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January 6, 2021

December 23, 2020

My Brilliant Friend

Illustration by Charlotte Dijkgraaf

He was sitting on a metal heating grid on the lawn next to the Graduate College. A squirrel. A fat squirrel, I must say. A squirrel on steroids, with a huge pot belly. Not one with the special colors, like the albino in my back yard, or the black and orange ones on the university campus. No, he was just a plain grey squirrel.

It was cold, icy cold. Snowflakes whirled around his grey head, his grey back, his grey tail. He watched me warily as I approached. Hyper-alert. Any other squirrel would have left already, but he considered this his territory. He waited until the last moment, hoping that I would turn around. I felt almost guilty I had to walk past him.

I stood still. He did not move. I never encountered a squirrel sitting so still, I could look him in the eye. When I moved on, he left his heating grid and scampered into the bushes. About five steps farther along, I turned around and saw him going back to his favorite spot.

“Keep warm, grey fellow!” I said and went on my way.

That evening, as it started to snow even harder, I thought of the squirrel on his grid. Obviously, he was not well. Was he able to keep warm during the night? Was he able to find dinner under the snow? Poor thing.

First thing the next morning, I pulled on my snow boots and set out to look for the squirrel. To my surprise, I found a cardboard box on the metal grid, with a little door cut into it. Someone had made him a house! And there he was, happy as a clam, warm and cozy under his roof. He even stayed put when I passed him.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, walking has become a daily habit. Not long walks, no fancy trails, nothing that requires a rucksack with trail mix and a bottle of water. I just walk from my home to Palmer Square where I sit on a bench. If the weather permits, I may even visit the D&R Canal, where someone built a tree hut. Then I go back, the same route.

But however short, my trail is never boring. The golf course reminds me on some days of a George Inness pastoral landscape, without the cows. Or, on other days, of the grassy, floral landscape of the Teletubbies, the four brightly colored dolls that happily dance between the rabbits and the birds.

The Graduate College can be quiet on weekdays, but on Sundays the tower becomes alive. The carillonneur plays the bells inside to make the heavens sing.

When it snows, the grassy hill on the golf course across the street from the Seminary becomes a paradise for the little ones, who love to sled down the slope. Again and again, while they shriek with laughter. Their parents watching them nervously, while holding their babies warm in slings against their bodies.

I have become attached to my local landmarks.

But what about that squirrel that I encountered halfway along my walk?

The other morning there was another surprise. I saw a half-eaten slice of pumpkin next to his box house. My little grey friend had set up a permanent squirrel campsite on the heating grid. Food delivery included.

Boy, did he look happy.

Pia de Jong is a Dutch writer who lives in Princeton. She can be contacted at pdejong@ias.edu.

On the Move

Management Moves

D&R Greenway Land Trust, 1 Preservation Place, Princeton 08540. 609-924-4646. Linda Mead, president and CEO. www.drgreenway.org.

New D&R Greenway board chair Peter Dawson with Greenway president and CEO Linda Mead.

The D&R Greenway Land Trust has announced new leadership for its board of trustees.

Peter J. Dawson of Pennington, the owner of Leigh Visual Imaging Solutions on Everett Drive, is the new chair. He has been a member of the board since 2013 and replace current co-chairs Wendy Kvalheim of Princeton and Christopher DeGrezia of Montgomery, an attorney with Fraegre Drinker on College Road East.

West Windsor resident Michael R. Bramnick, senior vice president of NRG Energy, joins the land trust’s executive committee as assistant secretary of the board.

Seven additional new trustees have also joined the board in the past year:

Heather Eshelman McCusker, a trusts and estates lawyer at Stevens & Lee on Lenox Drive; Alanna Jameson Papetti, assistant director of communications for the NJ Board of Public Utilities; William C. Martin, chairman and chief investment officer of Raging Capital Management in Rocky Hill;

Patrick L. McDonnell, syndicated “Mutts” cartoonist, author, and playwright; Laura Napoli, retired environmental scientist for ExxonMobil; Ian Snyder, a former Princeton resident who now lives in New York City and works for J.P. Morgan; and Peter Tucci, a partner at law firm Fox Rothschild on Lenox Drive and chairman of the board of Trustees of The Pennington School who was instrumental in the recent preservation of the Point Breeze estate in Bordentown.

Crosstown Moves

Princeton Infrared Technologies, Inc., 7 Deer Park Drive, Suite E, Monmouth Junction 08852. 609-917-3380. Martin Ettenberg, founder and CEO. www.princetonirtech.com.

Princeton Infrared Technologies, Monmouth Junction-based specialists in indium gallium arsenide imaging technology for the design and manufacture of shortwave infrared cameras and one- and two-dimensional imaging arrays, has relocated from 9 Deer Park Drive to a larger space at 7 Deer Park Drive.

