Morven Museum & Garden hosted outdoor yoga classes Saturday afternoon in Morven’s garden with Gemma Farrell of Gratitude Yoga. The free event was open to the public regardless of age and skill level. (Photo by Emily Reeves)
Morven Museum & Garden hosted outdoor yoga classes Saturday afternoon in Morven’s garden with Gemma Farrell of Gratitude Yoga. The free event was open to the public regardless of age and skill level. (Photo by Emily Reeves)
Renowned New Jersey portraitist Mel Leipzig holds his audience spell-bound at a master class on figure drawing during Art All Night in Trenton. The veteran artist painted on through the night as thousands of art lovers attended the 24-hour event from Saturday June 21 until Sunday June 22 in the historic Roebling Wire Works. Now in its eighth year, Art All Night celebrates art with music, performances, and food. This year, 1,036 visual artists displayed their work and a selection will be on display at Artworks, Trenton’s downtown visual arts center through Saturday, July 26. For more information, visit: www.artworkstrenton.org. (Photo by Michelle Lawlor of Lucky 17 Photography)
At a “Meet the Mayors” discussion held by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce last week, Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert brought up the topic of tour buses that hog parking spaces on Nassau Street while their passengers make a quick stop involving little or no patronage of local shops, cafes, and restaurants. It was the same issue she broached a few weeks earlier at a press conference held by the Chamber to announce growing tourism numbers in town.
The tour bus issue has become a hot topic among local officials and business owners. Princeton’s popularity as a tourist destination is clearly on the rise, according to figures supplied by the Chamber. And the town encourages tourism. But the buses that bring tourists for short stopovers on the way from New York to Philadelphia are perceived by many as a problem.
Last weekend, local police began an effort to enforce laws about idling and encouraged bus drivers to move their vehicles away from the central business district while passengers were snapping photos of Nassau Hall and stopping at Starbucks to use the facilities and possibly purchase a drink. According to Princeton Police spokesman Steven Riccitello, the four bus drivers spoken to were cooperative. “They were parked, and they weren’t idling,” he said. “Patrol officers told them they couldn’t stay in these spots on Nassau near Witherspoon, and sent them along. There was no problem.”
Local officials, the Chamber, and the Princeton Merchants Association have been exploring the idea of how to encourage longer visits and discourage the parking on Nassau Street. “This has really come to our attention with a bang in the last few months,” said Princeton Council President Bernie Miller. “From our own observations, and from observations made by the University, it’s a problem. Tourism is great for the town, and we welcome tourists. But we’d really welcome them to stay for a half day or a day or two. We really don’t feel that those who come and stay for an hour or two are benefitting the town. And they don’t learn much about the community while they’re here, which is a shame.”
Chamber president and CEO Peter Crowley said one idea is to provide tourists with information about Princeton, encouraging them to spend more time in the town instead of treating it as a quick photo opportunity. “We’re very fortunate that we have a walking downtown,” he said. “But I think people who come in don’t always know what to do. We want them to spend some real time here. So the CVB (Princeton Convention and Visitors Bureau) and the Chamber are going to work hard to figure out a solution.”
Mayor Lempert said last week that Princeton’s ordinances on idling and parking are being looked at as part of an effort to solve a problem that “has gotten out of hand.” She has formed an economic development group to help find a solution.
“Princeton is conveniently located halfway between New York and Philadelphia, and it’s an attractive place to stop midway, snap pictures of Nassau Hall, and use the bathroom at Starbucks,” she said. “But it seems like they’re coming to use the facilities but not to buy. This is not an activity helping out the town. And if the buses are idling, it is unpleasant for patrons of the restaurants with outdoor seating. The flip side is that we have a beautiful, historic town and we want people to come and enjoy it.”
Not all of the merchants in town are bothered by the quick-trip tourism. Some have actually benefitted from their visits. “We used to open at 11:30 a.m. on Sundays, and now it’s 9:30,” said Henry Landau of the Landau woolens shop at 102 Nassau Street. “I would come in to do my books and there were people around, so we decided to open earlier. That first hour is one of our best hours.”
Mr. Landau suggested that a sign be put up showing bus drivers where to drop people off, and then park at such locations as Prospect Avenue or Princeton Shopping Center. Jim Sykes, president of the Princeton University Store at 114-116 Nassau Street, has also found patrons willing to spend money among the short-term tourists. “For us, it’s positive, because so much of our business is tourist and visitor driven,” he said. “It would be good for the community, though, if we could figure out a way to have a set location for buses. It can definitely be done a lot better.”
Some have suggested that the town form a special commission on tourism to help with the problem. Mr. Miller said that enforcement of the parking and idling ordinances will be continued. “If it turns out that there is repeating, we will start ticketing,” he said. “We’ll take a look at the ordinances and make sure they’re tight.” Other towns larger than Princeton have licensed tour operators, and Princeton could do the same if necessary.
“We may have to get to that point,” Mr. Miller said. “If they’re licensed, they’ll understand the rules and regulations. And if they’re not, they’ll get cited.”
Coming up with a solution is a delicate dance for those involved, who want to promote tourism rather than scare busloads of tourists away. “We should encourage tourism, but the kind that benefits both the tourists and the community. We want people to stay awhile and visit points of interest in the town and on the campus,” Mr. Miller said. “The tour companies should not use Princeton as a rest stop much the same as they do on the New Jersey Turnpike.”
Last week, the attorney for AvalonBay Communities issued a statement calling Princeton’s hiring of environmental lawyer Neil Yoskin a conflict of interest. Mr. Yoskin, who chairs the environmental practice group of the firm Sokol, Behot, & Fiorenzo, was retained as co-counsel in the recent litigation filed by the developer against the town.
But as of early this week, AvalonBay, which opposes Princeton’s requirement of additional environmental testing at the former Princeton Hospital site, had yet to file a motion. “We’re still evaluating our options,” attorney Robert A. Kasuba wrote in an email on Monday afternoon.
AvalonBay is contracted to build a 280-unit rental housing complex on Witherspoon Street, where the old hospital building still stands. The developer filed a suit objecting to the extra soil testing that the town has made a condition of a developer’s agreement. While preparations for demolition have been underway on the interior of the building, AvalonBay cannot knock it down and start construction until the agreement is accepted.
Mr. Kasuba asserted in his statement that it was “truly perplexing” that Mr. Yoskin was hired only four days before opposition papers were due. “The late retention of Mr. Yoskin is an obvious attempt to delay the litigation, and we expect that the Court will see through this ploy,” he said.
He added, “Of real concern is Mr. Yoskin’s apparent conflict of interest in representing Princeton adverse to AvalonBay. Mr. Yoskin has made a career of representing developers on environmental matters. We are curious to learn of the number of instances where he advised developers to test for environmental contamination where there was no DEP regulation requiring a developer to do so and no evidence of a discharge as AvalonBay is being requested to do in this matter.”
Mr. Kasuba also said Mr. Yoskin has periodically discussed environmental matters with AvalonBay senior vice president Ron Ladell, most recently at a builders convention last March.
“If Ron Ladell said we had a meeting, I don’t doubt that. But I don’t recall it,” Mr. Yoskin said Tuesday. “But at most it would have been a casual conversation.”
AvalonBay is suing the town, Princeton Council, Mayor Liz Lempert, and two municipal staff members over the additional testing, which is more than what is required by the State of New Jersey. Concerns following the discovery of a medical waste incinerator once in operation on the site led consultant Ira Whitman to recommend the extra sampling.
