March 6, 2024

By Anne Levin

Following a prolonged discussion, Princeton Council voted at its February 26 meeting to allow the Graduate Hotel to maintain the work zone on Chambers Street through May 16, which is more than two months longer than previously scheduled. That means the street will remain one-way going north until the hotel opens for business on that date.

Much anticipated, the hotel’s opening is delayed due to structural issues in the front part of the hotel, an existing building at 20 Nassau Street. Opening up the street to two-way traffic was not considered a viable alternative at this point, since it would likely entail periodic closures. more

LEARNING ABOUT LAW ENFORCEMENT: Last year’s participants in the Princeton Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Academy included Princeton Councilwoman Leticia Fraga, at far right. The group was immersed once a week, for eight weeks, in the methods and operations of the department.

By Anne Levin

At the beginning of the six-week Citizen’s Police Academy held by the Princeton Police Department last spring, one of the 16 participants — a man in his seventies — told Sgt. Dan Federico that he had never really trusted the police. By the end of the program, “I think we opened his eyes on a few things,” said Federico. “He actually referred three people for this year.”

Getting the Citizen’s Police Academy up and running was a goal of Chief Jon Bucchere when he took over the top spot in October 2022. The success of the inaugural program last spring has prompted the department to schedule a second series, which begins April 18 and runs on Thursday evenings through June 6. Spots are still available for the 20 slots. Participation is free. more

FROM OBSCURITY TO SUPERSTARDOM: The award-winning musical “Dreamgirls” is onstage at McCarter Theatre through March 24 in a production directed by Lili-Anne Brown. (Photo by Diane Sobolewski)

By Anne Levin

A video on McCarter Theatre Center’s website takes viewers on a behind-the-scenes tour of the set and costume shops as they prepare for the opening of Dreamgirls. With some 3,000 square feet of shimmer panels adorning the set, the musical, which is on stage at McCarter’s Matthews Theater March 6 through 24, is big on flash and glitz.

But there is more to Dreamgirls than glamour and sequins. “I love the story. I think it has a better book than it gets credit for,” said Lili-Anne Brown, director of the show, during a break from rehearsals this week. “I have always felt that while it was very glitzy and very much about that life, with really showy singing, that’s just one of the many parts of that story. It’s a generalized story about the music business, and also about womanhood and friendship, and how these things can be exploited in a business that’s supposed to be about people’s talent.” more

February 28, 2024

By Anne Levin

At a meeting on Monday, February 26, Princeton Council held its annual discussion with Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber on the relationship and collaborations between the University and the municipality. The gathering allows members of the governing body to ask Eisgruber about specific areas of collaboration with the University, while giving him an opportunity to speak about the state of the University, its priorities, and higher education in general.

On January 30, the University announced its plan to contribute more than $50 million over five years to the municipality, community organizations, and lower- and middle-income residents to support mutual community interests including college access, sustainability, diversity and equality, mass transit, municipal infrastructure, safety, and emergency services. The plan provides for contributions of $39.5 million to the municipality. more

By Anne Levin

For retailers and restaurateurs, post-Valentine’s Day is a traditionally quiet time of year. What better time, the creators of Princeton Restaurant Week thought four years ago, to jump-start the local culinary scene with seven days of special menus and reduced prices?

The first Princeton Restaurant Week debuted in 2020 with a few participating eateries. Then the pandemic hit, putting the concept on a two-year hiatus. The event returned last year under the aegis of Experience Princeton, the nonprofit formed in 2022 as the Princeton Business Partnership, a Special Improvement District (SID) dedicated to promoting and marketing the town. Some 40 restaurants signed on. more

By Anne Levin

A few weeks ago, Mimi Omiecinski was dropping off some posters for Pi Day Princeton at the front desk of Princeton Public Library when two teenaged boys who were walking by stopped to comment. “Oh, Pi Day,” one of them said to the other. “We have to do the Pie Eating Contest.”

Omiecinski, whose Princeton Tour Company started the annual Pi Day celebrations in 2009, was pleasantly surprised. “I said to them, ‘You know Pi Day?’ And they said, ‘Of course! We’ve done this since we were kids.’ It hit me then,” Omiecinski said. “This is a thing.” more

February 21, 2024

By Anne Levin

Friday, February 23 is the last day to view the exhibit devoted to the Princeton Affordable Housing Map at the Bernstein Gallery in Robertson Hall of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs (SPIA). The show is being unofficially ushered out with a special panel discussion being held in the building the evening before.

