November 17, 2021

To the Editor:

Barbara and I have either worked or lived in Princeton since 1974. Now that we have Geno, our 97-pound, very mellow, Rhodesian Ridgeback, we would love to have the option of exercising him off leash in a local dog park and meeting other local like-minded residents and their dogs.

Currently Princeton is the only town in the area that does not have a specified, fenced-in place for locals and their dogs to meet and greet. Plans have been presented several times since 2013, and on November 8 a detailed PowerPoint presentation was given to the Princeton Council listing multiple in-town available parks and surrounding larger peripheral Princeton parks that would be ideal for future dog parks. Now is the time to fulfill this widely popular concept.

Bruce, Barbara, and Geno Berger
Franklin Avenue

To the Editor:

Since it was established, Princeton has never tried to re-invent itself, but has never been afraid to re-shape itself over the years. The success to its longevity has been remaining true to its core, recognizing and celebrating that it is in essence, a wonderful, university town.

Many residents are aware that we are on the precipice of a new re-shaping. Princeton will expand, and with that comes incredible opportunity for us all. Greater diversity of our town, new neighbors to welcome, and the creation of additional establishments to enhance the existing business vitality and build on the ambiance we all enjoy.

It is actually quite hard to gain a complete picture of the approved development and certainly takes time to piece it all together. It appears that there is approval for approximately 1,000 housing units to be built by 2025; a new hotel offering 180 rooms in the center of Princeton; and ongoing construction with new restaurants, most notably the old post office becoming an eatery offering an estimated 200 seats. more

To the Editor:

The Permit Parking Task Force is proposing a plan enabling employees of Princeton businesses to pay to park all day long on residential streets a half mile or less from downtown Princeton. In turn, the residents of those streets would also have to pay to park in front of their own houses (no matter their need, and despite the difficulty of now finding a space on their own, now crowded, streets). If you wish to raise your concerns about this plan, please attend the virtual community meeting at 12 p.m. on Saturday, November 20. The Zoom link is on the calendar.

No one residing anywhere in Princeton should have to pay for the right to park on the street in front of their own house, and that also goes for home repairers, landscapers, helpers, relatives. and visitors. We already pay astronomical property taxes. The Task Force’s proposed plan is extremely unpopular with residents, and there is no need for it.

In 2017, Princeton Council commissioned a professional study of parking in Princeton’s downtown by Nelson-Nygaard Consulting. They recommended against “Overspill” — i.e. parking employees on residential streets. more

November 10, 2021

To the Editor:

Trying to figure out how you will feed your family is no fun, especially with Thanksgiving approaching. To help our less fortunate neighbors, Yes We CAN! Food Drives collects Thanksgiving food items on behalf of Arm in Arm so those in need can share in the traditions of this wonderful holiday. We are asking you to donate Thanksgiving “fixings” for patrons of the three food pantries located in Princeton and Trenton and operated by Arm in Arm.

Our Yes We CAN! volunteers will be collecting holiday items at two locations: the West Windsor Community Farmers Market on Saturday, November 13 and 20, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as at Princeton McCaffrey’s on November 20, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Among the items we are seeking are stuffing mix, canned vegetables, canned sweet potatoes, cream of chicken soup, gravy mix packets, vegetable oil, salad dressing, and seasonings and spices. We will also be collecting fresh vegetables from the farmers at the West Windsor market, which is located on Vaughn Drive off Alexander Road on the way to the Princeton Junction train station.  more

To the Editor:

I am a keen bicyclist. I commend the Bike Advisory Committee for proposing new bike lanes in Princeton. The more people bicycle to work, to school, and to do errands, the fewer cars we will have clogging Princeton streets and spewing out emissions. 

