January 13, 2021

To the Editor:

Last January 3rd was the 243th anniversary of the epic Battle of Princeton in 1777, where Gen. George Washington reversed an American retreat, put the British army on the run, and saved the American Revolution. Princeton residents should be justly proud to have the place where this occurred, a unique national historical treasure, in our midst.

Thus, the Princeton Battlefield Society, the Officially Recognized Friends Organization of the Princeton Battlefield State Park, was delighted to participate in a solemn commemoration ceremony on January 3. The January 6th issue of Town Topics published a beautiful front-page photo of a color guard procession marking the event. more

To the Editor:

At the end of an auspicious year for Princeton Future, the private, nonprofit community planning organization can now share good news about Dohm Alley and its future in 2021. 

Dohm Alley, the 10-foot-wide space that runs off Nassau Street between Starbucks and Landau’s store, was transformed several years ago into an arts and performance space, which also offers a quiet and comfortable place to sit – a pleasant discovery for many Nassau Street pedestrians. A team of artists and craftspeople, organized by Princeton Future’s Kevin Wilkes, created the inaugural exhibit dedicated to the Romantic poets. This outdoor space has also been the site of several dance recitals, poetry readings, and lectures.

Now Emma Brigaud, a Princeton resident who is a graduate of the Stuart School and William & Mary, has replaced the alley’s inaugural exhibit with “Winter Wonderland,” a brightly lit installation that creates a warm space in the dark days of winter. Emma, who worked on the project with four other volunteers, was an intern on the original Dohm Alley installation. more

To the Editor:

On behalf of The Salvation Army Trenton Citadel Corps and Princeton United Methodist Church (PUMC), I am writing to thank the hundreds of people who contributed to the 13th annual Salvation Army Red Kettle campaign in Princeton this holiday season.

Thanks to the generosity of hundreds of donors and dozens of PUMC bellringing volunteers in Greater Princeton, The Salvation Army will continue to support a broad array of programs and services to help alleviate suffering to any and all in need without qualification or discrimination. Some of the services have included: assistance with housing and social services; a greatly expanded mobile food truck/hygiene service providing delivery of hot meals and hygiene kits to neighborhoods in response to the COVID-19 crisis; neighborhood picnics with police representatives to build community trust; and safe-space after-school activities and tutoring for students in STEM and reading enrichment. A program for music and drama begins in January due in part to our community’s support. more

January 6, 2021

To the Editor:

Thanks to our wonderful community for donating over 2,600 specially chosen gifts to HomeFront’s annual Christmas Wishes Drive. The pandemic didn’t slow Santa down or stop him from keeping his appointment with each HomeFront child who was waiting for him with a heart full of hope.

If you saw the thousands of gifts arriving on the HomeFront dock for our kids during our annual Christmas Wishes Drive, you too would believe in Santa Claus. These gifts chosen with each child’s special wishes in mind delight and entertain children who would otherwise have gotten nothing on Christmas morning. But, most importantly, they also keep a sense of wonder and belief alive in many of them who live chaotic and scary lives. more

To the Editor:

Taking walks in the neighborhood, I have been dismayed at the stuff thrown into recycling bins. I would like to propose a New Year’s resolution for us all: let’s be more careful about recycling.

Not everything is recyclable, and non-recyclable items should just be disposed of in the trash bin, not placed in the recycling bin. The list of recyclable material can be found on the website of the Princeton Township, among other places, at princetonnj.gov/449/Recycling-in-Princeton.

We should take the time to familiarize ourselves with this list and post it in a visible place for easy consultation. From the above website, I also just learned the good news that Mercer County will finally be enforcing recycling contamination by tagging bins that contain contaminants with a red “Recycling Rejection Notice.” This intervention was long overdue, and hopefully will save our recycling program. It would be a pity to lose it, as has happened with the composting program.

Chiara Nappi
Clover Lane

To the Editor:

In response to my neighbor Christopher Monroe’s keen observation of “scouring the entire paved area” around the 7-Eleven with a leaf blower [“Adding a Voice to Chorus of Pleas Against Gas-Powered Leaf Blowers, Mailbox, December 30], let me join ranks to agree on the overuse/abuse of the noisy, messy machines that often just blow things from one unwanted place to another.

