May 6, 2020

By Donald Gilpin

Leading the battles — medical, economic, societal — against the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic have been the individual states and their governors. And one of the most powerful tools assisting the states has been the State Health and Value Strategies program (SHVS), a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) project based at Princeton University’s Center for Health and Wellbeing.

“We’ve pivoted to help states respond to COVID,” said SHVS Program Director Heather Howard, who is a lecturer in public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, former New Jersey commissioner of Health and Senior Services, and a former Princeton councilwoman.

In normal times the SHVS provides technical assistance on a variety of health issues — like implementation of the Affordable Care Act, expanding the Medicaid program, and expanding access to substance abuse treatment — but the current crisis has created dire needs that the SHVS has quickly responded to.

State governments are working to develop strategies and policies to combat the virus and to address the growing needs of their constituents, and the SHVS is supporting states through webinars and a new resources website, lending advice and expert analysis. more

TREES IN DANGER: The hemlock woolly adelgid, a tiny black insect with a white ring around its perimeter, manifests its presence this time of year when it produces egg sacs that look like a white cottony substances on the bottom of the needles. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

By Donald Gilpin

It’s a diversion perhaps amidst the current pandemic, but Princeton’s trees are confronting their own crisis in the shape of at least three destructive pests: the emerald ash borer, the spotted lanternfly, and the hemlock woolly adelgid.

A concerned resident last week reported that “many of the hemlock trees in the Riverside neighborhood have woolly adelgid on them and will likely die from this pest.” She added that treatment is not expensive and would be helpful in saving the trees.

Robert Wells, Wells Tree and Landscape founder and associate director of the Morris Arboretum at the University of Pennsylvania, noted that the hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), native to East Asia, has been around for 30-40 years. Hemlocks face many challenges, he said, but pockets of hemlocks have adapted and are doing quite well.

Princeton Arborist Taylor Sapudar commented on the HWA problem, but suggested that hemlocks, more prevalent in New England, are not currently the Princeton tree community’s greatest concern. “I don’t see hemlocks planted as much now as in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s,” he said. “On older properties, in the Western Section of town, on Boudinot and Library Place, you see a lot of them, many hemlock hedges planted in the 1960s, but in developments now you don’t see them.” more

PARK PERFECTION: Mercer County Park in West Windsor is among the public parks and golf courses now open to visitors, but with certain restrictions in place.

By Anne Levin

Last week, Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order reopening state parks and golf courses closed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The order, which went into effect May 2, allows county governments to determine which of their parks to make available to the public again.

Mercer County opted to reopen county parks and golf courses for passive recreation only. That means walking, running, fishing, biking, and boating on the lake in Mercer County Park are permitted. But public gatherings and sports events are still off limits. Social distancing is being enforced.

“We understand that New Jerseyans want to get outside and get some fresh air as the weather warms up,” Murphy said last week. “However, this should not serve as an open invitation to rush back to normalcy and break the necessary social distancing measures we’ve put in place. This approach will also bring New Jersey in line with our neighboring states, which will discourage residents from needlessly crossing state lines for recreation.” more

Cochrane Named Superintendent of the Year

Princeton Public Schools (PPS) Superintendent Steve Cochrane has been recognized as the Mercer County Superintendent of the Year by the Mercer County Association of School Administrators.

Emphasizing an approach to learning that is founded in joy and purpose, Cochrane has championed the idea that diversity is strength. He has emphasized issues of educational inequity in the district, particularly racial disparities, and has focused on student wellness and mental health. He oversaw the passage in December 2018 of a much-debated facilities referendum.

Cochrane, who is retiring from his position at the end of the school year, earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Princeton University and a master’s degree in education from Harvard University. His career in education has included positions as an elementary school teacher, principal, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, and an assistant dean at Princeton University. more

By Anne Levin

During a report to Princeton Council at its April 27 meeting, Municipal Health Officer Jeff Grosser stressed the need for isolation once someone has been exposed to the coronavirus (COVID-19). This need is particularly acute in parts of town where people live close together and have no place to separate themselves from fellow neighbors or family members, he said.