The past, present, and future of affordable housing in Princeton is the topic of the event featuring Fern Spruill, chair of the former Princeton Civil Rights Commission (CRC); Edward Truscelli, executive director of Princeton Community Housing; and Matt Mleczko, a Ph.D. candidate at the University, in a conversation moderated by Anastasia R. Mann, lecturer and founding director of SPIA. Admission is free and open to all. It begins with a reception from 4 to 5 p.m., followed by the panel from 5 to 6:30 p.m.

While the exhibit is ending, the document that inspired it remains interactive and available online at spia.princeton.edu/events/princeton-affordable-housing-mapmore

SCHOOL DAYS: A still from Frederick Wiseman’s film “High School,” which was shot at Philadelphia’s Northeast High School in 1968. The film is among the highlights of the upcoming “Real Life, Reel Representation” symposium at Rider University.

By Anne Levin

Since 2007, Rider University’s Department of Media Arts has been producing a film festival focused on specific themes. This year’s event, on February 28 and 29, is titled “Real Life, Reel Representation: The Art and (Personal) Politics of Nonfiction Film.”

Screenings and panel discussions are devoted to work by students and professional filmmakers, including the award-winners Ross McElwee, known for such features as Sherman’s March and Photographic Memory; and Frederick Wiseman, who created High School, City Hall, and numerous other works. McElwee is a guest speaker. more

February 14, 2024

By Anne Levin

Five years ago, Princeton adopted a Climate Action Plan (CAP) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, preserve environmental quality, and enhance public health and safety. Closely involved in the plan is Sustainable Princeton, which delivered a progress report last Wednesday, February 7 at Princeton Public Library.

Christine Symington, executive director of the nonprofit, emphasized to those in attendance in person and on Zoom that the work that has been done since 2019 “is not ours necessarily, but is the result of many individuals putting together their ideas. We compile it and keep tabs on it. But this is not Sustainable Princeton’s Climate Action Plan. It’s the Princeton community’s Climate Action Plan.” more

NEW SEASON: Back in the big tent on the grounds of Morven, Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) plans an eclectic mix of programming for the Princeton Festival June 7-22. PSO Artistic Director Rossen Milanov will lead several performances. (Photo by Carolo Pascale)

By Anne Levin

It has been three years since the Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) first staged the annual Princeton Festival in a spacious tent atop the parking lot of Morven Museum & Garden. There were certain logistical challenges in year one. But by last summer, things had fallen into place.

“We actually had no idea what it would be like when we were planning it. And all things considered, year one was an unbelievable success,” said Marc Uys, PSO executive director. “Year two was actually really fun.” more

By Anne Levin

Maybe you’ve heard of Betsey Stockton, the enslaved servant of a Princeton University president who founded the first school for children of color in Princeton in 1840. Perhaps you’re aware of the year that the University finally admitted women (1969).

But you might not know about the 24 Princeton students who were arrested for “sleighing” in Trenton and drunkenly singing “Jingle Bells” loudly, after midnight, on January 18, 1879. It’s also unlikely that you’ve heard the rumor that Alexander Hall was designed by an architecture student as his senior thesis, for which he was failed. Later, seeking revenge, he donated money on the condition that his design be used. more

February 7, 2024

By Anne Levin

The year 2023 was one of exceptional growth for Share My Meals, the Princeton-based nonprofit that fights food insecurity and the environmental impact of food waste.

Compared to 2022, the organization has reported, there was an 85 percent increase in the number of healthy meals recovered from corporations, hospitals, educational institutions, restaurants, farms, and hotels.

These meals were delivered to 50 families and 15 senior citizens in Princeton. Clients of 23 nonprofits throughout New Brunswick, Summit, Morristown, Camden, Somerville, and Trenton also received these donations in 2023. In all, the organization, has reported, they recovered 72,000 meals while simultaneously preventing 294,539 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. more

“STATE-LY HOMES”: Hawaii’s executive mansion Washington Place is among the four homes featured in Morven’s “Grand Homes & Gardens” series. (Creative Commons)

By Anne Levin

It has been five years since Morven Museum & Garden began presenting its popular March series, “Grand Homes & Gardens,” devoted to stately mansions and lush landscapes. This year’s theme, “State-ly Homes: Exploring U.S. Governors’ Mansions and Gardens,” starts right here in Princeton with Drumthwacket, the official residence of New Jersey’s governors since 1981.

The series begins March 5 and continues through March 27, with a mix of live and online programs featuring additional governors’ mansions in Maine, Virginia, and Hawaii. Participants can experience the whole series or individual segments. more

By Anne Levin

Hopewell Theater, a cultural landmark on South Greenwood Avenue in Hopewell Borough for 144 years, has closed its doors. Citing rising costs and the inability to obtain a liquor license, the theater has notified patrons by email and posted the news on its website.

