Editor’s Note

Mahatma Gandhi once said, “The future depends on what you do today.” And with so many things going on in our lives and around Princeton, Princeton Perspectives sought to answer: Princeton’s Leaders: Are They Creating a Better Tomorrow?

Maybe tomorrow COVID will be gone. Maybe it will be here to stay. Either way, experts are working daily to try and find a way for us to safely move forward. With an unprecedented number of cases in NJ, and soaring numbers right here in Princeton, how are you feeling? This month’s Pulse of Princeton asks locals, now that it’s 2022 – is COVID still halting your life or are you moving forward?

Moving forward, whether by foot, bicycle or in a vehicle comes with inherent risks. But what if you learned there may be an opportunity to virtually eliminate risk, reducing car accidents and preventing all serious injuries or deaths? That is the goal in Princeton, and you can read about the current state of vehicle vs. pedestrian accidents and how officials are looking to the future in Working to Ensure Roadways are Safe for All Who Use Them.

Cars not only move along roadways, but they also need a place to park. And in some areas of Princeton, finding a parking spot is far from easy. Princeton Permit Parking: Will Council Plan for Residents, Businesses or Both? explores the multi-year discussions and proposed solutions Council is considering so that certain roadways could better meet the needs of the community.

Community is what happens when people get to know each other and develop a mutual respect. It is something that’s been very difficult to build when the pandemic has caused so much isolation. This has been particularly evident for kids and schools. In A Rise in School Incidents Prompts Parent Inquiries and Administrative Action we share the story of one local school and the efforts being made despite COVIDs inevitable effects.

Will it ever leave? Can we ever get on with our lives? COVID seems to be a part of every decision throughout every day. But there are people working to help us through and some of the work could rely on resetting your perspective. Read Vaccines, Boosters, COVID – Learning to Accept our New Normal for some expert advice from one of Princeton’s top docs.

If that can’t make you think differently, maybe our Perspectives Revisited can. This issue offers updates on two of our previous stories, both of which demonstrate how the future is being affected by changes of today.

I also want you to know that YOUR perspective is valuable and that’s why we’re expanding our Perspectives Revisited to include a Letter to the Editor. Whether you have a thought to share about something we’re covering in this issue or with regards to anything we’ve covered since March 2020 – please use this link to send your letter so we can share it with our readers.

I need your help for our February issue, too. I’m compiling some of the most romantic spots around Princeton, and I want to hear from you! Please email me here with a local spot where you proposed, your favorite place to have a date, your ideal active couple’s activity and more. Be sure to include lots of details so we can share it with our readers (you can submit anonymously or by name)!

Since it’s our first issue of 2022 I want to wish you all a very happy new year. And our February issue will post the day after Valentine’s Day, so let this be my wish that you either show yourself some love or share your love with others in a special way this year!

Pulse of Princeton: It’s 2022 – Is COVID Halting Your Life or are You Moving Forward?

Working to Ensure Roadways are Safe for All Who Use Them

As a child, we’re all taught to look left-right-left before crossing the street. Crosswalks were created to give pedestrians a place where they have the right of way and signals have been installed to inform pedestrians when it’s their turn to safely walk. Yet, despite all of these safety measures, there were 22 accidents in Princeton last year that involved cars hitting pedestrians, with victims ranging in age from 5 to 85.

The New Jersey State Police recently released statistics on motor vehicle fatalities from 2021, and it turns out it was the deadliest year on the road, up 22% statewide for people walking or biking. While it wasn’t Princeton’s deadliest year, August’s tragic fatality on Rosedale Road is one too many.

12 of the 2021 vehicle vs. pedestrian accidents took place when the vehicle was making a left turn. In 11 of the accidents, the pedestrians were legally walking, using guidance of a pedestrian walking signal and 15 of the 22 accidents took place at a crosswalk.

“Crosswalks invite pedestrians to walk there, that’s why most accidents happen there. Pedestrians are too quick to assume a crosswalk will protect them and while legally a car must stop, the motorist has to see there’s a pedestrian first,” explains Sergeant Thomas Murray, Princeton Police Department Traffic Safety Bureau Supervisor. “Our main adversary is growing volume and a trend of growing volume includes distracted drivers.”

When COVID hit in 2020, the roadways became virtually empty. For months and months, people schooled from home, worked from home, and intentionally didn’t go out. This also became a time when people, desperate for something to do, took up more walking and biking around town. With fewer cars travelling, 2020 saw nearly 1/3 fewer pedestrians get hit than we’ve since seen in 2021.

Yet the quiet roadways of 2020 meant a lone car on the road could travel at faster speeds and with less police enforcement reminding them to slow down. A need to keep the police force healthy and safe from COVID meant maximizing social distancing and fewer traffic stops. Attitudes about speed limits and safe driving were affected.

Another thing that 2020 brought with it was a change in attitude towards the police. Whereas in 2016 the Street Smart campaign had police interacting with 100s of locals to educate them about roadway safety, the Limit It campaign intended to educate drivers about obeying the speed limit, staying off cell phones and staying attentive was attempted from May-August 2021 and couldn’t gather the same engagement. Many had no interest in speaking to or hearing from the police, and therefore important traffic safety information was not well disseminated.

