June 8, 2022

To the Editor,

In the recent article regarding the demolition of the historic Tennent, Roberts, and Whiteley gymnasium buildings [“Neighbors of Seminary Raise Concerns about Demolition of Buildings,” June 1, page 1], a Princeton Theological Seminary representative stated that the demolition has been “thoughtfully planned and will be carefully executed to minimize disruption to the neighborhood.” Unfortunately, the town has been unresponsive to requests to meet with neighbors to discuss exactly what precautions may be in place to deal with asbestos and other airborne contaminates, removal of debris, contaminated soil, truck traffic, and storm water management.

This is in stark contrast to the way in which other significant demolitions have been managed. When AvalonBay planned to demolish the old hospital, they met multiple times with neighbors, and the town provided additional services, such as air quality monitors, to reassure neighbors that the demolition would be conducted to the highest standards. Princeton University also met multiple times in public with neighbors to discuss the demolition of the Butler tract. It is disappointing that the Mercer Hill/Frog Hollow neighbors are being treated differently, but perhaps it is due to confusion around who actually owns the properties now – Herring Properties or the Seminary. more

To the Editor:

In the recent Town Topics article about the redevelopment of the Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) properties on the Tennent-Roberts-Whiteley (TRW) campus [“Neighbors of Seminary Raise Concerns About Demolition of Buildings, June 1, page 1], the presumptive purchaser and developer of the property, Jamie Herring, spoke about listening to the community before presenting his redevelopment plans for the property, which is currently designated as an Area in Need of Redevelopment (ANR) under state law.  New Jersey law requires that that an ANR-designated property be redeveloped with community input.

From the beginning, the Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development (PCRD) has advocated for a transparent and inclusive process regarding the redevelopment of these important and historic properties, a process that incorporates meaningful input from all stakeholders.  So, too, does the Princeton Council, which wrote in October 2021, “any redevelopment of the [PTS property] must be the result of a collaborative effort between the Contract Purchaser, [PCRD], the neighborhood, and [PTS] as appropriate.”

Thus, PCRD applauds any proposal to bring various parties together to engage in these critical discussions.

We are, however, concerned about the process Mr. Herring has outlined.  Under the ANR statutory framework, it is the town, not the property owner or the developer, that has responsibility for establishing and approving a redevelopment plan that is in the public interest and thus appropriate for the ANR-designated properties.  Therefore, it is the town, not Mr. Herring, that should run the process for soliciting community input, a process that should be public, transparent, objective, and meaningful. more

To the Editor:

As a direct result of the 2013 construction of the Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) Library, garbage and gravel were washed into the culvert that runs through my property. I had to rake out what I could to prevent the stream being blocked. Any proposed construction on what has been PTS property has larger ramifications.

As I understand, the underground streams apparently begin right under where the proposed buildings are planned, coalesce with rain water runoff, and then continue down through my property under College Road to the golf course to what seems to be a still-operating water purification plant.

When I have tried to determine if my information was correct, and to ascertain if an environmental impact survey has been made, I have not received a reply from any of the pertinent (state, region, county) authorities with whom I have spoken: all point to Princeton municipality, which at last account could not reply that any such survey had been made. Has one now been made? Will such a study be made before potentially disrupting the underground water networks?  more

June 1, 2022

To the Editor:

Now that the municipality’s Sustainable Landscaping Ordinance summer restrictions are officially in place, here are a few simple ways to help ease the transition if you employ a landscaper:

  • Let your landscaper know that it is OK not to use a leaf blower to clear grass clippings from sidewalks and patios.
  • Ask your landscaper to use electric mowers to clear debris instead of blowers.
  • Allow your landscaper to charge their electric equipment on site.
  • If you own a residential-sized electric leaf blower, make it available for your landscaper to use and help them out by having it charged and ready.

 more

To the Editor:

Tuesday, June 7, is the primary election and it is important for all citizens to exercise their right to vote. We strongly recommend that registered Democrats support Bonnie Watson Coleman’s re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives and vote for our dedicated and hard-working Princeton Council members Mia Sacks and Michelle Pirone Lambros to represent the party for another term.