“We are deeply saddened to announce that we must close the Hopewell Theater,” the website reads. “Rising costs and the inability to obtain a liquor license — a key income source for live venues — have contributed to our decision. Thank you to our patrons, talent, staff, and the community of Hopewell for standing with us through the years. None of what we have accomplished would have been possible without you.” more

January 31, 2024

By Anne Levin

It has been nearly a century since the first observance of Black History Month in America. Each of those years, the month-long celebration in February has had a theme.

This year’s focus is on the contributions of Black painters, dancers, musicians, and other cultural figures. A four-minute video on the website of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (nmaahc.si.edu) serves as a fitting introduction to the breadth and scope of these artists, who are being celebrated at the museum in Washington, D.C.

Closer to home, the list of events marking “African Americans in the Arts” includes a wide range of subjects — artistic and otherwise. Lectures, concerts, a birthday party for Frederick Douglass, plays, film screenings, even a special African and Afro-Caribbean board game night are among the tributes taking place this month. more

THE SHOW MUST GO ON: Thanks to a collaborative, behind-the-scenes effort by McCarter Theatre Center and Princeton University, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine has overcome a funding shortage that would have prevented their appearance on February 11.

By Anne Levin

The February 11 appearance by the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine was booked for McCarter Theatre Center nearly a year ago. But when war broke out in the Middle East last October, adding to the already existing conflict in Ukraine, it became increasingly unlikely that the orchestra would be able to embark on its tour of U.S. locations — most on or affiliated with college campuses.

A representative of the orchestra called McCarter just before the winter holidays. All of the orchestra’s funding for travel and cargo had dwindled, and they were told by the Ukrainian business community that they weren’t going to get the same subsidy. Navigating in and out of a war zone added to the problem. more

January 24, 2024

By Anne Levin

At a public hearing on Monday evening, January 22, about its proposal to consolidate the Civil Rights Commission, the Human Services Commission, and the Affordable Housing Board into one single committee, Princeton Council voted 5-0 to follow through with the ordinance despite three hours of testimony — nearly all of it opposed to the restructuring.

Emotions ran high at the meeting, both on and off the dais. Council members voted at the beginning of the hearing to amend the ordinance, changing its name from the Community Services Advisory Committee to the Advisory Committee on Affordable Housing, Human Serivces, and Racial, Social, and Economic Equity; the number of members, and how the chairperson would be selected. They also apologized for the way the ordinance was rolled out without committee members’ knowledge. more

By Anne Levin

Members of the Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development (PCRD) have filed a lawsuit in Mercer County Superior Court challenging the Princeton Planning Board’s recent approval of the Community Master Plan. The PCRD filed the lawsuit, identifying the municipality, Planning Board, and Mayor Mark Freda as defendants, on January 16.

Started by residents of the neighborhood bordering Princeton Theological Seminary when buildings on the campus were demolished and a multi-family development was proposed, the PCRD is described on its website as “a nonprofit organization that was formed to advocate for and enable a more effective and collaborative approach to land use development and redevelopment in Princeton.”

The group has been especially vocal about the Seminary development, and most recently about the new Master Plan, which was approved on November 30, 2023. Required by law, a Master Plan establishes a kind of road map to guide a municipality’s future growth and development. The Princeton Master Plan was last reviewed in 2018. more

By Anne Levin

Last Friday, Mayor Mark Freda, a Democrat, announced that he is seeking a second term. A few days earlier, Princeton resident and former School Board member Daniel Dart made it known that he will run as a Democrat for Congress against incumbent Bonnie Watson Coleman.

Current School Board member Brian McDonald, also a Democrat, announced last week that he will seek to fill the seat on Princeton Council that will be vacated by Eve Niedergang, who announced at Council’s reorganization meeting that she will not run for another term. And Democrat Leighton Newlin has confirmed that he will run for a second term on Council. more

January 19, 2024

By Anne Levin

Mark Freda

At a virtual press conference on Friday morning, Princeton Mayor Mark Freda, a Democrat, announced his intention to seek a second term in the November election. The primary is on June 4.

Freda, who grew up in Princeton and is president of the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad, said he intends to build on his mission over the past three years to “build lasting relationships — within our community, with neighboring municipalities, and at the county, state, and federal levels.”

