September 10, 2014

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Mayor Liz Lempert, Princeton Public Library director Leslie Burger, and Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane were among local notables who read from favorite books at the Library’s Readathon for Adult Literacy on September 4. September is Adult Literary Month in Mercer County, and the event, which lasted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., was sponsored by Literacy New Jersey/Mercer County Programs. Also taking a turn at the podium were students, tutors, staff members, and volunteers, reading brief selections from their chosen books. (Photo by Kim Dorman)

Thanks to a stalemate-breaking vote by Mayor Liz Lempert, Princeton Council Monday night approved a resolution to raise the governing body’s salaries. The controversial issue had Patrick Simon, Jo Butler, and Jenny Crumiller voting against the resolution, while Lance Liverman, Council president Bernie Miller, and Heather Howard cast their votes in favor.

Before voting yes, Mayor Lempert said she had hoped the matter could have been settled without her stepping in. “I appreciate the attempts at trying to find a compromise,” she said. “But I’m going to vote yes, and I think we’ve debated this for many, many hours of our valuable time.”

The raise brings her salary from $15,000 to $17,500. Council members’ compensation rises from $7,500 to $10,000, while Council president Miller goes from $7,500 to $12,500.

The issue has provoked heated discussion at previous meetings of the Council, and Monday night’s meeting was no exception. Members of the public weighed in as well. Those in favor of the raises have said that the low amount of compensation for all of the hours of work required may discourage people who are not of significant means from serving on the governing body. Those against it have argued that there were salary amounts approved by the former Borough Council and Township Committee before consolidation, and changing them would mean going back on a promise.

“It’s extremely uncomfortable to put money in our own pockets,” Ms. Crumiller said, suggesting that the issue become a public question on the next ballot. But Bob Bruschi, the town’s administrator, said that would be inappropriate because it would politicize the issue. Ms. Crumiller said there was no evidence that adding $2,500 to the compensation would make serving on the Council more appealing. “Twenty-five hundred dollars is just not going to make a difference,” she said.

Mr. Liverman said that amount “for some people, is a lot of money. I think it’s fair.” Ms. Howard commented that she didn’t see the raises as a consolidation issue. Mr. Miller said that since consolidation took effect, there are now seven members of Council doing the work of what 12 people, who served on the former Borough Council and Township Committee, did in the past. Mr. Simon suggested an amendment to the resolution that would make the raises effective when successors to the current Council are appointed. But the option was overruled.

Mr. Bruschi sent a memo last week on the issue to members of Council, including statistics from other communities around New Jersey. He urges giving “serious consideration to raise the annual salary stipend to at least the levels that were discussed. I would argue that there is significant rationale for a stipend in excess of what is being considered.”

He urged Council to focus on the topic from a policy point of view rather than the fact that it was a decision made during consolidation. “Approach the salary matter the same way we would approach it when hiring a new employee,” he wrote. “Look at the job duties, the resident expectations not just for the incumbent but also for the successors. The unintended consequence could be a reality and that is to restrict who might consider running for office by eliminating an economic portion of the community that — because of the need to work or provide for child care service — therefore just can’t afford to make the commitment because of the time and financial impact it would have on the family.”

Mr. Bruschi also suggested Council provide for increases going forward based on the salary and wage approved for non-contractual employees. “In other words, when Council approves an increase of 1.5 percent for the employees, the salaries for those positions would likewise receive the 1.5 percent,” he wrote.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Peter Marks agreed with Ms. Crumiller that there should be a referendum on the subject, but said he was in favor of higher pay for elected officials. “The mayor is as important a position as chief of police or administrator,” he said, suggesting that cuts be made in staff to finance higher pay for members of the governing body. Peter Wolanin, municipal chair of the Princeton Democratic Municipal Committee, called the resolution “a little narrow” but spoke in favor of the salary increase.

 

A resolution to establish an affordable housing task force to consider development of properties on Clearview and Franklin Avenues was passed by Princeton Council at its meeting Monday night, but only after amendments were made to broaden the resolution so that it doesn’t focus only on those two properties as possible locations for affordable units.

Several members of the public commented for and against the idea before Council members made changes to the resolution and voted it in. The Clearview Avenue properties are part of a land swap between the municipality and Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS), in which the town gets the three buildings currently occupied by PFARS and the rescue squad gets the land at the former Princeton Township Public Works site, where they plan to build a new facility.

The Franklin Avenue site is a parking lot opposite the former Princeton Hospital, where demolition is about to begin and a 280-unit rental complex, 57 of which are affordable, will be built by the developer AvalonBay. Princeton University owns the lot but will donate it to the town for a public purpose.

Some members of Council said the focus is too narrow, and should be expanded to include all of the properties owned by the municipality. Mayor Liz Lempert said part of the reason for the resolution was “a pretty unique opportunity” presented by the Clearview Avenue and Franklin Avenue properties. “The municipality is driving the development and has control over it,” she said.

Councilwoman Jo Butler said, “We need to back up and take a more holistic look at all of the properties” owned by the municipality. “I think this is premature. I ask about it repeatedly, so it’s extremely disappointing that it was dealt with this way.”

Resident Alexi Assmus commented that while she strongly supports affordable housing, she opposes “Princeton’s growth into a small city.” The schools are already overcrowded and the town does not have the infrastructure to support the kind of increased density more units would bring. Leighton Newlin, chairman of the Princeton Housing Authority, said that more low-income housing is crucial and the organization would like to work with Princeton Community Housing to develop such units at the Franklin Avenue site.

Other residents urged Council to wait a few years to see what the impact of the rental community at the hospital site is going to be before making a decision. Anita Garoniak, who lives on Harris Road, expressed concerns about increased density. “Nothing should be constructed at the Franklin lot until we see what the impact of AvalonBay will be,” she said. Carol Golden of the town’s Affordable Housing Board said, “There is an urgency. There are people who need housing now, not in five years.”

Scott Sillars of the Citizens Finance Advisory Committee suggested there are other properties in town including the old firehouses on Chestnut and Harrison streets, as well as other surplus sites, that should be considered.

Council accordingly amended the resolution to look at all municipal properties in Princeton rather than just the Franklin and Clearview avenue sites, and the measure was passed. Anyone interested in serving on the task force can get information from the town’s website (www.princetonnj.gov), said Mayor Lempert. The final list of people who will serve on the task force will be announced at the next meeting on September 22.

 

At its first meeting of the school year on Monday, September 15, the faculty at Princeton University is expected to vote on revised policies regarding the way it handles allegations of sexual misconduct. Changes proposed by the Faculty Advisory Committee on Policy are designed to bring the University into compliance with the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which Congress authorized in March, 2013, and Title IX, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational institutions that get federal funding.

While all other Ivy League schools use the “preponderance” standard that relies on a more-likely-than-not principle when it comes to assessing guilt, Princeton has for years relied on a “clear and persuasive” standard, which insists on a higher burden of proof. This standard is usually associated with criminal proceedings.

The revised policies would bring Princeton in line with the “preponderance” standard. Separate policies, one for a complaint or violation involving a student and the other if it involves a member of the faculty or staff, have been developed. A third refers to when a person not in the University community is involved as a complainant or respondent.

According to information from the University’s Office of Communications, the committee devoted significant time over the summer to the issue. Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been investigating the University’s handling of student disciplinary cases related to sexual misconduct. Princeton is one of several colleges under investigation for alleged Title IX violations.

It was in 2010 that an adjunct professor at the New England School of Law filed a complaint against Princeton for allegedly mishandling reports of sexual assault.

“The University has fully cooperated with the investigation and has also made a number of adjustments to its sexual misconduct policies and disciplinary procedures in response to guidance released by OCR in 2011,” reads a report sent to members of the faculty last week.

The federal office informed the University this past July that changes will need to be made to bring the institution up to speed with Title IX. “It is important that the University come into compliance with both the OCR and the VAWA requirements as promptly as possible,” the report reads, “and ideally before any new cases come forward for adjudication.”

