February 16, 2022

To the Editor:

The idea of a Special Improvement District (SID) sounds like a win-win for Princeton.

Generally speaking, SIDs seek to bring about desirable improvements that benefit the business districts, but also the city, town, or county as a whole. The proposed SID for Princeton will be made up of business and property owners who are invested in the town, most of whom live here and all of whom care greatly about the town’s well-being.

I read about a 2018 study of 14 districts and municipalities where 79 percent of residents within special improvement districts felt the SIDs positively impacted their towns or neighborhoods.  more

To the Editor:

I support the establishment of cannabis dispensaries in Princeton proper. I am a 30-year resident of Princeton. There is an alcohol dispensary at the end of my block, and I would like to have a cannabis dispensary next to it. I’d like it to be as easy for me to buy cannabis to enjoy in my home as a responsible adult as it is to buy a bottle of wine.

The alcohol dispensary referred to above is about one-half block from an elementary school and no one seems to mind that. I am more dismayed by the easy access to alcohol in grocery stores than about local cannabis dispensaries. If people are concerned about proximity of drug dispensaries to schools, why is there an alcohol dispensary close to an elementary school on Nassau Street?

There have been recent Letters to the Editor painting cannabis as a dangerous drug. This reminds me of the old movie Reefer Madness. Cannabis is widely used in a manner quite similar to alcohol. Most adults consume it while socializing with friends or relaxing after work. And while some consume it for its medical benefits, others use it for therapeutic purposes. Some consume it to alleviate arthritis, relieve a migraine, or because it helps them fall asleep and get a good night’s rest. Consuming cannabis is simply something that some adults choose to do, and some specifically choose to do it instead of having a cocktail, beer, or glass of wine.  more

To the Editor:

On February 25, it will be six months since an elderly Princeton resident was hit by a car and killed while crossing Rosedale Road at its intersection with the access driveways to Johnson Park School and the Greenway Meadows parking lot. What changes have taken place at this site since that tragic accident? None.

In 1999, Principal Robert Ginsberg and the school’s PTO officers met with then-Mayor Phyllis Marchand to discuss concerns about the intersection. Their main issue was the speed of vehicles on Rosedale Road and drivers’ frequent failures to slow down despite the fact signage warned them they were approaching a school zone. Since that meeting, has the situation improved? No.

Municipal officials have often noted Rosedale Road is a county artery and responsibility lies with county decisionmakers. Our impatient and growing coalition of citizens will certainly take our concerns to Mercer County’s executive and commissioners, but we also expect our mayor and our Council members to demonstrate greater support and more direct advocacy to ensure the safety of our residents.  more

To the Editor:

I was shocked to read that there were 29 pedestrians struck on Princeton streets in the past year, 24 (83 percent!) in marked intersections. Since we have had a very successful trial of the “all pedestrian” system at the corner of Nassau and Van Deventer streets it now seems logical and urgent to implement that system at all intersections in Princeton, whether controlled by the state or the town, irrespective. This can definitely reduce the conflict between pedestrians crossing and drivers turning at these intersections.  

This should also include intersections where University students are crossing streets since the conflict between pedestrians and drivers is particularly apparent in these locations, crossing lights and warning lights to the contrary notwithstanding.  

As I’ve noted before, New Haven uses this system throughout the city; it too has numerous intersections where students and other pedestrians cross busy streets, more safely there because of the “all pedestrian” crossing system. Hopefully, we do not have to wait for another fatality at an intersection to spur the use of a safer system for pedestrians.

David H. Miller, Ph.D.
Hawthorne Avenue

To the Editor:

The tragic death of Pinghua Xu at the intersection of Rosedale Road and General Johnson Drive last August should have been the catalyst for significant safety improvements. And yet six months after the accident and almost six years after the intersection was flagged as an area of concern in the New Jersey Safe Routes to School report, pedestrians remain at risk.