2021 saw more drivers eager to get back on the roads. That increased traffic at a time when there was already limited traffic safety education and cars were driving faster. In addition, frustration with the increased wait times at lights, an overreliance on car safety features (leading to drivers being less alert of their surroundings) and an increase of driver cell phone distractions led 2021 to be a dangerous year for pedestrians.

PRINCETON ACCIDENTS LEAD TO CHANGE

Throughout 2021 the Princeton Police Department reports there were 599 motor vehicle accidents. This is approximately 40% fewer accidents than recorded in 2016 and 2017, but still many are working from home and it puts things back on an upward trend. During this past year, 5% of the accidents involved pedestrians/bicyclists, the most pedestrian hits reported since the 2013 consolidation (with the exception of 2017, an unseasonable mild year that had people outdoors far later into the year than normal). All but one pedestrian hit in 2021 required medical attention. And in one instance, a man was killed.

There’s a crosswalk on Rosedale Road connecting Greenway Meadows and the drive to Johnson Park Elementary School. Advocates have long argued for the need of a crossing signal, to alert traffic to pedestrians. Increased crosswalk signage had just been put up and user-initiated flashing lights had recently been installed when an 82-year-old man triggered the alerts to cross the street. Yet he was hit and killed while crossing.

This adds to the three fatalities suffered on Princeton’s streets from 2015-2019. One of them was four years ago, when a woman walking across Washington Road was struck and killed by a truck turning left from Nassau Street onto Washington. It is believed the proper pedestrian cycle was observed and the driver may not have seen her from his vantage point in his cement truck.

An immediate push was made to create a safer intersection and a few years later, after Princeton approached the state, providing research and going through a thorough review, an All Pedestrian Phase adjustment was made at this busy Nassau/Washington intersection. This means that cars at all four intersecting roadways stop at the same time, allowing pedestrians to cross in all directions simultaneously without the possibility of oncoming traffic.

It appears this change is here to stay, but it doesn’t come without its flaws. The time allotted for pedestrians has already been adjusted twice, as attempts are made to find the right balance for motorists and walkers. Cars also now sit longer at the light, so drivers’ frustration has increased. Some get tired of waiting and turn right during a red signal from Vandeventer onto Nassau, despite the “No Turn on Red” sign hanging there. Traffic has also increased on side roads, such as from Moore onto Nassau as people try to find an alternate route.

“I have to try, along with the county and state entities, to move traffic as efficiently as possible. To set realistic speed limits, and not inconvenience people unnecessarily,” shares Sgt. Murray.

Despite the delicate balance between vehicle and pedestrian needs, accidents happen. Murray logs each detail and works very closely with the municipal engineering department assessing those details, looking for trends, determining if temporary speed controls should be installed, if greenery needs to be trimmed or if bigger structural or interventional changes are needed. And in February 2021, Princeton Council agreed to assist these efforts and work towards a Vision Zero Policy, allowing for a team of community members, including the Traffic Safety Bureau, Engineering and Planning departments, to create a plan to make Princeton a safer place to walk, bike and drive.

VISION ZERO

In addition to the members of those departments of the municipality, representatives from around town including Princeton Public Schools, Board of Health, Human Services, Princeton University, Princeton Senior Resource Center and resident volunteers are being led by elected officials to create safer roadways through the Vision Zero Task Force. A concept that initiated in Europe and has been utilized in the United States for more than 20 years, Vision Zero works to analyze crash data and determine where most crashes are taking place to then create a plan of action with achievable goals aimed at reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries to zero.

“Vision Zero begins with the premise that traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable, and our existing techniques can be used to design for better outcomes. The US DOT’s Federal Highway Administration supports Vision Zero as part of its commitment to safety,” details Lisa Serieyssol, a member of the task force and past chair of the Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee who helped to bring Vision Zero into Princeton.

According to Serieyssol, Princeton is just the third community in New Jersey to work on a Vision Zero policy. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman is aligned with this vision, co-sponsoring a resolution in the House that aims to reduce traffic fatalities to zero by 2050 and there is a similar resolution sponsored in the Senate.

“The safety improvements may be in the areas of roadway design, policy changes, and enforcement practices,” notes Councilman David Cohen, chair of the task force. “The idea of using data to reach these decisions is that, rather than deciding to prioritize changes based on a few individuals’ theories of what will help, and where to prioritize action, we will base the recommendations on published research regarding best practices and prioritize improvements for those locations in town with demonstrated high-risk according to crash reports.”

Courtesy: Princeton Vision Zero Task Force, Princeton NJ High Injury Network

Princeton Police Department has worked with Engineering to identify problem areas and improve several roadway intersections in the past. These include adding reflective glass beading to crosswalks to help them stand out to drivers, installing pedestrian light signals, adding a sensor to traffic lights so they time properly with moving traffic and moving back curbsides to create better vision. Vision Zero may choose to utilize more of these or incorporate any number of the Federal Highway Administration’s Proven Safety Countermeasures. Since so many of the recent accidents involve people making left turns, they might find it best to redesign them as Reduced Left-Turn Conflict Intersections or they may seek to reduce crosswalk accidents through other advanced Crosswalk Visibility Enhancements.