To address the situation, Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) has made hotel-like rooms in the Erdman Center on Library Place available. This arrangement was facilitated by retired Princeton Police officer Jorge Narvaez, who now works in public safety for PTS; Princeton Police Chief Nick Sutter; the town’s Human Services Department; and Sustainable Princeton.

So far, only two rooms are occupied. But a greater need is anticipated.

“The use of the Seminary housing is extremely important as many families are unable to isolate at home for numerous reasons,” said Melissa Urias, Princeton’s Human Services director. “As COVID-19 testing increases and becomes more readily available, the need to house residents at the Seminary is essential for flattening the curve.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

There is certainly not one government in Europe but is now watching the war in this country, with the ardent prayer that the United States may be effectually split, crippled, and dismember’d by it.
—Walt Whitman, circa 1864

It was when the current administration seemed to be inciting civil unrest in the name of liberty that I began rereading the 1861-1865 entries in Walt Whitman’s Specimen Days in America, where he calls “the war of attempted secession … the distinguishing event” of his time. In his notes to the volume he assembled in the early 1880s, the “specimens” were “impromptu jottings” collected during visits to “the sick and wounded of the army, both on the field and in the hospitals in and around Washington city.” Given the science-driven nature of the ongoing, no-end-in-sight “war” against the coronavirus, it’s worth noting that the poet’s use of the clinical word “specimens” refers to “persons, sights, occurrences in camp, by the bed-side, and not seldom by the corpses of the dead.” Some entries “were scratch’d down … while watching, or waiting, or tending somebody amid those scenes,” and are left just as he “threw them by after the war, blotch’d here and there with more than one blood-stain, hurriedly written, … not seldom amid the excitement of uncertainty, or defeat, or of action, or getting ready for it, or a march.”

Musings on a Mask

As soon as I tie on the mask, an ordinary walk becomes a wartime narrative. Sensing someone else almost directly behind me, I obey the social distancing guidelines and move to my left, out of the way, and as he passes, we exchange a look, a shared awareness that there’s a war going on and we’re living in the so-called epicenter, with more fatalities per capita at this moment than any other state.

This being the first time I’ve been out for a walk with a piece of Scotch plaid tied over my nose and mouth, I’m imagining masked versions of everyone from Mickey Mouse to Mozart, Darwin to Dostoevsky, including my own history from the bandanna-masked outlaw in boyhood shoot-outs and sword fights to the surgical-masked, blissed-out father witnessing the birth of a son. Mainly, I’m hearing Bob Dylan’s voice as if through a densely-woven mask as he growls his way past “the cities of the plague” to “the last outback at the world’s end” in “Ain’t Talkin,’” the haunting endgame song on Modern Times, an album recorded 15 years ago. Another track on my pandemic playlist is “Murder Most Foul,” Dylan’s epic meditation on the Kennedy assassination, the title lifted from Shakespeare and presented as a gift to “fans and followers” along with the uncharacteristically empathetic advisory “stay safe, stay observant.”  more

CELEBRATING 30 YEARS: Emily Mann, McCarter’s outgoing artistic director and resident playwright, delivered heartfelt remarks to conclude an online gala celebrating her 30-year tenure with the theatre. (Photo by Matt Pilsner)

By Donald H. Sanborn III

The arts — and the theatre — are not a luxury,” asserts Emily Mann. “They are essential for the health of the soul.”

This comment was included in a segment of a video that was shown during a livestreamed tribute to Mann, who in 2019 announced her decision to step down from her dual position as McCarter Theatre’s artistic director and resident playwright. Because current restrictions necessitated by COVID-19 rendered a live gala impossible, McCarter hosted Saturday night’s heartfelt event via Zoom, as well as the theatre’s Facebook page.

A slideshow was presented before and after the event, featuring candid photos and production stills. Music by jazz trumpeter, composer, and arranger Baikida Carroll — who composed the score for the musical Betsey Brown (1991), one of Mann’s first McCarter productions — accompanied this montage.

