June 12, 2024

To the Editor:

As I head into the general election for my second term on Princeton Council, I’m feeling deeply grateful for the opportunity to continue serving this community that I love. Being on Council is both an honor and a privilege, and I start every day with that in mind.

When I first ran three years ago, I promised to be part of a movement building a broad infrastructure of care in Princeton — focused on housing, affordability, education, social services, transportation, public safety, and the arts. My colleagues and I have worked hard to deliver on that promise. But we’re not there yet. A few things that come to mind that are on my radar screen — an absentee landlord policy, regulating Airbnbs, and expanding our towns tree canopy equitably in all neighborhoods.

Our next phase keeps the focus on smart growth and wise choices. Building a human infrastructure for Princeton’s future that is truly inclusive of people at all income levels. As I’ve said before, diversity is a core strength of our community, not a weakness to be papered over. We’ve made progress, but there is still much work to be done. more

June 5, 2024

To the Editor:
New Jersey Democrats recently received sample ballots that look quite different and allow primaries to be more competitive (See “A Revamped Ballot Design Jump Starts Democracy in New Jersey” in the New Jersey Monitor). Another reform is in its initial stages in New Jersey — ranked-choice voting (RCV).

Red Bank has just joined Hoboken and Jersey City in the movement for electoral reform by passing a resolution in favor of RCV. They have all made the same commitment to their voters:  if the New Jersey Legislature passes the Municipal and School Board Voting Options Act (enabling RCV elections), they will hold a referendum on RCV adoption in the next general election.

Princeton should join these New Jersey cities. One of the many advantages of RCV is that it is likely to attract more candidates for office, giving us more choice when potential candidates see that RCV is likely to give them a better chance to be competitive. To have the choice of using RCV, we need to urge our town Council members to pass a resolution that will have us ready to vote on using RCV in our elections as soon as legislators pass S3369 (and A5039).  more

To the Editor:
A recent letter writer called on Princeton’s elected leaders to require that the Planning Board return to in-person meetings with a Zoom option for attending remotely — basically, a hybrid format now used by the mayor and Council [“Princeton Planning Board Meetings Should Be Held in Hybrid Format,” Mailbox, May 15]. As officers of the board, we’d like to explain why this has not happened.

We respect the mayor and Council’s decision to “go hybrid,” and certainly appreciate the value of personal interaction in the democratic process — especially the connection between elected officials and constituents. But under state and local law, the Planning Board’s role and responsibilities are fundamentally different from Princeton’s elected governing body.

The Planning Board’s function is quasi-judicial. We operate within a structure laid out in the Municipal Land Use Law (MLUL): hearing sworn testimony from staff, land owners and developers, expert witnesses and members of the public, applying and weighing positive criteria and negative criteria when considering variance or waiver requests, and advancing principles articulated in the Community Master Plan. more

May 29, 2024

COLLEGE QUEST: “Higher education is not only about where you go, but also who you want to be in the world. When approached well, I believe the college admissions process can be one of the most significant opportunities for students’ intellectual and emotional growth.” Benjamin Caldarelli, founder of Benjamin College Consulting, is enthusiastic about helping students navigate the college admissions journey.

By Jean Stratton

Strategist. Mentor. Counselor.

These are some of the designations which identify Benjamin Caldarelli in his mission to help students gain admission to college.

But they are not all. As founder of Benjamin College Consulting, he is adviser, coach, collaborator, educator, motivator, encourager, and especially, listener.

All of these identities form the mosaic in which Caldarelli guides his clients on a journey of opportunity and challenge to a successful college admissions destination.  more

To the Editor:

I have known Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman since she ran for election 10 years ago, and continue to be very impressed with her. A friend of mine, after meeting her for the first time during the “Day of Action” held by her campaign in Princeton on May 18, declared “she is sharp” — and I thought that was a succinct and correct rendering of BWC.

But there is so much more to Bonnie. She is always on the good side of the issues, a strong fighter for progressive values, and a dedicated defender of healthcare, reproductive freedom, and human and civil rights everywhere. She is very competent on state, national, and international issues, holds political positions that are deeply thoughtful and principled, and does not let any special interest group intimidate her.

I find it relaxing to have her as my congresswoman, because I know I can always trust her fighting the good fight for all of us.

