December 28, 2022

Emerging From Pandemic, Princeton Plans Its Future

“SUPPORT UKRAINE”: Demonstrators gathered in front of Nassau Presbyterian Church in March at a Peace in Ukraine vigil, sponsored by the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action. The crowd spilled over from Palmer Square’s Tiger Park across the street. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

By Donald Gilpin and Anne Levin

Moving into the new year, most Princeton residents and visitors have taken off their masks and are looking to establish a “new normal,” despite health officials’ warnings and signs of a winter “tripledemic” of COVID-19, along with rising flu and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) cases. 

Though Princeton continues to suffer from pandemic fatigue, and COVID-19 is likely to provide another surprise or two in the coming year, many signs point to a town emerging from the debilitating affliction.

Conflict was widespread in Princeton in 2022. “Without contraries is no progression,” William Blake wrote more than 230 years ago, and many of the stories that will be remembered from the past year in Princeton involve contraries, conflicts — some continuing into 2023, but many resolved — and much progress.

Princeton Council returned to in-person meetings in September, though the Zoom option remained and provided welcome access for many.  Likewise for workers, shoppers, and businesses, many transitioned back to live physical attendance, but a hybrid mode — part remote —prevailed.

Political activity and citizen engagement remained at a high level in Princeton throughout the year, with demonstrations in opposition to hate and bigotry and in support of Ukraine, voters’ rights, gun legislation, abortion rights, and more.

The town is moving towards a new master plan, with extensive community involvement and input on the future of Princeton. Affordable housing projects moved forward in 2022, at least some of the parking issues have been resolved, a new waste disposal collection system is in place, and in February Council approved a Special Improvement District (SID), establishing a nonprofit Princeton Business Partnership to support the downtown.

In May the hotly disputed question of retail cannabis sale in Princeton was resolved, when Council decided that the cons outweigh the pros, at least for now.

A conflict between the town and the University culminated in July when Prospect Avenue was declared a historic district, following the University’s agreement to revise its ES+SEAS construction plans to avoid demolition of a historic Queen Anne house and disruption of the streetscape. And Princeton University took significant steps to resolve other conflicts in its decisions on renaming buildings and other iconography and its agreement to withdraw investments from fossil fuel companies.

Many construction projects moved forward in 2022, with related traffic disruptions on Chambers Street as work on the new Graduate Hotel proceeds, and extensive utility work and new sidewalk construction for Witherspoon Street. A more diverse mix of trees is promised on Witherspoon to replace the invasive Bradford pear trees that were cut down in March.

A safer Rosedale Road reopened in August with a new roundabout in place.

Princeton University proceeded with construction on several fronts: development of the Lake Campus, a dramatic expansion of the Princeton University Art Museum, the opening of two new residential colleges, and the construction of the new Environmental Sciences and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (ES+SEAS) campus.

Rider University’s removal of Westminster Choir College from its Princeton campus two years ago remains the subject of litigation, as Rider continues efforts to sell the property, which remains mostly empty.

On issues of sustainability, a plastic bag ban going into effect in May, the gas-powered leaf blower ban in place now for seven months of the year, and an electric vehicle event were just some of many significant initiatives led by the town and the University in the battle against climate change.

With a number of new businesses in town, and new leaders at the helm of several organizations, Princeton in 2023 looks forward to resolving some of its ongoing conflicts, completing many projects currently underway, and confronting whatever new challenges the new year may bring.

Health Department Challenges

In the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus continued to change in its spread and severity. Demands on the Princeton Health Department and the local medical community were relentless.

The year 2022 started amid a surge in cases brought on by the Omicron variant. “Princeton Attempts to Slow Pandemic Spread” read the January 5 Town Topics banner headline, as the surge reached record high case numbers with 161 new cases reported in Princeton in just seven days.  On January 10 Mayor Mark Freda and the Office of Emergency Management declared a state of emergency in Princeton and mandated mask wearing in public indoor spaces.

“Since December 21, case counts have exploded at an exponential rate, “Princeton Deputy Administrator for Health and Community Services Jeff Grosser told a Princeton Council meeting. Fortunately, although the virus was spreading rapidly, Omicron proved to be less severe than the 2021 Delta variant. The health department focused on assistance for older, vulnerable residents, hospitalizations remained low, and the surge subsided even more rapidly than it had arrived.