I am therefore perplexed by a plan proposed by the Permit Parking Task Force. They seek to install a bike lane on Wiggins Street and Hamilton Avenue. This would require finding parking for local business employees who park there now. Fair enough. But instead of stopping there, the Task Force has developed a massive plan to park far more cars — all employees of Princeton businesses — and put them on residential streets. Their plan covers all streets that are within 1/2 mile of any Princeton business. This means that all the quiet residential neighborhoods within a 15-minute walk of Princeton businesses would become busy parking lots for employees. more

To the Editor:

Town Topics’ coverage of the denial of Hun School’s application to rezone residential property to educational zoning [Hun School Rezoning Request is Defeated, Attorney Determines,” page 9, November 3] did not fully communicate why there was vocal neighborhood opposition. 

The property in question — the headmaster’s former private residence —currently serves as a buffer between the busy and heavily trafficked school campus and the quiet community that surrounds the school. While most previous discussion has focused on the school’s stated short-term plans to repurpose the residence for educational uses, the school confirmed that its master expansion plan includes replacing the private residence with a school building more than five times its size. One Councilmember warned that granting the rezoning at the present time would effectively eliminate any future opportunity for the Planning Board to have meaningful oversight or input on the design — and therefore neighborhood impact — of any new school buildings on the property.

Two Councilmembers abstained from voting because of the lack of clarity about whether a “yes” vote was a vote for a 14,000-square-foot as-of-right school building. Inexplicably, two other Councilmembers acknowledged the ambiguity in what they were being asked to vote on, yet voted to support the position of the school over the needs of the neighborhood.

Arthur Eisenbach
Russell Road

November 3, 2021

To the Editor:

For 20-some years, Princeton dog owners — literally thousands of us — have been asking for a dog park.

Why not?

Will a dog park be noisy? No, you’d be surprised to see how peacefully a dog will play once allowed to “talk” to its neighbors and meet up with friends.

Unsanitary? Not an issue. A dog park has doggie bags. You’ll be impressed with how nicely we keep it. And if an occasional owner doesn’t think to scoop up, another will — a dog park is a community thing.

Unsafe? A dog park encourages safety. It’s organized to help with behavior training and communication among owners. The result is better neighbors for all.  more

To the Editor:

The Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development (PCRD) would like to share the good news we received from the municipality of Princeton regarding the redevelopment of the Tennent-Roberts-Whiteley campus on Stockton Street (Route 206) and related properties currently owned by the Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS), all of which have been designated by our town Council as an Area in Need of Redevelopment under New Jersey law.

From the beginning, PCRD has advocated for an open, transparent and inclusive process regarding the redevelopment of these important and historic properties, a process that incorporates meaningful input from all significant stakeholders.

The municipality recently sent a letter to PCRD indicating its support for this approach, writing that, “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.” more

October 27, 2021

To the Editor,

I fully endorse Mara Franceschi for election to Princeton’s Board of Education and invite you to take a closer look at her candidacy.

If you want to minimize tax increases and care about the judicious management of funds, financial expertise is one of her strengths. Mara holds an MBA from Columbia and is a CFA charter holder. While serving on the Johnson Park PTO, Mara demonstrated her ability to manage finances well, building important reserves for the PTO. 

If you care about the environment, Mara is very concerned about the environmental footprint of the school buildings and operations and is aware of the long-term savings of investing in green infrastructure.

If you want a hard-working candidate who will roll up her sleeves, Mara is a great example of someone who will always get the work done. Once, when the composting program was suspended at the schools, Mara brought her own green bin from home in her van to compost food waste from the school events.  more

To the Editor:

Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC) would like to thank all who participated in our virtual Fall Fundraiser on October 16 with Dr. Bernice A. King. PSRC is grateful to all our event sponsors, annual sponsors, donors, participants, and community partners for making PSRC’s Fall Fundraiser a success.

It was a thoughtful discussion and transformative evening with Dr. Bernice A. King at both our virtual VIP and Main Event sessions. Dr. King, the youngest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, spoke dynamically on racial justice, her parents’ legacy, and nonviolence.

