September 22, 2021

To the Editor:

Last week, U.S. News & World Report released its annual ranking of the best colleges in the country, from large research universities to small liberal arts schools.

Once again — and for the 11th consecutive year — Princeton University ranked first. This means that Princeton has now ranked either first or second in the country for 29 out of the past 30 years.

That is an impressive accomplishment. And it should be noted, the University achieved this throughout by being a moderate-sized institution in a charming, historic college town.

In fact, the first line of U.S. News’ review is: “The ivy-covered campus of Princeton University is located in the quiet town of Princeton, New Jersey.”

And this ingredient of success is a key reason why so many students, faculty, and residents have been drawn here. more

To the Editor:

I am writing as an individual, not as a member or on behalf of the Board of Education, to seek community support for my re-election to the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education.

If re-elected, my service would be rooted in the vision and leadership of our new superintendent, Dr. Carol Kelley, a nationally recognized equity leader, in her important work to move the district forward so that every child is supported.

Throughout the Board’s hiring process, Dr. Kelley distinguished herself as a thoughtful, data-driven leader who cares about people and is committed to undertaking necessary work to honor our district’s mission, “To prepare all children to lead lives of joy and purpose as knowledgeable, creative, and compassionate citizens of a global society.” more

To the Editor:

Just because you say it doesn’t make it so. Spin does not replace reality.

University architect Ron McCoy has recently chosen some lovely terms when selling his plans to trample the National Register Historic District on Prospect Avenue: “Connectivity,” “Intimacy,” “Porosity,” “Community,” “Stewardship,” “Public experience,” “Carefully integrated” and “Neighborhood.”

But connections and community, public experience, and neighborhoods are never built on dictation alone, however self-assured, insistent, and suave the words may be. As the great professors of Princeton University teach us, community — like education, democracy, and peace itself — depends not on pronouncements dictated with authority, but on listening, respect for another’s story and values, and working together.  more

To the Editor:

On Saturday, September 11, a dear friend and I drove from our retirement community to the local UPS store to mail a package.  After helping me climb the curb in front of the store, he suddenly lost his balance and fell back into the parking lot.

Within minutes, half a dozen people magically appeared and began to help. Not knowing each other nor saying much, they somehow worked as a team, simply doing whatever needed to be done. One called 911, another brought paper towels to wrap his bleeding elbow, while a third mailed the package.  Someone else put a clean bath towel under his head and an umbrella above it to shelter him from the sun. One of the men even brought me a chair while we waited for the Montgomery police and the ambulance. Sad to say, I remember only two of their names, Gail and Dave. 

Soon the Montgomery EMS men were bandaging his arm, assessing his condition, and doing it all with a professional but calming light touch. Before Joe and Sid (two more new names) helped my friend into the ambulance, Joe told me he had been trained by a friend of ours who no longer drives for them, but still raises funds for these stalwart volunteers. more

To the Editor:

The fate of the historic western block of Prospect Avenue with its iconic row of eating clubs and related historic buildings is on the agenda at tomorrow night’s Planning Board meeting. Will the town of Princeton grant the University a variance that will violate National Park Service guidelines for historic districts and historic preservation provisions and recommendations of the town Master Plan by 1) moving the former Court Club out of the New Jersey and National Register Princeton Historic District, 2) destroying three viable historic houses that are part of Prospect Avenue’s unique history, and 3) erecting a building and landscape that will be glaringly discordant with the historic Prospect streetscape?

The University’s proposed incursion onto Prospect Avenue is less than 2 percent of its proposed 666,000-square-foot ES+SEAS science and engineering complex along Ivy Lane to the south. Despite months of questions and appeals by concerned residents, the University has not identified a single reason why it needs to violate federal, state, and town preservation policy by denigrating Prospect Avenue.  more

To the Editor:

We enthusiastically support Brian McDonald for re-election to the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education because his service to our community and our schools has been exemplary, and he leads with integrity. He is a good person who uses his considerable intellect and skills to benefit others. We appreciate Brian’s thoughtful approach to service where he works to build consensus.