Case numbers were declining by the end of January, the town mask mandate ended by February 1, and the Town Topics headline on February 23 read ”Charting ‘New Normal’ as Case Numbers Drop.”

Health officials remained cautious, however, and were prepared for a small uptick in cases in April and a larger surge towards the end of May, at which point local schools reinstated mask mandates.

As summer arrived the COVID-19 threat again waned, but a completely new virus, monkeypox or mpox, threatened the country, with some of the severest outbreaks taking place in New York City

and northern New Jersey counties. The White House declared a national health emergency on August 4, but through an abundance of caution, the rapid spread of health information, and a vaccine, monkeypox seems to have been largely contained.  As of December 21, there had been 763 cases reported in New Jersey and just one death in the state attributed to monkeypox. Mercer County reported just 22 cases.

The fall season brought good news in the form of a bivalent COVID-19 booster that targets the original COVID-19 strains as well as the new variants, but a “tripledemic” of bad news in the form of an early flu season “with a vengeance,” according to the New Jersey Hospital Association (NJHA); a predictable rise in COVID-19 case numbers; and the rapid increase of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) cases, mostly in young children, but also in a number of older adults. The NJHA reported a record number of nearly 950 emergency department visits for children with respiratory illnesses in the days following Thanksgiving.

As Princeton heads into a tripledemic winter, Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Craig Gronczewski is expressing cautious optimism. He predicts that “the worst of COVID is behind us” and that the Princeton community and its health services will be able to meet the challenges of the three viruses. 

“Even though we’re busier than we’ve been, this is the most comfortable I’ve been heading into winter since before COVID,” he said.

With COVID-19 rates on the rise again throughout the state, Dr. George DiFerdinando, an internist and chair of the Princeton Board of Health, urged everyone to keep up with vaccines and boosters and to follow the familiar health guidelines. “We’re all weary of this,” he said. “We can prevent disease and death, but the persistence that is required is challenging us all. This staying with the plan — it’s really hard.”

GETTING CLOSER: The demolition and construction continued in September on Witherspoon Street between Nassau and Spring streets, where an improvement project has been underway for months. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

Construction and Development

There were numerous construction projects taking place simultaneously in the downtown area, causing some rerouting of traffic that was not to everybody’s liking. Businesses along Witherspoon Street, where underground utility work and the installation of new sidewalk pavers have caused limited and sometimes full closure to traffic, were especially hard hit.

But the work shut down for the holiday season, and is expected to resume in mid-January. Sanitary and storm sewers were relocated and upgraded this year. Sidewalk, curb, and road replacement on Witherspoon Street is still in progress. Construction is expected to last until May 2023.

A few blocks away, the Graduate Hotel project continues. Chambers Street, where a row of stores has been demolished to make way for the addition to 20 Nassau Street and the main entrance of the hotel, was made one-way going north during the demolition and construction. The developers had originally planned to keep the street open in both directions during the process, but decided it wasn’t safe to do so. Council members and some residents were not happy with the change.

Work continues at the former U.S Post Office in Palmer Square, which is to be the new location of Triumph Brewery. The project to move the restaurant from 138 Nassau Street to the Square has been planned for years, and construction finally got underway in 2021. The opening at the new location was targeted for the first quarter of 2023.

No one was happy to see the graceful canopy of Bradford pear trees on Witherspoon Street cut down in March. But the trees were deemed self-destructive and invasive, even listed on the Princeton Environmental Commission’s do-not-plant list, so they were removed. Princeton’s Municipal Arborist Taylor Sapudar said a more diverse mix of trees, which co-exist well, would be planted.

The campus of Princeton Theological Seminary was transformed this year by the removal of buildings on the Tennent-Roberts-Whiteley campus, much to the consternation of the preservation-minded and some residents of the surrounding neighborhood. Since the buildings were in deteriorating condition and not designated historic, the school opted to demolish rather than restore. Princeton-based developer Herring Properties is the contract owner of the former seminary property, which is designated as an Area in Need of Redevelopment. In an email, Herring said he plans to redevelop the site as upper tier apartments surrounded by several parks. Herring will be working with the town and community to obtain approvals in the spring of 2023. The independent Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development, formed two years ago, is urging that public input be a priority at open meetings before final approvals are made.