To get this done, the University has established a new faculty-student committee. The proposed changes include using trained investigators rather than members of the Faculty-Student Committee on Discipline. Also recommended is allowing lawyers to accompany any involved parties and giving accusers and accused individuals the right to appeal.

Should the faculty vote in favor of the recommendations at the September 15 meeting, the Council of the Princeton University Community will consider revisions to Rights, Rules and Responsibilities two weeks later, according to The Daily Princetonian.

 

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Imagine being able to get off or on the Dinky just south of Blair Hall. That would have made catching a New York train a cinch for Scott Fitzgerald in the days when he lived on University Place, where the photo was taken. The station moved a quarter mile south to its now-former location in 1917, the year Fitzgerald left school to join the army. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

September 8, 2014
With demolition of the former Princeton Hospital buildings scheduled to start around September 15, residents of the neighborhood surrounding the property gathered  at Witherspoon Hall Wednesday night to ask questions about noise, dust, and possible health hazards. AvalonBay, the developer of the site, held a public meeting at which John Mucha of Yannuzzi Wrecking and Recycling Corporation answered most of the questions.
Mr. Mucha told residents that precautions were being taken against possible health and environmental hazards. The process could take up to six months, he told the crowd of approximately 50 people. Once the buildings are demolished, AvalonBay plans to build a rental complex of 280 housing units, 56 of which have been designated as affordable.
Residents were told that water will be sprayed and misted during demolition, and dust monitors will be in place. “There may be windy days when we need to stop operations because we can’t control the dust,” Mr. Mucha said. “We’ll have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”
Noise monitors will also be installed. The developer has hired a noise monitoring company to keep noise levels down, but Mr. Mucha said residents should expect to hear  some sounds of breaking concrete slabs and twisting steel during the process. Several residents aired concerns about contamination from particulates. “With the levels they’re talking about, particulates are not going to make it to your property,” the town’s health officer Jeffrey Grosser told a resident who lives across the street from the site. “But for added protection you can keep your windows closed if you live close by.”
AvalonBay has hired a company to photograph residents’ foundations for documentation in case of damage from construction activity. The developer has also created a website, www.avalonprinceton.com, which is now live. The site will include updates and frequently asked questions, according to Jon Vogel, AvalonBay’s vice president of development.
September 3, 2014
Princeton’s Send Hunger Packing program has challenged celebrity chef Brian Duffy, from the television show “Bar Rescue,”  to use ingredients generally available to low-income families to come up an affordable, easy to prepare, nutritious and tasty meal. Mr. Duffy will take on the challenge Sunday, September 14 from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Community Park School. Admission is free to this event, where Mr. Duffy will also help local children cook a meal of their own as a way of demonstrating the personal connection between cooking and nutrition.
Send Hunger Packing Princeton (SHUPP) is hosting this family-friendly event to focust on the issue of child hunger in Princeton, and the efforts underway to ensure that school-aged kids have the nutritional resources they need to succeed in school and life. All of the costs have been donated. The event is sponsored by Princeton Human Services, the Princeton Public Schools, and Mercer Street Friends.  Visit shupprinceton.org for more information.
 
THE VOICE ON THE TELEPHONE: Mary Stevens at home in Princeton where she has lived since 1979. Ms. Stevens operated a telephone lifeline for participants in the  Freedom Summer in 1964. She participated in a conference marking the 50th anniversary of the event this summer in Jackson, Mississippi, where she observed that the desk she had used back then is now part of a museum exhibit (http://cofocivilrightseducationcenter.devhub.com/). An exhibit on Freedom Summer will be held later this year at John Witherspoon Middle School and also at Princeton University.http://cofocivilrightseducationcenter.devhub.com/(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

THE VOICE ON THE TELEPHONE: Mary Stevens at home in Princeton where she has lived since 1979. Ms. Stevens operated a telephone lifeline for participants in the Freedom Summer in 1964. She participated in a conference marking the 50th anniversary of the event this summer in Jackson, Mississippi, where she observed that the desk she had used back then is now part of a museum exhibit (http://cofocivilrightseducationcenter.devhub.com/). An exhibit on Freedom Summer will be held later this year at John Witherspoon Middle School and also at Princeton University.http://cofocivilrightseducationcenter.devhub.com/ (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Freedom Summer, some 2500 young activists, civil rights veterans, and historians met for a week in late June at Tougaloo College in Jackson, Mississippi. Mary Stevens of Princeton was among the three hundred or so veterans of the civil rights project to share memories of the grassroots effort to register as many of Mississippi’s African American voters as possible.

Mississippi changed my life; it made me who I am,” said Ms. Stevens, before going on to describe some history prior to Freedom Summer: “Buses were integrated by the Supreme Court in the 1950s but segregation was the norm in the South. Freedom Riders from the North, both black and white, went South in the early sixties to test the law. They ran into incredible danger. One bus was set afire with people locked inside. People were beaten, jailed, and killed. In the early 1960s only five percent of registered voters in Mississippi were black.”

“But by 1964, publicity had waned; people were still being killed. SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Convention] and CORE [Council of Racial Equality] realized that if white kids from the North, the sons and daughters of the powerful, got involved, then there would be interest and concern,” said Ms. Stevens. “It worked. Freedom Summer, which was organized by the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), a coalition of the Mississippi branches of the four major civil rights organizations, had three parts: Freedom Schools, voter registration, and enrollment in the Freedom Democratic Party.”

Ms. Stevens remembered her own fear on the journey south. “I got rides with SNCC people down to Atlanta. From there I rode with another white gal and three black guys to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We were okay until we got to Alabama, but after that, interracial cars were dangerous. So Wendy and I shrunk down on the floor in back with a blanket over us. We were scared. I’m tall, Wendy was tiny, thank goodness we could fit.”

Ms. Stevens was housed with an African American couple, at some risk to themselves, in the black section of town with dirt streets, and no sidewalks. Although spotlessly clean, the four-room house was old and unpainted; there was no electricity or indoor facilities, only an outhouse and a kerosene lantern. Their host “stayed up in the dark with a shotgun in his lap,” said Ms. Stevens, whose summer 2014 accommodation was an air conditioned room in a suite with bath, kitchen, and living-dining room, shared with a British pediatrician who had been part of Freedom Summer’s medical corps.

“I met lots of people who were thrilled to meet me because I had been the girl on the phone at the COFO headquarters. We were the people who checked in with them twice a day to make sure they were okay, or to see if they needed anything. There were dozens of field offices like Hattiesburg throughout the state and COFO headquarters was their life line. We were their source of protection and their 911. They certainly couldn’t depend on the local police or the FBI if there was trouble. [The telephone was crucial to our safety, she said. Her desk is now part of a museum exhibit. It was nice to see it! visit it at: http://cofocivilrightseducationcenter.devhub.com/]

One of the most tragic events of that time was the murder of three young civil rights volunteers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Earl Chaney on the first day of the project. “Their deaths cast a pall on the whole summer but the fact that two of the victims were white northerners captured the nation’s attention,” said Ms. Stevens. “Black people had been working and suffering for freedom for decades, but up to that point it was seen as just a Southern Problem,” said Ms. Stevens. “Everybody knew immediately that they had been murdered; it was only the racists who suggested that they were alive somewhere.” Their bodies were unearthed on August 4 as a result of a tip from an FBI informant inside the Ku Klux Klan.

Their deaths and the events of Freedom Summer helped to precipitate the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

A Life in Law

“After Mississippi, I’d saved up enough money from my job as a research technician at Mass General to support myself for a year. I went to Berkeley, California, where I was part of the steering committee of the Vietnam Teach-In,” recalled Ms. Stevens, who hoped to become a lawyer at a time when the field was less than welcoming to women. She became active in NOW, the Woman’s Political Congress, and the Gay Rights Movement, and organized the first national conference on gay law while studying at Rutgers Law School. She went on to teach at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and at Trenton State College (now The College of New Jersey) and retired in 1996. At 72, Ms. Stevens is still active with MOVEON.org and New Jersey groups active in gun control and politics.

