In an effort to make reparations for what it calls an “ecclesiastical lynching” that took place more than 100 years ago, the Presbyterian Synod of the Northeast says it will pay off the $175,000 mortgage that the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church owes on the historic home of Rev. William Robeson at 110 Witherspoon Street.
“As a regional community of over 1,100 Presbyterian churches committed to racial justice, this story has compelled us to do justice and not simply talk about it,” said Synod leader Rev. Harold Delhagen.
The Synod says it is making the payment to make up for ousting Rev. William Robeson in 1901. Robeson, the father of Paul Robeson, was himself an outspoken voice for civil rights who was pastor of the Witherspoon Street church, founded by former slaves.
The church was founded in 1840 by the black congregants of the First Presbyterian Church, Princeton, which is now known as Nassau Presbyterian Church. The church was segregated, and black worshippers had to sit in the balcony. When an 1840 fire destroyed the balcony, the blacks, many of them former slaves, founded their own church, the Witherspoon Street congregation. In 1879, William Robeson, a former slave himself, became their pastor. He was known as a passionate civil rights advocate.
According to the Synod, Robeson’s speeches agitated members of the white Presbyterian church, who pressured him to stop speaking about social injustice. The Synod caved in to the complaints and dismissed him after 20 years as minister of the all-black Witherspoon Street congregation.
Paul Robeson, the last of eight children, was born in Princeton in 1898 while the family was still living on Witherspoon Street.
After he was fired, William Robeson was forced to work menial jobs, though he continued to live in the manse at 110 Witherspoon Street for several years. Three years later a house fire killed Anna Louisa, Paul Robeson’s mother, and the family was eventually forced to sell the Witherspoon Street house and move to a store attic in Westfield. Robeson went on to become a celebrated actor and member of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as a star football player at Rutgers. Later in life he was a well known political activist who was blacklisted by Senator Joe McCarthy amid his communist witch hunt.
In 2005 the Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church repurchased the house for $435,000 and are planning to use it as a meeting place for people to study and advance human rights, calling it the “Paul Robeson House,” not to be confused with a home of the same name in Philadelphia where Robeson lived in retirement.
#b#Strange Bedfellows: Town & University In Tax Lawsuit#/b#
In a head-scratching legal twist, the town of Princeton has supported Princeton University on one issue in a case in which the university is being sued in order to make it pay property taxes to the town.
The municipality has stayed neutral in a lawsuit, filed by four Princeton residents, that is attempting to remove the university’s nonprofit status. However, in a recent court hearing, the town’s attorney made arguments in favor of the university. The hearing was to determine whether the taxpayers or the university would bear the burden of proof in the ongoing battle.
Attorney Bruce Afran filed the lawsuit in 2013 and named the town as a defendant. The township considers the university tax exempt, and has negotiated an annual PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) of $2.75 million instead of property taxes paid at the same rate as town residents.
Princeton Council President Bernie Miller said the town wasn’t taking sides in the overall suit even though it supported the university on the question of burden of proof. “The municipality did not want to be shouldered with the burden of proof of tax exemption,” Miller explained. “We have many institutions that are tax except in addition to Princeton. We wanted to shield our tax assessor from having to bear the burden of proof of identifying an institution as tax exempt.”
Tax Court judge Vito Bianco ruled that the university did in fact bear the burden of proving its tax exempt status, but in a footnote said that the township and its tax assessor did not have the same burden even though they are defendants in the suit.
Miller said the ruling spares the township legal headaches down the line. “Let’s say somebody decided that the dining hall at the Institute for Advanced Study might be taxable,” he said.” They could file a suit claiming that the dining hall was taxable even though we have them on the rolls as a tax exempt institution. We then would have to bear the burden of proof that it’s tax exempt, and that process could repeat to the point where it could very quickly consume a lot of the resources of the municipality.”
The lawsuit is being closely followed by other nonprofit groups in the state, with the Center for Nonprofits recently filing an amicus brief on the side of the university. Princeton has argued that if it loses Fields vs. Trustees of Princeton University, the tax-exempt status of every nonprofit group in the state would be threatened.
In another case with potential implications for nonprofits, the Morristown Medical Center settled a case in which the township of Morristown had challenged the hospital’s status as a nonprofit because of its business relationships with for-profit entities. The hospital agreed to pay $10 million to the township plus $15 million over the next 10 years, which equates to about one quarter of the hospital’s property being counted as taxable.
Bianco — the same judge presiding over the Princeton case — had in June ruled in favor of the municipality.
#b#New in Town#/b#
Infratek Group LLC, 50 Washington Road, Princeton Junction 08550; 609-269-8126; Nenad Gucunski, founder and tech consultant. www.infrateksolutions.com.