After construction of a roundabout at General Johnson Drive and Greenway Meadows near Johnson Park School, Rosedale Road reopened in August. The three-month project was designed to make the intersection, where an elderly resident was fatally struck by a motorist in August 2021, safer for everyone. Despite some concerns voiced by residents about signage, the project, which is considered a mini roundabout meant to allow the majority of traffic to maneuver around the central island at a slow speed, has been positively received.

At the end of June, a plan to build one of New Jersey’s biggest warehouse complexes, at the former site of Cyanamid on U.S. Route 1, was approved by West Windsor’s planning board after vociferous protest from many members of the community. Known as Bridge Point 8, the project is predicted to result in a 62 percent traffic increase at Clarksville and Quakerbridge roads compared to the level in 2019. The approval had 82 conditions attached. It needs further approval from Mercer County, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and Department of Transportation. The land has been cleared and it appears that work is already underway.

Municipal Actions

Princeton Council returned to in-person meetings in September, while continuing to make them available on Zoom. Several topics dominated discussions and actions this year, including parking, reworking the master plan, affordable housing, waste disposal, and helping businesses still struggling from the pandemic.

The issue of permit parking for employees of local businesses on residential streets caused emotions to run high. Proposals by the Permit Parking Task Force were challenged by a group called Sensible Streets, made up mostly of residents of the town’s Western Section who don’t want the parking in front of their homes. The owners of some small businesses, in turn, challenged Sensible Streets’ claims. The task force opted to refer the issues to administrative and legal staff.

Council approved the return of overnight parking rules on many town streets, which were suspended during the pandemic. Beginning in January, the Princeton Police Department will start ticketing cars parked between 2 and 6 a.m. While overnight parking is allowed under some circumstances, a permit is required from the town.

At the end of February, Council voted unanimously to establish a Special Improvement District (SID) for areas of the downtown, establishing a nonprofit called Princeton Business Partnership. Businesses pay an annual assessment that goes toward economic and physical improvements. The issue was controversial, with some business owners expressing concerns. But it ultimately passed.

Surveys and open house events were held throughout the year to get public input on reworking of the town’s master plan. A rezoning request by the Hun School for two sites on the campus was approved by Council after neighbors, some of whom were concerned about traffic, noise, and future building projects, came up with a compromise that allowed the action, with some guarantees for no further construction on the site, and the preservation of some green space.

Council adopted ordinances related to affordable housing developments. The Alice, at Harrison Street and Terhune Road, has 125 units with 25 set aside as affordable. The second project, the Thanet development being built by AvalonBay at the southern end of Princeton Shopping Center, has 200 units, 40 of which are set aside as affordable. A 25-unit apartment building, designated 100 percent affordable, is under construction at Princeton Community Village. Several more projects are approved in areas throughout Princeton.

The governing body approved a contract for a new system of collection for solid and bulk waste, but is still considering how to dispose of organics. Outdoor dining rules put into effect during the pandemic are continuing. At the end of November, Council voted in favor of an ordinance prohibiting bicyclists, skateboarders, and roller skaters from using sidewalks in certain sections of town. The ordinance was an amendment to an existing regulation regarding where the ban is implemented. The north side of Nassau Street between Bayard Lane and Maple Street, sections of Palmer Square, and the west side of Witherspoon Street between Nassau Street and Paul Robeson Place are among the sidewalks subject to the ruling.

Cannabis Clashes

After six months of often fierce debate over the pros and cons of opening one or more cannabis dispensaries in town, Princeton Council, at a May 17 special Zoom meeting, decided against the proposal. Somewhat reluctantly, Council concluded that for the foreseeable future the retail sale of cannabis in Princeton should not be permitted.

Councilwoman Eve Niedergang, chair of the Cannabis Task Force that had recommended in November 2021 that Council allow up to three cannabis retail establishments in town, acknowledged the widespread rancorous and time-consuming opposition and noted that the issue had had a “disturbingly and perhaps uniquely divisive” impact on the community. 