Ms. Stevens has three children, a daughter, Elizabeth, 40, from her first marriage and two sons adopted with her second husband, Charlie Parker, who is now deceased. Together, they fostered 37 children as short-term foster care givers. Then they adopted two infants, David, 22, and Isaiah, 20. All three graduated from Princeton High School, David in 2012.

To fund her reunion trip, Ms. Stevens turned to “Go Fund Me,” and elicited $1100 from supporters. To pay back such kindness, she has written about her experiences for alumnae magazines, contrasting 1964 and 2014.

Among the topics at this summer’s conference were contemporary threats to voting rights and the disproportionate incarceration of young black men. “The newest threat,” said Ms. Stevens “is the demand for all kinds of government issued IDs, a measure intended to disenfranchise black, women, and young people. Many people born at home in rural communities don’t have birth certificates, and there are people without any way of getting to the DMV in order to apply for voter IDs,” she said.

“Through all the shared danger, shared commitment, and shared sacrifice, SNCC tried to be ‘the beloved community,’” said Ms. Stevens, quoting the phrase used by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”

The beloved community was abundantly evident at the 50th Anniversary Conference,” said Ms. Stevens. “Black and white together again.”

art sale stockton

Like last year when this photograph was taken, visitors to the Artsbridge Annual Clothesline Art Sale will find treasures at a sale of work where nothing is priced above $300. Described as offering “art for the cash strapped,” the show includes original paintings, jewelry, sculpture, photography, and crafts. It takes place Sunday, September 7 from noon to 5 p.m. at Prallsville Mill in Stockton. For more information, visit: www.artsbridgeonline.com.

 

The 12th annual Insect Festival sponsored by the Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County will be held Saturday, September 6, from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Mercer Educational Gardens, 431A Federal City Road, Hopewell Township.

Attendees are invited to view seven demonstration gardens — Annual, Butterfly, Cottage, Herb, Native Plant, Perennial, and Weed ID — and talk with Rutgers Master Gardeners who will be on hand to offer tips and display guides for recognizing some of the pesky as well as beneficial insects. Every garden will host an activity that will entertain and teach children of all ages about the incredible and often beautiful insects common to the Northeast.

The event will be held rain or shine; admission is free and on-site parking is available.

Many exciting activities will be offered this year. Viewing tiny organisms through microscopes at the Bugs in Water activity will be back again. Enjoy an insect hunt on the paths cut through the restored meadow or visit with native-bee and honeybee experts who can explain why we need to be less fearful and more respectful of the most important pollinators in our ecosystem. Learn how insect predators, including both bats and birds, can help control insect pest populations and reduce the use of chemical pesticides. Everyone can take a look at red wriggler worms making compost in a simple container that is easy to set up at home, and join in other activities.

Popular events from previous years will continue — butterfly births, Monarch butterfly tagging, bugs galore (insect inspection and handling), the insect puppet show, tattoos, crafts, hayrides, and a discussion with Barbara J. Bromley, Mercer County Horticulturist.  Local environmental agencies will also be present with their experts and displays.

The Master Gardeners of Mercer County is a volunteer educational outreach program of Rutgers Cooperative Extension. 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 on the organization’s educational programs and events, visit www.mgofmc.org.

Award-winning poet Gerald Stern will read from his work for 40 minutes followed by an open-microphone session as part of Poets in the Library, Monday, September 8, at 7:30 p.m. His appearance will be in the library’s Community Room.

Mr. Stern was born in Pittsburgh in 1925 and was educated at the University of Pittsburgh and Columbia University. He is the author of 16 books of poetry, including, most recently, In Beauty Bright (Norton 2012) and Save the Last Dance (Norton 2009) as well as This Time: New and Selected Poems, which won the 1998 National Book Award. According to prize-winning poet C.K. Williams, “Stern is one of those rare poetic souls who makes it almost impossible to remember what our world was like before his poetry came to exalt it.”

About In Beauty Bright, Frank Wilson of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, “[Stern’s] style insinuates itself into your consciousness like a catchy tune, so that you find your thoughts echoing its rhythms, bopping from one to another, back and forth, like thought and language doing a jitterbug.”

Besides receiving the 2005 Wallace Stevens Award by the Academy of American Poets, Mr. Stern was the 2010 recipient of the Medal of Honor in Poetry by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He was inducted into the 2012 class of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was the 2012 recipient of the Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress. He is also the 2014 winner of the Frost Medal. His new book of poems Divine Nothingness will be released in November.

Poets in the Library is co-sponsored by the library, Delaware Valley Poets and the U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative.

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Happy Pic

Don’t they look happy? Romy Toussaint of Romy Yoga, Anne Petco of lululemon, and Patty Cronheim of the Family Guidance Center are the brains behind Happiness Day, taking place this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (rain date Sunday). A marathon of five free one-hour yoga classes on Palmer Square green, the event will also include an “Intro to Happiness” talk by Ed Tseng, a lululemon athletica water lounge, and information on wellness and community service opportunities. Yoga mats will be available and water will be provided for participants. The Family Guidance Center will offer free budgeting assistance, blood pressure screenings, and other  activities. Yoga instruction will be provided by Romy Yoga, Gratitude Yoga, Rise Yoga, Yoga Soul, and YogaStream. For more information, call the Family Guidance Center at (609) 586-0668.

 

At a meeting tonight, September 3, residents of the neighborhood surrounding the former Princeton Hospital property will have a last chance to voice their concerns about demolition of the old hospital buildings to AvalonBay, the developer planning to build a 280-unit rental complex on the site. The company is holding a meeting from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Witherspoon Hall.

Demolition of the old hospital was scheduled to begin on Thursday but has now been postponed and will likely start sometime during the week of September 15, according to the town’s engineer Bob Kiser. The delay is due to the fact that more asbestos needs to be removed from the site. In addition, the internal inspection of an incinerator drain line must be finished prior to demolition.

Mr. Kiser, Princeton’s land use engineer Jack West, health officer Jeffrey Grosser, and construction official John Pettenati will be in attendance. Mayor Liz Lempert said she will split her time between the meeting and a long-planned party to thank volunteers on the town’s boards, committees, and commissions. Council member Jo Butler said she is planning on attending the meeting.

According to AvalonBay senior vice president Ron Ladell, people will be able to ask questions. “And I am sure we will have lots of them,” he said in an email last week. “AvalonBay representatives will be there along with representatives from the demolition contractor.”

Since Princeton Council approved a revised developer’s agreement with the company August 18, AvalonBay has been anxious to begin demolition of the hospital buildings. Pre-demolition work that did not require the signed agreement has been ongoing this summer. Chief among concerns of the surrounding community are safety and the presence of possible toxins.

The revised developer’s agreement has AvalonBay doing some more environmental testing than was original required by the Council. But some residents still have unresolved issues to air.

“My concerns weren’t addressed by the promise to remove four inches of soil ONLY at unpaved areas,” wrote Harris Road resident Areta Pawlynsky in an email on Tuesday.К“A separately located incinerator appears on a 1948 drawing and a 1963 photo clearly shows the earlier smokestack and completely different unpaved areas С so how can such limited removal based on today’s conditions suffice? The toxins routinely flushed by old hospitals aren’t being dealt with.”

Ms. Pawlynsky, an architect, also has concerns that not all of the lead-based paint will be removed before the scraping of structural demolition begins. “Residents deserve real-time reporting from the five air monitors,’ she said. “The little progress made is due to a huge amount of effort by residents.”

