December 22, 2021

“A SICILIAN DREAM”: A new mural by local artist Victoria Bell is featured at Nino’s Pizza Star in the Princeton Shopping Center. The work, which took about 120 hours to complete, includes hidden elements for viewers to “search and find” as they view the elaborate piece. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Bell)

By Wendy Greenberg

An eye-catching new mural in a local pizza shop allows viewers to interact as well as view the art. The mural by local artist Victoria Bell, at Nino’s Pizza Star in the Princeton Shopping Center, is getting a lot of attention. “It is so colorful. Everyone is excited,” said owner Nino Spera.

Hidden in the large mural are 12 cars racing; 11 ships sailing; 10 bikini athletes; nine row boats; eight orange trees; seven lemon trees; six bells ringing; five red balloons; four birds singing; three Sicilian flags; two angels hugging; and one pizza star (a slice of pizza). A search and find key is on the artist’s website (victoriabell.com), but may be at the restaurant in the future. Bell said it happened to work out to reflect “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

The artist calls the 6-by-24-foot mural “A Sicilian Dream,“ and its beginnings go back 17 years, she said. “For my daughter’s fourth birthday party, we planned a party in Grover Park for all her preschool friends but then it began to pour with rain. We all ran up to Pizza Star, and Nino saved the day with his kind hospitality. I painted a Sicilian horse and cart as a thank you for that moment, and then the Colosseum a few years later.”

Spera said those drawings impressed him, and when he decided to replace the shop’s wallpaper that showed scenes of Tuscany, he asked Bell to paint the wall. Bell said she knew that since Spera grew up in Sicily, she would paint those scenes. “I would love to say that I went to Sicily to draw sketches of the countryside, but, in fact, I used imagery from Google Maps as a way to create a mental model of a three-dimensional scene of Sicily.”  more

By Donald Gilpin

Despite vocal opposition and widespread concerns, the Princeton Cannabis Task Force (CTF), in its final meeting of the year last Thursday, decided to stand by its initial recommendations, which would allow up to three cannabis dispensaries in town. There will be more discussion, public and private, in the coming month before Princeton Council takes up the issue and comes to a decision in late January or early February.

Among the most hotly-debated topics in meetings, social media, and the press have been the questions of whether Princeton should allow any retail cannabis establishments at all, whether one dispensary rather than three should be the starting point, and whether the required distance of cannabis dispensaries from schools should be at least 200 feet, as recommended by the CTF and required for liquor stores, or considerably further.

The 21-member CTF is only an advisory body, CTF Chair and Princeton Council member Eve Niedergang noted, emphasizing that Council will make its own decision and is not bound by any of the CTF’s recommendations. Council is expected to hold another public meeting designed for public input next month before deliberating and eventually coming to a decision.

More than 750 residents have signed an online petition calling on Council to prohibit cannabis sales anywhere near schools, playgrounds, and residences, and at their December 14 meeting the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) voted to send a statement to the Princeton Council calling for a buffer of at least 1,000 feet for dispensaries near schools.  more

By Donald Gilpin

Liz Dyevich (“Nurse Liz”)

The students’ physical and mental well-being is the top priority of the Princeton Public Schools (PPS), and in the forefront of that endeavor are the seven nurses at the district schools. The past two years have presented them with situations beyond what they could possibly have imagined or trained for, but they have stepped up to lead the schools in confronting the challenges of COVID-19.

“Throughout the pandemic, our nurses have embodied the best of PPS as they assist our students, families, and staff with compassion, understanding, and patience,” said PPS Human Services Director Micki Crisafulli. “They make sure everyone is cared for and informed. They complete contact tracing at all times, including instances when they work nights and weekends. Our entire community is healthier and safer as a result of their dedication.”

The team of PPS nurses includes Magarida Cruz and Gail Cipolloni at Princeton High School, Kathleen Bihuniak at Princeton Middle School, Liz Dyevich at Johnson Park, Sarah Gooen-Chen at Riverside, Holly Javick at Littlebrook, and Vera Maynard at Community Park.

In an email exchange earlier this week, Dyevich, “Nurse Liz,” discussed the world of school nursing and how that world has been transformed since the pandemic arrived in early 2020.

“Over the past two years my job has changed drastically,” she said. “The only constant has been the amazing students and their love for being in school with friends and teachers. I have added the extra responsibilities of contact tracing, keeping up on all the COVID guidelines and policies, and being a part of the school district’s COVID committee.”