Unlike other states, New Jersey has made it easier rather than more difficult to participate in the electoral process. Once again, early voting will be available at the Princeton Shopping Center, 301 North Harrison Street (by Rita’s Water Ice), on Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and on Sunday, June 5, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Any Princeton voter can cast their ballot at this site during the early voting period.

For those who prefer to vote on Tuesday, June 7, you can find your district polling place on your sample ballot or by checking the New Jersey state website at voter.svrs.nj.gov/polling-place-search. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on that day. more

To the Editor:

We are once again faced with a horrifying mass shooting of innocent children, this time at a grade school in Texas. This is predictable and will continue unless we take effective action. We now average about two mass shootings per day in the U.S.

When Australia suffered a mass shooting by a man with an assault weapon in 1996, in which a single person killed 35 people, they banned assault weapons nationwide. There hasn’t been another mass shooting since. Denying potential shooters this weapon of war designed for the battlefield, makes mass shootings much less likely, if not impossible.

We need to exercise the political will to keep these battlefield weapons of mass destruction out of civilian hands. We can make it happen. If necessary, it can be done by the U.S. Senate making an exception (which takes only 50 votes) to the Senate filibuster that makes 60 votes necessary to passage of new laws. more

To the Editor:

At the risk of alienating some of my neighbors but with no intention to do so, as a resident of the Edgerstoune community for just about 28 years, and with absolutely no affiliation to Hun, I enthusiastically support and agree with the Hun School’s request for rezoning the Mall and Mason House lots. I also agree with Susan Ward’s comments regarding Hun (if available to you), but nonetheless Hun’s application to upgrade their infirmary and move offices into the property they own and therefore support their students in a more effective manner.

The Hun School has been in the neighborhood in one form or another since 1914 and a respected and responsible asset to our small community. They have educated thousands of students and attract many worldwide. Personally, I feel it my civic duty as part of the silent majority to support this important institution.

I would also not be telling the truth if I didn’t say that there are times that I’m unhappy with this neighbor. It sure is inconvenient to dodge cars during graduation and reunion. But I also have been annoyed at my neighbors’ dogs barking in the middle of the night, finding little green bags on my yard on occasion, and listening to the generators going on and off during odd times of the night. Living in a neighborhood requires understanding and appreciation of the needs of others and I have empathy for all. more

May 25, 2022

To the Editor:

A heartfelt thank you from the Friends and Foundation of the Princeton Public Library to the more than 160 booklovers who joined us on May 12 for our annual Book Lovers Luncheon. The conversation between Julia Glass, about her newest book, Vigil Harbor, and Associate Professor of English Tamsen Wolff was thoughtful and engaging.  We are grateful to Beatrice Bloom of Weichert Realtors for her longstanding support of the Book Lovers Luncheon.

Because of the loyalty and generosity of our donors, the Friends and Foundation is able to support the award-winning library in expanding its collections and enhancing its programming.  These privately raised funds have also allowed the library to stop charging extended use fees on materials in the children’s and young adult collections.

We thank all our supporters and look forward to joining again with you for Beyond Words 2022 on October 15.  Stay tuned for more details about this exciting evening.

Seva Kramer
Prospect Avenue

Audrey Egger
Coniston Court

2022 Book Lovers Luncheon Co-Chairs
Friends and Foundation Board Members

To the Editor:

The Princeton Public Schools’ Parent-Teacher Organization Council (PTOC) would like to thank our school-community volunteers whose meaningful contributions, dedication, and engagement have helped our district thrive. Specifically, we’d like to acknowledge our leadership team, whose terms expire this school year. As PTO presidents and PTOC members, they have worked tirelessly on behalf of our students, staff, and families while resiliently leading through the challenges of the last two years.