Other Council members, some citing the need for further preparation, planning, and education, others emphasizing the need to move past the conflict and get on to other more pressing matters, all seemed to accept that Council should not approve a cannabis dispensary in town at this time.

“There are lots of reasons for us to pause, a whole bunch of reasons not to rush into this, a lot that still needs to be done,” said Mayor Mark Freda.

New Jersey voters approved the legalization of recreational cannabis in a November 2020 referendum vote, and the nearest cannabis store is just a few miles away on Route 1, with deliveries available throughout the state. 

As the debate heated up throughout the winter, the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education and the Princeton Board of Health both weighed in with admonitory statements and calls for more extensive planning and preparations.

A March 29 Council hearing on the issue was attended by about 345 people on Zoom, with about 35 members of the public still lined up to speak when the meeting ended after nearly four hours.

LOVE BIRDS: A pair of cardinals met in a local backyard right before Valentine’s Day. The Princeton Public Library invited the community to join in the Great Backyard Bird Count and offered a variety of related programs and activities in February. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

Sustainability and the Environment

Shoppers in Princeton seem to have adapted easily to New Jersey’s ban on single-use plastic bags and polystyrene foam food service products, which went into effect in May. In its first year, an ordinance designed to prevent the use of noisy, harmful gas-powered leaf blowers during certain months of the year resulted in several notices of violations, but no fines have been imposed and those involved are reported to be doing their best to comply. The ban will be lifted in mid-March before it returns from May 16 to September 30. In an effort to help with the costs of switching to battery-powered equipment, Sustainable Princeton distributed $21,000 from its Landscaping Transition Fund to small, local landscaping companies to help with the costs of battery-powered equipment.

Sustainable Princeton was busy with several projects this year. The organization held its eCommuter Fest in September, on the campus of Westminster Choir College instead of Princeton Shopping Center, which has a large area blocked off for construction. The move allowed for more electric cars and bikes, plus the addition of some food vendors.

Informational events about climate change solutions such as community solar, stormwater management, green building techniques, and sustainable landscaping practices reached more than 10,000 community members, Sustainable Princeton reports. But more work is needed as climate change becomes increasingly evident. “Our team completed a five-year strategic plan last year that refines our focus to reduce Princeton’s greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen our resilience to the impacts of the changing climate, and protect our local ecosystem,” the organization wrote in an end-of-year release.

The Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) has been just as busy, with such events as the Open Space Community Science Day held in partnership with the Rogers Refuge and Princeton Public Library. The organization supported the preservation of 153 acres representing one of the only two old growth forests remaining in Princeton. Among its numerous other accomplishments this year, PEC supported initiatives related to development at Hilltop Park and the Redding Circle Detention Basin Retrofit project. PEC also held a dedication in memory of longtime secretary Debra Mercantini at the dogwood tree in Barbara Boggs Sigmund Park.

The Friends of Princeton Open Space launched a local pollinator project during the summer.  D&R Greenway Land Trust announced the donation of the late philanthropist Betty Wold Johnson’s Hillside Farm in Hopewell, adding to the organization’s more than 22,000 acres of land preserved in New Jersey. The donation was made by Johnson’s sons, Robert Wood Johnson and Christopher Wold Johnson, who own the New York Jets football team.

PRINCETON PRIDE PARADE 2022: Thousands of marchers and supporters were in downtown Princeton on June 18 for the first in-person Pride Parade since 2019. An afterparty followed at the YMCA field on Paul Robeson Place. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

Political Activism

Rallies, demonstrations, vigils, and many other manifestations of political activism, most in response to issues of national or international concern, were frequent in Princeton in 2022.

The war in Ukraine; perceived threats to democracy in the form of election deniers, Supreme Court decisions, and climate change; gun violence; antisemitism and other forms of hate and bigotry; curtailment of voting rights and abortion rights; and famine in Afghanistan were all issues that galvanized Princeton area residents to show up and make their voices heard, most often at Hinds Plaza outside the Princeton Public Library or at Tiger Park in Palmer Square.

