May 20, 2015


More than 30 hands-on topics are on the agenda for the sixth annual Science Expo at Littlebrook Elementary School on Thursday, May 21. Like these students getting a close-up look at horseshoe crabs with Dr. Alan Geperin, young participants will explore chemistry, biology, physics, genetics, and more with visiting experts from Princeton University, the Institute for Advanced Study, and other academic institutions. Joining the lineup this year are a Google executive and a Marine Corps pilot. Littlebrook is at 39 Magnolia Lane in Princeton. For more information, visit

Revo War

George Washington returns to the historic Princeton Battlefield on Saturday, May 23 for a military encampment and mini-re-enactments of the Battle of Princeton, a critical turning point in the American Revolution. General Washington will answer questions at the event, which will also include muskets, cannon, fifes and drums, tactical formations and drills, and a combined arms assault with marching, loading, and firing volleys. Training for Young Patriots and marching in formation are part of the day. Larry Kidder, an editor for the book “The American Revolution in New Jersey: Where the Battlefront Meets the Home Front,” will have books for sale. For more information, visit (Photo by Anna Savoia)

A POSSIBLE EXPANSION: A model of how the campus of PRISMS Academy might look if it is approved for zoning that would allow expansion shows the main building, center, in white, surrounded by proposed buildings, in brick. Homes surrounding the campus, several of which have been purchased by the school, are also shown in white. Residents of the neighborhood are concerned about the project.

A POSSIBLE EXPANSION: A model of how the campus of PRISMS Academy might look if it is approved for zoning that would allow expansion shows the main building, center, in white, surrounded by proposed buildings, in brick. Homes surrounding the campus, several of which have been purchased by the school, are also shown in white. Residents of the neighborhood are concerned about the project.

At a meeting next Wednesday, May 27 at the Princeton International School of Mathematics and Science (PRISMS), residents of Lambert Drive will get a chance to air their concerns about a proposed expansion of the school, which is housed in a former mansion in the middle of the neighborhood.

PRISMS, which has purchased five homes on the neighborhood’s inner loop and has pending purchases of others, has applied for a use variance in order to expand from 80 to 240 students and add a two-story academic building, dormitory, dining hall, gymnasium, and parking lots to the campus. Residents of the homes surrounding the site worry that the scope of the project will add noise, traffic, and congestion, and alter the character of the area.

But the school’s administration maintains that the expansion would be respectful of the neighborhood. “I can understand people would be concerned when they hear about the expansion,” said Matthew Pearce, PRISMS’s executive principal. “But we feel we’re trying to build a school of excellence. Our students are all very focused. Their days are very busy and structured. We’re actually being careful not to disturb the state of the neighborhood by preserving the garden nature of the campus. Where we intend to build is inside our main campus, as it were. We feel we’ll contain it as best we can. It won’t cause a negative impact.”

The project’s architect Bob Hillier (a Town Topics shareholder) said the expansion will have 75-foot setbacks, exceeding the requirements in a residential zone. “The buildings we’re planning are well within the site,” he said. “And also, they are basically residential in scale.” Mr. Hillier added that the school was approached by homeowners about purchasing their properties, instead of the other way around. “In each case they have come to them and said, ‘Before I put it on the market are you interested?’,” he said.

Housed in the former home of the American Boychoir School, PRISMS is a non-profit organization that has a sister school in Beijing and is affiliated with Renmin University. The property, which was home to pharmaceutical magnate Gerard Lambert before housing the Boychoir school from 1952 to 2012, was purchased by the Bairong Education Foundation, funded by Jiang Bairong of the multi-billion dollar Bairong Investment Holdings Group in Beijing.

The school needs a floor area ratio (FAR) above what is permitted in the R-1 residential zone in order to carry out the expansion plan. Mr. Hillier submitted a master plan to the town in February. The issue could come before the Zoning Board sometime next month, though an exact date has not been set.

Lambert Drive residents say they bought their homes knowing a school was located in the center of the neighborhood, with restrictions limiting the student body to 82. Changing zoning to raise that number to 240 would have a negative impact on their quality of life, they say.

PRISMS first announced plans to request a rezoning two years ago, with a goal of expanding enrollment to 300. But strong opposition from neighbors resulted in the request being removed from the Princeton Council agenda in February of that year. Residents say nothing more was mentioned and it appeared the proposal had been dropped.

Neighbors learned that a master plan had been submitted this past February when a resident sold her home to the school. The properties that have been purchased, which are located on Lambert Drive and Rosedale Road, will not be removed from the town’s tax rolls, as some have suggested, according to Mr. Hillier. “The school’s intention is where they have the houses, they will continue to pay the taxes on them,” he said.

Mr. Pearce, who has been at PRISMS for a year, said the plan has been to expand since he came in. “I don’t think we’re sustainable at just 80 students,” he said. “I think that’s a problem the previous school [American Boychoir] faced.”

He said he has not approached any neighboring homeowners about selling their houses, “but we do get phone calls and people ask us if we are interested,” he said. “If that happens, we do approach them.”

Houses purchased by the school will be turned into staff accommodation, offices, and possibly an art center. “As we expand, we’ll use them for whatever purpose we see fit at the time,” he said.

An organized group of neighbors is seeking legal support and forming a 501C-3. “We have a neighborhood and we enjoy it,” said one resident, who was advised not to identify himself. “We’d like to preserve it and we’d be happy if the school would preserve the R1 zoning. They could do some development, as long as they’re respectful of the neighborhood.”

The neighborhood meeting will be held at PRISMS on May 27 at 7 p.m.

It may be more than a decade away, but commuters could one day have a direct link from Princeton Junction train station in West Windsor up to Nassau Street, where the French Market is currently located. Implementing this plan would involve converting from the existing trains that run between Princeton Junction and the Princeton rail station to a different technology; most likely light rail. The price tag is upwards of $45 million to install, with annual operating costs of about $1.7 million.

A combination of funding from the municipality, the county, state, and federal government could make this vision of a future Princeton a reality, according to a report from the Alexander and University Place Transit Task Force. Delivered to Princeton Council at its meeting on May 11, the report revealed some recommendations about extending the rail link and easing vehicle traffic, which is destined to become more problematic as development continues on the Princeton University campus, the town, and beyond.

The task force was formed in October 2011 as part of a memorandum of understanding between the former Princeton Borough, Princeton Township and the University. The idea was to study, evaluate, and make recommendations to manage the flow of traffic and transportation. So far, the task force made up of current Council members Lance Liverman and Patrick Simon, former Borough Council member Kevin Wilkes, University transportation director Kim Jackson, University community affairs director Kristin S. Appelget, and professional planner Nat Bottigheimer, has met 22 times.