The event served as a retrospective, featuring effusive plaudits from colleagues who have worked with Mann throughout her 30-year association with the theatre. Managing director Michael Rosenberg began the program by welcoming “over a thousand” viewers. He recalled meeting Mann in the mid-90s, when McCarter presented his West Village theatre company’s production of George Kaufman’ and Ring Lardner’s play June Moon. more

SPIRITUAL STORY: A scene from the filming of “Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries,” produced by the Gardner Group, headed by Princeton resident Janet Gardner. The documentary will air on NJTV on May 14 at 8 p.m. and on WNYC on May 26 at 11 p.m.

The history, deep faith, and enduring impact of the Religious Society of Friends, known as Quakers, are the subject of Quakers: The Quiet Revolutionaries, a new documentary produced by the Gardner Documentary Group, which is headed by Janet Gardner of Princeton.

The film will air on NJTV on Thursday, May 14 at 8 p.m., and on WNYC on Tuesday, May 26 at 11 p.m.

The 57-minute film tells the story of a spiritual movement that has played a remarkable role in the religious, social, and political life of our nation. Demonstrating an influence disproportionate to their numbers, Quakers have led anti-slavery, civil rights and women’s rights movements, and been strong advocates for world peace. Yet, as a relatively small denomination of less than 400,000, their influence far outweighs their numbers.  more

NEWMAN & OLTMAN GUITAR DUO: The co-founders of the Raritan River Music Festival will present an evening of Cuban dances and works from the past 100 years in a special virtual program on May 9 at 7:30 p.m. Visit www.RaritanRiverMusic.org for details.

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 Raritan River Music Festival will be held online, with links to every event available through the www.RaritanRiverMusic.org website. The festival is on Saturdays through May 23, at 7:30 p.m.

Guitarists Laura Oltman and Michael Newman founded the festival with the promise of bringing live chamber music to historic venues in Hunterdon County.

Co-Founding Artistic Director Newman said, “The past month has been the most difficult, challenging, and painful for the arts, artists, and lovers of art in anyone’s memory throughout the world. In the midst of cancellations, loss of livelihood, and dearth of cultural and social enrichment, Raritan River Music stands firm in its commitment to make the 31st Raritan River Music Festival a reality – a virtual reality.”  more

Last week would have been the annual All-School Spring Concert at Stuart Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. At the event, the award-winning Upper School choir would have sung “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” by J. Moore.

To still honor the work that the girls have put in since the start of the school year, Stuart’s music teacher and choir director Erin Camburn produced a virtual version of the performance. The students and their teacher hope the video brings people some joy in these difficult times.

WINES FOR PRESERVATION: Labels featuring art by James Fiorentino, whose landscapes come from the preserved lands of D&R Greenway Land Trust, are featured on three new wines from Old York Cellars. A percentage of each sale of the wines will benefit the land trust’s preservation and stewardship mission.

D&R Greenway Land Trust, in partnership with Old York Cellars of Ringoes, is offering a new program, Wines for Preservation. A large percentage of each sale of the three wines of the 2019 harvest will benefit the land trust’s preservation and stewardship mission. The wine labels feature art by James Fiorentino, whose landscapes come from the preserved lands of D&R Greenway Land Trust.

This official collaboration with a New Jersey vintner is fitting, due to D&R Greenway’s preservation of more than 8,000 acres of farmlands that contribute to New Jersey’s reputation as the Garden State. Old York Cellars is nestled in the Sourland Mountain area of central New Jersey, where D&R Greenway has preserved thousands of significant acres including its first preserved acre upon its founding 30 years ago. The land trust’s Sourlands successes ensure the health of a crucial watershed, essential in order to achieve excellent wines.

The wines are St. Michaels Red, Sourlands White, and Goat Hill Rosé.  Each label is a collector’s piece, presenting artwork of each of these three preserves. more

“ORION AND RUNNING MAN NEBULA”: This photograph by James Cahill is the Patron Award winner at the 27th Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition, now on view online at phillipsmillphoto.com/pmpe2020-exhibition.

