000 deductible. The district would contribute 60 percent of the deductible, or $1,200, for that option.

The new contract with PRESSA gave an annual base salary increase of 2.5 percent for each of the next three years. The support staff union agreed that employees’ contributions to their healthcare premiums would remain at the highest “Tier 4” levels set forth in the state law known as Chapter 78. The union agreed to several cost-saving measures in their healthcare benefits package, including the elimination of the most expensive health insurance plan, health insurance deductibles of $100 per staff person and $200 per family for in network healthcare providers for the most popular plan, and prescription cost containment measures. Employees can also choose a health savings account plan with a $2,000 deductible. The district would contribute 60 percent of the deductible, or $1,200, for that option.

The most recent deal offered to teachers by District included an annual increase in base salary of 2.44 percent (retroactive to July 1, 2014).

As yet, no details of the Memorandum of Agreement or of a new contract have been forthcoming. The Board was due to meet in closed session and then in public session Tuesday night after Town Topics press time.

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Independence Day falls on a Saturday this year and there will be enough history-inspired events to fill the entire day, not to mention a few that take place on the run up to the event.

This year’s traditional fireworks display, courtesy of the Spirit of Princeton, will take place on Thursday, July 2, at 9 p.m.

The community is invited to come early and enjoy their own picnics on the fields next to the Princeton University Stadium, along Western Way. The site will open at 7 p.m. so that everyone can settle in for the 16th Annual Independence Day Fireworks, which will take place rain or shine. Only lightning will cancel the spectacle in red, white and blue.

Visitors are asked to follow the rules that exclude alcoholic beverages and, because of the newly-installed artificial turf, they are asked not to smoke.

The event is free and open to all, with parking at University Lot 21 below the fields adjacent to Faculty Road. Parking is also available on streets nearby and in the University parking garage on Prospect Street.

The non-profit Spirit of Princeton not only sponsors the free July 4 fireworks but also the Memorial Day Parade as well as the Flag Day celebration, and Veteran’s Day ceremony. For more information, visit www.spiritofprinceton.org.

So much for the fireworks, now for the flintlocks, which will feature, appropriately enough, on Princeton Battlefield Park, at 500 Mercer Road (Princeton Pike) when numerous re-enactors will mark Independence Day on Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also free, this event seems to draw more and more visitors to Princeton each year. Many bring a picnic lunch and enjoy not only the park and the hiking trails of the adjacent Institute Woods but the period demonstrations that are intended to bring history to life.

The use of flintlock muskets as well as artillery drill will be demonstrated by soldiers of the Revolutionary War period from Mott’s 6th Company of the new 2nd Continental Regiment of Artillery. Named for Gershom Mott, who was born in Middletown, New Jersey in 1743, “Mott’s Artillery” was involved throughout the war, in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and then as far South as Virginia.

At the Thomas Clarke House, which will be open for tours and a small exhibition of Revolutionary arms, visitors will be treated to demonstrations of domestic skills of the era and there will be period games for children.

At noon, there will be a talk on the Battle of Princeton, followed at 1 p.m. by a reading of the Declaration of Independence.

If you’d like to sign the Declaration for yourself, head over to Morven Museum and Garden on Stockton Street, where a July 4 Jubilee will be in full swing, having started at noon. This is where you are likely to spot Benjamin Franklin (as portrayed by history enthusiast B. David Emerson) taking his afternoon constitutional.

Morven’s Independence Day Jubilee is also free and it will run, weather permitting, until 3 p.m.  What better place to mark the day, since the museum is the former home of another Declaration-signer, Richard Stockton.

Besides the historic house itself, which will be open and includes an exhibition of 19th-century chair making in New Jersey, “Of the Best Materials and Good Workmanship,” as well as yesteryear demonstrations on how ice-cream, bread, paper and guns were made, there will be live bluegrass music on the front porch from the Ocean Country Band. Plenty of barbecue will be for sale from the Oink & Moo BBQ food truck.