The new facility has 2,200 square feet and clean room and lab space as well as 1,980 square feet of office space.

In a statement, founder and CEO Martin Ettenberg said “We are looking forward to this exciting new phase in the growth of our company. We are moving into a new, larger office and lab space that will allow us to expand our capabilities in the development of SWIR imagers, detector arrays, and cameras. This move will enable us to better serve our customers as we continue to grow our product line in the SWIR market.”

Deaths

Alfred Abbotts, 92, on February 16. The Korean War veteran was a trial attorney who worked in the New Jersey Attorney General’s office and as chief federal prosecutor for central New Jersey. He was also involved in alumni affairs at Princeton University, where he was a member of the Class of 1950.

Joan Flesch, 80, on February 26. She was a teller at PNC Bank in Princeton for many years.

Richard Eugene Schweizer on February 25. He owned Pathway Car Care in Lawrence for 30 years.

Jacqueline Clowes, 79, on February 22. She retired as a mail room supervisor in the state Department of Treasury.

Richard Peter Braconi Sr., 83, on February 22. He was a highway inspector for the state Department of Transportation for 20 years.

Annie Laura Lee Alexander, 89, on February 14. She worked for General Motors in Ewing for 43 years.

Elisabeth Joseph, 97, on February 21. Born in Germany, she was the only member of her immediate family to survive the Holocaust, working as a maid for a family who protected her with false identity papers. She was a salesperson at Dunham’s department store in Trenton and Lawrence.

Business Meetings March 3 to 10

Wednesday, March 3

What the New Administration Means for Your Business, Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce. www.princetonmercerchamber.org. Panel of experts discuss the top new initiatives that present opportunities for your business. Followed by virtual multi-chamber networking with the Middlesex County Regional Chamber of Commerce. Jennifer M. Mohamed, partner at Bayne Law Group, moderates. Panelists include Kevin Kelly of Clark Hill, immigration lawyer John Kuhn Bleimaier, and A+ Products CEO Elizabeth Matlaga. Register. $20; $15 members. 10 to 11:30 a.m.

Virtual Networking Happy Hour, NJ CAMA. www.njcama.org/events. Free program on effective e-mail marketing led by Maisha Walker, president of Message Medium, followed by Q&A and virtual networking. Register. 7 p.m.

Thursday, March 4
James A. Felton

Virtual Monthly Membership Luncheon, Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce. www.princetonmercerchamber.org. James A. Felton, vice president for inclusive excellence at the College of New Jersey, speaks on his plans for making TCNJ a place for everyone. Register. $25, $15 members. Noon to 1:30 p.m.

Supporting Rising Fund Managers in their Fundraising Journey, StartupGrind Princeton. www.startupgrind.com. With Melissa Barash, founder of Left Tackle Capital, on their mission to select, connect and future-proof a visionary league of diverse fund-managers and investors who will reshape asset management. Register. 4 p.m.

Friday, March 5

JobSeekers, Professional Service Group of Mercer County. www.psgofmercercounty.org. Executive Career Transition Consultant Terrence Seamon shares strategies to stay active and engaged in your job search or career change amid uncertainty, stress and anxiety. 9:45 a.m. to noon.

Independent Business Alliance Live Webinar: Crisis Communication, Princeton Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce. www.princetonmercerchamber.org. Three experienced crisis communicators, Norris Clark, David Klucsik, and Rick Alcantara, discuss the necessity of embracing crisis while preparing for it. Register. $25; $15 members. Noon to 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday, March 9
Xan Blake

Partners on a Mission, NonProfitConnect. www.nonprofitconnectnj.org. As nonprofits face the extraordinary challenges of recent months, the executive director (or CEO) and board chair are tasked with the responsibility of moving their organizations forward, a task that can only be accomplished with a clear understanding of roles and a steadfast partnership. NonProfitConnect and consultant and community leader Xan Blake address the most vital relationship in a nonprofit organization’s success in a four-part series. Continues Tuesdays through March 30. 4 to 5:30 p.m.

JobSeekers. sites.google.com/site/njjobseekers. Virtual meeting for those seeking employment. Visit website for GoTo Meeting link. 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

 

Letters to the Editor: Housing & Planting

Calls for Change in Housing Policies

For more than 15 years, Housing Initiatives of Princeton (HIP) has embraced the idea of “neighbors helping neighbors” to ensure that Princeton is a diverse community where low-income families can thrive. We remain ever-thankful for the many neighbors who have helped us in that effort. As everyone in our community has responded to the myriad challenges posed by COVID-19, we have received significant support from the town through its Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, foundations, businesses, congregations, and individuals. With this support, we have been able to help more than 160 households in and around Princeton ― the vast majority of which include young children ― evade eviction during the economic fallout from the pandemic.