Paul Driscoll, another resident of Harris Road, said, “It is the responsibility of our elected officials as well as all appointed boards and commissions, who have a relationship to AvalonBay’s application, to make every possible effort to protect the health, safety, and property of all citizens (most importantly children) throughout the municipality.”

 

When classes begin at Princeton University on Wednesday, September 10, a sizable chunk of the freshman class will have already learned about life beyond the leafy campus and surrounding idyllic town. They are the 174 participants in the school’s Community Action program, a 10-year-old initiative that takes students into Trenton, New York, Philadelphia, parts of Princeton, and other urban areas to help with projects ranging from ladling out soup to building houses.

Participation in the five-day service program, held the week before the freshmen orientation, is voluntary. The students stay in “sleep sites” near their work sites, in church basements and other makeshift facilities, using public transportation if travel is involved.

“This gives students their first experience working with others on service programs,” said Charlotte Collins, assistant director of Community Action. “They tackle issues like human services, health, hunger, and homelessness. They get the opportunity to learn about each other, their communities, and what kind of service they can do.”

Many of the students end up working on these service projects not only during the designated week, but throughout the year via the University’s Pace Center. Programs to which freshmen are assigned this week include cleaning and painting the Horse Trade Theatre Group in New York City, helping the Rescue Mission of Trenton record the stories of adult homeless shelter residents, assisting a neighborhood cleanup through the Trenton group El Centro, and collaborating with Anchor House in Trenton to help at-risk youth.

Students assigned to Camden are gardening, working at a soup kitchen, and helping out in a day shelter. At Trenton’s Isles organization run by University alumnus Marty Johnson, they are helping with urban gardening, cleaning up local parks and riverbeds, and educating families about affordable, green housing opportunities. On Labor Day, they helped the Sierra Club clean up Mercer County Park. Those in Philadelphia will work at the St. Francis Inn soup kitchen, interacting with the homeless who count on the center for food, toiletries, school supplies, and other basic services.

Not all of the sites are in gritty urban areas. Closer to campus, participants are working with the Princeton Senior Resource Center, the YWCA Princeton, the Historical Society of Princeton, the University’s Community House, Honey Brook Organic Farm in Pennington, and Lawrence Nature Center in Lawrenceville.

“The informal motto of the University is ‘in the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.’ The concept of community and helping others is woven into the culture here,” said Thomas Roberts, a junior who co-chairs the University’s Community Action coordinating board. “The program helps give incoming freshmen that first page of getting involved.”

Most Community Action programs are run out of the University’s Pace Center. “At Pace, we want to help the students ask critical questions connected to academics and their future careers,” said Ms. Collins. “We want them to think about service, social justice, and how to have a voice in issues they are passionate about. How does that feed into their overall experience at Princeton? We try to highlight the different pathways they can take to have a more well-rounded experience.”

Continuing collaborations are encouraged by the Pace Center, which also oversees student volunteer programs and weekly projects throughout the year. “With some of our community partners, it’s not just a ‘one and done’ situation,” said Ms. Collins. “One of our Princeton area student groups will be spending the day with our own Community House, and they can continue to do that throughout the year.”

The Community Action program started a decade ago as Urban Action. It has continued to attract freshmen committed to community service. “They’ll have ample time to explore and learn about the University,” said Mr. Roberts. “But we think it’s critical that they learn about what’s beyond the campus. We want to create a well-rounded and thorough experience that helps them understand the world beyond their everyday experience.”

 

People are talking in Ferguson. They are talking in Chicago. And they are talking in Princeton. After the August 24 rally protesting the fatal shooting by a white police officer of the unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the organization Not in Our Town (NIOT) offered concerned locals a chance to continue to speak about racism last Thursday at the Princeton Public Library.

Co-sponsored by NIOT and the Princeton Public Library, the special event, “Continuing Conversation on Race,” aimed to provide a safe and confidential place for frank and meaningful discussion in the wake of the rally that had seen well over a 100 protesters march down Nassau and Witherspoon Streets to Hinds Plaza.

NIOT’s Linda Oppenheim, an industrial relations librarian at Princeton University’s Firestone Library, welcomed about 25 participants to the library, including Wilma Solomon, Jim Floyd, Shirley Satterfield, and the library’s Kim Dorman. A poster showed an enlarged version of the recent cartoon by Ben Sargent, titled “Still Two Americas,” depicting two identical situations of young boys going outside to play, each saying: “I’m goin’ out, Mom!” One kid is white. the other is black. In the case of the white kid, Mom replies: “Put on your jacket.” In the case of the black kid, Mom says: “Put on your jacket, keep your hands in sight at all times, don’t make any sudden moves, keep your mouth shut around police, don’t run, don’t wear a hoodie, don’t give them an excuse to hurt you, don’t …”

“Raising consciousness of what black moms have to do is what we are here for,” said Ms. Oppenheim, using the cartoon as a conversation starter and introducing some discussion guidelines that included “listen actively; don’t interrupt; speak from your own experience, using “I” rather than ‘we,’ ‘you,’ or ‘they.’”

August 14 Pew Research Center statistics were made available. The survey shows that 80 percent of blacks as opposed to 37 percent of whites believe that the shooting of Mr. Brown raises important issues about race. It reports that 65 percent of blacks and 33 percent of whites think that the police response to the shooting “has gone too far,” and that 52 percent of whites as opposed to 18 percent of blacks had confidence in shooting investigations.

In addition, an excerpt from the August 14 blog, “What Matters with Janee Woods,” offered 12 suggestions for “Becoming a White Ally to Black People in the Aftermath of the Michael Brown Murder.” The list included: “Learn about the radicalized history of Ferguson [and your community] and how it reflects the radicalized history of America”; “Understand the modern forms of race oppression and slavery and how they are intertwined with policing, the courts, and the prison industrial complex”; and “Don’t be afraid to be unpopular.”

To get the discussion on such sensitive issues underway, Ms. Oppenheim quoted Richard Harwood (www.theharwoodinstitute.org) on the need for communities to “have opportunities and spaces to engage in constructive conversations where they can express their anger, pain and frustration in public ways.”

Emotional Topic

Among the first to speak was a young African American woman who teared up as she described her own inter-racial family and the crucial need for “identity awareness.” “America is truly a melting pot and generations to come will have friends of all different backgrounds; we need to teach respect for others and realize that there is no ‘inferior’ race,” said B. Virtue Mitchell, one of three generations of her Princeton family to graduate from Princeton High School (PHS). “I will not walk with anger or fear,” she said. “And I refuse to be a victim. Whether we want change or not, it’s here.”

At 92, Jim Floyd, former mayor of Princeton Township, has seen a great deal of change, not all of it positive. Mr. Floyd shared his knowledge of Princeton history, especially the history of the African American community, Palmer Square and the Jackson/Witherspoon neighborhood. “I’ve seen the Colored signs in the railroad cars and faced discrimination when trying to buy a home in Princeton. I don’t ask you to fight my battles, but don’t be an enemy,” he said, addressing the white participants. The questions to ask in Princeton today, said Mr. Floyd, are “how diverse is our governing body, our police department, our school system.” Mr. Floyd went on to describe coming to Princeton from Trenton and running for Township Committee in order to promote affordable housing in Princeton.

Pointing out that Paul Robeson Place was formerly Jackson Street, Mr. Floyd, recalled urban renewal efforts of the 1930s and 1950s that displaced African American residents from what is now Palmer Square, relocating or destroying black homes in the center of town and pushing residents further down the Witherspoon/Jackson corridor. “The only place segregation disintegrates is in the bank line,” said Mr. Floyd, quoting his father.

He cited the experience of black property owner Burnett Griggs, owner of Griggs’ Imperial Restaurant, which he ran for 42 years until his retirement at age 83. Mr. Griggs also owned 26 acres where Griggs Farm is today.