She continued, “I had to learn how to do virtual health lessons, monitor close contacts and quarantines, and navigate helping students with the mental and physical effects of COVID.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

“Ah, Shakespeare, Shakespeare! … The great maestro of the human heart!”

—Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

Verdi is so quoted in Saturday’s New York Times under the banner headline “’Hail, Shakespeare’ Resonates Across Italy,” for an article on the opera house opening nights of Macbeth, Falstaff, Othello, and Julius Caesar in Milan, Florence, Naples, and Rome.

Above the headline is a lurid panoramic backdrop from David Livermore’s production of Verdi’s Macbeth at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Shown in the foreground, a scattered crowd of people in modern dress appear to be waiting for something to happen, like a chorus of citizens anticipating a cue, seemingly unaware of the fantastical urban inferno looming behind them. It’s as if the set designer is trying to visually evoke Harold Bloom’s vision of Macbeth’s “power of contamination.” In the opening chapter of his book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, Bloom refers to Shakespeare’s “pervasive presence in the most unlikely contexts: here, there, and everywhere at once. He is a system of northern lights, an aurora borealis visible where most of us will never go. Libraries and playhouses (and cinemas) cannot contain him; he has become a spirit or ‘spell of light,’ almost too vast to comprehend.”

Comic Relief

Shakespeare shows up again in Sunday’s Arts and Leisure section in the form of an immense, darkly foreboding two-page ad for The Tragedy of Macbeth, “written for the screen and directed by Joel Coen.” Looking to keep things cheerful with Christmas only three days away, I went right to the knocking at the gate in Act Two and the Porter’s moment in the spotlight, which Bloom notes as “the first and only comedy allowed in this drama.” Here Shakespeare introduces “a healing touch of nature where Macbeth has intimidated us with the preternatural, and with the Macbeths’ mutual phantasmagoria of murder and power.”  more

By Nancy Plum

The musical world may still be celebrating the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, but no composer has stood the test of time better than Johann Sebastian Bach. The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center has traditionally proven this almost every year in Princeton by presenting a concert of Bach’s joyous 1720 Brandenburg Concertos. The 20-member Chamber Music Society returned to McCarter Theatre Center last week to perform these complex, well-crafted yet accessible works. Thursday night’s performance in McCarter’s Matthews Theatre both dazzled the audience with the players’ technical abilities and created a festive musical mood suitable for the holiday season.  

Bach elevated the Baroque concerto form to new heights with the six works for solo instruments and orchestra compiled and dedicated to the Margrave of Brandenburg. Each concerto featured a different combination of instruments, and the Chamber Music Society was able to augment the variety by showcasing different musicians in each work. The ensemble grouped Bach’s concertos by orchestration, with the rich instrumental palette of Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major opening the program. Violinist Daniel Phillips effectively led the ensemble in quick tempi in the opening and closing movements, with oboist Stephen Taylor and bassoonist Marc Goldberg leading the dialogs between the winds and strings. The pair of oboes were well matched in the second movement “adagio,” with the closing dance movements showing graceful dynamic swells among the instruments and especially adroit playing from violinist Arnaud Sussman.

Consistent throughout the six three-movement pieces was a “continuo” ensemble of cello, double bass, and harpsichord. The three cellists of the Chamber Music Society rotated through the concertos, but double bass player Joseph Conyers and harpsichordist Kenneth Weiss unfailingly provided a solid foundation to all six works. Weiss had the opportunity to show the capabilities of the harpsichord in Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 in D Major, in which the harpsichord doubles as continuo and soloist. The Chamber Music Society began this concerto in a fast and light tempo, with the orchestral color augmented by the addition of flutist Ransom Wilson. Although the harpsichord was hard to hear at times when with the rest of the ensemble, Weiss’ fast runs and nimble playing were clear when the instrument was on its own, especially in the first movement cadenza. Wilson provided a subtle icing to the instrumental sound, maintaining a delicate dialog and precise dynamic swells with violinist Sean Lee. more

A VIENNESE NEW YEAR: Dancers from the First State Ballet Theatre are among the performers at the “Salute to Vienna — New Year’s Eve Concert,” on Friday, December 31 at 4 p.m. at the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick.