Cheers for the occasional downtown merchants I have seen sweeping up and actually depositing the trash into a container! I’m often saddened by all the debris dropped along the sidewalks, especially now with the “opportunity” to drop masks and gloves. Even on side streets in the neighborhoods there is more trash dropped than usual. Princeton trash pickup is timely and efficient. Individuals can make a difference — get the trash in the cans and be more mindful not to drop it on the streets and walks.

Blowing it around isn’t helpful or healthful. Gas-powered blowers are unhealthy for our air and our ears. We need to rethink the whole obsessive blowing it away rather than cleaning it up. Less use of every kind of blower would be advantageous for the community. And, maybe, we don’t really need scorched earth (or parking lot) cleanup habits to begin with!

Kathryn Weidener
Moore Street

To the Editor:

2020 will be remembered as the year that challenged and tested all of us in many ways. So many people couldn’t see their loved ones, spent days in isolation, or tragically lost a friend or family member. Most importantly, we came together to fight the virus as one. This past year has strained us, but the fight is not over. As our frontline and public health professionals are giving it their all in round two of the battle against COVID-19, the arrival of a vaccine is the most welcome news.

During the pandemic, in Mercer County we have administered more than 20,000 COVID-19 tests to our residents. There were bumps along the way, but no resident who wanted a test was turned away from a Mercer County site, and that is a great success. While we have not fully shifted gears away from testing, the vaccination plan is beginning to take shape. more

December 30, 2020

To the Editor:

I read the League of American Bicyclists awarded Princeton a silver-level Bicycle Friendly Community [“Princeton’s Cycling Status Rises, Most Bike-Friendly Town in the State,” page 1, December 16]. Seems many in town have worked tirelessly to make our town safer to ride a bike. Rewarding this work is more than justified. Still, I thought I’d take a look at the so-called most bike-friendly town in New Jersey.

I found no bike lanes to safely travel to the downtown, the shopping center, or the schools. In fact, I found that riding into town is dangerous and congested, and that riding out of town yields a sigh of relief, that less awarded communities around us seem to care more about safety for all users. It may be that these communities are less dense and naturally more bike friendly, but lanes from these communities end at Princeton’s gates. We occasionally make efforts to install a bike lane where it is needed, but argue it down in public meetings.

Perhaps we harbor the delusion: we truly are bicycle friendly. After all, the League has awarded us. We have lofty declarations in our circulation plans aspiring to complete streets, thoughtful consideration for all users. We have bike paths, bicycle friendly signage, designated routes, bicycle parking, and maps to guide us. more

To the Editor: 

Try to remember back to 2019. It seems like a different lifetime doesn’t it? As a small bakery owner and Princeton resident, I remember what used to be considered retail problems – high rent, power outages, road closures, and the like.   Don’t get me wrong: those were problems, but they were nowhere close to the existential threat facing our small businesses today. What LiLLiPiES has gone through is only one of many stories.

When LiLLiPiES closed last week due to a COVID-19 scare, I had to call our customers and break the news that their holiday orders would likely need to be canceled and refunded. These weren’t just faceless phone numbers I was calling. These were people I’ve known for years; people whose unwavering support made LiLLiPiES into what it is today. I dreaded making those calls. This has been a difficult holiday season for most and there I was taking away one more small beacon of normalcy. 

But as I started making calls, I was overwhelmed time and time again by the generosity and kindness of our Princeton community. Instead of focusing on their own loss of a special breakfast or dessert treat, customer after customer asked how our staff was doing, how the business was doing, how they could help! A couple of days that could’ve been extremely painful became days that I’ll forever remember as feeling most cared for and valued. Those couple of days helped me realize the power that each of us hold as consumers. more

To the Editor:

With 2020 about to be in the rear-view mirror, Princetonians and the nation could use some good news. The Global Child Thrive Act should become law any day now with the help of members of our community and our congressional delegation. The bill requires the administration to integrate early childhood development techniques into all child-focused international aid programs, activities like reading and singing with children, playing with colorful objects, and providing better nutrition. The kinds of things we would do with our own children and grandchildren can make a world of difference for children globally. Here’s where we came in.