As 2022 is the year Princeton is fully evaluating its master plan, the Vision Zero Task Force sees this as the perfect time to identify traffic safety needs, set the goals and start looking at how to implement them.

“Even after the Task Force completes its work and issues an Action Plan, it will take years to implement – capital projects are notoriously slow and constrained by limited financial and staff resources – and real progress is also dependent on a culture shift, prioritizing safety over speed and convenience, which can be even more difficult to accomplish,” Cohen notes. “Concerned members of the public need to understand that there is only so much government can do to achieve the goal of Vision Zero, and we all really need to take to heart the importance of putting aside that cell phone, or lifting our foot off the accelerator, not just when it is easy, but also when we are running late and in a hurry to get somewhere.”

Roadway safety is a combined effort. Not only between the entities responsible for educating, enforcing and developing safe driving opportunities but for pedestrians to pay attention before walking into a road and for drivers to eliminate distractions and remember they are responsible for being alert and driving with care.

A Rise in School Incidents Prompts Parent Inquiries and Administrative Action

COVID-19. Delta. Omicron. The virus that just goes on and on and on has taken its toll on our community in so many ways. In an attempt to stop the spread back in March 2020, we all recall when Princeton Public Schools (PPS) and others went fully remote for the remainder of the school year. The next fall PPS remained remote until an every-other-week schedule began in-person at Princeton Middle School (PMS) in October. Some students stayed home through the end of the 2020-2021 school year due to compromised health, fear and other anxieties. Warnings were made about the effects this isolation and separation would have on children.

So, when the 2021-2022 school year started, remote school was not an option. Experts felt there were parameters in place to safely learn in-person. This brought more than 800 children plus teachers and staff together at the PMS building, after an academic and social experiment that was bound to start showing its fallout. And in short time it did.

BEHAVIORAL EVIDENCE

“It’s not necessarily that we’re seeing different behaviors, but we’re seeing an increase perhaps in some behaviors because students haven’t had the opportunity to shake hands and gather together, so a lot of the feelings and excitement has been contained and they’re in a space they feel comfortable expressing themselves,” stated Dr. Edwina Hawes, PMS psychologist, at a virtual parents meeting on December 9, 2021 called to address a rise in behavioral incidents at the school.

Excited interactions, some leading to injury, were the most common but there were also more serious reports of harassing behaviors, taunting and more.

“Many of the things surrounding horseplay, that’s normal middle school behavior,” explained PMS Principal Jason Burr at the same meeting. “Our students don’t always know how to say I like you, so, they slug you in the arm.”

From October through December 2021, PMS reported 10 investigations, comprised of 4 Harassment, Intimidation, Bullying (HIB) incidents and 6 other alleged offenses that didn’t fall under HIB. HIB is the policy used to cover more targeted and intentional incidents, not necessarily inclusive of a slug in the arm or some other inappropriate behaviors. As explained on the district website, HIB ensures incidents get a thorough investigation, and as the BOE policy states is “perceived as being motivated by either any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic.”

For comparison, there have been only 1 HIB incident and 5 other offenses reported this school year amongst all five other PPS schools combined. And, if we go back to the last full “normal” year of school from 2018-2019, there were a total of 15 incidents reported the entire year at PMS (6 HIB, 9 other offenses).

It makes sense to see problem behaviors occurring more in the middle school compared to others since the pre-teen to young teen years are ripe with hormonal and physical changes, and a normal age for social experimenting. Combined with the strains of the pandemic, schools nationwide have been seeing this trend.

“The kid doing bullying is bigger, stronger, or more socially powerful, or it’s a group of kids picking on one kid. That power difference, that’s what makes it difficult or impossible for the kid being targeted to protect or defend themselves. For actual bullying, we need adults to step in and say that’s crossing the line. A lot of times, kids do bad behavior and it’s not bullying, it’s a clumsy effort to handle conflict or its poor emotion regulation skills, and that’s very different,” shares Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Princeton psychologist and author of Growing Friendships, a Kids Guide to Making and Keeping Friends. “We can certainly all see a big drop in civility of the adults, so it’s not surprising that when we adults are behaving with less than kindness that there’s less kindness among kids as well. The isolation of COVID has been very difficult on everyone.”

THE BACKSTORY

Many PMS parents were first informed about an incident at school on November 18th when Principal Burr emailed them informing that a student had been injured in the hallway. He stated that while they assessed the situation, a Shelter-in-Place had been called (this keeps learning continuous, but students are held in their same classroom or area for an extended period of time and do not enter the hallways). The school had multiple evacuations the previous week, so it wasn’t out of place to send an email explaining the Shelter-in-Place. What was different was the email included a message about the importance of being safe in the hallways and mentioned the need for students to refrain from sharing unverified information about the incident. That different verbiage sparked intrigue.

A week later, on November 23rd, Rocio Titiunik, parent of a current PMS 7th grader, sent an email to many PMS parents requesting signatures for a petition urging better intervention at PMS citing, “Many children at PMS have been victims of harassment, intimidation, bullying, violence, retaliation, and emotional distress” and claiming the November 18th incident was another in this series of events. A follow-up email from Titiunik explained she was reacting to the handling of an incident involving her daughter and a separate incident with her daughter’s friend. Parents started to talk and wonder.