Princeton’s municipal attorney Trishka W. Cecil said Mr. Yoskin was hired because the heart of the case deals not only with land use issues, with which she is familiar, but also with various environmental regulations. “Council felt and I agree that we needed someone with expertise in this area,” she said. “It was also important to make sure that we’ve done everything we possibly can to win this case. It’s very important that the Court agree with us that this testing is necessary. Neil has a deep familiarity with the rules and regulations that apply here, and when you’re asking a judge to rule on something, you want to give her all the help she needs. Neil was the guy to do that.”
As to the conflict of interest claim, Ms. Cecil said, “We don’t feel Neil has any kind of disqualifying interest so we’re proceeding with him. Unless they make a motion and the Court rules on it, he’s fine to participate and represent the town.”
This year’s Independence Day holiday begins early in Princeton with the traditional Spirit of Princeton fireworks display taking place tonight, Wednesday, July 2, on the fields next to the Princeton University Stadium, along Western Way.
This year marks the 15th Annual Independence Day Fireworks, which will begin at 9 p.m., rain or shine, thanks to the Princeton-based non-profit organization that brings the community together with this event as well as the Memorial Day Parade, Flag Day celebration, and Veteran’s Day ceremony. Only lightning will put a damper on the show.
All are welcome to the free display, for which the fields will be open at 7 p.m. for picnicking. Visitors should note that no alcohol is allowed and, since there is artificial turf on the field, smoking is not permitted. Parking, however is available in University Lot 21 off Faculty Road, as well as in the University parking garage on Prospect Street.
For more information, visit: www.spiritofprinceton.org.
Morven’s July Fourth Jubilee
On the day itself, a number of history-inspired events around town are guaranteed to keep family, visitors, and history buffs entertained and informed, not to mention well-fed and having fun.
Morven Museum & Garden will host its annual July 4 Jubilee from noon to 3 p.m. This free family-oriented event has grown since it began in 2008. This year, in honor of New Jersey’s 350th birthday, the historic residence that was home to Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, will offer visitors a chance to “sign” their own name to the historic document, albeit in facsimile form.
Along with bread and ice cream made as in colonial times, there will be period demonstrations of spinning, guns, leaf printing, and music making. Stacy Flora Roth will channel the character of Molly Pitcher and celebrate the role that women played during the American Revolution. Bill Agress will do justice to George Washington as he shares the general’s personal correspondence.
Guests are invited to bring blankets or chairs and relax on the front lawn of this National Historic Landmark that once served as the official New Jersey Governor’s Mansion. The Riverside Bluegrass Band will entertain and Oink & Moo BBQ will be on hand with refreshments.
Morven Museum & Garden is located at 55 Stockton Street. For more information, call (609) 924-8144, or visit: www.morven.org.
Battlefield State Park
Also on Friday, Independence Day will be celebrated from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the site of one of the most crucial battles of the Revolutionary War. Visitors to the July 4 celebration in Princeton Battlefield State Park, will discover a wealth of free activities evocative of colonial times, as well as an informative talk on the 1777 Battle of Princeton at noon and a public reading of the Declaration of Independence at 1 p.m.
Re-enactors forming Mott’s 6th Company, 2nd Continental Artillery will demonstrate drill, artillery, and flintlock muskets and costumed volunteers will showcase domestic skills and games of the era. The Thomas Clarke House will be open and there will be an exhibit of “Arms of the Revolution.” Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy hiking on the trails of the adjacent Institute Woods. For more information, call (609) 921-0074.
Ewing Township will host its own “Happy Birthday America” parade on Parkside Avenue from 10 a.m. on Friday, July 4 with music by the Odessa Klezmer Band. For more information, call (609) 883-2900; or visit: ewingnj.org.
At Grounds for Sculpture, 126 Sculptor’s Way, Hamilton, there will be a Fourth of July BBQ, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with made-to-order cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and veggie burgers. For more information and costs of admission, call (609) 584-7800, or visit: www.ratsrestaurant.org.
Re-enactors will present a window into the past through military exercises, musket firings, and three readings of the Declaration of Independence from the steps of McKonkey’s Ferry Inn when Friends of Washington Crossing State Park celebrate from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the park on Route 32, Washington Crossing, Pa. The $8 admission includes entry to Bowman’s Hill Tower, the Thompson Neely House, and the Lower Park. For more information, call (215) 493-4076, or visit: www.ushistory.org/washingtoncrossing.
Celebrations on Saturday, July 5, include a 6 p.m. concert by the Mercer County Symphonic Band followed by fireworks at 9 p.m. on the Main Street in Cranbury. For more information, call (609) 395-0900.
The public is invited to celebrate America’s Independence Day on Friday, July 4, at Princeton Battlefield State Park, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free.
Revolutionary War period soldiers, from Mott’s 6th Company, 2nd Continental Artillery will be on hand to demonstrate drill, artillery, and flintlock muskets. The Clarke House Volunteers will be demonstrating domestic skills that might be found on a farm such as Thomas Clarke’s. Period games will be available for children of all ages to try. The Thomas Clarke House and the Arms of the Revolution exhibit will be open to tour. There will also be a talk on the Battle of Princeton at noon, and a reading of the Declaration of Independence at 1 p.m.
Visitors can have a picnic in the Park’s open fields and hike on the trails of the adjacent Institute Woods. Barbecues and alcohol are not permitted in the park.
Princeton Battlefield is located at 500 Mercer Road (Princeton Pike) in Princeton Township, 1.5 miles south of Princeton University and 3.8 miles north of Routes 95/295.
For further information call (609) 921-0074.
The Friendship Circle is seeking donations to help five-year-old Ray Fantel, who was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1 when he was 5 months old. SMA is an incurable, terminal disease and the most frequent genetic cause of death in infants. Ray uses a small power wheelchair for mobility, but there is currently not much room in his family’s conversion van for them to enjoy family life. “This is becoming a safety issue as Ray grows,” said his mother, Marcy. “To fit his power wheelchair into their van, they have to elevate his seat, which is a safety concern because the wheelchair has not been crash tested in an elevated position. Further, Ray’s caregivers cannot easily and quickly perform necessary medical treatments while the van is moving. A larger van will eliminate this safety issue as well.” The total estimated cost of purchasing a larger vehicle and converting it is $62,500. The Fantels will sell their converted van for approximately $40,000 so they need $22,500 to allow Ray to be safely transported with his family and to participate more fully in family life. To help, visit www.mercerfriendshipcircle.org/forray.
North End Bistro in Princeton and Osteria Procaccini in Pennington area among eight restaurants in the northeast to win The American Culinary Federation’s 2014 Achievement of Excellence Award. ACF recognizes those food service establishments that exemplify a commitment to excellence in food service in the marketplace.
Both restaurants are members of the Gretalia Hospitality Group, comprising six area restaurants. In addition to the two listed above, these include Osteria Procaccini in Kingston and now in Crosswicks, plus PJ’s Pancakes in Princeton and West Windsor.
“We’re thrilled to win this award,” John Procaccini, one of the owners of Gretalia, said. “We strive in our family of restaurants to offer delicious food, well-prepared, in a personalized service atmosphere. We are honored to be recognized for professionalism.”
ACF, a professional organization for chefs and cooks, was founded in 1929 in New York City by three chefs’ organizations: the Société Culinaire Philanthropique, the Vatel Club, and the Chefs de Cuisine Association of America. It is an organization based on promoting the professional image of American chefs worldwide through education of culinarians at all levels.
