December 22, 2021

To the Editor:

This January, Princeton voters will have a chance to weigh in on a referendum to fund some critical renovations to our town’s public school facilities. The $17.5 million bond issue — officially, the Facilities Stewardship Referendum — will cover the repair of the roofs at all six district schools, as well as other important maintenance measures. I’m writing to express my enthusiastic support.

The first reason to vote yes is that our schools need help. Littlebrook, the elementary school that two of my children attend, has 35 patched holes in its roof, and water regularly seeps in during heavy rains. Riverside’s siding is deteriorating, creating a worrisome risk of mold. The masonry holding up the tower at Princeton High School is crumbling. The fixes this referendum will pay for, in other words, are not frivolous. They will literally keep a roof over our children’s heads. And, thanks to various mechanisms that don’t cost Princeton a penny, those roofs will be prepped for the addition of solar panels in the future, an investment that will save Princeton hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road.  more

To the Editor:

We are residents of the Murray Place-Princeton Avenue neighborhood, south of Nassau Street and north of Prospect Avenue. We read the revised proposal by the Princeton Permit Parking Task Force (PPTF) with surprise and dismay, because the PPTF singled out our neighborhood and selected other neighborhoods for continued business employee street parking, while eliminating such parking in other neighborhoods. Simply because we were not perceived to be the “most vocal opponents” of the original proposal does not mean we accept all of the town’s overflow parking. The following reasons explain our opposition.

As many residents have pointed out in previous letters, the 2017 Princeton Parking Study (“Study”) commissioned by the town recommended creating surface lot parking for business employees. Such parking would be created by working with owners of underutilized lots, brokering agreements between private lot owners and businesses with parking needs, and expanding on business permit agreements. The Study did NOT recommend issuing permits for street parking. This is for good reason, because off-street parking promotes optimal use of space and minimizes crowding the town’s streets. This also leaves enough street parking for residents, their guests, and visitors to our town.

The town has started to implement the Study’s proposal by securing 240 spaces at the former Westminster Choir College. Even more surface parking spaces appear to be forthcoming, in view of the December 8, 2021 article in Town Topics [Permit Parking Task Force Revising Recommendations in Response to Feedback,” page 1], quoting Councilmember Michelle Pirone Lambros as saying, “We hope to be adding other lots soon and plan to expand our transit options to convey employees and residents to many desired destinations around town.” With the town’s effort to secure off-street surface parking spaces already in motion, we ask that this effort be exhausted and ensure that further spaces are not actually needed before opening up street parking. more

To the Editor:

Readers who care about good modern, reliable Dinky service should read the NJ Transit (NJT) proposals at njtransit.com/princetontransitway and submit comments to the survey at that website [“NJ Transit Still Seeking Public Input on Future of Dinky Transitway,” page 1, December 15].

NJT seems to be considering four proposals: continuing the Dinky as is, with no modernization, or adopting one of three expansive — and expensive — proposals that focus on much wider planning goals and/or substituting bus technology. Those three wider proposals seem to me both impossible to fund in the foreseeable future, and to neglect the core goal of Dinky service: moving people between Princeton and the Junction by reliable public, non-private-auto, transportation.

What’s needed instead is a modernization of the Dinky, continuing a rail rather than bus approach, in order to be reliable in winter weather. That alternative simply isn’t presented, though modern light-rail technology is very sophisticated and is improving constantly — and the Dinky would present a great opportunity to be a showcase in that regard. more

December 15, 2021

FINE FURNITURE: “We carry high quality top brands at discounted prices. The lines we choose provide real value and long-lasting products for the customers, and we offer lifetime warranties. Our clients know they can count on us.” The Thompson family is proud of Rider Furniture’s longevity and fine reputation. Shown, from left, are owners Bill and Sue Thompson and their son, Bill Jr., who has joined the family business.

By Jean Stratton

The handsome wooden sign on the wall says:

“Built To Order, Designed to Last, Extraordinary Results.”

This sentiment describes the large selection of custom furniture available at Rider Furniture, located at 4621 Route 27 in Kingston. Its long history of quality — quality products and quality service — has led to its ongoing success story.

This year marks the 30th anniversary in its current location and its 44th under the ownership of Bill Thompson. In a time when many businesses are here today and gone tomorrow, this is a proud accomplishment indeed. more

To the Editor:

On April 11, 2016 the community known as the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood had the distinction of becoming the 20th Historic District in Princeton, New Jersey. A neighborhood with a history of proud and hard-working families who, from slavery and migration from southern states, thrived and survived in a segregated, Jim Crow, redlined, discriminating town.

Out of necessity to meet personal, economical, educational, spiritual, and social needs in a town that did not welcome its residents beyond Jackson Street (now Paul Robeson Place), the Witherspoon-Jackson community became a self-sustained neighborhood with religious institutions, family stores, businesses, fraternal organizations, social establishments, a public school, and a designated cemetery. There were also African American businesses on Nassau, Spring, and Hulfish streets.

In 2016, after the 20th Historic designation, the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society (WJHCS) began as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a dedicated Board of Trustees. Our mission is to research, preserve, understand, appreciate, and celebrate the rich and proud history of African Americans in Princeton.

The goal three years ago to commemorate 29 establishments owned and operated by the residents of this community has been completed by the dedication of the Heritage plaques. Two years ago the plaques honoring the four African American churches were dedicated. On Saturday, December 11, 15 heritage plaques were unveiled as approximately 40 persons joined the walking tour as each plaque was presented. Those yet to be placed on buildings that were noted establishments were on display at Studio Hillier. more

To the Editor:

Despite changes, the Permit Parking Task Force unfortunately still recommends employee parking permits in several residential neighborhoods.

