July 17, 2019

By Anne Levin

There has been no swimming, boating, or fishing on Rosedale Lake at Pennington’s Mercer Meadows Park this summer. The culprit is the discovery of a harmful algal bloom (HAB), which has also closed the Spruce Run Reservoir in Hunterdon County and Lake Hopatcong in Morris and Sussex counties.

Stormwater experts blame the problem on a lack of watershed protections and stormwater management at the state level. But according to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), updates to the state’s stormwater management rules, which were rolled back under the Christie administration, have been proposed and are pending adoption.

“This is going to be the summer of closed swimming areas. Rosedale Lake in Mercer County has now joined the list,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, in a press release. “The failure to implement proper watershed protections and stormwater management have allowed harmful algal blooms (HAB) to get out of hand. Lake Hopatcong has been shut down since June 27. The Spruce Run Reservoir has been off limits to swimmers for more than a month. Swartswood Lake was closed for a week in June before reopening. Overdevelopment and stormwater runoff are causing nutrients to pour into our lakes allowing the algae to thrive.” more

By Donald Gilpin

AvalonBayCommunities, Inc., a real estate investment trust (REIT) that already owns 280 apartment units on Witherspoon Street, has recently signed a contract to purchase for an undisclosed amount the 15-acre Thanet property at 100 and 101 Thanet Circle off Terhune Road from the KABR Group, a real estate developer based in Ridgefield Park.

Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert announced at last week’s Council meeting that the town has been in discussions with AvalonBay over “a number of options for including affordable housing as part of any future development there.”

Lempert could not disclose further details about the Thanet sale, but she did comment briefly on the the town’s ongoing work in revising its affordable housing proposal. She noted that they are close to a final plan, but “we have not yet reached a final settlement and, therefore, we are precluded from sharing details of those discussions or our proposed plan at this time.” more

EYES ON THE SKY: Astronomy buffs are hoping for clear weather on three upcoming evenings, when local experts will bring out their telescopes to view the sky above. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

By Anne Levin

For astronomy enthusiasts, summer is prime time to search the night sky. The weather is balmy. People are on vacation, giving them time to watch for meteors, look for passing satellites, and peer through telescopes and binoculars for deep sky objects like the Ring Nebula, the Coathanger, or the Dumbbell Nebula, to name a few.

There are skywatches scheduled for three locations in coming weeks, starting with Stargazing at Morven on Thursday, July 25. Stargazing at Mountain Lakes House is Wednesday, August 7, and Rancocas Nature Center has planned Star Watch/Astronomy Night for Friday, August 30. Princeton University’s Peyton Observatory holds regular star watch events with its 12-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope on the roof of Peyton Hall, with the next two scheduled for July 31 and August 28. more

MEDICAL MISSION: Princeton Charter School (PCS) Science and Music Teacher and Operation Smile Club Advisor Brian Ciuffreda last month joined an Operation Smile mission to Vietnam. The PCS student club has raised money for more than 100 surgeries over the past two years. (Photo courtesy of Operation Smile)

By Donald Gilpin

Brian Ciuffreda was in his 20s and working in business when 9/11 set him on a different trajectory. “I said to myself: ‘I want to do something more meaningful,’” he recalled. “I moved into education.”

After a year as K-12 music director at Trenton Catholic Academy, Ciuffreda came to Princeton Charter School (PCS) in 2003 to teach science. Seventeen years later he is still doing that, but he has pursued a few more assignments along the way, including math teacher, music teacher, jazz ensemble director, professional musician, technology coordinator, and sports coach.

A Renaissance man? “I’ve been called that,” he admitted, and his success at his most recent new job as founder and advisor to the PCS Operation Smile Club since 2017 promises to make him busier than ever in the coming years. more

By Anne Levin

Since founding the Suppers program 14 years ago at her Princeton kitchen table, Dorothy Mullen has helped hundreds of people feel better by teaching them how to avoid processed foods and environmental toxins, and embrace a healthier way of eating to fuel the body and brain. The nonprofit has grown to a network of support groups with more than 30 trained facilitators, who currently hold 23 meetings a month where members cook together, eat together, and share stories and experiences.