Making this intersection safe without impacting the flow of traffic should not be beyond the wit of the local, county, and state authorities. A reduction in the speed limit, better road markings, and improved lighting around the crossing would be a start, but getting drivers to take more care on this stretch of road may be the greater challenge.

I am fortunate to be able to walk my three children to Johnson Park without crossing Rosedale Road, and I believe more families would choose to walk or cycle if a safer crossing was installed. Let’s hope no more lives are lost before this happens. 

Rob Sloan
Fairway Drive

February 9, 2022

To the Editor:

Recently the Princeton Cannabis Task Force (CTF) issued a detailed report which recommends up to three recreational dispensaries in town. This newspaper has received many letters from outraged citizens, and I would like to add my outraged voice about a related issue: the proliferation of retail alcohol dispensaries downtown.

Many letter-writers outraged by the proposal for retail cannabis dispensaries cite concerns which apply equally to the numerous retail alcohol dispensaries in town – not to mention the perhaps hundreds of retail consumption locations, and the fact that Princeton has no limit on the number of “club licenses,” which means that these could literally be located on every street in town, and even inside schools, child care centers, and houses of worship, some of which already distribute alcohol as part of their rituals, if I am not mistaken. 

Letters have also discussed the cost for communities in hosting cannabis dispensaries. Well, take a look at the cost of alcohol. According to the CDC, in New Jersey excessive alcohol use cost the state more than $6 billion in 2010. That’s billion with a B, like the TV show. The cost that these letter writers cite for cannabis dispensaries is chump change by comparison. Plus, these costs were for before COVID came along and we all started drinking more heavily.

Next, people opposed to retail cannabis bring up parking and sustainability. How many of you reading this right now have driven to a restaurant in town and “enjoyed” a drink with your meal? Or if it’s a BYOB restaurant, bought a bottle of wine from a nearby alcohol dispensary? And where parking is horrible and will get worse if the town decides to let employees park wherever they want on our residential “tree” streets. And those streets won’t be treed for long after drunk drivers plow them down. Where’s the sustainability in that? more

To the Editor:

Princeton voters should encourage their elected representatives to vote against the Special Improvement District (SID) ordinance which will be deliberated and voted upon on February 28. Adoption of the ordinance will buy into litigation and cost all taxpayers money down the road. The SID is an additional tax, first imposed on commercial property owners and subsequently may very well increase the tax burden on all property owners.

The state of New Jersey permits municipalities to create Special Improvement Districts in order to redevelop decayed commercial centers in distressed communities. Princeton has the most vibrant commercial center in the state. Princeton is certainly not in need of redevelopment or urban renewal. To adopt the SID ordinance here would be a misuse of the statute and misguided folly. It will surely be challenged in the courts and all the taxpayers of Princeton will have to foot the bill for litigation in a losing cause. more

To the Editor:

As a long-term former board of health member and longtime resident of Princeton, I sent the following comments to the Princeton Board of Health for its February 8 meeting on the agenda item: Health Impacts of Recreational Cannabis Legalization.

1) For a variety of public health and related reasons we need retail cannabis outlets in Princeton like we need the proverbial “hole in the head.”  Kidding aside, the numerous compelling resident letters to Town Topics and otherwise expressed have given very strong reasons why we should not move forward with retail cannabis. The Princeton Board of Health (and health officer’s) responsibility and input are critical in this matter.

2) While medical cannabis is necessary for some, recreational use is not. Promotion of such use via retail stores can be expected to create additional health problems. These include increased smoking, motor vehicle accidents, and related impairment incidents, aside from the message it sends to our youth. This is especially true with cannabis products, the dose of which cannot always be verified.  more

To the Editor:

In 2020, an incredible 78 percent of Princeton residents voted to legalize recreational cannabis for adults age 21+. Statewide, the number was closer to 67 percent in favor, notably larger than the margin by which Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump (57 percent to 41 percent) – and that was considered a landslide. Efforts at overturning the presidential election should elicit a deserved eye roll; surely too, the recent attempts to pressure Princeton Council to use zoning ordinances to prevent cannabis dispensaries from opening in town should be met with similar outcry.