As we acknowledge this support and the benefits it has produced, we also feel compelled to acknowledge the structural challenges that the pandemic has laid bare and call for systemic changes to address them. Long before COVID-19 disrupted our lives and economy, there was a significant shortage of rental homes available to the 26 percent of New Jersey renter households that are extremely low-income — earning at or below the federal poverty line or 30 percent of their area median income. Nearly 3 out of 4 of such households pay more than 30 percent of their household income in housing costs, making them less likely to be able to afford other basic needs like food, healthcare, and educational supports, and more likely to face eviction. Increasing the number of affordable housing units can help address this challenge, and the emerging plans for new affordable housing in town and across the state are signs of progress that HIP welcomes and supports.

Another systemic challenge we face is that posed by restrictions on how the federal CDBG funds can be distributed. These funds, provided through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can temporarily cover rental payments for households that are struggling as a result of the pandemic. Payments go directly to landlords.

The vast majority of landlords have shown a willingness to negotiate lower payments with HIP in the midst of this crisis. In order to qualify for this assistance, the applicant must be named on a valid lease. Many of our neighbors, especially those with undocumented status, are not named on their household leases despite contributing towards rental payments and are, therefore, not eligible for assistance.

Although lacking documentation, undocumented immigrants contribute more than $500 million in taxes annually in New Jersey ― more than $31 million in Mercer County alone. Yet, they are not eligible for any of the state and federal relief in response to the pandemic. HIP believes that an applicant should be able to provide a statement signed by the leaseholder to whom they are paying rent, stipulating their address and monthly contribution towards rent.

HIP wants to ensure that policy makers at the state and federal level ― and the voters who send them there ― understand just how vulnerable many of our neighbors are. We are encouraged by the fact that recent guidelines for rental assistance from the US Treasury enable applicants to self-attest in cases where they do not have standard documentation. Public policies should not impose requirements that make them ineligible for vital supports that help meet basic needs and also protect the public health of the broader community.

The Board of Housing Initiatives of Princeton

33 Mercer Street, Princeton

At the Princeton Community Housing (PCH) virtual event on February 24, Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr., author of “Begin Again: James Baldwin’s Urgent America and its Urgent Lessons for Our Own,” proposed a new kind of social contract for Princeton.

This social contract was discussed by Dr. Glaude and Rev. Lukata Mjumbe, Pastor of the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church and Trustee of PCH. Dr. Glaude spoke about the need to shift the frame and recognize that social and moral justice is not a philanthropic or charitable enterprise. Racial equality is not something that we give – we need to talk to one another and address this together. He encouraged the Princeton community to assert a different kind of moral and social contract between its citizens. Dr. Glaude expressed this contract as a broad, public infrastructure of care that is focused on addressing basic needs such as housing, healthcare and mental health services, education, and jobs.

PCH organized this discussion to raise awareness of the need to confront racial injustice and to raise funds for PCH’s COVID 19 Emergency Rent Relief Fund to support PCH residents who have been economically impacted by the pandemic. Since June 2020, PCH has provided a total of 63 months of rent relief.

We are immensely grateful to Dr. Glaude, who not only contributed his time to the event but also made a very generous personal donation to the Emergency Rent Relief Fund. We also would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation to Rev. Mjumbe for contributing his time, knowledge, and the local perspective that guided the conversation. This included raising questions asked by attendees, speaking about the Princeton community, including our past and current shortcomings in racial equality, and drawing parallels between Paul Robeson and James Baldwin.

This event would not have been possible without the more than 120 supporters of PCH who attended and contributed over $16,000 to the Covid-19 Emergency Rent Relief Fund. Thank you! Please go to www.PCHHomes.org if you wish to support the Relief Fund.

Dr. Glaude closed the event by stating that an infrastructure of care is a framework that has to happen across the country, but that there is no better place to begin that process than a town like Princeton. PCH looks forward to continuing to work collaboratively with our community to build this infrastructure.

Ed Truscelli

Executive Director, Princeton Community Housing, on behalf of the Board of Trustees

Spring Is Coming

And how can we look at our yards through the lens of decreasing our turf areas?

Why? Because nationwide they consume 8 billion gallons of water daily; 40 percent of the chemicals sprayed on lawns are banned in other countries because of their carcinogenic content; and most of the synthetic fertilizer that is applied ends up in our water systems.

What to do instead? Create a garden of native flowers, bushes, and trees with turf paths winding through these eco-communities that provide food and habitat for our native pollinators.

Why are these native butterflies, bees, and others important? Because they pollinate 87 percent of all flowering plants and 85 percent of our main food crops. When I design a garden, my two main goals are to create beauty and to provide a seasonal arc of pollinator support. Planting just a few plants is not sufficient so a plan is important.

For example: Monarch butterflies need the milkweeds for the caterpillar stage but it is also essential that they have the protein filled berries in the fall for their long migration flight. Another example: baby birds eat 30 to 40 times a day.

