January 3, 2024

To the Editor:

We have been residents of Princeton since 1986 and both our children went to Community Park, the Middle School, and Princeton High School (PHS).

We witnessed the expansion of PHS that was complicated and way over budget. We need construction and development expertise to oversee the process now from bidding and contract negotiations all through the construction to make sure that the budgets are solid. more

To the Editor:

After my wife passed several years ago, I moved from New Hampshire to Princeton to be near my daughter’s family. On New Year’s Eve in Portsmouth, NH, my wife, and I regularly attended First Night and concerts by the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra. Portsmouth is a wonderful town, and we greatly enjoyed the experience.

When I moved to Princeton, I was greatly impressed with the number of cultural events available here. Therefore, I anticipated a wonderful New Year’s Eve. I was surprised to find that almost no public events took place. That is too bad, because the New Year offers us the opportunity to take stock of our lives and join with others in plans for a better future.

Such New Year events need not take place on a grand scale. No First Nights which require extensive organization. No symphony concerts with full orchestras. Perhaps just chamber music in a local church. I think the Princeton I have come to admire can do better.

Gary Patton
Trinity Court

To the Editor:

Thank you for the December 27 article “Town Sees Year of Change, Controversy, Progress” [December 27, page 1]. In it, the authors state “of all the contentious issues … the development of the former Tennent/Roberts/Whiteley (TRW) campus of Princeton Theological Seminary figures especially high.”

The destruction of the historic buildings on the Tennent/Roberts/Whitely campus and its redevelopment have been ongoing concerns for the surrounding neighborhood for the many years that we have been living in the shadow of an Area in Need of Redevelopment. We are now coming up on two years with construction fencing spread across the properties awaiting a collaborative process that was promised to us by the town in October 2021.  more

December 27, 2023

To the Editor:

The Westminster Community Orchestra (WCO) would like to extend its thanks to the members of the Princeton community who attended our recent holiday concert and contributed to our annual collection for area service organizations.

This year’s donations were divided between Mercer Street Friends, TASK, Arm in Arm, HomeFront, the Princeton Mobile Food Pantry, and the Rider University Food and Resource Pantry.  more

To the Editor:

One recent morning, I was walking through the resoundingly empty Westminster Choir College (WCC) campus, while listening to NPR as it detailed the desperate housing challenges faced by millions of migrants in our country.

Here is my proposal: Temporarily house some migrants in these empty dorms. Feed them in this empty Student Center. Campaign to let them work legally on the property to care for each other there, and in our town, so they can move toward affording to live on their own.

Yes, practical objections loom, and emotions run high. Believe me, I know and feel many of them. But here is a chance for our better angels to triumph.  more

December 20, 2023

GORGEOUS GOWNS: “The entire selection is yours for an exclusive and private bridal shopping experience. Before you say ‘I do,’ say ‘Yes to the dress’ at Princeton Bridal!” Matija Tomasello, owner of Princeton Bridal, is shown by a selection of exclusive and hand-curated wedding gowns.

By Jean Stratton

Whether it is for the traditional June wedding or the popular October wedding day — or any date in between — in addition to their partner, the bride’s No. 1 choice is the dress!

Brides-to-be now have a special opportunity to select the wedding gown of their dreams at Princeton Bridal in the Princeton Shopping Center.

Opened last August, the shop is filled with 50 to 75 stunning wedding gowns of all styles. Owner Matija Tomasello is an experienced bridal consultant, who offers private appointments for the brides. Her goal is to provide a warm and welcoming event leading to the very special upcoming moment in the life of the client.

As she explains, “My business model was to have a very personal relationship with clients, and all by appointment. I only see one bride at a time, and each session is an hour and a half. Sometimes, she will bring her mother, sister, or best friend, and I have room for four people to be here together. We also offer our guests refreshments.” more

To the Editor:

This December marks the 30th anniversary of Small World Coffee giving us all a place to meet, talk, work, laugh, console each other, flirt, connect, plan for a better world, and have delicious drinks and snacks. We can’t, nor would we ever want, to imagine Princeton without this precious social space, its terrific staff, and the incredible Jessica Durrie.

It’s a pleasure and a privilege to make common cause with Jessica year after year, as we think and talk together about how to keep independent businesses alive and well in Princeton. This month, meet or make a friend at Small World and wish them a very happy birthday!

Dorothea Von Moltke and Cliff Simms
Owners, Labyrinth Books
Nassau Street

Joanne Farrugia and Dean Smith
Owners, jaZams Toys and Books
Palmer Square East

To the Editor:

C-Change Conversations, a national, nonprofit climate change education group headquartered in Princeton, also attended the COP28 summit [“Princeton University Reports from COP28; Delegates Participate in Climate Summit,” page 1, December 13]. We were encouraged by the progress made, including the historic call to “transition away” from fossil fuels, the pledge of tripling renewables and doubling energy efficiency by 2030, and the commitment to significantly cutting methane emissions. We also welcomed the official recognition of the role of climate change on health and safety.