Students demanding that Princeton University stop investing in fossil fuel companies and students at the Princeton Theological Seminary calling for their chapel to drop the name of a slaveholding, anti-abolition 19th century seminary professor, both elicited positive responses from their institutions.

Leading much of Princeton’s political activism was the Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), headed by its executive director the Rev. Robert Moore. The CFPA remained steadfast in its efforts to promote peace through its advocacy of diplomacy not war, its peace voter guides, its support of Ukraine, its annual conferences and multifaith service for peace, its opposition to hate and bigotry in all forms, and its opposition to gun violence.

The Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice, led by Robt Seda-Schreiber, had a busy year, cosponsoring a number of rallies and providing constant support for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies. Their year was highlighted by a move into spacious new quarters at 12 Stockton Street in March, where they hosted numerous cultural, political, and entertainment events, and a Pride Parade in June that brought thousands of people to the march up Witherspoon Street to a celebration on the YMCA field.

A Bans Off Our Bodies Day of Action organized by the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey brought more than 500 demonstrators to Hinds Plaza on May 14 to call for protection and expansion of access to abortion care. A month later on June 11 — in the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo, Uvalde, and Tulsa — more than 350 gathered at the plaza again for a “Day of Action” to demand legislation against gun violence.  A Save Our Democracy rally sponsored by eight different organizations on September 17 brought demonstrators to Hinds Plaza again, this time demanding protection of voting rights in the lead-up to the 2022 election.

At a Solidarity Vigil Against Hate and Bigotry sponsored by CFPA, BRCSJ, the Princeton Community Democratic Organization, and Not In Our Town Princeton in Tiger Park on December 17, demonstrators called for peace and good will and an end to all types of prejudice.

THE P-RADE RETURNS: Grand Marshal Heather M. Butts ’94, center, and other officials led the way as the Princeton University P-rade, held virtually for the past two years, returned on May 21 with a march through campus during Reunions Weekend. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

Princeton University

“Persistence” was the theme of Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber’s address to the graduating seniors, graduate students, families, and friends assembled in Princeton Stadium on May 24 for the University’s 275th commencement ceremony.  Persistence, “the ability and drive to keep going when things got hard,” he said, would be the quality that mattered most “across the many dimensions of achievement or talent.”

Princeton University displayed abundant

achievement and talent during 2022, as well as the persistence to work through challenges.

The campus continues to grow rapidly, with two new residential colleges opening; a major expansion of the Princeton University Art Museum progressing; the Lake Campus construction of graduate housing, parking and athletic facilities continuing; and the development of the new complex for Environmental Studies and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (ES+ SEAS).

With the establishment of the Prospect Avenue Historic District in July the University and the town resolved a long, at times contentious, conflict over the expansion of the ES+SEAS complex. A year earlier the University had proposed to demolish three Queen Anne Victorian houses on the north side of Prospect in order to move the 91 Prospect former Court Clubhouse across the street into their place to make room for a pavilion and entrance into the ES+SEAS campus. 

Protests from members of the local community and alumni, public hearings, and Princeton Council involvement ensued, before a compromise was achieved. The University revised its proposal so that the houses will be preserved, and all parties agreed to commit to retaining the quality of the historic character of the street.

In another landmark decision, resolving at least in part a longstanding conflict, the University in late September announced that it would eliminate all its endowment holdings in fossil fuel companies and would dissociate from 90 companies involved in high-polluting sectors of the fossil fuel industry.

The decision by the University’s Board of Trustees was the culmination of almost a decade of student, faculty, and alumni advocacy for divestment led by Divest Princeton, a campus activist group. Divest Princeton organized numerous rallies on campus over the years, and filed a legal complaint in February 2022 with the New Jersey attorney general.

The University pressed on with many initiatives to become more diverse, inclusive, and accessible. A partnership with the United Negro College Fund and five historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) was announced in May, and by November 10 collaborative research projects in the natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and engineering between Princeton faculty and their peers at the five HBCUs were officially underway.

In its ongoing efforts to ensure that students from all backgrounds can afford a Princeton education, the University will be enhancing its financial aid program, it announced in September, so that most families earning less than $100,000 a year will pay nothing and many families with income above $100,000 will receive additional aid.