Brian’s first term on the Board of Education has been marked with achievement that has benefited our children and our town. With his background in finance, facilities, and planning, he has been instrumental in helping the administration develop a new budget process that is more transparent and that meets the needs of the district. Significantly, his efforts helped to eliminate a budget imbalance and reduce expenses by hundreds of thousands of dollars. He is an advocate for community input and advice as well as a champion for the health and wellness of students. more

To the Editor:

Climate change and its consequences began to wash right up to our doorsteps this summer when Mother Nature brought severe storms, tornados, and significant flooding to New Jersey, including the Princeton area. It made us all realize just how vital the responsible stewardship of our land and waters is to the future health of our town and its residents.

It also brought renewed energy and focus to our sustainable landscaping project, Changing the Landscape: Healthy Yards = Healthy People/Cambiando el Paisaje: Jardines Sanos = Gente Sana. Aimed at encouraging our community to adopt lawn care practices that protect the health of both landscape workers and the environment, this year-long project continues to make progress. Here are some of the things our steering committee accomplished over the summer:

Co-hosted a free workshop for professional landscapers interested in learning about gas-powered equipment’s adverse health and environmental impacts and how to transition to battery-powered options profitably.

Continued outreach and education to landscape workers, owners of landscape companies, and property owners. more

To the Editor:

Bicyclists beware! I was riding my bike from Valley Road on my way to the Princeton Shopping Center. I arrived at the traffic light and stopped in the left lane (the right lane is only for right turns). When the light turned green I crossed Harrison Street and signaled right to cross to the right turning lane.

A car rushed past on my left and cut in front, passing me by about two feet. It also cut right in front of two pedestrians at the crosswalk. The three of us were shaken as we expressed shock at the speed of the driver and how we’d had a close call.

I locked my bicycle and waited for the driver. When she approached me I said something about her speed, and rushing by, she said, “You don’t belong in the middle of the road. I’m a cyclist and I know I have to stay on the side.”

Motorists and cyclists need to know the rules of the road and follow them (nj.gov/transportation/commuter/bike/regulations.shtm), but even more important, I wish motorists would keep in mind that pedestrians and cyclists are vulnerable to great harm by motor vehicles while they do us the favor of not adding pollutants to the air we breathe. May Princeton support Vision Zero in order to have fewer bodily injuries and deaths.

I love to bike, feel the wind on my face, and be in touch with the earth, but I don’t want to be inside the earth sooner than necessary.

Eliane Geren
Dempsey Avenue

September 15, 2021

To the Editor,

The Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale, a volunteer group founded 90 years ago to raise college scholarships for local students, is grateful to the Merck Foundation for its recent $500 donation made through the Dollars for Doers program. The gift was arranged by a Merck employee who volunteers for the Book Sale, sorting donated books and helping at the annual sale each March.

Scores of talented young women from our community have been able to afford an outstanding education thanks to our volunteers and support from area corporations. We are deeply grateful.

Kathryn Morris
President, Bryn Mawr-Wellesley Book Sale

Witherspoon Street

To the Editor:

Your reader Dr. Callan (“Dangerous Stretch of Road and Sidewalk on Rosedale Road Needs to Be Repaired,” Mailbox, September 8) is correct about the damage following the remnants of Hurricane Ida.

I contacted Princeton Municipality to highlight the issue ahead of the school term starting and asked whether a stretch of barriers could be placed in the road to allow safe passage for foot traffic, especially families walking and cycling to nearby Johnson Park school. Municipal Engineer Deanna Stockton facilitated a fix within 24 hours — an excellent response given the number of post-storm issues the department is currently tackling.

Longer-term repairs will doubtless be addressed in due course and require a greater degree of planning and disruption, but I applaud the response of the Engineering Department and thank them and other municipal workers for their dedication in restoring our damaged infrastructure and keeping all road users safe.

Rob Sloan
Fairway Drive

To the Editor:

The Princetonian Diner went above and beyond kindness when they found out my granddaughter and family lost their home to the storm. They graciously picked up the check for all four adults and two children!

Whoever said that there not wonderful people left on our planet was wrong. Thanks Princetonian!

Lisa Watson
Wood Village Drive, Henderson, Nev.
Formerly of Princeton

To the Editor:

The impact of some types of commercial development in a single New Jersey town can have enormous consequences for neighboring towns. That’s why the New Jersey Legislature is considering a bill (S3688) that would require a town that wants to build a large warehouse to provide timely notice to all adjoining towns, allow those towns to adopt a resolution of concern about the proposed warehouse, and mandate submission of a “regional economic and land use impact report” to the State Planning Commission.

