March 1, 2023

HEALTHY BENEFITS: “The hemp plant has more than 100 different chemical compounds. It can address a variety of health-related conditions. It is a natural, good, healthy way to help an array of problems.” Phil Rutman, owner of Native Ceuticals, is enthusiastic about his CBD (cannabidiol) products made from the hemp plant.

By Jean Stratton

“My goal is to educate people about the benefits of Native Ceuticals,” says Phil Rutman.

Owner of Native Ceuticals, located at 1273 Route 206 (State Road),  Montgomery Township, he looks forward to introducing people to the company’s  products, which he believes will improve health problems.

“I want to help people gain an understanding about the benefits of CBD (cannabiodiol) and these products,” he explains. “They have nothing to do with marijuana, do not cause a high, and are not addictive. There are multiple derivatives from hemp, offering a beneficial herbal alternative for treatment of many health problems. This is a growing industry. CBD has been legal since 2018.”  more

To the Editor:

Thanks to Donald Gilpin for the insightful interview with Jeff Lucker, who retired after 53 years of teaching history at Princeton High School [“Jeff Lucker, 53 Years at PHS: ‘It’s Amazing What Can Be Done,’” February 15, page 10]. I especially appreciated Lucker’s quote,  “It’s more than simply passion for the subject. It’s passion for the students and an interest in communicating with the students and the interaction with them. It’s amazing what can be done if you have that.”

I’m sending it to my granddaughter to encourage her. A history major at Wake Forest, she believes she is called to teach high school history for exactly that reason — the ability to communicate and interact with students. And, of course, we all are grateful for the dedication of Mr. Lucker and all of the teachers who have done their best during COVID. 

Barbara Fox
Stonebridge at Montgomery, Skillman

To the Editor:

We respect that there can be differences of opinion with regards to housing policy, but Mayor Freda’s comments [The Montgomery News, February 23] to a group of realtors in Montgomery in January go beyond a difference in opinion. They reflect a lingering, unproductive narrative in Princeton. We the undersigned dispute these characterizations and remind the public that they are misguided and unrepresentative.

Mayor Freda suggested that our inclusionary developments inherently underproduce affordable units and that there are issues with how and where they are built. Princeton’s fair share settlement contradicts this narrative. Consider its ambitious plan for housing on Franklin Ave — 50 percent affordable, 50 percent market rate. Or consider that most of this housing will be located on vastly underutilized, already-developed land in walkable areas with access to public transit. More importantly, Mayor Freda implies a preference for an alternative that does not presently exist. Inclusionary developments may not be perfect, but they provide critically important affordable housing now without requiring significant public subsidy. Waiting for a different solution to materialize is a proven strategy to undermine affordable housing construction and belies the urgency of the matter. more

To the Editor:

I thank Town Topics for sharing this letter with me and the opportunity to reply to it. I also extend an invitation to the letter signers to talk about this. I am a big believer in the idea of actually talking to someone you may disagree with or believe has wrong information; I always welcome anyone to do this with me. You do not have to agree with me for me to listen to you.

I believe that the letter was written after reading a newspaper article referring to a panel discussion I participated in. There was a question and answer session after the panel talked, so I am assuming this letter is based on the newspaper article and not having actually heard all of my comments. If the information I have been given about how Fair Share Housing is funded is incorrect; I have no problem accepting that. And correcting that.  more

February 22, 2023

SUMMER SESSIONS: “I am looking forward to hearing and seeing the teachers and children learning, discovering, and working together through play both inside and outside on the YWCA grounds.” Tara O’Shea is the director of The Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center at YWCA Princeton, the Youth Program, and also head of the YW Summer Program.

By Jean Stratton

YWCA Princeton has a proud history. For more than a century, it has provided programs and activities for women and families. Established in 1922, it was originally located on Nassau Street, moving to its current site at 59 Paul Robeson Place in 1958.

Since the 1970s, the YWCA Princeton has offered summer programs for children, including both indoor and outdoor activities.

Tara O’Shea has been associated with the YW since 1996, and has served as head of the Summer Program since 2005, as well as overseeing The Burke Foundation Early Childhood Center at the YW, and the Youth Program.