“I lived this history in Princeton, I know how we were treated in this town,” said Shirley Satterfield, who conducts an informative tour of Princeton’s African American history for the Historical Society of Princeton. Ms. Satterfield, a former PHS counselor, went on to describe inequality in Princeton’s schools, particularly with respect to the choir. After hearing that black children felt discouraged, she had started the “Inspirational Choir.”

One woman whose daughter had been a PHS student, reported her daughter’s contrasting experiences of shopping with black friends on Nassau Street as compared to visiting the same stores with her white friends on another occasion. Ms. Oppenheim asked whether any of the black people present had experienced suspicion on the part of shop owners. The response clearly showed that they they had.

Many people shared their own experiences of growing up in Princeton. One white woman described her friendship with a black teen from Birmingham, Alabama at PHS in the 1960s. “Oscar played the oboe and I played the French horn, we used to write poetry together, taking turns to contribute a line,” she recalled. But when Oscar was her escort to the school prom, “all hell broke loose,” she reported, adding that through this important friendship she had “learned how wonderful it was to play with someone without paying any attention to racial background and I’d love to have that experience again.”

What can be done?

It was suggested that music would be a way to transcend racial divides, which led to further discussion of Princeton’s schools and the lack of African Americans in the PHS choir. One person suggested “white privilege” could explain this saying that by the time children were selected for the choir, more white than black kids had benefitted from music lessons.

“We need to work with the schools, level the playing field for the black kids,” said one. While some suggested that the high school would be a good place to start, others thought that high school was too late.

Ms. Oppenheim spoke of the need for adults to examine their own views. “Are we ready to speak up in opposition to racism in circumstances which might be uncomfortable?” she asked.

“I don’t want to forget that I have biases and racism inside of me,” offered one white male participant. “I have to be conscious of the truth of what happened in this country. We can only be truly free if we can acknowledge the truth of what happened here. Slaves didn’t come here because they wanted to and we need to talk about that if killings like Michael Brown are ever going to end.”

One former teacher commented that it was unfortunate that “the sort of truth and reconciliation that happened in South Africa hasn’t happened here. White people need to talk more to white people about race,” she said and described her students’ resistance to such discussions and their belief that racism ended with slavery. The difficulty of engaging teens on the topic of racism was also the experience of the group’s youngest participant, a Princeton Day School student.

Socioeconomic status came into the conversation, as did the idea that in some communities the idea of academic success is regarded as not cool. Is this an issue for black kids? one person asked.

But before the conversation could continue, the library closing announcement was heard. NIOT holds a monthly “Conversation at the Princeton Public Library, usually on the first Monday of the month; the next meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 6.

For more on the history of the African American community in Princeton, including a self-guided walking tour visit the Historical Society of Princeton: www.princetonhistory.org.

For an article on the history of Princeton’s African American Community, see the Princeton Magazine article: http://bit.ly/1osLycA.

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The Princeton University campus is bustling again this week as the Class of 2018 makes its presence felt. The four freshmen shown here are on their way up the steps under the Blair Arch. To hear what some of the new arrivals are looking forward to, see this week’s Town Talk. (Photo by Emily Reeves)

 

August 29, 2014

University Place, which has been closed from College Road to Alexander Street, will reopen to vehicular traffic this morning, Thursday, August 28. The temporary traffic signal at the intersection of College Road and Alexander Street will be in “flash” mode today, August 28 and tomorrow, August 29; it will then be removed. The TigerPaWW bus stop will remain at College Road, across from the entrance to McCarter Theatre Center. Bus schedules will not change. Please follow posted signs when walking, biking and/or driving through the area. Updated maps showing vehicular, pedestrian, and bike detours are available on the Arts and Transit Project website. For more information, call 609-258-8023.

August 27, 2014

The Princeton Pedestrian and Bike Advisory Committee is looking for original art to be on the cover of a new “Biking in Princeton” map that is being developed. Artists or photographers interested in submitting an image that might be appropriate for the map can do so by Wednesday, September 10. The committee would like submissions in a digital file rather than hard copy, sent to pjpbac@gmail.com. Entries will be accepted until midnight. Artists will be donating their images to be shared with the public, but will be credited.

THE VIEW FROM MOUNT LUCAS ROAD: The Vonvorys family at home on their back yard deck in a neighborhood where many smaller homes are being replaced by larger and more expensive homes.(Photo by L. Arntzenius)

THE VIEW FROM MOUNT LUCAS ROAD: The Vonvorys family at home on their back yard deck in a neighborhood where many smaller homes are being replaced by larger and more expensive homes. (Photo by L. Arntzenius)

In recent weeks, Town Topics has focused on Princeton’s commitment to Affordable Housing, with a “Princeton Perspectives” series of articles focused on diverse socioeconomic lifestyles and living options in the municipality. Princeton’s diversity ranges across race, origins, education, social background, economic status, and political persuasion. The series has introduced Princeton residents, some newcomers and others with deep roots in the community, some living in subsidized housing, others who purchased on the open market.

First, we met Dan and Mary Beth Scheid, who were among the first to buy into the Residences at Palmer Square (Town Topics, July 23). Then, an immigrant family from Ghana, Elizabeth Bonnah and Tony Smith and their two children, renting an apartment in Griggs Farm (Town Topics, July 30). Also in Griggs Farm, we met Bethany Andrade and her mother Karen Andrade Mims, one of the first to purchase a condominium through Princeton’s Affordable Housing Program, through which her daughter is now purchasing her own apartment (Town Topics, August 13).

Now come Colin and Laura Vonvorys, who bought their own home on Mount Lucas Road on the open market in an area where tear-downs are happening with greater incidence.

Reporters are privileged to be invited into people’s homes and Town Topics thanks all of the Princeton residents who have participated in these interviews.

Colin and Laura Vonvorys

It’s been said that with the development of larger and grander homes in Princeton, those in the middle of the economic spectrum are being pushed out as smaller homes are torn down to make way for more expensive homes. The Vonvorys live in just such a neighborhood. But if you think they are unhappy about the changes, think again. Colin Vonvorys, a diehard conservative, has a live-and-let-live attitude. Laura Vonvorys hopes that the new residents will enjoy the neighborhood as much as she does, and would be especially happy to see the arrival of young families with children.

On Mount Lucas

The Vonvorys live in a modest three-bedroom, two-bath ranch home on a wooded half acre on Mount Lucas Road with their two sons C.J., 13, and Aaron, 8, as well as their cat Tux. C.J. goes to John Witherspoon Middle School and Aaron to Community Park. Friday night is pizza night at the Vonvorys and over slices of Conte’s pizza we talked about what brought them to Princeton and what keeps them here.

An account executive for a software company, Colin, 53, works from his home office and usually travels one to three days a week. He graduated in 1992 from the University of Pennsylvania where he studied communications; his father was a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, his mother took care of Colin, his brother, and five sisters.

Laura, 46, is a stay-at-home mom. She’s a 1989 Penn State graduate; her father was an engineer working for Bristol Myers Squibb, her mother was a nurse.

The couple are involved in their children’s lives and education and the family attends St. Paul’s Church on Nassau Street. “We don’t go every Sunday but our kids are active in the Church,” said Mr. Vonvorys as the family settled in to say grace before the evening meal.

“Colin bought this house about a month before we got engaged,” said Laura. “We love it, especially the deck that was a wedding present from my father when we got married in 2000.” Laura’s dad, Jim, paid for the deck and it’s where the Vonvorys hold their annual neighborhood “Drinks on the Deck” party each September.

Princeton’s Allure

The couple met at the health club where Laura, a trained dietitian, worked as a personal trainer. “It took two years to get her to fall in love with me,” laughed Colin, who grew up in Lawrenceville and always wanted to live in Princeton. “Princeton had a certain allure for me growing up. I always felt a little like an outsider, looking towards Princeton with its good schools, its University, and its feeling of history. To some it has an elitist, snobby reputation and even though it isn’t really like that, I often feel I have to defend it from that misconception. I wanted to raise my kids here.”

