December 15, 2021

To the Editor:

The news that a 15-year-old brought a loaded gun on December 8 to Lawrence High School is a wake-up call that mass shootings like the recent one in Michigan are also a real danger here. I’m relieved that the gun and student were quickly removed from school, preventing a potential mass shooting.

However, we need have strong laws that ensure that guns in the home are stored securely and safely, so young people and others can’t easily access them in the first place. That is the best way to prevent guns from being brought to school.

Our Ceasefire NJ Project has been working with New Jersey state legislators, along with legal, policy, and health experts for the past 18 months to develop a Safe Storage of Guns bill that would be the strongest in the nation.  more

To the Editor:

The recent mayoral election in West Windsor centered around the need for transparency on how important land use decisions are made — specifically, pending proposals to build multiple warehouses, covering over 100 acres of open land in our community. What happens going forward has implications for neighboring Princeton, Lawrenceville, and East Windsor. Nearby communities like Robbinsville and Hamilton are also grappling with developers’ proposals to build large warehouses, which can average over 400,000 square feet in size.

Supporters of large warehouse construction claim that the warehouses will bring in needed tax revenue, and that they are a better alternative to building homes. This supposed tradeoff misses several important points:

1. Real estate appraisers in other communities have found that a homeowner’s proximity to a warehouse negatively affects home values (https://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-xpm-2014-02-10-mc-lower-nazareth-warehouse-hearing-20140210-story.html, concluding that proximity to warehouses would result in a loss of 11.5 percent of residents’ home values). more

December 8, 2021

To the Editor:

Princeton has taken an important first step in limiting the use of gas-powered lawn equipment. But the more basic question of permitting leaves to be blown onto streets remains. This goes beyond the immediate safety issue: long piles of leaves, some blocking a third of  narrow roads, forcing cars into the path of oncoming traffic; patches of leaves blown off these piles slippery as ice when soaked by rain. More importantly, leaf litter is biodiverse. The organisms that break down leaves and twigs provide food for trees and surrounding vegetation.

Since Princeton, wisely, plans to subsidize the transition to electric equipment by lawn service businesses, we should make battery-powered mulchers part of the arrangement. Blowing leaves onto the street creates a needless hazard while depriving trees and  plants of natural nourishment consequently increasing the need for fertilizers that can run off creating yet another problem. Lawn service companies should, at the minimum, offer property owners the option of mulching leaves and feeding their trees and/or lawns, flower beds, and gardens organically instead of blowing a private responsibility onto the public streets. 

Jeffrey and Laura Spear
North Harrison Street

To the Editor:

We strongly oppose cannabis dispensaries in Princeton. People have cited data in support or against it. It is helpful. Yet it is not enough. How will it affect daily life in town?

1. Princetonians can Google something like marijuana life insurance/car insurance/health insurance. Insurance companies will charge a higher premium if we started to circle “yes” on anything related to marijuana on their forms. By the way, for those who will be living near dispensaries, or along the road leading there, get ready for homeowner insurance to go up too.

2. Cannabis dispensaries have many unknowns and are too new for Princeton. We should not opt-in in the first place. Simply because it became legal recently does not mean it is good. Being a progressive town does not require us to say yes to anything that is new. more

To the Editor:

The holiday season is a time to reflect and acknowledge all that we have to be thankful for. I’m grateful for my fellow volunteers and the staff of the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad (PFARS) and the opportunity to serve alongside them as an emergency medical technician (EMT) rescue member in the Princeton community.

When I joined the squad in 2012 as a high school junior, I saw it as a chance to learn more about the medical field as a possible career path. Volunteering throughout high school, college, and now my work as a health care consultant brings me an incredible sense of purpose. For many of us, the big draw is the close personal friendships we’re able to cultivate within the organization. I also enjoy being able to get out and give back to the community that I grew up in, having meaningful daily interactions with people that may just need a comforting conversation when something is out of the ordinary.

