Jan 23, 2015

A Russian Orthodox Corner In Allentown

While the pulpit section of the Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary Orthodox Church is adorned with murals and icons of Mary, parishioners may notice that there is no such imagery on the beautiful stained glass windows. More careful inspection reveals that while there are no graven images in the glass, Stars of David and scrolls can be seen. As the ancestors of the current members came from eastern Europe and the Czarist Russian Empire, so did the building's original congregation. The gothic edifice was built as a synagogue in 1909 by Allentown's Russian Jews. The Orthodox Jewish congregation, Sons Of Israel, utilized the structure for 50 years before it was repurposed by the current American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox congregation.

Jan 22, 2015

The Mad Men of Allentown

Back in the day, the titans of Allentown would fill the five barberchairs of the Colonial Barbershop, 538 Hamilton Street. That was when the town had three department stores. That was when Wetherhold and Metzger had two shoe stores on Hamilton Street. That was when Harvey Farr would meet Donald Miller and John Leh at the Livingston Club for lunch, and discuss acquiring more lots for Park & Shop. By 1995 all that was gone, but Frank Gallucci, 82, would still give some old timers a trim. The Colonial Barbershop property, closed for many years, has been purchased by J.B. Reilly. It is my pleasure to present this previously unseen portrait of Gallucci, toward the end of his career.

reprinted from May 2013

Jan 21, 2015

A Road Runs Through It

Once, there was a time when gasoline was twenty five cents a gallon, there was no internet, and a family would go for a drive on Sunday. There was no traffic congestion or road rage. The cars were large, and they all came from Detroit. You could drive through a park, even an amusement park. There was no rush to get back to the television; It was very small, with only a few channels. Life now seems to revolve around small silicon chips, I preferred when it was large engines.

photograph shows the road through Dorney Park
reprinted from June 2012

Jan 20, 2015

NIZ Bitch Slaps Allentown Taxpayers

J.B. Reilly wants the best of both worlds; While poaching tenants with lower rents and paying his mortgages with state taxdollars, he now wants his property taxes reduced, based on the lower rents, instead of the construction cost which we are paying for. All our local politicians are complicit in Reilly's appeal to the assessment board. The NIZ was essentially designed with him in mind, and the entire NIZ Board has been carrying his water. I doubt that he would make this assessment appeal without their knowledge and approval. If the city and school district doesn't get the full anticipated taxes, WHAT IS THE COMMUNITY BENEFIT? Pat Browne, Ed Pawlowski, Michael Schlossberg, Sy Taub, ETC. should be ashamed.

The Hype and Reality of Allentown's NIZ

Allentown has certainly received mucho hype for it's new taxpayer subsidized growth. Mayor Ed pastes his facebook page with each new accolade. The challenge is not to confuse the hype with the reality. Locally, the hype was cultivated by placing the Morning Call in the NIZ, even though their building was on the wrong side of Linden Street. Likewise, the national stories are bandwagon writing, relying on google searches, vs. real research. The owners of the Cosmopolitan learned that the lunch dollars don't spread out everywhere. Allentown does have a new prime corner. In it's mercantile heydays it was 9th and Hamilton, with nationally renown Hess's. The new corner is 7th and Hamilton, with the taxpayer palace of hope. Shown above are Allentown's new players, cutting the ribbon for the Renaissance Hotel. Although it's future is somewhat doubtful, it will succeed in reducing the Hilton at 9th Street into a flop house. For those who prefer the hype, the Morning Call can be purchased everywhere. Save for this blog, reality is much harder to find.

Jan 19, 2015

Old Allentown's Inconvenient Truth

                                                   click photograph to enlarge
The merchants who built Hamilton Street counted on architecture to attract shoppers into their emporiums. Large neon signs wouldn't appear for another fifty years. The soffit and fascia shown above, halfway between 7th and 8th on Hamilton, is one of the most elaborate facades in Allentown. One thing you can say about Allentown City Hall, they never let culture, art, or history get into the way of their plans. As successful cities come to value and profit from their history more and more, Allentown keeps using the standard catalog of proven failures. I know from other projects on Hamilton Street that Pawlowski isn't big on history. The Cityline Building in the 800 Block was permitted to stucco over beautiful brickwork. Sad that the puppies, who are directors at the Art Museum and Historical Society, remain silent on the planned destruction. It's hard to describe the magnificence of the skylight shown below, also in the targeted block. It's very large in three sections, in pristine condition. Should be quite a snack for Pawlowski's bulldozer.
The bulldozer prevailed, and the former architectural treasures of our mercantile history were not preserved, save for this blog's archives. Above is reprinted from May 2011

UPDATE:  The post above, reprinted from May of 2013, was then titled Stealing Allentown's Treasures. This past weekend, a member of Old Allentown Preservation Association, and an active local Democrat, bragged on facebook about how he had recycled an old second floor office door from the demolished buildings in the arena zone. In truth, Old Allentown also turned a self serving, callous eye to the destruction noted in the above post. Although I'm glad the door was recycled, allow this post to note the irony and hypocrisy of the Association.