When the group first formed it was not clear that extending the line to Nassau Street was possible. “But now we know it is,” said Mr. Wilkes, who delivered the findings to Council. “We have some basic understanding of what the conditions would be in order to make that happen,” he said in an interview this week. “So after many years of arguing over moving the train further away from Nassau Street, it’s useful information for us to have to know how to reverse the trend.”

The new technology could incorporate the train station that the University has constructed as part of its Arts & Transit development. A more costly option would be to move the station further south to the location of the Metro North restaurant, but that is least likely to be implemented.

The current heavy rail cars would be traded in for newer, lighter weight vehicles, “These would be much easier for the operator to drive,” Mr. Wilkes said. “They brake more rapidly and have better sightlines. So all of the vehicles would be changed to one streetcar, and we’d still keep the new station.”

Regarding funding, Mr. Wilkes said the federal government has programs for small starts such as this project. “If we had done this eight years ago, the chance of funding then would have been 80 percent federal and 20 percent local match,” he added. “But that’s no longer plausible. Now, we would have to aim more toward 50/50. So obviously, we would have to get the county and state involved, and West Windsor Township, if we want to get this together. We need to sprinkle it out among local stakeholders, including some private organizations that would benefit, such as the University,” he said.

Mr. Wilkes’ personal recommendation would be to charge an impact fee for developers who build in the town’s central business district. “We could let those who would most benefit from having rail arrive at Nassau street to carry some of those costs — in fact, a significant portion,” he said.

On the topic of traffic, a representative from the company AECOM told Council that eliminating left hand turns at Nassau and Mercer streets and getting rid of the left hand turn from Nassau Street onto Bank Street could ease congestion. Closing parts of Mercer and Witherspoon streets could also help. The traffic study suggests that over the next 12 years, vehicle trips along Alexander Street during peak afternoon hours could rise from 948 (in 2012) to almost 2,000. A third of those can be linked to local growth, while the other two thirds are estimated to come from regional growth outside Princeton.

But further study is needed on road closures and street directionals to determine how to develop “a coordinated network to move people and vehicles to, and within, Princeton in ways that reduce congestion and vehicular traffic,” the group states in a summary of its findings so far.

With all of the discussions regarding policing now going on in the world-at-large, Town Topics called upon Police Chief Nick Sutter to share his thoughts on such issues as the use of body cameras in the context of more low-tech community policing strategies that are being used to reach out to the municipality’s diverse populations.

After the proven success of in-dash vehicle cameras, which the department has been using for 15 years, the next logical step is to outfit officers with body cameras, said Mr. Sutter. Vehicle cameras can record police arrests and other encounters with suspects; they pick up incidents happening on the street; and anyone who is arrested or traveling inside a police vehicle will be recorded by a camera that switches itself on automatically.

To date, Princeton is one of 10 out of 11 police departments in Mercer County that has in-dash cameras (the one exception is Trenton); it is one of three currently discussing the introduction of body cameras.

Vehicle camera have shown their worth in two major ways, said the police chief: they are often presented in court to show police and suspect behavior and they can also be used to examine police behavior if there is a complaint from the public. “If someone is stopped for speeding and alleges bad language or poor demeanor on the part of one of my officers, or if someone alleges that he or she was improperly searched, we can check that out,” said Mr. Sutter. “Overwhelmingly, in Princeton, the officers are cleared. I cannot recall an incident where an officer acted improperly, based on the facts of their behavior. This isn’t to say that the person making the complaint is lying, sometimes they simply perceive the officer’s behavior to have been improper when it isn’t. Body cameras would not only serve the interests of the public, they would benefit police officers too.”

So far, Mr. Sutter has discussed the acquisition of body cameras, which would be clipped to an officer’s chest, with the Prosecutor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office, as well as informally with the governing body. “The Princeton Police Department is in favor but digital storage is expensive and although there are federal grants most of the need is from larger cities with major crime problems. Cost is likely to be the determining factor.”

Nevertheless, the police chief has been examining different kinds of cameras and how and when they are used. “It’s high on our wish list,” he said. “This is an issue at the forefront of policing right now and I approached the PBA [Police Benevolent Association] last year to find out how officers feel about this; they are clearly in favor.”

According to the police chief, people in Princeton are comfortable when it comes to questioning the police. “I’ve read a lot about Civilian Review Boards but it’s my belief that if we are truly transparent in our handling of complaints, that will result in people trusting us,” said Mr. Sutter. “It’s also important that we cultivate an atmosphere in which it’s possible to admit mistakes. We are all of us human and we all make mistakes; the important thing is to admit to them and fix them.” Routinely encouraging the acknowledgment of small mistakes and handling them is the way to prevent bigger mistakes from happening, according to the police chief. “I believe it is important for members of the community to see us as individuals.”

To that end, the Princeton Police Department promotes proactive investment in community outreach programs like Coffee with a Cop and local events like the recent Wheels Rodeo where police officers get to know the communities they serve and vice versa. Trust is necessary, said Mr. Sutter, when incidents involving the use of force occur. “And that can happen in Princeton too,” he said. “It is my experience that people bring their own experiences from elsewhere to Princeton. If someone once had a bad experience with a police officers in another state, that translates to Princeton. It’s important to be aware of the tensions that exist in our cities across the country.”

And it is just as important to avoid complacency. “It’s impossible not to be concerned about national events,” said Mr. Sutter. “While we live in a wonderfully accepting place and our police force is just tops, we’re not on an island but part of a larger world so its part of my job to anticipate the future and make sure that we are prepared.”

Princeton’s police continually prepare to proactively avoid situations such as terrorism and the use of force. “By our very nature, police are called upon to respond to problem situations. We want to make sure that what we do does not escalate a situation so that we don’t go towards the use of strong force. And we are not alone in that. We have law enforcement partners at the county and the state level who are a resource for us in an emergency situation, including natural disasters.”

These are the sorts of things that the police address in training, along with sensitivity to diversity. Today’s department mirrors Princeton’s demographics in terms of the breakdown of white, African American, and Latino officers — men and women. That it does so is one of the tenets of its recruitment policy.

Princeton residents represent many different cultures and different sets of beliefs. In some cultures, shaking hands may not be appropriate or may only be appropriate in certain circumstances; in others there may be an order in which it is appropriate to address individuals in a group or family situation. “We need to be sensitive to such things,” said Mr. Sutter. “It can be especially important to understand the nuances of cultural belief when we are called, for instance, to an incident of reported domestic violence. And it is also important to be sensitive to and aware of sexual orientation.” Because such considerations can determine police/public interactions, each member of the department undergoes Cultural Competency Training once a year, including the chief.