Some call the agreement an historic accomplishment, a “crossing of the Rubicon,” as the international community is finally willing to recognize officially that burning fossil fuels must be curtailed. Others lambast it as being too little, too late — insufficient because of the scope and scale of the threat we face globally. more

To the Editor:
The Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) would like to highlight some of our accomplishments from this year:

Related to development, PEC provided essential environmental recommendations through site plan reviews and the municipal master plan process as well as revising the Green Development Checklist (GDCL). PEC reviewed six site plans and continued providing recommendations for the new master pan up to its adoption. PEC believes that the new municipal master plan is considerate of protecting our natural environment and guiding growth in a responsible, sustainable, and equitable way as well as serving as the strongest commitment to sustainability and climate resilience that Princeton has the opportunity to own, live by, and grow by.

Additionally, PEC held Green House Tour (GHT) and video events in partnership with Sustainable Princeton and the Princeton Public Library. Videos remain accessible via princetonnj.gov/1462/2023-Green-House-Tour-Videos.

Related to open space, PEC supported the initial review of the Environmental Resource Inventory (ERI) and is eager to continue supporting the ERI process. PEC believes the ERI is vital to the community and its integration in the new municipal master plan essential. Furthermore, PEC representation successfully advocated for stormwater management, which included native trees and vegetation, and maintaining a more walkable, bikeable town in the revision plans for Community Park South. more

December 13, 2023

By Donald Gilpin

Kristina Hayda

Eating juicy tropical pineapples, climbing mountains with hot springs, carving bamboo with Indigenous tribes, and learning to speak Mandarin Chinese do not sound like part of the job description for a high school science teacher. Nor does traveling through a typhoon and experiencing an early morning earthquake.

But for Kristina Hayda, Princeton High School (PHS) biology, anatomy and physiology, and environmental science teacher, a month last summer in Taiwan on a Fulbright grant provided “one of the most invigorating experiences” of her life and inspired a three-school, international collaboration that continues.

“This Fulbright was an amazing experience, and I highly recommend that all educators seek out opportunities like this one at least once in their careers,” Hayda wrote in an email. “Nothing can replicate journeying abroad with people who you may not have even met otherwise.” more

SETTING THE TABLE: “We are a third generation family-owned small business and the premier importer of Japanese tableware and gifts to the U.S. We bring the best of Japan home, so you can too!” Husband and wife team Bob Matsukawa and Heidi Moon are co-owners of Miya Table & Home on Palmer Square.

By Jean Stratton

When it’s time to set the table, and you want it to have extra special appeal, head over to Miya Table & Home at 27 Palmer Square West.

Opened in its current location in 2021, this charming shop is filled with an engaging selection of tableware predominantly from Japan, as well as an eclectic and wide-ranging mix of other items.

The family business dates back to 1947, when current owner Bob Matsukawa’s great-uncle Chosuke Miyahira (also known as “Mr. Miya”) opened a flower shop in Manhattan. In time, Matsukawa’s father joined the business, and they began importing goods from Japan. As American interest grew, the focus on Japanese and Asian products, in particular tableware, became a priority. Miya was one of the only companies importing housewares from Japan. more

To the Editor:

It has been tough in Princeton recently, trying to ignore the almost continuous roar of gas leaf blowers, and trying not to think about the large amount of pollution they are emitting into the air. Fortunately, Princeton’s seasonal ban on gas leaf blowers is in effect as of December 16. Use of gas leaf blowers is not allowed again until March 15. That is a relief.

Because of Princeton’s seasonal ban, gas leaf blowers were banned last summer, from May 16 through September 30. During that period, Quiet Princeton received a number of emails from Princeton residents, expressing gratitude for the ban. The residents described their pleasure at being able to eat outdoors and walk around town without being driven indoors by the noise and pollution of gas leaf blowers. People who work indoors but want to keep their windows open also expressed their heartfelt appreciation. more

To the Editor:

There is, we should be reminded, a national housing crisis. We see it in the segregation of our towns into enclaves of the wealthy and enclaves of the less well-to-do. But its saddest consequence is the disillusionment of young people whose reasonable hopes for family life in a welcoming community are simply beyond their reach.

In an admirable act of governmental vision and determination, Princeton — a progressive town with a long history of doing what it can for lower income families — adopted a plan to do more to advance our overall social and economic diversity. In particular, to lay the groundwork for zoning adapted to advance these aims. more

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to last week’s letter from Maria Evans regarding the estimates for improvements to the dog park at Community Park South [“Prince Tag Seems Too High for Proposed Community Park South Concept Design,” Mailbox, December 6].