Jan 16, 2015

Pawlowski At Epicenter

Long before the NIZ, promoter and media consultant Alfonso Todd has been plying his trade from the upper floors of Hamilton Street. When I first met him he operated out of the former 1st National Bank building at 7th and Hamilton. At the time the former building was named Monument Center, and now is the site of National Penn, in Reilly's City Center 2. As Todd's promotions expanded, he moved to the current Hamilton Business Center, the large older office building at 11th and Hamilton. Todd and partners are now in the Somach Building, in still larger space, reflecting his determination to provide promotional services to the diverse market segments of the Lehigh Valley. Yesterday, as he kicked off yet another project, Mayor Pawlowski stopped by to wish the enterprise success. Although the mayor doesn't normally receive an abundance of praise on this page, his visit yesterday demonstrates that he understands that the future of Hamilton Street rests as much with the Alfonso Todd's of Allentown, as it does with the J.B. Reillys'.

Jan 15, 2015

Moshe Dayan

Moshe Dayan on born on a kibbutz near the Sea of Galilee in 1915. When he was 14, he joined the outlawed Haganah, an underground defense force to protect Jewish settlements from Arab attacks. Although caught and imprisoned by the British for two years, he would fight for them in Lebanon during WWII, losing his eye. In the 1948 War of Independence, he fought on all the fronts, defending Israel; by 1953 he was Chief of Staff of the Israeli Armed Forces. In 1956 he led the Suez Campaign.

In 1967 he was Defense Minister for the Six Day War. He remained in that position through the War of 1973. Although a genuine hero in every sense of the word, he was held responsible for the initial success of Egyptian forces in the surprise attack on Yom Kippur (1973), and would resign from his position.

Israel is too small of a country, and it's enemies too numerous, for any miscalculations regarding it's security.

reprinted from February 2013

Jan 14, 2015

Allentown's Tower Of Babel

I was at the Allentown Planning Commission meeting for the arena. To say that it was a rubber stamp procedure is exaggerating the commission's integrity. The only question they asked was how the garage door would look on the service entrance. Likewise, the chosen one J.B. Reilly, only gets green lights by all the bureaucracies; One only look at the wooden framed apartments on top of the steel first floor at 7th and Linden. Another developer, one from yesteryear, Bruce Loch, is not getting the same reception for his proposal. He's still trying to get to first base with his tower proposed for 9th and Walnut. He should make Reilly his partner. While I'm back on the subject of Reillytown, let me express doubt about the Lehigh County Community College announcement. Supposedly, their building on Hamilton Street across from the arena no longer suits their needs, but Reilly isn't interested. This blogger predicts that at the end of the transactions Reilly will in fact own the building. If the students study and follow that deal, they would get a real education.

Defending The Wall

The Western Wall was built in 19 BC by Herod the Great, almost 600 years before the birth of Mohammed. Herod built the current wall to expand the Mount of the Second Temple, built in 516 BC, after the Jews returned from the Babylonian Exile. The Second Temple would stand until destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Over 600 year later, in 691 AD, Muslims would build the Dome of The Rock, on top of the Mount where the Temple had stood. Today, there are 17 stone courses of the wall below the current street level. Although Jews have been praying at the Wall for over a thousand years, last week the Palestinian Authority issued a report stating that the wall is not Jewish, but part of the Dome. This report, although contradicted by Bible, history, archeology and even photography, is never the less disturbing; It plants another seed of revisionism against the history of the Jewish people. Recently, UNESCO declared that Rachel's Tomb is actually a Mosque, ignoring the thousands of years of Jewish reverence.

photograph shows Jews praying at The Wall in 1895

reprinted from November 2010

Jan 13, 2015

Fighting Terrorism

In United States, one well read speech at a national convention can put you in the White House four years later. In Israel, the price of admission is much higher. Sabena Flight 571 was hijacked on May 8, 1972. When an elite team of Israeli commandoes burst into the plane, they were led by Ehud Barak. Barak would later become Prime Minister, and currently serves as Defense Minister. One of the commandoes was shot by friendly fire in the close quarter gunbattle. That former commando is in Washington today, to speak with the former speech reader. Although Binyamin Netanyaho would recover from his bullet wound, four years later, his brother was killed leading the raid to free the hostages at Entebbe.
We did not look for wars. They were forced upon us. But when we were attacked, we did not have the right to lose a single time. And when we won we returned to seeking peace. Today, I suggest to those who seek war not to make the same mistake again. Do not disrespect our ability ... we are prepared to physically defend our land and morally defend our heritage. Shimon Peres, May 9, 2011
photo of Israeli Commando Binyamin Netanyaho

reprinted from 2011 and 2012

 Yesterday was the 37th anniversary of the Raid on Entebbe.  Although the enemies of Israel (and the Jews) continue to blame that tiny state for all the troubles in the Middle East, history and current events indicate otherwise.

reprinted from July 2013

UPDATE January 13, 2015:  This post was previously titled Defending Israel. Netanyaho was well entitled to participate in the march in Paris, Israel has been defending against terrorism for decades. Likewise, United States need not apologize for not being in the march, this country has spend the most blood and treasure in this effort. This war is much more than a march, but a prolonged conflict, far away from a one day media special.

