May 22, 2024

FREEDOM THROUGH LITERATURE: New Jersey Department of Corrections Commissioner Victoria L. Kuhn, left, and poet and Freedom Reads founder and CEO Reginald Dwayne Betts admire a new bookcase in a housing wing of Garden State Correctional Facility.

By Anne Levin

Before he graduated from Yale Law School and became a MacArthur Fellow, Reginald Dwayne Betts spent nine years in prison after pleading guilty to carjacking. He was only 16. It was the availability of books, and the engagement with literature, that got him through those years without crushing his spirit.

An award-winning poet, Betts was a resident artist at Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts in 2021. In a new connection with the University, Betts’ national nonprofit Freedom Reads has just opened nine Freedom Libraries at Garden State Correctional Facility, a state prison for adults in Chesterfield, Burlington County. Princeton University Library is a supporter. more

May 15, 2024

By Anne Levin

Testimony was set to continue at Witherspoon Hall Tuesday evening on an application for a 15-unit addition to the Joseph Hornor House, an 18th century property at the corner of Nassau and Harrison streets that was recently listed by Preservation New Jersey as one of the 10 most endangered historic places in New Jersey.

Some 40 people, many of whom live in the Jugtown Historic District where the house is located, attended Monday’s 5 p.m. special meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) to express their views on the proposed project. Because Princeton Council was to meet in the room at 7 p.m., the HPC ran out of time before any of them had an opportunity to speak. With this in mind, the commission scheduled a second meeting for 5 p.m. Tuesday, after press time, without a time limit. more

By Anne Levin

At its meeting on Monday evening, May 13, Princeton Council held a work session on the 2024 Bicycle Facilities Implementation Plan. Assistant Municipal Engineer Jim Purcell talked about how to work elements of the Master Plan Bicycle Mobility Plan into programs that are taking place to resurface roads, make capital improvements, and repave sidewalks.

“We have some opportunities this year,” he said. “PSE&G’s gas system modernization project is underway. Twelve miles of gas mains are being replaced, so they are tearing up the roadways.”

PSE&G is required to replace existing markings on the roadways, and will be asked to add some new ones. “Given limited resources, we want to implement these elements when we can,” Purcell said. “With all the construction and PSE&G work, this is an opportunity.” more

May 8, 2024

By Anne Levin

With Princeton’s Historic Preservation Commission set to review a development application for the Joseph Hornor House at 344 Nassau Street next week, the recently announced inclusion of the property on Preservation New Jersey’s “10 Most Endangered Historic Places” list comes at an opportune moment for those opposed to the housing development proposed for the site.

“We are delighted that Preservation New Jersey has recognized the Joseph Hornor House at 344 Nassau Street to be an irreplaceable historic resource in New Jersey, and is in imminent danger of being lost,” said Catherine Knight, who lives in the Jugtown neighborhood where the property is located, and is active in efforts to prevent the development from being approved. “To allow a massive addition behind and partially on top of the single most important and pivotal building at the Jugtown crossroads will endanger the survival of the Jugtown Historic District.”

Selections for Preservation New Jersey’s annual listing of endangered properties are based on historic significance and architectural integrity, as well as “the critical nature of the threat identified, and the likelihood that inclusion on the list will have a positive impact on efforts to protect the resource,” according to a statement from the organization.

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ALMOST READY: What used to be Princeton’s post office in Palmer Square has been transformed into the sleek new location of Triumph Brewing Company. Four separate architectural firms were involved in the effort. (Photo by Anthony Stull)

By Anne Levin

The opening of Triumph Brewing Company, relocated from Nassau Street to the former post office at Palmer Square, has been scheduled for mid-to-late June. A report on the long-awaited project was the focus of a Zoom “meetup” held last Thursday by the nonprofit Experience Princeton.