The estimates included in the Concept A plan that was recommended by the Recreation Commission to Council at our November 27 meeting were estimates that included a list of amenities that residents asked for in the various community and stakeholder meetings that were held over the past year. These amenities are a wish list, and not by any means a final or authorized spending of taxpayer funds. more

To the Editor:

Now that the Master Plan has been adopted by the Planning Board, we would like to thank the Board, Planning Director Justin Lesko, and Planning Department staff for their hard work in bringing this important effort to completion. We applaud the professionalism with which the Board and the Department pursued a complicated and sometimes contentious planning process. We appreciated the inclusive and productive input sessions, where many diverse perspectives were heard and, where practicable, addressed in the final draft.

We especially appreciate the Board’s leadership in confronting critical issues affecting our community, and its strong encouragement of continued public input as measures recommended by the Master Plan are proposed and debated in the months and years ahead.

Jane Scott
Battle Road

Meg Davis
Shadybrook Lane

Carol Golden
Snowden Lane

Charles Read
Rollingmead Street

December 6, 2023

’TIS THE SEASON: Montgomery, the 2 1/2-year-old alpaca, and Marie Voorhees, owner of Hidden Spring Lavender & Alpaca Farm, are all decked out for the holidays. Montgomery was the first baby alpaca born at the farm.

By Jean Stratton

Avisit to Hidden Spring Lavender & Alpaca Farm engages on many levels. It’s a chance to spend time in the relaxing atmosphere of a country setting with fields of fragrant lavender. Opportunities for shopping are abundant in the special Gift Shoppe, and then there are the alpacas!

Twenty-three alpacas live at the Hidden Spring Farm and are a captivating attraction for enthusiastic visitors, who may even schedule a 20-minute walk with one of these appealing animals.

Opened in 2014, and located at 890 County Route 601 in Skillman, it was the dream of Marie Voorhees. After a career in the corporate world, she decided to head in a new direction. She and her husband Steven purchased her parents’ 25-acre farm, and it was the perfect spot for a new adventure.

“When we came to live here, I wanted to have something pretty out front,” she explains. “It had to be animal resistant because of the deer and rabbits, and lavender is resistant.” more

To the Editor:

As a resident of Princeton and a dog lover, I have enjoyed the benefits of the new dog park in Community Park, but last week Town Topics reported that “the two existing dog parks would be improved (in the new park design), at a cost of $1,350,000” [“Proposed Concept Design for Community Park South is Presented to Council,” November 29, page 1].

This is an astounding figure — do the improvements include a concierge and a day spa? I’m all for upgrades for the park, my neighbors and I use it every day for exercise and dog walking, but this price tag of $24-28 million seems over the top. I would urge Council to reel this budget back in, keep the park simple (and accessible to the neighborhood), and spend the extra money on local arts and community events and we’ll all be wagging with joy.

Maria Evans
Leigh Avenue

To the Editor:

When asked, my father would always tell me that resilience was the most important characteristic a person could have. What a wise man he was!

While I am disappointed at the outcome of the November Board of Education election, I am neither discouraged, or deterred, from seeking equity and equality, not only in Princeton Public Schools, but throughout our community.

I deeply appreciate the support and confidence that Princeton voters have placed in me during my 30 years in public service and offer my best wishes to the new and reelected School Board members. It is indeed a very tough job that requires significant time, energy, integrity, and courage. I can only hope that the needs of all of our learners are considered in the fulfillment of their duties.

Thanks to all who signed letters, made contributions, generously placed signs on their lawns and otherwise endorsed my candidacy. I am grateful for your friendship and assistance.

Michele Tuck-Ponder
Laurel Circle

November 29, 2023

TEAM WORK: Collaboration is key at HomeCare Veterinary Clinic. Veterinarians, vet technicians, and all the staff work together to ensure the best care for their patients at this private practice. “Many veterinarian practices are corporate-owned today. I wanted to have a private practice, which offers a more personal approach for patients and clients,” explains owner Dr. Patti Maslanka, VMD. She is shown at right in the foreground, with staff members, including Dr. Meredith Schepp, DVM, third from left, and Dr. Amy Schein, DVM, fourth from left. Luna, the 8-year-old pit bull/cattle dog mix, is a welcome visitor.

By Jean Stratton

When you share your home with a companion animal, it can provide great happiness, along with infectious, ongoing fun. There are challenges too. Puppies love to chew just about anything, including your favorite shoes! Cats enjoy appropriating the furniture as their preferred scratching post, in addition to climbing up the curtains for further entertainment. True animal lovers tend to take such exploits in stride.