Jan 12, 2015

When Rustlers Cry Poaching

molovinsky on allentown was hoping to get back to local history this week, but the folly of the NIZ has once again intervened. Seems like the NIZ rustlers are upset because Bethlehem is trying to lure Talen, the PPL spinoff for electricity generation. Sy Traub, chairman of the NIZ, said, "To poach a major company right across the city line, that wouldn't make a great deal of sense." Of course Sy had no problem with Allentown poaching National Penn from Boyertown, or even stealing the main tenant from Allentown's own Masonic Temple. All's fair in love and NIZ. Also in NIZ NEWS, Harrisburg has shook it's head no about about using state income tax for sidewalks and streetlights. Here at the molovinsky office, headquartered in City Center 2, along with National Penn Bank, we decided to use the rustler photo once more, before returning it to the Allentown Library later today. Currently, we're operating out of a broom closet, but J.B. has promised us better space in the proposed Walnut Street Tower.

Jan 9, 2015

SteakHouse Rustling

Most of the poaching for J.B. Reilly's City Center has gone on quietly, save for this blog. I did mention how the move by National Penn was Allentown's gain, but Boyertown's loss. I suppose my biggest protest involved the major accountant vacating the Masonic Temple for new digs in City Center 367. Apparently, the management of Promenade Shops also isn't taking the highjacking of Shula's as a community benefit, and has filed a lawsuit over the lease default. With these steals spread out over a large area, and a blind eye from the local MSM, the negative consequences of the NIZ has been mostly hushed over. Combine a license to rustle like the NIZ, with the ambition and connections of a J.B., and one area's benefit causes a corresponding demise elsewhere in the state. The number crunchers in Harrisburg did realize the problem after the fact, thus the newly hatched CRIZ alternative. The sorry story of our state representatives also contribute to Pennsylvania's dilemma; Complacent incumbents unopposed term after term. We are at the point now where nobody will invest anything in Pennsylvania, without being subsidized by the taxpayers.

Jan 8, 2015

For Whom Does The Morning Call Work

An article in today's Morning Call by Matt Assad follows the paper's new agenda, reporting J.B. Reilly's business promotions as news. This latest article claims that there is a shortage of market rate housing for the yuppies and empty nesters, but a surplus of low rent housing for the poor. Although Assad is correct about the proportion of low and high end units available, he's taking Reilly's promotion as a fact. In reality, just like the restaurants needed to be primed by giving out gift cards, the flats and lofts will also need to be pumped. Currently, Reilly is taking $100 returnable deposits for his yet completed apartments, certainly not an indicator of demand. Getting people to drive into center city for dinner is one thing, getting them to live there is another. The stated demand is bogus, the real urgency is taking advantage of building a real estate empire at taxpayer expense.

Jan 7, 2015

Stealing For Jesus

A former sportscaster is on trial for bilking hundreds of sports fans out of thousands of dollars, for sport travel packages that he failed to deliver. He has been defending himself wearing a cross and holding a bible, claiming that he misspent the money on good deeds. I have no interest in the defendant or the case, only the defense concept, which isn't novel. Over the years, hundreds of defendants seem to find religion in the time between being arrested and facing the judge. I would think that such pious people wouldn't mind spending some time incarnated, atoning for their sins. This blog occasionally veers from local politics and history with holy land posts. Perhaps this post should be filed under unholy.
photo by Rick Kintzel/Doylestown Intelligencer

Jan 6, 2015

An Eminent Domain Failure

During the early 1970's, Allentown demolished the entire neighborhood between Union and Lawrence Streets. It was, in a large part, home to the black community. How ironic that we destroyed the cohesion of a neighborhood, but renamed Lawrence Street after Martin Luther King. The only remnant of the neighborhood is the St. James A.M.E. Church. Going up the hill today we now have a vacant bank call center on the east, and the Housing Authority Project on the west. A whole neighborhood existed in from both sides of Lehigh Street, including black owned shops. The houses were old and humble, but people owned them, many for generations. Some blacks at the time wondered if the project was Urban Renewal or Negro Removal?
above reprinted from January 24, 2011 (then titled Downhill on Lehigh Street)
You don't have to go far from Hamilton Street to see an eminent domain failure; Only several blocks and 40 years. Fortunately, for our imported leaders, memory of this debacle has faded. Allentown now wants to discard the most historic mercantile block of Hamilton Street, so that an out of state developer can force feed hotdogs to people from Catasauqua, at minor league hockey games.
reprinted from 2012

Editor's note: By any criterion, including my own, the NIZ is not a failure. However, I proudly present this analysis of a previous urban renewal project. For those inclined toward reading only optimistic and happy promotion, may I recommend the Morning Call.

Jan 5, 2015

Smoke And Reality Of The NIZ

Ce-Ce Gerlach in her debate with Ed Pawlowski on Business Matters had to keep calling the mayor out on his distortions about the NIZ. He referred to a position of waitress at the Hamilton Kitchen as transformative. Although it may be life changing for that particular woman, being a waitress is nothing novel or prosperous for hundreds of others in the Lehigh Valley. Ce-Ce pointed out that the quality of her life at 9th and Walnut won't improve until there are grocery stores and pharmacies in her neighborhood. Toward the end of the program Pawlowski finally did concede that the jobs going to the local folks are entry level. Funny to see a Democrat defending trickle down economics. While Ce-Ce would like to see inclusionary zoning for the new upscale flats, Pawlowski had a slip of the tongue and referred to it as exclusionary. I believe that neither Ce-Ce or suburban apartment owners need worry about gentrification in downtown Allentown, it won't happen.