One aspect of diversity in Princeton is the use, endorsed by the local department, of Mercer County Community ID Cards, which were introduced some eight years ago following an incident in which an immigrant with no ID on him was found badly beaten and unconscious. “He was in a coma for days and it wasn’t immediately apparent who should be contacted,” said Mr. Sutter. “The card was being used in Trenton and we thought it was a good idea. Everybody who lives in the community is entitled to the exact same treatment and these cards help a segment of our community gain access to life-sustaining services. We honor them as a valid form of ID.”


Palmer Square was all about the fair sex Thursday as the Ninth Annual Girls Night Out event offered a wealth of in-store sales, promotions, complimentary parking, music, raffles, food sampling in the Taste of the Square tent, Salon Pure styling demonstrations, sips from Princeton Corkscrew Wine Shop, and hors d’oeuvres from Mediterra, among many other treats. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

May 15, 2015

Paul E. Sigmund IV, 49, son of the late Princeton Borough Mayor Barbara Boggs Sigmund, pleaded guilty Tuesday, May 12, to a drug charge and two motor vehicle offenses. He was ordered to pay $1,925 in fines and will be under court supervision until he successfully completes substance abuse treatment. Mr. Sigmund was charged by Princeton police after an incident in Sept. 21, 2014, in which his Chevy Malibu hit a 3-inch-pole in a Princeton parking lot and heroin and hypodermic needles were discovered in his vehicle. Mr. Sigmund is a former Mercer County Freeholder and was once chief of staff to former Trenton Mayor Tony Mack.

May 14, 2015

At a work session on waste management during a meeting of Princeton Council this past Monday, members of the Princeton Environmental Commission urged members of the governing body to step up measures that would reduce trash and waste.

One priority stressed by the Commission and echoed by a few members of the public is an ordinance that would require customers to pay a fee for the single use of plastic or paper bags at supermarkets and stores. Other measures suggested included leaf management, more composting, and helping businesses with their recycling efforts.

“We need to do something different,” PEC chair Matt Wasserman told Council. “The status quo isn’t acceptable when it comes to waste management. There is a lot we should be doing from a waste perspective that we’re not doing here as a town.”

The good news, Mr. Wasserman said, is that “the winds of change are actually blowing.” More than 1,000 homeowners in Princeton are now willing to pay a fee to compost. The town has been recognized with Silver Status by the organization Sustainable Jersey, and a majority of the voters in the most recent election said they were in favor of charging a fee for the use of plastic bags.

Mr. Wasserman recommended that Council convene regular meetings with the organization Sustainable Princeton, the town’s Municipal Green Team, and the Department of Public Works. Annual waste reduction targets should be created, and current ordinances should be enforced. “Make it easy to compost and recycle, and harder to landfill,” he said.

May 13, 2015
COMMUNITY OPTIONS SETTLES IN: After Town Topics newspaper moved out of 305 Witherspoon Street, the staff of Community Options moved in. From left: Stefanie Rinaldi, Wendy Williams, Meghan Hunter, Deborah Napoleon, Teresa Snyder, Awee Taylor, and Keaira Askew gather outside the building that will house Community Options’ new and expanding STEP program, which provides employment opportunities for young people with disabilities. For more information, visit: by Kathryn Sampson)

COMMUNITY OPTIONS SETTLES IN: After Town Topics newspaper moved out of 305 Witherspoon Street, the staff of Community Options moved in. From left: Stefanie Rinaldi, Wendy Williams, Meghan Hunter, Deborah Napoleon, Teresa Snyder, Awee Taylor, and Keaira Askew gather outside the building that will house Community Options’ new and expanding STEP program, which provides employment opportunities for young people with disabilities. For more information, visit: (Photo by Kathryn Sampson)

Shortly after Town Topics moved out of 305 Witherspoon Street, the building it had occupied since 2007, local residents wondered what would be taking its place. That question was answered last week when the staff of the non-profit Community Options, Inc. began setting up their offices there. The building will house Community Options’ expanding School-to-Employment Program (STEP).

For 25 years, the non-profit organization has worked to develop housing and employment programs for people with disabilities. Its guiding philosophy is that all people — regardless of disability level — should live and work in the community with dignity, choice, and self-determination.

Founder and President/CEO Robert Stack likes to say that people with disabilities have some of the same problems as celebrities. “They are surrounded with people who are paid to be around them and what Community Options wants is for them to be in the regular workplace,” he explained. “We try to jumpstart that process through STEP and a chance at giving them a regular paid job.”

As to meeting obstacles along the way? “Everyone has obstacles that we have to figure out how to deal with; we can’t put ourselves in a bubble,” he said.

Before acquiring its current building, Community Options had offices in the Daily Plan It, which was, said Mr. Stack, “bursting at the seams.” The new location provides space for the STEP program and for staff from its Mercer County office.

“We hope that our local presence on Witherspoon Street will give parents of children with disabilities the vision that their son or daughter can in fact have a job just like any other student who is close to finishing school regardless of the fact that they have disabilities,” said Mr. Stack.

Thanks in part to a grant by the Kessler Foundation, STEP was launched in New Jersey in 2008 in response to the youth employment rate for individuals with disabilities. The job training/transition program serves high school students and young adults with special needs, through real world, hands-on training. The goal is to improve future opportunities for competitive employment and/or post-secondary education.

In recognition of the contribution made to STEP by the Kessler Foundation, Elaine Katz will receive the Community Options Betty Pendler Award this Friday, May 15, at the organization’s national headquarters on Farber Road in Princeton. “Elaine has been tireless in getting employment for people with disabilities and has given us our first grant for STEP,” said Mr. Stack.

“Most people without disabilities find training for jobs as teens during high school but teenagers with disabilities rarely have that chance,” explained Mr. Stack. “That’s where STEP comes in, with unpaid internships in a variety of jobs.

So far, the non-profit organization is working with the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro, the Robert Wood Johnson hospital, and others, offering experience in food service, maintenance, custodial, inventory, and other work. “One of our teenagers loves to work in patient transport, taking patients from X-Ray to their hospital room or from there to the hospital’s main lobby, for example,” said Mr. Stack. “We find that if we place a person in a job that is a good match for them, it works well and so far we’ve had a 90 percent success rate.” That means that 90 percent of the time, the intern has been hired into a paid job. STEP places students aged between 16 and 19, who are on the autism spectrum or have some intellectual or physical disability, filling a gap in what is available from government programs such as ARC, which, according to Mr. Stack, has a waiting list of well over 6,000.

“We are very well-known in the area and a lot of parents want their kids in our program, which currently has 27 students from the area,” said Stefanie Rinaldi, who oversees STEP. “And that number is likely to double by the end of the year.”