In a September 2019 letter published in Town Topics I invited Princetonians to urge Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman to cosponsor the bill and our congresswoman was an initial cosponsor when the bill was introduced the following month. In a November 2020 letter published here, I urged readers to call our U.S. senators and ask them to support the bill’s inclusion in the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Global Child Thrive Act was included and the larger bill passed both the House and Senate with veto-proof majorities. Sadly, President Trump vetoed it on December 23, but Congress is expected to override the veto any day now.  more

To the Editor:

Let me add my voice to the chorus of pleas I have seen in the paper in recent weeks and months to do something about the noise and the effect on our air quality from leaf blowers and, I would add, from other machines driven by the same inefficient and highly polluting small engines. Beyond the noise problem is the air pollution from the exhaust emissions of these engines, with its immediate impact on our breathing and with known effects of air pollution on asthma and lung problems.

Landscaping crews seem to come through in three waves: once with power mowers, once with edger/trimmers, and once with leaf blowers, and all of these machines use the same deafening and highly polluting two-stroke engines. I have seen gas-powered hedge trimmers, too. Any ordinance should ban or regulate the use of all of these machines. 

I find that as soon as I hear the machines of the landscaping crews approaching, I must rush to close up windows and doors or the pollution will have entered my house and become hard to remove. Recently I had the misfortune of needing to walk on the driveway past the 7-Eleven and Post Office while a two-man crew was at work there, blowing precious few leaves away, but scouring the entire paved area and blowing dirt and trash around along with the few leaves. I was holding my ears, but I didn’t think to hold my breath until I had already passed into a dense cloud of pollution and taken in half a lungful. The noxiousness of the dense cloud of dirt and emissions was awful and obvious. more

December 23, 2020

To the Editor:

Princeton Human Services thanks donors for their contributions to its 22nd Holiday Gift Drive. Princeton Human Services had its most successful Holiday Gift Drive this year thanks to the overwhelming number of donors who contributed. This year, the department distributed gifts to approximately 334 kids aged 12 and under. In addition to donating gifts for the children, donors donated a gift card to each family to help during these difficult times.

The department would like to thank Stone Hill Church, Dorothea’s House, Tenacre Foundation, Princeton Children’s Fund, PBA Local 130, Weichert Realtors, Church & Dwight, the Princeton Recreation Department, and the Woodland Drive neighborhood for their support and contributions to the Holiday Gift Drive as well as municipal employees, police officers, and the many Princeton residents who made individual donations and sponsored children in our drive.  more

To the Editor:

No one said that being on a Board of Ed would be easy. It shouldn’t be and it isn’t. Often, it feels like you are stuck in a Three Bears story on repeat – You spent too much, you didn’t spend enough. You did that too early. You did it too late. You said too much. You didn’t say enough.…  Very rarely do you get to the part where things are just right. The struggle, if it is focused on what is in the best interest of our kids and community, is worthwhile and necessary. Excellence will exist in some places no matter what anyone does. Disparity is a call for introspection and action on everyone’s part.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have been part of this Board. I think my favorite moment of service was the night that we honored Dorothy Mullen, because her work, and our school gardens, reflect the best in our district’s values — joy and purpose, respect for teachers, and also wellness and a genuine concrete version of equity, sometimes as simple as every kid tasting a new herb.   more

To the Editor:

I noted, with sadness, the recent passing of Anna Christy Peacock, the retired affordable housing coordinator for Princeton Township. I first met Christy in 1997 when I applied for affordable housing following a pair of layoffs and a divorce. I was in dire financial straits and the prospect of being homeless, or at least in desperate housing circumstances, was a distinct possibility. She shepherded me through the process and I am confident that I would not have received approval without her knowledgeable, patient guidance.

That affordable housing experience was the foundation for the success and comfort I have achieved since then, and I have Christy to thank for that opportunity. She helped countless others in the same way, and all of us, especially the municipality of Princeton, owe her a debt of gratitude. She made Princeton, and the world, a better place and she will be missed.

John Rounds
Eldridge Avenue, Lawrenceville

December 16, 2020

To the Editor:

2020 has been a hard year for everyone. I lost my dear friend — Dr. Stephanie Chorney, a local artist, grassroots activist, member of the New Jersey Environmental Lobby, and former co-chair of the Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC). When I am struggling, my mom reminds me that “God will send a Messenger.” Stephanie was that messenger for eight years. We were the same age, both mothers to young boys, and we shared December birthdays. Our dedication to social and environmental justice, however, is what created our deep and unshakeable bond.

My passion to make Princeton and New Jersey greener, cleaner, and more equitable is now joined with the desire to make sure that Dr. Stephanie Chorney’s “memory is a blessing.”