Arts Council of Princeton instructor Libby Ramage will be on hand to help visitors draw inspiration from the exhibition and create their own chalk or oil pastel rendering of a chair. And  historical interpreter Stacy Flora Roth will share the importance of tea in the early days of America with “Revolutionary Tea!” Why was it so important that fashion-conscious families posed for portraits with their tea sets? Did Great Britain lose its American Colonies over “the cup that cheers”? Ms. Roth is the one to enlighten you along with a fund tea lore, history, songs and poetry.

Visitors to the Morven Museum & Garden event, at 55 Stockton Street, should park in the Princeton Theological Seminary lot opposite or in the Monument Hall parking lots, as there will be no parking at Morven because of the many children expected to be on the grounds. The event will be cancelled if there is prolonged rain.

For more information on Ms. Roth and Mr. Emerson, visit their shared website:  http://historyonthehoof.com/. For more on Morven and the event, call (609) 924-8144 or visit: www.morven.org.

For those who rely on NJ Transit’s 655 bus for transportation between Princeton and the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, prospects are dim for the future of the route. The line is among those that NJ Transit is proposing to discontinue as a way to cut costs as the agency’s federal grant runs out.

With a decision expected in a few weeks, efforts are being made by the municipality, the hospital and Princeton University to come up with an alternative. But it turns out that there is already a way for those without access to cars to get to and from the hospital.

“It’s important to let people know that there currently is a free and open-to-the-public way to get there, which is Tiger Transit,” said Kristin Appelget, the University’s director of Community and Regional Affairs. “It’s our Forrestal/Princeton Plasma Physics Lab route, which stops at Princeton [Dinky] station.”

Ms. Appelget said the University reviews the route of its Tiger Transit bus each year. “Given the change in the 655, we’re looking at how we may be able to modify the PPPL route. We’re considering two locations: Nassau Street or Merwick/Stanworth, and we will probably know by midsummer.”

NJ Transit introduced its proposal to cut routes and raise fares last April. The agency maintains that the changes are necessary to keep up with rising costs including employee healthcare and other benefits. The proposed state contribution to NJ Transit for fiscal year 2016 is currently $33 million, trimmed from $40.3 million. That subsidy was $73 million during each of the prior two fiscal years. It was as high as $278 million in 2005. It includes money taken from the Clean Energy Fund and $295 million from the Turnpike Authority, which was supposed to be for the cancelled ARC tunnel under the Hudson River.

Members of the New Jersey Fund for Transit, a coalition of public transportation advocates, have said that the service cuts and fare hikes are a result of the state’s failing system for funding public transportation. The Transportation Trust Fund, which is for transportation capital projects, is bankrupt.

Mayor Liz Lempert has been involved in the discussions to make sure Princeton residents without cars can continue to travel between downtown and the hospital. “We’ve been told the 655 bus could be terminated as soon as September, but there are no firm dates,” she said. “Right now, it’s still running.”

At its meeting June 22, Princeton Council heard the results of a transportation survey  administered by the health and human services departments. Some 50 people polled at a community meeting answered questions about transportation options they would consider using should the 655 disappear. The survey determined that 80 percent of those polled use public transportation as their primary means of getting around. Sixty-five percent of those people do not have cars, and 63 percent currently use the 655 bus. Sixty-two percent have used the hospital clinic during the past year.

Most respondents indicated they would be open to using Tiger Transit to get to and from the hospital. “The good news is that a high percentage showed interest,” said Ms. Lempert. “The survey also found that most residents never knew where to go to get vouchers for the 655. So communication about the alternatives is going to need to be much better.”

Vouchers are currently available in the medical building next to the former hospital site on Witherspoon Street, and at the clinic at the University Medical Center at Plainsboro.

While the 655 NJ Transit bus costs $1.50 for adults and 70 cents for children and seniors, Tiger Transit is free. But the latter route does not and will not extend as far as Princeton Shopping Center, which is a stop on the 655 line.