The 27th Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition, a prestigious, well-regarded photo show traditionally showcased in the Phillips Mill Gallery in New Hope, Pa., is in an online gallery form this year due to the pandemic.

For the exhibit, juror Emmet Gowin, formerly professor of art at Princeton University, selected 143 images out of 1,000 images submitted from professional and amateur photographers from 13 states and three countries.  Gowin is one of the greats in the history of photography and is an internationally acclaimed photographer. His numerous honors include a Guggenheim, two NEA Fellowships, a Pew Fellowship, and a Governor’s Award.  He has exhibited at major museums and taught at Princeton University for more than 35 years.  Gowin says he loved the diversity of the work and the considerable talent evident in all the submissions.

The exhibit can be viewed at phillipsmillphoto.com/pmpe2020-exhibition. All work is for sale. Email any inquiries and other questions to PhillipsMillPhoto@gmail.com.

“YELLOWSTONE”: This photograph by Dave Burwell is one of 143 images featured in the 27th Phillips Mill Photographic Exhibition, now on view online at phillipsmillphoto.com/pmpe2020-exhibition.

FULL SERVICE: “Rosedale is not just a pet store, or just a feed store, or just a garden store. It is all of these — but more. We have a very loyal clientele. They really appreciate the one-stop shopping we offer with all the pet, horse, and livestock products, and garden needs, as well as our great selection of bird feeders, houses, and feed — and so much more.” John Hart Jr., owner of Rosedale Mills in Pennington, shown with business partner Beth Scheuerlein, looks forward to helping customers in person, with delivery or drive-thru pick-up service.

By Jean Stratton

Family businesses were once the mainstay of shopping across the country, and certainly in New Jersey. As times and shopping strategies have changed, fewer and fewer of these once prolific establishments now define the streetscapes of our towns and neighborhoods.

How special it is then when a longtime family-owned and operated business continues to serve its customers.
Rosedale Mills, located at 101 Route 31 North (at Titus Mill Road), is such an establishment. Now known as an “America’s Country Store” and designated as a Purina Company Signature Design (the only one in New Jersey), it offers a spacious 12,000-square-foot setting. Although a state-of-the-art facility, it still retains the feeling of a country store, reminiscent of the feed and general merchandise stores of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Indeed, Rosedale Mills has a long history, dating to the mid-1850s, when it was a water-powered feed and sawmill. Originally located on Carter Road near Rosedale Road, the mill may have derived its name from the abundance of roses in the area. more

WINGING IT: Bella Alarie depicted in the uniform of the Dallas Wings of the WNBA. After a superb senior season for the Princeton University women’s basketball team which saw Alarie help the Tigers go 26-1, she was chosen by the Wings as the fifth pick in the first round of the 2020 WNBA Draft in mid-April. (Photo by Jarrod Allison/Dallas Wings)

By Justin Feil

Bella Alarie woke up on April 17 and tried to go about her usual day with breakfast at her home in Bethesda, Md., time with her parents and two younger brothers, and some academic work.

Although her thesis was due in just one week, it wasn’t foremost on the mind of the Princeton University senior star forward who by that midday was feeling anxious about the upcoming WNBA draft.

“It was definitely not a productive thesis day,” said Alarie. “It was very hectic and there was a lot to get done. I had my family to help me out and get ready. I was so excited for 7 o’clock to come, I felt like it was taking so long and the day was going so slow. I was so excited when it got to 7 o’clock. It was a lot of mixed emotions honestly with excitement and nerves and all that. The whole day, it wasn’t exactly what I imagined my draft day would look like, but all the emotions I would have felt on a stage in New York, they were all the same.”

Alarie was thrilled to be chosen fifth overall by the Dallas Wings, matching the highest selection ever of an Ivy League player, equaling that of Harvard’s Allison Feaster, who was picked fifth by the Los Angeles Sparks 22 years earlier.

“I’m super proud of myself and happy; that’s a huge accomplishment,” said Alarie.