Laura, who grew up in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, was living in suburban Philadelphia when they met. Colin wanted her to share his love of Princeton’s “history, the open space, the quaintness and convenience of the downtown, activities like canoeing or the annual Jazz Fest, or the many parades,” he said. At that time, he was running for Township Committee. For one of their first dates, Colin planned a multi-course dinner with each course taking place at a different restaurant, i.e., appetizer at the Peacock Inn, salad at Teresa’s; dinner at the Tap Room, dessert and coffee at Winberie’s; and after-dinner cocktails at Triumph.”

Although Laura first thought of the town as somewhat pretentious, “fou fou,” she called it, she’s come to appreciate it. “I wouldn’t have moved here if it hadn’t been for Colin but I love living here; our property is beautiful and it’s nice being so close to town that our kids can ride their bikes and meet their friends there. And the music program in the public schools is amazing.” C.J. is a percussionist and Aaron is learning to play the trumpet.

“A Miracle”

The couple’s easy manner betrays no hint of past trauma and Laura hesitates a little before speaking of the brain cancer that was discovered while she was pregnant with her first child. The tumor was “pretty big,” she said, and she is now monitored every two years by the University of Pennsylvania hospital, where she was treated by neurosurgeon Dr. Kevin D. Judy. “He was wonderful and I am blessed to have been able to have had a second child,” she said. “Laura is a miracle and I am so proud of her,” beamed Colin.

Although Laura has come to share her husband’s regard for Princeton, the couple are divided politically. “I’m a stalwart Republican and that makes me something of an anomaly in Princeton but I’m also a bit of a contrarian so it’s not an uncomfortable feeling for me to have,” said Colin. Laura is a Democrat.

Colin served as a commissioner on the Princeton Township Affordable Housing Board from January 2003 through 2012 and was a commissioner for the Princeton Joint Commission of Civil Rights from 1997 to 1998. “It was not unusual for individuals to attempt to exploit the program and not follow the agreed-to rules, so periodically we would have to address those violators. I’m not a fan of affordable housing, I don’t understand the reason for it,” said Colin, adding that he’s not keen on the idea of providing subsidies. He’s had several attempts to run for the local council.

As for the changes in his own neighborhood, with small homes like theirs being torn down and replaced with larger and more upmarket houses, Colin is fine with it. “The new homes look nice and I am a fan of private property rights.”

A Diverse Community

For Laura its important to live and raise her kids in a diverse community. “I wouldn’t want to live in a town where everyone was wealthy and there was little diversity. I wouldn’t want that for my children. As it is, in Princeton, you have all levels of wealth.

They are in agreement when it comes to their children’s education. “We are both fans of the Princeton schools and appreciate the fact that our children are surrounded by people who care about education as much as we do,” said Colin. “People don’t just arrive here casually, they choose to live in Princeton.”

If Laura could change something about Princeton, it would be to require more diversity of opinion. “In some places in Pennsylvania, towns have a ruling that the governing body should always have a bipartisan component so that it would never be the case of an all-Democrat or an all-Republican council. In the current administration, I’d like to see one Republican — that, to me, would be fair. As open as Princeton is, I’d like to see it open to that. Just as I wouldn’t want an all-white town, I wouldn’t want an all-Democrat town.”

“Let it Be …”

True to form, Colin disagrees. “Let it be what it is, the people should decide.” But there is one thing he would like to change, the municipal tree-cutting ordinance. He’d get rid of it entirely. “I have a problem with any liberal ideology knowing what is best for everybody else. It’s conceit and arrogance and I have nothing but contempt for those who think they know what I should do with my property.”

Property taxes and the cost of living in Princeton are the young family’s biggest concern. “The cost of living in New Jersey as compared to other states like Delaware or Texas, for example, is very high,” says Colin. “I see some beautiful places when I travel and I am always aware that there are alternatives. I like the fact that Princeton has a lot of history, but then so does Savannah or Richmond, Virginia.” But while their kids are in grade school, the Vonvorys will likely stay in Princeton.

 

IN PATAGONIA: Of her almost three-month long trip to Patagonia, Princeton resident Lizzie Price said there wasn’t much she missed from her life back home. The experience was “the best of her life,” and she hopes to eventually have a career that involves the outdoors. Even so, she said, she was happy to return to a warm house and a hot shower. And to be planning her next adventure. The mountains of New Zealand are calling.(Photo by Brian Prescott)

IN PATAGONIA: Of her almost three-month long trip to Patagonia, Princeton resident Lizzie Price said there wasn’t much she missed from her life back home. The experience was “the best of her life,” and she hopes to eventually have a career that involves the outdoors. Even so, she said, she was happy to return to a warm house and a hot shower. And to be planning her next adventure. The mountains of New Zealand are calling. (Photo by Brian Prescott)

For the past four months, Lizzie Price, 22, who graduated Princeton High School in 2009, has been working on a research project focused on a population of Rhesus monkeys on the Puerto Rican island of Cayo Santiago. The island’s lush terrain is a far cry from windswept Patagonia, with its notoriously changeable weather and isolated gaucho farms. Lizzie reports only two days of clear weather during one of the three months she recently spent there. In spite of long periods of rain and low hanging clouds that made visibility a challenge for mountain travel, Lizzie describes the experience as “the best of her life.”

“I had wanted to see Patagonia for as long as I can remember,” she said in a telephone interview from Puerto Rico. “It’s one of the most untouched regions of the world and it is very beautiful.”

A remote region at the southernmost end of South America, Patagonia is shared by Chile and Argentina. Lizzie traveled within the Chilean region as part of a semester-long wilderness expedition with the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

The course was designed to impart mountaineering and sea-kayaking skills, but Lizzie said that was just a small part of what she gleaned from the experience, which attests to the NOLS philosophy that people thrive when challenged.

During the first week, Lizzie and 14 fellow students completed almost three days of a Wilderness First Aid course that prepared them to make basic medical decisions in the back country. Then, together with four instructors, they headed to the rugged Colmillo Plateau north of Rio Engano for a 75-mile wilderness sojourn during which they practiced rope teams, snow travel, and glacial safety.

The NOLS curriculum features mountain travel skills like route finding, bushwacking through dense forests, off-trail travel on steep, rocky terrain, and risk management. Leadership skills and tolerance for adversity and uncertainty are brought to the fore by having to manage hazards such as river-crossings, steep snowfields, icefall, crevasses, and extreme weather.

“We had one fall when the five-person rope team above us slipped. We were in a white out cloud and a minute or so after they fell, our rope team also slipped.” Although one young man hurt his shoulder and Lizzie had a few cuts to her face, she said that “the teams had trained for just this sort of scenario and no one was seriously injured.”

NOLS practices “Leave No Trace” camping and challenges students to step outside of their comfort zones. Students cook their own meals and forego the many conveniences of modern life.

After 31 days in the mountains, Lizzie and her team traveled to southern Chile for 30 days of sea kayaking. En route they observed Patagonia’s fiords, mountains, archipelagos, and the pristine rain forests along its coastline.

“On our sea-kayaking course, we learned how to read charts and how to navigate coastal waters safely; we would find places to camp overnight,” Lizzie recalled. “Often we were caught by bad weather, which might make it impossible to cross a channel, for example, and we spent quite a bit of time under a tarp in the pouring rain. But we had a blast and the experience taught me that you don’t need a lot to be happy; a chocolate bar was a delicious treat. We had so much fun,” she said. “An experience like this makes you realize just how much you take for granted.”

The group paddled 165 miles, all the while learning technical skills that included basic kayak rescue, as well as seamanship and navigation. The shared experience formed them into a tight-knit group with a deep appreciation for the Patagonian landscape.

An outward bound course in Alaska that Lizzie undertook while studying for her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, from which she graduated last year, prepared her somewhat for her Patagonian semester. Her parents, she said, were supportive of her decision to immerse herself in this non-traditional classroom setting. Drawn to mountains from a young age, and inspired by family trips to National Parks out West, she hopes one day to work in the outdoors, perhaps as a teacher or as an instructor for an organization such as NOLS.