We thank the community for supporting a new initiative this year, “pay it forward” tickets, which enabled PSRC to widen our tent of participants by inviting special guests from a diverse group of community partners throughout the area and begin a critical discussion around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Partners included the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society, Civil Rights Commission, CornerHouse Youth Leadership Program, Send Hunger Packing, Every Child Valued, and student leaders from Princeton High School and Lawrence High School. more

To the Editor:

Since securing ballot positions in the June primary, we have been running as Democrats for Princeton Council — Eve as an incumbent seeking a second term and Leighton as a first-time candidate seeking to fill an open seat.  Even though we are unopposed in the general election, we have taken nothing for granted and have been actively campaigning for your votes.  We have walked and talked to voters in all neighborhoods in Princeton to get a sense of what people are thinking and feeling.  We have taken time to be good listeners — no matter the subject.

Over the last few months, as we have gotten to know each other better, we have realized that although we each have a somewhat different focus, we share a similar vision for Princeton and its future. That vision is captured in our campaign slogan, “Smart Growth, Wise Choices.”

What does “Smart Growth, Wise Choices” really mean?  It means we have a commitment to focused growth, including the development of affordable housing, in a walkable, bikeable town center with access to public transit while working to preserve our existing open spaces. This focus brings with it the opportunity to build community and create energy, beauty, green space, diversity, and sustainability for our future.  We understand that partnership with the University and a shared vision of our future together is a critical component to building world class infrastructure in Princeton. We understand that a greater commercial and business footprint can mitigate the high cost of living in Princeton and its impact on low- and moderate-income residents. We recognize that issues of diversity, social justice, and equity are not buzz words, but necessary pillars of a just society. more

To the Editor:

Mara Franceschi is a listener. At a time where there are so many crosscurrents of concerns and opinions regarding the educational choices and priority of a diverse, ever-changing community, listening ability is a priority for anyone charged with serving the public.

Mara has listened and learned while serving as the Johnson Park Elementary School president for three years and its treasurer for four years. A chartered fnancial analyst with a master’s degree (MBA) from Columbia University’s School of Business, Mara is ready, willing, and able to promote constructive policies that will meet the needs of increasing student enrollment and budget pressures in the aging Princeton schools. She knows how important it is to maintain schools so that our students can thrive in a clean, safe, and healthy learning environment.

Her children have attended Johnson Park Elementary School, Princeton Middle School, and Princeton High School. She has experienced firsthand the importance of a strong parent-teacher relationship. She has been the “new person” in school many times, in places that were culturally different. She embraces the importance of learning new cultures, having lived in three states and four countries.

Mara will listen to diverse perspectives so that students not only welcome others but are welcome.

I heartily support Mara Franceschi for the Board of Education. I will be confidently pulling the lever for her in Column F.

Albert M. Stark
Lovers Lane

To the Editor:

Thanks to the community’s efforts, the expertise of municipal staff, the Historic Preservation Commission’s resolve, and the Planning Board’s openness to community input, the iconic western section of Prospect Avenue will have a better future balancing its historic significance with appropriate changes.

The Princeton Prospect Foundation, dedicated to the preservation of the Princeton Eating Clubs, and the ad hoc Save Prospect Coalition sought a balance of the University’s goals with sustaining the historic streetscape. The Save Prospect Petition that now has over 1,700 signatories, expert and impassioned testimony from local residents, eloquent letters to local media, and the press coverage were all key to convincing the University to alter its plans.

The Memorandum of Agreement we negotiated with the University will have lasting impact. Instead of demolishing the three historic houses on the north side, the University agreed to rehabilitate them following the secretary of the interior’s Standards for the Treatment for Historic Properties. To protect Prospect Avenue from governmental encroachment, six months after moving Court Clubhouse and the house at 110 Prospect, the University will apply to the N.J. State Office of Historic Preservation and the National Park Service to extend the boundary of the State and National Register Princeton Historic District to the north side of Prospect to include the three houses, the relocated Court Clubhouse, and the 1911 Ferris Thompson Gateway and Wall designed by McKim, Mead, and White.  more

To the Editor:

We are writing this letter to express our strong support for the BOE candidate Jeffrey Liao. Ying met Jeffrey through his wife Kelly while volunteering on the Princeton Middle School PTO. Through our interactions with him and his family, we have been very impressed by what an earnest person and a dedicated father Jeffrey is. Once he told us that one of his favorite hobbies is parenting! 