Ms. Rinaldi explained how the program works. “For our student interns we hire coaches; each intern is paired with a paid coach who does not have a disability and who works alongside the intern in the job, until they are able to do it on their own. At that point the coach is no longer needed and can ‘fade.’ We call it ‘fading,’” she said, adding that Community Options is always looking to hire coaches. “If there are people in the area who want to work with Community Options as coaches, they should get in touch and this is a great place to get work experience; we have hundreds of such part-time per diem employees; some are retired, some are college graduates looking for a stepping stone, often in social work, education and psychology.

Community Options was founded by Mr. Stack in 1989, some years after he moved to Princeton in 1981. “I had been working with kids with disabilities for a long time but when the place I was working for went out of business, I realized that a non-profit group was needed that would follow a business model,” said Mr. Stack. Since then, the organization has grown to include 275 group homes nationwide, 104 in New Jersey, including 17 in Mercer County. It now serves thousands of people with disabilities through 38 offices across 9 states, including Arizona, Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

With an operating budget of $107 million, it currently has some 3600 employees nationwide, at least 1,000 in New Jersey, and 30 in Princeton. Its funding comes from private sector donations as well as from state and federal government.

Locally, Community Options operates a home built from the ground up in Hopewell and a renovated home on Harrison Street in Princeton for persons who use wheelchairs.

The excitement of moving into a new space was tangible last week as computers were set up and staff members figured out the logistics of the newly-painted building. Still there might be one downside to the new location, laughed Mr. Stack. “Our staff might be growing in another sense now that we are within walking distance of Conte’s Pizza!”

For more information, visit:

Scholarships are available from the National Federation of Republican Women, and the deadline for applications is June 1.

The Betty Rendel Scholarship Fund was established in 1995 in honor of the organization’s past president. The three annual $1,000 scholarships are awarded to female undergraduates who are majoring in political science, government, or economics and have successfully completed at least two years of college coursework. Recipients are chosen from applicants across the nation.

The National Pathfinder Scholarship Fund, established in 1985 in honor of Nancy Reagan, provides $2,500 to three women seeking undergraduate or graduate degrees. Undergraduate sophomores, juniors and seniors as well as students enrolled in a master’s degree program, are eligible.

Completed application packages must be submitted to the NJ Federation of Republican Women, P.O. Box 901, Pennington, N.J. 08534 by June 1. For more information, email

reichl book

Ruth Reichl is sometimes asked the question: If you had a superpower, what would it be? For the author, food writer and editor — formerly the restaurant critic at The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times and the editor-in-chief of the late and lamented Gourmet magazine, the answer is a no-brainer: To have a heightened palate.

“I wish I had it, but I so do not,” she said during a telephone interview last week. “Especially in my business, it would be a great asset.” Ms. Reichl will speak this Friday at a sold-out Book Lover’s Luncheon hosted by the Princeton Public Library and the Friends of the Library, at Springdale Golf Club. “The closest I’ve ever seen is Paula Wolfert, whom I traveled with once,” she continued. “She really does have an uncanny ability to pull flavors apart.”

Perfect palate or not, Ms. Reichl has been at the center of the food world since writing the first of three memoirs, Tender at the Bone, in 1998. Three subsequent memoirs, other books, and television appearances followed. Last year, Delicious! marked her first venture into fiction. She is currently at work on another novel and a memorial to Gourmet, which folded suddenly in 2009.

Making the transition to fiction was harder than Ms. Reichl expected. “Everybody said to me, ‘This will be so easy for you. Your memoirs read like novels.’ And I thought I knew how to do it,” she said. “But the truth is, I didn’t. It was really slow. I realized I needed to know the characters very well, and that took longer than I thought.”

Delicious! is the story of a young woman with a remarkably sensitive palate who travels from her home in California to take a job at New York’s oldest and best known food magazine. When the much-loved publication is abruptly shut down, she agrees to stay on at the empty office to maintain its hotline for reader complaints. Along the way, she makes some compelling discoveries about the magazine and its history, particularly concerning the persecution of Italian-Americans during World War II.

Ms. Reichl admits to a few obvious parallels between the world of Delicious! and Gourmet — the camaraderie between the staff members, the test kitchen where staffers would drop everything and rush in when someone testing out a recipe yelled out, “Taste!” — but that’s about it. “Everybody says your first book is autobiographical. But I really wanted the fun of inhabiting someone who was very different from me,” she said. “It was interesting to me to explore the sister relationship because I don’t have a sister. And it was fun to be 21 again. I like that she’s not really me, but when my son read it he said, ‘But Mom, she’s optimistic like you.’ I hadn’t realized that.”

The main character’s discovery about the treatment of Italian-Americans comes from Ms. Reichl’s own interest in life on the home front during World War II. “I did a lot of research for this book,” she said. “I read a lot, and I suddenly came upon this whole history of what happened to Italian-Americans, especially on the west coast. I was shocked. I don’t think anybody knows about it, except that there was an apology read into the Congressional Record in 1998 or so. The thing that really ended it was that Fiorello LaGuardia put a stop to it. He said, ‘OK, that’s enough.’”

She continues, “As a writer one of the great things is when you get blocked, you just go do research for awhile. I probably own every rationing cookbook that was published. I read a lot about Roosevelt and his feelings about food being another front of the war. To me, this was such a fascinating time. Today we live in a time in America when the rich and poor have probably never eaten so differently from each other. But World War II was a time when just about everybody ate the same. “

Ms. Reichl was born and raised in New York and spent several years as a young adult in Berkeley, California. She was a co-owner of a restaurant in Berkeley and served as restaurant critic not only for the Los Angeles Times, but also for New West and California magazines. She currently lives in the Berkshires with her husband, a television producer.

Her own ventures into television include hosting specials on Food Network, producing a public television series for Gourmet, and serving as a judge on the show Top Chef Masters. Ms. Reichl has mixed feelings about food shows. “A lot of them are remarkably stupid,” she said. “ But we have food TV to thank for the fact that we have a food-obsessed public, which is a good thing. Kids raised on food TV are now cooks and curious eaters. With the stupider shows, it’s kind of like when you first start drinking wine. You drink Blue Nun and Mateus, and then you graduate to better things. I have no animosity toward any of the shows.”

Her own cooking repertoire consists mostly of fairly simple food. “I had people over the other day, and I just did a roast chicken with German fried potatoes and creamed spinach and a big salad, with a lemon tart,” she said. “I don’t think home cooks need to cook like chefs. I’m fortunate because we buy most of our food from local farmers and providers. We pretty much eat with the season.”