Jan 2, 2015

When Puppets Think They're Real

Ray O'Connell is poised to be the next Allentown City Council President. Julio Guridy is spinning the change that he is granting the position to O'Connell, because it will be good for him to be president for a year. He notes the big decisions, such as the water lease and the NIZ, as his legacy. Michael Schlossberg, on a recent Business Matters, noted his involvement in the NIZ by voting for eminent domain. On Pawlowski's facebook page, a friend compliments him as the architect of the NIZ and Allentown's revival. I'm sure that when J.B Reilly is depositing the state income tax checks into City Center's account, he doesn't care which of the puppets wants to think of himself as real.

Jan 1, 2015

Zeppelin Over Jerusalem

The German airship LZ127 Graf Zeppelin was in service from 1928 to 1937. Two of it's 590 flights were over Jerusalem. The first occurred on March 26, 1929. It was a night flight, during which they dropped mail into the German colony at Jaffa. The second flight, pictured above, was from Cairo on April 11, 1931. The ship hovered above the Church of Holy Sepulchre for several minutes.

reprinted from July 2013

Dec 31, 2014

Over The Dam In 2014

For this early morning edition blog, 2014 is under the ice and over the dam. Between fighting to preserve Wehr's Dam, running for office and providing reality checks about downtown Allentown, it's been a busy year. I believe that the unvarnished truth is a commodity in short supply in the Lehigh Valley. From the main stream media, out of town readers would think that Allentown has turned completely around. We who actually plug the meters on Hamilton Street know that although the new buildings are in place, the promised commerce has yet to begin. So far even the arena events can be counted on one hand. Mayor Pawlowski had read so many promotions about the New Allentown in the local paper, he thought that he could ride that bus to Harrisburg. Although the articles about success were premature, I do believe that real change is coming Allentown's way.  molovinsky on allentown will be glad to celebrate that success when it arrives, but in the meantime will tell it like it is.

Dec 30, 2014

Scott Armstrong On Poverty

I read with trepidation Alan Jennings op-ed titled “9 things to do to end poverty”. By his own admission he and CALV have failed to “achieve victory” on the very same goal. Common sense would therefore dictate that his advice be greeted with a good deal of skepticism. Rather than deal with his argument point by point it is perhaps wiser to question his premise that his/CALV’s approach to ending poverty works and we just need more of it. What Alan seems not to have learned, after a lifetime of effort, is that in America only the poor can truly save themselves from poverty. If it were otherwise, the fruits of Alan’s and the government’s best intentions, efforts, and investments would be apparent. Sadly, the nation’s approach to ending poverty has failed. Why? Because Alan Jennings and other well intentioned liberals who, with the best of intentions, fashion themselves as champions of the poor, make the faulty presumption that the poor need a savior rather than a goal. With the exception of his fourth point which states that women make poor choices in men, Alan’s op-ed is filled with what society must do for the poor rather than what those in poverty need to do to lift themselves from poverty. The truth is all the white guilt and good intentions won’t change the outcomes of those born into dysfunctional circumstances unless a message of self sufficiency is delivered with the aid. The lesson that waiting for the government or one of its agencies to solve one’s problems and/or resolve personal fiscal situations is an exercise in extended futility has been learned by all except those who fashion themselves has champions of the poor. Alan’s last point perhaps sums up the problem neatly; “Get off the couch. Stop griping and do something about it. Get together with someone with whom you don't agree but with whom you share a common concern. Look for common ground. Agree on a solution. And get to work. Justice shouldn't have to wait.” Mr. Jennings doesn’t hesitate to deliver the message that “the reader/society”” needs to work harder to solve the issue of poverty. Alan’s recipe for success seems to perpetuate dependency by asking only those who don’t need assistance to heed his call for action and imply to those in need that their only hope is outside help. Denying agency to the poor serves the interests of no one other than their ostensible saviors. In admitting failure Alan should recognize the flaw in his/society’s current approach, and then all those who seek to end poverty should look for solutions that actually work.
Scott Armstrong

Dec 29, 2014

City Center Monopoly Money

City Center is the name of J.B. Reilly's center city real estate company, he owns most of the new buildings in the taxpayer funded arena district. I have been comparing it to a movie set or an amusement park, where Reilly keeps priming the pump, hoping that Frankenstein City comes alive on it's own. Near the end of a recent  Morning Call article on a new gift card program, we learn that indeed the restaurants are being peppered with gift card bearing customers, donated by Reilly, and distributed to Air Product employees. I do believe that the monster will eventually rise on his own, but how much of our state taxpayer dollars it will take is anybody's guess.