Now Suppers is facing a sobering next step. Mullen was diagnosed in early April with stage IV lung cancer, and has elected to forgo treatment. Instead, she is at home, currently on hospice but receiving visitors for an hour each evening, and helping plan for Suppers to carry on her vision without her.

Before founding Suppers, Mullen was involved in the creation of vegetable gardens for Princeton Public Schools (PPS). The Board of Education was to honor her at its meeting Tuesday night, July 16, with a special proclamation. more

By Stuart Mitchner

Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.
—William Wordsworth

The younger you are, the closer you are to the moon, whether it’s dangling in a mobile above the crib, or the funny-faced thing the cow jumped over, or the serene presence just outside the bedroom window you’re saying goodnight to as you serenade your drowsy two-year-old with the little book by Margaret Wise Brown. In the story made at once wondrous and intimate by Clement Hurd’s images, the moon is there with you, in the “great green room,” as close and as real as the teddy bears and the kittens and the telephone. I’m also thinking of the moonlight immediacy captured some 220 years ago by Samuel Taylor Coleridge when the author of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner grabbed his notebook to jot down this entry about his first-born child: “Hartley fell down & hurt himself — I caught him up crying & screaming — & ran out of doors with him. — The Moon caught his eye — he ceased crying immediately; — & his eyes & the tears in them, how they glittered in the Moonlight!”  more

By Nancy Plum

Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts ended its 2019 season last week with a return to the classics, as Canada’s Rolston String Quartet performed the final concert of the series. Formed six years ago at the picturesque and renowned Banff Arts Center in Alberta, Canada, the Rolston String Quartet provided a fitting close to a season featuring innovation by showing the future of classical music through the masterworks of the past. Violinists Luri Lee and Emily Kruspe, violist Hezekiah Leung, and cellist Jonathan Lo dazzled the audience at Richardson Auditorium last Friday night with their musicality and energetic approach to the works of string quartet masters Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven bracketing a complex piece by 20th-century Hungarian composer György Ligeti.

“Papa” Haydn is considered the father of the string quartet genre, which Beethoven subsequently pushed to new musical boundaries. Among Haydn’s most well-known string quartet compositions are those contained in Opus 76, the last complete set of the more than 60 quartets the composer wrote. Quartet No. 63 in Bb Major, the fourth of Opus 76, acquired the nickname “Sunrise” for its depiction of the sun coming up over the horizon, and the Rolston String Quartet brought out well the diverse shadings one sees in an early sunlit sky. In the first movement “allegro con spirito,” the Rolston players placed their musical emphasis on “con spirito,” energetically moving through the allegro with clean sforzandi accents and a light violin sound from Lee’s Baroque-era instrument. Lee and Kruspe also demonstrated especially sweet thirds between the two violin parts. more

SHAKESPEARE AND SOCK PUPPETS: The cast of Princeton Summer Theater’s “Puck’s Midsummer Mischief.” Shows are at the Hamilton Murray Theater, Fridays and Saturdays at 11 a.m. through August 3. For tickets, call (732) 997-0205 or visit princetonsummertheater.org. (Photo by JJ Haddad)

Princeton Summer Theater’s annual children’s production brings together a William Shakespeare classic with sock puppets.

“I didn’t mean to write a children’s play about open borders,” Princeton Summer Theater (PST) playwright-in-resident Annika Bennett said. “But I guess that’s what I did.”

Bennett’s Puck’s Midsummer Mischief is her fourth children’s theater piece commissioned for Princeton Summer Theater. A Seattle-based playwright and arts administrator, Bennett created original works throughout her time at Princeton University (she graduated in 2015) and has found a niche writing plays for audiences of all ages. Her work is accessible for younger theatergoers and fun for older ones, and has a heavy emphasis on audience engagement. more

PERCUSSIVE SOUNDS: The 11th annual So Percussion Summer Institute is at Princeton University through July 27, bringing unique sounds on unique instruments to several locations around town. All of the public performances are free.