Keeping abreast of what is advisable to eat and what is not can be a chore. “We’re so frightened of food in so many ways,” Ms. Reichl said. “Every couple of years we’re told you shouldn’t eat this, you should eat that. Butter’s bad, butter’s good. The same with eggs. But then the things that are really bad, we’re not frightened enough of, like margarine. We’re not wary enough of industrial food and way too frightened of natural things. I think if your grandmother ate it, you shouldn’t worry about it.”

HELPING WITH DENTAL HEALTH: Princeton High sophomore Avery Peterson will bring toothbrushes and toothpaste to a rural village in Peru when she visits through the Creating Ties program this summer. After viewing photos of villagers and noticing they were in need of dental care, she contacted local businesses and got some help with her cause.

HELPING WITH DENTAL HEALTH: Princeton High sophomore Avery Peterson will bring toothbrushes and toothpaste to a rural village in Peru when she visits through the Creating Ties program this summer. After viewing photos of villagers and noticing they were in need of dental care, she contacted local businesses and got some help with her cause.

For the past 12 years, Princeton High School Spanish teacher Martha Hayden has been taking students on summer trips to her native Peru through the independently sponsored program Creating Ties. The goal is twofold: To teach students about the culture of the country, and to involve them in community service.

All the students — 18 this year — travel together with Ms. Hayden for a week. A smaller group, led by John Witherspoon Middle School teacher Carolina Montoya Mondragon, stays for an additional week, living with families in small rural villages and contributing to the community through building projects, teaching, agriculture, and other activities.

For the students who participate in only the first week of the trip, there is a day devoted to community service. But those able to take part in the second half of the program make the strongest connections, getting a chance to immerse themselves in the local culture. Avery Peterson, a 16-year-old PHS sophomore, is one of the students among those on this year’s trip.

As someone interested in public health and social sciences, Ms. Peterson has been thinking for some time about how she could contribute to the general health of the rural village she will visit. She decided on dental care, and she has enlisted the aid of some local businesses in her mission to teach the importance of dental health to the villagers. Church & Dwight, Princeton Orthodontics, and Princeton Dental Group are supplying Ms. Peterson with toothbrushes and toothpaste to take with her on her trip.

“I thought I would definitely want to make the trip very impactful,” Ms. Peterson said. “I wanted to have something that would change their lives. There are lots of communities and places that are impoverished and they don’t necessarily have the best dental hygiene. Bad teeth leads to bad health, and bad gums lead to gingivitis, which leads to further diseases.”

During a checkup with her orthodontist, Dr. Jonathan Nicozisis, Ms. Peterson told him about her idea. He immediately gave her 200 toothbrushes to take on her trip. She sent an email about her plan to Princeton Dental Group, which donated 50 toothbrushes and dental floss. Ms. Peterson made her connection with Church & Dwight through Matt Wasserman, whom she knew through a friend. Mr. Wasserman works for the company and also chairs the Princeton Environmental Commission.

Mr. Wasserman was happy to help out, arranging for Church & Dwight to donate two boxes full of toothpaste and toothbrushes. “Church & Dwight and its employees take seriously the importance of CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility, and have made it a core tenet to support the local organizations that help the less fortunate and other people in need,” he said in an email. “While Peru isn’t exactly local, Avery certainly is, and as such the Arm & Hammer Oral Care marketing team was thrilled to be able to support her in this wonderful service project.”

Ms. Hayden is impressed with her student’s resourcefulness. “Avery’s idea was wonderful,” she said. “She saw pictures of kids who had a lot of issues with their teeth. They don’t have a lot of water yet, and they don’t clean their teeth regularly at all. They lose teeth at an early age. So she will teach them oral health. We’ll also do it for adults. She did this all on her own, and I’m very proud of her.”

The students, who will depart for Peru at the end of June, have good Spanish language skills. Before the trip, they are learning about the culture of the Incas and Peru. In addition to the dental care products being brought by Ms. Peterson, those staying on for the second week will bring games, crayons, toys, balls, and other items that are not accessible.

“The community service part has been wonderful for the kids,” said Ms. Hayden. “A lot of them go back during their college years or gap years. I think it changes the way you look at the world. It makes you understand that there are little things you can contribute that mean so much. It builds social conscience and it’s life-changing.”

Five Mile Lake McC 4-15 058 Five Mile Lake, by Rachel Bonds at the McCarter Theatre 4/30/15 Directed by Emily Mann Set Design : Edward Pierce Costume Design: Jennifer von Mayrhauser Lighting Design: Jeff Croiter © T Charles Erickson Photography

© T Charles Erickson

Continuing its tradition of introducing major new plays and writers to the American Stage, (Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, The Convert, and Anna in the Tropics) McCarter Theatre Center is pleased to present the East Coast Premiere of Five Mile Lake by playwright Rachel Bonds. The play runs through May 31 on McCarter’s Berlind Stage.

For more information, visit



This iconic work, “Spinning Whistle Tea Kettle,” by the late architect and designer Michael Graves is one of some 2,500 brought to market for clients such as Target, Alessi, Stryker, and Disney by his leading design firm, Michael Graves Architecture & Design (MGA&D), which continues to offer a full spectrum of architectural design services from its Princeton office. The firm’s clients include Fortune 100 firms, international developers, educational institutions, governmental agencies, and non-profit organizations. And it has received over 200 awards for design excellence. Its founder has just won the National Design Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, in recognition of his excellence and innovation across various platforms. For more information, visit: (Image Courtesy of Michael Graves Architecture & Design, Inc.)

War Art

This 12 by 12 inch oil on gesso panel from Samira Abbassy’s Eternal War Series will be on display in an exhibition of the Iranian-born artist’s work at the Bernstein Gallery from May 16 through August 13. “Narratives: Hearts, Minds & Mythologies,” will be open to the public through May, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and from June through August, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Gallery is located at the Woodrow Wilson School. There will be an artist’s reception on Sunday, May 17, from 4 to 6 p.m. For more information, call (609) 497-2441, or visit:

Last July, Princeton Council created a task force to review and help harmonize existing parking ordinances from the former Borough and Township. Prominent on the task force’s list of issues is overnight parking.

The topic raises hackles because the existing ordinances allow some residents to park overnight while others, who may live on the same block, need to purchase a permit in order to do so. Council, intent on creating a new ordinance that is fair and reflects a consolidated community, heard three possibilities Monday night.

Assistant municipal engineer Deanna Stockton detailed the options for the governing body: Leave the boundaries as they are, adjust them slightly, or make no overnight parking a town-wide implementation.

Council members concurred that more input from the public is needed before an ordinance is crafted. “First,” said Ms. Stockton, “we want to discuss what the boundaries would be. Then we would move ahead with looking at the criteria for issuing permits and creating permit areas.”