Dec 26, 2014

Cloning Yuppies For Allentown

When molovinsky on allentown began almost five years ago, I used to say that It's good to be Butz, I must now add, but it's better to be J.B. Reilly. In today's Morning Call we learn that "under Allentown's arena block master development agreement, if City Center determines a hotel is not feasible, it could build apartments or offices instead."  That is news to me, and as a blogging naysayer I'm more informed than most. All state taxes in the 130 acre NIZ will be going to pay for the arena complex. Reilly will own from the second floor up on two portions of the complex, one on Hamilton Street, the other on 7th Street. Lehigh Valley Hospital will the the tenant on the Hamilton portion, while the 7th Street side may well now be apartments instead of a hotel. Reilly is also building apartments on the other side of 7th Street, at the Linden Street corner. Although I have no background in office development, I do know the apartment market. No upscale apartment development in center-city has ever met it's target demographic without substantial subsidy, and then only with limited units. There are not enough Yuppies in Allentown to occupy the current supply of loft apartments, much less without Reilly's new apartments. Perhaps he can use his influence with Lehigh Valley Hospital for a clandestine Yuppie cloning laboratory.

Reprinted from January 2013.  Since the Morning Call has taken upon itself to promote the NIZ,  as a public health service,  this blog will  conduct reality testing.

Dec 24, 2014

Season's Greetings

Capernaum By The Sea

Matthew 4:13: And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum,...

Capernaum, the city of Jesus, is on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The foundation of the Synagogue of Jesus, is beneath the ornate 4th century synagogue, partially restored by the Franciscans in the early 1900's.
Mark 1:21: he entered into the synagogue and taught
Nearby, the modern Church of St. Peter's House was built by the Franciscans in 1990. It's glass floor reveals the lower walls of the 5th century octagon church, which was built around the walls of St. Peter's House. Also there, shown in the photograph, is the Greek Orthodox Church of the Twelve Apostles. It was built in 1931, during the British Mandate period (1917-1948).

reprinted from December 2013

Grants, Government At It's Worse

In an editorial published yesterday, the Director Of Using Up the $3.4 million HUD grant to study Lehigh Valley praised the endeavor. About the most concrete result she could mention was the recommendation that the Lehigh Valley continue to have cute weekend center square farmer markets during the summer, so that low income have access to vegetables. I have criticized this grant before. I wish she had just wasted the money and said nothing, but she felt compelled to justify this taxpayer abuse. Had she at least recommended that full-time supermarkets be induced to open in our center cities, it would have been very expensive advise, but at least of some community benefit. Next summer, if you visit Easton Center Square, have some yuppie goat cheese at $3.4 million a pound.

 Addendum: Here is one of my previous posts on this grant, I have done several: Envision Lehigh Valley has a difficult job, they must spend $3.4 million* of our tax dollars within 3 years, but they're up to the task. An article in today's Morning Call references their fair housing study. Were certain groups discriminated against in the mortgage market? Considering the historically high percentage of non-performing loans and foreclosures, evidence would suggest that anybody qualified for anything. Were certain groups steered to or from certain neighborhoods? I don't know, but what I do know is that when urban school districts are facing substantial teacher layoffs because of lack of funds, and we are wasting money on surveys and study committees, that is real discrimination.

*The Morning Call article refers to $4.3 million,  but rest assure that those bureaucrats will use our money well,  regardless of the correct amount.

Addendum To Addendum.

I was just reading about ReNew Lehigh Valley and sustainable communities. People who need people are the nicest people in the world! These types of organizations spend $millions of dollars in grants to see what the ten yuppies in the valley want to improve their quality of life. Is it a $million dollar a mile train track to NYC to catch dinner and a show? Is it a valley wide health organization to supplement ObamaCare? Should we buy some more farms to make sure we don't lose any of the 33 million existing acres of farmland in Pennsylvania? Meanwhile, step on no toes. Don't say anything about fracking or burning sewage and trash to make energy. Spend grants on surveys and public input meetings, but don't support efforts for a public referendum. People who need people are the nicest people in the world.

UPDATE: I was misinformed,  my apology, now that these organizations are halfway through a three year, $3.4 million dollar grant to get our input (and their salaries) I must man up and admit that I was wrong,  I should have said People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.

Dec 23, 2014

Coptic Orthodox Church Of Alexandria

The Church and Theology School in Alexandria was  established by the Apostle Mark in 60AD.  Most of the early converts were common Egyptians who spoke Coptic.  Although Christians became the majority before the Arab invasion in 636, by the 12th century they were the minority.  The concept of monasteries in Christianity was started by the Coptics in the deserts of Egypt.  Currently, the Coptics are threatened by transitions in Egypt, let us pray for their safety.

photograph of St. Marks Coptic Church in Alexandria, Egypt.

reprinted from December 2013

Dec 22, 2014

The Corruption Of Pennsylvania

As of candidate for the 183rd State House seat, I spoke about the corruption and cronyism entrenched in our state government. A glaring example were two stories in last week's Morning Call. On Thursday, a report detailed the arrest of ten PennDOT officials from the Philadelphia area, who had skimmed $millions from the road budget. PennDOT and its director, Barry Schoch, indicated that the problem seemed to be limited to the one area, never mind it's the biggest area in the state. The Morning Call, never allowing news to get in the way of one of their special reports, the next day did a feature on the great job PennDOT and Schoch were doing. In that article local representative Michael Schlossberg praises the department and its director. Schlossberg, who represents Allentown, has never faced an opponent. His campaigning for the upcoming term consisted of taking donuts to the poll workers on election day. In Lehigh Valley, where six of eleven incumbents were unopposed, the voters have the state government they so richly deserve.