The attempts by a small minority to exert outsized political pressure on Council brings to mind similar national efforts to advance unpopular views on issues that otherwise enjoy broad support: whether it’s curtailing women’s reproductive rights, banning books that run afoul of far-right ideologies, or denying free and fair access to vote in communities of color. The recent attempts to block cannabis businesses from opening in Princeton is just another way to misuse local government to subvert the results of an election. Remember that 78 percent number? I’m not even sure that ice cream on a hot day would enjoy that kind of support.

Of course, cannabis dispensaries should be regulated – just like liquor stores, of which Princeton has many. But there’s no reason to have a double standard and banish them to the outskirts of town. When my partner asks me to pick up a bottle of wine, I’m glad it’s convenient – even walkable. I can just stop by a local shop – not get in my car and drive three towns over because of some prohibition-era zoning ordinance. more

February 2, 2022

To the Editor:

When I voted for marijuana legalization, it felt good to make a virtuous decision. Last year, cannabis became legal in New Jersey and municipalities began deciding whether to opt-in/out of hosting recreational dispensaries. The Princeton Cannabis Task Force (CTF) unanimously recommended opening up to three recreational retail cannabis dispensaries in town. Then the Princeton Board of Education publicly voiced practical concerns, which the CTF elected to dismiss. This unusual turn of events seized my attention. Here’s why we should all be concerned:

Opt-in Rate: Many of our neighbors opted out of retail cannabis dispensaries, including Montgomery, West Windsor, Plainsboro, Robbinsville, and Hopewell. Some shop supporters explain N.J.’s high opt-out rate of 71 percent as “temporary caution,” being that cannabis is so new in N.J. However, 67 percent of California towns, over 75 percent in Michigan, and 48 percent of Colorado opted out, and these states are years ahead of N.J. So, the answer isn’t a simple matter of caution. What are some lessons we can learn from markets that are way ahead of N.J.?    more

To the Editor:

Recently the Princeton Cannabis Task Force (CTF) issued a detailed report which recommends up to three recreational dispensaries in town and allows them to be located as close as 200 feet to schools, and requiring no setbacks for child care centers, playgrounds, or houses of worship. The CTF is led by Princeton Council members Eve Niedergang, Leticia Fraga, and Michelle Pirone Lambros. On March 29, a public Council meeting will be held to solicit public opinion on this very issue (register at princetonnj.gov to attend).

Prior to publishing the report, many town residents sent the CTF peer-reviewed studies from the NIH, National Academy of Science, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. There are indeed many negative consequences resulting from an increased cannabis retail presence that have been studied in more mature cannabis markets, such as Colorado, Oregon, and California. These studies have shown or cited results such as increased adult and teen usage due to higher density of cannabis retailers (American Journal on Addictions, 2020) and increased likelihood of marijuana use, as well as increased risk of tobacco use and opioid misuse among children in the household where parents consume marijuana (Madras et al., 2019).  more

January 26, 2022

To the Editor:

We are residents of the Princeton-Murray neighborhood (bordered by Nassau Street, Harrison Street, Prospect Avenue, and Princeton University). Princeton Avenue and Murray Place are thoroughfare streets in our neighborhood. We have been vocal in opposing the Permit Parking Task Force’s (PPTF) plan. However, we share this town with our fellow neighbors in the Witherspoon-Jackson (W-J) and Tree Street neighborhoods and with the many businesses that make this town vibrant. Their concerns about parking are just as important as ours.

Many of us attended the January 11 Council meeting, wherein opponents to the PPTF plan were asked to provide an alternative solution. We now propose the following two-phased plan, which provides a working solution for everyone. Phase 1 can be implemented immediately at low cost and with minimal intrusion. Afterwards, should unfulfilled parking need still exist, then Phase 2 will provide for a fully vetted plan.