Leading with transparency has been a focus Freda said he intends to continue. Asked following the press conference about those who have complained that there is not enough transparency in local government, he said that changes in the way information is delivered, in recent years, can present a challenge. With less print media, people have had to adjust to getting their news from multiple sources.

“So, we need to be doing more,” he said. “I’m always telling people to sign up for the municipal newsletter, come to our meetings, or watch them on YouTube. The public, unfortunately, has to make a little more of an effort than they used to. And we need to be sure we are providing as much information, as often as possible. That’s why I try to be everywhere, almost every day. It gives people an opportunity to talk to me.”

 more

January 17, 2024

REFLECTIONS ON AN ICON: Judith McCartin Scheide, left, with Princeton Symphony Orchestra (PSO) Music Director Rossen Milanov during a 2017 sponsor recognition event held by the PSO at Prospect House. The PSO is among several organizations that were beneficiaries of the late Scheide’s generosity. (Photo courtesy of Princeton Symphony Orchestra staff)

By Anne Levin

News of Judith McCartin Scheide’s death on December 29 has inspired numerous tributes from members of cultural organizations in Princeton. With her late husband William H. “Bill” Scheide, Judy Scheide was a prominent philanthropist admired not only for her monetary support of museums and musical organizations, but for her warmth and dedication as well.

“Judy had a kind of audacity as a philanthropist,” said James Steward, director of the Princeton University Art Museum. “She wanted not just to do good work, but to make a real impact, and she put the full creative force of her intelligence into it — not just her financial support. Judy knew that she was setting an example, in the way that true leaders do. Her passing leaves a real gap in this community, which the next generation will need to step up and fill.” more

By Anne Levin

Last week, it was torrential rain. This week, it has been snow, sleet, and ice.

Princeton police, rescue, and emergency crews have been on alert for weather-related problems in recent days. With some more precipitation and frigid temperatures forecast for the rest of this week, they are advising residents and motorists to use common sense on roadways and sidewalks.

“For us, the biggest thing is if the roads are snow-covered or icy, stay home unless you absolutely have to go out,” said Captain Christopher Tash of the Princeton Police Department on Tuesday. “The roads have been okay today, but there is ice out there and it can get worse on the roads and sidewalks.” more

“DINAH”: Among the photographs on display at the “Discovering Grant Castner” exhibit at the New Jersey State Museum February 3 through September 15 is this 1898 portrait of Dinah Hartman of Milford, mending a garment.

By Anne Levin

As a major repository for items related to fine art, culture, archaeology, and natural history, the New Jersey State Museum is often contacted by people interested in donating items they think curators might find of interest. Many of those queries are respectfully considered and politely refused.

But a phone call in July 2019 was a different matter. It was about a collection of 1,200 glass plate negatives by Grant Castner, a long-forgotten amateur photographer who lived and worked in Trenton. The call has led to the exhibit “Discovering Grant Castner: The Lost Archives of a New Jersey Photographer,” opening February 3 and running through September 15 at the museum on Trenton’s West State Street. more

January 10, 2024

By Anne Levin

At its meeting Monday night, Princeton Council voted to introduce an ordinance that would eliminate the Affordable Housing Board, Human Services Commission, and Civil Rights Commission, streamlining them into one entity called the Community Services Advisory Committee.

A second ordinance would dispense with the Sewer Committee, moving sewer-related issues into the Infrastructure and Operations Committee.

While public comment is not permitted at an ordinance introduction and must wait until the official public hearing (January 22 for these two proposals), some members of the existing boards and commissions have expressed their concerns about the first ordinance in letters to the editor and an email to Council. more

ART FOR EVERYONE: Young participants in the Arts Council of Princeton’s inaugural “ART OF” series last year attended a session called “ART OF Play.” The series returns starting Sunday, January 14 with an event geared to crossword puzzle aficionados. A variety of topics follow throughout the spring.

By Anne Levin

For many years, the Arts Council of Princeton’s (ACP) annual fall fundraiser served as a key source of support for the exhibits, classes, and special events held at the nonprofit throughout the year. But admission to these festive events wasn’t cheap, which excluded many of the artists and community members who take part in its programs.

Things changed last year with the new ART OF series of events encompassing a wide range of topics. Instead of one gala party at a steep price tag, there were several — allowing more diverse offerings and lower entrance fees.

ART OF was a success. The Arts Council will unveil a second round of the series on Sunday, with a sold-out session on the world of American crossword puzzles featuring renowned puzzle-maker Mangesh Ghogre. An eclectic list of topics are scheduled throughout the spring, at entrance prices ranging from $55 to $75. A few are free. more