So Percussion, the Princeton University Edward T. Cone Ensemble-in-Residence, has begun the 2019 So Percussion Summer Institute (“SoSI”). Now in its 11th year, the two-week chamber music seminar is a summer cultural tradition in Princeton, with showcases of the range of percussion instruments included in the institute.

Free performances are being held through July 27 at locations on and off the campus, including the Lewis Center for the Arts, Small World Coffee, Hinds Plaza, and Fine Hall. This year’s institute centers on the “Culture of Collaboration,” drawing attention to the web of contributors involved in every successful artistic project. In addition to performances and an annual food-packing event for Arm in Arm (formerly the Crisis Ministry of Mercer County), the institute includes premieres of new pieces written by Princeton University graduate student composers, masterclasses with composers and performers, and open readings of participants’ works-in-progress by members of So Percussion. more

“DREAMING IN COLOR”: “Colors of Spring” by Debbie Pisacreta, above, and “Sunday in the Park” by Maxine Shore, below, will be featured in a two-person exhibit on view at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville August 8 through September 1. An opening reception is Saturday, August 10 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Fine artists Debbie Pisacreta and Maxine Shore will exhibit paintings expressing their personal visions in a two-person show, “Dreaming in Color,” on view August 8 through September 1 at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville. An opening reception is Saturday, August 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. more

“THE FIGURE A PORTRAIT MAKES”: This portrait by Ramie Ahmed is among works by ten current or former MCCC Visual Arts students to be featured in a new exhibit at MCCC’s James Kerney Campus Gallery in Trenton July 29 through August 23. A community reception is scheduled for August 2 from 3 to 6 p.m.

Mercer County Community College’s (MCCC’s) James Kerney Campus Gallery (JKCG) in Trenton presents “The Figure a Portrait Makes,” contemporary interpretations of the genre of portraiture by ten current and former MCCC Visual Arts students. The exhibition runs Monday, July 29 through Friday, August 23.

The exhibit features photography by Ramie Ahmed, Timothy Dill, John Labaw, Elizabeth Mayer, Isaiah Mcrae, Julia Pfaar, Regina Ritter, Danielle Rackowski, Zac Santanello, and Grace Spencer. more

FAMILY TRADITION: “We’re set apart by our service, quality products, and long history. Customers know they can rely on our extensive knowledge of the products.” The father and sons team at Gasior’s Furniture & Interior Design includes, from left, Todd, Dick (Dad), and Gregory. They are shown by a Hancock & Moore Austin leather tilt-back chair.

Not many furniture stores are found in a school house. That, however, is the unique setting of Gasior’s Furniture & Interior Design at 2152 Route 206 South in Belle Mead.

Opened in 1918, the Harlingen School accommodated kindergarten through 12th grade until 1972. Six years later, Gasior’s moved in.

“It was a good location for us,” explains founder and owner Richard (Dick) Gasior. “My wife, Donna, and I lived in West Windsor, and we had seen the school house. It provided a lot of nice space.”

The opening of Gasior’s was a continuation of Donna Gasior’s family history, continues Dick Gasior. “My father-in-law had a furniture store in northern New Jersey, and Donna had grown up in the business. We decided to start a venture of our own, and we thought being near Princeton was a plus for the store.” more

GROSS PROFIT: Ben Gross fires a pitch in action this spring in a post-graduate season for the Duke University baseball team. Gross, a former Princeton High and Princeton University standout, went 8-4 with a 4.40 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 75 2/3 innings for the Blue Devils, helping the team advance to the NCAA Super Regional. Gross was chosen by the Minnesota Twins in the 10th round of the MLB draft and is currently pitching for Elizabethton (Tenn.), the organization’s rookie-level farm team in the Appalachian League. (Photo provided courtesy of Duke Athletics)

By Bill Alden

Ben Gross bet on himself and it paid off big time.