Phase 1:

1. Issue one free, 24-hour residential permit upon request to residents with limited parking in the W-J and Tree Street neighborhoods, with the option to purchase an additional permit. Residents can park anywhere in the neighborhood. Remaining spots will continue to be used as they are today, which is parking by anyone, including employees. more

To the Editor:

I have only been peripherally following the work of the Permit Parking Task Force and the Cannabis Task Force, but my hat goes off to our civic-minded and thick-skinned neighbors who volunteered their personal time to try to address the perennial parking issues we face and the opportunity to sensibly address cannabis regulation in light of its legalization.

Both task forces feature a broad cross section of Princeton residents who began their work without any particular unified perspective. Rather, they both took the time to hear from as many people as possible, conduct independent research, discuss among themselves (in public I might add), and collectively develop recommendations.

With issues of this scope, there are going to be many people who have objections to portions of the recommendations. As is usual in Princeton, small groups have formed to voice their discontent and attempt to scuttle the work the task forces have done. The majority of people, I’m sure, understand that there is a give and take with these public policy issues, and have trust that the task forces will work in good faith to best balance all competing interests. more

To the Editor:

In 1994, the CEOs of the leading tobacco companies testified to Congress on whether or not nicotine was addictive. The CEOs of Philip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, U.S. Tobacco, Lorillard Tobacco, Liggett Group, Brown and Williamson Tobacco, and American Tobacco were all unanimous in their declaration that “no, nicotine is not addictive.” Anyone watching the replay of this event today, 28 years later, would likely view it as one of the most stunning attempts at public deception with devastating consequences on future public health.

A more recent example of organized public deception was Purdue Pharma’s deliberate suppression of evidence of OxyContin’s powerful addictive properties which led to the opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma’s President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Friedman and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul D. Goldenheim pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor “misbranding” charge and the executives paid a combined $634.5 million in fines.

Today, Princeton is facing its own glaring example of a breach of public trust with the potential for tragic consequences. more

To the Editor:

Congratulations, PCS [“Princeton Charter School Celebrates 25 Years of Educating Local Students,” January 19], and brava “Mme.” Toma for so beautifully describing what was — and is — uniquely wonderful about this school.

As the parent of a child that first year (and another who entered a year later), I have vivid memories of the energy and ingenuity that informed those early days, from the serious commitment to learning (giving standardized tests to students at the beginning of the year instead of at the end, to determine where gaps needed to be addressed during the coming months), to the sheer exuberance of sports events (boys handing over their sweaty pinnies to the girls for their turn at intramural basketball games because there weren’t enough to go around).

Of course, there’s the most compelling fact in last week’s article: admission to PCS is by a random lottery. Here’s to 25 more years of “high expectations and kindness.”

Ellen Gilbert Castellana
Stuart Road East

January 19, 2022

To the Editor:

It’s that time again to name our winners! Morven Museum & Garden is delighted to announce the winning 2021 Festival of Trees decorators:

First Place Tree Exhibitor: American Spaniel Club Foundation/Southern NJ Cocker Spaniel Club, “A Merry Cocker Spaniel Christmas!”; Second Place Tree Exhibitor: West Trenton Garden Club, “A Peacocks and Paisley Palette”; and Third Place Tree Exhibitor: Mount Laurel Garden Club, “Chinese New Year.”

First Place Mantel Exhibitor: Neshanic Garden Club, “Winter Wonderland”; Second Place Mantel Exhibitor: Princeton Public Library, “Winter Warmth: The Books of Jan Brett”; and Third Place Mantel Exhibitor: Nottingham Garden Club of Hamilton Township, “Nature’s Seasonal Gifts.”