Nationwide, there is a general decline in volunteerism and a significant shortage of EMTs. That’s something that we are experiencing at PFARS as well. At the onset of the pandemic, our recruiting program was temporarily put on hold along with so many other organizations. Currently, we have about 70 volunteers working side-by-side with eight career EMTs to deliver the highest quality of care possible to Princeton residents and visitors. As an independent, nonprofit, combination volunteer/paid organization, with leadership opportunities for volunteers and career staff, we take great pride in maintaining top standards — which is only possible with a strong volunteer base. more

To the Editor: 

Princeton’s revised noise ordinance, which regulates gas leaf blowers and other gas-powered lawn maintenance equipment, is now in effect. Because of the revised ordinance, it’s now illegal in Princeton to use gas leaf blowers from December 16 through March 14, and from May 16 to September 30. It’s now illegal in Princeton to use gas leaf blowers on Sundays and major holidays, before 8 a.m. Monday-Saturday, after 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, or after 5 p.m. on Saturday. It’s now illegal to use chainsaws, hedge trimmers, string trimmers, and pole trimmers before 1 p.m. or after 6 p.m. on Sundays, on major holidays, before 8 a.m. Monday-Saturday, after 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, or after 5 p.m. on Saturday. 

The town is creating a new position — code enforcement officer. Once the code enforcement officer is hired, he or she will enforce the ordinance and will work to educate landscapers and residents about the ordinance.

What can you do while we are waiting for the code enforcement officer? If you hear a very loud leaf blower, it is probably a gas leaf blower. If you hear it after December 15, on Sunday, on a major holiday, before 8 a.m. on Monday-Saturday, after 8 p.m. on Monday-Friday, or after 5 p.m. on Saturday, the leaf blowing is violating the revised noise ordinance.  more

To the Editor:

Thank you to the Princeton Department of Health and Princeton Public Schools for hosting the COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at the Princeton Senior Resource Center. To be recognized and greeted at the door by my high school son’s middle school principal, pausing for enough time to catch up, and then receiving my booster shot by the Littlebrook Elementary School nurse, who also recognized me and asked for a report on my son, was meaningful.  

Lifting each other up — that’s community, that’s caring, and that is what makes living in Princeton very special.

Cheryl Mintz
Franklin Avenue

December 1, 2021

To the Editor:

“Alternative facts” and “campaign of misinformation” were phrases used in the Town Topics last week to describe the push-back the group received to their proposed permit parking plan from Princeton’s residential community, in part represented by the volunteer organization Sensible Streets. The Princeton Parking Task Force’s (PPTF) strategy of dismissing concerned residents in such a condescending manner through the use of cheap, derogatory, language to invalidate opposition is offensive. While on the attack, the PPTF are asking for town unity. These behaviors are completely contradictory.

We live in a larger community with a broader set of opinions. Council members are elected to represent the entire community, not only those who agree with the PPTF. Many residents pointed out deep flaws in the plan, yet no compromises were made to the content. This sends the message that the PPTF doesn’t value the rest of our community, surely this is not how leaders behave in a democratic society.

Let’s address the parking plan’s content:

Public streets are not private, they’re public and don’t belong exclusively to residents. This argument is often repeated by Council members. Streets are indeed public, but the argument is flawed. What would explain the existence of parking rules, meters, and parking zones? Following PPTF’s logic, there should be no parking rules whatsoever, it should be free for all. But this isn’t the case. Parking rules exist for many valid reasons. Adjusting parking rules to whatever you like, for whatever reasons, because “it’s a public street” is an empty argument. more

To the Editor:

As the season of giving surrounds us, Princeton residents might be looking for ways to make a difference in our community by shopping local, supporting nonprofits, and volunteering their time for a worthy cause. There are two organizations, right here in your backyard, that rely almost entirely on volunteers – the Princeton Fire Department (PFD) and Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad (PFARS).

The PFD is one of the oldest fire companies in New Jersey. Dating back to 1788, it relies on surrounding departments to help respond to hundreds of calls per year. Statistics show that the number of volunteer firefighters in the United States has decreased 15 percent since 1984, yet the call volume has increased by nearly 300 percent, leaving volunteer fire departments like Princeton in urgent need of additional volunteers.

Down the street in its new, state-of-the-art facility, PFARS is an independent, nonprofit, volunteer-led organization which provides emergency medical and technical rescue services to Princeton and the surrounding communities. At PFARS, high school and college-age members find it a great way to complement their pre-medical education, and even to help them decide which path to pursue. There’s a real camaraderie among all of our EMTs and firefighters. They share a sense of duty and that pull to serve. more

To the Editor:

We have a lot of smart people in this town, but every time Council wants to do a new project, they spend our tax money to hire an outfit from outside to do our thinking for us. This latest scheme they want to shove down our throats really has a lot of us scratching our heads.