Today, ACF is the largest professional chefs organization in North America. It is made up of more than 20,000 members who belong to more than 200 chapters in four regions across the United States. In addition, ACF operates the most comprehensive certification program for chefs in the United States. ACF is home to ACF Culinary Team USA, the official representative for the United States in major international culinary competitions, and to the Chef and Child Foundation, founded in 1989 to promote proper nutrition in children and combat childhood obesity.
Princeton’s rose growers are struggling to come to terms with Rose Rosette Disease (RRD) a very nasty infection that is spreading through the region’s rose bushes. If you haven’t seen much about it in print, that might be because those affected are in denial when it comes to the possible demise of their beloved rosebushes.
“It’s a viral disease transferred from plant to plant by an eriophyid mite and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said horticulturist Barbara Bromley of the Cooperative Extension of Mercer County at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Ms. Bromley was responding to a call Monday about the sickness that has affected a fragrant floribunda in this reporter’s garden.
“Almost anyone who grows roses in Princeton will have this” she said, adding that she has responded to numerous calls from locals about destroyed leaves and blooms on prized ornamentals. “I’ve even seen this disease on Knockout roses too,” she said referencing the popular rose variety that is a favorite of garden supply sections in big box stores.
I first noticed the problem when a beautiful peachy-colored rose that has bloomed all summer long since it was planted some six years ago began showing foliage that was twisted in on itself. The leaves were reddish in color and the roses that ultimately formed were clearly not normal. When I described the growth to a fellow gardener, her immediate response was: “witches broom.” That did not sound good.
That was two summers ago. Last year, it got worse; this year, in spite of hopes that the recent hard winter might somehow have ameliorated its spread, there are even more signs. There is no magic bullet when it comes to dealing with RRD.
Known widely for her gardening advice through the Master Gardeners of Mercer County program, Ms. Bromley advised drastic action. Remove the entire plant including every bit of root. Although the virus will not be in the soil, she also advised resisting the temptation to replace the diseased rose with a healthy one. “If you got it once in that spot, chances are you will get it again,” she said. “And, ‘witches broom’ is a symptom of the disease rather than a name for the disease itself,” she clarified.
If you have wild multiflora roses nearby, you should do your best to get rid of them, she told me. But the best way to avoid problems such as this is, “not to plant too many of any one plant.”
Ms. Bromley explained that the airborne infected mites inject the RRD virus into the rose as they feed. Non-infected mites can pick up the disease from an infected rose and spread it to another plant courtesy of a gust of wind.
One Gardener’s Experience
It took a week for local rose cultivator Liz Hosny to discover that one of her roses had RRD. She sent a photograph to the well known Philadelphia gardener Judy Perry who identified the problem immediately. “This rose was in its own bed but three others elsewhere were showing signs of it; I pulled them out and carefully removed every piece of root,” said Ms. Hosny, who lives on the border between Princeton and Lawrenceville, where she has about 100 rose bushes in her garden including a bank of David Austen’s that are not grafted.
“Now I am feeding my roses with lots of natural feed like seaweed,” said the avid rose-grower, who is modeling her method of dealing with the virus on the survival history of former basketball player Magic Johnson. If the athlete can stave off full blown AIDS by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, perhaps, reasons Ms. Hosny, her roses will survive if she keeps them fit and healthy too.
In spite of the disease she is not taking out any of them until she absolutely has to, but she is on constant alert. “If I see any deformed branches, I remove them immediately,” she said.
“So far so good,” she said. Ms. Hosny has developed a philosophical attitude to gardening over many years. “If you are a gardener, you can’t always do what you want to do, sometimes you have to do what the land will allow you to do. If I have to live without roses, so be it,” she said.
Numerous online sources offer advice on RRD. One garden blogger, Ann Peck (see: www.rosegeek.com/index.htm), claims to have “cleaned” and saved a rose by cutting out and removing the infected parts. Ms. Peck is a member of the Asheville Blue Ridge Rose Society and a retired organic geochemist. Like Ms. Hosny, she suggests that removal of the infected parts might slow down the demise of an infected plant.
But beware of online misinformation, said Ms. Bromley. To be sure to get to a reliable source, she offers a handy trick: add the word “extension” to any search engine query. “That way you will get information from a university extension rather than from a chat room or from someone trying to sell you ‘a cure,’” she said. “There is no cure.”
As for substitutions for roses, Ms. Bromley suggests that if you want flowers, consider perennial plants instead.
If in doubt, Ms. Bromley suggests, gardeners should check with an expert like those in the County Extension system.
The Master Gardeners of Mercer County answers home horticulture questions through the helpline, (609) 989-6853, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (March through October) and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (November through February). For more information, visit www.mgofmc.org.
Princeton House Behavioral Health recently expanded its specialized services for young adults, offering an inpatient program that provides intensive, short-term medical detoxification and addiction treatment for men and women ages 18 through mid-20s.
The program, located exclusively at Princeton House’s main campus, 905 Herrontown Road, also treats individuals who are dually diagnosed with addiction and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. The length of stay averages between one and two weeks.
Chris Losch, LCSW, LCADC, Director of Addiction Services, said young adults are at the epicenter of a national opiate addiction epidemic, and they represent Princeton House’s fastest-growing patient population. Young adults benefit from a specialized program because they tend to fare better in treatment among their peers, whose common life experiences are significantly different from adults outside their age group.
The inpatient program features a curriculum focused on age-appropriate topics, personalized assessments, and groups specializing in topics such as school, work, relationships, substance abuse, and other relevant issues facing young adults.
An individualized treatment program is developed for each patient that may include group therapy, along with coping/life skills training and creative arts therapy; individual sessions; family and multifamily educational groups; and medication monitoring by psychiatrists, advanced practice nurses and RNs. Referrals for continuing care and post-hospitalization treatment are also important components of the care plan.
The inpatient service is a part of a continuum of treatment for young adults that includes partial hospital and intensive outpatient programs at Princeton House outpatient centers in Princeton, Hamilton, Moorestown and North Brunswick. For more information, visit www.princetonhouse.org.
Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association (GMTMA) announced routing changes for the NJ Transit 655 bus route that serves Princeton and Plainsboro as of Monday, June 23.
As an incentive to try the revised route, GMTMA and the 655 Partners have arranged for the public to try the service for free on Wednesday, June 25 and Thursday, June 26.
The bus route changes were made to provide more direct access to destinations in Princeton and Plainsboro. “The No. 655 route is a vital connection between Plainsboro and neighboring Princeton which will provide direct access to employment, recreation, and shopping opportunities for residents and visitors,” said N.J. Transit Executive Director Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim. “We encourage community members and visitors alike to travel on the No. 655 and make public transportation a regular part of their day-to-day routine.”
In Princeton the route has been streamlined by having the bus travel on Witherspoon from Nassau to Terhune in both directions to and from the Princeton Shopping Center rather than looping on Harrison Street. “We listened to a number of residents, who felt the bus line was not as effective as it could be in meeting their needs,” said Cheryl Kastrenakes, executive director of GMTMA. “We then communicated their concerns to the 655 Partners and NJ TRANSIT and recommended the route changes.”