Because new warehouses have regional repercussions, it’s important for residents of Princeton to know that the West Windsor Planning Board and Township Council have approved an ordinance that rezones approximately 650 acres of undeveloped land across from the Quaker Bridge Mall to allow for the construction of multiple large warehouses. West Windsor Township also entered into a litigation settlement agreement with the owner of that land, which anticipates the development of 5.5 million square feet of the property for warehouse use. This project could have undesirable consequences on the environment and quality of life in Mercer County. more

To the Editor:

Candidates for Legislative District 16 will meet in a forum on Wednesday, September 22 — Assembly candidates at 7 p.m. and Senate candidates at 8:30 p.m. The event takes place at Raritan Valley Community College, 118 Lamington Road, Branchburg. Due to limited seating, it will also be livestreamed at Facebook.com/PrincetonTelevision and rebroadcast. A recording will be posted at VOTE11.org and at lwvprinceton.org.

A virtual forum among candidates for Princeton Board of Education will be livestreamed at Facebook.com/PrincetonTelevision on Wednesday, October 6 at 7 p.m.  It will be rebroadcast, and a recording will be posted at VOTE11.org and lwvprinceton.org.

Voters may send questions for candidates in both forums to lwvprinceton@gmail.com.

Please note that this November election will differ somewhat from last year’s. You will not receive a Vote-by-Mail ballot unless you have requested one, and you may not deliver a completed Vote-by-Mail ballot to a polling place. Instead, mail it or use a drop box (locations listed on county websites). more

September 8, 2021

To the Editor:

This past April, Princeton University’s Environmental Studies Department hosted a thoughtful seminar, entitled “Environmental Justice Symposium: Meaningful Engagement between Communities and Institutions of Higher Education.” Anyone committed to sustainability knows that community engagement and support are essential to create positive environmental change. But meaningful engagement with the community is not a model that Princeton University seems interested in following in Princeton, as they seek to destroy three historic homes and impose their 666,000-square-foot engineering and environmental studies complex on the neighbors of Fitzrandolph, Murray, and Prospect. They have not heard the community’s pleas to save the homes by modifying a tiny fraction (2 percent) of a proposed complex that dwarfs most projects on Route 1.

At the June meeting of the Princeton Planning Board, the University’s representatives alleged they had done everything right, and that, at the last hour, the rules were being changed on them. This is false and disingenuous. From the outset, the University chose to design without regard for national historic district guidelines or for the town’s zoning and master plan. That is why the University needs a variance from the town. Rather than follow the zoning, or engaging the community, the University has preferred to lawyer up and force their will on their neighbors. They are only shocked that someone dares to say “no.” more

To the Editor:

Until recently, instead of referring to benign sounding “climate change,” I had been using “climate crisis.” However, the two hurricanes that battered our region with severe flash flooding, tornados, and high winds just in the past month, have opened my eyes to how drastically the situation has worsened. So now I call it the “climate catastrophe.”

We see this catastrophe unfolding here, nationwide, and globally, and worsening far faster and more severely than almost anyone expected. Massive fires, extreme heat, flash floods, and droughts are all afflicting the world in unprecedented ways.

The organization that I lead, the Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA), began a campaign called No Wars, No Warming in conjunction with the People’s Climate March attended by over 400,000 in September 2015. This campaign seeks to educate the public on the connections between militarism and the climate catastrophe.

The climate catastrophe is an existential threat in the same category as global nuclear holocaust. If anybody doubts that, just look around at events like those above. We must rapidly intensify efforts to prevent further global warming, or we face the danger of planetary extinction.

Readers wanting to join CFPA in this effort are encouraged to visit peacecoalition.org.

The Rev. Robert Moore
Witherspoon Street

The writer is executive director of the Princeton-based Coalition for Peace Action.

To the Editor:

Rosedale Road was considerably damaged during the floods following Hurricane Ida. The sidewalk near Johnson Park school has bucked and stretches have been washed out. The road and bridge are potholed.

In addition, two weeks ago a man was tragically killed by a car near the school intersection. This is a dangerous stretch of road and sidewalk that has fallen into disrepair. Johnson Park and Greenway Meadows get a lot of use by children, sports teams, and walkers. They need to be able to safely navigate the sidewalks and cross the street. A pedestrian activated crosswalk with a light that signals to cars that to stop is urgently needed, and the sidewalks need to be repaired.