We thank Tara Oakman and Mara Franceschi, our outgoing PTOC vice presidents. Before joining the PTOC Executive Board, Tara was the PTO president of Community Park, and Mara was the PTO president of Johnson Park. more

To the Editor:

I grew up in Princeton, and I remember when it was a quiet country town. It’s changed, of course, and some changes have been for the worse. The traffic problem is out of control, and the air, along some busy streets, reeks of fumes. Lately, water has become a problem. Water levels have risen along creeks and ponds, and many homeowners complain about water in their basements.

It’s easy to blame our problems on global warming and Washington politicians. But many of our water problems are caused by something closer to home: the financial and political clout of local developers. Years ago, the Route 1 area was mainly farmlands and wetlands. Most of that land has been built over. As empty land becomes scarce, developers have moved in on wetlands, like the many acres near Quaker Bridge Mall now slated to become a vast network of warehouses. This sort of development — paving over wetlands and farmlands — is happening throughout central New Jersey.   more

To the Editor:

On a rainy evening earlier this month, friends of the Housing Initiatives of Princeton (HIP) gathered under tents to hear Prof. Ruha Benjamin preview her new book, Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want. Despite the dreary weather, we were delighted by the turnout and show of support and inspired by Prof. Benjamin’s vision of creating transformative change from millions of small individual acts. We want to thank all who contributed to our successful fundraiser, including host Jane Scott and Kale’s Garden Center for providing gift certificates for a silent auction. The money raised at the event will help fund HIP’s transitional housing program which helps families on the brink of homelessness chart a path to financial security.

We are grateful for the support of our many community partners. During the busy Mothers’ Day weekend, Color Me Mine at the Princeton Shopping Center opened their doors to the families in our program for an uplifting mother and child painting party. Owner Krystal Bechtel went above and beyond in creating a fun and welcoming event. more

To the Editor:

Given the strong public sentiment on both sides, we recognize that whether to open retail cannabis shops was not a simple decision for the Princeton Council. The public health risks to our community, especially the vulnerable and our children, outweigh the perceived benefits.

We would like to publicly thank the Board of Health (BoH), especially George DiFerdinando, Meredith Hodach-Aalos, Rick Strauss, and JoAnn Hill for their medical expertise, for being brave stewards of this community’s public health and for maintaining your Hippocratic oath. Thank you also to the Board of Education (BoE) for their position statement, and to Council wo/men Dave Cohen, Michelle Pirone Lambros, Mia Sacks, and Mayor Mark Freda for listening to the BoH, BoE, and for keeping an open mind before reaching your decisions. Thank you for engaging with us and many others in our community in respectful dialogue. Your admirable approach reinforces our belief in the democratic process. Eve Niedergang, we know how passionate you felt about the mission of the Cannabis Task Force, and yet you publicly conceded that now is not the right time to proceed. We recognize and appreciate that you put this town’s will above your own, despite the personal disappointment.   more

May 18, 2022

To the Editor:

Further to the letter “Hoping that Residents Can Weigh in Before Some Downtown Sections are Changed” [Mailbox, May 11], there is much to be said for being cognizant and respectful of the existing buildings that are a crucial part of the Princeton community that we share. All citizens should be able to appreciate the character, history and continuity of the buildings that comprise the unique neighborhoods that make this a special town to live in. I emphasize that Princeton is a town — not a city — and should remain so. The history and character embodied in all the older buildings here are important to recognize, honor, and care for. If they are lost as part of redevelopment, they are gone forever. Think for a moment about a structure you have observed for years that one day you see demolished, then replaced by something bigger, more generic, cheaply built, and devoid of character. Who does not feel some loss at such diminishing of a neighborhood?