State Theatre New Jersey presents “Salute to Vienna — New Year’s Eve Concert” on Friday, December 31, at 4 p.m.  An annual New Year’s tradition at the State Theatre for 15 years, this year’s program features conductor Gregory Vajda and The Strauss Symphony of America along with soprano Micaëla Oeste and tenor Norman Reinhardt, and dancers from First State Ballet Theatre. 

“Salute to Vienna” gives audiences a chance to take a step back in time and explore the sights and sounds of Vienna’s golden age.  Inspired by the annual Viennese “Neujahrskonzert, this celebration blends European singers and dancers with a full orchestra. The program includes the Blue Danube Waltz, overtures and operettas, and a new cast each year.

Tickets are $39-$125. The theater is at 15 Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick. For more information, or group discounts, call (732) 246-7469 or visit STNJ.org.

mayfield brooks
(Photo by Brett Douglas Davis)

Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts has announced the selection of five Mary Mackall Gwinn Hodder Fellows for the 2022-2023 academic year. This year’s recipients include choreographer and performance artist mayfield brooks, opera singer and director Malena Dayen, playwright Virginia Grise, author Jamil Jan Kochai, and artist and writer sidony o’neal. 

In making the announcement, Michael Cadden, interim chair of the Lewis Center, said, “Each year we find ourselves amazed by the quality of our Hodder applicants and their proposed projects. This year was no different. We are delighted to invite this year’s fellows into the University community and we’re confident that their year of “studious leisure” will, as Mrs. Hodder hoped, lead to work that will enlarge the human community’s understanding of ourselves and the world we all share.”

Jamil Jan Kochai
(Photo by Jalil Kochai)

Hodder Fellows may be writers, composers, choreographers, visual artists, performance artists, or other kinds of artists or humanists who demonstrate, as the program outlines, “much more than ordinary intellectual and literary gifts.” Artists from anywhere in the world may apply in the early fall each year for the following academic year. Past Hodder Fellows have included novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, painter Mario Moore, poet Natalie Diaz, choreographer Okwui Okpokwasili, playwright Lauren Yee, and Zimbabwean gwenyambira (mbira player), composer, and singer Tanyaradzwa Tawengwa.  more

NEW HOME: Interior rendering of a Pavilion Gallery in the new Princeton University Art Museum designed by Adjaye Associates. Construction of the new building is expected to be completed in early 2024. (Rendering courtesy of Adjaye Associates)

Construction has begun on the new Princeton University Art Museum, an entirely new building on the site of the former Museum, at the heart of the Princeton campus. Roughly doubling the square footage of the existing facility, the 144,000-square-foot facility significantly increases spaces for display, learning, and visitor amenities. The Museum, which will occupy three stories, will insert itself into campus life with key pedestrian pathways flowing into and through the building via two “art walks” — thoroughfares that function as the new building’s circulatory spine. A grid of nine pavilions breaks down the scale of the complex into more intimate modules and allows for deeply varied gallery experiences.

The building’s exterior will be characterized by rough and polished stone surfaces responding to the campus surroundings, as well as signature bronze details throughout, alternating solid elements with more transparent features that speak both to the present moment and to the historical Princeton context. The architect Sir David Adjaye, whose firm, Adjaye Associates, is best known for its design of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, was selected as the project architect in 2018. Cooper Robertson is the executive architect.  more

DARUMA PROJECT: The Arts Council of Princeton and Miya Table & Home will present the Princeton Daruma Project and Community Workshop on Tuesday, December 28. Led by local artist Minako Ota, attendees will decorate this symbol of perseverance, achievement, and good fortune in anticipation of the new year.

With the new year approaching, the Arts Council of Princeton (ACP) has partnered with Miya Table & Home to present a community project as a refresh, restart, and recommitment to goals, hopes, and dreams.

The Daruma is a traditional symbol of perseverance, achievement, and good fortune — an iconic symbol found all over Japan in businesses, schools, and homes. The Daruma is most popular around the new year, made with two white circles for eyes. Once a goal is set or a wish is made, the owner colors in one eye. The other eye is colored in only after the goal is achieved or the wish comes true.

On Tuesday, December 28, the community is invited to design their own during the Princeton Daruma Workshop from 1-2 p.m. During this workshop, local artist Minako Ota will lead attendees to gather ideas and offer encouragement to customize your Daruma any way you like — paint, decoupage, Sharpie, etc. Use your imagination as Minako shows you fun variations to consider and provides the materials to make it all come together.