What enhanced the situation further was a follow-up email sent by Principal Burr later that same day which stated, “I want to be very clear and direct: Last week’s incident was not the result of a fight, assault, or any form of violence whatsoever.”

Burr explained to Princeton Perspectives why the situation warranted multiple emails, “On the 18th, I knew what we’d concluded, but I wasn’t ready to share more details because we hadn’t at that point touched base with all the families involved.” He went on to add, “On the 18th, I wasn’t prepared in my message to discuss what I eventually discussed on the 23rd when I specifically called it an accident.”

Just after Thanksgiving, Princeton Middle School sent a survey to parents, trying to get a gauge of each student’s current experience at the school, including a question about whether their child felt safe. The circumstances of the incidents combined with the emails and survey prompted some to start wondering if things might be problematic, as Titiunik described.

“Certainly, given the news you read nationwide about how difficult it is for students to readjust to a full day of school and how they’re doing in the way they are making friends, keeping friends, all of those things, we thought it was a good time to try and get a measure of how people were feeling,” noted Burr, to explain the survey. “You want every child to feel safe at school. I think we can directly tie when a student feels safe at school, they’re more likely to do better. Safe means a lot of things, safety related to not just physical wellbeing but mental wellbeing.”

So, was the mental and social fallout of the pandemic leading to behavioral problems at PMS or was it a series of robust physical interactions gone awry? To respond to parental concern the previously referenced December 9th meeting was called with parents, to discuss the school environment, what was going on and what is being done.

At the meeting, Principal Burr noted that due to the current mental health crisis and pressure on kids to resume their lives and schooling, there have been several incidents. And yes, some had crossed the line, violating the HIB policy.

“These are challenging times. The way students emote may be a little different, the way they react may be different. The behaviors we see sometimes violate our code of conduct. And we have to deal with that accordingly but also with the understanding of all they’re experiencing,” Burr explained to parents at the meeting. He further shared with Princeton Perspectives, “We have discipline in this building, and we have rules. We need to do a better job of talking about restorative practices. We need to better relay consequences.”

What are the consequences? What should they be?

“Practically, if your kid has done something less than kind, it is important to be thinking about how to get that kid back on track with being kind. They need to recognize the impact of their actions and, if possible, make amends and certainly make a plan for what they can do differently moving forward,” explains Dr. Kennedy-Moore.

ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSE

The district says it is being intentional in dealing with each individual situation. Some, like Titiunik, weren’t feeling enough was being done in response to her daughter’s situation and her petition led to a meeting with PPS Superintendent Dr. Carole Kelley and Principal Burr. She pushed for changes including a request for schools to be more transparent and communicative in detailing events or incidents and feels she’s already seen improvements in the emails. But Titiunik also feels the specifics of incidents can affect the outcomes.

“A written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication that results in harm, but is not motivated by a distinguishing characteristic, falls outside of the definition of HIB and is therefore not covered by the HIB policy. Of course, a non-HIB offense can still be addressed by the school as a violation of the school code of conduct, but how the school addresses it is not as tightly regulated,” expresses Titiunik. “This leaves a lot of children who are victims of non-HIB offenses unprotected, in the sense that they do not have a clear protocol that the school must follow to protect them, and they often see no resolution and no accountability.”

PMS is working to move forward in constructive ways to prevent future incidents, HIB or otherwise.

“All threats of harm to self are taken seriously and are addressed by employing district-wide procedures to ensure that students receive immediate attention and care,” shares PPS Superintendent Dr. Carole Kelley. “Meanwhile, initiatives are in place to proactively work with all students on self-awareness and self-management through lessons and school-wide initiatives.”

Both Kennedy-Moore and PPS suggest the greatest opportunity to do so is through empowering the child by building connections and community.

Some ways the middle school historically built community have been disturbed by the pandemic. For example, last school year started with no extra-curricular activities. Then they evolved and now most sports teams and after-school clubs are available. But even when offered, masks and social distancing may alter the engagement and connections. Community period is another mechanism once used that PMS hopes to revive 2nd semester.

“It’s mostly a way students connect to adults and others in the building in a non-academic way. Trying to get students to meet someone they feel connected with,” details Burr. “I have felt strongly to begin every community period with a greeting which involves a handshake. It’s thought if you have to shake someone’s hand you are less likely to take their French fries and throw them across a room or something.” Yet even a handshake is a no-no during COVID.

What is happening is that in good weather, PMS has a longer lunch block that allows the student to be outside with time to eat (safely and without a mask) and interact socially. When the weather is unfavorable, lunch block is indoors, rotating students between 3 areas. One is Social Emotional Learning (SEL). For approximately 15 minutes, teachers lead discussions on mindfulness or meditative practices, or engage the students in activities to learn healthy ways to identify and manage emotions, engage with others and make decisions.

“Spending 2 years alone in their bedrooms, staring at themselves on Zoom is not good for kids. It heightens their social anxiety, makes them more self-focused and self-judging. Exactly the opposite of what is needed for friendship, which is to be able to focus outward on ‘what can I give’. That generous outward focus and to be able to imagine other peoples’ perspectives,” explains Dr. Kennedy-Moore.

A mentorship program, linking students that are exhibiting social, emotional or academic concerns with staff members aims to use one-to-one connections to support the child. A new counseling group has also been established led by PMS school counselors to address pandemic-related stress.