After producing a second-team All-Ivy League campaign in 2018 in his senior season for the Princeton University baseball team, star pitcher Gross was picked by the Houston Astros in the 34th round of the Major League Draft.

With a season of college eligibility remaining due to being sidelined by a shoulder injury, Gross declined to sign with the Astros and instead decided to play for Duke University where he had been accepted in a graduate business program. more

X-MAN: Luke Franzoni takes a swing in a game this spring during his freshman season for the Xavier University baseball team. Former Princeton Day School standout Franzoni enjoyed a superb debut season for the Musketeers, batting .254 with a team-high 11 homers and 35 RBIs in 43 games. (Photo by Jason Whitman, provided courtesy of Xavier University)

By Bill Alden

Luke Franzoni produced a power surge in his senior season for Princeton Day School in 2018, batting .538 with 10 homers, and 25 RBIs in 18 games.

As Franzoni moved up the college level, joining the Xavier University baseball team this spring, he struggled in the early going with only one hit in his first 13 at-bats for the Musketeers.

But in Xavier’s home opener against Evansville on March 22, Franzoni regained his power stroke, going 2-for-4 with a homer and five RBIs. more

SAVING THE SEASON: Gib Versfeld makes a save in action this spring for the Amherst College men’s lacrosse team. Sophomore Versfeld, a former Hun School standout, helped Amherst reach the NCAA Division III title game, taking over in the cage midway through the season after the team’s starting goalie Chad Simons was sidelined by injury. Versfeld ended up with a 10.79 goals against average and a 52.7 save percentage this spring, making 15 appearances with eight starts. (Photo provided courtesy of Amherst College)

By Bill Alden

For Gib Versfeld, attending the NCAA men’s lacrosse championship weekend was a family tradition over the last decade.

This spring, however, Versfeld found himself on the field at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia for the climax of the lacrosse season, starting at goalie for the Amherst College men’s squad as it played Cabrini in the NCAA Division III championship game.

“It is something I have always dreamt of, it is literally 30 minutes from my house,” said Versfeld, a former Hun School standout who hails from Langhorne, Pa. more

REACHING AN APEX: Chris Bellofatto of Apex Sport, left, guards a foe in recent action in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Last Wednesday, Bellofatto scored 19 points to help Apex defeat Olives 76-28 and post its fifth straight victory. On Monday, Apex fell 63-52 to defending champion Loyaltees to see its winning streak snapped as it moved to 5-2. In other action on Monday, NJ Spiritwear defeated Hometown Moving and Storage 69-46 while Sakana edged RRBB 66-64. The league wraps up regular season play on July 17 with the playoffs starting on July 22. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Chris Bellofatto wasn’t fazed even though his Apex Sport team fell to NJ Spiritwear on opening night this season in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.

Knowing that Apex has plenty of talent, Bellofatto sensed that it wouldn’t take long for the squad to get in synch in the wake of the 58-45 loss to Spiritwear.

“We all don’t play together any time but the summer,” said Bellofatto, a 5’10 guard who starred at North Hunterdon High and went on to play at Stevens Institute of Technology. “A lot of us play off of Matt [Mancuso] and we are all starting to get used to him too.” more

July 10, 2019

Pick-your-own blueberries was just one of the activities at the Blueberry Bash, held last weekend at Terhune Orchards on Cold Soil Road. The annual event also featured a blueberry bake-off contest, wagon and pony rides, live music, a puppet show, wine tasting, and plenty of blueberry treats. Festivalgoers share their favorite ways to enjoy blueberries in this week’s Town Talk on page 6. (Photos by Erica M. Cardenas)

By Anne Levin

A temporary restraining order issued Monday by Mercer County Superior Court Judge Mary Jacobson prevented Princeton Council from passing a resolution that would have ended its agreement with a sewer repair company for work on Spruce Street and Linden Lane.