To celebrate this community effort, the completed Daruma will be on view in a collective display in downtown Princeton to kick off the new year. more

NATURAL BEAUTY: This photo by Michael Palmer of a white-throated sparrow in fresh snow is from the Friends of Princeton Open Space annual photo contest in a previous year. The deadline for entries for the current contest is March 31, 2022.

Friends of Princeton Open Space’s (FOPOS) annual Give Thanks for Nature Photo Contest kicked off on Friday, November 26 when community members were encouraged to #OptOutside to enjoy the beauty of nature. 

Professional and amateur photographers alike are encouraged to take their best shot of all that the Billy Johnson Mountain Lakes Nature Preserve and Woodfield Reservation has to offer. These are beautiful preserved areas of Princeton — picture perfect for photo enthusiasts of all ages.  more

BOUND FOR GLORY: Princeton University wrestler Patrick Glory ties up a foe from Lehigh in a 2019 bout. Earlier this month, junior star Glory won the 125-pound title at the prestigious Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas. In upcoming action, the Princeton wrestlers are slated to compete in the 58th Annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships at Hoffman Estates, Ill. from December 29-30. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Patrick Glory felt like an underdog when he arrived at Princeton University in 2018 out of the Delbarton School, but quickly established himself as one of the best in the nation in his first two seasons with the Tigers.

A year off due to the COVID-19 pandemic did nothing to interrupt his status. The start of his junior season has Glory on track to be the very best.

“Going into this year, I know what it takes and what needs to happen for me to win a national championship,” said Glory.

“With two years to go, I think the sky’s the limit with what can be accomplished, not only for myself but for the team.”

Glory ended the fall semester by winning the 125-pound title at the prestigious Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas on December 4. Glory scored a 13-0 major decision over Devin Schroder of Purdue in the final to close a dominant run.

“It’s still early in the season,” said Glory. “It was a good test to see where I’m at with some of the better guys in the weight class. At the end of the day, there’s one tournament that I really care about and that really matters. That one’s at the end of March.”

The competition that Glory has his sights on is the NCAA Championships in Detroit, Mich. from March 17-19. His anticipation has been magnified because the NCAAs were canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2019-20 season just before nationals began. Then the Ivy League canceled the 2020-21 season as well.

“It was tough to know there were people competing and we were kind of sitting there watching the whole time,” said Glory.

“People were forgetting about us and that excitement and kind of aura we built winning the Ivy title for the first time in 40 years. And having six or seven guys make it to the NCAA tournament, there’s a lot of mojo that goes into that and you kind of ride that.”

As Princeton has returned to the mat for the 2021-22 campaign, Glory has picked up where he left off. He has proven himself with early wins over top-10 foes and sits ranked second in the latest InterMat Division 1 rankings.  more

ACTION JAXON: Princeton High boys’ basketball player Jaxon Petrone looks to unload the ball in game last winter. PHS was slated to tip off its 2021-22 season last Friday at Hightstown but that game was canceled due to COVID-19 issues within the Ram program. The Tigers are currently scheduled to play at Hightstown on December 23 and then compete in a holiday tournament at Livingston High on December 27 and 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Over the last two years, the offense for the Princeton High boys’ basketball team ran through point guard Tim Evidente and forward Ethan Guy.

With the two stars having graduated, PHS will be adopting a more free form style this winter.

“We are going to go to a position-less offense,” said Tiger head coach Pat Noone, who guided PHS to a 2-7 record last winter in a season abbreviated by COVID-19 concerns. “I think everybody is very interchangeable this year and versatile.”

That approach resonated with the players as they went through the preseason.

“It has been going good, the guys are really working hard,” said Noone, whose team was slated to open its season by playing at Hightstown last Friday but the game was canceled due to COVID issues within the Rams program.

“They are having a good time and they are starting the click, jell and play better.”