In the former Borough, residents could purchase a permit for a fee. In the former Township, there was no fee payment required. That alone created “some fundamental unfairness,” said Mayor Liz Lempert. “This is something important for us to address because obviously right now you have a situation where the former dividing line goes through the middle of some blocks. You have some neighbors having to pay for their permit and others are getting it for free.”

If overnight parking were to be banned town-wide, “It would eliminate this idea that my neighbor has it and I don’t,” said Council member Jo Butler. Her colleague Lance Liverman spoke out against such a measure. “It would make us seem unfriendly,” he said. “There are elderly people who have caregivers who park on the street. I can understand doing it in some areas, but for the whole town, it seems like overkill.”

Mr. Liverman said he favors option two, which would entail adjusting the boundaries. Other Council members agreed. But Council President Bernie Miller remarked that there will be people who have problems with all three of the options, though he saw merits to each approach.

“There will probably be people who will say don’t change anything, because that’s the way it has always been,” he said, “and others who can see some unfairness in the present situation, and others perhaps who can see how the present situation has been abused a bit and will look for a change.”

Maple Street resident Steven Griffies suggested initiating a one-car-per-residence option, with a costly fee for those who retain a second vehicle. He also asked Council to consider rules about daytime parking as well. Skillman resident Charles Gordon, a realtor currently trying to market a home on Murray Place, said the current ordinance has turned away potential buyers.

“Almost every family I have shown the house to has two cars,” he said. “I can’t sell it because of the parking ordinance.” Mr. Gordon added that he has done some research and concluded that residences without driveways or garages should be given parking permits.

Mayor Lempert said an ordinance will likely be put together using the second option, and that it will be introduced at Council’s first meeting in June with ample opportunity for feedback from the public. “This is a big one, so we want to be sure to get some public comment,” she said.

After mounting an emergency fundraising campaign, the American Boychoir School (ABS) has exceeded its goal of $350,000 to keep the financially ailing institution open until the end of the current term. The school has raised $359,096, according to an email sent to donors and school supporters. As of Tuesday, ABS had received $269,021 in gifts and $90,075 in pledges.

“The $30,000 challenge grant succeeded in closing the final gap, so ABS will have the necessary resources to complete this school year,” the email reads. “Thank you for your part in making these events a reality,” it continues after listing a series of activities this coming weekend, including a screening of the film Boychoir at the Princeton Garden Theatre on Friday, a gala concert and auction on Saturday at the school in Plainsboro, and the annual graduation ceremony on Sunday.

The school filed for bankruptcy last month. The academic year was curtailed from the normal, mid-June ending to this Sunday.

Founded in Columbus, Ohio in 1937 and moved to Princeton in 1950, the school for boys in grades four to eight was located on Lambert Drive until relocating to Plainsboro in 2013. With an international reputation, the school’s choirs have performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic, among others. The school was the inspiration for the film Boychoir starting Dustin Hoffman, Debra Winger and Kathy Bates. The Friday screening of the film is a fundraiser for the school.

It is unclear how the school will proceed in its efforts to stay in business after this term ends. “As we proceed, our singular focus will turn toward determining what will come next for the American Boychoir School. Opportunities for the institution abound, although considerable funds will be needed to build a plan going forward,” the email from Rob D’Avanzo, chairman of the Board of Trustees, reads. “We thank you again for your generosity through this phase of the campaign, and we hope that we can count on your help in keeping this exceptional mission a reality.”

Minh Dang

Human rights activist, Minh Dang, will receive the 21st annual Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award from Womanspace at a ceremony and reception Thursday, May 14, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency in Princeton.

Ms. Dang is being honored for her efforts to end human trafficking, which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services calls the fastest growing criminal industry in the world. It is one that is hard to track and hard to stop.

Ms. Dang’s own harrowing story of surviving child abuse and sexual slavery, reached the public in 2010 when MSNBC aired the documentary Sex Slaves in America: Minh’s Story.

As a California schoolgirl, Ms. Dang led a secret life. Even as she excelled at academics and sports, she was being forced into sexual slavery by her own parents from the age of 10 until her first two years as a college student.

After severing ties with her parents, Ms. Dang has addressed tens of thousands of concerned citizens in an effort to bring the problem of modern-day slavery to public attention. She currently speaks on issues of human trafficking, leadership development, and social justice and develops strategies to support education, training, and leadership development for survivors.

Most recently she worked with the anti-human trafficking initiative Don’t Sell Bodies, which was founded by actress and activist Jada Pinkett Smith. As such, Ms. Dang helped launch the U.S. Senate Caucus to End Human Trafficking with Senators Rob Portman and Richard Blumenthal.

In May 2013, she was one of 15 Asian American/Pacific Islander women recognized at the White House as a Champion of Change.

Described as “passionate about promoting the integration of individual and community healing” and a “true love warrior,” Ms. Dang has traveled extensively telling her story. She received her BA in sociology in 2006 and her Masters in social welfare in 2013.

At Thursday’s event, Ms. Dang will be introduced by her friend Abby Sher, author of Kissing Snowflakes; Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl who Couldn’t Stop Praying; and Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls who Escaped Modern Slavery.

Annual Award

Each May, since 1995, Womanspace has honored a person of distinction exemplifying the qualities of the event’s namesake, Barbara Boggs Sigmund, who is well-remembered as the mayor of Princeton Borough from 1983 until 1990. She died in office at age 51, after an eight-year battle with cancer.

As 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, Ms. Sigmund had politics in her blood. In 1982, following a diagnosis of cancer, she had her left eye removed and subsequently attended mayoral events sporting an eye patch chosen to match her outfit. When she entered the Democratic gubernatorial primary in 1989, her campaign slogan was: “I’ve got my eye on New Jersey.”

As the driving force in founding Womanspace in 1977, Ms. Sigmund was responding 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.

Ms. Dang joins a long list of distinguished honorees who have received the official Barbara Boggs Sigmund Award Rose commissioned by Boehm Porcelain exclusively for Womanspace. The porcelain rose is light lilac.

In 1995, the first award honoree was Ms. Sigmund’s younger sister, the ABC political reporter Corrine “Cokie” Boggs Roberts. Ms. Roberts serve as Honorary Chair for this year’s event.

Since then, recipients have been, among others: baseball executive and founder of the Safe At Home Foundation, Joe Torre (2014), author Lee Woodruff (2013), artist Faith Ringgold (2011); sports coach C. Vivian Stringer (2010); 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).

Womanspace created the first shelter for female victims of domestic violence and their children in Mercer County. It provides the critical services needed by the survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their families, including therapeutic counseling for the children affected by family violence. Since its founding, Womanspace has served more than 301,076 adults and children. Programs include crisis intervention, emergency shelter, counseling, court advocacy, housing services, and a 24-hour hotline: (609) 394-9000.