At its meeting Monday evening, July 8, the governing body put aside the resolution that would have terminated its contract with Integrated Construction and Utilities of New Jersey (ICUNJ). The company is connected to an investigation into alleged illegal dumping at the River Road sewer department facility. ICUNJ, which does sewer repair, demolition, and asbestos abatement, has done work for Princeton for over a decade.

After it was revealed last month that a container filled with asbestos materials was at the River Road facility, the municipality informed ICUNJ that its contract would be canceled. The company responded by filing a lawsuit against the town, saying it was simply following directions from Princeton officials in disposing of materials at the site, and therefore should not be punished. more

By Donald Gilpin

Looking ahead to next month’s action-packed week of educational, celebratory, and athletic events, reflecting this year’s theme of “Celebrating Life by Honoring Our Past, Recognizing Our Families and Lifting Up Our Town,” the Joint Effort Princeton Witherspoon-Jackson Safe Streets Program has announced its honorees for 2019.

During the August 3-11 festivities, John Broadway, Ida Belle Dixon, Cecelia B. Hodges, Laura Wooten (posthumously), Mamie Oldham, Bob and Barbara Hillier (Town Topics shareholders), and Minnie and Eric Craig will receive the 2019 Paul Robeson Spirit Award.

Leighton Newlin and Lance Liverman will be honored as the 2019 Witherspoon-Jackson Citizens of the Year, and Frances Broadway Craig and Cynthia “Chip” Fisher (posthumously) will receive the 2019 Jim Floyd Memorial Lifetime Achievement Awards. more

By Donald Gilpin

Hundreds of Princeton area residents are expected to rally in Hinds Plaza this Friday from 7-9 p.m. to support immigrant rights and to protest the treatment of immigrant families by the current administration.

“We are expecting a contingent of students associated with LEDA (Leadership Enterprise for a Diverse America) from Princeton, as well as some families directly affected by the policy, people of faith who believe this is not what their church/mosque/synagogue has taught them, and many community members who believe it is their duty as human beings to show compassion to those seeking refuge,” said local organizer and Indivisible Cranbury leader Laura Zurfluh. more

ROMANTIC AND HUMOROUS: The film “Strings Attached” by Peri Segel is among 18 short works by aspiring high school and college-age filmmakers, at Princeton Public Library July 17 and 18.

By Anne Levin

The Princeton Student Film Festival was launched 16 years ago to give young, local students a chance to test out their filmmaking talents. Held each summer at Princeton Public Library, the festival has grown and broadened over the years, much to the delight of its founders.

“When we started, it was just a handful of local kids with a couple of weeks’ notice,” said Susan Conlon, who heads the library’s Youth Services Department. “But now, we have this great mix of genres and styles from a variety of places. This is not just a teen festival. I think anyone interested in film who attends will be blown away by how talented these young people are.” more

ACE MENTORING: Mike Roseborough, Princeton Family YMCA’s ACE (Accept. Complete. Excel.) project director, is working with Princeton Public Schools on the program to reduce chronic absenteeism at Princeton High School. (Photo courtesy of Princeton Family YMCA)

By Donald Gilpin

Reducing chronic absenteeism at Princeton High School (PHS) is the goal of the YMCA’s ACE (Accept. Complete. Excel.) Program, which is kicking off this year with the support of a $300,000 grant over the next five years from the Princeton Area Community Foundation (PACF).

Citing an absenteeism rate of nearly 30 percent among PHS junior and senior students of color, ACE Project Director Mike Roseborough, who joined the Y’s team last December, said, “We want to reduce that number by junior year, to help them academically and get them on a path to success, to give them the tools to compete. We want them to excel.”