PHS, which is currently scheduled to play at Hightstown on December 23 and then compete in a holiday tournament at Livingston High on December 27 and 29, will be looking for a good season from senior standout Jaxon Petrone. more

INSIDE PRESENCE: Princeton High girls’ basketball player Nora Devine, right, goes up for a shot last Friday against Hightstown in the season opener for both teams. Senior standout forward Devine scored a team-high 14 points, but it wasn’t nearly enough as PHS fell 60-37 to the Rams. The Tigers were slated to host Hamilton West on December 21 before the holiday break and then return to action by hosting WW/P-North on January 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Becoming a serous rower has helped Nora Devine get better on the basketball court for the Princeton High girls’ hoops team.

“I rowed for the Mercer junior team in the fall and spring and I am actually doing both right now,” said Devine, who is headed to Syracuse University where she will compete for its Division I women’s rowing program.

“I got in super good shape. I am just happy to be back and play, I wasn’t able to row all fall because I was hurt. It has translated to the court. My speed and agility and overall athleticism has improved.”

Last Friday evening, Devine displayed some of that athleticism, scoring a team-high 14 points in a losing cause as PHS fell 60-37 to visiting Hightstown in the season opener for both teams.

“I got some great passes inside and I took advantage when their taller girl was out,” said Devine, reflecting on her performance.

“It was definitely fun to play against someone that tall, I don’t think I have ever played against anyone that tall, so it was a good experience. That is what I am here for, being aggressive inside.” more

FAST START: Princeton High girls’ swimmer Lucy Liu competes in a freestyle race last winter. Senior standout Liu has helped PHS produce a 5-0 start this season. The Tigers were slated to wrap up the 2021 portion of their schedule by hosting Hopewell Valley on December 21 and will return to action when they host Notre Dame on January 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

After both the Princeton High boys’ and girls’ swimming teams went 12-0 last winter, the squads are picking up where they left off so far in the 2021-22 campaign.

Featuring talent and depth throughout their lineups, the teams have gotten off to 5-0 starts, looking dominant in the process.

“The biggest thing that is really cool for us is numbers, we have almost 30 or 35 on each team which is huge,” said PHS head coach Carly Misiewicz, who guides both squads.

“Last year for the girls was maybe 20 or 21 and for the boys, it was 13. It was amazing that we were able to do what we did last year. I think that is why we are even more excited for this year.”

With increased depth, Misiewicz is able to mix and match the talent at her disposal.

“I can get more people in different races, we can swim different things,” said Misiewicz.

“We have so much more flexibility this year. We don’t just have to specialize and say you are always swimming these two events. The beauty is that I am able to do this with both boys and girls. A lot of the people we have are very versatile. The other teams are never going to know what they are going to get. I have already done five totally different lineups this year.” more

FROST ADVISORY: Hun School boys’ hockey player Riley Frost controls the puck in recent action. Senior forward Frost has tallied three goals and six assists to help Hun get off to a 5-5 start. The Raiders are next in action when they host Don Bosco on January 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the Hun School boys’ hockey team has gotten off to an up-and-down 5-5 start, Ian McNally believes the record is not an accurate barometer of his squad’s potential.

“Everybody we have played has been good, we have shown each other that there is something here and we are not out of it in either of our leagues,” said Hun head coach McNally, whose program competes in both the Mid-Atlantic Hockey League (MAHL) and the
Atlantic Prep Athletic Conference (APAC).

“There is potential to play for playoff spots and the hope to have a big finish. In some of these pretty disappointing losses against PDS (a 2-1 defeat on December 1) and Lawrenceville (a 5-4 defeat on December 14) where you feel like you deserved better, maybe that comes back around in the end. There is enough optimism there for that, we have had some big moments so far. The biggest takeaway is the proof, showing each other we can beat all of these teams.”

The Raiders came tantalizingly close to beating Lawrenceville, taking a 4-1 lead early in the third period only to see the Big Red score four unanswered goals to pull out the win.

“They scored early and then we got up 3-1, it was a very similar game a few weeks ago when we were in Pittsburgh,” said McNally.

“We played Hoosac (N.Y.) and we won 4-1. It was fast, hard. We were getting our shots and competing and we made the best of our chances. In the Lawrenceville game, they were never not there. They probably could have scored on some other occasions. We were holding on but as soon as it started to go, it went in a hurry.” more

FINISHING TOUCH: Princeton Day School girls’ basketballTochi Owunna heads upcourt last Saturday against West Windsor/Plainsboro-North. Sophomore forward Owunna scored eight points to help PDS defeat the Northern Knights 30-23 and improve to 1-1. In upcoming action, the Panthers will be taking part in a holiday tournament at South Hunterdon High from December 28-29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Undeterred by losing 63-22 to George School (Pa.) in its season opener last Friday, the Princeton Day School girls’ basketball team brought confidence into its matchup against visiting West Windsor/Plainsboro-North on Saturday morning.