“I’m really grateful that I was selected that high and they believed in me. And to come out of the Ivy League, there haven’t been a lot, but I do have great players to look up to from Princeton like Leslie Robinson and Blake Dietrich who have had WNBA experience. It’s a huge honor. I definitely take it seriously because I do want to represent Princeton and the Ivy League as best I can and it’s been like 20 years since we’ve had a first-round pick out of our league. I have a lot of honor and pride and I want to make the most of it. It’s really special and it’s a testament to all the coaches and teammates and all the development and time they put into making me better. You can’t do it alone.” more

BACK IN THE GAME: Mira Shane guards the net in a 2019 game during her senior season playing goalie for the University of Michigan women’s lacrosse team. After a superb career for the Wolverines, Princeton High grad Shane has returned to the game, joining the Harvard women’s lax program last fall as a volunteer coach. (Photo provided courtesy of Michigan Photography)

By Bill Alden

Mira Shane seemed to have it all after graduating from the University of Michigan last spring.

After a jam-packed four years in Ann Arbor which saw Shane star as goalie for the Michigan women’s lacrosse team, perform in the 58 Greene a cappella group, serve as the president of Michigan’s Athletes for Community Transformation, and oversee mental health initiatives for the Student Athlete Advisory Committee, she landed a corporate job with Anheuser-Busch.

But after working a few months for the brewing giant at its headquarters in St. Louis, Mo., Shane decided something was missing in her life.

“I had all of these cool plans to do the corporate thing and it really didn’t end up being me which is totally OK,” said Shane, a girls’ lacrosse and basketball star for Princeton High who set Michigan program career records in wins (24), career saves (360), and career save percentage (.451), getting named as an Inside Lacrosse honorable mention All-American in her senior season as the Wolverines went 16-4.

“I realized three months in that this isn’t Mira. I need a little bit more energy, passion and something I really want to get up for every morning and I knew that was going to lie in lacrosse.”

Following that passion, Shane decided to get back into the game as a coach and ended up heading east to join the staff of the Harvard women’s lax team as a volunteer assistant, aided by a Michigan connection and admiration for Harvard head coach Devon Wills, a former All-American goalie for Dartmouth. more

TEEING OFF: Raj Bhardwaj, right, tees off on the first hole at the Princeton Country Club last Saturday with Venu Avula looking on as golf courses reopened across New Jersey pursuant to an executive order issued last Thursday by Gov. Phil Murphy. Golf courses had been closed since late March as part of the social distancing guidelines set forth by Murphy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

By issuing Executive Order 133 last Thursday, Gov. Phil Murphy unleashed thousands of golfers to tee off across New Jersey last weekend after courses had been closed since late March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the terms of the order, parks, and golf courses were reopened on Saturday morning with Murphy acknowledging that “we understand that New Jerseyans want to get outside and get some fresh air as the weather warms up,” but adding that “this should not serve as an open invitation to rush back to normalcy and break the necessary social distancing measures we’ve put in place.”

Local clubs did experience a rush as golfers wasted no time booking starting times as soon as they could.

At TPC Jasna Polana on Province Line Road, members reserved all openings for Saturday within minutes of the club’s website opening its online tee sheet on Thursday evening.

In an email to members, Jasna Polana club management noted that “while we knew the demand to play golf would be the highest in our history, we would not imagine the starting sheet would be completely booked within six minutes.”

As for the Mercer County Park Commission’s four golf courses, its online booking service temporarily crashed Thursday evening due to the volume of players looking to reserve tee times for Saturday. more

May 4, 2020

By Donald GIlpin

Gov. Phil Murphy announced today, May 4, that all public and private schools in New Jersey will be closed for the rest of the academic year. Murphy’s decision, “guided by safety and science,” means continued remote learning through the last weeks of the school year for the state’s school children.

 Parks, beaches, and golf courses re-opened last weekend, as Murphy took the first step toward lifting restrictions, and New Jersey residents won praise for their compliance with social distancing rules. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and State Police Superintendent Colonel Patrick Callahan noted that there were challenges caused by the large crowds visiting parks and beaches, but there were no significant enforcement issues, according to law enforcement in all 21 counties. The re-opening of recreational areas came off largely without incident.