The Council of the Princeton University Community Committee on Naming moved ahead in 2022, most notably in celebrating the dedication of Laura Wooten Hall on October 26 to recognize the former Princeton resident who was a campus dining staff member for more than 27 years and the longest serving election poll worker in the United States. She volunteered at local, primary, and general election polls in New Jersey for 79 years until she died in March 2019 at age 98.

Currently under investigation by the naming committee is the huge statue near East Pyne Hall of John Witherspoon, sixth president of Princeton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and also a slaveholder (as were all of Princeton’s first nine presidents). A petition signed by about 300 graduate students has called for the statue to be removed and replaced by a plaque that delineates both positive and negative aspects of Witherspoon’s life.

As usual, Princeton University students and faculty won an abundance of prestigious awards — Rhodes and Marshall scholarships, MacArthur “Genius Grants,” and too many others to mention. Of particular distinction were Ben Bernanke, former Princeton professor and economics department chair, who was awarded the 2022 Nobel Prize in economic sciences, and Princeton University Mathematics Professor June Huh, who won the 2022 Fields Medal in July and a MacArthur Fellowship three months later.

The year at Princeton University is ending on a mixed note of sorrow and gratitude: sorrow as the campus mourns the mysterious death in October of Misrach Ewunetie, Class of 2024, which is still under investigation by the medical examiner’s office; and gratitude as it celebrates the gift to the Princeton University Art Museum of eight important abstract works by Rothko, de Kooning, and others from the collection of Preston H. Haskell III, a 1960 Princeton alumnus. Haskell’s name will be on a new education center when the museum reopens its doors in a greatly expanded design in 2024.

Princeton Public Schools

With Superintendent Carol Kelley beginning her second year at the helm, the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) happily approached post-pandemic conditions. Students and staff were back in person, and the mask mandate was lifted for the fall start of the 2022-23 school year.

Several administrators in new positions and several new faces comprised the leadership team, including Nancy Whalen as interim principal at Riverside Elementary, Kimberly Tew as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, and Sarah Moore in a new budget-neutral position as supervisor of elementary education.

At Princeton High School there were new classrooms, new collaborative spaces, and a new wellness studio, built with funds from a 2018 referendum. More facilities improvements are on the way with funds from the ongoing implementation of a $17.5 million bond referendum, passed overwhelmingly in January 2022, to replace leaky roofs and outdated HVAC systems at all the district schools.

There was commendation in October for the widespread initiatives underway with the help of Sustainable Princeton in all the schools, as Johnson Park and Littlebrook elementary schools were awarded Sustainability Certification at the bronze level from Sustainable Jersey.

There was more good news on the academic front in October as PPS reported on standardized testing data from the New Jersey Department of Education. Teachers and administrators pointed out suggestions for improvement, but overall, in the face of significant declines across the country during the pandemic in both math and reading, PPS students continued to excel, performing well above state averages. 

The campaign for three seats on the PPS Board of Education elicited much criticism and heated debate over the future of the district in the weeks leading up to the November 8 election, but the Princeton voters supported the three incumbents in what looked like a vote of confidence for the district and its leaders.

Optimism is high for 2023, with the PPS announcement that four new preschool classes will be added in September 2023, increasing the number of students attending free preschool from 90 to 150. Closing achievement gaps for students from disadvantaged backgrounds has been a priority for PPS, and “high quality preschools is a game changer in terms of equity,” said PPS Supervisor of Preschool and Special Projects Valerie Ulrich.

Westminster Choir College

For the beleaguered music college campus on Walnut Lane that Rider University’s administration has been trying to sell since 2017, the saga continues. Rider, with which Westminster Choir College (WCC) merged in 1992, moved what’s left of Westminster’s student body and faculty to its Lawrence Township campus two years ago.

Efforts to reverse that decision and block the sale are the subject of ongoing litigation by students, alumni, and Princeton Theological Seminary. In the meantime, the 22-acre Princeton campus sits mostly empty. The Westminster Foundation announced in September that the real estate and investment firm ML7 had made an offer to buy both the college and the Princeton property.