Some will observe about an old building that it looks “run down,” or “has become an eyesore,” or (from a developer lacking imagination and with a singular focus on profit) that “‘we do not see how this can be saved/incorporated into our plans.” The fact is that historic buildings, both grand and modest, are usually built with quality and to last. Many suffer from benign or strategic neglect, by owners who are disengaged from their remaining value or are seeking to profit from their sale. The truth is that in many enlightened parts of the world, both in small pockets of our country and in much of western Europe and elsewhere, the reuse of older buildings is very commonly and successfully achieved, benefiting their occupants and communities. Buildings can be thoughtfully restored, improved, even added to, as they are adapted to the needs of our time.  more

To the Editor:

The long-anticipated work to update Princeton’s Community Master Plan begins in earnest this month. While the consultant team engaged by the Planning Board has been gathering reports, maps, data, and other background materials for some time, the Steering Committee charged with overseeing the update process will meet for the first time on Friday, May 20 at 9 a.m.

The Steering Committee will work with the consultant team (led by Clarke Caton Hintz), the Planning Office, and the Master Plan Subcommittee of the Planning Board to provide input and direction for the development of the Community Master Plan. Steering Committee members will ensure that the consultants understand the shared values and divergent viewpoints of Princeton. They will also be advocates in the community for robust participation in public forums, surveys, and other forms of outreach led by the consultants.

The Steering Committee members (in alphabetical order) are: Kristin Appelget, Emma Brigaud, Cecilia Xie Birge, Sam Bunting, Jennifer Carson, Nick Di Domizio, Mark Freda, Brian McDonald, Liliana Morenilla, Mia Sacks, Shirley Satterfield, Christine Symington, and Louise Currey Wilson.

Members of the Planning Board’s Master Plan Subcommittee – Tim Quinn, Phil Chao, David Cohen, Alvin McGowan, and John Taylor – are ex officio members of the steering committee.

Most Steering Committee meetings will be held via Zoom, where they can be viewed by interested members of the public. Meeting information will be available on the municipal calendar at princetonnj.gov. The role of this committee is not to gather and synthesize public input on the master plan. That work will be done over the coming six to eight months through public forums, surveys, interviews, tabling events, and other online and in-person methods led by the consultant team. more

To the Editor:

The Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) would like to extend many thanks to the Princeton Public Library and the Friends of Rogers Refuge for their collaborative efforts to help make the Cole Morano Community Science Day at the Charles H. Rogers Wildlife Refuge on Sunday, May 1, a great success. We would also like to thank all participants, individuals, and families who took the time out of their Sunday morning to enjoy nature with us.

In total, there were about 40 participants who stopped by to chat with us, take guided tours, and collect data using the citizen science application, iNaturalist. This event is proposed as a pilot for a year-long data collection project for the Municipality of Princeton’s Environmental Resource Inventory, which is led by Open Space Coordinator, Cindy Taylor.

Participants were guided on their walks by Winifred Spar and David Padulo of the Friends of Rogers Refuge. During these walks participants learned about the history of Rogers Refuge and about the native plants and animals. We were delighted to hear the participants were able to spot several birds such as the bald eagle, different species of warblers, and a pileated woodpecker! Participants were also able to spot a garter snake in the trees of Rogers Refuge. Additionally, participants spotted an abundance of skunk cabbage, mayapples, and violets in bloom.  more

To the Editor:

I am deeply grateful to the family of the late Adam Apgar Pyle for their loving depiction of his life and death (Obituaries, May 11, 2022). I have never been engaged so profoundly with the essence of one who struggled and worked beyond all imagining to grasp the gossamer seasons of peace and ostensible normality that many of us take for granted.

Their compassionate and unflinching obituary, and by extension, Adam Apgar Pyle’s very life, become a gift and a blessing to us all.

Eliot Daley
Dorann Avenue

May 11, 2022

To the Editor:

It’s discouraging to read in Town Topics that Mercer County had so many documented instances of antisemitism in 2020 [“Combating Antisemitism is Goal of Campaign Across Mercer County,” page 1, May 4.] Those of us who are not Jewish, but who recognize antisemitism for the evil it is, need to speak up to try to create a “safer environment for Jewish individuals living in the region,” as members of The Jewish Federation Princeton Mercer Bucks suggest.