Benedicte Callan, Ph.D.
Brookstone Drive

August 25, 2021

To the Editor:

Let’s roll out the Princeton welcome mat on Saturday, August 28 for about 400 bicyclists who are participating in a ride from New York to Philadelphia. The riders will arrive in Princeton around 2 p.m. and will spend the night enjoying all that Princeton and the surrounding area has to offer, including its many fine restaurants.

Come meet the riders at their base camp at the Princeton YMCA at 59 Paul Robeson Place during their visit and cheer them as they push off at 9 a.m. to complete their ride to Philadelphia on Sunday morning. It is also not too late to sign up to volunteer to provide logistical support for the riders. Please visit Princeton’s municipal website at princetonnj.gov and follow the link under “News and Announcements” to learn more. We need your help to make this event a resounding success! more

August 18, 2021

To the Editor:

Everyone loves to talk about the weather, and now we have not just weather but extreme weather to discuss. The cause of this is clear: changes in the planetary weather system caused by human carbon dioxide emissions primarily from burning fossil fuels. If there was any doubt about this, the latest IPCC Climate report makes the point emphatically: we must reduce our carbon emissions immediately of face even more frequent extreme (and dangerous) weather patterns.

Keeping in mind that the average New Jersey household burns about 30 barrels (1,260 gallons) per year of gasoline, one straightforward way to reduce emissions is to lease an electric vehicle (EV). Leasing has many advantages: it allows one to immediately use the federal tax rebate of $7,500, even if you do not pay any federal taxes. The rebate is deducted from the residual value of the car which reduces the monthly payment. In addition to the federal rebate there is also a $5,000 New Jersey rebate as well as no sales tax either on the lease or purchase of an EV. Thus, the price differential between a $40,000 gasoline car versus an EV is an astonishing $15,150. There are also savings on fuel expenses (up to $1,000/year) as well as reduced maintenance costs.  more

To the Editor:

On July 2 I mailed six checks at the Palmer Square USPS Post Box. On July 8, I noted that two of my checks had been forged and cashed. I closed the account but did not realize that my new account was still linked to the old account, so the forgers were able to pay off two additional bogus charge card bills. In total they made five assaults on my accounts.    

When I spoke with the Princeton Police detective, he stated that all the USPS Post Boxes in Princeton have been compromised. When I went to my bank on Nassau Street, staff advised me that several customers had come in that week with the same issue, and that all the banks in Princeton had customers that had been affected.

I had read about this issue last year in the Town Topics Police Blotter and had been taking most of my mail physically into a Post Office, but on July 2 I was rushed and did not have the time. 

I called the detective again, advised him of the additional assaults. I also asked if there was a way to notify all Princeton residents of this issue, but he was non-committal.  more

August 4, 2021

To the Editor:

The following issue is something important that I have been working on for several years with others, including nationally known fire and code professionals in and out of government, including our state government, to address degraded state fire codes for large, multi-unit light weight wood housing which have seen dramatic fires, including several at four Avalon Bay sites in N.J., most recently this spring at their Princeton Junction facility.

This is something that increasingly needs attention at the municipal level. While the state code rules at the moment, we will be living at the municipal level with this housing, both market rate and affordable, for many decades, long after the developers are gone.

What I, and others, have urged is that to the greatest extent possible, until an upgraded state code is adopted, our municipal officials, both elected and staff, “bargain” creatively with developers/property owners on strengthening their large, light weight wood construction, multi-unit housing standards. This includes upgrading our less than best current fire walls. Masonry and concrete construction is more fire safe and are materials that are sourced in New Jersey, creating jobs here, rather than the scarcer wood supplies coming from the U.S. northwest and elsewhere.  more

To the Editor:

As Dr. Lieberman noted in his letter (Mailbox, July 21), Princeton remains a community without a dog park. It is truly surprising that our typically generous and inclusive community, blessed with acres of parkland, has, to date, chosen to neglect the needs of Princeton’s many residents with dogs. Our dogs need fresh air and exercise, and many of us benefit from the exercise and social interactions that result from time spent outside with our dogs. However, as Dr. Lieberman pointed out, there are definite advantages of dog parks, especially when walking the sidewalks and trails is difficult or impossible due to health or weather issues.