“We wanted to win because we had played them in a scrimmage,” said PDS sophomore forward Tochi Owunna. “This was a winnable game.”

Trailing the Northern Knights 7-4 after the first quarter, the Panthers got things going in the second, building a 15-10 lead by halftime.

“I think we got a lot of energy,” said Owunna, reflecting on the second quarter surge which saw her contribute four points.

“We were passing the ball on offense well and we were playing really good defense.”

The Panthers held off WW/P-N down the stretch to earn a 30-23 win with Owunna ending up with eight points.

“This gave me confidence,” said Owunna of her performance. “It was also just the morale of the whole team, there was just really good energy the whole game.”

The Panthers did run low on energy in the latter stages of the contest as they tired playing in their second game in less than 24 hours.

“In the fourth quarter we started to get a little tired so went to the 2-3 but we still held our own on defense,” said Owunna. “This was our first home game so it was a really good job.” more

December 16, 2021

By Anne Levin

Princeton University has announced a shift to remote exams, and a cancellation or postponement of some indoor gatherings, it was announced Wednesday. The changes are effective Thursday, December 16.

An increase in undergraduate COVID-19 cases is the reason for the shift. The entire University community must cancel or postpone all indoor gatherings with food, and those where face coverings cannot be worn. The order lasts through Friday, January 7, when the University will revisit and update the policies accordingly. Students will be able to leave the campus at their earliest convenience, and take their exams remotely.

As of Wednesday evening, the campus risk status was posted as “moderate to high.”  The campus website lists 34 positive cases out of 18,934 tests between December 4-10.

Undergraduates will test twice a week regardless of vaccination status. Graduate students who are fully vaccinated will continue to test once a week, and those who are not fully vaccinated must test twice a week. Student athletes participating in group practices and competitions must test three times a week, placing samples in a drop box by 10 a.m. Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday.

The University’s COVID-19 testing clinic and test kit pickup information will switch to limited holiday season hours from Wednesday, December 22 through Sunday, January 2.

For further information, visit covid.princeton.edu.

December 15, 2021

Santa Claus was on hand to hear the wishes of children of all ages last Sunday during Terhune Orchards’ Holiday Season Kickoff Weekend. Attendees share their favorite part of the holiday season in this week’s Town Talk on page 6. (Photo by Charles R. Plohn)

By Donald Gilpin

Wednesday, December 15 has been proclaimed “Boost NJ Day,” celebrating the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 vaccinations in New Jersey, but the news on the current state of the pandemic is mixed and the outlook going forward remains uncertain.

The Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly across the globe, but it’s still the Delta variant that assaults New Jersey, as cases and hospitalizations have been on the rise over the past three weeks. State health officials continue to urge unvaccinated residents to get the vaccine, and the vaccinated to get booster shots if they haven’t already. Only about 36 percent of New Jersey’s eligible residents have received a booster according to the New Jersey Department of Health (NJDOH), but 44 percent of Princeton’s residents age 18 and over have booster coverage.

The Princeton Health Department on Monday, December 13 reported 33 new COVID-19 cases in the previous seven days, 57 new cases in the previous 14 days — close to the highest weekly and bi-weekly totals of the pandemic.

Princeton University reported 34 new cases out of 18,934 tests in the week of December 4-10, for a positivity rate of .18 percent and a continuing “moderate to high” campus risk.

The Princeton Public Schools (PPS) reported 11 new COVID-19 cases for the week ending December 10, including eight students and three staff members. That was the highest weekly total recorded in the PPS this school year.

Princeton Deputy Administrator for Health and Community Services Jeff Grosser expressed a mix of frustration and optimism in the battle that he and his department have been waging against COVID-19 over the past almost two years. He described frustration in assessing the current surge “after everything we have been through, the ups and downs of the pandemic,” but optimism in considering the high vaccination rates and the increasing numbers of booster doses.  more

By Donald Gilpin 

Most Princeton voters will be going to the polls in person for a special school election on January 25, but some vote-by-mail ballots are already arriving in mailboxes this week. Voters will be weighing in on a $17.5 million bond issue to finance new roofing and other repairs and improvements for all six schools in the Princeton Public Schools (PPS) district.