This year the Summer Program will begin June 20, continuing through August 25. Girls and boys from age 2 and a half through 12 are eligible to participate, and the variety of activities will appeal to children of all ages, points out Haley Gorda, YWCA Princeton communications and marketing manager. more

To the Editor:

The enjoyable article in Town Topics about moving 91 Prospect across the street (where its address will surely change!) referred to the building as “Court” [“Court Clubhouse Almost Ready for Move,” February 1, page 1].

This building had another history that deserves to be remembered. In about 1968 it became half of Stevenson Hall, a non-bicker Princeton University-managed dining facility with its own dynamic history. (I’m looking forward to telling a Princeton alum that the building he celebrated his wedding in has crossed the street). The other half of Stevenson Hall, 83 Prospect, housed the University’s kosher kitchen until 1993, but 91 Prospect continued to be Stevenson Hall for another 10 years.

Tobias D. Robison, GS ’65
Jefferson Road

To the Editor:

In 2020, the town of Princeton passed an ordinance #2020-17 that implemented affordable housing overlays as a way of promoting residential development in town. By easing zoning restrictions for residential development in areas designated under the AHO ordinance, the town provided incentives for developers to build new residential housing that would include at least 20 percent affordable housing units. In 2023 we are beginning to see the impact of these eased rules on residents in and near these AHO districts, particularly in designated historic districts, where there are some unexpected consequences. We support the concept of AHO’s and the need to build affordable housing. The devil, as usual, is in the details. I believe the current ordinance needs to be revised.

At the Planning Board meeting of February 2, 2023, developer RB Homes presented a concept plan for development of 344 Nassau Street, at the corner of Nassau and Harrison streets. This project is in both the AHO-2 overlay and the Jugtown Historic District. Under the rules of the AHO, building requirements that are part of normal zoning are superseded by the AHO rules.  In short, the protections against overdevelopment of Jugtown are eliminated. This is not the case in the Jackson-Witherspoon AHO-7 approved in January 2023, where the role of the Historic Preservation Committee is affirmed.  more

To the Editor:

The Sourland Conservancy does not support the proposed “Hopewell” boutique hotel plan, and we respectfully urge the Hopewell Township Zoning Board to reject the application.

The Sourland region is home to the largest contiguous forest in Central New Jersey. Its mosaic of habitat is home to a rich diversity of animal and plant species, many rare or endangered. The entire Sourland Mountain Region is a designated Continental IBA ( Important Bird Area) macrosite, and is one of only 113 such sites in the United States. Millions of migratory birds rely on the Sourland forest’s food and shelter to survive their journey from South America to New England and Canada.

In 2020, the NJ Forest Service estimated that the 90-square-mile Sourland region was on track to lose over one million trees due to a single invasive insect, the emerald ash borer. Now, the spotted lanternfly threatens our forests and farms. Baldpate Mountain and Fiddlers Creek Preserve, adjacent to the property, provide critical habitat for birds, turtles, amphibians, pollinators, and other sensitive wildlife species whose numbers are already in steep decline.

Practicing good stewardship today is an uphill battle, and we must honor and defend the work of those who have gone before us to provide for the well-being of future generations. In 2002, Hopewell Township created a Master Plan to “protect, enhance, and maintain the best interests of current and future citizens.”  more

To the Editor:

Your blurb on February 15 [Topics in Brief, page 4] about the trial pickleball courts [behind Community Park Elementary School and Community Park Pool] is correct, but I would add that users have organized themselves through the app TeamReach. One of pickleball’s strength is its welcoming social nature, and this is a way to meet and enjoy the game with new acquaintances. Currently there are 80 registered users on the app. Also, despite the court trial period being mostly during the winter, usage continues.

Those wishing to join the group on TeamReach should look for Princeton PBall and apply the code “bigdillfun.” Look forward to seeing even more pickleballers!

Douglas Blair
Patton Avenue

February 15, 2023

PAVING POSSIBILITIES: “Calvary Paving & Sealcoating is an independent family-owned business. We are a full service asphalt paving company, and we treat your driveway as if it were our own,” says owner Jimmie Harrison. Shown is a recently completed driveway in the area.