Princeton offers many recreational options for its residents. We have tennis, swimming, skateboarding, hiking, playgrounds, baseball, and soccer. Often, many acres of Princeton parkland are empty, unused except for people walking their dogs. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if some of those people had a fenced dog park where they could gather and share information while also exercising their dogs and providing needed canine socialization experiences.

It’s time for Princeton to “get off the fence” and take action to establish a dog park. It would be a valuable addition to our recreational facilities, at minimal cost (using existing parkland, all that is needed is fencing and gates). The several thousand Princeton families who share their lives with dogs would quickly make this one of the most popular recreational facilities in the community.

Patricia Mahar
Snowden Farms Lane

July 28, 2021

To the Editor:

History and literature in our schools are meant to be open conversations where we challenge ideas, question things, and ultimately broaden our perspectives. This is how we learn. In all districts, but especially in diverse districts such as the West Windsor-Plainsboro and Princeton districts, it is important that these critical parts of the learning infrastructure be upheld by ensuring that culturally responsible education is maintained and furthered. This means that the inclusion of diverse voices in our history and literature is a constant process and our teachers are constantly encouraged to seek out perspectives that are different but that are representative of the students.

For instance, in my Language Arts Honors class we were able to read books and short pieces by a  variety of authors such as Jhumpa Lahiri, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Bharati Mukherjee, Sherman Alexei, Anna Quindlen, and Eric Liu. These pieces of literature diverge from the classic literature, and they give us a whole new perspective. I was able to see how the American experience is a complex, multi-layered experience, where people struggle to be accepted, to make a life, to experience romance, to feel free, or who embrace opportunities, who work to be socially mobile. I got to feel seen in this kind of literature. I was represented, and so were others.  more

To the Editor:

Prospect Avenue’s Eating Club Row, a contiguous collection of 16 majestic turn-of-the-century clubhouses, is a Princeton icon and unique in the world. The architectural grandeur of these exquisite manors rivals that of Newport’s magnificent mansions.

Across the street are the three sisters of Faculty Row, the Avenue’s oldest buildings. These Queen Annes tell a different story, a story rich in the humanities and the lives of the brilliant thinkers and refugees who lived and worked in them over the past century. Their graceful presence completes Prospect’s history, one not entirely about eating clubs.

W. Barksdale Maynard called Prospect, “the most beautiful suburban street in America.”

The University seeks a variance to move the Court Clubhouse out of the National Register Historic District and into a residential buffer zone, razing the three Victorians. Why would they denigrate a Historic District, when changing just 3 percent of their vast 15-acre proposal would avoid the sprawl and protect the legacy of our grandest public avenue? more

To the Editor:

First, at a time when the business model for community-based journalism has been crushed by society’s lamentable disinterest, I offer sincere gratitude for the dogged persistence of Town Topics and its local reporting. Publishing weekly in ink, on paper, you invite the news of the moment to be held with respectful hands for consideration and close attention. We are all better for your efforts. Don’t give up.

Second, I am following your coverage of a redevelopment proposal for Prospect Avenue and the rising hue and cry from dissentient voices of historic preservation (“HPC Considers Club Row Historic District,” page 1, July 21). It’s a veritable planning and zoning “whodunnit?” decades in the making.

Literally, a page turner. It was fascinating to learn that Prospect Avenue redevelopment vulnerability was identified as early as 1992, that strategies were available to give the community a seat at the planning table for this historically and aesthetically important part of the town, but that nothing was done for 26 years. This is a real head-scratcher, wouldn’t you agree? It’s there that I began flipping the pages back and forward. Did I miss the big reveal? What explains this gap between situational awareness and action? Would you consider following up? more

July 21, 2021

To the Editor:

At the entrance of most parks in Princeton there is a sign stating that dogs are permitted, but must be on leads, and that to clean up after them is essential. This is so at Johnson, at the University, at IAS, at Mountain Lakes. In addition, there are many narrow trails where this is difficult, particularly when one is older, and rather unsteady (I’m 87).

One place where there is NO sign, none at all, is at the Princeton Shopping Center. Perhaps they do not want dogs there at all and don’t want to be too obvious about it. In any case, because it is the only place in town which is covered, it is the one that I have utilized when it rains, usually with leads in place, but if there are no other dogs around, and few people, I dispense with the leads and permit them to run. At least, not until I was given a summons, for which I am to go to court next month.  more