The district has invited families to join PPS Business Administrator Matt Bouldin and Board of Education (BOE) members on Wednesday, December 15 at 7 p.m. on Zoom for an information and Q&A session about this facilities stewardship referendum. (For more information and the webinar link visit princetonk12.org/district/referendum-2022.)

At several recent public sessions, and on the PPS website, the BOE, highlighting stewardship and fiscal responsibility, has presented extensive information on the needed repairs, the costs, and the impact on Princeton taxes.

“Providing a safe and healthy environment where our students can learn has consistently been a top priority in this community,” said Bouldin in a December 13 press release. “After a comprehensive review of building systems, the Board of Education is proposing a practical way to make repairs and improvements.”

In a press conference on December 13, BOE President Beth Behrend encouraged people to inform themselves and to vote on January 25.  Effective communication and responsible stewardship have been the Board’s priorities, she added.  more

By Anne Levin

There is still time to weigh in on NJ Transit’s recently announced alternatives for upgraded transit along the Princeton “Dinky” railway corridor. According to a spokesperson for the agency, members of the public have until December 29 to take a survey on the four different options, which were issued early this month on the NJ Transit project website.

One alternative for the future of the corridor, which runs between Princeton Junction and Princeton, keeps the existing trains, which date from the 1970s. Another alternative would use bus rapid transit, a bus-based system designed to have better capacity and reliability than a conventional system. Another two alternatives would replace the existing trains with a combination of bus rapid transit and light rail.

The options have been developed as part of NJ Transit’s Princeton Transitway Study, which  “will evaluate existing conditions and estimate future demand, considering planned developments, as well as how new and emerging transportation technologies and other trends are changing how and when people travel,” according to the agency’s website.

The study also “presents the opportunity to evaluate the potential for the corridor to become a multi-modal backbone that could be used to improve local and regional connections for bus and rail transit, as well as pedestrian, bicycle, and other micro-mobility modes,” it continues. “A potential extension of service into downtown Princeton and the potential to add new stops along the corridor will also be evaluated.” more

TAKING ACTION ON CLIMATE: In Princeton’s Caldwell Park neighborhood, known as a certified Sustainable Princeton STAR neighborhood, residents installed a meadow this year to help address abundant stormwater, which is a priority of the Princeton Climate Action Plan.

By Anne Levin

Sustainable Princeton recently announced that 22 of the Princeton Climate Action Plan’s 84 strategies have either been completed or initiated during 2021. This progress is in spite of — and in some cases, because of — the pandemic.

With fewer people commuting and offices closed, there was a downturn in greenhouse gas emissions. “Princeton’s community greenhouse gas emissions trended down substantially in 2020 (22 percent reduction compared to the 2010 baseline),” reads a release from Sustainable Princeton. “The drop is likely due to transportation and building energy consumption reductions associated with the pandemic.”

In a phone conversation this week, Sustainable Princeton Executive Director Molly Jones and Program Director Christine Symington said the hope is that the statistics will signify a trend.

“We can’t pinpoint exactly how much of this is related to COVID, but we acknowledge that it is the majority,” said Jones. “What we’re hopeful for is that a lot of the behaviors during that period will solidify. I think we’ve reached this tipping point where so many of these behaviors are becoming much more commonplace. Electric vehicles, the way buildings are being built, and climate-conscious community development — it’s all really beginning to happen.”

Princeton’s Climate Action Plan was completed in 2019. The goal is to reduce emissions by 50 percent, based on 2010 emissions, by 2030; 65 percent by 2040; and 80 percent by 2050. more

By Anne Levin

Following a report to Princeton Council from the town’s Economic Revitalization Steering Committee Monday evening, recommending formation of a Special Improvement District (SID) in Princeton, the governing body opted to wait for more information before making a decision to create an ordinance.

The 22-member steering committee has been meeting for more than a year with consultant Stuart Koperweis to study how to foster economic revitalization in the town. After considering whether to hire an economic development officer, create a nonprofit Economic Development Corporation (EDC), or a SID, the group concluded that the latter was the best option.

A SID is a defined area in the central business district of a downtown that is authorized by state law and created by a local ordinance to collect a special assessment on the commercial properties and/or businesses in that area. A nonprofit organization, separate from the municipality, collects that assessment, which goes toward improving the economic, physical, and social values of the district.