Infratek Group LLC, a company that makes autonomous vehicles for use in infrastructure inspection, has opened on Washington Road. The company quietly took up quarters there in 2014, and has since been hiring staff and developing its offerings. Its main product, the RABIT-CET, is a bridge deck assessment system that includes a mobile robot and a ground control station.
The company is a commercialization spinoff using technology developed at Rutgers.
“The robot utilizes sophisticated non-destructive evaluation (NDE) technologies, seamlessly integrated with an autonomous robotic platform to gather and map bridge deck condition data.
“A climate-controlled ground control station allows one operator to efficiently transport, deploy, and utilize the robot, while providing a complete software suite to effectively manage and analyze data. With rapid deployment and autonomous operation, the RABIT-CET empowers bridge inspection teams to get the job done quickly and significantly minimize on-bridge time,” the company’s website says.
IThreat Cyber Group, 101 Morgan Lane, Suite 208, Plainsboro; 609-806-5000. Edward J. Yakely, vice president, finance. www.ithreat.com.
IThreat Cyber Group, an Internet security company, has opened an office on Morgan Lane. The company was founded in 1997 and provides services to “combat the constant threats of counterfeiting, piracy and Internet fraud,” according to its website.
Martin-Protean, 281 Witherspoon Street, Suite G100, Princeton 08540; 609-580-1639; Lance Martin, www.martin-protean.com.
Martin-Protean, a company that develops blood tests, has moved to Witherspoon Street from North Carolina. The company is located in a newly renovated structure that was formerly a medical building attached to the old Princeton hospital. (U.S. 1, November 11.)
Ready Response USA Inc., 3500 Quakerbridge Road, Suite 6050, Hamilton 08619; 877-577-2224; www.readyresponseusa.com.
Ready Response USA, a nonprofit emergency services group, has opened in Ibis Plaza. The organization provides EMS education and its website says it plans to operate a fleet of ambulances.
Aestus Therapeutics Inc., 104 Windsor Center Drive, East Windsor.
Aestus Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company focused on treatments for nerve disorders, has left its Windsor Center Drive office. Multiple calls for comment were not returned.
Biovid Corp., 5 Vaughn Drive, Princeton.
Biovid, a pharmaceutical market research company, has moved from Vaughn Drive to Bristol, Pennsylvania.
Consumer First Insurance Co., 134 Franklin Corner Road, Lawrenceville.
Consumer First Insurance Company has left its Franklin Corner Road office. Its listed phone number was disconnected.
Russell M. Fuchs CPA, 302 Wall Street, Rocky Hill.
Russel M. Fuchs, CPA, has left his Wall Street office. Reached by phone, Fuchs declined to provide a new address but cpadirectory.com listed him at a home office.
Princeton Measurements Corp., 31 Airpark Road, Princeton.
Princeton Measurements Corporation, a maker of scientific instruments, has left its Airport Road office. The firm was bought by Ohio-based Lake Shore Cryotronics.
Creative Marketing Alliance Inc. (CMA), 191 Clarksville Road, Princeton Junction 08550; 609-297-2235; fax, 609-799-7032. Jeffrey E. Barnhart, president and CEO. www.cmasolutions.com.
Creative Marketing Alliance, a marketing firm, has hired Christian Amato, an industry veteran, to be chief business development officer and chief operating officer.
“With 28 years of continued success, we are prepared to take our organization to the next level, which will allow us to help more businesses build their brands,” said CMA CEO, Jeffrey Barnhart.
Amato has worked in the industry for 20 years in businesses ranging from financial services, disaster recovery and resiliency planning, residential building products, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and overseeing seasonal lighting manufacturing. His background includes business operations, strategic development and marketing, and accounting.
He earned his MBA from LaSalle University and his undergraduate degree in finance and management from the University of Delaware.
Barbara Fleming, 64, on November 13. She worked at Capital Health.
Marjorie Groppi, 62, on November 14. She was a speech pathologist with the Hamilton Board of Education.
Gary Langfelder, 59, on October 31. He worked in information technology for Mercer County and the state and also wrote a cooking blog, the Blue Moon Supper Club. A memorial will be held Monday, November 30, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Boat House in Lambertville.
Dorothy S. “Doe” Marinelli, 79, on November 5. She was direct-deposit coordinator for Roma Savings and Loan.
Jo Ann Jesson, 66, on November 7. She worked for the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Barbara L. Ramsdell, 63. She was an administrative assistant at ETS, and also worked at Barnes & Noble in Princeton.
Jane Moskwa Richart, 75, on November 14. She was a corporate secretary for the Mercer County Chamber of Commerce.
Robert H. Rosen, 72, on November 10. He was a certified public accountant for Klatzin and Company.
Stephen R. Schragger, 75, on November 12. He was employed in the real estate and property management field, most recently by Boston Properties.
Sophia M. Mate, 89, on November 7. She worked for the state Department of Labor until her retirement two years ago.