Dec 19, 2014

Morning Call Misrepresentation

In it's enthusiasm to promote J.B. Reilly's downtown, the paper referred to the proposed tower as a private project; It also would be perhaps the largest private development project the city has ever seen. They are correct in that the property will be privately owned by Reilly, but when it's being paid for by public tax dollars, it can hardly be called private development. When this stage of Reillytown is complete, nearly $100million of former Pennsylvania tax dollars will be going to his private debt service. In addition to the office tower, the proposal also calls for a parking deck and apartments. Community activist Ce-Ce Gerlach would like to see 10% of the units reserved for the indigenous natives at reduced rates. They will be given their own quarters, but not in the big house.

Dec 18, 2014

Big Week For Israel And Jew Hating

Burning an effigy of a Jew, parading with model rockets and displaying coffins with photos of Israelis killed in terror attacks: this is how Hamas celebrated its 27th anniversary in Gaza, inciting hatred of Israel and the Jewish people.
While Hamas and Palestinians celebrated their hatred of Jews in Gaza City, Hamas was taken off the European Union's terror list. Benjamin Netanyahu's response; "In Geneva, they call for the investigation of Israel for war crimes, while in Luxembourg the European court removed Hamas from the list of terrorist organizations...It seems that too many in Europe, on whose soil 6 million Jews were slaughtered, have learned nothing."

Mount Of Temptation

The Palestinian Authority unsuccessfully tried to increase tourism to Jericho this year, no rush, the town might be the oldest inhabited city on earth, 10,000 years. In 1895 the Greek Orthodox Church built the Mount of Temptation Monastery, where the devil tried three times to tempt Jesus during his forty days of prayer and fast. Steeped in both the Old and New Testaments, next to Jerusalem, it is the most excavated city in the Holy Land.

related post on Jericho

reprinted from May 2013

Dec 17, 2014

Merry Pawlowski

Last night, as I went to sleep concerned about the impropriety of The Morning Call featuring Pawlowski's picture on the city map, little did I know I would awake to another full page picture of the mayor on the cover of the Entertainment Section. It's time for me to get with the program. I wish you a Happy Pawlowski Day, and next month, when it's beginning to look a lot like Pawlowski, may you have a Merry Pawlowski and Happy Pawlowski Year!

reprinted from November 2008

No Jews Of Libya

Despite having settled there hundreds of years before Christ, there are no Jews in Libya.
I left Libya more than 42 years ago when the mobs were roaming the streets. They were not chanting for democracy or yearning for freedom — they were looking for Jews.
Gina Waldman.
This community, that goes back 2,500 years, has obliterated their oldest minority...They drink anti-semitism with their mother's milk.
Gina Zanzur
After the creation of Israel in 1948, anti-Jewish riots and killings forced 30,000 Jews to flee. After the 1967 Israeli war, the remaining 6,000 were expelled, each allowed one suitcase and $20.
historic photo of the Jewish Quarter in Tripoli

reprinted from October 2011

UPDATE: An envoy from the displaced Libyan Jewish community now living in Italy, was told that there would be no place for Jews in the new Libya.

Dec 16, 2014

Morning Call Exposé On Incumbents

Yesterday, the Morning Call ran it's second exposé on incumbent spending. In the first report we learned that Julie Harhart was one of the biggest spenders in the State House. Yesterday's edition dealt with hiring outside consultants at even more expense to the taxpayers. As a blogger who values brevity, I have issue with the length of these multi-page series. Do voters who choose the same incumbents election after election really read 10,000 word articles? As a candidate and voter in the November election, I have a bigger problem with the absurd timing of the series. The first installment appeared two weeks after the election, but 23 months before the next one. The articles are too late to help the voters in the recent election, and too early to be meaningful for the next one.

Dec 15, 2014

Dead Artist Premium

This weekend I attended the show and auction of Greg Weaver artwork at the Penn State Campus in Center Valley. Although the show was very well done, I didn't stay long. Although the bidding was high, none of the money will benefit Greg or his wife, who have both passed away. Greg and I were friends in the 70's. He would frequent my photo shop, and I would enjoy his loft parties. Greg's loft moved from one low rent location to another over the years. It's fair to say that he made virtually nothing from the art that people were bidding against each other for this past Friday night. Those now benefiting from his mystique, an artist who went blind and continued producing art until he died young, hope to establish an alternative museum for local artists. I would like to see a permanent Weaver collection and designated room at the Allentown Art Museum.

Dec 13, 2014

Tribute To Greg Weaver

My short film, featuring Greg Weaver, was shown here for a limited engagement.