“It is in the best interest of the municipality and the public to create a Special Improvement District; that the creation of such will promote economic growth and it will implement, foster, and encourage commercial development and business expansion as well as improve the business climate,” reads the steering committee’s report. “Moreover, a SID will otherwise act in the best interest of the property owners in the municipality of Princeton.” more

HOMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS: HomeFront case managers Elijah Hockett and Victoria Irizarry hang a wreath on the front door of one of HomeFront’s 16 new permanent rental homes for low-income families on Lynwood Avenue in Hamilton. (Photo courtesy of HomeFront)

By Donald Gilpin

Homelessness in Mercer County and throughout the nation is expected to rise sharply when the federal eviction moratorium for low-income families ends on January 1, 2022, but HomeFront is stepping up to help take care of local families in need.

HomeFront has recently selected 16 local families by lottery from 230 who applied to move into newly-built rental homes on Lynwood Avenue in Hamilton. HomeFront now manages 125 affordable, permanent, service-enriched units throughout the county, where local low- and middle-income families pay one-third of their incomes in rent.

The 16 new apartments were built by HomeFront’s sister agency Homes by TLC, in partnership with public and private grants.

In a December holiday appeal, HomeFront CEO Connie Mercer warned of difficult days ahead for Mercer County’s low-income residents, with the cost of living rising and the federal eviction moratorium ending on January 1. “We are bracing for a true crisis. Four thousand renter households in our community are facing eviction,” she wrote. “We have already seen a significant increase in the need for food, essentials, and other critical support. This comes on the heels of already almost two years of expanding our services to meet the unprecedented need caused by the pandemic.” more

By Stuart Mitchner

I was fortunate enough to meet him and chat about songwriting.”

— Paul McCartney

They changed my life.” That was my response to an email from a friend asking: “So the Beatles trump Sondheim?” She was referring to my reviews of Get Back, the book and the film, written at a time when the cultural media was dominated by tributes and remembrances in the aftermath of the composer’s death. I explained that Sondheim’s work was virtually unknown to me, while I’d been living in the music of the Beatles since the mid-1960s. But “changed my life” was too easy to say, too facile, and my friend was uneasy using “trump” (“can we still use that word?”), a verb I’ve been avoiding for the past five years.

Word choice is on my mind at the moment because I’m reading Sondheim on Music: Minor Details and Major Decisions (Scarecrow Press 2005), a series of his conversations with Library of Congress music specialist Mark Eden Horowitz. And now that I think of it, the theatre, which had also been “virtually unknown” to me when Sondheim was making his name there, had as much to do with changing my life as the Fab Four. It happened during Ray Bolger’s captivating song and dance sing-along show-stopper, “Once in Love With Amy,” at the St. James Theatre. The show was Where’s Charlie?, and I’d just turned 10. A few years later, I saw Gertrude Lawrence and Yul Brynner in The King and I and had the good fortune to be in the house when Shirley MacLaine made her the-star-broke-a-leg debut at a matinee of The Pajama Game.

More to the point, after seeing the original Broadway production of West Side Story, I lived in the cast album, singing along with and without it for years. I had no idea at the time that the lyrics playing on the soundtrack of my life — “Somewhere,” “Maria,” “Tonight,” “America,” and the others — had been written by someone named Stephen Sondheim. Yet it seems that the lines I knew by heart are the ones he said he’s “embarrassed by” in a February 2020 interview on 60 Minutes. As an example, he cites the duet “Tonight.” When Tony sings, “Today the world was just an address, a place for me to live in,” Sondheim thinks it sounds like this “street kid” has been “reading too much.” He then goes on to admit “that’s not true for a lot of people who find it a very good line and enjoy it.” But “if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t write that line …. I know better now.”

Although the musicological terminology in Sondheim’s conversations with Horowitz can be hard to follow, it’s offset by the composer’s personable, down to earth way of expressing himself: “When I feel I’m getting stale,” he says, “I go into sharp keys because they’re so foreign and scary.” Asked about the small red arrows on a manuscript, he explains that it signifies “what I like … after I’ve written down as many ideas as I can, and I feel as though I’m ready to give birth, I’ll go back over it and decide what it is I really want to remember and try to preserve.” more