If there is one thing that people who don’t know Jeffrey should know about him, that is, he is a very empathic person. Ying recently asked him: “As a father of two younger children, why did you decide to run for BOE?” He told her that as a son of immigrant parents, he himself benefited greatly from a very good public education. He sees public education as a great opportunity equalizer; every student in our town deserves to benefit from the excellent education that Princeton public schools can provide. When we asked him about his vision on excellence, he said, “you know, I want my kids to be strong and happy learners. Excellence education should include both academic rigor and socio-emotional well-being such that every student can be happy, learning, and excelling to their fullest potential.”

Jeffrey is a very good listener. He often says that not everyone learns the same way, and that the school needs to understand every student’s learning needs in and beyond the classroom. Through his campaign journey, Jeffrey has reached out to many communities in town. He believes that a good model of education should be culturally responsive so students from different backgrounds can all thrive. Watching him from a distance we are often amazed by how eager and capable he is to connect to different people.  more

To the Editor:

Three years ago we enthusiastically endorsed Brian McDonald for a seat on the Board of Education, and we unequivocally do so again this year as he seeks to serve a second term. As actively engaged parents with children in Princeton Public Schools, we remain confident in Brian’s abilities and appreciate his efforts that have demonstrably moved the district forward.

Brian’s three years of service have been marked with hard work and dedication, thoughtful planning, greater transparency in budgeting, enhanced fiscal responsibility, and clear steps forward to ensure better experiences for students in the classrooms. We commend him as well for his collaborative work with the Board in hiring our new superintendent, Dr. Carol Kelley. 

While Brian served as chair of the Finance Committee, co-chair of the Facilities Committee, and now as co-chair of the newly combined Operations Committee, the district found hundreds of thousands of dollars of budget savings, and the residents have had two consecutive years of declining tax increases. Additionally, the district is one of only 16 in the state with a triple-A bond rating. District facilities are being much better stewarded, and we are grateful for Brian’s and the Board’s commitment to proactive maintenance and planning to ensure that Princeton school facilities are prepared for rising enrollments and the needs of 21st century pedagogical best practices. more

To the Editor:

The Princeton Coalition for Responsible Development, or PCRD, is a nonprofit organization that was formed to advocate for and enable a more effective and collaborative approach to land use development and redevelopment in Princeton.  A significant element of land use development relates to parking in support of the community and development being undertaken in town.  For this reason, PCRD supports the efforts of to make all Princeton residents aware of the negative effects of the Princeton Parking Task Force’s proposed plan to lease commercial parking spots in residential neighborhoods.

We are concerned that the town has granted variances to real estate developers without requiring the developers to assume the responsibility and bear the costs of addressing the transportation and parking demand created by their projects. The planned development of the former Post Office into a 300-seat restaurant, with no associated parking, is but one glaring example. Another is the 80–space garage for the 180-room Graduate Hotel planned for Nassau Street. more

To the Editor:

If you are a Mercer County voter wondering about the Mercer County Question on the ballot, let’s take a quick expedition together.

Hop on a bike and join us as we ride north from Brandon Farms, our largest neighborhood. We’ll pass through the Twin Pines athletic fields, jointly developed by the Lawrence and Hopewell Valley municipalities and Mercer County, then pedal to the entrance of Mercer Meadows Park.

We can then follow the Lawrence Hopewell Trail, tour the Pole Farm historic exhibit, join friends and family at the Rosedale Park picnic venue, fish for trout in the lake, or watch the dogs play in their park. We’ll soon pass the county equestrian stables and the educational gardens kept by Mercer Master Gardeners.

On the other side of Mercer County, we could start at the West Windsor Community Farmers Market for some locally-grown produce, heading east to 2,500 acre Mercer County Park covering parts of West Windsor, Hamilton, and Lawrence. Nearby we can find preserved farmland and protected municipal open space. more

To the Editor:

I was pleased to see the solution Princeton University worked out with the town saving three historic Prospect Avenue homes that had been proposed for demolition. Ironically, while the fate of those three Victorians was being discussed, a historically and architecturally significant home just down the street, at 164 Prospect, was bulldozed within a few short hours — without a single voice of protest. The home was a unique 1930s-era brick cape with a serpentine brick garden wall, charming outbuilding, dormer windows, and handsome wood-paneled study.