By Jean Stratton

Even though it is February, the unusually warm temperatures hint of spring. Spring cleaning and home improvement projects come to mind, and it’s not too soon to consider the state of your driveway.

In the same way it affects roads, winter, with fluctuating cold and warm temperatures, can be hard on driveways. Especially if they are older, and haven’t had recent maintenance attention, wear and tear takes its toll. Cracks, crumbling, and rough patches can appear, not only lessening eye appeal, but even causing hardship on tires.

Jimmie Harrison, owner of Calvary Paving & Sealcoating, is ready to help! He has a long history in the paving business, having received hands-on training from his father and grandfather.

“I really started helping out when I was 4 years old,” he says with a smile. “I definitely started young!” more

To the Editor:

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I would like to share our story. In 2014, my husband of 32 years Roy was battling acute myeloid leukemia and he needed a bone marrow transplant to save his life. But we couldn’t find a match in our family.

So, we turned to the national registry and someone we had never met gave my husband the lifesaving transplant he needed. Because of this loving gift, we can share Valentine’s Day and many more days, together.

I’m trying to pay it forward by sharing my story, hopefully to inspire Princeton students to join the national registry at I’m also participating in a virtual fly-in to Congress later this month. For more than 40 years, visionaries in Congress, including New Jersey Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman and Chris Smith, have supported funding so the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program has the resources to facilitate lifesaving transplants to patients like Roy. more

To the Editor:

I am writing in appreciation to all those involved in the imagining of, planning for, and supporting of the new, remarkably joy-giving, fenced dog park that opened on the Community Park grounds just over a week ago. From idea to fruition surely there were challenges, but the genius is in not giving up. To fill a void long felt with a safe space for dogs to stretch, chase, and play? Such a success!

Much gratitude to Mia Sacks, whose love of canines and knowledge that dog parks bring about human connection sparked it all. For those of us who have laughed easily as our dogs discover each other — no matter size, color, texture of coat, known breed or creative rescue combinations, temperament, or age — the acceptance, curiosity, and play among our dogs has been inspiring. Thank you to all the dog owners who have responsibly been monitoring their dog’s first “meetings.”

During my own visits to the dog park, the two-legged and four-legged species are engaged, and happy. The power of community building that comes from a simple, shared gift is, frankly, wonderful. I could anthropomorphically wax eloquent on how my two Goldendoodles “feel” but instead, I would just like to add that as a human physician, focused on wellness, I especially appreciate the added benefits the CP dog park offers for social engagement, laughter, fresh air, athletic ball throwing, vitamin D, and support for our deficient microbiomes. It’s a win-win all around and a welcome experiment that I for one would vote to keep!

Julie Pantelick, D.O.
Vandeventer Avenue

To the Editor:

In 2009, the West Windsor Community Farmers Market (WWCFM) and Yes We CAN! began a journey to bring fresh vegetables to our neighbors in Trenton and Princeton, while supporting the farmers at the WWCFM. The formula remains simple: visitors to the market make cash donations to the Yes We CAN! volunteers and we then purchase produce directly from the farmers. As the Market closes, the van from Arm In Arm arrives to collect the produce, and brings it to the Trenton and Princeton Pantries, where it is given to our neighbors on Monday morning. In 2022, Yes We CAN! donated 38,711 pounds of food to Arm In Arm Food Pantries in Trenton and Princeton.

Chris Cirkus, manager of the WWCFM, and her team have been tireless advocates for our work. The sense of community that the WWCFM team creates each Saturday allows for Yes We CAN! to do good work for our neighbors who simply need help at this point in their lives. By giving our neighbors healthy food, along with protein and shelf-sustainable items, Arm In Arm and Yes We CAN! are easing their daily lives and giving them a bit of hope along with dignity and respect. Yes We CAN! has also become a drop-off spot for shelf-sustainable food as well as books, coats, hats, and gloves.  more

To the Editor:

The profile of Wildflowers in last week’s issue [“Wide Array of Arrangements, Bouquets, and More are Available at Wildflowers of Princeton Junction,” It’s New to Us, February 8] was spot-on! Co-owner Michael Piccioni and staff did an amazing job at our daughter’s wedding a little over a year ago, adding beauty, variety, and originality to every detail. The crowning touch was the remarkable way they decorated the chuppah to incorporate a beloved old tallith belonging to our son-in-law’s family.