That means on average for a medium number of chicks per nest that the adults have to provide around 812 caterpillars a day within a manageable distance from the nest. And those caterpillars need the right plants to fit their digestive system. So, you can see that a variety of plant choices and timing of blooming for this all to happen is an important aspect in the design.

Plus — native plant gardens do not need fertilizers or chemical sprays and contribute to carbon sequestration through their established and sizable root systems. Step by step we can turn our seldom used turf lawns into eco-community landscapes!

Judith K. Robinson

Judith Robinson designs pollinator native plant habitats for all size gardens and pollinator hedgerows for farmers. She has taught at Mercer County Community College, the Princeton Adult School, and other venues. Visit www.ourworldourchoices.com.

The State of Real Estate: It’s a Sellers’ Market

For those looking to sell their home, now is as good a time as it has been in many years. For buyers, though, it’s a different story.

Prices are up and inventory is down — that’s the state of residential real estate in New Jersey’s capital region during the first months of 2021, according to reports by real estate companies and several Mercer County real estate professionals interviewed by U.S. 1.

Lisa LeRay, vice president of the Mercer County Top Producers Association, said that when things started shutting down due to the pandemic last March and April, it definitely put a stop on the real estate market.

Things began to change a few months later. “When June came around and things were opening up again, the market took off like wildfire,” she said. “The buyers were determined to still buy, especially being that rates were at an all-time low.”

But sellers weren’t quite ready to put their homes on the market.

Donna Lucarelli, an agent with Keller Williams Real Estate-Princeton said she has seen inventory drop “tremendously” through 2020 and into the new year.

“The law of supply and demand holds true,” said Lucarelli, who specializes in real estate in the West Windsor area. “Less houses, high buyer demand. The prices of West Windsor homes have soared to great heights. Prices are better than 2005. The current market is a seller’s market. Right now, it takes one weekend to sell a house in West Windsor, if the price is right.”

8 Hamilton Avenue in Princeton was listed at $1.599 million and sold at asking within weeks.

According to Lucarelli, buyers are coming from New York City and want homes with land and a spacious home for their family, adding that her listings have sold for full price, and some have sold for up to $30,000 over the asking price.

Laurel Cecila, realtor and chief marketing officer for Callaway Henderson Sotheby’s International Realty, said the current market isn’t following its typical seasonal cycle.

“Despite the fact that we’re at least 6-8 weeks ahead of what is typically the peak time of year for home sales, there are many qualified buyers seriously seeking homes to purchase,” she said, adding that there are also many more motivated sellers than usual. “Well-priced homes with compelling features and in good condition sell quickly — often receiving multiple offers.”

A 2020 year-end report by Callaway Henderson states: “In our communities and across the country, the impacts of COVID-19 brought a particular focus on the benefits of home — what it means to each of us and how the notion has been forever redefined.

“Some experienced a renewed appreciation for the home they already had; others craved immediate change; and still more anticipated the need for a move in the near future.”

The lack of inventory, which was at historical low levels last year, made even that market feel busier, said the report. There was a 114 percent surge in buyers from New York and Philadelphia since 2019, and they found homes in lower-priced local markets, such as Lawrence and Hopewell townships.

“Even though inventory was down, the number of contracts increased dramatically — so much so that average sales prices in those municipalities skyrocketed as well,” the report said.

The buyers were able to find homes in those communities priced between 40 and 60 percent lower than Princeton, where the average sale price was $1.04 million.

The market for homes at the higher end of the price range was slow throughout most of the year, but picked up in the fourth quarter. That continued into January, said the report. “In fact, there have been more $2 million-plus contracts this December and January than during any other such time in Mercer County’s history.”

A Mercer County market report for January 2021 released last month by Long and Foster shows the trends from 2020 continuing into the new year. There were a total of 295 units sold in January, which was an increase of 8 percent versus January 2020, the report said.

Inventory is down significantly. The total number of homes available in January was lower by 617 units (62 percent) versus last year. The total number of active inventory this January was 379, compared to 996 in January 2020. January’s total of 379 available units was lower than December’s inventory of 500, a decrease of 24 percent.

In January there was 1.3 months of supply available in Mercer County, compared to 3.7 in January 2020 — a decrease of 65 percent versus a year ago, according to the report. Months of supply is calculated by dividing current inventory by current sales. It indicates how many months would be needed to sell all of the inventory available at the current rate of demand.

There were 309 homes newly listed for sale in Mercer County in January, compared to 370 in January, 2020, a decrease of 16 percent. There were 358 current contracts pending sale in January compared to 283 a year ago. The number of contracts was 27 percent higher than last January.

The lower inventory resulted in an increase of the median sale price over last year. In January, 2020, the median sale price for Mercer County homes was $259,000. This January the median sale price was $305,000, an increase of $46,000 (18 percent) compared to last year. The January median sold price was 1 percent higher than in December.