Princeton’s mix of architectural periods and styles helps make it a special place. Permitting demolition of architecturally significant structures irreversibly erodes our neighborhoods and eradicates our history, home by home and block by block. How can the town continue to allow this? Homes like the gem at 164 Prospect Avenue are just not built anymore. The lack of stewardship is appalling considering the presence of a long-standing Historic Preservation Commission and a vocal populace that claims to care about preservation and architectural integrity.

It is high time that Princeton gets serious about preserving its history and architectural integrity, as have many other New Jersey towns. As residents of a town we love, we ought to be able to summon the collective will to commit once and for all to historic preservation, with all of its benefits — and not just when the University is involved.

Tom Leyden
Prospect Avenue

To the Editor:

As a Princeton alumna and longtime resident, I would like to thank everyone in town and at the University who has worked to achieve the Prospect Avenue compromise. I am grateful, proud, and relieved to know that my alma mater does what its professors teach its students to do: listen, work together wherever we can, and seek better solutions.

It is heartening to know that all four historic buildings in question, Court Clubhouse and the three Queen Annes of Faculty Row, will be restored to their former and inspiring beauty. It’s encouraging that the University heard the pleas of the surrounding community and its alums and pledged to support a local historic district on Prospect. It’s fitting that the oldest buildings on the Avenue, the Victorians at 110 and 114, will once again be put to residential use and will be honored for their roles in Princeton’s history as homes of luminaries and sanctuaries to refugees. It’s reassuring that the University will work with stakeholders to develop a landscape design for the new building at 91 Prospect that will be compatible with the avenue’s historic streetscape.  more

October 20, 2021

To the Editor:

My name is Maya Wahrman. I am a social worker in training, getting my masters at Rutgers University, and working full time in refugee resettlement and serving English and Spanish low-income and under-insured clients through my clinical graduate work. I moved to Princeton nine years ago and graduated in 2016 from the University. I came to know the town of Princeton as a community that I wanted to contribute to and see flourish. Having worked locally with immigrant communities and getting to know my neighbors professionally and personally over the last decade, I know how important it is for Princeton to support our whole community. Knowing Eve Niedergang as a Councilwoman and as my close friend, I know she is the right candidate to support all the diverse constituents in our town.

I have had the great fortune of knowing Eve Niedergang my whole life, as our families have been close friends since before I was born. When I moved to Princeton, Eve helped me with whatever I needed and took me in as a family member, introducing me to life in Princeton and as a New Jersey voter. I saw Eve’s commitment to Princeton, her knowledge and care toward all the different layers of our community. She has always showed me and everyone in my circle immense generosity and kindness of spirit, paired with a nuanced thoughtful approach to politics, from her own neighborhood and beyond.

Watching Eve grow as Councilwoman over the past three years has been inspiring. I see her taking seriously every topic that comes before her, recognizing that all the issues her constituents hold dear are important and demand her attention. The care with which she treats her friends and the critical mind with which she approaches all topics of importance are both evident in how she educates herself on all the important issues we face together. Her work at The Watershed has increased her knowledge and commitment to sustainability and environmental justice, and she has educated herself on racial justice and every other issue that someone brings to her attention as important. more

To the Editor:

I am writing to endorse Mara Franceschi’s candidacy for the Princeton School Board. Over several years, I had the pleasure of collaborating with her on the informational newsletter that accompanies the municipality of Princeton’s yearly tax bill. Essentially, she managed the project and was my editor. Her background in finance was critical to the success of that enterprise and will stand her in good stead in helping to oversee the Princeton Public Schools’ $96.4 million budget (which is almost 1 ½ times larger than the municipality of Princeton’s entire budget).