Founded in 1965 by legendary mountaineer Paul Petzoldt, NOLS has more than 221,000 alumni of its classroom-based courses and outdoor wilderness education programs that are offered in some of the “most awe-inspiring” locations in the world. Described as “the leader in wilderness education,” NOLS has its international headquarters in Lander, Wyoming. For more information, call (800) 710 NOLS or visit: www.nols.edu.

 

PRINCETON ON THE BIG SCREEN: Oscar winners Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates star in “Boychoir,” a film inspired by Princeton’s American Boychoir School. Several American Boychoir students have speaking roles in the film, along with Litton-Lodal Music Director Fernando Malvar-Ruiz and Dr. James Litton, Music Director Emeritus.

PRINCETON ON THE BIG SCREEN: Oscar winners Dustin Hoffman and Kathy Bates star in “Boychoir,” a film inspired by Princeton’s American Boychoir School. Several American Boychoir students have speaking roles in the film, along with Litton-Lodal Music Director Fernando Malvar-Ruiz and Dr. James Litton, Music Director Emeritus.

The American Boychoir will see their visibility increased with the September 5 premier of director François Girard’s Boychoir, one of only 7 Gala presentations at the Toronto International Film Festival. Boychoir tells the story of an orphaned 12-year-old boy sent to a prestigious music school where he struggles to join an elite group of world-class singers. No one expects this rebellious loner to succeed, least of all the school’s relentlessly tough conductor who wages a battle of wills to bring out the boy’s extraordinary musical gift. The film stars Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Josh Lucas, Kevin McHale, Eddie Izzard, Debra Winger, and Garrett Wareing.

The American Boychoir School students feature prominently, serving as the film’s choir and providing all of the singing heard throughout. Several American Boychoir School students auditioned for speaking roles in the film and one, Dante Soriano, was cast as one of the five major boy characters. Litton-Lodal Music Director Fernando Malvar-Ruiz appears as the orchestra conductor and Dr. James Litton, Music Director Emeritus, also provides a cameo.

“Our choir is known throughout the world and has established a loyal global audience. We are excited that a film such as Boychoir not only showcases our talented students, but opens up a larger audience to our music and the powerful work we do to nurture and mentor our students,” says newly installed American Boychoir School President, Dr. Kerry Heimann.

The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the leading public film festivals, screening more than 300 films from nearly 60 countries every September. To learn more, visit www.tiff.net.

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ENDANGERED SPECIES: Sophia Phelan, a student at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, holds her prize-winning drawing of a peregrine falcon. Ms. Phelan is the Mercer County winner of the “Species on the Edge,” contest for fifth graders sponsored by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. Sophia’s drawing of New Jersey’s largest falcon and the world’s fastest animal, capable of flying over 200 miles per hour, calls attention to the urgency of preserving New Jersey’s wildlife and their habitats. Her work and that of other award-winning fifth graders from across the state will be on display from September 2 through October 14 at the D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center, One Preservation Place, (off Rosedale Road).

ENDANGERED SPECIES: Sophia Phelan, a student at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, holds her prize-winning drawing of a peregrine falcon. Ms. Phelan is the Mercer County winner of the “Species on the Edge,” contest for fifth graders sponsored by the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. Sophia’s drawing of New Jersey’s largest falcon and the world’s fastest animal, capable of flying over 200 miles per hour, calls attention to the urgency of preserving New Jersey’s wildlife and their habitats. Her work and that of other award-winning fifth graders from across the state will be on display from September 2 through October 14 at the D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center, One Preservation Place, (off Rosedale Road).

Each year, the D&R Greenway Land Trust and the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey bring the “Species on the Edge,” with prize-winning art by fifth graders, to its Olivia Rainbow Gallery.

Fifth graders from across the state will have their words and images, calling attention to New Jersey’s endangered and threatened wildlife, on display from September 2 through October 14 at the D&R Greenway Land Trust’s Johnson Education Center, One Preservation Place, (off Rosedale Road).

The artwork and accompanying essays resulted from fifth graders’ having studied over 80 endangered and threatened species of New Jersey wildlife, under the auspices of Conserve Wildlife Foundation of N.J. Local artists visit schools to coach the children in effective imaging. The resulting works are judged by artists and scientists. D&R Greenway is one of many venues to celebrate this blend of art and science annually. These works, the cream of the crop, were selected from over 2,000 entries.

The Mercer County winner is Sophia Phelan, a student at Princeton’s Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. Sophia drew the peregrine falcon, New Jersey’s largest falcon and world’s fastest animal, capable of flying over 200 miles per hour. The 2014 winners in the Olivia Rainbow Gallery call attention to the urgency of preserving New Jersey’s wildlife and their habitats.

The Olivia Rainbow Gallery showcases student art throughout the year. It was founded and is funded in memory of young Olivia Kuenne, who cherished both art and nature. Its next exhibition, “Natural Treasures,” will be provided by frequent exhibiting artist Deb Land. One of Deb’s students at Stuart Country Day School is Sophia Phelan, the Mercer County winner. Her work has hung in the Olivia Rainbow Gallery during an earlier Stuart exhibit.

For the statewide Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest, beginning each fall on October 1, children choose representative species of endangered New Jersey wildlife. In effect, during their research and painting/drawing, each becomes a temporary wildlife biologist. More information about the contest can be found at www.conservewild
lifenj.org. For more on D&R Greenway Land Trust, visit: www.drgreenway.org.

The exhibition is free and open to the public on business hours of business days.

Most Princetonians with only a passing knowledge of American history know about the importance of the Battle of Princeton in the Revolutionary War. But how many locals are aware that their hometown can claim to have been the site of the first capital of the United States?

Not many, figures Mimi Omiecinski, who owns Princeton Tour Company and has been leading historically-themed tours of the town for the past seven years. Ms. Omiecinski is out to further educate the public with a free, family-friendly tour on Saturday, September 6 at 1 p.m. “First Capital Princeton,” to be led by Ms. Omiecinski and Rutgers graduate Tom Murphy, starts at Morven and ends 90 minutes later at the Yankee Doodle Tap Room, where George Washington toasted the birth of the nation in 1783.

“People are going to learn about the diverse group of characters, famous and not, who were instrumental in this period,” Ms. Omiecinski said. “We want to spark an appreciation and curiosity, among adults and children.”

Even though she is descended from 12 different veterans of the Revolutionary War and has been a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) since her teens, Ms. Omiecinski wasn’t especially interested in that period of history until she moved to Princeton from her native Tennessee in 2006.

“My grandmother Alice Ross was state regent for Tennessee for over 12 years, and I was really close to her,” Ms. Omiecinski said. “And my grandfather was an active member of the Sons of the American Revolution. On his side, I’m related to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, George Ross. But I never really appreciated all of this until I came here and started learning about Princeton’s significance in the Revolutionary War. It made me realize that legacy is really important.”

After attending the Princeton chapter of the DAR, and bringing her grandmother to a meeting (“She was thrilled”), Ms. Omiecinski started learning about local history and leading tours. “I saw right away that Princeton had a lot more history than just the Battlefield,” she said. “It was home to three signers of the Declaration of Independence. And it was home to the first capital of the United States.”

When Ms. Omiecinski learned that in 1783, Congress met at Nassau Hall after fleeing to Princeton from near-mutinous troops in Philadelphia, she was hooked. “Since October 1781 when Cornwallis had surrendered his army at Yorktown, Americans had been waiting impatiently for the signing of a peace treaty with Britain,” she said. “As the months passed and the peace negotiations dragged on, the army became increasingly restless, weary of the long war, and impatient with the unfulfilled promises of Congress for back pay. On June 20, troops surrounded the statehouse in Philadelphia, where Congress was meeting in an attempt to satisfy their grievances.”