“Rider’s plan continues to be to sell all or much of the campus but has not been marketing the property because of the ongoing litigation,” said Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown. “The Westminster Conservatory is still located and operating from that location.”

According to an article in the Rider News, Westminster Choir College — known for its famous choirs which have performed with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Berlin Philharmonic, among others — had 72 full-time freshmen in 2016. This year, there are only 18. “We are working hard in our recruitment efforts for WCC but, as with all academic programs at the University, we must continually evaluate their success and sustainability,” Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo was quoted in the story.

Members of Rider’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors issued a resolution to trustees of the University urging them to remove Dell’Omo, citing his strategic policies, including attempts to sell the Westminster campus, “which have led to a weakening of the University’s financial condition” including downgrades of its bond rating. The board responded by expressing support for Dell’Omo and his leadership team.

PORCHFEST COMES TO TOWN: A front porch on Linden Lane was one of 11 locations hosting a total of 61 performers, including Grant Peterson, shown here, for the inaugural Princeton Porchfest music festival on April 23. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

Performing Arts

The Princeton Festival returned to live performances at a new venue, a large tent on the grounds of Morven Museum and Garden. The season was a success, and the Princeton Festival announced that the centerpiece of the 2023 season, again at Morven, will be The Barber of Seville.

Another successful venture was Porchfest and April Arts, launched by the Arts Council of Princeton. More than 60 bands entertained at the well-attended event, on 11 front porches across town. The festival, which replaces Communiversity, will return on April 29, 2023.

The Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra appointed Joseph A. Capone as its new executive director. Trenton Music Makers and Trenton Children’s Chorus joined forces to form Capital Harmony Works.

“SUPERBLOOM”: The Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) unveiled its latest community mural on the corner of Spring and Witherspoon streets in May. Designed and painted by Fiona Chinkan, the colorful work celebrating spring was the ACP’s sixth public art piece in that location. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)


There was a lot of neighborly activity in this section of town, Princeton’s 20th Historic District. In May, a duplex on Lytle Street, built by volunteers led by Habitat for Humanity, became the home of two income-qualified families. The site borders the Mary Moss Playground, which was renovated in 2018. The project, on a narrow lot, was designed by OSK Design Partners.

Longtime residents and their descendants took a trip down memory lane at a “Naming Party” held at the Arts Council of Princeton on June 25. Photographic collages made by late artist Romus Broadway were on display, as part of a collaborative project with the Joint Effort Safe Streets Program, the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society, the Witherspoon-Jackson Neighborhood Association, and Princeton University’s Special Collections.

“DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF OUR ANCESTORS”: On August 5, the opening day of the 2022 Joint Effort Safe Streets celebrations, 18 vinyl banners, depictions of the late Romus Broadway’s photo collages of the people of the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, were mounted on utility poles around the community. (Photo courtesy of the Arts Council of Princeton)

Later in the summer, the Arts Council produced vinyl banners of Broadway’s collages that were installed on poles along Paul Robeson Place, John Street, Birch Avenue, and Witherspoon Street. Broadway was known for the collages he made of numerous events in Princeton, particularly involving people from Witherspoon-Jackson. The collages were acquired from his family by Princeton University, which gave the Arts Council 20 of them in digital format that were used to create the banners.

The annual Joint Effort Safe Streets event was held August 5-14. Discussions, presentations, a gospel music festival, a Black families recognition, and basketball were all part of the program.


Princeton voters supported incumbents in election races in 2022.

In a closely contested race Debbie Bronfeld, Susan Kanter, and Dafna Kendal were re-elected to three-year terms on the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education, defeating challengers Margarita “Rita” Rafalovsky and Lishian “Lisa” Wu.  Democrats Michelle Pirone Lambros and Mia Sacks ran unopposed to win re-election to Princeton Council.

Mercer County election results were delayed due to an error in the programming of the voting machines that prevented them from scanning, and some ballots were temporarily thought to be missing, but County Clerk Paula Sollami Covello affirmed that all votes would be counted.

The Mercer County prosecutor investigated the matter, determined that there was no criminal intent or vote tampering, and Covello was able to certify the results ahead of the state’s November 26 deadline.  Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes has called for a review of what went wrong and an overhaul of the election process in Mercer County.

