April 28, 2021

To the Editor:

In addition to the noise from blowers and mowers, in our neighborhood we have the problem of truck traffic—big, heavy trucks struggling up or screaming down Elm Road from morning to night. There is a highway two blocks away (route 206), but this village street is regularly crowded with huge trucks: moving vans, dump trucks, construction vehicles. There are no weight restrictions, so the largest vehicles available can legally drive on the road, flattening and fracturing the blacktop. There is no engine braking law, so heavy trucks coming down the hill can legally sound like the outbreak of WWIII. There are always young children and older citizens nearby; a heavy truck driving mishap here could be catastrophic.

Two actions are needed. One, the town should do everything possible to restrict truck traffic on Elm Road: set weight limits, outlaw engine breaking, post signage prohibiting overweight truck traffic and directing such traffic to more appropriate streets.

Second, Quiet Princeton should acknowledge traffic noise as part of the noise problem they are working to resolve. It is not a one neighborhood problem; a larger Quiet Princeton effort will find support from many neighborhoods in Princeton.

We can have a quiet Princeton if we work at it.

Paul Cruser
Westerly Road

To the Editor:

What a perfect time of year this is to celebrate the beauty and the importance of our life-sustaining Earth!

Newly greened trees, the songs of birds, colorful flowers that make us smile, and the rejuvenation of farm fields – all of these miracles create new hope.

This Earth Day, I find myself reflecting on the legacy of people who have cared for our Earth. For it’s in the little things we do every day, the causes we support, and the choices we make in how we live our lives, that we become integral to the Earth’s stewardship. more

To the Editor:

Re: “Planning Board to Consider Redevelopment Study” (Town Topics, April 21, front page): this article notes that Princeton Shopping Center’s (PSC) owner has selected developer AvalonBay for redevelopment including housing bordering PSC at the Clearview Avenue neighborhood.

AvalonBay’s history of fires is disturbing. This month a large fire at their Princeton Junction apartments caused 22 people in 7 families to lose their homes. This is the company’s fourth known fire in New Jersey; its most serious fire, in January 2015 in Edgewater, which received large media coverage, caused 500 people to lose their homes. In addition, AvalonBay’s large under-construction housing in the year 2000 at the Edgewater site led to the destruction of nine nearby occupied homes, and its Maplewood housing under construction in 2017 also went up in flames.

The use of large, light frame (some call “stick”) highly combustible wood multi-unit construction allows fires to spread quickly. Even if there are no deaths, the loss of one’s home is tragic to residents and costly to municipalities. more

April 21, 2021

To the Editor:

The toddler playground on the Guyot Walk is extremely popular. It’s used daily, year-round. Although on school property, with donated plastic play equipment, no one claims responsibility for its upkeep. Local residents periodically prune bushes and remove dead branches from the Walk, but improving the play area is a different task.

Although a Princeton Future poll has confirmed it as a favorite refuge for all residents, no part of the Guyot Walk is on the list of Town Parks (princetonnj.gov/Facilities). Nor does it belong to FOPOS, which protects only “non-active” spaces: not kids biking to schools, seniors walking dogs, alone or with each other; or parents guiding strollers.

What used to be called the Parks and Recreation Department is now just the Recreation Department, focused on competitive sports. Princeton has no parks commissioner. The current move seems to be toward a commissioner of open space, but what about mere parks? more

To the Editor:

The Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) would like to express sincere appreciation to the volunteers who rolled up their sleeves and reached into the muck to support Princeton’s Stream Cleanup, which was held at Grover Park on Saturday, April 17. The stream cleanup was in partnership with The Watershed Institute and organized by Erin Stretz, assistant director of science and stewardship.

There were approximately 90 volunteers registered and an estimated 1,694 lbs. of trash and recyclables collected for proper disposal. The cleanup would not have been complete without the Public Works Department, which is directed by Dan Van Mater, who ensured the fruition of a neat and tidy cleanup after the volunteers’ efforts were exhausted.

We are always delighted to witness extensive community involvement when it comes to the care of our local environment, and for Mother Earth as a whole. Mayor Mark Freda even rolled up his sleeves, and may have carried out the most weight given his find of several cinder blocks gathered on the stream banks. Councilwoman Eve Niedergang was wearing two hats in support of the cleanup as she was checking-in volunteers as a Watershed Institute employee.