Additionally, Health/Physical Education have become one of the primary core classes now offered four times weekly. This is being enhanced with the building of a new Yoga Studio for students to learn more about meditation and mindfulness, both to create openness and to ward off incidents but also as a space to think and learn about something one may have done.

PPS also wants to work collaboratively with parents to get through this transition. The December survey invited parents to become part of a Parent Focus Group. Run by PMS Asst. Principal Stephanie DiCarlo, it first met last week to identify parents’ areas of concern and will meet two more times to create an action plan of what can be done to reduce issues of concern and increase areas of positivity. In May, the group will assess how things are going and what can be done moving forward.

PPS has also put together a speaker series to provide insight and education to parents. To date, the schedule for Zoom speakers remains as follows:

Additionally, Understanding Brain Development and Mental Health: How Parents Can Build Resiliency and Healthy Coping Skills in Children and Adolescents led by child and adolescent psychiatrist Gal Shoval is to be held in-person on May 17th.

“I have enthusiastically supported Mr. Burr and his team in developing and expanding these programs. The middle school team works hard to integrate supports into all aspects of the middle school experience,” states Dr. Kelley.

Titiunik and other parents are appreciative of the support and that PMS has and will continue to implement ways to address the cause and effect of the incidents and to help the students through this unprecedented time.

With the rise of Omicron, some parents have requested the district return to remote learning, to keep kids safe. But as Burr pointed our earlier, safety is not just physical, it is also mental. December showed signs of students adjusting to a routine and each other. In compliance with recommendations from state and federal authorities and to continue to move forward, PPS aims to remain open, in-person to best meet the mental, educational and social needs of all students.

Editor’s Note

Somehow, it’s December! I wake up every morning and still can’t believe it’s almost the end of 2021. When the pandemic hit, we all just stopped doing everything. Then, little by little, life has tried to get back to normal. But, if you’re at all like me, there’s still a lot more home time than existed pre-COVID. It makes it a lot harder to account for all the time that has passed this year.

On a positive note, the year is not over! There are almost three weeks left to Make it a Meaningful Countdown to the New Year. If you need a little inspiration or guidance about how to do that, read on. This month’s issue of Princeton Perspectives aims to help you.

One of the amazing things about Princeton is the positivity of the people that live here. Walking around town, I was amazed to hear that due to the pandemic or in spite of it, there are many things locals are looking forward to before year-end or at the start of 2022. They shared their plans with me for this month’s Pulse of Princeton. You can feed off their energy through the video below!

So, how do you prepare for the new year? If you’re a traditionalist, you likely write down your resolutions just before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. Are they meaningful? Impactful? Do they last? It’s possible that with all the time spent at home this past year, you’ve already cleaned out your closets. So, what goals do you plan to make? We can help with A Local Look at Resolutions to Inspire Your New Year.

Though it is wonderful to help out the community year-round, November and December are very popular times to do so. Did you know that when you volunteer, it does more than just provide for a need? Volunteering This Holiday Season Can Have Positive Impacts on Recipients and Volunteers takes a look at the psychological benefits it can have as well.

If you don’t have a ton of time to give, donations can also be a great help to others. And, they might help you when tax time rolls around as well. Year-End Tax Tips to Benefit You and the Local Community is a worthwhile read so you have time to make any necessary moves before December 31st.

These last few weeks and the early days of 2022 also offer some great opportunities to get out of your house! If you are out of ideas on what to do with your family or out-of-town guests this season, read As the Year Winds Down, Activities are Abound in Princeton and Beyond to get some new ones.

Then scroll to the bottom of the homepage to read this month’s Perspectives Revisited which shares some important local information about the housing market and a new schools referendum.

Everyone is wishing for a better 2022. But, at Princeton Perspectives, it’s been a pretty awesome 2021 as we shared important and interesting local information with all of you and gained so many new readers. So, thank you for that! Please continue to helps us grow and forward this to friends, neighbors and family. We’d love to share our stories with even more of the community.

And now, raise your glass and let’s all give a toast to the year that is ending and to a meaningful 2022! Happy New Year to you all.

Pulse of Princeton: How are you making it a meaningful new year?

A Local Look at Resolutions to Inspire Your New Year

“This year, I resolve to…” New Year’s Resolutions for some are a means to help people fill out their lives in positive ways. For others, resolutions can be like a weight on your shoulders. A reminder of what you didn’t follow through with or still need to achieve.

Depending on how you frame your resolution and set up your goals can have a major impact on how you respond to them. Princeton Perspectives sought to find out what kinds of things locals are resolving to do in the New Year, speaking with people at Princeton Shopping Center, Marketfair Mall and downtown Princeton. Some, like Lucy Chase Tattoli of Plainsboro, are looking out for others.

“My resolution is for everyone to be kinder to each other,” she shared.

Nuyen Lee Foon of Trenton is also looking beyond himself. He makes annual resolutions but says he’s really making them for his wife and to teach his children about having goals.

“I always try to do something different in the new year, but it doesn’t happen right away,” Foon explains. “Something like cleaning out the garage. It’s just not a priority, so I end up putting it off.”