In yet another season of uncertain times, we were thrilled to see a 50 percent increase over last year’s in-person attendance. Online visitors and voters were at a record number with 493 votes cast. The Festival of Trees party saw record breaking attendance with over 200 guests joining our winter fundraiser safely outside amid twinkling lights and firepits. This would not have been possible without the leadership of our event chairs Colleen Goggins, Carolyn and John Healey, Rachel Herr, and Eileen and Robert O’Neil.  more

To the Editor:

Princeton’s Cannabis Task Force has recommended that Princeton allow up to three shops to sell marijuana in our town in clear violation of federal law. While Princeton has no obligation to enforce federal law, it would be irresponsible to knowingly encourage federal crimes. Marijuana shops would attract more criminal activity, potentially including armed robberies, thefts, and burglaries, and increased sales of marijuana to minors.

The large amounts of cash and drugs on hand at marijuana retailers make them attractive targets for violent criminals. Many credit card payment processors will not deal with marijuana retailers because their businesses are unlawful. So marijuana retailers accumulate large amounts of cash, creating far greater risk of armed robbery than other merchants. Recently, a man armed with a handgun threatened a Bethlehem, Pa., pot shop worker before fleeing with stolen marijuana. Robberies of dispensaries in Oregon and Oklahoma left two people shot dead. There have been strings of armed robberies in Portland, Denver, and San Francisco. Marijuana retailers across the country have suffered similar crimes. more

To the Editor:

While reading the recent Town Topics annual review of significant events in Princeton during 2021 [“Year Starts and Ends at COVID Peaks, as Town Moves Forward,” December 29, 2021], we were disappointed to discover that there was no mention of the June 17 rally addressing hate, anti-Semitism, and rising overt anti-Jewish incidents in Princeton and Mercer County. This peaceful and upbeat event was organized by the Jewish Federation and co-sponsored by a broad coalition of Jewish organizations and religious institutions. More than 300 people attended the rally, which featured local clergy of many faiths, local and statewide office holders, local Jewish teenagers, and Jewish and non-Jewish community leaders expressing their commitment to eradicating anti-Jewish bias and other manifestations of causeless hatred and endorsing tolerance.  more

To the Editor:

I would like to thank Mayor Freda, Emergency Manager Yeh, and Assistant Administrator Grosser for putting our local mask mandate in place. Princeton joins at least 15 other New Jersey municipalities — from small towns like Montclair to our largest city, Newark — with this move.

It’s hard to fathom how inconsiderate and selfish some people can be. I personally experienced this on Christmas Eve, with the Omicron variant already pushing Princeton’s daily COVID case numbers to their highest levels since the start of the pandemic. I went to one of my favorite small local restaurants to pick up takeout food I had ordered. It was a cold evening and about 10-12 people were waiting in a very small area inside the store. All were masked, as were the employees — all of whom have been since March 2020. All that is except for one inconsiderate family of three who insisted on standing right in front of the pick-up table maskless, although their food was not yet ready. Shameful!

I know that many restaurant and store owners already have signs in their windows saying “mask suggested” or “please wear a mask.” I hope that they will change these signs to “Masks required by Princeton Emergency Order of January 10, 2022.”

John Heilner
Howe Circle

To the Editor:

By now many readers of Town Topics may have heard of the Princeton Cannabis Task Force, which includes three members out of the six on the town Council. There have been several articles about their initiatives, and many reactions from people in town surprised at the rapid and aggressive direction they have been taking. They have not been in alignment with the majority of town residents or the PPS Board of Education. 

For example, they have been sticking to a recommendation that we should open up to three cannabis dispensaries in town, and that they need only be 200 feet away from schools, with no setbacks required for child care centers, houses of worship, or drug treatment centers. This stands as the most aggressive position in the state of New Jersey.  more

January 12, 2022

To the Editor:

The morning of New Year’s Eve, I thought I would walk over to my new neighborhood bakery, Delizioso, and grab some goodies for our celebration that night. My guide dog stopped to point out the public garbage can and, while we were stopped, I reached into my pocket and put on my mask. When I reached into my pocket again to pay for my purchases, I discovered that the money was gone. The daughter of the owner of the bakery generously offered to quickly retrace my steps to find my money, but it wasn’t there.

They insisted that I take my treats and we headed home. About an hour later, I discovered my $20 bill had gotten tucked up in my sweater, and of course we headed back to the bakery.