The report also shows that overall, Mercer County homes spent significantly less time on the market and sold for more in January. The average sale price was 98.7 percent of the average list price, which is 1.9 percent higher than 2020. Meanwhile, the average number of days on market was 41, lower than the average last year, which was 70, a 41 percent decrease.

Both the Long & Foster and Callaway Henderson reports give market information broken down for a select number of communities.

Princeton, Pennington, Northern Mercer County

According to Long and Foster, 74 homes sold in the Princeton, Pennington, and Northern Mercer County market during January, an increase of 16 percent versus January, 2020.

Inventory is down significantly. The total number of units for sale in January was 174, as compared to 354 in January, 2020, a decrease of 51 percent.

The median sale price was up about 10 percent, jumping from $423,500 in 2020 to $467,500 in January, 2021. The price was also up 2 percent over December.

132 Mercer Street in Princeton sold for $1.61 million, over the asking price of $1.599 million.

The number of months of supply was down 57 percent. It decreased from 5.5 months in January, 2020, to 2.4 months during the first month of this year. In January the average number of days on market was 71, lower than the average last year, which was 99, a 28 percent decrease.

In January, there were 92 homes newly listed for sale in Princeton, Pennington, and Northern Mercer County, compared to 104 last January, a decrease of 12 percent. There were 99 current contracts pending sale this January compared to 65 a year ago. The number of current contracts is 52 percent higher than last January.

Hopewell Borough

For Hopewell Borough, the Callaway Henderson report showed a 17.24 percent increase in the number of units sold from 29 in 2019 to 34 in 2020. The average sale price increased 16.74 percent from $397,703 in 2019 to $464,266 in 2020. The average number of days on the went from 89 in 2019 to 58 in 2020, a decrease of 34.83 percent.

Hopewell Township

In Hopewell Township, Callaway Henderson reported that the number of home sales increased from 272 in 2019 to 330 in 2020, an increase of 21.32 percent. The average sales price went from $504,734 to $545,687 in 2020, an increase of 8.11 percent The number of days on the market decreased by 7.14 percent, from 112 in 2019 to 104 in 2020.

Hamilton

For Hamilton Township, Long and Foster reported that a total of 34 homes were sold in January, which is an increase over January 2020. The total number of homes on the market during the first month of 2021 was 21, as opposed to 72 in January 2020 — a decrease of 71 percent.

The median sale price showed a large increase year-to-year. The median price increased by $79,000, from $160,000 in 2020 to $239,000 in 2021. Prices are also up over December. Median sale price is the middle sale price in a given month. The same number of properties are above and below the median.

In January, the average sale price in Hamilton was 100.8 percent of the average list price, which is 2.6 percent higher than at this time last year, and the average number of days on market was 27, lower than the 2020 average of 49 — a 45 percent decrease.

In January, there was a .6 month supply available in Hamilton, compared to 3.1 in January 2020 — a decrease of 80 percent versus a year ago.

Robbinsville

According to Long and Foster, 19 homes sold in the Robbinsville market during January, an increase of 27 percent versus January, 2020.

Inventory is down significantly. The total number of units for sale in January was 13, as compared to 50 in January, 2020, a decrease of 41 percent.

The median sale price jumped from $310,000 in 2020 to $425,000 in January, 2021, an increase of $115,000 (37 percent).

The number of months of supply was way down — 79 percent. It decreased from 3.3 months in January, 2020, to 0.7 months during the first month of this year. In January, the average number of days on market was 62, slightly higher than the average last year, which was 62, an decrease of 17 percent.

Lawrence Township

For Lawrence Township, Long and Foster reported that a total of 16 homes were sold in January, which is a decrease over January, 2020. The total number of homes on the market during the first month of 2021 was 30, as opposed to 92 last year — a decrease of 67 percent.

The median sale price showed a slight decrease year-to-year. The median price decreased by $10,000, from $260,000 in 2020 to $250,000 in 2021.

In January the average sale price in Lawrence was 99.6 percent of the average list price, which is 3 percent higher than at this time last year, and the average number of days on market was 27, lower than the 2020 average of 49 — a 45 percent decrease.

In January there was a 1.9-month supply available in Lawrence, compared to 3.8 in January, 2020 — a decrease of 51 percent versus a year ago.

Ewing Township

According to market insights from real estate site Redfin, the current average home price in Ewing is $260,000, which is an increase of 36.8 percent over last year. The average home is selling for about 1 percent over list price. Callaway Henderson and Long and Foster did not provide any market information for Ewing.

West Windsor

According to Long and Foster, 20 homes sold in the West Windsor market during January, an increase of 18 percent versus January, 2020.

Inventory is down significantly. The total number of units for sale in January was 18, as compared to 46 in January, 2020, a decrease of 61 percent.