There were big crowds at state, county, and local parks, with some parks having to turn away additional visitors after reaching capacity. In addition, the attorney general’s office reported, some people had to be reminded that picnicking is not allowed under the emergency orders, and that, consistent with CDC guidelines, team sports and the use of playgrounds are also prohibited.  more

May 1, 2020

By Donald Gilpin

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced today, May 1, an additional 2,651 positive tests and 311 COVID-19-related deaths in the state reported in the past 24 hours, bringing the totals to at least 121,190 cases and 7,538 deaths.

On a positive note, Murphy, in his daily coronavirus press briefing from Trenton, pointed out a continuing decline in numbers of hospitalizations and a slowing of the rate of infection. He emphasized that the trend lines are moving in the right direction and that this weekend, as parks and golf courses are set to open, with restrictions, will be a test to see if the state can continue to move forward in overcoming the virus spread. He warned that parks and golf courses will be closed again if people do not practice sufficient social distancing.  more

April 29, 2020
Chalk art by Tommy, 13, and Sophia, 18

For week one of our campaign highlighting fun projects for kids to do, we invited local youths to send in images of chalk art. Their creative submissions are shown here. Next week’s project will feature ads designed for favorite local businesses.

By Donald Gilpin

As COVID-19 cases and related death numbers start to level off and New Jersey, gradually and cautiously, looks forward to Gov. Phil Murphy’s “Road Back” plan, Princeton University has announced the establishment of a fund to support community relief efforts related to COVID-19, with an initial commitment of $1 million to support immediate needs in the municipality of Princeton.

“The focus will be on contributions to organizations that distribute directly to other nonprofits or, where appropriate, businesses, and to partnerships of community organizations working collaboratively to address current needs,” the University wrote in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

A University committee has made recommendations and Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber and Provost Deborah Prentice have approved initial disbursements from the fund of $400,000 to the Princeton Area Community Foundation COVID Relief Fund and $100,000 to the Princeton Children’s Fund Coronavirus Emergency Relief Fund.

“The remaining $500,000 will be distributed as additional contribution opportunities emerge,” the University announcement stated.

Noting significant impacts of the crisis in communities where the University is located, the announcement stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in immense financial pressures for nonprofits and service organizations; businesses, particularly small businesses; and individuals and families.” more

By Anne Levin

Princeton Council voted unanimously at its virtual meeting on Monday, April 27, to adopt the 2020 municipal budget that was re-introduced at its last meeting. Amended in light of the pandemic and its impact on the local economy, the $64 million budget has no tax increase.

The ongoing shutdown has presented numerous challenges to the municipality. The town’s administrator Marc Dashield delivered an update on how these challenges are being met, and how operations will continue once Witherspoon Hall is reopened.

Staff has been working remotely in some cases, while others have been in the building on alternative work schedules to complete necessary tasks. The departments involved in health, safety, and public works are on site, and the recreation department continues to maintain public parks and take care of trash and recycling.

Those paying taxes this quarter are urged to do it online or by mail. For those who cannot do so, a drop box is in place in the lobby of the police department. more

By Anne Levin

Early this week, Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled his plan to start New Jersey’s recovery from the COVID-19 shutdown. While the stay-at-home order for residents remains in effect until further notice, local businesses are starting to consider how and when they will reopen. Some, like Olives on Witherspoon Street, have already taken the step.

Just what the town’s reopening might look like is among the topics to be discussed at the next Virtual Princeton Business Forum of the Princeton Merchants Association (PMA), being held Thursday, April 30 at 10 a.m. via Zoom. Results of a survey that went out to local businesses will also be considered.

The PMA has been holding online gatherings nearly every Thursday since non-essential businesses were ordered to close last month. These well-attended meetings, moderated by Princeton University Art Museum Director James Steward, have included various guest speakers, always with a focus on how to ride out the COVID-19 crisis and stay afloat. Last week, political scientist and Princeton University Professor Anne Marie Slaughter shared ideas about a fund to help nonprofits and businesses with resilience and renewal.