Bravo, Wildflowers!

Ellen Gilbert Castellana
Stuart Road East

To the Editor:

We are proud to support Brian Hughes for reelection to the post of Mercer County executive. Under his leadership, Mercer County has participated in preserving more than 5,700 acres of open space and farmland, including Princeton Ridge, along with federal, state, local and nonprofit partners.

During Brian’s tenure, there have been substantial upgrades to our county’s park system, which hosts more than 2 million visitors each year. Initiatives include expanded trail networks for hikers, cyclists, and pedestrians in Hamilton, Robbinsville, and West Windsor as well as conservation and recreation projects at Quarry Park in Hopewell Township and the Wharf Park in Trenton. The Mercer at Play Grants yielded for Princeton a skatepark, improvements to Mary Moss playground (with the popular spray feature), and will bring us our first adaptive playground in Hilltop Park. Recreational opportunities in every town in the county have been expanded by Brian’s administration, which also provides capital funds for new facilities for match by outside contributors.

Brian has also focused on providing infrastructure important to economic development and access to jobs, especially public transportation. Completion of much needed improvements to the Trenton-Mercer Airport — including a new and expanded terminal, air-traffic control tower, a firehouse and a 1,000-space parking garage — are in the works. He has also allocated over $1 million of ARPA funds for the expansion of transportation options throughout the county. These opportunities will complement the Route 130 Connection bus route that has improved access to jobs in eastern Mercer County.  more

February 8, 2023

FABULOUS FLORALS: “My arrangements are very personalized, truly one-of-a-kind. Everything is made in-house, and I always try to create something special for the customer.” Michael Piccioni, co-owner of Wildflowers of Princeton Junction, is pleased to create imaginative arrangements, such as those shown here, and he is proud of the firm’s exceptional and long-standing reputation.

By Jean Stratton

“To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wildflower.”

—William Blake

Flowers are a gift on so many levels. Whether carefully planned as part of a backyard landscape, or blooming free and unrestrained in a meadow, or as artfully designed arrangements and bouquets created by professional florists, they are a continuing miracle of beauty and enjoyment

Especially appreciating this wonder of nature is expert horticulturalist Michael Piccioni. Co-owner with Ed Getty of Wildflowers of Princeton Junction, he has a long history in the floral industry.

Originally from Pottsville, Pa., he grew up in a family steeped in the natural world. “My grandfather, who emigrated from Italy, was a farmer, and I grew up surrounded by gardens, From the age of 10, I also helped out in my aunt’s flower shop, and it was all very natural to me.”

He went on to study horticulture at Penn State, and then worked in a flower shop in Philadelphia before he and Getty opened Wildflowers in 1985. Getty specializes in the administrative end of the business, as well as providing technical and lighting services at events. more

To the Editor:

About 18 months ago, inspired by what I have learned through my Council duties on the Traffic Safety Committee, the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee, and the Vision Zero Task Force, I signed up to become a crossing guard. Princeton has a pressing need for crossing guards, and I no longer was satisfied just “talking the talk” — I felt the need to start “walking the walk.”

From my vantage point as a crossing guard at the intersection of Valley Road and Jefferson Road over the past year, I have gotten to see the kinds of driver behavior that endanger not only pedestrians and cyclists, but drivers themselves. I would like to share some of the insights gained.

First a clarification: crossing guards are there to protect vulnerable roadway users — pedestrians and cyclists. We are not there to facilitate automobile traffic, and in fact are trained not to do so. I will never enter the intersection to direct traffic unless there is a pedestrian or cyclist needing assistance. I will from time to time then remain in the intersection to help clear a backlog of cars trying to get through, but that is the extent of the help I will give to drivers.