Dec 12, 2014

Prince William's Great Grandmother

Long before Prince William walked down the aisle in Westminister Abbey, his great grandmother, Princess Alice (Princess Andrew of Greece), walked there during the wedding of her son Phillip, to Princess Elizabeth. Princess(Alice) Andrew, later at the Coronation of Elizabeth, wore the habit of a nun. An extraordinary woman, she had founded a nurses order composed of nuns in Greece. She modeled the order after one started by her aunt and mentor in Russia, whom she had visited many years earlier. Born Princess Alice of Battenberg, she married Prince Andrew of Greece in 1903, assuming her new title.
During the Second World War, she hid a Jewish widow and her children in Athens, saving their lives. In accordance to her wish, she is buried in Jerusalem, next to her cherished aunt Duchess Fyodorovna, in the Russian Orthodox Church of Maria Magdalene.

reprinted from September 2013

Dec 11, 2014

Allentown's Urbanista Tower

Although J.B. Reilly has a lot of experience building apartments, so far he has hedged his bet twice on the yuppie apartments at 7th and Linden. First off, he partnered with Pennrose, who specializes in income restricted and grant subsidized living units. Secondly, he cut expenses by framing the upper floors out of wood. Will the new middle class office workers of the NIZ want to live at 7th and Linden? So far there is no smart private money going into urban residential units. With luck, we are still decades away from such a demand. Reilly is inducing commercial tenants with offers they cannot refuse. Expect to see the same offers to young selected singles for his apartments. Expect to see the Morning Call headlining the apartments.

Dec 10, 2014

My $Billion Dollar Meal

Regular readers of this blog know that it wouldn't be my style to write a restaurant review. I happen to eat at one of the NIZ's new eateries this past Friday and noticed that there certainly was no $Billion Dollar crowd on Hamilton Street, there was no crowd at all. The restaurant itself was fairly busy, but the loud band in the bar area overwhelmed any favorable impression of the place. Yesterday, the Morning Call ran a front page story on the first retail business induced to the NIZ, a printing franchise. Today's headline is that Shula's is moving from the Promenade in Center Valley to J.B. Reilly's newest building, at 7th and Linden. Buried in the article on page 4 we learn that Reilly offered very competitive rent. Another restauranteur induced out of retirement described that incentive as a deal that nobody could refuse. Despite the headline promo by the paper, the reality is that Shula's is moving from the most expensive private sector location in the valley to practically free rent, subsidized by the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.

photo credit:The Morning Call/Harry Fisher/December9,2014

Dec 9, 2014

For My Gun, Against The NRA

As a gun owner I'm an unequivocal supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Although that is a right which I defend, as an engaged citizen I appreciate living in a society of laws. There are rights and laws and we can all live within them. I do not blindly consider every regulation as a curtailment of my rights, or as a slippery slope which will erode them. I can exercise my rights in a responsible manner, without purposefully provoking those who feel differently about this issue.

Each November the NRA sends it's members a card telling them whom they should vote for in their district, to protect their 2nd Amendment rights. Although their member magazine often features hunting rifles, the organization must think of their members as sheep. As Americans we should guard our right to own firearms,  but never tolerate being told how to vote.

Dec 8, 2014

The Last Jews Of Egypt

There are only a few dozen Jews still living in Egypt, all in either Cairo or Alexandria. The number of remaining synagogues outnumbers the remainder of Jews. Many of these synagogues are magnificent structures, and to the credit of the Egyptian government, they are protected and some are being restored. Prior to 1948, well over 80,000 Jews lived in the two cities. The current Ben Ezra in Cairo dates from 1892. The site, once a Coptic Church, became a synagogue in 882.. Tradition marks this as the spot where the prophet Jeremiah gathered the Jews in the 6th century after Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the Jerusalem temple. The adjacent spring is supposed to mark the place where the pharaohs daughter found Moses in the reeds, and where Mary drew water to wash Jesus. It was here that the famous Philosopher Maimonides studied. Last century a collection of ancient manuscripts was discovered in the compound.

reprinted from June 2013

Dec 6, 2014

Village Of The Jews, Yemen

The world talks about Palestinian refugees, but knows or cares very little about the 800,000 Jews expelled from the Arab world after Israel's rebirth in 1948. Jews lived all over the middle east since biblical times. One of the largest Jewish populations was in Iraq, left over from the Babylonian Exile in 587 BC. Every Arab country, without exception, had Jews. The other larger Jewish communities were in Egypt and Morocco. A sizable community still lives in Iran. A few Jews still even live in Yemen.

 As the Christmas Holiday approaches, molovinsky on allentown will open it's archive on The Holy Land posts.

Dec 5, 2014

Armstrong's Allentown School Tax Warning

As there are no media reports of last night’s Allentown School District’s board meeting so perhaps you will allow me to provide the public a few details. First off Robert Smith was re-elected to serve as board president. The vote was unanimous. Dr. Ellen Bishop will replace Debra Lamb as vice president. Charlie Thiel was also nominated for the position. There was a lot of general business to do with policy, facilities, and education, but the major news to come from the meeting was the presentation of next year’s preliminary budget. In what is now an annual ordeal the board and administration tried to digest another ten million dollar deficit gap between projected revenues and expenses. This after four years of tax increases, a twenty percent staff reduction, and general and effective belt tightening. Unfortunately the costs that we can’t control, benefits (which included retirement contributions, and health care) and expenses related to charter schools continue to escalate at an unprecedented rate. These costs are projected to continue rising for at least the next several years then plateau at that elevated rate far past our lifetimes. Harrisburg created this mess, both parties share the blame, and only they can solve the problem that is destroying Allentown’s public schools. So far they have not cared enough to act.               Scott Armstrong

Scott, thank you for the report and your service as a school board member. As for the mess in Harrisburg, as an independent candidate in the recent election, I note that not one Republican or Democrat, including yourself, publicly endorsed me for State Representative. I mention this because many members of both parties privately acknowledged that I would have better served the district than their candidate. Pension reform failed to pass despite a Republican Governor and both chambers of the State House. The real mess is partisan politics.