And there can be illnesses and injuries, requiring capable and compassionate care. Having the services of qualified and experienced veterinarians is crucial to your pet’s health and well-being. more

To the Editor:

How will we measure the success of our new Master Plan without clear definitions and measurable goals? Is unlimited growth the goal? Unlimited infill? Unlimited teardowns? Is the plan to make housing affordable or is the goal to add true affordable housing to meet our Mt. Laurel obligation?

In response to a question about what definition of “walkable” the town is using for planning, a representative replied that “…walkable refers to the patterns of development that we have in areas of Princeton already where many folks have cars, many others don’t, some use them every day, some use them sparingly, others use different forms of transportation either exclusively or in addition to their car use.” Also, “Terms like ‘walkable’ and ‘gentle infill’ are somewhat planning terms, but also somewhat commonly defined.” more

To the Editor:

One of the often-repeated narratives of proponents of the new Master Plan is the phenomenon of the “missing middle.” I’ve done some research and discovered that Princeton is not on lists of the 0 or 15 highest income or highest property value communities in New Jersey. Nor is it on lists of the 10 or 15 lowest income or lowest property value communities. It is, however, on several lists of best small towns and best communities in New Jersey.

I am in the middle. After 26 years as a Princeton resident, I know many others who would fall, by reason of income or the value of their homes, in the middle. All of this leads to the following question. Is the middle really missing, or is it simply overlooked by our municipal authorities? more

To the Editor:

Three years ago, Princeton embarked on what the New York Times called “The A.D.U. Experiment” in an article of the same name dated December 10, 2021, which noted, “‘We really are the ‘guinea pig’ in the New York metro area,’ said Mia Sacks, a Princeton councilwoman and an advocate of the new ordinance.”

This experimental ordinance, passed by Princeton Council, allows an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to be added to many properties in town. The ADU could then be rented (or even sold separately). ADUs were promoted to address the “missing middle” as a price point. It allows homeowners to carve out part of their own home to rent or sell, giving them some financial security and allowing others who need lower cost housing to live here. The experiment feels too new to be declared a success or failure, but the referenced New York Times article describes a location in Princeton where a single-family home was apparently demolished and redeveloped for two homes, one declared an ADU. Was this an unintended loophole or part of the plan? more

To the Editor:

Did we vote to become a city? By increasing the allowable density over a very broad area of town, and by reducing and eliminating restrictions to development, the proposed Master Plan (MP) would allow many of the existing buildings that create the particular feel of this place to be demolished and replaced by new structures containing more units. More often than not, these are grossly out of keeping in scale and design with the neighborhood in which they’re situated. Could this home replacement therapy, despite the good intentions of its advocates, be the cure that kills the patient?

Crucially, the plan relies on developers to fulfill its progressive ideals. But in this overheated housing market, the profit incentive only creates a drive for more units in greater densities — at ever higher prices. For whom are we providing all this projected new housing? “Affordable” seems a misnomer. For example, accessory dwelling units (ADU) are very appealing in concept, but even a tiny recent ADU on Guyot is now valued at over a million dollars. Whenever an affordable home enters the market — beat-up, perhaps, but a dandy starter home — a developer makes a cash offer, tears it down, and replaces it with a far more expensive house. More people will move here, yes, but it seems increasingly doubtful that they’ll be people of low, modest, or middle income.  more

To the Editor:

Princeton has long been a place that people love to visit and seek to call home because of its distinct neighborhoods, vibrant downtown districts, networks of parks and open spaces, top notch public schools, and all the shared benefits of a renowned University, among other assets. But, compounded by outdated zoning, our town has been struggling under the weight of its own success. As a result, streets are increasingly clogged with traffic that pollutes our air and warms our planet, schools are running out of space, and the cost of living — including the sales prices and rents of homes — is skyrocketing, leaving Princeton unaffordable for far too many.

We are at a crossroads: Do we proceed as we’ve been doing, allowing the town to be shaped by the strongest forces acting on it, or do we proactively plan to help shape the town into the place we want it to become? more

To the Editor:

I suggest that, because of fundamental issues, Princeton residents urge our Planning Board to postpone approval of its draft Master Plan at its November 30 meeting.

The stated vision includes the goal of providing housing “affordable to all income levels,” but the only plan for housing calls for teardowns and new condos (euphemistically called “gentle infill”), presumably to increase affordable options for middle income buyers who, it is thought, will be able to afford smaller homes. At the same time, the draft preserves exclusionary zoning in much of the town outside the center, which already benefits from large swaths of preserved green space and keeps out small lot housing.

By now, everyone has seen the astronomical rents being charged for the new apartment complexes that have been built or are being built. I don’t understand how anyone can believe infill housing will be cheaper. more