Their generosity was such a special way to end a seriously stressful year. May we all find ways to do a mitzvah in this new year for someone we don’t really know. And did I say their baked goods are absolutely Delizioso? 

Sue Tillett
Moore Street

To the Editor:

The 3,799 students attending Princeton’s six public schools deserve the community’s support on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. This is the date of the special election to approve the $17.5 million Facilities Stewardship Referendum. In approving this referendum, Princeton’s citizens will be choosing to fund urgent repairs and replace aging roofs at our public schools.

The Board of Education is responding to critical needs by presenting this referendum, and has worked diligently to take advantage of time-sensitive state aid (approximately $7 million) to offset the cost to taxpayers. Leaky roofs, crumbling masonry, and mold issues must be fixed; these are not luxuries. Few adults would happily endure these problems in their homes or workplaces.  more

To the Editor:

Princeton residents will have the opportunity to vote on a Princeton Public Schools Facilities Stewardship Referendum on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. We are writing to encourage residents to inform themselves and to vote by mail or in person on January 25.   

After a comprehensive review of building systems, the Board is proposing a multi-year schedule of significant repairs and improvements to the six district school buildings, funded by a $17.5 million bond issue that will be paid for in part by approximately $7 million in debt service aid from the state of New Jersey.  Bonds are the most cost-effective way of paying for these repairs because state debt service aid is available. It is anticipated that the net school capital tax levy will decrease next year, even with the issue of new bonds, due to retiring debt from past facilities investments.

The largest part of the proposed project involves roof replacements at all six schools, including replacement of outdated rooftop HVAC equipment. After many years of patchwork and emergency repairs, a majority of the roofing is past or near the end of its useful life. As part of the proposed improvements, at no extra cost, roofs would be made “solar ready,” facilitating the installation of solar panels at a future date, reducing energy costs and aligning with community sustainability goals.  more

To the Editor:

Housing Initiatives of Princeton (HIP) would like to thank the Witherspoon-Jackson Development Corporation (WJDC) for their recent contribution of $5,500. This donation has allowed HIP to assist 20 households in Princeton’s W-J neighborhood to pay rent. WJCD’s generosity is an uplifting example of community partners pooling resources and working together during difficult times.

For those unfamiliar with our work, HIP helps low-income working families in our community avoid homelessness by providing transitional housing and emergency rental assistance. Our transitional housing program provides families with an affordable, temporary safe place to live coupled with emotional and mental health support, career counseling, financial planning, access to education, and additional wraparound services. HIP’s support system has empowered dozens of families in our community to move from the brink of homelessness to the security of permanent housing, employment, and hope. more

January 5, 2022

To the Editor:

I’d again like to make some comments regarding the Permit Parking Task Force and the odyssey that we, the community, have all been swept up in during this past year due to their efforts and actions.

I’d like to preface this by stating that I can only imagine how crushing it must be at times to be dead set on something — put in the time and work on it — and then have it met with mass criticism, opposition, and unpopularity. On this, the PPTF members have my sincere empathy. I’ve been there in my own endeavors.

With that said, it is vital, for the PPTF to actually listen to their constituency and not simply dismiss their concerns; confident their own opinions are 100 percent correct — thus medicine that must just be accepted. I would ask them to consider the tremendous strain their efforts have put upon many in the community, who have felt under siege throughout this past year. One would think that, with so many residents making their views and concerns known — directly at meetings, as well as in public forums and letters — that some heed would be paid, and that the PPTF would’ve taken these strongly expressed concerns into account. Instead, it appeared that they were exceedingly dismissive, stubbornly entrenched in their ideas, and determined to do what they pleased. They have demonstrated this repeatedly, through a lack of transparency and with a seeming vested interest in favoring the desires of businesses over residents — all culminating in a decided disinterest in these expressed concerns. Their efforts to push through with their plans during times when people were generally away — distracted in the summertime, and recently during the holidays — optically appear exceedingly disingenuous. more