Chiara Nappi
Clover Lane

To the Editor:

The modification of the Joseph Hornor House at 344 Nassau Street, one of New Jersey’s 10 most endangered historic buildings, has already sprung copious discussion. The recent presentation of the project at Witherspoon Hall on May 14 was like a university lecture on urban planning. It was burdened by endless details of architectural designs attempting to replicate the historic setting of the house without a genuine concern for the local community. Various architectural drawings of the house with comical multi-level roofs, and walls choked by windows, made me think of an opulent wedding cake in which a novice chef tries to prove that he has mastered the trade. More is not better! Where is the architect’s judgement? If anyone stopped to see the back facade of the Hornor House from the Whole Earth parking lot, proposed to be demolished and expanded, they would discover a serene place perfectly fitting the historic setting.     more

To the Editor:

Our congresswoman, Bonnie Watson Coleman, is  running for reelection and needs our vote in the June 4 primary. She is the daughter of legendary state legislator John S. Watson, and her service in Congress continues the family legacy of fighting for the economically and socially disadvantaged populations, but without neglecting all the others.

She wrote: “When I came to Congress I did so with the goal of doing the most good for the most people. I remain committed to that philosophy.” I can always trust her judgment on the issues because she is an independent and nuanced thinker, and a skilled and informed legislator. I am very happy to have her as my representative.

Deborah Robbins
Windrow Drive

May 22, 2024

“SMALL FUND, BIG IMPACT”: “‘Small Fund, Big Impact’ is our motto, and it’s so true! For 18 years, our Johnson Park Koko Fund has assisted Johnson Park students experiencing financial hardship by subsidizing enrichment programs they can join.” Koko Fund co-chairs Philip Arnold and Deirdre von Roemer are proud of the fund’s contributions in offering students an opportunity to participate in a variety of activities.

By Jean Stratton

If you don’t have students attending Johnson Park (JP) Elementary School, the Koko Fund may be unknown to you.

But it is such an important program, providing opportunities and enrichment to so many children, that it won’t remain unknown for long. Its impact continues to grow, as new students become involved and the community helps provide needed support.

What is it and how did it begin? First of all, Koko is a gorilla! That is: the large stuffed animal version which is the Johnson Park mascot. It reminds the students to: “Be Responsible. Be Respectful. Be Safe. Be Kind. Be Successful.” more

To the Editor:

I am honored to support the reelection of Bonnie Watson Coleman, who has served our district since 2014 as the first African American woman to represent New Jersey in Congress. Her work there, and before that for eight terms in the New Jersey General Assembly, continues a family legacy of public service.

She fights for women, for populations that are economically and socially disadvantaged, and for other vulnerable groups in the U.S. and elsewhere. She is informed on the issues and votes her conscience rather than following scripts written by sponsoring organizations. As an American Jew, I appreciate her support for substantive solutions to the rising threat of antisemitism instead of symbolic gestures that only inflame tensions. In the Middle East, her support for a diplomatic path to a two-state solution based on peace and accountability shows me that her political judgment is thoughtful and nuanced.  She focuses on resolving conflicts for the long term rather than on scoring partisan political points in the short term.

Please vote for Bonnie Watson Coleman in the Democratic primary, and please encourage your friends to do so as well.

Sherry Rosen
Clover Lane

To the Editor:
After two days of a special meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), the HPC on May 14 recommended to the Planning Board against the developer’s application for major site development at 344 Nassau Street and denied the application for demolition of the rear of the Hornor House, a cornerstone building of the Jugtown Historic District and recently recognized by Preservation NJ as one of the 10 most threatened historic buildings in New Jersey.

The HPC correctly decided based on the historic preservation ordinance and the affordable housing overlay ordinance. At the HPC meeting, members of the Princeton community expressed strong support for the Save Jugtown Coalition’s opposition to this development. more

To the Editor:

I am writing to encourage your readers to support and vote for our incumbent Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman in the June 4 Democratic primary, where she is being challenged by a conservative ex-Republican.