The Watershed Institute Executive Director Jim Waltman, Board members Scott Sillars (chair) and Mike Hornsby, as well as long time Watershed Institute volunteer Mary Joan Gaynor, WWF-Princeton High School group, Hopewell Valley’s Central High School group, TCNJ engineering  fraternity Theta Tau, and three girl scout troops were among those supporting Princeton’s stream cleanup at Grover Park this year.  more

To the Editor:

As we in Princeton observe the 51st anniversary of Earth Day this week, the issue of climate change continues to be an existential threat to our global environment. And New Jerseyans should be especially concerned about the warming trend because, according to experts (such as Rutgers University climate scientist Anthony Broccoli, and David Robinson the N.J. state climatologist), our state is one of the two fastest-warming in the Lower 48.

Relating this alarming but abstract fact to our local lived experience, I wondered: when was the last time it was safe to ice skate outdoors in Princeton on natural ice? We remember some lovely winters past, when the town turned out to glide long distances on Lake Carnegie. But — despite all that snow this winter — it turns out that our most recent opportunity to skate on the lake was six years ago. In an April 7 post, the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University featured a study project by undergraduate Grace Liu, investigating the question, “Is Lake Carnegie Showing a Climate Trend?” The conclusion: yes. With impressively thorough original research (including in the archives of Town Topics) Liu, working with advisors at the High Meadows Environmental Institute, found a clear historic pattern of decreasing ice on our local lake, as the average winter temperature in N.J. has gradually risen.

Here is a tangible local effect of climate change in our town. What can we do politically to mitigate this unwelcome trend? Fortunately, the current presidential administration is planning to take action on climate change in many ways. And all of these strategies can be bolstered by adding in one most effective measure: placing a fee on carbon that is collected and returned to households. This pricing clearly signals to the market that fossil fuel burning must decrease, while the rebate protects individual consumers against rising energy costs. There is now a bill in the House of Representatives to accomplish this: the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, H.R. 2307, which has 41 cosponsors already — including two NJ Representatives. I’m grateful to our Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman for having co-sponsored its predecessor bill in the last Congress, and hope that she will soon re-join these colleagues to co-sponsor the current Energy Innovation bill.

Carbon pricing is popular, as is outdoor ice skating, so let’s support both!

Caroline (Callie) Hancock
Volunteer, Citizens’ Climate Lobby, Princeton Chapter
Laurel Road

To the Editor:

The three Democratic candidates running for New Jersey Assembly in Legislative District 16 will meet in a virtual forum on Thursday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. To view the webinar live, register at TheMontyNews.com. Questions for the candidates may be emailed to the League of Women Voters at lwvprinceton@gmail.com by April 30. A recording of the forum will be posted at VOTE411.org and at lwvprinceton.org and will be rebroadcast by Princeton Community TV. See lwvprinceton.org for up-to-date information and broadcast times.

The deadline to register for the June 8 Primary Election is May 18. Voters may apply for a Mail-In Ballot by mail up to seven days prior to the election. Please note: citizens who are on parole or probation may now vote, but they must register or re-register if they had registered before incarceration.

The League of Women Voters encourages civic engagement. Board (poll) workers are needed for the Primary Election and for the General Election, when early voting will require many more board workers. Students aged 16-17 may work half-days if their parents and school give permission. Shifts are 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 to 8:15 p.m., with a 30-minute break and compensation of $100. Students aged 18 and adults registered to vote may work half-days 5:15a.m. to 1 p.m. and 1 to 8:15 p.m. at $100 with no break or full days at $200 with an hour break. Contact your county board of elections for an application. Students should ask whether a special student application is required.

Chrystal Schivell
League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area
Monroe Lane 

To the Editor:

I write in support of efforts to bring new life to the Princeton Shopping Center (PSC), and I hope that members of the Planning Board and Council will designate this an “area in need of redevelopment” in their upcoming meetings.

When I first moved into town, the PSC seemed to me a dull fixture of the suburbs. But there were two things I failed to appreciate: (1) the real charm of the center and what it has meant to the Princeton community; and (2) how much work is needed to improve commerce and the physical structure.