There were no violent incidents and the mutiny subsided, but Congress felt insulted by the event and unsupported by the government of Pennsylvania, the story continues. A resolution directing Congress to meet in “Trenton Princeton” was passed. Princeton was soon chosen as the location by the President of Congress, Elias Boudinot.

Ms. Omiecinski’s research revealed that Princeton may have been chosen because Boudinot was a Princeton native from a prominent family, he was a trustee of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), and Nassau Hall was large enough to accommodate the Congress. All of this will be explained and examined in detail during the tour.

“They received the Treaty of Paris on September 3, 1783, in Nassau Hall,” Ms. Omiecinski said. “That makes it the first capitol [building], while Princeton becomes the first capital.”

Registration is mandatory for the tour, though admission is free. There will be surprises along the way. Since it is designed for families, the tour is being held on Saturday, September 6 rather than September 3, which would be the actual anniversary of the Treaty of Paris.

“We’ll be doing this the first Saturday of every September as long as the town will let us,” Ms. Omiecinski said. The whole idea is to delight and inspire.”

Email firstcapitalprinceton@gmail.com to register or call (855) 743-1415 to learn more.

 

PANORAMIC VIEW: This 1988 photo portrait, titled “Anna and Tom” by Lee Friedlander depicts Tom and Anna Roma and is part of the exhibition, “Pannaroma – MCCC,” which opens at Mercer County Community College Gallery on Tuesday, September 2. The show will run through September 25. For more information, visit: www.mccc.edu/gallery.

PANORAMIC VIEW: This 1988 photo portrait, titled “Anna and Tom” by Lee Friedlander depicts Tom and Anna Roma and is part of the exhibition, “Pannaroma – MCCC,” which opens at Mercer County Community College Gallery on Tuesday, September 2. The show will run through September 25. For more information, visit: www.mccc.edu/gallery.

Mercer County Community College (MCCC) will open with an exhibition of photographic works produced by 18 photographers from September 2 through September 25, who used a specially designed 1×3 panoramic camera built by Thomas Roma, the Director of Photography at Columbia University. The public is invited to an opening reception on Thursday, September 4, from 6 to 8 p.m., that will feature statements by some of the photographers.

Titled “Pannaroma — MCCC,” in honor of Mr. Roma’s wife, Anna, the show was previously exhibited in New York City, Miami, and New Orleans.

According to MCCC Photography Professor Michael Dalton, co-curator of the exhibit with Gallery Director Dylan Wolfe, professor Roma created 31 cameras from the mid-1980s through the 1990s built on a handheld 35mm Nikon F. Mr. Dalton notes that panoramic cameras at that time were significantly heavier and used larger film, requiring the use of a tripod. “Professor Roma’s goal was to make the taking of panoramic photos easier and allow for more versatile subject matter,” said Dalton.

Many of the photos in the exhibit capture interaction between people and their environment, a departure from the sprawling natural scenery typically depicted with panoramic cameras. “The Roma camera allows for more,” said Mr. Dalton. “The result is a wide-ranging group of photographs that draws the viewer into the content of the photo.”

“Pannaroma” features work from professional photographers, including a number of Mr. Roma’s former students. In addition to Mr. Roma and MCCC’s Dalton, the exhibition includes photos by Inbal Abergil, Tony Chirinos, Sasha Waters Freyer, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Hilger, Yoav Horesh, Zsolt Kadar, Richard LaBarbera, Jeff Ladd, Kai McBride, Laura Mircik-Sellers, Claudio Nolasco, Anibal Pella-Woo, Dennis Santella, Raghubir Singh, and Daniel Willner.

The MCCC Galley is located on the second floor of the Communications Building on the college’s West Windsor campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. Gallery hours are Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; and Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

For more information, including directions to campus, visit: www.mccc.edu/gallery.

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Princeton Council Monday night approved the hiring of two police officers, marking the first addition to the Princeton Police Department since the former Borough and Township consolidated in January 2013. In a unanimous vote, the governing body made the appointments of Dashawn J. Cribb, 25, and Donald Stephen Mathews, 36, official.

“They represent a very bright future for our department,” Chief Nicholas Sutter said at a press conference earlier in the day. ‘“Some of us older people in the department look at it as a legacy.”

The vote was among several items on the agenda. The town’s engineering director Bob Kiser told Council that AvalonBay, the developer of a 280-unit rental complex at the former site of Princeton Hospital, is planning to begin demolition of the smaller buildings near the parking garage on Thursday, September 4, the day after the developer holds a public meeting with neighborhood residents. Council and AvalonBay agreed to a revised developer’s agreement last week. Demolition is expected to take about four months.

The governing body approved numerous resolutions and held public hearings on several ordinances. Reports were given on affordable housing, education, and efforts by a citizens’ group to make the installation of a pipeline on the Princeton Ridge environmentally sensitive and safe.

Mr. Sutter said that the recruitment process for officers began last year. Candidates took written tests and physical fitness exams. After interviews and background checks, the process was narrowed down to 144 before another round of interviews. The town’s Public Safety Committee took part in the final decision.

Mr. Cribb is a graduate of Trenton High School and Montclair State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and justice studies. He coaches Pop Warner Football, is a youth mentor, and a volunteer at the Girls and Boys Club of Trenton. Mr. Mathews graduated from Bordentown High School and Richard Stockton College, and was a member of the Mansfield Township Police Department from 2002 until being hired by Princeton. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in Mansfield after completing three-and-a-half years of service.

“They are from two professionally and personally diverse backgrounds, which is really what our department is about,” said Mr. Sutter. “It’s good for the future that there is a mix of people in the department.”

Councilwoman Heather Howard praised the two new hires for “the diversity and breadth they’ll bring to the force,” adding that they were hired now because of some upcoming retirements and the need to preserve the size of the police force. The officers will be sworn in at the next Council meeting on September 8.

Ed Truscelli, executive director of Princeton Community Housing, delivered a status report to Council about the organization, which counts 466 rental units and four other locations among affordable housing residences. Mr. Truscelli urged Council to consider properties — a parking lot on Franklin Avenue across from the former Princeton Hospital site, and another on North Harrison Street, which will be vacated by Princeton Fire & Rescue Squad (PFARS), as sites for more affordable housing.

“These are opportunities we should seriously look at,” he said. “There is a distinct and significant need for affordable housing in this community, and this would seem to be the perfect opportunity. We’re ready to partner, ready to assist.”

Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane delivered his first report to Council since taking over from Judy Wilson last January. He stressed the importance of providing access to computers and electronics for all students, about six percent of whom do not have email or computers. “Those students fall further and further behind,” he said. “We’re in the process of brainstorming ways to increase that electronic access.” Councilman Lance Liverman suggested contacting the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has assisted similar efforts elsewhere.

Mr. Cochrane made reference to a demographic study that projects public school enrollment rising only modestly over the next five years. Grade-by-grade enrollment predictions show growth in pre-kindergarten to grade five relatively flat, while middle school enrollment could peak in year three but decrease in year five. “The real sticking point is high school,” he said. Enrollment was at 1,471 students in the last school year, an increase of about 252 from a decade ago.

The study estimates that enrollment will peak at 1,611 during 2017-18 before falling again to 1,543 the following year. “We will continue to monitor these numbers and make sure there is enough room for our students,” Mr. Cochrane said.

Barbara Blumenthal of the Princeton Ridge Coalition told Council that the group is focusing its efforts on the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection rather than the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to ensure safety and sensitivity to the environment during the Williams Transco company’s gas pipeline expansion. FERC’s recent environmental assessment showed that the proposed project would have no significant impact on the Princeton Ridge, a finding that members of the Coalition strongly disagree with. The final date for commenting to FERC is September 10, and Mayor Liz Lempert said Council would put consideration of a response to FERC on the agenda for the September 8 meeting.