Those of us who live near the high school have gotten used to sharing our street parking with the students for years. God forbid these kids walk a half a mile! Soon we will be sharing our streets with the increase in cars from the new housing on Franklin Avenue. Now we are being told that we will have to include the merchants as well? And we can pay for the “privilege” of parking in front of our own homes. Someone will be driving around with a surveillance camera making sure that we toe the line or pay dearly. We bought our houses with the understanding that we had street parking, and this will likely lessen their value.  more

To the Editor:

There’s a lot been said and written about the proposal to extend permit parking into additional residential areas of our town. While the community concerns regarding inefficient use of existing parking, rights of residents, fees and taxation, and other points all have a place in the discussion and need to be addressed, what has been missing from some of the discussions has been the safety of our children who transverse these areas on their way to school, sometimes as unaccompanied minors.

This proposal includes areas that overlap the existing school zone (pre-K – 12) and the YWCA Burke Early Childhood Center in our community. Many of these roads are busy during commuting times and need free parking to contribute to safe passage of both motor vehicles and children in these areas. This proposal doesn’t uncover existing spaces, it is simply reconfiguring these areas to allow additional traffic where it already makes sense to prohibit parking and, as a consequence, limit traffic flow for better access to our local public schools and community centers.

As our town grows, we must not lose sight of protecting our in-town residential streets where our children play and go to school. Simply drawing a half-mile radius to address commercial needs is in this case reckless and potentially dangerous. I appeal to all our community members and the Parking Permit Task Force to reconsider these plans. Keep Princeton beautiful and safe.

Ashley Pereira
Jefferson Road

To the Editor:

After a two-year hiatus, the Friends of the Princeton Public Library held another successful Annual Book Sale from November 12 to 14, and we were delighted to welcome back members of our local community and visitors from far afield. All the proceeds raised go towards the purchase of books and other media in the library collections.

We would like to thank our colleagues and Friends at Princeton Public Library, our hard-working volunteer cohort at the sale, and our wonderful team of volunteers whose dedication throughout the year is the key to a successful sale.

Lastly, we would like to thank the Princeton community who generously provide us with book donations and support our Book Store and sales as loyal customers. To find out more about the Book Store and donating books, please go to princetonlibrary.org/booksales.

Helen Heintz
Chair, 2021 Annual Book Sale

Claire Bertrand
Friends Book Sale Manager

Friends of the Princeton Public Library

November 24, 2021

To the Editor:

There has been a lot of misinformation circulating regarding the Permit Parking Task Force’s (PPTF’s) intended purpose and goals. We’d like to set the record straight.

Our main goal is to give residents the ability to park on their streets in neighborhoods that are particularly impacted by competing pressures: homes that lack driveways, and businesses with patron and employee parking needs. In order to tackle this problem, we hope to have one type of resident permit, allowing for overnight parking, and be a uniform price throughout town, instead of the patchwork of different rules and different fees we have now. 

Our secondary goal is to better manage employee parking. We need to locate this parking on streets not subject to pressure from customer parking, while limiting the number of employees, so that residents and their guests can still park on their street. We would allow, in streets closest to commerce, some interspersed three-hour parking for patrons, but employee parking would not be allowed in these locations. Balancing the needs of the residents, patrons, and employees is no easy task — but the PPTF, after several years of research and work, has come to some recommendations which we have been sharing in community discussions.

The employee permit we are looking to offer would not be a “commuter business subsidy,” rather we intend to replace existing free employee parking with paid employee permits.  “Detrimental spillover to residential communities,” which opponents fear, is in fact already there. Our goal is to improve the balance to allow more spaces for residents to park on their own streets. more

To the Editor:

Sustainable Princeton is excited to announce that we have launched a Landscaping Equipment Transition Fund. The fund will assist small landscaping businesses operating in Princeton overcome the upfront capital costs of replacing their gas-powered equipment with less harmful, battery-powered equipment.

We aim to raise $35,000 and begin distributing reimbursements to landscapers by January 1, 2022. If you are interested in contributing to this effort, please make your contributions via the donate tab on our website. We have raised nearly $13,000 so far and need your help to reach our goal.

Over the past year, we have worked with many community partners on the Changing the Landscape: Healthy Yards = Healthy People/Cambiando el Paisaje: Jardines Sanos = Gente Sana project. The project was spurred by community pressure to eliminate the use of gas-powered landscaping equipment. Two-stroke gas-powered engines, which power most landscaping equipment, emit excessive emissions. These emissions are detrimental to landscapers’ health and contribute to poor local air quality and global climate change. The most egregious gas-powered equipment used by landscaping companies is leaf blowers. more

To the Editor:

On the evening of September 1 Hurricane Ida was approaching. My husband and I were to meet good friends for dinner in Rocky Hill at 6:30. Around 6:15 we called our friends to cancel. As fate would have it, they were at the restaurant already. We live a short distance away, so we decided to go forward. We felt our big SUV could handle the rain.