With downtown Princeton nearby, I’d never expected my wife, son, and I to spend so much time at the PSC. Before the pandemic, we attended the concerts and the arts-and-culture festivals. During the pandemic, we eat outside — protected from the rain — at Lillipies and The Blue Bears.

It’s easy to dismiss the PSC as a relic of the 1950s. But there are few other sites in the area that combine basic needs (the supermarket, the hardware store, the pediatrician) and local flare.

The problem is that, without concerted action, the PSC really will become a relic. The roof is often in need of repairs. There is flooding, as the complex was built in an era before stormwater concerns. And, even pre-COVID, there were a number of vacant storefronts. more

To the Editor:

I was pleased to read about the success of the Princeton Resiliency Fund in issuing grants to help our local business community stay open during the pandemic [“Resiliency Fund Was a Lifesaver for Many Local Small Businesses,” April 7, page 1]. However, I am somewhat concerned for the small businesses in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, none of whom were mentioned in this article and a few of whom I know are still suffering residual effects from the months-long lock down.

Is it possible for the Princeton Chamber of Commerce, Princeton Council, or any other Princeton organization to arrange for some Spanish speakers to reach out to those business owners to ensure that they have applied for all the financial help or grants for which they are eligible? If the small bodegas and other businesses go under, it will have a ripple effect throughout that community, for there are some residents who do not drive and rely on these businesses to buy their groceries during the pandemic. If this has already happened, great, but I am getting the sense that more help is needed.

Anyway, kudos to a great program supporting our business community, and to everyone in Princeton, please shop local and include the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood in the equation.

Bonnie Schultz
Longview Drive

April 14, 2021

To the Editor:

Ah spring in Princeton! The sight of flowers, bushes, and now our magnolia tree. The scent of the blooming flowers of the earth itself in spring. And the sound of the birds in the Harrison Street Park chirping their mating calls. Were I to walk along the D&R Canal past the Institute Woods, the cacophony would overwhelm. And as I returned home along Pelham Street on the other side of South Harrison where I live, I heard, for the first time this year, the mating call of a gas-fired leaf blower, a species that has evolved from the inefficiency of the soundless hand-held rake. No wonder they, the rakes, became extinct except in garages where they are kept as specimens of a past age.

And then, just before entering my door, I heard a soft higher pitch voice of a female gas-fired leaf blower responding from Aiken Street across the park. Thinking ahead, the 17-year cicadas are about to appear. Imagine their heart throbs on hearing the calls of gas-fired leaf blowers! Will they swarm and then mate? What will the offspring look like when they appear in another 17 years? Long life wished for us all to welcome them!

Robert Karp
South Harrison Street

To the Editor:

The availability of affordable housing improved in Princeton Township due to the attention and support it received from Mayor Phyllis Marchand over her many years in office. She saw affordable housing as playing a key role in advancing diversity in Princeton.

In particular, she was an active partner with Princeton Community Housing (PCH), sharing in the belief that a community should offer housing to people of all economic levels. Her assistance was valuable in the building of many new affordable homes at Griggs Farm.

The trustees and staff of PCH offer our sincere condolences to her family and our heartfelt thanks for all that Mayor Marchand did for Princeton.

Edward Truscelli
Executive Director, Princeton Community Housing

To the Editor:

Thursday, April 22 is Earth Day. There is a lot to worry about the current situation of our planet, but plastic use/abuse is one of the main culprits. Each year, the United States alone produces tens of millions of tons of plastic waste and ships 50 million tons of it to poorer countries, whose residents are left to deal with it for generations to come.

Billions of tons of plastic trash from all over the world end up in the oceans, killing marine life, or lie in landfills everywhere on Earth, causing damage to birds, mammals, and vegetation. Aside from the amount of waste, a major environmental concern is the leaching of chemicals out of the plastic, and its impact on animals and humans. We eat, swallow, and breath 2,000 particles of plastic a week, about the weight of a credit card. Although no studies have been done on the impact of plastic chemicals on humans, what we know so far from animal studies is serious cause for concern. 