Kevin Wilkes of Princeton Design Guild, one of four architectural firms involved in the project, said that it has taken so long — 39 months of extensive restorations, rebuilding, and rehabilitation — due to years of federal maintenance neglect. The 90-year-old building has been transformed in an adaptive reuse project that involved restoration of some parts of the former post office, and a complete redesign of others. The entire building was gutted and all systems were replaced to house the restaurant’s dining rooms, bars, and brewery equipment. The budget for the project was not mentioned in the presentation.

Triumph’s former location at 138 Nassau Street closed during the pandemic.

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Winnie Holzman

By Anne Levin

In the nine years since the first staging of Winnie Holzman’s play Choice and the production that opened this week at McCarter Theatre, the issues the play examines, especially a woman’s right to choose, have changed — to say the least.

So Holzman, a successful dramatist for theater (Wicked), television (thirtysomething, Once and Again, My So-Called Life) and film (two soon-to-be-released adaptations of Wicked), has made some tweaks to the play. The comedy runs through June 2 at McCarter’s Berlind Theatre.

“It was done in Boston at the Huntington [Theater Company] and I’m very grateful to have had that production. It taught me a lot,” Holzman said during a phone interview this week. “But the pandemic happened, and Roe v. Wade fell. The play now takes place during the shutdown. I have rewritten it a lot, but it has the same characters and the same ideas. I felt there was a lot to address that is new.”

A 1976 graduate of Princeton University, Holzman started ruminating about the issues that would lead to Choice about 16 years ago, when she was in between projects. Why, she wondered, had nobody written a play about the subject already? She posed the question to her daughter, then a recent college graduate and now a writer herself.

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May 1, 2024

By Anne Levin

At its meeting on Monday night, April 29, Princeton Council was given a progress report on the town’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), which was adopted in 2019 to reduce carbon emissions and help the community become more climate-resilient. Sustainable Princeton, which has been leading the effort, delivered the presentation.

Among other items on the agenda was the adoption of a resolution appointing nine members to the Princeton Advisory Committee on Affordable Housing, Human Services, and Racial, Social and Economic Equity. The committee was formed after the controversial consolidation in January of the former Civil Rights Commission, Human Services Commission, and Affordable Housing Board.

Council also passed ordinances related to loading zones and parking on Chambers Street once construction of the Graduate Hotel is completed, and license agreements for the new Hermes and Faherty stores, among other issues. Resolutions included a shared service agreement with Princeton Public Library for information technology services, a consulting agreement for community solar development, a contract for bicycle-safe grates and curb piece faceplates, and an urban tree canopy assessment. more

NEVER TOO LATE: Residents of Maplewood at Princeton have been taking piano lessons from 15-year-old high school sophomore Pranayaa Jeyaraman, who was among those honored last week for their volunteer work.

By Anne Levin

Pranayaa Jeyaraman has been taking piano lessons since she was in first grade. Since February, the Woodbridge Academy Magnet School sophomore has been spending some of her time at the keyboard with enthusiastic students who happen to be decades her senior.

They are residents of the senior living community Maplewood at Princeton, and they study with the Monroe Township resident on Saturday afternoons. Results have been so positive that Pranayaa was among those honored last Saturday, April 27, at an appreciation luncheon, where she was given a certificate and a special key chain hand-made by Maplewood residents. more

“BEYOND THE SPECTRUM”: Members of the Princeton Police Department were among those on hand to help out at this special Autism Awareness Alliance event on Saturday, April 27 at the Dinky Bar & Kitchen.

By Anne Levin

According to a March 2023 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the rate of children identified with autism spectrum disorder is one in 36 children nationally. Here in New Jersey, it is one in 35.