By 8:30, we asked for our check, overhearing various conversations about road closings, flooding, detours on Route 206, and general growing concern over the torrential rainfall. Route 518 was wet, but not flooded in the least. When we approached Route 206 we made the decision to continue going straight. 

As we neared Bedens Brook, the water was about a foot high. Driving slowly, it became higher rapidly and we decided to turn and go back toward Route 206.  At that precise moment a tsunami of water came crashing against the side and bottom of our car, causing the engine to die. The water was halfway up the doors of the car, preventing us from opening them. Our next thought was to open all the windows (just in case). Keep in mind it was pitch black and all this happened in less than 3 minutes.  more

To the Editor:

Having lived in Princeton for 40-plus years, I have felt and seen the growing encroachment of traffic and parking into in-town residential neighborhoods. Some residential streets have become commuter thoroughfares and some have become clogged with “overspill parking” from the business district. The intensity of these changes comes not only from growth, but also from the lack of compensatory infrastructure to handle growth effectively.

To address some of the parking issues in town, a task force was formed and charged with improving parking for residents in the Tree Streets and John Witherspoon neighborhoods where, for far too long, the streets have been clogged with “overspill parking” from downtown businesses and additionally, in the Tree Streets, from University graduate students.  more

To the Editor:

I became friendly with Liz Fillo about six years ago while exercising on an adjacent bicycle at the gym. We had friends in common and I knew of her reputation as a singer and performer.

I was organizing evenings for The Friends of Princeton Public Library that would be auctioned at our yearly gala, “Beyond Words.” I asked Liz if she would do a cabaret act with music from The Great American Song Book. She readily agreed and it was a wonderful evening. Two years later, she did one for Valentine’s Day which was a riff on traditional love songs, called “Love Actually.”

What was so extraordinary about these evenings was both Liz’s incredible talent and her generosity in giving her talent to benefit the Library.

She was an amazing woman and will be missed by all who knew her.

Audrey Egger
Co-Chair, Evenings and Events
Friends of Princeton Public Library
Coniston Court

To the Editor:

While we had plenty of close elections earlier this month, voter participation was disappointingly low. How can we motivate more voters to participate in our municipal elections?

One answer is to use ranked choice voting which provides opportunities for more diverse candidates, allows voters to have real choices (without fear of a wasted vote), and ensures election winners receive a majority of the votes (over 50 percent). New Jersey towns, including Princeton, should have the opportunity to use ranked choice voting if they choose.

We can make this happen by calling on our New Jersey legislators to support the “NJ Municipal Instant Runoff” bills (A 4744 and S 2992) and by asking for committee hearings to improve the bills. For example, we should increase the number of towns that qualify and apply them to many offices, not just mayoral races. I would love to see our local citizens and elected officials, too, join me in contacting our legislators. Here is an easy way to do it: https://p2a.co/Hgw6nE7.

Susan Colby
Bunn Drive

To the Editor:

Recently, a “community organization” named Sensible Streets has been spreading half-truths, misinformation, and heavily edited videos that aim to scare Princetonians into rejecting our Permit Task Force’s recommendations to town Council. Sensible Streets’ false assertions and dirty tactics are par-for-the-course into today’s politics, but I hope fellow residents will see through the group’s well-heeled interests.

Sensible Streets claims that, “adding commercial parking creates narrower driving lanes with more traffic congestion and obstructed sight lines for cars and children.” However, parking on public streets is legal on almost every street in central Princeton. There are simply limits to the amount of time cars can park. By Sensible Streets’ reasoning all street parking should be eliminated. No birthday parties, church services, family gatherings, or funerals as the additional cars would make for an unsafe streetscape. In fact, some residents aligned with Sensible Streets argue for the elimination of all on-street parking for public safety and environmental reasons.