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) contained in plastic cause severe disorders in the developing male reproductive system of laboratory rats. These same chemicals leaked into water streams are known to alter the sexual functions of turtles and fish, turning males into females. In humans, endocrinologists for years have observed a steady decrease in male fertility and an increase in testicular cancer (testicular dysgenesis syndrome), and reported the relentless trend toward early puberty in girls. It probably does not take a wizard to conclude that all these phenomena are related, and that plastic is affecting human bodies too. 

Before it gets too late, we need to wean ourselves off disposable plastic and reduce plastic pollution. It is a life choice that we must make for the sake of future generations. 

Chiara Nappi
Clover Lane

April 7, 2021

To the Editor:

On behalf of Friends of Princeton Open Space (FOPOS), I am writing to ask fellow Princetonians to help address the problem of off-leash dogs in our parks and obey the law, which requires dogs to be leashed at all times when off their owners’ property.  Lest anyone think this letter is written out of anti-dog sentiment, let me say that I and many FOPOS board members are ardent dog lovers. We would love to have a place in Princeton like there is at Skillman Park where dogs could run free. However, that is not the situation currently, and two very sad incidents at the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve illustrate how ignoring the law can have serious consequences.

In one, which occurred a couple of years ago, an off-leash dog ran up to a stag, was gored, and died. Its owner was devastated. Quite recently, an off-leash dog seriously injured a dog that was leashed. There have also been a number of incidents in which people who have had past unpleasant encounters with off-leash dogs have had their enjoyment of the park spoiled by encountering them repeatedly on the trails. We know from conversations with the Animal Control Officer that off-leash dogs are a significant problem at other open space parks; it is not just Mountain Lakes. more

To the Editor:

We are writing on behalf of the Princeton Public Library’s Board of Trustees to express deep gratitude to PPL’s outstanding staff.

The library has long been one of Princeton’s jewels, enriching, educating, and entertaining the community. Throughout the pandemic, the whole team — led by Executive Director Jennifer Podolsky — has worked tirelessly to sustain popular services while also reaching patrons in new ways, including the princetoncovid.org website, StoryWalk, the Keeping TABs podcast, a host of online events, and an expanded mobile device lending program.

We are so grateful for this library and its extraordinary staff, who have helped to make a challenging and isolating time more bearable.

Ruth Miller
President, Board of Trustees, Princeton Public Library
Governors Lane

Jennifer Jang
Vice President, Board of Trustees, Princeton Public Library
Russell Road

To the Editor:

What a crowning achievement it would be for the town of Princeton, the Board of Education, and of course the wonderful and beloved Shirley Satterfield to have the Princeton Middle School named after her. For much of her life she has been dedicated to serving others through her involvement in education as a guidance counselor where she has been a mentor to many students and parents. Through her active involvement in the Witherspoon Presbyterian Church, where she is a deacon and is responsible for ministering and looking out for 12 other church members, and is the adviser for the Junior Ushers Ministry. She is also the church historian, participates in three choirs, and serves on various committees.

Educationally Shirley spent 14 years at Hightstown High School where she taught seventh and eighth grade English and history, and was a guidance counselor. She then came to Princeton High School where she served as a guidance counselor for six years from 1993-2000 before retiring. That did not last long, because the school system called her back as a consultant where she continued to help students find career paths until 2006. more

To the Editor:

On March 24th, 2021 I took part in a meeting of the Princeton Environmental Commission. I was there because of my interest in the proposed Hilltop Park project to replace grass with synthetic turf.

Heidi Fichtenbaum, a member of the commission, gave a very informative report on the impact of synthetic turf versus natural grass. It included the effects to the health of human and animal life, effects on the environment, and the cost of each project over the coming years. For anyone who thought a synthetic turf field was a good idea, the information we heard could easily have changed their minds.

The whole report pointed to the huge benefits of having natural grass. And the good news is that the costs of the grass project and upkeep are lower as well.

Kudos to PEC!

Eliane Geren
Dempsey Avenue

To the Editor:

Child abuse and neglect is a serious problem affecting every segment of our community, and finding solutions requires input and action from everyone. While this is vital in any year, it is even more important in these challenging times when a family’s way of life is upended because of the COVID pandemic. Child abuse can have long term psychological, emotional, and physical effects that have lasting consequences for its victims. 