This and other statistics related to the developmental disorder inspired Sean (Shenyao) Xu, a sophomore at the Hun School, to help families — especially Chinese families — deal with the issue. Last Saturday, April 27, the 15-year-old, who moved to Princeton from China with his family a few years ago, helped organize a special “Beyond the Spectrum” event with the nonprofit Autism Awareness Alliance of Princeton. more

April 24, 2024

By Anne Levin

Contemplating how to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Morven Museum & Garden, staff at the historic house on Stockton Street came to the conclusion that digging into their own collections was the way to go. “Morven Revealed: Untold Stories from New Jersey’s Most Historic Home,” a show of rarely exhibited objects and newly discovered photographs, opens Friday, April 26 and remains on view through March 2, 2025.

A lit-up Baby Jesus, a lavish inaugural gown, a child’s ring uncovered during archaeological work, and a history of all the pets who lived at the house are among the curiosities on display. Way before it became a museum, Morven was home to numerous notable residents — Richard Stockton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; Robert Wood Johnson Jr., Johnson & Johnson heir; and five New Jersey governors have occupied the property. All had families and staffs.  more

By Anne Levin

It is billed as Local Author Day. But the annual event at Princeton Public Library, now in its 13th year, is actually a weekend-long celebration of area writers, their books, and the strategies that go into getting them published.

The celebration April 26-28 will blend live and virtual presentations designed to appeal to a range of ages and preferences. The main event is Saturday from 1-4 p.m., when 42 local authors take over the library’s first floor to sign books and meet the public. Two online workshops and one in person are also on the agenda.  more

April 10, 2024

AN INSIDE LOOK: A tour of artist Wharton Esherick’s home and studio gives patrons of West Windsor Arts’ Lunchtime Gallery Series a close look at his life and art.

By Anne Levin

When visitors touring the Wharton Esherick Museum in Chester County, Pa., are taken through the American artist’s handcrafted home studio, tour guides frequently have to remind them not to make themselves comfortable on the one-of-a-kind furniture.

“It’s inviting. It invites you to touch it,” said Ethan Snyder, the museum’s manager of collections and public programs, who will deliver a Zoom talk about the artist on Thursday, April 18 from 12 to 1 p.m., sponsored by West Windsor Arts. “People always want to get close to it, and we have to remind them not to.” more

AN ARTFUL GIFT: The Arts Council of Princeton paid tribute to architect J. Robert “Bob” Hillier, left, with a painting of him and his late wife and fellow architect, Barbara, by artist Aaron C. Fisher, right. Hillier was honored for his longtime support of the nonprofit, its surrounding Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, and the town.

By Anne Levin

At a benefit for the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) Friday, April 5, architect and developer J. Robert “Bob” Hillier (a Town Topics shareholder) was honored for his support of the organization, his hometown of Princeton, and the Witherspoon-Jackson community. Some 300 people attended the “Art People Party” at the ACP, which included refreshments, dancing, and music along with the tribute.

“I found the entire experience of well-wishers coming from all parts of my long career — 300 in total — both overwhelming and yet so gratifying, especially in that my recently passed wife of 40 years was also included in the expression of thanks,” said Hillier, who was presented with a painting by artist Aaron C. Fisher of Hillier with his wife, Barbara; and a 3D model of the home they built in New Hope, Pa. “I was truly humbled by the honor, but also inspired to do more for Princeton and the Arts Council,” he said.

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April 3, 2024

AN ENDURING MISSION: The Watershed Institute’s dedication to keeping water clean, safe, and healthy dates back decades. Education Director Jeff Hoagland, celebrating his 40th year with the organization, is among those working to protect and restore water and the natural environment in central New Jersey through conservation, advocacy, science, and education.

By Anne Levin

The year 2024 marks a momentous anniversary for The Watershed Institute. Founded 75 years ago as the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, the Pennington-based nonprofit has been fighting to preserve the environment since long before the cause became so universally embraced.