The median sale price was up about 4 percent, increasing from $610,000 in 2020 to $635,000 in January, 2021. The price was also up 12 percent over December.

The number of months of supply was down 67 percent. It decreased from 2.7 months in January 2020 to 0.9 months during the first month of this year. In January the average number of days on market was 45, lower than the average last year, which was 78, a decrease of 42 percent.

There were 22 current contracts pending sale this January compared to 16 a year ago. The number of current contracts is 38 percent higher than last January.

Cecila, LeRay, and Lucarelli all believe that the market will continue to be strong moving into the rest of 2021.

Cecila said she expects that the pandemic will continue to have a lasting impact on the local market this year. She said that in addition to the surge in home purchases last year, there was also a corresponding exponential increase in rentals.

Cecila believes when those leases end this year, “a healthy percentage” of those renters will be looking to buy a home, further contributing to buyer demand. “Historically low interest rates will continue to make home ownership appealing, and will keep home prices more affordable than might otherwise be the case with the increase in prices that are resulting from low inventory and competitive bidding situations.”

She said that improved health conditions, the increased availability of vaccines, and the loosening pandemic-related restrictions should all serve to make sellers more comfortable putting their homes on the market and making a move. This will help to increase inventory.

“I see it remaining a good year, but as people lose their jobs, and mortgage companies need to foreclose on their houses, it will turn to a buyers’ market,” Lucarelli said. “Prices will start to come down and be more realistic.”

LeRay said that she anticipates the inventory of homes on the market to increase once the nicer weather comes and more and more people become vaccinated against COVID-19.

“It is expected that rates will stay low, and if we get some inventory this spring, it should level off to a healthy balance,” she said. “The scramble for city folks to move is still prevalent. With the ability to work remotely, being close to the trains and/or Pennsylvania and New York is not as big a necessity to many buyers.”

Cecila said that the pandemic has prioritized and redefined the meaning of home. “Shelter-in-place requirements, ongoing social distancing, working from home, and remote schooling have all resulted in home taking on even more significance than ever and needing to serve multiple purposes that perhaps historically hadn’t been high priorities.”

A common theme among buyers has been the desire for more space and more room to spread out — both inside and out. Cecila said the most frequently asked for wishlist items include: home offices; home gyms; home theaters; and larger backyards with swimming pools, sports courts, and other outdoor entertainment amenities.

Lucarelli said that homes with an office, or space for an office, are a big advantage now that more and more people are working from home. In many cases, families use an extra bedroom as an office.

“Finished basements are also an added value,” she said. “They always were, according to appraisal value. There is more living space there, or it can be used as an office.”

Museums in Motion Brings African American History to Life

Kayren Carter-Mjumbe is the founder of Museums in Motion.

It’s a bright Wednesday morning and Kayren Carter-Mjumbe and her daughter, Leah, are waiting to launch a Zoom-based African American history program from the Arts Council of Princeton’s main floor gallery.

That’s where Carter-Mjumbe curated the exhibition “Legends of the Arts: A Black History Month Exhibit” — one of several African American physical and virtual exhibitions that the Princeton resident produces through Museums in Motion.

She says Museums in Motion exhibitions and programs look at the time span between 1800 and today to highlight the contributions of both “the legendary and unknown” Americans of African ancestry.

“The legends are legends for a reason,” says Carter-Mjumbe. “Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks are written into the school curriculum. But the unknowns’ importance to American history is huge. There is an enormous amount of information that needs to be presented and known about — so people can expand their knowledge of themselves.”

One such exhibition is “African American Firsts” and its focus on astronaut Mae Jemison, Navy diver Carl Brashear, and Harvard-educated disability rights lawyer Haben Girma, who is also deaf and blind.

Carter-Mjumbe says the idea for the organization started in 2012 when she was teaching at the Chapin School. “Every Friday the older students were allowed to select a class — an elective — I came up with ‘Pioneers.’ It dealt with African American history and culture. It went for several years.

“The very first February we needed to do an activity for Black History Month. And I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we did a walk-through museum?’”

The response was yes, and Carter-Mjumbe says, “We featured photos and brought in props. We went to Goodwill and asked other teachers to look for materials that students could put their hands on.”

She says the result was “a phenomenal activity in the library.”

It also led her to realize how children and adults of all races had a limited knowledge of African American history and prompted her to explore ways to replicate the effort. The result was a nonprofit organization formally established in 2016.

Referring to the Arts Council exhibition — a gallery filled with photographs, recordings, period clothing, and other materials to highlight the cultural contributions of such greats as poet Langston Hughes, Motown Records’ the Supremes, singer and film star Lena Horne, and the Princeton-born singer, actor, and political activist Paul Robeson — Carter-Mjumbe says, “This material is not even 30 percent of our collection. We have six or seven different themes. Clients, mostly principals, can select them and we can bring them in.”