For most, however, the resolutions people make are personal goals. Nathan Quinn of West Windsor says, “My resolution is for this year to be a better me” and William M. Pierson of Trenton admits, “I’m 51 and I still have a problem with my temper. I need to better control it.”

Tania Lambrozo, the Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Psychology at Princeton University, has written a lot about resolutions – how to make them and how to keep them. For resolutions regarding self-improvement, she explains in the blog 13.7 that focusing only on what you can change about yourself is not always the right perspective to promote follow-through.

“One of the most effective ways to change behavior is to focus, instead, on how you can change your social and physical environment to help bring about the change you want to see in yourself. The ultimate goal is still about you and your behavior, but the target of immediate intervention becomes your environment instead.”

That is good advice for Plainsboro resident Sue Tattoli who said, “Every year I try to be healthier, to get more exercise in.” It’s suggested that if Sue commutes to work, perhaps she can find a gym that is on her route home instead of past her house, as she is more likely to exercise if she makes it convenient to do so.

And here are some other tips. The American Psychological Association, in Making your New Year’s Resolution stick, has suggested there are 5 things to consider:

  • Start Small – don’t try to jump all in at once. Taking bite-sized steps to reach a goal makes it more likely you’ll get there
  • Change one behavior at a time – You may have more than one resolution in mind but focus on one at a time. Trying to tackle too much at once can be overwhelming.
  • Talk about it – if you share your efforts with others, such as teaming up or going through the steps together, there’s a greater chance of success.
  • Don’t beat yourself up – you may have a misstep along the way, but you don’t have to scratch your goal because of it. Just get back on course and keep moving forward.
  • Ask for support – if it all starts to feel like too much, you can always seek professional help to get you through and find attainable ways to reach your resolution.

The goals people set are sometimes short term, like that of Omar Gibbs who lives in Lawrenceville. “My resolution is to do better in life,” he stated. “Hopefully I graduate this year from my university and I can find a job in my field, accounting.”

A suggestion by Professor Lambrozo in a 2017 MPR News article still holds true today, that while goals to be accomplished in the coming year can be great, perhaps there are grander things to consider as well.

“New Year’s resolutions are often focused on the self — with dieting and exercise topping many people’s lists. But looking a century into the future can change that focus from the self to future generations. For me, that highlights climate change and inequality as deadly problems of today, and science and education as crucial long-term investments.”

Recently, East Windsor resident Ron Frank walked by a piece of artwork he made that’s sitting in the window at Whole World Arts. He pointed at Molly, the robot-looking piece he made out of spare electrical and plumbing parts. “It makes people smile,” Frank said. But when it comes to resolutions, this artwork is only the beginning of a long-term goal he has.

“I’d like to make people more aware of art.”

And so, his piece in the window of the store at Marketfair is helping to achieve that goal. Perhaps, Jessica Cavanaugh of Hamilton will help him reach it, too. She recently started a portrait business and is hoping to turn it into a full-time career. In addition, she resolves to “be more involved in the arts community here.”

If art isn’t your thing, perhaps there are other ways the Princeton-area can help you start the new year right. “I just found my new favorite space, Tipple & Rose,” recalls Sue Tattoli. “I walked in needing self-care and now I plan to go whenever I need a little.”

Others we spoke to are also hoping to take better advantage of what Princeton offers. Getting downtown more to eat out, volunteering more by helping with community clean-ups and getting a well-paying job in town were a few localized resolutions people shared. Princeton resident Roma Johnson wants to hear more of the local music scene.

“I love the music in Princeton! The Christmas concerts are fabulous, whether at All Saints’ Church, Small World Coffee, Princeton University. Anywhere,” she exclaimed.

For Scott Pearce, who is from the west coast but has lived here temporarily, the new year isn’t giving him more time to experience Princeton, but maybe the future will.

“I’ve been at the Institute for Advanced Studies for a few months. I’m headed up to New York now, but I’d love to come back!” he notes.

As we approach the final weeks until the ball drops for 2022, which resolutions have had the most meaning and impact on you? Email us your Princeton-related resolutions and we’ll include them in Perspectives Revisited next month. Hopefully seeing them published will give you greater momentum to follow through!

As the Year Winds Down, Activities are Abound in Princeton and Beyond

The colder temperatures are upon us, which means you can begin your hibernation at home, or you can get excited for the coming new year while taking part in fun activities. Princeton is a town with so many great things to do in winter, and if it isn’t happening here, it’s happening somewhere nearby.

HISTORY BUFFS, GET READY

Over the course of the next month, the greater-Princeton area is the best place to be if you have an interest in history. It was at this time of year that Washington and his troops passed through during the Revolutionary War, a momentous time that is reenacted year after year for all to see.

The 69th Annual Christmas Day Crossing Reenactment starts things off at Washington Crossing Historic Park (at the intersection of Routes 532 & 32 River Road) in Washington Crossing, PA. Join others along the banks of the Delaware River as a General Washington reenactor inspires hundreds of others dressed in military garb to cross the river, like was accomplished on Christmas night in 1776.

If the river conditions aren’t safe, the replica Durham boats will not go into the water, but the ceremonial and commemorative events will still take place. The event is on December 25th from noon-3pm.