Another option being explored is an on-demand taxi service. “The hospital is looking into this. The details of who is qualified are still being worked out, as well as how it would be administered,” said Ms. Lempert. “It would be in addition to Tiger Transit and would probably be a sort of subsidized taxi service.”

Since announcing its proposal to cut lines including the 655 and raise fares by nine percent, NJ Transit has held several public hearings throughout the state. Ms. Lempert said she was planning to attend a press conference on Wednesday, July 1, at the Trenton Transit Station, to object to the proposed fare increases, which would raise a one-way trip between Princeton Junction and New York’s Penn Station from $16.50 to $17.75. The last fare hike, made five years ago, was 22 percent.

NJ Transit’s board is scheduled to meet on July 15. In the meantime, local efforts continue to ensure that public transportation of some sort will be available for those without access to a car. “There are still a lot of moving parts, but we’re planning to have a plan in place by the end of July so that we can start advertising and getting the word out,” Ms. Lempert said. “We’ve been in discussions with the University and the hospital. We’ll definitely be reaching out when there is firm information. NJ Transit and the hospital have said they’ll help get information out, and we will hold community meetings.”

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Speaking at the Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Peace and Racial Justice held in response to the previous week’s shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., Director of the Coalition for Peace Action and Co-Pastor of Christ Congregation in Princeton Rev. Robert Moore told the gathering “We stand together in unity as a community of love.” The event was organized by CPA, the Mt. Pisgah AME Church and the Princeton Clergy Association.

June 30, 2015

The Princeton Police Department states that as of 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, June 30, a four year old female on Cleveland Lane was reported missing. She was found 30 minutes later safely in her home.

Rutgers Master Gardeners, pictured from left to right, Ann Vaurio and Ann Summer of Princeton and Tom McGeachen of East Windsor, “tend to” the Perennial Garden at MEG.  The Rutgers Master gardeners of Mercer County will present “An Evening at MEG” on Wednesday, July 15, from 6:30 – 8:00 PM, at Mercer Educational Gardens in Princeton.

Rutgers Master Gardeners, pictured from left to right: Ann Vaurio and Ann Summer of Princeton and Tom McGeachen of East Windsor, “tend to” the Perennial Garden at MEG. The Rutgers Master gardeners of Mercer County will present “An Evening at MEG” on Wednesday, July 15, from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at Mercer Educational Gardens in Pennington.

The Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County will host a program, “An Evening at MEG” on Wednesday, July 15 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Mercer Educational Gardens (MEG), 431A Federal City Road in Pennington, adjacent to the Mercer County Equestrian Center. The evening will include demonstrations on how to keep perennials in top shape during the hot summer months. Guests will also be invited to take a stroll through the other gardens at MEG including Annual, Herbs, Native Plant, Butterfly, Cottage, the Meadow, and even the Weed Identification bed.

The Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County is a volunteer educational outreach program of Rutgers Cooperative Extension. Rutgers Master Gardeners participate in many volunteer programs throughout the County, as well as answer home horticulture questions through their Rutgers Master Gardener Helpline, (609) 989-6853, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (March through October) and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (November through February). For more information, visit www.mgofmc.org.

 (l-r): McCarter Theatre Center Artistic Director and Resident Playwright Emily Mann with outgoing board members  Elizabeth Christopherson, Kathleen Nolan, Gigi Goldman, Dr. Cynthia Cherrey, and McCarter Board Chair Brian J. McDonald.   Not pictured: James Burke, Jim Marino, Bob Mintz, and Val Smith. Photo: Matt Pilsner.

(l-r): McCarter Theatre Center Artistic Director and Resident Playwright Emily Mann with outgoing board members
Elizabeth Christopherson, Kathleen Nolan, Gigi Goldman, Dr. Cynthia Cherrey, and McCarter Board Chair Brian J. McDonald.
Not pictured: James Burke, Jim Marino, Bob Mintz, and Val Smith. Photo: Matt Pilsner.