In addition to “African American Firsts,” other exhibitions include “Amazing African American Women,” examining figures such as ground-breaking American playwright Lorraine Hansberry, self-made millionaire Madam CJ Walker, and innovative entertainer Josephine Baker; “Civil Rights Movement and Voting”; “Black Lives Matter”; and “The Tuskegee Airmen.”

“I think our most requested is ‘20 African Americans & Events Everyone Should Know.’ That is always in demand,” she says about the exhibition that includes Black Wall Street, inventor and businessman Garrett Morgan, the racially motivated murder of 14 year-old Emmett Till, and the Civil Rights-era Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-in Movement.

During COVID, Carter-Mjumbe says she has seen an uptick in virtual presentations. That includes her live presentation of the life of Madam CJ Walker, who despite numerous obstacles during her life from 1867 to 1919 created a cosmetic and hair product business that helped her become the first female American self-made millionaire.

“I dress up as Madam Walker,” says Carter-Mjumbe. “My daughter plays her daughter, and we have a full stage and hair dryers — it’s about 15 minutes long. The kids enjoy it.”

“I’m the senior curator,” Carter-Mjumbe says about the organization. “I have a board of directors. We’re a team of seven. We have an outreach coordinator and historian, Shirley Satterfield,” a sixth-generation Princetonian instrumental in the designation of the Witherspoon-Jackson Historic District and the president of the Witherspoon-Jackson Historical and Cultural Society.”

About herself, Carter-Mjumbe says, “I’m Birmingham, Alabama, raised. Birmingham was the center of Civil Rights activities. My father was a Freedom Rider and among the riders arrested in Mississippi. He later evolved to a chaplain in VA hospital. My mother was a professor and raised in associate dean.

“I came to Princeton when my husband (Lukata Mjumbe) received a scholarship to Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the full-time pastor at Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church.”

A learning specialist focusing on students with special needs, Carter-Mjumbe graduated from Alabama State University and took additional courses at Tuskegee University.

While Carter-Mjumbe grew up surrounded by Civil Rights history and stories, she says her involvement with an African American book club made her realize that she needed to learn more about African American history.

Now it is a full-time involvement that she lives with — including storing exhibition material at her Walnut Lane home. “Right now, with the pandemic, overhead is important (to keep low). I make do. But I’m always looking for places where I can store mannequins and props.”

She says she is also looking for people to help out. “Physical labor is needed. It is a lot to set up and break down the exhibitions.” She also needs people for “driving U-Haul trucks and keeping materials organized, making sure that everything looks like it needs to look when we set it up.”

Although Museums in Motion is still young, Carter-Mjumbe says she is finding resources in the area, especially the Arts Council of Princeton. “(They) invited me to do this display. This has been huge and people want to know where we’re going to be next. They also connected me with other galleries.”

She says she is also currently in discussion with writer and performer Todd Evans and his Don Evans Players to add small performances to the exhibitions to create a “fuller experience,” and she is about to present a two-month trial.

While she currently is writing grants and seeking small donations, she says the organization’s unnamed “budget changes, but never decreases” and is maintained by out-of-pocket payments, board and individual contributions, and sales of services — ranging from a small exhibition ($100) to a large museum experiences (starting at $4,000), along with other offerings and prices in between.

“This is my full-time passion, and I’m trying to grow it,” says Carter-Mjumbe. “We have exhibits set up two or three times a year — but I want to do seven or eight.”

In order to accomplish that, she envisions hiring crews to support simultaneous exhibitions while she develops others.

In addition to the challenge of fundraising, Carter-Mjumbe says another is the perception that African American and women’s history should be addressed only in February and March, respectively.

“There is an over whelming response (during those months), then it dies down,” she says in front of the exhibition’s Paul Robeson display. “People need to be exposed to this throughout the year.”

“Legends on the Arts” is on view at the Arts Council of Princeton through Saturday, March 6. www.artscouncilofprinceton.org.

More information: www.museumsinmotion.org.

Off the Presses: ‘New Jersey’s Lost Piney Culture’

William J. Lewis

William J. Lewis’s recently released book published by The History Press, a division of Arcadia Press, is an examination of cultural changes within one of New Jersey’s most culturally important regions, the Pinelands.

The New Egypt resident — who studied business at Rider University and served in the United States Marines — refers to himself as a lifelong Piney, a term that generates either pride or ridicule in state populations.

His chapter “Is ‘Piney’ Still a Bad Word?” recounts how the people of the Pines were labeled and marginalized by the larger population. That still affects general perspective and beliefs about the residents of the region — and interestingly serves as a microcosm of how groups of people can be marginalized:

An anonymous South Jersey farmer spoke about how the generations before the 20th century Pineys were more independent and lived a truer life off the land in the Pines. Up until, say, the early 1900s, the Piney way of life depended on hunting, fishing, trapping, and harvesting items to supplement the family budget, creating an independence from a modern New Jersey 40-hour workweek their descendants do not enjoy.