“When we evaluated the service in Plainsboro, we determined that passengers would be better served by routing the bus through the heart of Plainsboro, the Village Center and along Plainsboro Road to Enterprise,” said Ms. Kastrenakes. The new routing in Plainsboro will still serve the UMCPP, Novo Nordisk, Bristol Myers — Squibb and Plainsboro apartment complexes.
NJ TRANSIT’s 655 bus route first began providing service in May 2012 between the communities of Princeton and Plainsboro, with service to the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. The route is a Public–Private Partnership with funding being provided by Princeton University, UMCPP, Greater Mercer TMA, Middlesex County, and DVRPC. Ms. Kastrenakes believes the revised routing and free fare days will help to increase ridership on the route. “We want to encourage area residents to ride the 655 bus route to discover where they can go in Princeton and Plainsboro. The free fare days are “an excellent opportunity to try it out.”
For more information, call GMTMA Commuter Services at (609) 452-1491, or visit: 655route.com.
New regulations proposed by the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) dictating that Princeton has “zero obligation” to build more affordable units have caused concern that developers will be able to challenge the town’s current municipal ordinance requiring them to set aside a portion of affordable units in housing projects.
Princeton Council was given a presentation on the proposed rules at its meeting Monday night. In another matter, the governing body heard from neighbors and the owners of a rental home at 59 Meadowbrook Drive known as the “flood house” before voting 5-1 for an ordinance to demolish the flood-prone property and create a small pocket park on the site.
COAH’s proposed, third-round rules were published on June 2. In her presentation to Council, Princeton’s COAH adviser Shirley Bishop stressed repeatedly that the regulations are not set in stone. The non-profit Fair Share Housing Center has filed a lawsuit with the New Jersey Supreme Court, questioning the methods that were used to arrive at the figures in the proposed rules. The New Jersey Builders Association may also file a suit soon, Ms. Bishop said.
Princeton’s zero building obligation is based not on need, but on the fact that the town does not have much space to build more units. The municipality has until August 1 to register its own comments, and Ms. Bishop recommended that the town file an OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request to determine how the data was compiled. The state will adopt the regulations on November 17 unless ruled not to do so by the state Supreme Court.
Princeton’s ordinance currently requires developers to set aside 20 percent of the units in large, multi-family developments as affordable. “One of my main concerns about this is that we do have a strong commitment here that is above and beyond the state requirement,” Mayor Liz Lempert said at a press conference earlier in the day. “I don’t want [new rules] to stand in our way.” At the meeting, Ms. Lempert said, “I want to make sure that if the state comes back and says we don’t have any obligation, that it is not going to impede our ability to keep that law on the books.”
Councilwoman Jo Butler called the zero obligation figure “really shocking,” and suggested Council form a subcommittee to help compile a response. Councilman Patrick Simon commented, “The rules appear to be to protect developers even more aggressively than they already did.” Ms. Lempert suggested asking the town’s affordable housing board for help. “We want to make sure we can continue to do what we feel we need to do for our town,” she said.
The proposed COAH rules are based on data from the U.S. Census. COAH arrived at the figures by considering the number of persons per room in units built before 1960; plumbing facilities such as lack of a sink, toilet, tub, or shower; and kitchen facilities such as the lack of a sink with piped water, a stove, or refrigerator. A unit has to have at least one of those deficiencies to be considered eligible, and has to be occupied by a low/moderate income household.
Princeton would be obligated to rehabilitate 151 affordable units under the proposed regulations. On-site surveys were not conducted to come up with the figure of 151 deficient units, Ms. Bishop said, encouraging Council to perform an exterior survey if it believes the 151 figure is too high.
There are currently more than 2,000 people on the waiting list for affordable rental housing in Princeton, Ms. Bishop said.
The ordinance approved by Council to demolish the house at 59 Meadowbrook Drive was voted on after a public hearing, where there were comments from several neighbors of the property and strong statements from members of Council, particularly Lance Liverman. “This is a dangerous, dangerous property,” Mr. Liverman said. “If we don’t do this now, the grant we’re supposed to be receiving will be thrown away. I just don’t see how this isn’t a win-win situation.”
Under the terms of a grant from the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (FEMA), the town will use $30,000 of open space trust funds to pay for the demolition and rehabilitation. The purchase price of the property is $625,000, and the balance is to be paid for by FEMA. There were concerns aired about the purchase price, which some believe is too high. The assessed value of the land and the house was $577,300 as of last year.
“I do have some hesitancy,” said Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller. “I would like to discuss this one more time behind closed doors.” But Bob Kiser, the town’s engineer, said that under the FEMA grant, the site must be restored by September 12, which doesn’t allow time for more discussion.
Flooding has been a longstanding problem at the site, Mr. Kiser told Council. The property, in a development built before federal flood maps were implemented, is owned by Moshe and Nira Lavid. Built in 1960, it is next to a tributary that flows into Harry’s Brook and is prone to major flooding and stormwater problems. Neighborhood residents have grown used to seeing occupants’ belongings drying out on the lawn after major storms through the years; hence the name “flood house.”
Residents first asked the former Township Committee for help in 2002. Denied FEMA funding in 2007, the former Township met with former Representative Rush Holt in 2010 and finally succeeded in getting FEMA funds in 2012, Mr. Kiser said.
Several members of the public urged Council to vote for the ordinance to tear down the house. “I’d be glad to pay my share of the $30,000 Princeton has to pay,” said neighbor Jeff Orleans. “The price may be too high altogether, but the price to us in Princeton is an absolute bargain.” Neighbor Matt Wasserman, who chairs the Princeton Environmental Coalition, pointed out that the $30,000 would come out of Green Acres funds, which are meant for open space. “That’s the cheapest you’ll ever spend for open space in this town,” he said.
Local resident Henry Singer said the price is too high and suggested condemning the property. Resident Dale Meade agreed, adding that this is not the only property in Princeton to be plagued by flooding issues. “The beneficiary of this action will be the landlord,” he said. “Let’s assess what the true market value will be.” But municipal attorney Trishka Cecil said the price of pursuing that strategy would be time-consuming and costly, and possibly end up greater than the purchase price.
Property owner Nira Lavid said she and her husband had no idea that the property was so vulnerable to flooding when they purchased it and they experienced no problems for the first seven years. She added that tenants were notified of the situation in their leases and required to have flood insurance.
Councilman Simon was the only member to vote against the ordinance. Mayor Lempert recused herself from the discussion since she lives across the street from the property.
While focusing on issues in their individual towns, mayors from Mercer County agreed yesterday that helping to solve problems plaguing the city of Trenton is high on their lists of priorities. Leaders of seven municipalities С from Princeton, Hightstown, Pennington, Hopewell Borough, Hopewell Township, East Windsor, and West Windsor С took part in a roundtable discussion Tuesday morning at Mercer County Community College. The program, “Meet the Mayors,” was sponsored by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce.
“The city of Trenton is critical,” said Pennington Mayor Anthony Persichilli, who grew up in the state capitol. “If there is anything we can do to help, and I’m not talking about money, I think it’s our responsibility.”
Janice Mironov, Mayor of East Windsor, agreed, as did Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert. “It affects all of us, and it’s important that we focus on it as we move forward,” Ms. Mironov said. Ms. Lempert said it is curious that development is encouraged in Princeton, where there is not much available land; rather than in poverty-stricken Trenton, where there is available land and buildings that could be renovated.