FIRST SNOW: All was quiet at the Institute for Advanced Study on January 7 after the first snowfall of the season. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

Departures and Appointments

Changes in the leadership of many local organizations, especially nonprofits, were announced throughout the year.

After six years heading the Historical Society of Princeton, Izzy Kasdin left and became executive director of the New Jersey Cultural Trust. Her replacement, Sarah Taggart, was announced in August.  Robbert Dijkgraaf, director and Leon Levy Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, left in January to become minister of education, culture, and science in the Netherlands. His replacement, David Nirenberg, began the job in July.

Sustainable Princeton Director Molly Jones left and took the job of director of development and research at C-Change Conversations. Her replacement, Christine Symington, had previously served as Sustainable Princeton’s program director. The Watershed Institute named Sophie Glovier as new chief of operations, a switch from her former position as assistant policy director.

McCarter Theatre’s longtime programming director William W. Lockwood retired after six decades as Princeton’s unofficial impresario. His replacement is Paula Abreu. The theater’s managing director Michael Rosenberg left to join New York City Center as president and CEO. His interim replacement, just announced, is Susie Medak.

Princeton Theological Seminary announced Jonathan Lee Walton as its new president, starting January 1. Rodney Priestley, Princeton University professor of chemical and biological engineering and vice dean for innovation, was named dean of the graduate school. Rose Wong departed Princeton Nursery School to become CEO of the YWCA Princeton, and Connie Mercer retired as CEO of HomeFront, which she founded. Her replacement is Sarah Steward. Princeton Police Chief Chris Morgan retired, and Jonathan Bucchere was sworn in November 14 as the new chief. Filling Bucchere’s former post of captain is Christopher Tash.


Princeton lost numerous notable people this year, from a wide range of backgrounds, occupations, and connections to the town.

Among the most recent losses were former New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio, lifelong Princeton resident and bank CEO Kevin Tylus, and accomplished architect Barbara A. Hillier. Others with Princeton ties include James H. Litton, former music director of the American Boychoir School; artist and author Anita Benarde; longtime municipal employee Debra Mercantini; physicist David R. Mikkelsen; scholar Michael Curtis; Sara Mills Schwiebert, longtime Princeton Day School teacher; and Costantino “Andy” Tamasi, a crossing guard for 47 years.

Princeton University faculty members past and present included economist and professor Robert “Bobby” Willig; psychology professor Sam Glucksberg; Greek and Roman philosophy scholar John Madison Cooper; Department of Anthropology chairperson Hildred Anderson Storey Geertz; medical geneticist Leon E. Rosenberg; coordinated gene translation expert Austin Newton; math professor Hale Freeman Trotter; philosophy professor Gilbert Helms Harman; biochemistry pioneer Jacques Robert Fresco; professor of English and creative writing, emeritus, and advocate of the humanities Edmund “Mike” Keeley; and classical archaeologist T. Leslie Shear Jr. Longtime leadership gifts and stewardship director Jotham Johnson, 29-year administrative services employee Bruce Finnie, and legendary basketball coach Pete Carril also died.

The town lost Sara Barnard Edwards, who taught for many years at Princeton Ballet School and was known for preparing the young dancers who played soldiers in the annual run of The Nutcracker. Diana Joy Crane, a Westminster Choir College professor who did one-woman shows with The Inn Cabaret at the Nassau Inn, and served as a dialect coach for McCarter Theatre, also passed away.

The Rev. David Hunter McAlpin Jr., who served as minister for Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church in the 1950s, and later on the boards of several organizations including the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association, Princeton Blairstown Center, and the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society, died. Doctors James Babbitt Hastings of Princeton Medical Group and George H. Hansen of Capital Health Medical Center were among those from the medical profession who died this year. Carol Robb Blount, a nurse at Princeton Medical Center who retired seven times before finally leaving the hospital, also passed away.

LIGHTING UP THE NIGHT: A large crowd was on hand for the Annual Palmer Square Tree Lighting on November 25. The event also featured musical performances and a visit from Santa Claus. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)