It is essential that communities increase access to programs and activities that create strong and thriving children and families. Effective child abuse prevention activities succeed because of the partnerships created between child welfare professionals, education, health, community and faith based organizations, businesses, law enforcement agencies, and families. 

April has been declared as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The volunteers and staff at CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties strive to ensure the emotional, physical and educational well-being of these children while they reside in foster homes or residential facilities. The ultimate goal of our volunteers is to help establish a safe, stable and permanent home for each child we serve.

Laura Wall
Executive Director, CASA for Children of Mercer and Burlington Counties

March 31, 2021

To the Editor:

On March 14, the Princeton Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) met virtually to hear from local and state Democratic candidates. Although this year’s race for Princeton Council is not contested, PCDO allowed the candidates for Princeton Council (Leighton Newlin and me) to make statements before we were endorsed by acclamation. I thank PCDO members for their endorsement, and I want to share with the larger Princeton community key points from the statement I gave that evening:

“I ask tonight for your support for a second term on Princeton Council. In 2018, I pledged that I would work hard, always be available and open to community input, and always keep the best interests of Princeton front and center. I believe that I have lived up to those promises. As a progressive Democrat, I am committed to the values of inclusion, social and racial justice, climate sustainability and smart growth, and providing opportunities for our businesses and for all who live and work in our unique and diverse community.

2020 was a very tough year and we faced some existential challenges. I believe that we faced those challenges as a community should, united in helping our residents and our businesses weather this very difficult storm as best we could. I am proud, and I hope that you are as well, of the way Princeton’s elected officials rose to the challenges of COVID, working tirelessly and as a team to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. We also continued work on many goals that could not be set aside, such as our affordable housing settlement, which was passed last year. With vaccines now increasingly available, we are beginning to look beyond the pandemic. We hope this year to get back to some of the goals that we set aside in the spring of 2020. more

To the Editor:

This letter supports renaming John Witherspoon Middle School after Shirley Satterfield.

Ms. Satterfield was my high school guidance counselor at Hightstown High School, in Hightstown, New Jersey. As I considered what to write about Ms. Satterfield, or Auntie Shirley, as we call her, I had to think through how to discuss such a lovely and sweet woman in words.

The easy thing is to write about her number of accomplishments. I am sure many will address that. All one needs to do is type in “Satterfield” and “Princeton” in Google, and you will find several pages documenting her good works. Or you could just look at her children Tracy, a successful guidance counselor, and Dawn, one of the best legal minds in California.

I could speak to her various efforts to preserve the history of African Americans in Princeton, New Jersey, and throughout the state. Her family’s personal history is filled with accomplishment and is also well documented. You can find Ms. Satterfield’s work in a number of periodicals, at various institutions that she has taught, and if you are given the privilege, throughout her home which highlights the history of her family.  more

To the Editor:

To Princeton’s dog owners: In parks, playing fields, and streets, please obey the law and leash your dogs.

These are public spaces, to be safely enjoyed by everyone. The law is for the common good, and is not optional.

Stephanie Magdziak
Jefferson Road

March 24, 2021

To the Editor:

An article in last week’s Town Topics [Town and School System Unite to Change Landscaping Practices,” March 17] described grant funding “geared toward developing a financially viable plan to transition away from the practice of landscaping with fossil-fueled equipment.” That long-winded language perfectly captures the double standard that allows us to continue indefinitely abusing nature while taking rapid action to save ourselves. Imagine a year ago if we had responded to the pandemic by seeking a grant to “develop a financially viable plan to transition away from spreading the coronavirus.” Such a response would have been considered absurd. Instead, we took the threat seriously, shut down activities that facilitated spread, then used our resourcefulness to adapt to new realities. Necessity proved the mother of invention.

Yet when it comes to nature, there’s this persistent notion that we must coddle ourselves and nudge the status quo ever so slowly, lest we upset cherished norms. Meanwhile, every day brings another superspreader event as we continue supercharging the atmosphere with planet-heating CO2. We, who are only alive because our bodies strictly regulate CO2 levels in our bloodstream, somehow think we can get away with altering nature’s atmospheric CO2 levels by 50 percent and rising.