Sensible Streets also claims that parking in front of your residence would be leased to companies like Lululemon and Starbucks, and even suggest on their website that there will be dedicated spots with signs. This claim is an outright falsehood! The folks behind Sensible Streets (they don’t publicly state who they are) want you to believe that the big corporations will benefit from the parking plan and pay their employees less as a result. However, limited low-cost parking permits would primarily help employees of local businesses like Labyrinth Books, Small World Coffee, jaZams, Olives, Mediterra, Corkscrew Wine Shop, and many others. All of these businesses are locally owned and operated and their owners pay significant taxes to the municipality (some for both their businesses and homes alike). more

To the Editor:

The Princeton Cannabis Task Force (CTF) is holding a meeting on November 30 and plans to propose an ordinance to opt-in to allowing up to three retail cannabis dispensaries in town, possibly in areas where kids walk past and cycle to school. If a majority of town Council members vote for the ordinance, it becomes our town’s decision. Three members of the Council are on the CTF and have voiced support for an opt-in ordinance.

I am one of many parents in town who have questioned the CTF’s rush into this program. There are several reasons we as town residents should all be concerned. First, according to a recent August survey in Princeton Perspectives, 60 percent of Princeton residents polled don’t even want dispensaries in town. Enough said. Shouldn’t we be sure that a sizable majority of residents want dispensaries in their neighborhood before rushing in? There is a petition from another local parent on Change.org against Princeton’s opt-in ordinance that received over 500 signatures from Princeton residents. The CTF has avoided mentioning this petition in their public statements.    

Second, opting in and promoting cannabis consumption in town goes against the town’s sustainability goals. The more cannabis we consume as a town, the more cannabis must be produced through an energy-intensive process that emits a surprising level of CO2 emissions. Cannabis is the most energy-intensive crop grown in the U.S. The CO2 emissions created to cultivate a single ounce of cannabis is equivalent to burning an entire tank of gasoline, per a March 2021 article in the journal Nature Sustainability. The reason for this is the 24-hour lighting, ventilation, and temperature control required for the product, which is largely grown indoors. The energy consumed is a big reason why cannabis costs over $300 an ounce.    more

November 17, 2021

To the Editor:

These days it can seem like there is not much to be excited about. But, here is some very good news:  N.J.’s new Plastic Pollution Reduction Act to help control the mountains of plastic that (after food waste) dominate our landfills and cause such destruction in our oceans: over 1 million marine animals are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean (UNESCO Facts and Figures on Marine Pollution). A suite of new laws to cope with plastic waste is being rolled out in N.J. over time. The first of these to take effect is the law regarding plastic straws.

N.J.’s new law for plastic straws took effect November 4, 2021. As of the 4th, restaurants and other food service businesses may give plastic straws to customers only upon request. Food service businesses include all restaurants, convenience stores, and fast-food businesses. The plastic straw law does include penalties for non-compliance. Violators are subject to a warning for the first offense, may be fined up to $1,000 per day for the second offense, and up to $5,000 per day for the third and subsequent offense.

This is real progress. Recycling only gets us so far, and that’s not very far at all. For example, did you know that that the Delaware River dumps more than about 280,000 pounds of plastic into the ocean every year? (Science Advances, Vol. 7, Issue 18, 2021) Scientists estimate that we’re adding 80 million tons of plastic to our oceans each year. That’s about five grocery bags full of plastic waste on every foot of every shoreline around the world (Stanford Earth Matters magazine, 2018). more

To the Editor:

We are writing to comment about future development plans for Princeton and their impact on parking. The Princeton Council has approved new housing to be built; a new hotel to rise in the center of Princeton and ongoing construction, including new restaurants.

These developments will be good for Princeton. They do, however, put pressure on parking resources. The Permit Parking Task Force has proposed to direct spillover parking into residential neighborhoods. This plan will create narrower roads for thru-traffic, likely more dangerous conditions for bikers, and potentially less safe conditions for children who walk to school and town.

As concerned residents near downtown Princeton, we ask that the Princeton Council think more fully about a plan that considers how these new developments will be supported by our parking infrastructure. Directing spillover parking to residential streets will change the character of the many graceful, quiet neighborhoods that surround our downtown area.

Lillian ChIang and Thomas Shenk
Boudinot Street

To the Editor:

We have lived in Princeton for 21 years and strongly support building a dog park, or several small dog parks, in our town. Onyx, our 7-year-old Labrador, loves playing off leash with other dogs, but we often don’t have the time to drive the 30-40 minutes round trip to dog parks in neighboring towns.

Building a dog park(s) in Princeton would not only be great for pups, but for their owners too. The parks would serve as additional public spaces in Princeton where residents can meet one another and build new friendships. This would increase the inclusiveness and tight-knit feel of our community.     

Given the large number of Princeton residents who own dogs and the value of building a cohesive community, building a place(s) for our four-legged family members to play should be made a priority.

Suki and Matthew Wasserman
Meadowbrook Drive 

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