I am losing my patience with our local elected officials, who have the power, privilege, and responsibility to act, and refuse to do so.

I do not believe Princeton elected officials are “climate deniers,” but their inaction over decades on public health issues and their refusal to consider proven solutions make them complicit in what they claim to be fighting.  more

To the Editor:

Before the slogan “It takes a village…” became popular, my mother lived those words. After working the night shift at Nabisco, she would drive around, picking up children and making sure that they made it to school. She would appear on behalf of students whose parents couldn’t or wouldn’t attend parent teacher conferences, and was a fierce advocate for kids all over town.

I am guided and inspired by my mother’s commitment to ensuring that ALL children have support and an equitable chance to succeed in school. Princeton voters’ support of my re-election to the Princeton Board of Education will allow me to continue critical work of making sure that of our children are equipped to pursue lives of joy and purpose.

Make no mistake — COVID-19 has made a difficult job even more challenging.  We are asking so much more of our children, our teachers, and our staff.  But I am confident that, along with my Board colleagues and our interim Superintendent, that we will succeed in overcoming these obstacles.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve our community, for the betterment of everyone. I am grateful for your support.

Happy Holidays.

Michele Tuck-Ponder
Laurel Circle

To the Editor:

On December 16 and January 9, the Princeton Environmental Commission and Princeton Council will meet to prioritize their goals for the coming year. In the interests of public health, an ordinance banning or severely restricting the use of two-stroke leaf blowers in our community should be among next year’s town goals.

The shortcomings of these instruments of torture are widely reported and have appeared in our local news sources as well as national magazines (see, for example, Atlantic, April 2019).

It is not simply a matter of their being annoying, noisy and smelly — they are extremely so and do serious damage to our health and well-being. We all know that cars and trucks emit damaging pollutants, but the two-stroke engine is far worse than any other. A recent study found that up to a third of its fuel, including highly carcinogenic benzine, is unburned in the firing process and is let loose into our air and into our lungs. On average these emissions are an incredible 124 times higher than a car. Note that cars and trucks use much cleaner four-stroke engines. more

To the Editor, 

I am a frequent visitor to Princeton. I think making Witherspoon Street into a pedestrian-friendly street is a good option.

Many of my family’s favorite restaurants and shops are located on Witherspoon Street. My husband has worked in Princeton for nearly 30 years, and we come into town quite often as a family. When my daughter was in high school she liked to hang out with her friends at the Princeton Library or in the coffee shops nearby.

We think of Princeton as unique among all the cities and towns in New Jersey. A big part of the attraction is the pleasure of walking around. If there are more places for people to stroll safely, it will invite more people from the greater Princeton area, like my family, to choose Princeton as a place to eat, meet friends, and enjoy shopping and leisure time. 

Shirley Wang
Rosewood Court, Belle Mead

To the Editor:

When I was a student at PHS, I loved going to the Small World after school and sitting in the cool parklet, sipping a coffee, talking with friends, and watching the cars go by. I’ve continued to do this even after high school (before COVID-19), as I’m a student at Rutgers now and come home often. Once we’re past the pandemic, I hope that Witherspoon Street will be a pedestrian street where you can enjoy eating a full meal outside; I would give up the car-watching for that.

This stretch of Witherspoon Street is not necessary to get anywhere. On the contrary, it is a destination in itself. I feel the potential for expanding the restaurant and retail area during high-volume hours is enormous. To me, it is worth the few extra minutes to drive around the block to one of the parking garages. I hope Princeton Council will make Witherspoon Street a pedestrian plaza during dinner hours and on weekends.

Spencer Marks
Howe Circle

December 9, 2020

To the Editor:

Princeton’s business community has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank the town’s leadership for working with us during this difficult year and are especially grateful for the temporary arrangement on Witherspoon Street that has allowed us to keep serving our customers. 

For business owners on Witherspoon Street, this summer’s outdoor dining experience has been a first. While it was dictated by necessity, we have found that the move from a street that is congested with cars and delivery trucks to one where people can enjoy convivial al fresco dining has been received well by the public.

We would like to see a flexible street that allows one-way access to personal cars, delivery, and service vehicles at set times, but also allows closure at other times, to make a safe outdoor space for people, for meeting friends and for community building.