The mayors were asked what keeps them up at night. “Trying to get reasonable services for reasonable costs,” responded Steve Kirson, mayor of Hightstown. With 5,500 residents, the town that many pass through on their way to the New Jersey Turnpike is “the smallest big city in the state of New Jersey,” Mr. Kirson said, adding he would like to see more people spend time in the town rather than just driving through. “I’d like to make it a destination community,” he said.
West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh said he is focused on the pieces of property in the township that still need to be developed, including the Princeton Junction train station, where a transit village has been planned for years. Activity on the project is starting, he said.
Among Ms. Lempert’s worries are keeping Princeton’s downtown vibrant and not allowing “Mom and Pop” stores to be overrun by chains. “It’s about how to keep that sense of place, keep the town affordable and keep it diverse,” she said. “Consolidation has helped. We’ve lowered the municipal portion of people’s property taxes. But the question remains, how do we change and stay up to date and innovative without losing the core of what makes us special?”
Asked for a more detailed description of how consolidation has been working, Ms. Lempert called it “a great thing for Princeton.” In addition to lowering taxes, she commented that the municipality works better under one government than it did under two. “We have a smaller police force, but we have more officers on the street. We have a dedicated safe neighborhood unit and a traffic unit,” she said. “It has made a difference in police interactions with the community.”
The fact that Princeton Township and Borough had already been sharing many services and support of the merger by Council members are factors in its success. “I can’t imagine it happening unless you have the support of elected officials,” Ms. Lempert said. “There is a lot of work involved.”
Whether Princeton’s consolidation is serving as a blueprint for other municipalities in the county is another matter. Mr. Kirson said he is skeptical. Ms. Mironov said there would need to be demonstration of significant financial benefit for East Windsor before any kind of consolidation could be seriously considered. “The state needs to provide incentives for this,” she said. In Hopewell Township, “residents are not supportive of the idea at the moment,” said Mayor Vanessa Sandom.
“We’re interested in taking a look [at shared services] on a county-wide basis,” said Mr. Persichilli. “But when you keep costs low and quality high, people are happy and don’t talk about it.” Ms. Mironov added that “more is not always better,” citing the fact that East Windsor pulled out of county-wide recycling when they found a less costly provider on their own.
Asked about parking issues on Nassau Street and how they are affecting businesses, Ms. Lempert said it is a continuing problem, and Princeton Council is working on harmonizing the former Borough and Township ordinances on parking into one. An option being discussed with shop owners is a shuttle service that would ferry employees, and possibly visitors, to a remote parking location.
In an email message to Town Topics, IAS spokesperson Christine Ferrara announced that the Institute for Advanced Study is planning an archeological survey at the site where it hopes to build faculty housing.
The announcement came one week after the Princeton Planning Board postponed a public hearing on the Institute’s plans that was to have been held Thursday, June 19.
When Municipal Planning Director Lee O. Solow, who plays a key role in briefing the Board, was unexpectedly absent on medical grounds, the hearing was taken off the agenda.
Ms. Ferrara provided the following statement: “The Institute for Advanced Study’s plans for Faculty housing were unanimously approved by the Princeton Planning Board in March 2012. The Institute agreed to conduct an archeological survey of the project area before construction commenced. The Institute is initiating this work so that the project can proceed once it receives approval on the amended plan, which is currently scheduled to go before the Planning Board on September 18.”
The statement continues: “The Institute has engaged the Ottery Group, a leading cultural resource management and consulting firm, to provide the archeological services. Fieldwork is expected to take place over the summer, after which the data and any artifacts found will be processed and catalogued. Following completion of the archeological work, all artifacts and associated records will be permanently transferred to the New Jersey State Museum, as promised in 2012 by the Institute.”
Meanwhile litigation intended to overturn the Planning Board’s original approval of the Institute’s building plans is pending in the Appellate Court of New Jersey.
After the Planning Board’s 2012 approval of the Institute’s plans to build a group of faculty townhomes and single-family residences on its property adjacent to Princeton Battlefield State Park, the Princeton Battlefield Area Preservation Society, known for short as The Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS), filed suit to overturn the Board’s ruling. When Judge Mary Jacobson threw out their suit last June, attorney Bruce Afran filed an appeal with the Appellate Court of New Jersey in July on behalf of the Society.
At that time, Battlefield Society President Jerry Hurwitz expressed the hope that a very different decision would be reached by the Appellate Court. “We were unlucky with Judge Jacobson,” he said: “With a different judge it may have gone our way. This time we will be able to critique her opinion and show its weaknesses as well as represent our case all over again.”
Mr. Afran has criticized Ms. Jacobson’s opinions and suggested that she made “some mistakes of law and did not address some important issues” such as the impact the Institute’s plans would have on neighboring sites.
The Institute’s long-standing plans for faculty housing are described on its website (www.ias.edu). For more on the Princeton Battlefield Sociey, visit: theprincetonbattlefieldsociety.com.
Kids made themselves at home at Friday’s JaZam’s block party on Palmer Square West. The festival of crafts, food, fun, and music ended at dusk with a showing of “Finding Nemo.” (Photo by Emily Reeves)
The Princeton Police Department has acquired its first K9 Unit. The Department’s newest recruit, K9 Officer Harris, a 16-month-old Czech Shepherd, served his first day of active duty on Friday, June 13.
K9 Harris has been in training since March and is a recent graduate of the New Jersey State Police K9 Academy, where he trained in specialty scent detection.
Handler Corporal Matthew Solovay graduated alongside him from the 14-week training course. Mr. Solovay has been with Princeton Police for 9 years.
The New Jersey State Police Canine Academy’s rigorous training typically includes obedience, agility, tracking, and narcotic and explosive detection.
According to Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, the job of a K-9 handler “is a 24-hour-a-day obligation and requires a long term commitment from handlers and their families. Our communities are safer with the addition of these canine teams.”
K9 Harris will live with Mr. Solovay. Man and dog form part of the New Jersey Detect and Render Safe Task Force, a state, county, and local collaboration supported by federal grant funds and coordinated by the New Jersey State Police. The task force is designed to detect explosives before they can be detonated and cause harm.
K9 Harris will also help locate missing and/or endangered persons and track suspects fleeing apprehension. It is expected that he will be particularly useful in locating missing victims suffering from mind altering illnesses.
“We are proud and excited in welcoming our first ever K9 Unit to the police department,” said Police Chief Nicholas Sutter, who expects the unit “to be a vital component in our public safety efforts.”
Asked what had prompted the department to acquire a K9 Unit, Mr. Sutter said that PPD was approached by the Office of Homeland Security based on a number of factors including the amount of callouts the Department made per year for canine support as well as an assessment of the needs of the community.
Princeton Police have used dogs regularly, said Mr. Sutter. “In the past they have come from West Windsor, Lawrence, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, and the New Jersey State Police.”
The new unit was formed using federal funds and with the assistance of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. It is expected to cost the Department between $1,500 and $2,000 per year in out-of-pocket expenses for food and medical care, said Mr. Sutter.
K9 Harris is named in remembrance of Princeton Borough Police Officer Walter B. Harris, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on February 2, 1946. Born in Princeton, Mr. Harris grew up on Jackson Street and was living with his young family on John Street at the time of the shooting. He was 31 when he died from injuries sustained while attempting to pacify an altercation at the Witherspoon Social Club. He had served over two years with the Borough Police.
According to Mr. Sutter, the Department’s newest recruit, K9 Harris will be a “rookie” until he completes a year of service. He is expected to take part in a number of community outreach projects, said the police chief.