Throughout the following week, from December 26th-31st, Patriots Week will be celebrated in Trenton. Concerns over the current state of COVID will halt the Battle of Trenton reenactment for this year, but the city will still be home to many events and activities that celebrate its role in American history. The Old Barracks Museum will host tours and there will be musket demos, a puppet show, pub crawl, walking tours and more!

As the revolutionaries traveled from Trenton onto Princeton, so do the historic activities! On January 2nd, the Battle of Princeton will be reenacted. Head over to experience its 245th anniversary on Princeton Battlefield off Mercer Street. At 8:30am, historian Larry Kidder will describe the 10 Crucial Days that led up to this battle. He’ll then narrate the reenactment between the British and American troops as that takes place on the field at 10am, followed by a wreath laying ceremony at 11:30am at the Colonnade & Gravesite. Tours of the Thomas Clarke House will begin at 12:30pm, and the reenactors will be around to talk with visitors and share stories of the battle, while you stay warm with coffee and hot chocolate.

Beyond the Revolutionary War, Princeton is home to other great moments and places of historical significance, and you can learn more about them through tours.

For a small fee, you can sign up to join Historical Society of Princeton on a Princeton History Walking Tour several Sundays (the next one is December 19th) to learn about sites including Bainbridge House, Nassau Hall, the University Chapel and Palmer Square. The 90-minute tour begins at 2pm.

Additionally, Princeton Tour Company offers a Self-Guided Einstein Walk with a map of 12 local stops to teach you all about Albert Einstein. For $3.14 (because Einstein was born on March 14th and, um, Pi!) you can get a map and check out the Einstein monument, his homes and even some of his favorite hangouts.

HEAD OUTDOORS WHERE THE EXCITEMENT WILL KEEP YOU WARM

There are also a variety of other excursions offered by Princeton Tour Company, including its annual Princeton Holiday Trolley Tours, running until December 26th. You’ll actually travel inside a heated trolley to get into the holiday spirit as you ride through neighborhoods and past Palmer Square’s decorated Christmas tree, while learning about Princetonians who have made an important mark on this town and country.

Photo Credit – Lakota Wolf Preserve

If you prefer heading out into the wild, you can see animals in nature up close at the Lakota Wolf Preserve, open year-round. You must book a reservation in advance online, then drive to near the Delaware River in northern NJ for the opportunity to observe four different packs of wolves. Two tours per day are offered by the owners of the preserve, and you may also see the foxes, bobcat and lynx that live there.

If you head due east from the preserve, you can enjoy a unique evening at the Bergen County Zoo in Paramus. Let it Glow, a Holiday Lantern Spectacular takes you into the zoo to see animals of a different kind. More than 30 scenes with larger-than-life animal lanterns are lit up for a show that takes place throughout. You can even ride the train, lighted by lanterns. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Eventbrite, and visits are offered every Thursday-Sunday from 4pm-9pm until January 30th.

Photo Credit – Grounds for Sculpture

Closer to home, Grounds for Sculpture is lighting things up with a new way to experience its sculpture park as part of Night Forms: dreamloop by Klip Collective. Enter between 5pm-9:30pm any Thursday through Sunday until February 27th to see and hear this multi-sensory blend of video production, light and sound creating an immersive event throughout the grounds.

FUN IN THE SNOW

If outdoor fun for you means something a little more athletic, you can travel just an hour or two for some winter sports.

Two hours north takes you to one of the highest points in New Jersey and to the aptly named High Point Cross Country Ski Center. There you can rent cross country skis or snowshoes to enjoy on your own or in group or private lessons. They also have a monthly youth program called Youth Ski League, aimed at introducing cross country skiing through games, activities and outdoor adventures to those in 1st-8th grades.

If downhill skiing is more your speed, Campgaw Mountain or Mountain Creek Ski Resort offer opportunities on the slopes in-state. You can also head west to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania for skiing at Camelback, Blue or Shawnee Mountains. And skiing isn’t the only fun, these mountains are also home to snow tubing courses you can enjoy day and night. Here are the details so you can decide which best meet your needs:

Campgaw Mountain Tubing  is just 1.5 hours away and offers runs with a variety of levels of rollers and pitch. 6 days before you want to ride, reserve a spot online and then dress for some outdoor fun! Two-hour tubing sessions are available at night, with hours varying throughout the week and holidays.

Just 15 minutes further is Mountain Creek with a snow tubing park covering more than five acres. You can buy tickets online to race your friends during daytime hours weekdays or until close on holiday weeks and weekends.

Galactic Snow Tubing at Camelback, less than two hours from Princeton, has 40 lanes (lit up at night) to tube down and a magic carpet to bring you back up. Two-hour sessions are available from 9am until 10pm!

Blue Mountain Snow Tubing Park you can get to in under two hours, where you can have fun for even longer. They have 46 lanes measuring over 1,000 feet long, and each session there is good for three hours! Thursdays from 5pm-9pm and Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays the course is open from 9am-9pm.

Shawnee Mountain snow tubing offers an hour and a half of fun, in adult and child tandem tubes, just one hour and 45 minutes away. Two surface lifts bring you to the top for your next run. Hours vary by the day but start as early as 9:30am and can run as late as 5:30pm.