For more information during regular business hours, call (609) 394-0136, or visit:

According to the FBI, people are being are being bought, sold, and smuggled like modern-day slaves in the United States.

For more information, visit:

To report human trafficking or to get help, call (888) 373-7888.


In Spring you don’t need to be a young man for your fancy to turn to thoughts of outdoor dining and socializing in one of Princeton’s most attractive corners. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

May 11, 2015

Princeton University is seeking input from Princeton-area residents via an interactive mapping tool called “Campus Compass” that will be used to inform the University’s 2026 Campus Planning effort. With this mapping tool, the planning team, led by University consultant Urban Strategies, invites community members to describe where and how they spend time on campus and offer their ideas for improvingement. Urban Strategies plans to share aggregated responses on its blog site this summer.

The mapping tool is available online ( It takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete a questionnaire. For more information, contact blog administrator at

May 7, 2015

The Princeton Station will be closed over the weekend for a final pavement surface and permanent striping to be installed. The parking lot will be closed to all parking from 11 p.m. on Friday, May 8, until 4 a.m. Monday, May 11. On Saturday, May 9, and Sunday, May 10, parking will be available in the University’s West Garage immediately adjacent to the Princeton Station. Additionally, metered parking along Alexander Street will continue to be available. For more information, contact: Princeton University Office of Transportation and Parking at or 609-258-3157.

breaking news police

The Princeton Police Department is asking the public’s help in identifying a male suspect in a fraud that occurred on April 25 at 10:40 a.m. at the Bank of America, 370 Nassau Street. The suspect made a series of unauthorized ATM withdrawals totaling $900.00. The male is described as white, Hispanic, or middle-eastern, 25 – 30 years of age, medium to stocky build, scruffy beard, dark hair and eyes, gapped front teeth; wearing: a dark coat and a camouflage style baseball cap with a Harley Davidson-type insignia. Anyone with information should contact Detective Adam Basatemur at (609) 921-2100 ext. 2170, or

May 6, 2015

BreakingTTA gift of $10 million from a Princeton University parent who wishes to remain anonymous will create the Daniel Kahneman and Anne Treisman Center for Behavioral Science and Public Policy, it was announced this week. The center will allow the University to strengthen its role in the field and improve the development of effective policymaking.

The donor has long been an admirer of the work of Mr. Kahneman, who is a Nobel laureate and the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus at the University and a professor of psychology and public affairs emeritus, and Ms. Treisman, the James S. McConnell Distinguished University Professor of Psychology Emeritus.

The center will be located at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. Over the past 15 years, the Wilson school has developed research and teaching initiatives in the area of behavioral applications to policy involving faculty members from the departments of psychology and economics, as well as sociology, politics, and other disciplines.

The center will build on the work that earned Mr. Kahneman a Nobel Prize in 2002.

“This generous gift will allow us to deepen and expand our efforts in an extremely promising area of teaching and research,” said President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “Princeton’s faculty members are applying behavioral science techniques to topics that include law, economics, health care, household finance and dispute resolution. We expect that the research conducted at the center will directly influence local, national and global public policy, identifying new approaches to address social problems and improve lives.” 

Cecilia Rouse, dean of the Wilson School, said the gift will support graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, and provide flexible funding for short-term visitors, new research projects, lecture series and conferences, and the dissemination of research results. It also will play an important part in connecting Princeton researchers with policymakers.

Eldar Shafir, the William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, will serve as the center’s first director. A Princeton faculty member since 1989, he studies how people make judgments in situations of conflict and uncertainty, focusing in particular on decision making in the context of poverty. He was a member of President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability and is the co-author of the 2013 book “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.”

Mr. Kahneman and Ms. Treisman, who are husband and wife, said they are honored that the center has been named for them.

“I find deep satisfaction in the idea of a continuing connection with Princeton through the center,” Ms. Treisman said. Mr. Kahneman added, “I am confident that great things will be accomplished in the center, and personally gratified that Anne and I are joined in its name.”

WHY DID THE WOOD FROG CROSS THE ROAD?: To get to the temporary vernal pools where their life began. The call of spring brought the tiny creatures out of hibernation and on their journey to the vernal pools in the Sourlands. Shown here in the hands of a nature enthusiast on a Sourlands Conservancy hike, the eggs were observed by visitors after the amphibians had been helped to reach the pools last month. Each black speck surrounded by a glob of a protective jelly will likely hatch into a wood frog in about four to six weeks.(Photo by Caroline Katmann)

WHY DID THE WOOD FROG CROSS THE ROAD?: To get to the temporary vernal pools where their life began. The call of spring brought the tiny creatures out of hibernation and on their journey to the vernal pools in the Sourlands. Shown here in the hands of a nature enthusiast on a Sourlands Conservancy hike, the eggs were observed by visitors after the amphibians had been helped to reach the pools last month. Each black speck surrounded by a glob of a protective jelly will likely hatch into a wood frog in about four to six weeks. (Photo by Caroline Katmann)

After March rains, visitors to the Sourland region could not have failed to notice the appearance of temporary vernal pools.

Because there are no fish in these pools, they provide a safe spot for numerous species of amphibians newly emerged from hibernation to mate and lay their eggs.

But because the pools and the places where the amphibians emerge are in many instances divided by a road, a little human help is needed to make sure creatures such as spring peepers that are less than an inch long successfully reach their destination.

This is where Caroline Katmann, executive director of the Sourlands Conservancy, County Naturalist Jenn Rogers of the Mercer County Park Commission, and volunteers step in, each year.

“During the first heavy rains when the evening temperature reaches between 40 and 50 degrees, there is an amphibian migration,” explained Ms. Katmann. “The frogs and the salamanders know instinctively when it is time to emerge from hibernation. They then follow the paths that have followed for generations to their natal vernal pools where they breed and lay their eggs. Unfortunately, over the years, roads have been built across these paths.”

The volunteer effort is part of a statewide Amphibian Crossing project by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. The Sourland region is home to the spotted salamander, red-backed salamander, slimy salamander, northern two-lined salamander, northern red salamander, northern dusky salamander, jefferson salamander, american toad, fowler’s toad, spring peeper, bullfrog, green frog, wood frog, pickerel frog, and northern gray tree frog. State biologists estimate that one car passing every four minutes can potentially kill 75 percent of these species.

In some places a road might be closed in order to facilitate an amphibian crossing but on Mountain Road in East Amwell, volunteers came out to gently push or carry the amphibians across the road. As if to reward their efforts, the volunteers were treated to a spring chorus of wood frogs and peepers that had successfully reached the breeding pools to ensure another generation of their species.