New Jersey’s State Police canine training program was created in 1987 as part of the Statewide Narcotics Task Force. Police K-9 teams assist with criminal investigations, recover evidence, and provide security in crowd control situations. Members of the NJSP Canine Unit also conduct over 100 lectures and demonstrations each year to police organizations, civic groups, schools, and children.
The Princeton Battlefield Preservation Society (PBS) is readying for what it has called “The Second Battle of Princeton” when the Princeton Planning Board meets Thursday, June 19, for a hearing on plans by the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) to build eight townhomes and seven faculty houses on land adjacent to the Princeton Battlefield State Park.
In an email message, Battlefield Society President Jerry Hurwitz called for supporters to come to the meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the municipal building, Witherspoon Hall. The meeting officially begins at 7:30 p.m. and the IAS plans are the fifth item on the agenda.
The PBS has described the Institute’s plans as “destruction of the heart of the Princeton Battlefield” and “the destruction of hallowed ground.”
The IAS faculty housing would sit on seven-acres between existing faculty homes and the Institute’s main campus. A 200-foot buffer zone alongside the Battlefield Park would be permanently preserved as open space.
The land upon which the Institute proposes to build is not part of Princeton Battlefield State Park but the PBS has expressed the hope that it might one day be added to it. “Ultimately, it is our hope that someday we will have a willing seller and that the State of New Jersey will be able to proceed in purchasing this property and adding it to the Park …” a statement included in the PBS email message reads.
The land for the proposed faculty housing, which is owned by the Institute for Advanced Study, is described by the Battlefield Society as “the exact site on which Washington and his army broke the British line to win his very first victory over British regulars and successfully conclude the ‘Ten Crucial Days’ campaign that began with Washington’s crossing of the Delaware to attack Trenton.”
Thursday’s Planning Board hearing promises to be a lively one. “We need to get a maximum turnout of our supporters,” says Mr. Hurwitz’s message. “Three years ago, the Institute packed the Board meeting with their supporters. We cannot afford to allow that to happen again!”
Mr. Hurwitz goes on to say of the upcoming Planning Board hearing: “The Board will likely be influenced by who attends” and suggests that those unable to be there on Thursday, put their objections in writing to Ms. Wanda Gunning, Chair and Members of the Princeton Planning Board, so that the objections will become part of the record.
“The more people who attend the hearing to show their support of our fight to stop the revised faculty housing plan the more the Planning Board and the media will be impressed with the depth of your support to win the ‘second battle of Princeton,’” states the email.
The plans to be discussed at the public hearing have been described by the Institute as an amendment of originals submitted and approved by the Planning Board in 2012. According to the PBS, however, the changes made are so significant that the Planning Board should regard this as an entirely new plan, which would mean that the Battlefield Society would have a second chance to present their objections and ultimately, they hope, defeat the proposal. “Supported by newly discovered major flaws in the site plan, we are contending that the project is a new application and that, in fact, it does not meet the criteria necessary to approve their revised plan,” reads the PBS statement.
PBS attorney Bruce Afran is suing to overturn the Planning Board for approving the Institute’s plans in 2012, which was also the year in which the Princeton battlefield was named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the United States.
In an article describing the Institute’s plans (Town Topics, June 11), Institute Director Robbert Dijkgraaf spoke of his optimism
regarding the hearing.
According to the Battlefield Society’s statement, the group also feels “very confident of our position.”
As for the Battlefield State Park, lovers of history are invited to celebrate Independence Day there on Friday, July 4, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Re-enactors in Revolutionary War period costume will be on hand to demonstrate drill, artillery, and flintlock muskets. The Thomas Clarke House will be open for tours and the Declaration of Independence will be read aloud at 1 p.m.
Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy hiking on the trails of the adjacent Institute Woods. For more information, call (609) 921-0074.
On Thursday, June 26, 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 50 Cherry Hill Road, attorney Jeffrey S. Chiesa will deliver a talk on “The Challenge of Human Trafficking.” The event is sponsored by the Princeton Area Interfaith Anti-Torture Group.
Mr. Chiesa is a former United States Senator and New Jersey attorney general who has had a long-term concern about human trafficking throughout his career. He served in the United States Senate following the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg. During his time in the Senate, Mr. Chiesa participated in a number of committees including Homeland Security, where he worked to improve information sharing among federal agencies following the bombing at the Boston marathon and continued his work to combat and raise awareness of human trafficking.
It is estimated that 100,000 girls under 18 years old in the United States are trafficked into commercial sex each year. In a place like Nigeria, some two-thirds of women in the region have had no formal education, only 1 in 20 has completed high school and half are married by age 15.
Mr. Chiesa will be introduced by Tracy Thompson, Assistant Attorney General for Human Trafficking. The event’s numerous co-sponsors, include Coalition for Peace Action; Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton – (UUCP) Social Justice Committee; All Saints Church; Princeton Community TV; Women Who Never Give Up, and Jonette C. Smart, President, Trenton NAACP. Light Refreshments will be served. Admission is free.
The Princeton Area Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) is inviting the public to a panel discussion called ”Trenton from the Grass Roots” on Sunday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Suzanne Patterson Center, 45 Stockton Street.
The panel members will be architect John Hatch, a partner in Clark Caton Hintz and HHG Development Associates, specializing in the adaptive reuse of historic structures; the Reverend Toby Sanders, former president of the Trenton School Board and currently president, United Mercer interfaith Organization (UMIO), pastor, Beloved Community Church; Tracey Syphax, president, Capitol City Roofing (and ex-con) and the subject of a book called From the Block to the Boardroom — The Tracey D. Syphax Story; Nakia White, chief municipal prosecutor, City of Trenton; and Jeff Laurenti – former director of Foreign Policy Programs for The Century Foundation and former co-chair, Mercer for Obama — Moderator.
Mr. Laurenti will be posing several questions to the panel intended to reveal their visions of Trenton from the grassroots. Following comments by the panel, Mr. Laurenti will open questions from the floor. Kip Cherry, one of the organizers of the panel and a member of the PCDO’s executive committee, commented, “the concept behind the panel is to create a better understanding of the social, economic, and political dynamics of Trenton from the grassroots level, while focusing on positive opportunities and various good news announcements coming out of Trenton.”
Jon Durbin, president of the PCDO, noted that “Trenton has a solid multi-ethnic, multi-racial base and there are a multitude of nonprofit organizations that serve both Princeton and Trenton. He also cited, as a part of the good news,” recent announcements regarding the long-stalled replacement of Trenton Central High School and the resolution of the status of the city-financed Lafayette Yard hotel, recently relinquished by Marriott.”
“Our hope is to enhance communication with the potential for creating helpful future partnerships between people in Trenton and Princeton,” Ms. Cherry said. Mr. Laurenti noted that the event “fortuitously culminates a weekend of activities in Trenton that underscore its prospects for renewal,” citing the annual “Art All Night” event at the historic Roebling Wire Works the night June 21-22, and the “New Jersey 350th Celebration” at the Capitol complex, the afternoon of June 22.
Mr. Durbin noted that nonprofit organizations that serve both Princeton and Trenton are specifically invited to take part in the event and offer their insights. All nonprofit organizations and the general public are invited. The event is free.
Wednesday is moving day for the aluminum-clad diner that has stood empty on the north side of Route One, just south of Bakers Basin Road, for decades. The vintage building originally located on Calhoun Street in Trenton is scheduled to make a short trip to a mixed-use redevelopment project in Hamilton Township, to start a new life.