My recognition of the malicious harmfulness of antisemitism goes back to childhood. I was an Irish-American Catholic child living in an Irish-American Boston neighborhood. When a Jewish family moved across the street, the neighbors were outraged. “The nerve of them, ruining a Christian neighborhood,” they complained. No one spoke to the newcomers. Yet when my parents had to leave home unexpectedly, and I was alone, the only neighbor who invited me over for dinner was the Jewish woman across the street.

I was glad to escape the narrow thinking of that Boston neighborhood, and I eventually moved to Mercer County, New Jersey. I joined a Fair Housing group in Lawrence Township, organized by a Jewish scientist, with the goal of making housing available to everyone, without discrimination. When I moved to Princeton, I became involved in an educational program to help students with learning difficulties. We looked for space, and The Jewish Center Princeton gave us excellent, inexpensive space and helped us in kind and generous ways. None of the children we worked with were Jewish, nor were any staff members, yet we always felt welcome at The Jewish Center. more

To the Editor:

On April 7, the bipartisan No Child Left Inside Act was introduced in both the House and the Senate. The No Child Left Inside Act, if passed, will provide grants for states and school districts to integrate environmental education into their core academic programs. The bill would authorize $150 million annually through 2027 and offers a significant step forward for more equitable access to environmental and outdoor learning in PreK–12 schools.

Why should we support this legislation? Stanford University researchers found that high quality environmental education programs result in 90 percent of students reporting gains in academic performance, knowledge, skills, confidence, motivation, and behavior changes.

Affluent school districts and independent schools understand how this kind of experience benefits their students and often provide opportunities for their students to attend multi-day environmental education programs year after year. They understand that because of these programs their students demonstrate knowledge gains across multiple disciplines, including environmental issues, science, and math, while deepening their social-emotional skills such as self-esteem, character development, and teamwork. more

To the Editor:

The state of New Jersey legalized the sales of cannabis products. There has been substantial debate about whether the town of Princeton should authorize the opening of a dispensary for their sale. I urge the debate to focus on the evidence of costs and benefits, rather than speculation and fears.

As an economist, I turned to the recent literature about the opening of dispensaries in Colorado and California. Three papers have studied the opening of dispensaries and found that housing values near these new retail establishments did not fall – in fact, they rose! And three different papers found that opening dispensaries reduced crime rates in local areas.

Princeton’s decision should be guided by the science. Thus, I would urge the Council to vote to authorize the opening of a dispensary in town.

Leah Boustan
Broadmead Street

To the Editor:

Marijuana is now a legal product in New Jersey. Adults are allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to use it.

Sadly, the small minority of Princetonians (27 percent) that voted against legalization is trying to block the will of the majority by preventing any dispensary licenses from being issued. Reasonable people can disagree about how many licenses should be issued and where the stores may be located. But using the regulatory process to effectively change the result of the referendum is undemocratic.

It’s also pointless. People who want to smoke pot will just buy it somewhere else, denying our community revenue we could use to improve services or prevent tax increases. more

To the Editor:

Princeton is like the “mama bear” of towns. Not too big, not too small, just right. Downtown is also not too crowded, not too empty, just right.

It’s nice walking down Nassau Street, window shopping and people watching. Sometimes parking is a bit rough, but usually not bad. There has been a lot of debate about having cannabis dispensaries in town. I am not against legal weed. I am against changing Princeton into a crowded “destination” without a sense of community.