She persuasively kept me on track and demonstrated an ability to identify key and essential facts from a welter of information. She is well-informed, well-organized, and very much a “people person.” She cares deeply about children and about their education. In short, she encompasses the best characteristics we would want in a Board of Education member. I hope you will join with me in giving her your unqualified support.

Roger Shatzkin
Chestnut Street

To the Editor:

During Hurricane Irene my friend lost original artwork and books. During Hurricane Ida a friend lost irreplaceable family photos. Every resident of Princeton wants to preserve something, and this will get harder as storm flooding gets worse.

This is why I have been so disheartened by the narrow use of the idea of “preservation” when debating Princeton’s future. I appreciate the desire to slow change and to preserve some buildings along Nassau Street and in the business district. But the amount of resources spent in the name of preservation is troublesome when what is needed is a plan to fix our stormwater issues in order to preserve our city.

The devasting floods in Europe this summer were a warning to us. In a New York Times article, the mayor of a German village described how the small brook he used to play in as a child turned into a 33-foot river of water that swept his mother away. In an initial assessment of what happened, German officials noted that there was a lack of water retention reservoirs, too much impervious surface cover, and the fast-growing trees planted to harvest wood had roots that were too shallow to hold the soil. In other words, causes were linked to mismanagement and two officials were under investigation for “negligent homicide.” more

To the Editor,

I write this letter as a member of the Princeton Cannabis Task Force and, as importantly, a resident of the Princeton community for over 30 years who has raised four children in our town.

Last spring I became aware that our Council was establishing a task force to explore the potential impact that the legalization of cannabis in New Jersey would have on our town. Council was looking for applicants interested in participating in this initiative. I was concerned about the complexity of this issue and the potential consequences it might have, and so I decided to apply for a seat on the committee, considering that this would be the best way to educate myself and address the questions I had.

I sit on the committee with a diverse group of individuals represented by medical professionals, law enforcement, business owners, lawyers, and Princeton University among others, all appointed blind to any personal convictions. I have watched this group work exhaustively to research and share information around the important decision of whether to allow dispensaries in Princeton, including the impact that legalization has had on other states, and the approach that similar towns in New Jersey are taking. more

To the Editor:

On Friday, October 8, Princeton-Blairstown Center (PBC) held its sixth annual Links to Youth Golf Outing at the Fox Hollow Golf Club in Branchburg. A beautiful fall day drew 88 golfers and raised more than $75,000, which will support PBC’s award-winning Summer Bridge Program. Each year, Summer Bridge offers hundreds of students from Trenton and Newark a high-quality summer enrichment experience focused on social emotional learning and S.T.E.A.M. completely free of charge.

In addition to the golfers who joined us for the day, many others supported the event by donating and/or bidding on items in the online silent auction. Our board members were also tremendous assets, stepping up to register or recruit foursomes and solicit auction prizes and sponsorships. Their efforts helped us surpass both our attendance and revenue goals!

The winning foursome for the day, who scored an impressive six under par on the Fox Hollow course, included Mike Dawson of North Brunswick; Nichole Drakeford of Union; Antoine Johnson of East Brunswick; and Derek Simpkins of Ringoes. Three of the golfers in this year’s first-place foursome were returning golfers who were also part of last year’s winning team. more

To the Editor:

I’ve followed with interest some of the meetings of the Cannabis Task Force and some of the letters to the editor in Town Topics about bringing cannabis dispensaries to town. I’ve heard and seen a lot of arguments promoting, if not celebrating, this while downplaying the negative impact of recreational cannabis on young people and the community. Although I disagree with those promoting this overall perspective, I do believe they are sincere in their intentions, as am I. In today’s hyper-partisan environment, too often we impugn the motives of those who disagree with us.

That being said, I think these overly sanguine perspectives often gloss over the main issue going forward which is that with greater availability will come significant costs and, most especially, unintended consequences. Let’s not delude ourselves. With greater acceptance and widespread distribution over time, there will be more and more underage consumption (and habitual use) in the same way that underage drinking is so high, despite the enacted laws and our best-intentioned educational efforts over the years (I wouldn’t be surprised if official survey data underreports these levels of usage amongst teens with both cannabis and alcohol). more