At its June Board meeting, the final gathering of the 2014/2015 season, McCarter Theatre Center bid a fond farewell to eight outgoing board members. Departing the Board are James Burke, Dr. Cynthia Cherrey, Elizabeth Christopherson, Gigi Goldman, Jim Marino, Bob Mintz, Kathleen Nolan, and Val Smith.

McCarter Theatre Center Board Chair Brian J. McDonald said, “McCarter has always been fortunate to have extremely talented and dedicated Trustees. This year eight outstanding members of our board have completed their service and each deserves credit for significantly advancing McCarter’s mission during their tenure. Since 2008, the challenges faced by performing arts organizations have been considerable and these dedicated Trustees worked creatively and with great enthusiasm to ensure that McCarter successfully addressed challenges and sustained our commitment to our vital mission.”

McCarter’s Managing Director Timothy Shields said, “It’s been such a pleasure to work closely with each of these outstanding community volunteers.  Although we’ll deeply miss their wise counsel, gentle guidance, and sustaining support, most of all we’ll miss seeing their smiling faces in the Board room.  We do take some solace in knowing that we’ll see them each frequently in the audience for shows at McCarter.”

McCarter Theatre Center maintains term limits for its Trustees, who must depart after nine consecutive years of service (or three terms of three years each).

June 26, 2015
Princeton HealthCare System may merge with another health care organization, chief executive officer Barry S. Rabner revealed to physicians in an email that was sent out last week.
Though PCHS, which moved from Witherspoon Street to Route 1 in Plainsboro three years ago, is having one of the best years in its 96-year-history,” Rabner wrote, options are being explored due to significant changes expected in the areas of reimbursement, care delivery and coordination, information and clinical technology over the next two to five years.
We are engaged in a thorough and thoughtful strategic planning process to determine how we can best remain a leading provider of healthcare services,” reads a statement issued by PHCS. As part of this planning process, the Board of Trustees has decided to evaluate partnership options to determine if we could be most successful in addressing our patients’ and the community’s future needs if we partnered with another organization.  We are now determining what type of partnership we might want and the criteria we will consider when evaluating potential partners.  PHCS is committed to transparency and we will keep our community informed of our progress and welcome their input along the way.” 
PCHS’ acute care hospital, University Medical Center of Princeton, was one of 40 across the country to be named High Performing for every procedure and medical condition for which it was rated in U.S. News & World Reports Best Hospitals for Common Care ratings, according to the statement.
 Mr. Rabner said, “Princeton HealthCare System has achieved great success in large measure because of our commitment to the needs of our community and our ability to embrace change and think beyond who we are today to what we must do for our patients tomorrow.  The decision to explore a potential partnership is one more step in our long-standing practice of planning, exploring options and initiating change for the good of our community.” 
The hospital cost $522 million to build and has 231 single patient rooms spread over some 636,000 square feet. PCHS employs more than 3,000 and has 1,100 doctors on its staff.
June 25, 2015

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Shark Week, the long-running cable television event kicks off this year on July 6, and Princeton Public Library is marking the week with some complementary programs. Designed to entertain as well as educate, the programs include: “Why Sharks Are Not Scary” on Monday, July 6 at 11 a.m.; “Fins Up” Storytime on Tuesday, July 7 at 2 p.m.; screening of the film, “Shark Girl” on Wednesday, July 8 at 7 p.m.; and a Shark and Ocean Trivia Contest on Thursday, July 9 at 6 p.m. All of the programs are free to attend and open to the public. For additional details, visit www.princetonlibrary.org.

June 24, 2015
A MOM WITH A MISSION: Princeton resident Barbara Majeski, shown here with her husband Jim and three children, from left, Max, Milena, and Gabe, has become a star fundraiser for Operation Smile, which honored her with its Founders Circle Award in May. The non-profit helps children and young adults born with cleft palate and other facial deformities get the surgery they need.

A MOM WITH A MISSION: Princeton resident Barbara Majeski, shown here with her husband Jim and three children, from left, Max, Milena, and Gabe, has become a star fundraiser for Operation Smile, which honored her with its Founders Circle Award in May. The non-profit helps children and young adults born with cleft palate and other facial deformities get the surgery they need.