The fund is still in the planning stages. “We’re looking at these kinds of funds in other places. It can be done,” said Slaughter. “It is happening elsewhere. We want to set it up in such a way that it would be maximally credible.” more

CONNECTING NEIGHBORS: Blair Miller, founder of Mr. Rogers’ Neighbors Kindness Project, prepares to distribute bags of food and other necessities at the Free Store/Tienda Gratis, also known as Studio Hillier, on Witherspoon Street. More than 1,500 “neighbors bags” have been made available in this project for neighbors in need, local businesses, and community members looking to help.

By Donald Gilpin

The computer screens are dark on the desks at Studio Hillier, 190 Witherspoon Street, with the office closed during the coronavirus crisis and the architects, designers, and urban planners working remotely.

But on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, Studio Hillier is transformed into the Free Store/Tienda Gratis, open for business with hundreds of bags of food and other supplies covering the long drafting tables, and volunteers running back and forth preparing to meet the needs of about 80 local residents lined up six feet apart in the courtyard outside.

In its third week of operation, the Mr. Rogers’ Neighbors Kindness Project, founded by local volunteer Blair Miller, allows the Princeton community to support struggling neighbors and participating businesses each time they order takeout, purchase books or toys, or shop at McCaffrey’s market.

The program encourages patrons of local stores and restaurants to add an extra meal, book, or toy to their phone or online orders. These items are then delivered to the Free Store/Tienda Gratis for distribution on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from noon to 2 p.m. more

GOING GLOBAL: For Princeton Pilates instructor Anthony Rabara, left, the mandatory shutdown order has turned out much better than he feared, gaining him clients from across the world.

When the order came from Gov. Phil Murphy last month to close all non-essential businesses due to the pandemic, Anthony Rabara worried that his Pilates studio might not survive the shutdown. Rabara Pilates, which is across from Princeton Airport, has been offering group classes, private, and semi-private lessons in the popular exercise method since Rabara opened the studio over two decades ago.

His concerns, it turns out, were unfounded. Since switching to online classes via Zoom, Rabara has been teaching not only his regular students, but a growing list of Pilates enthusiasts from as far as Israel, Australia, and South America.

Rabara is one of the original eight master teachers trained by Romana Kryzanowska, the successor to founder Joseph Pilates. He has taught workshops all over the world, gaining a global reputation among Pilates practitioners for rigorous teaching of the method in only its purest form. Once world got out that he would be offering instruction online, the schedule started filling up, especially for private sessions.

“What I’ve come to realize is that this is actually a very good medium,” Rabara said last week after teaching a private lesson online to an instructor in Scranton, Pa. “I can see details as if I’m standing right in front of them. And I’m very concentrated, because I’m looking right at them, not distracted by other things going on in the studio.” more

WINNING TEAM: Superintendent Steve Cochrane and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Annie Gonzalez Kosek have led the Princeton Public Schools over the past few years. Both will be stepping down at the end of June. Kosek, described by Cochrane as “one of the most outstanding educators with whom I have ever worked,” announced her retirement last week after 17 years at PPS. (Photo courtesy of Princeton Public Schools)

By Donald Gilpin

Anna Gonzalez Kosek, Princeton Public Schools (PPS) assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, praised by PPS Board of Education President Beth Behrend for “her intellect, her professionalism, her warmth, and ability to work well with teachers and staff,” announced last week that she will be stepping down at the end of June.

In addition to a new assistant superintendent, the PPS is looking for an interim superintendent to take charge on July 1, replacing Superintendent Steve Cochrane, who in February announced his upcoming retirement. Kosek said that her retirement plans have been in place since last August and were not affected by COVID-19 or by Cochrane’s retirement.

Kosek will be retiring after what she described as a “long and rewarding” 41-year career in education, including 14 years as principal of Littlebrook School before moving to PPS central administration in 2017. more