The diner was named to Preservation New Jersey’s “10 Most Endangered” list earlier this year. Situated next to the former home of Mrs. G’s TV & Appliance store, the building’s survival has become especially precarious as the land is cleared in preparation for a new shopping center. It is being saved and repurposed via a partnership between the developer Modern Recycled Spaces and Isles, Inc., the Trenton-based community development organization. Isles is moving its headquarters to the 200,000-square-foot mixed use site, known as Mill One, where the diner will be located.
The diner is being donated by its owner, SSL Realty Holding. Isles and Modern Recycled Spaces will raise funds to restore the building, which may be turned into a training site for food preparation services. “I have driven by the diner a million times over the years,” said Daniel Popkin, owner of Modern Recycled Spaces. “Because I’m involved with Isles, it seemed like a great partnership and a way to save this building.”
Isles president Marty Johnson said in a press release, “First, it’s important to save the diner from the landfill, and if we can bring it back to the Trenton area and restore it here, it’s a win for everyone.”
The diner has gone by various names — The Calhoun, the Cass, Giordano, Ben’s — since it was built around 1950 by the Mountain View Company, which produced prefabricated diners from 1939 to 1957, according to Preservation New Jersey (PNJ). From the 1920s to 1980s, New Jersey was home to at least six and as many as 20 prefabricated diners.
Referred to as the Giordano Diner by PNJ, the silver and green building on Route One is “one of the last of its kind,” said architect Jennifer A. Stark, who researched it for PNJ. “The mid-century architecture movement is really starting to explode now because of these buildings coming of age. It’s the modular aspect, the industrial Deco look, that resonates with a lot of people,” she said. “There were a lot of them, and this is one of the last ones.”
Bill Hotz, the developer of the shopping center to be built on the site, offered the building to anyone willing to have it moved. “It’s a great story,” he said last week of the partnership between Modern Recycled Spaces and Isles. “I know Isles and they seem like a pretty good organization. So if everything goes the way it’s supposed to, how great that the diner will be kept in Mercer County and repurposed for low income job training. I’m happy about it.”
The renovation of the diner fits in with Modern Recycled Spaces’ mission of restoring grand old structures into new spaces for start-up and creative businesses. According to Mr. Johnson of Isles, “The first step is to save it. The next step is to raise the funds and renovate it. We look forward to the chance to bring it back to a good life.”
The late afternoon sun was beating down on a crowd of athletes outside Princeton University’s DeNunzio Pool and Weaver Stadium on Monday, but nobody seemed to mind. Having just completed Day One of the Special Olympics USA Games, these competitors were pumped.
“It’s fun. I love it,” said William Quinn of the Pennsylvania delegation, the second largest group of athletes after New Jersey. Having competed in the pentathlon 400 and long jump, the 32-year-old was feeling good. So was teammate Tamika Newkirk, a competitor in shot put, long jump, and the 100-meter run. “When I run, I stay focused and everything is a whole lot easier for me,” said Ms. Newkirk, who is 42. “I have wonderful coaches. They love me so much. It’s a good thing.”
New Jersey’s hosting of this national event follows four years of careful planning by Special Olympics New Jersey, which is headquartered in Lawrence Township. The games showcase the athletic abilities of people with intellectual disabilities and celebrate the Special Olympics movement, which promotes acceptance and inclusion through sports. A group of 52 people ran down Nassau Street Saturday to open the games as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Athletes are being hosted at venues including Princeton and Rider universities, the College of New Jersey (TCNJ), the Lawrenceville School, Hun School, Peddie School, and Mercer County Park. The games began officially with an opening ceremony at Newark’s Prudential Center Sunday, and will culminate Friday at Trenton’s Sun National Bank Center.
More than 800 athletes were flown in and will be flown out from Trenton-Mercer Airport, free of charge, as part of the Cessna Citation Airlift. Physicians from all over the country took part in a “Healthy Athletes” program at TCNJ early this week, offering their services free of charge. A “Special Olympics Town” at TCNJ has a Jersey shore boardwalk theme with rides, games, and vendors. The list of special events is extensive.
New Jersey athletes taking part in the games represent every county in the state, competing in 16 sports including aquatics, track and field, baseball, basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling, flag football, golf, gymnastics, powerlifting, soccer, softball, tennis, triathlon, and volleyball. Eight of the teams are competing on Unified Sports teams, which pair athletes with intellectual disabilities and those without, on the same team.
“These kinds of events just make people happy,” said Martha Costa, an employee of the Princeton University Store, while riding back into town from the University venues on one of the First Transit buses employed for the occasion. “We’ve seen a lot of people come in from all over — South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee. One young man who does shot put came in with his Dad and was very proud of the fact that he’s from Arkansas. It was really nice to see.”
Bus driver Barbara Baldwin, making the runs between Palmer Square and the University venues, said the buses had been filled nearly all day. “It’s so exciting to see the kids’ faces when they get on,” she said. “And then when they come out of the events, you see them pumping their fists. It’s just so inspiring.”
Negotiations between the Princeton Public Schools (PPS), Board of Education (BOE), and representatives of the Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA) reached an impasse when representatives of both sides met June 10.
“The negotiating team came to the conclusion that the best way to move both sides toward agreement was to bring in a third party mediator,” said Princeton Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane. “The first step in securing a mediator is to file for impasse. We formally filed for impasse late in the afternoon on June 12.”
The Board and the teachers’ union is due to meet again on June 30, which is the date when the current teachers’ contract expires. Since it can take up to 60 days for a mediator to be scheduled, Mr. Cochrane said that “filing sooner rather than later was the right action to take to help ensure we achieve a settlement before students and teachers return to classrooms in the fall.”
If called upon, a mediator would be provided by the state at no cost to the District. If however, no agreement is reached in mediation, a fact-finder would be called in at a cost of $1,500 per day, split between the two parties. According to BOE negotiator Patrick Sullivan, 40 percent of school negotiations in New Jersey go to mediation.
At the crux of the impasse, Mr. Sullivan said Monday, is Chapter 78, which Governor Christie signed into law in 2011 as part of state pension and health benefit reform, and which makes teachers pay a higher portion of their health costs. “They are paying a higher percentage each year because of Chapter 78 and they want the District to reimburse them for these costs,” explained Mr. Sullivan. “This, we cannot do. Not only would it put a burden on the District that is already strapped by a 2 percent cap, but our attorney advises that any such reimbursement would circumvent the law. It would be illegal.”
“Even if we could circumvent Chapter 78, we don’t have the money to both give a pay increase and to reimburse health care costs. The only way to do this would be to make cuts to staff, including teachers, and we don’t want to do this,” he said.
But according to Teachers’ Union negotiator John Baxter, the BOE has got its facts wrong when it comes to Chapter 78. “N.J. law, Chapter 78 rates were imposed for a limited period of four years, ending June 2015 for Princeton. The BOE wants to continue them indefinitely,” said Mr. Baxter in an email statement. “The BOE should negotiate contribution rates that make sense for Princeton Public Schools; not rates designed and imposed by Governor Christie and the New Jersey legislature.”
Mr. Baxter and the PREA also take issue with the Board’s figures, citing a news release issued by the Board last week, claiming that the district’s health care costs are going up by “over 12 percent this year.” The union pointed out that this number did not fit with the board’s claim that all employee health costs would increase by 6.4 percent. The Board later acknowledged its mistake and issued an amended release.