This intersection is a crossing with only two-way stop signs. Traffic on Valley Road has the right-of-way over other cars, but of course must stop for pedestrians in the crosswalks. In future postings I will focus on other suggestions to improve safety and flow, but for now want to focus on the rules governing driver behavior at the stop sign. As I hope we all know, at a traffic signal, when the light is green, drivers going straight have the right-of-way, while those trying to make a left turn must yield to oncoming traffic. At a four-way stop sign, however, drivers have the right-of-way based on the order in which they arrive at the intersection, with no distinction between those going straight and those making a turn.  more

To the Editor:

I would like to share this poem I wrote, as it is particularly timely.

The Cynic in February

Why trust a month of varying days.
Twenty-eight? Twenty-nine?
A month that trips the tongue,
bewilders groundhogs,
offers a pale diluted sun
to mock our chill.

Beneath fresh layers of snow
lies treacherous ice.
Beware that February sky,
Blue and serene as a nursery.
Storm clouds threaten
our springtime fantasies.

Don’t believe lovers
who bring valentines.
Red satin can hide a carboard heart,
sweet phrases, like soft-centered chocolates, cloy
and lacy paper promises
may blow away in March.

Kathleen Henderson Duhaime
Raymond Road

February 1, 2023

POSITIVE PLANNING: “My main purpose is to guide my clients to a positive financial outcome. For each client, I set up a personalized plan, and together, we revise it every year. With my experience, I try to help them achieve their goals.” Annie Hung-Scanga, CPA, MBA, CKA, owner and managing member of Atlantis Accounting, specializes in tax preparation, tax and financial planning, small business consulting, estate planning, and trusts. She looks forward to introducing new clients to her services.

By Jean Stratton

Peace of mind.

Who doesn’t wish for such a welcome state of well-being?

Every era, every age faces its own challenges, but right now, we seem to have our full share. Turmoil throughout the world, including severe political division right here at home; cultural unrest; climate change with its extreme weather patterns; uneasiness about new technology and where it is leading us; cost of living increases; growing disparities between rich and poor — the list goes on.

And the personal financial troubles. Waking up in the middle of the night worrying about feeding the family, paying the rent, having enough resources to send the children to college, trying to save money before retirement — these are concerns that torment many people today. more

To the Editor:

No. 1 — do not even consider composting until people know how to recycle properly. Check out how many plastic bags are in the bins, and why not? They still get picked up. How simple is it to understand no plastic bags? It doesn’t stop there. Take a look at the buckets on recycle day. One time there were red stickers put on unacceptable buckets, but only once.

I did pay for composting, and I liked it. However, expecting only compost-acceptable matter inside your free bucket is highly unlikely. Make recycling correctly a priority.

This isn’t rocket science. People who have green compost buckets with wheels and a lid should be able to reuse them as recycling buckets.

Elaine Y. Staats
Moore Street

To the Editor:

The 2021 Princeton Mobility Survey shows that while very few Princeton residents get around town by bus, about half of the respondents said they would, if the bus were more convenient. This is good news for a town that wants to reduce its carbon emissions from transportation! A big part of that convenience is frequent service; another important factor is that it should not take too long to get to desired destinations. People most often say they want bus stops at the Dinky and Princeton Junction, the central business district, the Princeton Shopping Center, and most of all, “near my house.” In addition, multiple survey respondents said they would like to see a safe bike path alongside the Dinky. The survey report can be downloaded from

NJ Transit’s concept proposal for the Dinky upgrade meets these needs. The core of the proposal is an upgrade of the service between Princeton and Princeton Junction stations to light rail; this is augmented by a bus line that reaches deep into town. The service will be frequent: every 6-10 minutes between the stations, every 15 minutes for the bus. Buses and trains will be electric, ADA-compliant, and equipped with Wi-Fi. NJ Transit proposes that buses get preferential green light at signaled intersections so they can remain on schedule. As for all NJ Transit trains and buses, schedules are easily accessible via Google maps, the NJ Transit app, or the Moovit app; both apps have real-time vehicle tracking. In response to public input, NJ Transit’s concept plan includes a walk and bike path alongside the Dinky that will give a truly safe connection across Route 1. (Yes, you “can” bike on Washington Road or Alexander Road — no, it’s not safe). more

To the Editor:

Lately, the news has been full of stories about the Colorado River running dry, and water shortages in Arizona. Climate change is partly to blame, of course, but these stories leave little doubt that a lot of the trouble is due to overdevelopment, promoted by a toxic alliance of greedy developers and corrupt politicians. Yet, in its own way, New Jersey (and the Princeton area in particular) is a mirror image of Arizona.