Not every egg will produce an adult, however; many will be eaten as part of the food chain. According to Ms. Rogers, a large amphibian population is necessary to maintain the region’s ecosystem. Adult amphibians are meat-eaters; they control the numbers of slugs, worms, even small mammals, such as mice. In turn, the amphibians are eaten by snakes, foxes, dogs, fish, hawks, and other birds.

Last month, a recent hike to the same location by 15 participants in the Sourland Conservancy’s vernal pool walk discovered masses of shimmering flecks of gold that are the eggs of pickerel frogs, as well as wood frog eggs and spotted salamander eggs. During the walk, which was led by Ms. Rogers, participants got to check out the results of the previous month’s amphibian crossing efforts.

“Easily mistaken for lifeless bodies of water containing nothing but twigs and leaves these vernal pools are teeming with life,” said Ms. Katmann, whose personal favorite is the spotted salamander. “Seeing one was the highlight of my life; they look like they should be in the tropics.”

Free, guided hikes are a part of the Conservancy’s stewardship program. Since 1986, the Sourland Conservancy has worked to protect the ecological integrity, historic resources and special character of the Sourland Mountain region. Upcoming “Sourland Stewards Hikes,” which are limited to just 15 participants, will take place Saturday, May 16, from 9 a.m. to noon, led by Jim Amon, Sourland Conservancy Trustee and former director of Stewardship for the D&R Greenway Land Trust; and Saturday May 30, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., led by Dave Harper, former president of the Geological Association of New Jersey.

For more information, including other Sourland Conservancy-sponsored hikes, visit www.sourlandorg/stewardship. To help with the project next year, contact or

In addition, the D&R Greenway Land Trust is offering a guided tour of the Rockhopper Trail in West Amwell Saturday, May 9, from 10 a.m. Led by former D&R Greenway trustee and trail crew leader Alan Hershey, the walk is free, but space is limited and early registrations is advised. For information on other hikes by the Land Trust, call (609) 924-4646, or visit:

UNCOVERING THE PAST TO DIGITIZE THE FUTURE: Nassau Presbyterian Church’s project to document and digitize records from Princeton Cemetery has turned up such gems as this letter from Edith Bolling Wilson, wife of Woodrow Wilson, about the family’s cemetery plot.

UNCOVERING THE PAST TO DIGITIZE THE FUTURE: Nassau Presbyterian Church’s project to document and digitize records from Princeton Cemetery has turned up such gems as this letter from Edith Bolling Wilson, wife of Woodrow Wilson, about the family’s cemetery plot.

From the corner of Witherspoon and Wiggins streets, Princeton Cemetery doesn’t look especially imposing. But the historic burial ground, which is owned by Nassau Presbyterian Church, stretches back to encompass nearly 19 acres. Some 25,000 interment spaces lie within its borders.

A project that will help indicate just who lies where in the 258-year-old cemetery is currently being developed by a team from the church, which is a few blocks away on Nassau Street. With the aid of old records, interment cards, military records, the daily log book, monthly financial reports, and even ground-penetrating radar, the workers are trying to clarify the history of the cemetery. At the same time, the church is being business-savvy by confirming how many graves are still available for sale.

“It’s a 19-acre jigsaw puzzle,” said Allen Olsen, who is managing the project, which will digitize cemetery maps and records. Mr. Olsen began the project two years ago and is working on it full-time with two part-time assistants. He estimates completion to be at least four years away.

Linda Gilmore, the church’s business administrator, has also been closely involved. “Obviously, from a business model, if we’ve still got space we can sell it,” she said. “But it’s much more than that. The end result of this will be a resource that has meaning for the community. It’s a historical resource we want to preserve. It’s exciting that we’re making it easier for people to find information not only about famous people buried there like Grover Cleveland or Aaron Burr, but regular people, too.”

Graves of the famous at Princeton Cemetery have long been a source of curiosity and a tourist attraction. Prominent on the list, along with Cleveland and Burr, are mathematician Kurt Godel, Paris bookshop owner Sylvia Beach, diplomat George Kennan, Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Eugene Paul Wigner, Declaration of Independence signer John Witherspoon, and the murdered parents of the Menendez brothers.

It is also the final resting place of lesser-known local residents, of all faiths. One of the common misconceptions about the cemetery is that it is only for those affiliated with the church. Another is that it’s sold out. “There are hundreds of graves still available,” Mr. Olsen said. “We’re discovering some now that we wouldn’t have known about before doing this research.”

Many believe mistakenly that the cemetery includes several signers of the Declaration of Independence (there is only one), that Albert Einstein is buried there (he isn’t, but his daughter is), and that it’s segregated. “There was segregation in the 1800s, but no longer,” Mr. Olsen said. “Anyone can buy anywhere. It’s totally open to the community.”

Records have always been kept by the cemetery workers. But when the church purchased a database and began doing the bookkeeping, staff members realized that a lot of work needed to be done. “It became clear that this wasn’t something we could do quickly,” said Ms. Gilmore. A mapping component was purchased, and Mr. Olsen began working geographically, section by section, starting with the newer sections.

He and his assistants begin by inspecting each plot and creating a paper map. They check the soil to see if there may be a burial from before 1957, when burial vaults were required. They photograph all of the headstones.

“We come back and we check the records we have,” he said. “We also check interment cards and ownership cards. Depending on the time periods, records were or were not kept well. We compare them with the cemetery log book. We also look at monthly financial reports. So we begin to compare things. And we cross-check everything to make sure we’re getting an accurate picture.”

Written records have been found in the archives of Princeton Seminary as well as in the church’s financial reports. An old file cabinet in the church basement has provided some clues, as has a cabinet full of letters. One discovery was a letter written by the wife of Woodrow Wilson about the family’s cemetery plot (see photo).

“You never know what you’ll find,” said Ms. Gilmore. “Sometimes we get information from people who come here to do research on their families. And there are so many stories. One card said ‘baby buried by the fence.’ Where by the fence? I want to know the story behind that. It’s just fascinating.”

After bringing in a company to do ground-penetrating radar, the team found 100 unmarked graves. They have also done rubbings and consulted the website, and the Social Security death index, among other resources. “One of our challenges is: When is enough?,” said Mr. Olsen. “You could go on and on. We’re not doing the family geneaology for 25,000 interment spaces.”

Mr. Olsen has spoken about the project to audiences at The Nassau Club and elsewhere in town. The fact that the work won’t be finished for at least another four years is accepted and understood. “When I told one of the members of our committee on this project that after a year, we only had about 15 percent finished, he said it was okay,” Mr. Olsen said. “He said we have a moral and ethical obligation to do this, and to do it right.”