Even so, Mr. Baxter questions the Board’s figures. “The Board’s revised press release continues to give the impression that their cost for PREA health benefits will be going up ‘by much more than 2 percent each year,’” he said. “The fact is the cost to the Board has been decreasing as PREA members have been contributing more.”
According to the teachers’ union, “the amount the Board will be spending in 2014-15 is roughly 7 percent less than what they spent on PREA health benefits three years ago in 2011-12: their cost has decreased from $5,636,146 to $5,222,769. In other words, none of the 2 percent increase in the 2014-15 budget is going to be spent on PREA health care benefits, not one penny.”
PREA members will contribute between 14 and 35 percent next year, an average of 24 percent, which is above what “most Americans contribute,” said Mr. Baxter, who offered the table, shown on this page, based upon numbers provided by the Board during the negotiation process.
The sides are also divided with respect to a proposal by the Board for a High Deductible Health Plan/Health Savings Account.
Even after six meetings, however, the BOE is hopeful that some compromise will be reached. “We are committed to continuing to meet with the association. We believe bringing in a third party mediator will help us move forward. In the meantime, we look forward to our next meeting with PREA on June 30,” said Molly Chrein, one of three Board members on the negotiating team.
Combating wage theft is the focus of a landscaping registration ordinance re-introduced at Monday night’s meeting of Princeton Council. If approved, the ordinance will require all commercial landscapers to register with the municipality and acknowledge awareness of federal and state wage theft laws.
These laws protect workers, many of whom are undocumented, from what Councilwoman Heather Howard called the “pernicious practices” of not being paid for all hours worked or sufficient overtime, earning less than the amount agreed upon, or not being paid at all. A public hearing on the ordinance has been set for Council’s July 14 meeting.
“This is a very important step we’re taking to protect the rights and safety of people working here,” Ms. Howard said. She described the work of the Human Services Commission’s Immigration Issues Subcommittee as “a unique collaboration between key government and community partners.”
Local resident John Heilner chaired the subcommittee. “Wage theft is under-reported because the folks who are victims fear losing their jobs or are undocumented and afraid of being reported,” he said, adding that existing wage theft laws do not discriminate against undocumented workers.
The ordinance also addresses workers’ compensation. Landscapers applying for registration, which they would be required to renew annually, would be notified of the state’s workers’ compensation insurance laws. The laws protect not only the health and safety of the workers, but also help homeowners, business owners, and landscapers avoid lawsuits. They would also be notified of the town’s leaf, brush, and log collection program. Under the revised ordinance, companies would lose the right to operate in Princeton if found to be in violation of the state and federal wage theft laws.
Princeton’s Human Services Director Elisa Neira said the ordinance will complement efforts already made to show the town’s commitment to human rights and strengthen relations between the police and the immigrant community. Birch Avenue resident Craig Garcia, who works with New Labor Education and Training Institute in New Brunswick, said wage theft is a problem all over the country. New Labor trained Princeton’s police force on how to address complaints related to wage theft laws earlier this year.
“I’m very proud of the work I’ve seen on this,” Mr. Garcia said. “The attention the town has given us is really commendable. Having a town like Princeton taking this big step would send a message to contractors that we need to do the right thing for our workers.” Mr. Garcia said the aim is not to shut down any businesses, but rather to promote honest and safe practices. “Since we passed [a similar ordinance] in New Brunswick, we’ve had an excellent response,” he said. “It makes companies do the right thing.”
Ms. Howard said that public forums in the future will address the issue of getting people to come forward to report wage theft. “We recognize that there is an education component that is really important,” she said. Mr. Heilner and Ms. Neira have been working on an informational booklet for workers.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Sam Hamod targeted Council president Bernie Miller with a complaint about the agreement under which Princeton University makes financial contributions totaling $21.72 million over seven years to the municipality, in lieu of taxes. Mr. Hamod wanted to know how the agreement, which he said favors the University and it’s “octopus reach,” was arrived at. “I just want them to pay their fair share,” he said.
Mr. Miller said he would be happy to send him the terms of the agreement. Councilman Patrick Simon defended the process, saying the University is tax-exempt under state law. “The University is not obligated to give anything to the town,” he said, adding that other non-profit organizations pay nothing. Mr. Hamod said he disagreed with Mr. Simon.
Council’s next meeting is Monday, June 23 at 7 p.m.
After a rewarding first day of competition at Princeton University, members of the Pennsylvania delegation at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games wait for the bus that will take them back to their quarters at the College of New Jersey. From left: Tamika Newkirk, Katie Grohotolski, William Quinn, and assistant coach Tim Damiani. The athletes are among some 3,500 who have traveled to Mercer County from all over the country to compete in the games, which culminate Friday at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton. (Photo by Anne Levin)
The Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP) celebrated the achievements of its tenth graduating class at a ceremony at the Princeton University Friend Center last week.
Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber, fresh from the University’s 267th Commencement exercises the day before, addressed 21 high schoolers from Princeton High School, Trenton Central High School Chambers Street and West campuses, Ewing High School, Nottingham High School, and Lawrence High School, as well as program alumni who had just graduated from college.
Founded in 2001, PUPP identifies academically gifted high school students in their sophomore year who come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. The students come to the Princeton University campus for three summers of rigorous study, and receive academic enrichment during the school year.
Having the president of the University speak to the graduating class is a tradition that began with Shirley Tilghman. Last year, both outgoing President Tilghman and incoming President Eisgruber attended the ceremony.
Directed by Jason Klugman and Associate Director Torey Wilson, PUPP is designed to help equalize access to higher education for economically disadvantaged students. It enrolls 24 students a year and provides an academically intense, three-year college
Observed socioeconomic disparities in college admissions fueled the program’s creation by John Webb and Princeton University Professor Miguel Centeno in order to give high-achieving students the necessary resources to prepare them to apply and be accepted into selective colleges and universities.
The program consists of annual summer sessions during which the students take classes at Princeton University from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students are required to attend for three consecutive summers and participate in academic enrichment sessions during the school year. The curriculum consists of writing, literature, math, science, social science, art, music appreciation, and college preparation.
This year’s graduating class members and the colleges they will be attending in the fall are Angela Amankwaah, The George Washington University; D’Andre Battle, Dickinson College; Danica Bradley, The College of New Jersey; Ebony Brown, University of Richmond; Monica Collado, Rutgers University; Paola Dubon, Muhlenberg College; Jordan Finger, Monmouth University; Diana Gomez, Muhlenberg College; Aliya Grooms, Spelman College; Akahyl Henry, Rutgers University; Erik Lima, Colgate University; David Lopez, The College of New Jersey; Simon Lopez, Rutgers University; Karem Mathiang, Dickinson College; Wilhelmina Minney, Muhlenberg College; Chelsea-Mia Pierre, Dickinson College; Caelle Rousseau, Amherst College; Yadira Santos, The College of New Jersey; Cynthia Silva, Muhlenberg College; Magdalena Stankowska, Princeton University; Kadija Yilla, Pomona College.
“This year, all of our students were accepted into Rutgers, and this is a first, although all but one were accepted last year,” said Mr. Wilson, who has been with the program since its founding. “The one exception got an early acceptance at Princeton and didn’t apply to Rutgers. This year we have students going to some schools that are new for us such as Pomona College in California and Amherst College in Massachusetts.”
On average, PUPP students apply to about 10 colleges. For more information, visit: www.princeton.edu/pupp/.