TAKING THE ACTION INDOORS

Since 2019, NJ has offered a way for you to enjoy winter skiing, indoors! Though the experience is currently closed due to fire damage sustained in September, there is hope Big SNOW will reopen at American Dream in 2022. There you can purchase tickets online and show up fully suited to ski or if it’s your first time, you can rent everything from outerwear to boots, skis and more. If you have a younger child that has the skills and equipment, kids 6 and under ski free with an adult (their rental options are best for kids over 7).

Off the slopes, you can also spend your days at The Rink, Nickelodeon Universe, Dreamworks Waterpark or playing mini golf at American Dream.

You can get more indoor action without any of the chill at Jumpin’ Gellyball, an indoor arena at the Oxford Valley Mall across the river in Pennsylvania. Anyone ages 5 and up can take part in this low impact fun. Gellyball Blasters use a soft gel ball which is painless when struck, as they bounce right off. And the blasters can shoot off 750 shots without reloading. Private and non-private play is available Thursdays – Sundays.

TRY A LITTLE BIT OF EVERYTHING, ALL AT ONCE

Photo Credit – Polar Bear Plunge at Wildwood

If you want to do something historic and think warm thoughts while engaging in a cold-weather outdoor activity, take part in the 2022 Polar Bear Plunge! At beaches along the Jersey Shore brave jumpers will dive into the freezing cold Atlantic Ocean. It’s not all crazy, though, as every jumper is raising money for a good cause. Atlantic City Polar Bear Plungers will be diving in on New Year’s Day for the 30th year to benefit Cancer Support Community New Jersey at Gilda’s Club. That same day Brigantine’s 20th annual plunge will take place, benefitting Fisher House, which helps wounded veterans and their families with housing and transportation. You can choose to bare the cold or plunge virtually from home as part of Wildwood (January 15th) and Seaside Heights (February 26th) Polar Bear Plunges, both of which benefit Special Olympic athletes through programming and events. All of the above ocean experiences are open to the public. Though plungers of all ages are welcome, anyone under 18 requires parental consent.

Whether or not you choose to take part in all of the fun activities happening this winter or you prefer to stand back and watch the experiences of others, there’s definitely plenty to keep you busy as you finish up 2021 and enter into the new year. We hope it’s a great one!

Editors Note

It’s sometimes easy, especially during pandemic times, to live in a bubble – unaware of what is truly going on right around you. And while it’s easy to turn on the news and get an overall understanding of things, it’s sometimes harder to know what they are really like in your neck of the woods. That’s the purpose of Princeton Perspectives, to localize stories and share information that matters to you.

So, it’s only fitting that our November issue focuses on just that. In Where Does Princeton Stand? A Local Perspective on National Issues, we take a local look at some of the major stories covering the headlines and provide a deeper look at what they’re like in and around Princeton.

For starters, community events are starting to pick up everywhere. Sick of cancellations and with evidence that outdoor events are safe, major running events are on thing making a big comeback. Though there were some COVID-safety changes, the Boston Marathon ran in October and the New York marathon ran earlier this month. Both built up great excitement for the HiTops Princeton Half Marathon that ran on Sunday. Princeton Perspectives was there to meet the community and cheer on the runners, so we’re dedicating this month’s Pulse of Princeton to those excited to experience a great community event! Check out the compilation of photos in our video below.

Another big event that brought people out of their bubbles was the general elections earlier this month, the results of which led to major headlines about Democrats vs. Republicans and the ideologies of voters. Do Princeton Locals Lean Liberal or Conservative? It’s Not So Cut and Dry takes a closer look at Princeton-area voters and what they feel about some of the hot button issues facing our nation today. You may be a bit surprised what we found.

The delta variant threw our country for a loop in late summer and early fall, but are things getting better locally? Princeton Health Officer: The Current State of COVID Here provides the latest information on what our schools and community are facing. As 5 to 11-year olds began getting vaccinated last week, this information could see changes in the coming weeks.

This time of year is also when many businesses gear up for the holidays. National stories talk about labor shortages and supply delays, but what is it like in this area? In The Perfect Storm of Problems Creates Hurdles for Local Businesses and Consumers you’ll hear personal accounts from local business owners and workers, shedding light on what your friends and neighbors are experiencing.

I spoke earlier about the increased desire to have community events. Well, that interest is certainly apparent as it pertains to the arts. Princeton’s Appetite for Visual and Performing Arts is Strong explains the transformation area artists have gone through since the start of the pandemic, and what art enthusiasts want now. There certainly is a lot of art to be seen and heard!

And don’t forget to scroll down and check out this month’s Perspectives Revisited! Our story updates are timely and enlightening.

It was fun to be a part of the HiTops Princeton Half Marathon and introduce our magazine to many new readers. Honest, investigative and focused coverage of what matters to Princeton is what we post on Princeton Perspectives, and we hope you’ll help us spread word to the community as well. Anyone that doesn’t currently receive Princeton Perspectives in your inbox can click here to join our mailing list!

And stay tuned…next month we’re going to share stories that will help you have a meaningful countdown to the new year. Another year is almost gone, but it’s not over yet! Look forward to sharing with you on December 15th!

Pulse of Princeton: Did you come out to visit us at the HiTops Princeton Half Marathon? We had fun with the runners and spectators!