As a congresswoman, Bonnie has been an indefatigable fighter for the people of our state, and especially for its most vulnerable groups. She is a fair and thoughtful legislator, aiming to ensure that millions of Americans, and New Jerseyans in particular, do not live below the poverty line nor experience permanent financial fallout from a single unexpected crisis. She has worked tirelessly to rectify the environmental inequalities found in poor neighborhoods where environmental violations often go unpunished. She is also a member of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, and founder and co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls, fighting for women’s rights and equality. Before her tenure in Washington, she was the majority leader in the New Jersey Assembly, where she championed pioneering legislation for prisoner rehabilitation and re-entry programs, earning praise from the New York Times as “a model for the rest of the nation.” more

To the Editor:

Much has been written about the proposed four-story addition to the historic Horner House at the corner of Harrison and Nassau streets. Let us add just one additional piece of information.

Recently we received from our municipal police department their accident reports for this intersection for the past three years  During the period, 22 accidents occurred requiring police presence at this location: 17 were for two-car vehicle accidents, two for hit-and-run accidents, two for single car crashes, and one for a three-car crash. This information is just one more tile in the mosaic of why this project should not be allowed to go forward.

To add a 15-unit residential building with a garage emptying onto Harrison Street just a few yards away from this intersection is a recipe for disaster unless one hopes to raise the annual accident total above double figures.

Lydia and Walter Frank
Riverside Drive

To the Editor:

Over the next 10 years, Princeton appears fated to lose nearly all of its beech trees. A new disease, called beech leaf disease, is sweeping through our nature preserves and neighborhoods. It’s caused by nematodes — a worm tiny enough to overwinter in the beech’s long, coppery buds, causing contortions and curious stripings in the emerging leaves.

Information online is not encouraging. Since first being discovered 12 years ago near Holden Arboretum in Ohio, it has spread quickly, extending thus far south to Virginia and east to Maine. Though I had heard rumblings of some sort of disease affecting beech trees, I managed to keep my head in the sand, basking innocently in the beauty of the great tree’s smooth gray bark, admiring its dramatic root flare and towering canopy. In the Institute Woods, there’s a massive beech with a split trunk you can walk through. more

To the Editor:

I noticed with dismay that we can now get another yellow recycling bin here in Princeton, and I assume throughout Mercer County. This doubles down on an inefficient and illogical program as the Mercer County Improvement Authority has actively banned the use of standard, wheeled, and covered blue recycling bins. more

To the Editor:

Princeton Active Circle (PAC), a Princeton nonprofit organization, successfully hosted the recent AAPI 5K Run and Walk event which took place on May 11 at the Carnegie Center. With over 200 enthusiastic participants from various ethnic backgrounds, the AAPI 5K brought together individuals of all ages and walks of life to promote mutual understanding and appreciation. It was heartwarming to witness the spirit of inclusivity in the event, as people of different cultures came together to support a common cause. more

May 15, 2024

By Donald Gilpin

Mark Eastburn

Mark Eastburn, Princeton High School (PHS) science teacher and a leader of the school’s award-winning research program, reflected on some of the key experiences and influences in his life: an interest in reptiles, a Quaker upbringing, a semester-abroad program followed by two years in the Peace Corps after college, and an affinity for pursuing his own interests regardless of popular opinion.

The PHS research team, with its remarkable cross-cultural Indigenous language project, was recently chosen for the second time as a National Grand Prize Winner in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Competition with a prize package worth $100,000 — the only school in the country to have won the national competition twice.

Eastburn first came to Princeton Public Schools as a Spanish teacher at Johnson Park Elementary School, where he taught for 10 years, then a science specialist at Riverside Elementary for seven years before coming to PHS in 2018, where he has taught chemistry, biology, and engineering, as well as overseeing the research program and serving as adviser to a wide variety of clubs. He has a bachelor’s degree in biology from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and master’s degrees in biology from Villanova University and in neuroscience education from Columbia University Teacher’s College.

His own experience as a high school student was not a high point of his life. “I had some good teachers in high school who encouraged me,” he said. “Biology and chemistry were something I was interested in and I worked hard at that, but I did not have a good time as a teenager. I had so many bad memories. I threw out my yearbook. I didn’t enjoy middle school or high school at all.”

 more

HELPING HANDS: “We make sure that our atmosphere offers everyone a sense of belonging and getting along. We take into consideration everyone’s personality as we help them develop skills to participate in activities and work projects to create useful products,” report founders Violetta and Sergio Neri and founder and executive Svein Hansen of Pennington Adult Living Services (PALS). Shown, in foreground from left, are PALS participants Nicole, Jack, and Keller. Seated at top are David and Robert.