The year-long birthday celebration is ongoing. The seventh annual Watershed Conference, held at The College of New Jersey on February 23, drew state leaders and environmentalists concerned about the issue of catastrophic flooding. On April 12, author and Princeton University graduate Leila Philip will appear at the Institute to discuss her bestseller Beaver Land: How One Weird Rodent Made America. And at the organization’s annual meeting on May 13, Tim Palmer will talk about his book Seek Higher Ground: The Natural Solution to Our Urgent Flooding Crisis. more

By Anne Levin

A partnership between Penn Princeton Medical Center and students from Princeton University is designed to help underserved cancer patients get access to the resources they need. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, ACS CARES has included the University in a second round of educational institutions taking part in the national program.

“As the program expands into New Jersey, many of these resources will be directed towards the state’s minority populations who are most likely to encounter disparities in their fights against cancer,” reads a release.

Barriers related to finances, transportation, and food insecurity are among the issues to be targeted when the program begins in September.  more

March 27, 2024

By Anne Levin

At its Monday, March 25 meeting, Princeton Council voted in favor of a resolution creating an Ad Hoc Public Art Study Committee.

The group, which is not permanent, is chaired by James Steward, director of the Princeton University Art Museum. Adam Welch, who heads the Arts Council of Princeton, is vice-chair. Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros is on the committee, along with Princeton’s Planning Director Justin Lesko and area residents Jody Erdman, Karey Maurice, Tom Moran, Elizabeth Allan, and Ronah Harris.

Erdman is a real estate agent for Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty, and worked for Sotheby’s Auction House in New York. Artist Maurice has worked with the Trenton Artist Workshop Association. Allan is a curator and the deputy director of Morven Museum and Garden, and Moran works as the public arts coordinator for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Harris works primarily in fiber and ceramics, and is the founder of Play Pattern LLC, a digital platform for children to learn arts and technology. more

HEALTHFUL FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY: Staff members of Fairgrown Farm, which is partnering with The Chubby’s Project to provide weekly farm shares at no cost to local families who are food-insecure.

By Anne Levin

For the past five years, Fairgrown Farm in Hopewell has been operating a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program for members who pay upwards of $26 a week, during the summer months, for their share of the season’s harvest. Participants get a box of freshly-picked vegetables and fruit from Fairgrown Farm and the several others with which they collaborate across New Jersey.

James Klett, who started Fairgrown Farm seven years ago with his brother, Alex, is enthusiastic about the popular CSA program. But he believes that fresh, nourishing produce should not be limited to those who can afford the weekly supplement. Aware that more than 800,000 people in New Jersey are food insecure, Fairgrown Farm has partnered with The Chubby’s Project, a Hopewell-based nonprofit dedicated to food justice. The joint initiative is designed to provide farm shares for area families who would otherwise not be able to afford them. Fundraising for the project is currently underway.  more

By Anne Levin

Emily Raboteau

Emily Raboteau was 10 years old when her father, Princeton University Religion Professor Albert Raboteau, gave her and her brothers “the Talk.” The subject was the discrepancy in society’s treatment of Blacks and whites.

“Because of white supremacy, some people would think negatively of us, no matter how smart we were, no matter how poised, how well-dressed, well-spoken, or well-behaved,” Raboteau writes in her recently published book Lessons for Survival: Mothering Against “the Apocalypse.” “We would have to work twice as hard to get half as far. There were different rules for Black people and, in particular, for young Black men. The streets were not as safe for my brothers as they were for their white friends…. As a female, I would be preyed upon by men who would try to take advantage of me, and as a light-skinned Black girl who could pass for white, I would hear white people spewing all kinds of ugly untruths about Black folks, whose dignity I would have to defend.” more

March 20, 2024

By Donald Gilpin

Acting Superintendent Kathie Foster will be leading the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) through June of 2025 if the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) agrees to waive a state law and allow an extension of her employment time.

Foster, who has served as acting superintendent of PPS since November, has agreed to extend her tenure, and the PPS Board of Education voted 10-0 on Monday to request permission from the NJDOE to keep Foster at the helm for the next 15 months. more

By Anne Levin

Graduate Hotels, which is planning to open a hotel in downtown Princeton this spring, has been acquired for $210 million by global hospitality company Hilton Hotels.