We already have several projects that will increase the population and/or visitors to Princeton: the new Graduate Hotel, revamping Witherspoon Street (making the town even more interesting and walkable), increased University enrollment, and possibly new apartments near the shopping center and elsewhere. more

To the Editor:

This Mother’s Day, I was inspired to think of ways that mothers in our community can work together to improve the education of all of our children. Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870 asked women around the world to rise up as one to end the carnage of war. Other powerful mothers’ movements have included Mothers of the Playa de Mayo, Moms Demand Action, and the Say Her Name Mothers Network. Mallory McMorrow’s viral speech in the Michigan Senate last month also resonated with me. It was a call to action to suburban moms like herself (and like me) to stand up to politics that marginalize and target other people’s children and stand for the principle that all children should be seen, heard and supported.

Last week, Princeton Public Schools held the first of two Community Forums regarding Strategic Planning. Parents and other stakeholders were asked to come together to consider where our district performs well and where improvement is needed. Kudos to the district for their remarkable transparency, sharing 88 pages of data from survey results as well as other sources. The data clearly indicates that, even while our schools perform well by many measures, there are also areas that can be improved for virtually all students. Most disturbing, the data also reveals that long-standing disparities in student experience and outcomes between demographic subgroups persist, with Black and Brown children, children with disabilities, and LGBTQIA children particularly impacted.  more

To the Editor:

In Princeton, because of our new Sustainable Landscaping Ordinance, gas-powered leaf blowers will not be permitted from May 16, 2022 through September 30, 2022. Our town is by no means unique in starting to protect residents, landscaping workers, and the environment from the noise and pollutants generated by two-stroke gas engines such as those used in gas leaf blowers.

Our ordinance is part of a major trend. Over 50 towns and cities in the U.S. have some kind of ban on gas leaf blowers. Most bans are seasonal, like Princeton’s, permitting gas leaf blowers only in the fall, when they are used primarily for leaves, and in some towns like Princeton also in the spring, when they are intended to be used for “spring cleanup.” For example, 12 towns in New York state and seven towns in Illinois have seasonal bans. In our own state of New Jersey, Montclair, Summit, and South Orange all have seasonal bans. Like Princeton’s ordinance, most towns’ ordinances permit electric leaf blowers all year round.  more

To the Editor:

Many residents and visitors enjoy Princeton’s downtown. Its many attractive, older buildings give it a unique quality. Now, however, some new plans for large, multi-storied buildings have come to light which may significantly change the architectural character and bring increased traffic to the downtown. These include a new, multi-storied building on the current parking lot at Witherspoon and Hulfish, a proposal to demolish historic 71-74 Witherspoon which currently houses Terra Momo Bread Company and A Little Taste of Cuba and replace it with a multi-storied/use building, as well as approved plans to convert the existing office/retail building on Chambers Street to a new hotel.

But have residents been afforded an opportunity to weigh in on these plans for dramatic change? Will current parking be adequate to serve the needs of these new buildings? Will the small-town character of the downtown area be altered? How will the proposed demolition of the current building at 71-74 Witherspoon and its replacement alter the character of Witherspoon on the Paul Robeson end? Will these changes bring an urban “corridor” feel to the neighborhood, blocking out the sky, light, and views? Will they change the sense of a preserved village, changing what many consider to be the best of Princeton? more

To the Editor:

Now that retail cannabis stores have opened in New Jersey (and especially nearby on Route 1 in Lawrence) it has become abundantly clear that a lot of what we’ve been told to expect does not match the realities of what we’ve seen at retail stores. As this decision is considered for Princeton, it’s essential to discern the myths from reality.

Myth No. 1: The products sold in legal retail cannabis stores will be clean, safer, and better for our community than the underground market.

Reality: Sources continue to cite not nearly enough testing is done to verify the quality and safety of products being sold in legal New Jersey stores. This creates a false sense of safety that could be dangerous (for example, “NJ Cannabis Labs and Testing Quality Issues,” headynj.com).

Myth No. 2: The opening of retail cannabis stores will benefit minority, local business owners, reversing the impact the War on Drugs had on minority populations. And, as the Cannabis Task Force (CTF) reported, we can offer equity in sales availability for people with lower incomes. more