By Jean Stratton

You never can predict how one step, one decision can set in motion a series of events that lead to something unexpected, and yet with ramifications that will benefit people for years to come.

Consider PALS: that is, Pennington Adult Living Services. This organization offers programs, activities, and learning opportunities for adults with special needs. Founded in 2017 by Sergio and Violetta Neri and Svein Hansen, it has filled an important need for adults with a variety of conditions and challenges, including the autism spectrum, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and seizure disorders, among others. more

To the Editor:

I “attended” the two Master Plan sessions of the Princeton Planning Board, and though it was nice to invisibly gobble a snack during the Zoom session, I found it very much wanting — and bordering on undemocratic — in its elimination of the live element. Others felt frustrated by this, too.

With a Zoom-only format, there’s no way to “take the temperature” of the room, and no way to communicate approval or disapproval of what members of the public say.  Equally bad, you can’t know who’s there, and you can’t interact with them afterwards. The COVID-19 pandemic has been over for a while now, and our public meetings should be true meetings of the public again.   more

To the Editor:
Dan Dart is challenging Bonnie Watson Coleman in the Democratic primary for U.S. Congress, and I heartily endorse his candidacy.

Dan is socially progressive and fiscally responsible. He is open-minded and willing to seek compromise for the betterment of all New Jersey 12th Congressional District constituents and the country at large. Go to danieldart.com to learn more about why Dan is running. more

To the Editor:

I was disheartened to read all the letters sent into Town Topics and other local publications lamenting about the impending closure of Nassau Swim Club (NSC). I am hoping that Princeton University reverses its decision so that people can continue to enjoy NSC, especially those families who have had generations of members attending NSC over the years.

I have not had the pleasure of swimming at NSC, but from what I know of the pool, it seems very similar to Broadmead Swim Club (Broadmead) in Princeton, to which my family and I have been members for the past several years. Small, quaint, neighborhood-focused pools are wonderful summer destinations in Princeton, and both NSC and Broadmead provide immense value to the University and overall town community. I truly feel for NSC members who are faced with losing their neighborhood pool, as I would feel the same way if Broadmead had to close. more

May 8, 2024

To the Editor:

I spent the recent eclipse much like I spent the last one; standing in our front yard, staring up at the sun through special eclipse sunglasses. The clouds rolled in just after it started so there were periods where we couldn’t see the sun at all, but my kids and I were still able to catch some really good glimpses of the growing, and then receding, eclipse. Even a quick viewing of an eclipse feels old and new. They’re rare for us, but also timeless. They fell upon ancient ones, and they cover the sun above us today.

Those who know about such things said that we had 90 percent totality; that 90 percent of the sun was covered up when the eclipse was at its greatest in our area. And yet there still so much light. It definitely dimmed some, feeling like dusk for a short while. But even then, I could clearly see our neighbors staring up at the sky much like we were. I could see my kids on the sidewalk waiting out the cloud cover for another glimpse. I saw an Amazon driver peek up behind his special glasses after he dropped off a package across the street. I saw a flock of noisy, seemingly startled birds suddenly lift from a tree. Even 10 percent of the sun’s light enlightened so much.

It’s that way with kindness, patience, and compassion too. Even small acts of warmth can have a great impact on the people around us. A thank you, a smile, or a compliment, can brighten even the cloudiest of days. They can help others remember that thoughtfulness abounds and that people can be considerate. Most people are mostly good most of the time, and it doesn’t take much to remind people of that. It just takes bringing a little light to otherwise dim and dreary days to help remind people of the goodness in them, and the goodness in us, together. Like the sun’s eclipsed light, a little compassion, patience, and kindness goes a long way. We can offer that light in all weather, in every season, everywhere we go.

REV. BILL NEELY
Parish Minister
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton
Cherry Hill Road

To the Editor:

At the historic crossroads of Nassau and Harrison streets in the Jugtown Historic District, a developer has proposed a massive 16,000-square-foot, four-story apartment addition to the 18th-century Joseph Hornor House. The suggested complex would overwhelm and dominate this historic building as well as the skyline on this side of town. If approved, it would set the precedent for other similar buildings to be constructed in the area.