Even before the pandemic struck, there was a telling example in Princeton of how real change happens. For years, environmentalists and town staff had regaled residents not to put plastic bags out for recycling. Educational flyers, websites, scolding letters to the editor — all had next to no impact on behavior. Then, in the fall of 2019, crews were told to leave contaminated recyclables uncollected. Residents who found their yellow and green buckets unemptied quickly got the message and changed their behavior. Within a month, plastic bags had disappeared from curbside recyclables.  more

To the Editor:

I thank Christina Elvina Grant, who took the initiative to schedule a COVID vaccination for me at our local CVS in Princeton, relieving me of the many months of fear that the pandemic had caused.

Ms. Grant, a local realtor, telephoned as soon as she heard that the vaccination was available within walking distance of my Nassau Street office, and then she called CVS to make the appointment. Two days later I was vaccinated. What a relief to feel reconnected to human society!

That exceptional personal intervention made the decision for me, for which I am deeply grateful.

Roger Martindell
Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

I was deeply distressed to learn from recent letters in Town Topics that plans are being made to dig up the beautiful green grass at Hilltop Park and replace it with some kind of synthetic turf to make way for a soccer youth club.

I am dumbfounded by this decision. The green “soccer field” is the only green space in the entire park. There is a concrete skateboard park, a basketball court, a playground, a parking lot, and a softball field. The only space in the entire park that makes it a park is to be converted into an artificial soccer field with bright lights around it so that games can be played far into the evening?

Hilltop Park is a tiny little “pocket” park, surrounded on three sides by hundreds of families. Campbell Woods is on one side of it, a beautifully developed neighborhood with many young families and narrow streets. On the other side is Copperwood Apartments, at least three stories high, housing many professionals who need a quiet place to unwind at the end of the day. Across the street is Princeton Community Village, also densely populated. Hilltop Park across the street is the only place these children have to play.  more

To the Editor:

We have been informed that Hilltop Park is about to be changed drastically by the installation of a for-profit soccer field. We residents of Princeton Community Village, one of the densely populated neighborhoods near the park, wish to register our opposition.

First, let us state that the park already has many facilities, which all of Princeton enjoys: a playground for young children, a basketball court and skate park for older kids, an existing soccer field that is much more ecofriendly than the one proposed, and a softball field. Hilltop Park is beloved as well for its open field, which is used by a great many people around the clock and around the year. It is a wonderful place to enjoy nature, to take a walk, to visit with neighbors. To find space. We citizens of the community do not need a land grab by a for-profit high-tech facility that will cost us millions in up-front costs and maintenance.

Hilltop Park is lovely as it is, but it is almost over-used now: The present soccer field already attracts so many cars that pedestrians are endangered by illegal parking along narrow roads; residents of Princeton Community Village routinely find their parking spaces commandeered by soccer spectators — the new field will greatly exacerbate our parking problems; residents of Princeton Community Village (soon to comprise 250+ households) love the park. Everyone from babies in strollers to seniors use it a lot. more

To the Editor:

I am writing in support of the Hilltop Park field project.

We moved to Princeton this past summer, and signed my boys up for PFC almost immediately. It has honestly been the highlight of the year for the boys, allowing them to get fresh air, exercise, and connection with other boys throughout this crazy year filled with Zoom classes, resulting in too much inactivity and screen time. It is an incredibly well-run program, with terrific administrators and coaches — all are professional, while being positive and encouraging.

For the winter season, we have been driving the kids to practice about 20 minutes away in Hillsborough, where they share a limited number of turf fields with students from a lot of other towns. It would be incredible if they could utilize fields in the community.

I used to work for the KIPP Network of Charter Schools in Newark, N.J. The achievement that I am most proud of throughout my 15+ years with them was creating an athletic field on what was once an unsafe and blighted parking lot, surrounded by abandoned properties. I saw firsthand how athletic fields can be life changing for kids. I know that we are blessed with many beautiful parks in this wonderful town, but the grass fields are not suitable for a good portion of the year, and the PHS turf field is in high demand.

Thank you very much for your consideration of this important project.

Hannah Richman
Esther Plaza