Consider the neighborhood between Princeton, Murray, Prospect, and Nassau avenues, grouped arbitrarily with the Tree streets (Linden, Pine, Maple, Chestnut etc.). Residences will be able to buy up to two 7×24 parking spots for $240/year combined if they lack sufficient driveways. Local businesses get 50 percent of unused spots at $30/mo./spot.

These neighborhoods have markedly different traffic, density, building types — and zoning! Yet the plan damages both neighborhoods.

The Tree streets are densely zoned, with smaller houses and duplexes, many with limited off-street parking, and designed for in-town walkable living. They have commensurately lower house prices and property taxes, offering a foothold for new and old. In contrast, the Princeton/Murray area is the border of the low-density “green” neighborhoods to the south. It has historically buffered residences from encroachment by businesses and Princeton University. Houses have gardens and long driveways. Princeton Avenue is a showcase street down which Christmas trolleys take sightseers to “illustrate” a green neighborhood in harmony with downtown. Parades start on this street.  more

To the Editor:

Over the past year, we have had the pleasure of working with Councilwoman Michelle Pirone Lambros on the Steering Committee to consider the formation of a Special Improvement District (SID). Without her leadership, the idea of creating a SID would never have happened.

We have spent many, many hours on Zoom calls almost every week to discuss the future of commerce in Princeton. This diverse group of business leaders, property owners, nonprofit and institutional leaders have been working together to answer the question of how we could best improve the vitality of the town.

COVID-19 has been devastating to many businesses in Princeton. It was a catalyst to advance the demise of retailers that were already hurt by e-commerce. Many local shopkeepers watched helplessly as their economic viability evaporated almost overnight. There are now more vacant stores in Princeton than there has been in decades.  more

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

TEAM WORK: “Our goal is to provide the absolute pinnacle of food quality and services. Our logo is pineapple (the Colonial universal sign of welcome) and tulips (traditional flowers from Holland that represent the Dutch family of John Blaw, the settler of Blawenburg).” Jennifer Cifelli, far left, owner of the new Blawenburg Bistro, is shown with staff members, from left,  Rebecca, Kenia, and Kelly.

By Jean Stratton

I am glad to come to work every single day! And I am here every day. I am inspired by this opportunity.”

The many customers of the Blawenburg Bistro share owner Jennifer Cifelli’s enthusiasm. They are coming from all over the Princeton area and beyond, stopping in for coffee and a croissant early in the morning as they commute to work, or later in the day for a leisurely lunch.

Opened in April, the Bistro is a dream come true for owner Cifelli, who always loved cooking, but who took a detour before owning her own restaurant. She had a previous career as a teacher, but as she says, “I wanted to make a change, and this was the time to do it. I was always interested in cooking and different kinds of food. I was a foodie from day one!

“Also, we found just the right location at 391 County Route 518 in the Blawenburg Village section of Skillman. Our iconic corner building has a long history over more than 250 years. It has been a post office, general store, dry cleaner, deli, antique shop, newspaper headquarters, dog groomer, catering company, and cafe. We are proud to have a legacy of successful and welcoming businesses that have come before us. We want to keep that tradition.” more

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

IN THE MIDST OF HISTORY: Shown is the historic Colonial era Cranbury Inn. As owners and innkeepers Tom and Gay Ingegneri point out, “The Inn is really its own entity, with a history and stories to tell. We are just its stewards. It is a joy to own such an historic, well-loved entity. We think of it as a home away from home for our guests, and we are proud to be its stewards. We especially love to see the young people and students visit and become interested in its history.”

By Jean Stratton

A Colonial-era inn still fulfilling its purpose: serving customers high quality dinners, celebrating weddings, hosting banquets — and more. This is a rarity today, and all the more reason for it to be acknowledged and commemorated.

With changing tastes and customs, and altered community styles and landscapes, changes come along quickly, almost before we know it. The Cranbury Inn, located at 21 Main Street in Cranbury, has stood the test of time, and continues to offer its customers the highest standards of service and cuisine.

Its history is a story in itself.

In the mid-18th century, taverns were built in the Cranbury area to meet the needs of travelers passing through the region, often on their way from New York to Philadelphia, or in the opposite direction. What is now The Cranbury Inn has been functioning as a place to eat and drink since at least 1750. more

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

A TRUE TREASURE: “Customers are enjoying coming in again. They really like to see things firsthand. We also have online shopping, but many of our customers have fun coming into the shop and enjoying the in-store atmosphere.” Debra Lampert-Rudman (left), curator of education and public programs at Morven Museum, and Kathy O’Hara, hospitality manager and buyer for The Morven Museum Shop, are enthusiastic about the shop’s treasure trove of gifts. They are shown at Morven’s annual “Festival of Trees” holiday event.

By Jean Stratton

It has been called “the best kept secret in town.” The Morven Museum Shop at 55 Stockton Street, next to Morven Museum & Garden, is filled with a selection of delightful items in a wide price range.

With the holidays fast approaching, it is the perfect place to find a special gift. The selection is indeed a treasure trove of surprises for friends and family, and all in a variety of styles and signature specialties.

The shop itself is a fascinating piece of history. Dating to 1844, the building was formerly Morven’s Wash House.

“The concept of the shop is to carry on Morven’s mission and to promote New Jersey culture and history and the Morven Garden,” explains Hospitality Manager and Buyer Kathy O’Hara, who has been with the shop since it opened in 2005. more

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