It clearly does not follow Princeton’s Historic Preservation Ordinance 2014-44, which states that a development application “shall be approved only if the proposed action … (a) Is appropriate to and compatible with the existing structures and landscape of the historic preservation district; and (b) Would not adversely affect the ambiance, character, and appearance of the historic preservation district and the relationships among structures and between structures and public ways in the district.”

It similarly does not comply with widely-accepted state and national standards and guidelines for the treatment of historic districts and properties.

In fact, just this week, Preservation NJ, the statewide nonprofit historic preservation organization, has named the ca. 1760 Joseph Hornor House as one of New Jersey’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2024, a list which “spotlights irreplaceable historic, architectural, cultural, and archeological resources in New Jersey that are in imminent danger of being lost.” more

To the Editor:

The chimney swifts have returned to the tower at the old Valley Road School. They will probably be there at dusk for the next couple of weeks while they pair up and locate nest sites on local tall buildings. The site is Princeton’s equivalent of the Serengeti wildebeest crossing the Mara River on their annual great migration.

In the half hour after sunset, several hundred swifts will be “turning and turning in a narrowing gyre” centered around the tower of old Valley Road School building behind Conte’s Pizza. It is quite a spectacular sight as the rapidly spinning circle of birds “know exactly where it leads, and you can watch them go ‘round and ‘round each time.” Suddenly, they will begin to drop down and disappear into the tower to roost for the night. “Wait ‘til you see half the things that haven’t happened yet.”

How do so many fit into one tower? And how do they locate a place to land and hold on for the night in the almost total darkness inside the tower? more

HERE’S TO YOU! “We enjoy offering our guests a welcoming, enjoyable experience at our vineyard, including even more events. We want coming here to be a pleasure for everyone.” Sergio and Violetta Neri, owners and winemakers at Hopewell Valley Vineyards, are proud of their award-winning wines and of their congenial setting for dining, wine tasting, and events and social gatherings of all kinds.

By Jean Stratton

Hopewell Valley Vineyards not only offers first class wines for purchase and tasting, it is also a destination in itself.

Located on 75 acres at 46 Yard Road in Pennington, its rustic setting is a popular spot for weddings, anniversary celebrations, birthday parties, corporate meetings, benefits, and other events.

In addition, many visitors enjoy stopping in for light dining and a glass of wine, and live music entertainment on weekends, all the while relishing the engaging atmosphere and attractive setting.

Owners and husband and wife Sergio and Violetta Neri take great pride in the vineyards, which were established in 2001. Both of their families, Sergio’s in Italy and Violetta’s in Greece, had experience in wine-making, but the Hopewell Valley Vineyards were not even on the horizon when Sergio and Violetta each arrived separately in the U.S.

 more

May 1, 2024

FOR YOUR PLEASURE: The pleasure of pasta is definitely on the menu at Pastiamo Pasta Bar & Café. “My idea is to provide an authentic Italian dining experience by serving fresh and dry pasta, antipasti, and dolci in the traditional Italian style, with recipes from the north, center, and south of Italy,” says chef and owner Francesca Casapietra. “Lovers of Italian pasta will find the right place here at Pastiamo, where the unique taste of each dish comes from the use of only high quality ingredients and the passion for authentic fresh cuisine.”

By Jean Stratton

Homemade Italian specialties are the attraction at Pastiamo Pasta Bar & Café in the Princeton Shopping Center. Opened in November 2023, with its grand opening this past February, it already has a group of enthusiastic diners.

“We have repeat customers, and they are coming from all over the area,” says chef and owner Francesca Casapietra, “Once they come in, they come back!”

Born in Genoa, Italy, Casapietra, came to the U.S. 10 years ago, and settled in Princeton with her family. “We liked Princeton’s international flavor,” she says. “I had always enjoyed cooking with fresh, healthy ingredients, and pasta was a specialty. In Italy, everyone enjoys pasta. It can be the first course, with tomato or other sauces, and then followed by meat, cheese, vegetables, and fruit.” more