Barbara Majeski will never forget the day her parents told her and her siblings that their brother Steven was never going to develop like other children. She was only six years old. But it was a day that would shape her life.

Steven had Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic inherited neurological disorder that causes intellectual disability, behavioral and learning challenges. He had just come home from a long stay at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “I was just so grateful at that moment to know he was home,” Ms. Majeski recalled. “I was there when he had seizures. I knew he was sick. But as long as he came home, I knew I would always take care of him. I didn’t care that he couldn’t speak. I just remember being so grateful that he was home and I could protect him from the world.”

Several decades later, Ms. Majeski, a Princeton resident and West Windsor native, is still protecting children with special needs. Last month, she was honored with Operation Smile’s Founder’s Circle Award for her philanthropic efforts. Since joining the charity on a medical mission to the Dominican Republic in 2010, she has raised more than half a million dollars and plans to up that figure to $1 million by the end of this year. The non-profit provides surgical procedures to children and young adults in more than 60 countries.

“I saw that in 45 minutes you can change the trajectory of a child’s life,” she said, recalling that mission. “What’s heartbreaking is that some families can’t qualify (for the assistance). I realized that this is happening globally. You feel like, ‘I’ll write the check right now.’ On the flight back, I talked to people and brainstormed about how to raise more money.”

A few years before, Ms. Majeski had retired from a lucrative career in sales to be a stay-at-home mother to her three children and continue caring for her brother, with whom she is very close. Philanthropic work she had been doing all along brought her to the attention of Operation Smile, and she was invited to meet the charity’s founders. Soon, she was joining the mission to the Dominican Republic. The trip gave her a renewed
focus on protecting children in need.

“I was looking for a way to continue to look out for the most vulnerable members of the community,” she said, “to make sure they have a voice. I would think about families other than mine, about children who don’t have access to people and resources. I think it’s easy to look away and hope that somebody else does the work. But I always assume that maybe they need a voice, and maybe that’s my purpose. I’m not a big person, but I turn into a linebacker when I hear about this stuff. I’m bigger than anyone in the room. It’s like an out of body experience when I feel like somebody is not being taken care of.”

With her philanthropic efforts in high gear, Ms. Majeski began to attract notice. The fact that she is pretty and blonde didn’t hurt, and she was soon approached by the Bravo TV network about joining the cast of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, which she turned down.

“I was very flattered,” Ms. Majeski said. “I don’t know what they were thinking. Maybe it was about rethinking the cast, since one of them (Teresa Guidice) is now in jail. I was having fun with it, but when the rubber hit the road and they were down to the final eight, I realized this just wasn’t the trajectory of our family. But I did see the value in elevating my profile, which would give me more opportunity to talk about bringing philanthropy into the workplace and into the home. I just think it’s so important to look for ways to help, even if you don’t have a penny to spare. It’s a matter of not looking away, of raising kids with that way of thinking. So I did like that purpose of celebrity.”

Much of Ms. Majeski’s fundraising work has been centered on her husband’s company, Cydcor Inc., which has 400 independently owned sales offices. In 2011, she launched a national fundraising campaign for Operation Smile within the company, raising more than a million dollars toward three medical missions.

On June 6, Ms. Majeski led Princeton’s participation in a national fundraising day called “Day of Smiles,” for Operation Smile. The numbers were still being counted as of last week, but she estimated that the effort will bring about $200,000 to help children with special needs. Future plans include creating more alliances with Cydcor, inspiring employees to do more and give more for those less fortunate.

When she was honored by Operation Smile in May, Ms. Majeski was surrounded by celebrities including Eli Manning, Kate Walsh, and Wendy Williams. “Getting that award was amazing,” she said. “And it was fun to meet those celebrities. But I feel that it will be most rewarding when someone I’ve introduced to this work is using their voice and leveraging resources to give back. I don’t get any more time in a day than anyone else. But we all have the heart. We use it, we go for it. That’s what I hope to do — inspire and influence.”