A people-friendly street design, augmented with trees, good lighting, and tasteful decoration, would make Witherspoon Street even more beautiful, and would make a fitting approach to historic Nassau Hall. Indeed, a low-traffic Witherspoon Street can become a destination for visitors, which benefits local businesses, as has been the happy outcome of similar redesigns in Jersey City and Somerville. more

To the Editor:

In 1905, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle in a tarpaper shack behind a farmhouse on the Princeton Ridge. This area has been a focus of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and targeted in the Princeton Community Master Plan: “The preservation and protection of the natural environment must be in integral part of all plans and designs for improvements and changes in land use. Examples include rezoning of the Princeton Ridge.”

This week, Princeton’s Planning Board will be hearing testimony on proposed changes at the apex of the Ridge in a land-lease agreement between Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart and the Princeton Soccer Academy. In the agreement, the school will remove 4.2 acres of grass and natural surface, including 46 mature trees, and replace it with nonpermeable artificial turf. PSA is looking to lease this complex and conduct practices, games, and tournaments year-round, every day and every night until 9:30 p.m. 

Zoning prohibits the school from leasing the property for commercial purposes to for-profit organizations. PSA, LLC, a for-profit organization, has been noted by the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, for years, as a partner in this endeavor.  When the school realized this impermissible commercial use, a new application was filed by PSA, Inc., a parallel nonprofit organization just four weeks ago. Clearly, this nonprofit formation is a last-minute attempt to circumvent Princeton’s clear zoning regulations. Allowing an organization that has operated as a for-profit entity for years to suddenly claim they are nonprofit to skirt zoning’s impermissible commercial use sets a dangerous precedent.  more

To the Editor:

Growing up in Princeton, it was obvious to me that we cared deeply about our town. But it was not until I became owner of Princeton Record Exchange that I began to understand just how entwined the government, residents, merchants, and other organizations are. For 40 years, PREX has been embraced by this Princeton community. The residents and local government have shown us love and support, and their enthusiasm and concern for our well-being has increased exponentially during these challenging times. The daily encouragement we get is heartwarming and has made our load much easier to bear. 

As a nationally recognized record store, we are also firmly entrenched in the global music community. Each year we host tens of thousands of visitors from all over the state, country, and world. They come to PREX to experience the joys of immersing themselves in a real brick-and-mortar store. We are happy to satisfy and hope to do so for many years to come. more

To the Editor,

We are writing to you to express our serious concerns and strong opposition regarding the proposed plan set out by the Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart to replace their grass fields with synthetic turf, add 11 diesel-operated light towers, and lease out their land to the Princeton Soccer Academy (PSA). 

As owners of property on Heather Lane, this proposed project would have a significant negative impact on our quality of life, for our family and our neighborhood. Our greatest concerns are the negative impact of increasing the impervious coverage that would lead to extensive water runoff and pollution, the additional light and air pollution, increased traffic in the area, and the detrimental impact on our quality of life and safety. more

To the Editor:

Witherspoon Street used to be a central feature in a dad ritual I enjoyed with each of my daughters when they were teens: We would walk or bike to town on Saturdays; we’d pick up a ciabatta at the Witherspoon Bakery, coffee at the Small World, then stroll around campus before making our way home via the library. We would talk about life, the universe, and everything.

With or without daughters, I experience Witherspoon Street as part of the lively heart of our historic town. It really is the perfect place to amble about and see what’s happening, then sit down for a drink or a bite. The parklet in front of Small World Coffee has been very popular in summertime and shows that there was “appetite” for outdoor seating, even before the pandemic.

This summer, Witherspoon Street has looked more attractive than ever, despite the concrete barriers. Who doesn’t like to dine outside with friends, enjoying a breeze or the shade of trees with good food? Who doesn’t enjoy people watching? Let us not go back to the Witherspoon Street of pre-COVID times. Instead, let us turn it into the face of Princeton: inviting and people-friendly.  

Michael Faas
Dempsey Avenue

To the Editor:

Since the canopy covering the Princeton municipal fueling station on Mount Lucas Road was removed in April, nothing has been done to “beautify” or camouflage the remaining structure as promised by our elected officials. And now that winter is approaching and trees have lost their leaves, what remains looks like a high school science project gone bad. 

Granted that COVID has impacted this year’s municipal activity, it hasn’t stopped the workers from other outdoor “beautification” projects around town. So why is this ugly monstrosity ignored?

Barry Goldblatt
Andrews Lane