There are differences, of course. Arizona has too little water; we have too much underground water. Arizona is becoming a desert again; Princeton is becoming a swamp. Arizona has mainly Republican politicians, and New Jersey has mainly Democratic politicians, but in both states too many of them represent the interests of developers rather than the interests of ordinary citizens.

What causes water levels to rise? Climate change (and increased precipitation) is a factor of course. So is overdevelopment. It takes roughly two forms. The first involves rainwater, and it happens when a new development is built over a wider surface. A common example is when a Cape Cod cottage is replaced by a McMansion. There is less space where rainfall can be absorbed, and the resulting excess will tend to flow into someone’s basement. The second involves groundwater, and often it is even more destructive. It happens when a developer is allowed to dig deep into previously untouched earth, and groundwater is released (and will be continuously released) into neighboring buildings. A classic (and toxic) example is a multi-tiered underground garage. more

To the Editor:

Regarding “Many Princetonians Cheer Governor’s Proposal to Expand Liquor Licenses” [January 25, page 8], in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, Oceania is a one-party state in constant emergency status. The government tries to control discontent with a Ministry of Truth, which alters history and combats what it considers misinformation with constant surveillance and lots of cheap gin.

The state of emergency (Executive Order No. 103) remains in full force and effect in New Jersey, and there are numerous state and local issues that weigh heavily on the citizens of New Jersey. In his first term of office, the governor successfully lobbied for “legal” marijuana and now he proposes greater availability of alcohol.

If we are going to continue on this Orwellian track, I would much prefer scotch.

Marc I. Malberg M.D.
Autumn Hill Road

To the Editor:

Princeton will soon begin delivery of new trash cans to over 7,000 households and is scheduling pickups of old cans later this spring. Some residents may be looking for alternatives to throwing out their old cans, especially as not all the containers will be able to be recycled. In any case, reuse is viewed as far more efficient than recycling. What follows is a list of reuse ideas.

Use as storage containers: Garbage cans with lids make great storage for a wide variety of materials, including open bags of fertilizer, animal food (keeps the food dry and the mice out), compost, or even leaves or brush waiting for pickup by the municipality.

Use as a transport container: Trash cans can also make great containers for transporting the free compost and word chips available to all Princeton residents from the joint Environmental Facility on the Princeton Pike to your yard.

Use as a tool caddy/storage container: Trash cans are well suited for storing long-handled lawn care equipment such as rakes, hoes, string trimmers, and the like. Since many trash cans also have wheels and handles, they can also be used to move these tools around to where they are needed. more

January 25, 2023

FAMILY PRIDE:  “I am very proud of our company’s longevity — now 76 years! Continuing our family tradition is especially fulfilling, and I feel I am the custodian for the next generation. And now my son, Paul Jr., is in the business, and we look forward to continuing to enjoy our work and provide an important service for our clients. We are a family business in every way.” Paul Pennacchi (left), president of A. Pennacchi & Sons Masonry Restoration & Waterproofing Company, is shown with his son Paul Jr., who is vice president.

By Jean Stratton

Paul Pennacchi Sr. loves what he does. He enjoys the interaction with his co-workers, clients, his many and varied projects, and he is proud of the longtime family business, which he now heads.

A. Pennacchi & Sons Masonry Restoration & Waterproofing Company is a thriving organization that has benefited from the hard work and dedication of each generation that contributed to its success.

Now headquartered in Hamilton, it was established in 1947 in Trenton by brothers Anthony and John Pennacchi. Its storied history actually began earlier when Gaetano Pennacchi arrived from Italy in 1918, and settled in Trenton.

“He was a mason,” explains Paul Pennacchi,” and he started helping his neighbors with repair work on their houses. It was a side trade for him since he also worked full-time for General Motors, but it grew into a real business.” more