The Politics Of Allentown

Last night Jeff Glazier made history by being appointed twice to City Council. In recent years as many people have been appointed as elected. However, the big news comes from molovinsky on allentown's Harrisburg bureau. Our correspondent has been told that although Tom Wolf sends his warmest regards to Pawlowski, he thinks that Ed can best serve Pennsylvania by staying in Allentown. Although politics in Allentown has lacked any excitement in the last decade, the next Democratic mayoral primary will be a cage fight.

Dec 4, 2014

Wehr's Dam Swan Song

When the elderly man stood up last night, it was apparent that arthritis was winning it's long time battle. As Leroy Schmidt walked forward to once again address the South Whitehall Commissioners, he apologized for his slowness. Schmidt has stood outside for five months, in all kinds of weather, to collect over 6,000 signatures to save his beloved Wehr's Dam. He explained to the Commissioners that it was becoming too cold for him to remain outside by the dam, and then in a gesture that would melt most hearts, he sang a song that he composed about how much he loves Wehr's Dam. Although the Commissioners curtly thanked him, it was not their type of presentation. They refuse to make any decision on the dam until KCI Consultants, hired by the Wildlands Conservancy, makes a professionally produced power point presentation next year. The Wildlands hired KCI to help them demolish Wehr's Dam. Although Leroy Schmidt is fighting for the history and beauty of South Whitehall, his simple song may have fallen on deaf ears.

Dec 3, 2014

Pawlowski Christmas Gifts At Taxpayer Expense

According to an article by Emily Opilo in the Morning Call, Pawlowski's 2015 budget gives managing director Fran Dougherty a 19% raise. Those interested in the facts and figures can read the article, this analysis dwells on the unsaid. Pawlowski justifies the increase by comparing Dougherty's salary to other nearby managing directors. What he fails to note is that in those cases there are no mayors, and that those directors are in fact the chief administrator. Comparing one municipality to others is a favorite bureaucratic technique for proposing new regulations, ordinances and salary increases. That tide rises all their boats. Julio Guridy, Chief City Council Cheerleader, defends the increase. Jeanette Eichenwald, Chief City Council Critic, questions the increase. Before I end this report, let me clarify that I have no position on the proposed salary; Twice a month Pawlowski sends Dougherty to represent him at council meetings, and it is he who must answer to Allentown's Iron Lady.

The LANTA Santa, 1962    molovinsky on allentown,  where history and political commentary intersect

Dec 2, 2014

Wildlands Conservancy Dictates Allentown Park Policy

In a recent post about Wehr's Dam and South Whitehall, I reported how the Wildlands Conservancy was calling the shots there. Yesterday, I received a comment from John Mikowychok, former park director of Allentown.

  John Mikowychok has left a new comment on your post "South Whitehall's Transparency Issue": "I also learned that the former park director of Allentown, John Mikowychok, had met with the Conservancy, and was bought on board with dam demolishing before he even began working in his Allentown position. This explains how he endorsed demolishing two small dams on the Little Lehigh, before he actually ever saw them. Although I never underestimated the influence of the Wildlands Conservancy, I didn't realize that they were actually inside and running the park departments."michael molovinsky
Mike, your statements above are false. I never met with the Conservancy before commencing work with Allentown on 4/15/2013. Looking at my 2013 calendar: My first meeting with them was Friday, May 10, nearly a month after commencing employment. And, Wildlands was involved because they worked (prior to my employment) with the City in developing the grant applications to PA-DCNR, PA-DEP, and other funding partners. They were the lead entity in coordinating this funding, as well as the engineering of the dam removals and restoration of surrounding embankments. There were no back-room deals, here -- only cooperation between the City and a Conservancy with similarly-minded environmental goals. -- JPM 

Although I consider my original assertion when the first meeting took place from a reliable source, the issue is the dominance of the Conservancy in park policy. Those looking for the beautiful little dam seen above will never see it's beauty or hear it's sound. As documented above, the Allentown Park Director, after being on the job 29 days, agreed to demolish the irreplaceable WPA dam, which graced the park since 1941. He also agreed on that day to allow the Wildlands to demolish the Trout Nursery Dam, designed by Harry Trexler himself. Why should the Wildlands Conservancy be dictating Allentown Park Policy and decisions? Why should Mayor Pawlowski and his out of town park directors allow the Wildlands Conservancy to use the iconic park system as their experiment? Allentown parks are endowed by the Trexler Trust. Outside grants are not needed, especially when they result in the destruction of historic beauty, and changes to classic design.


Dec 1, 2014

Allentown's City Council Vacancy

The list to fill Peter Schweyer's vacant City Council seat just became more interesting. Former Police Chief Roger MacLean threw his hat in the ring, by switching parties from Republican to Democrat, as reported by The Morning Call. Although Council will probably choose Pawlowski favorite Jeff Glazier, MacLean's switch makes the next mayoral race more interesting. It is a given that any successful office seeker in Allentown must campaign under the Democrat badge. MacLean's willingness to adapt to that reality makes him a serious contender for future mayor. The same switching tactic was recently employed by Charlie Thiel, another mayoral contender.