On June 28, 1913, Governor James Fielder called Pineys “NJ degenerates.” The governor came out publicly against the people of the region and, ultimately, the Piney way of life all based on lies published in a report by Dr. Henry Goddard and Elizabeth Kite, which had serious ramifications on the Pineys back then and still has effects that continue to be felt to this day. While Governor Fielder used his words and position of power to tear down an entire culture as a plank in his reelection platform, it was John McPhee who ultimately helped save the Pineys with his words, which produced the power to influence a positive change.

The Kite report described the Pineys as inbred heathens. As a result, many state government policies and local government actions were taken against the Piney people, and the Piney world was turned upside down during this time. The New Lisbon Development Center was established in 1914 in the heart of the Pines. Two years later, the Burlington County Colony for Feeble-Minded Boys, which was formerly a branch of the Training School at Vineland also located at New Lisbon, was turned over to the state. Author Robert McGarvey described the times nicely: “The psycho business in the area boomed.”

New state-funded mental wards were established in Burlington County, and both new and old facilities saw an increase in such wards. An excerpt from the Batsto Citizens Gazette read, “The towns and cities had just as many degenerates and feebleminded. There were over 12,300 wards of the State in 1913. The sparsely populated Pinelands probably provided but a fraction of the inmates, but because of their isolation it had been easier to single them out for research.”

Burlington County, the largest county in the state by area, also had the highest proportion of state wards to population. Having been painted as a culture of people who could not avoid their condition because it was hereditary and all-encompassing, the residents of the South Jersey Pine Barrens became even more withdrawn from the public eye, and the Pineys became even more reclusive in nature and suspicious of outsiders. While the science had been refuted by numerous colleagues of Dr. Goddard and Kite and by other experts in the scientific community several times over — Goddard’s study was found to be riddled with false documentation and based on false assumptions that have since been proven wrong — the public condemnation that initially followed the report’s publication is, arguably, the greatest catalyst to the end of the subsistence-living lifestyle of the people of the Pine Barrens and the ultimate extinction of that mold of Piney.

In 1913, researcher Elizabeth Kite published her explosive report, titled “The Pineys,” that included tales of “heavy drinking, livestock quartered in children’s bedrooms, incest, and widespread inbreeding.” The report caused quite a scandal in New Jersey. Governor James T. Fielder made a personal visit to the Pine Barrens, where he found the residents to be “a serious menace” to the public. He stated, “They have inbred, and led lawless and scandalous lives, till they have become a race of imbeciles, criminals, and defectives.” Following this visit, he asked the legislature to isolate the area from the rest of the state.

The most infamous Piney who ever lived is Deborah Kallikak. While she herself has been all but forgotten, the Goddard and Kite caricature of her and her Piney roots lives on in the minds of outsiders to the region today. Sadly, the label is still brandished like a red-hot iron cow prod and negatively applied to most residents of South Jersey. The myth that the people of the Pines are inbred, heathens, and to be avoided or watched with a close eye but at a far distance when encountered derived from the Kite report and continues to be spread by outsiders.

It wasn’t until the 1985 seminal work “Minds Made Feeble: the Myth and Legacy of the Kallikaks,” by David John Smith, that once and for all Deborah and the public image of a Piney were restored to good form, even though we still see the Goddard myth today in 2020. In his book he stated, I have attempted to describe the making of a social myth and to illustrate how lives were restricted, damaged, and even destroyed as a result of that myth. In the process of researching and writing it, I have been reminded of, and made more sensitive to, how careful we must be in the sciences and in human service professions about the myths that we accept, foster, or even create. Myths have a way of becoming reality. Myths have a way of gathering force as they are passed along. They have a way of surviving the intent and lifetime of the creators.”

New Jersey’s Lost Piney Culture, William J. Lewis, 144 pages, $21.99, The History Press.

Opportunities

For Healthy Eaters

Registration is open for the Suppers Programs’ Breakfast Challenge, a 10-day interactive workshop designed to provide guidance, education, and support for people as they plan their first meal of the day.

The virtual workshop, which runs from Sunday, March 7, through Wednesday, March 17, gives participants the opportunity to explore and observe how their body and brain responds to different types of food. The Breakfast Challenge includes daily emails with useful information on eating for your health, easy and delicious recipes with a detailed shopping list, tips and techniques to keep motivated, and regular Zoom check-ins along with daily logs.

The program is led by Suppers Board President Fiona Capstick, certified integrative health coach, RN, and co-facilitated by Marion Reinson, Suppers executive director. The cost of the 10-day workshop is $45. Visit www.thesuppers­programs.org.

On Stage

George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick offers audiences the chance to stream “Bad Dates,” a one-woman comedy, through Sunday, March 14. Visit www.gsponline.org for tickets.