The Princeton Family YMCA and PPS were one of 10 nonprofit and school partnerships selected by the PACF to win support through its All Kids Thrive initiative, which is focused on reducing chronic absenteeism in Mercer County. more

By Anne Levin

Photo by John Simpson

The June 26 passing of composer and educator Peter Westergaard has inspired numerous tributes in the Princeton University music community, of which he was a prominent member for five decades. In a story on the University’s website, numerous faculty, former students, and colleagues praised Westergaard, citing his warmth and sense of humor as well as his musical skills.

Westergaard, who was 88, died at Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center after a brief battle with cancer.

“Peter shaped the artistic and intellectual direction of the music department in countless ways, not the least of which was supporting the intersections between performance, composition, and scholarship,” said Wendy Heller, the Scheide Professor of Music History who chairs the music department. Heller also praised Westergaard’s “extraordinary intelligence, sense of humor, gift for language, and deep understanding of poetry.”

The website quotes Scott Burnham, the Scheide Professor of Music History, Emeritus: “Peter combined cultural depth with a deft touch, and he brought this gift to bear upon all his creative work. He was an endlessly generous presence in the music department, always there for his students and colleagues in the richest possible way.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

The performers in Friday morning’s backyard circus are identified in the Audubon guide as Common Grackles, “a very familiar species on suburban lawns, striding about with deliberate steps,” searching for insects, nesting “in small colonies,” and perching “in adjacent treetops to sing their creaking, grating songs.” What held me and had me smiling, however, was the visual music they were making as they gathered, one by one, on the long limb of a hemlock tree until six of them were sitting in a row, the limb rocking under them, as if they were sharing the fun. It may be a common sight for this common species, but I never saw it before and I doubt that I ever will again.

To go from watching birds riding a limb to reading Proust, who was born on July 10, 1871, is easier said than done, considering that each of the three volumes of the 1981 Random House edition of Remembrance of Things Past tops a thousand pages. With five days to deadline, all I can do is pack my knapsack with possibilities (birds, summertime, the seaside, the moon landing, the primal joy of victorious athletes) and prepare for the voyage by reading around in the edition of Proust’s Letters edited and translated by Minna Curtis. My guide is the 20-year-old English girl I encountered there. Proust’s biographer George D. Painter says it was “the beautiful Marie Nordlinger” who led Proust “near to the heart of the labyrinth.” Short and slender, “with delicate Pre-Raphaelite hands, dark eyes, full lips, and a look of warm sincerity and intelligence,” the talented young painter/sculptor from Manchester was “a godsend” in Proust’s struggle to translate John Ruskin into French. A note in my 1949 edition of the Letters says that she “not only initiated him into the English texts but supplied him with endless information and assistance” and was “the only woman younger than himself, highly intellectual and of his own social background with whom he ever seems to have carried on a friendship.”  more

By Nancy Plum

Of the trumpet, French horn, and trombone, the most familiar is likely the trumpet, thanks to a repertory of 17th and 18th-century music featuring the instrument. The French horn is also well known though a number of concerti over several centuries. The trombone, however, is rarely featured in orchestral settings, and is a pleasure for audiences to hear and see close up. Princeton University Summer Chamber Concerts brought these three instruments together last Tuesday night at Richardson Auditorium with a performance by the New York Brass Arts Trio. Definitely an ensemble for the 21st century, the Brass Arts Trio is comprised of trumpeter Joe Burgstaller, French horn player David Jolley, and trombonist Haim Avitsur, who came together in this performance to demonstrate the power of their instruments within the finesse of ensemble playing.

Burgstaller, Jolley, and Avitsur are not only expert performers, but also imaginative arrangers; almost all of the pieces on Tuesday night’s program were arranged by one of them. The Trio presented works spanning three centuries, beginning with David Jolley’s arrangements of three sinfonias of Johann Sebastian Bach. In these short pieces, the three brass instruments were able to achieve appropriate lightness in melodic lines, as well as dynamic contrasts. Burgstaller found numerous opportunities for ornamentation in music tailor-made for a bright trumpet sound. more