The news that Hilton had bought the brand from Adventurous Journeys Capital Partners (AJ Capital) was released last week, specifying that AJ Capital will continue to own the more than 35 operating and soon-to-open Graduate properties.

So what does this mean for Princeton? more

CENTENNIAL OF A COMPOSER: The Westminster Jubilee Singers and the Westminster Chapel Choir will take part in special concerts devoted to the music of Westminster alumna Julia Perry this weekend.

By Anne Levin

When Westminster Choir College of Rider University Professor Vinroy D. Brown Jr. began thinking about holding a second annual “Celebration of Black Music” festival with the Westminster Jubilee Singers, it didn’t take long for him to come up with a focus.

Monday, March 25 marks the centennial of the late Julia Perry, a groundbreaking composer considered to be one of Westminster’s most distinguished alumni. Centering the second festival around her was kind of a no-brainer. more

By Anne Levin

At its March 14 meeting, Princeton Council voted in favor of an “Outdoor Dining” ordinance that replaces the “Sidewalk Cafes” ordinance dating back to 1974. The new measure recognizes changes brought on by such factors as the widening of sidewalks on Witherspoon Street, and the increased demand for outdoor dining that was particularly strong during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ordinance addresses such issues as the width of pedestrian passageways, control of trash, seating, fee structure, furnishings, design guidelines, and the maintenance of the dining areas. It was voted in after removing the allowance of retractable awnings. more

March 13, 2024

By Anne Levin

Penn Medicine Princeton Health is planning a new cancer center at its Plainsboro campus. The proposed 195,000-square-foot facility includes more than 40 exam rooms, over 30 infusion chairs, and two radiation oncology linear accelerators.

The estimated cost of the project, which includes a six-level parking garage and a 31,000-square-foot imaging center for outpatients, is $401 million, according to a Penn Medicine spokesperson. The proposal is currently in the early stages of the approval process in Plainsboro Township. more

CROSSROADS OF A VILLAGE: The house at 342 Nassau Street originally had its kitchen wing on the east side, but it was moved to the west side of the building in a widening of North Harrison Street. This and other historical facts are the focus of a new publication on the history of Jugtown. (Photo by Clifford Zink)

By Anne Levin

Clifford Zink is a longtime resident of Princeton’s Jugtown section. During one of his regular walks down Nassau Street, he began to wonder about two small remnants of its past — a flat, brownstone slab in front of No. 343, and an upright, granite post topped with a hook at No. 361. A historian and author, Zink put his researching skills to work.

The slab, he found, was a block for horse and carriage mounting. And the column of granite was a hitching post for horses. These discoveries were the beginning of Zink’s new booklet Jugtown/Queenston, Princeton’s 18th Century Crossroads Village. The 48-page publication about Princeton’s third-oldest neighborhood is illustrated with then-and-now photographs of houses; pictures of jugs made in the area’s potteries, which closed in the mid-1800s; and historical maps. Zink, who is leading a walking tour of the area this Saturday, March 16 (sponsored by the Historical Society of Princeton and sold out), shot all of the photos himself. more

By Anne Levin

Come July, riders on NJ Transit trains may be paying $18.40 to travel one way between Princeton Junction and New York’s Penn Station, up from the current $16. Public comment ended last week for fare increases proposed by NJ Transit earlier this year to close a budget shortfall of $106.6 million.

Since the onset of the pandemic, ridership has returned to approximately 80 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels, with many peak period trips at or exceeding pre-pandemic levels, according to a January 24 press release from NJ Transit. But the system is entering the fifth consecutive year of ridership that will be below pre-COVID-19 levels, meaning a loss of nearly $2 billion in revenue. Federal COVID-19 relief funding ends at the end of June 2025. Rising fuel costs, operational costs, wage increases, and health care costs have also contributed to the shortfall. more