Jul 27, 2016
It's difficult for the straight laced, and the main stream media to acknowledge the sleigh of hand occurring in the NIZ. Officially, the residential units were not supposed to reap the developer the state tax flow, as in commercial and retail. Reilly is now interested in building a third Strata Flats on the Parking Authority lot at 6th and Linden. The Parking Authority apparently will continue its practice of neglecting the public good, by allowing chosen developers to build on it's surface lots. In this case, the lot served the art and music community. While the first floor of the new building will contain retail, how much of the project can utilize the NIZ financing is the question of this blog post. Supposedly, corporations have rented apartments in Strata 1. That is the explanation for the dark units in a building supposedly full. One must wonder if the tenant is a corporation, are state taxes from that tenant to be used for Reilly's debt service? We do know that the entire NIZ is neither monitored or scrutinized. * Between the ANIZDA in Allentown, and Pat Browne in Harrisburg, there's nobody watching the henhouse.
Between the lines, apparently the commercial demand has waned; Its been a long time since Reilly managed to poach a commercial tenant from somewhere else. I suspect now that somehow the taxes from the residential tenants are being harvested.
* Reilly told the Allentown Parking Authority that $1million in NIZ tax funds would be used annually for the project. Apparently, Reilly now makes these decisions directly, instead of just telling the ANIZDA puppets what to say.
Jul 26, 2016
Poison Hemlock has invaded the riparian buffers along the creeks in Allentown Parks. These buffers are to accommodate the Wildlands Conservancy, which essentially dictates all park policy, except recreation, in both Allentown and South Whitehall. I suppose now the Wildlands can add pet killer to their dam buster credentials.
Allentown has been trying to control the problem by high rough cutting in spots where they see the hemlock. The real solution is to go back to the way the parks were designed, without riparian buffers.
Frankly, I haven't had much success in curtailing the Wildlands Conservancy's influence in these park decisions. So far, we lost two small historic dams, and the iconic Wehr's Dam is soon to go. We lost the view and access to the creeks in the park system, around which the parks were designed, by Harry Trexler's landscape architect. I have succeeded in creating a public record of these losses, and I will continue to speak out against how our parks are being compromised.
Jul 25, 2016
After my presentation last week, one commissioner stated that he was offended by my statement that they were accommodating the Wildlands Conservancy. He claimed that he didn't even know a member of the Conservancy. I should have introduced him to his park director, who sits in front of him at every meeting, and gives a report.
The Wildlands Conservancy provided the main input in formulating South Whitehall's Master Park Plan in 2012. Even then, the finished plan recommended that Wehr's Dam be removed, not because it needed repairs, but because dams have become currently unfashionable with environmentalists.
The dam was the most substantial local dam of its era. At that time of Harry Trexler and his cement company, monumental things were built from concrete, including Allentown's 8th Street Bridge. When you visit the dam, the portion you see protruding out of the water is the narrowest part of the structure. The dam is massive wedge over 6 feet wide at the bottom. Then that massive wedge sits on a thick concrete platform, 14 feet wide. At the last state inspection, the report concluded that the dam was overall in good condition. They did find one minor short crack that they wanted patched.
Because the Wildlands Conservancy wanted to demolish the dam, they paid for a study that recommended that the dam be totally rebuilt, at a cost of $1.5 million dollars. The minor crack could have been patched by township workers as in past inspections, or even by a masonary contractor, at a very modest cost. The dam is considered by the state as low hazard. That means that because of its location in a park, it poses no risk to private property or people. It's a historic, scenic delight; It doesn't matter how much water goes over or through the dam. However, the objective of their study was to make the cost so high, that demolition seemed the only feasible alternative.
In 2015, the commissioners bowed to public pressure at that time, and voted not to allow the Wildlands to demolish the dam; I knew then that it was only a reprieve. Rather than just patch the dam, they waited for the public to simmer down, and then commissioned another study. The objective of that study was to make the price high enough to justify a referendum. They now claim that a third of the dam must be rebuilt, at a cost of $600,000. They know that a referendum will result in demolition, but absolve them politically of the decision.
In a responsible township, the park director would be defending the dam, which has been a destination for generations. However, the park director's father is a paid official of the Wildlands Conservancy. That's why when the commissioner said that he was offended by my accusation, I told him that I could care less.
Photo of Wehr's Dam, taken from under Wehr's Covered Bridge, by K Mary Hess
Jul 22, 2016
My presentation to the South Whitehall Commissioners Wednesday Evening:
I'm here tonight to protest for the residents of South Whitehall Township. You're determined to allow the Wildlands Conservancy to destroy the heart and soul of our most important park. You're determined to allow them to degrade the beauty and history of the park for their own agenda.
The state determined in their last regularly scheduled inspection that the dam was "overall in good condition." According to the Wildlands engineer, less than two years later, the dam needed to be virtually rebuilt, but they kindly offered to save you the money, and demolish the dam at their expense.
When I was here with the many other defenders of Wehr's Dam, i realized that your vote then to save the dam was insincere. If you were sincere, you would have included the dam into the Historic Overlay Zone. You would have hired a contractor to make the few repairs actually required by the state. You would not have hired another engineer, to justify your upcoming referendum.
Your legacy is your commitment and respect for the residents of South Whitehall, not some organization like the Wildlands, with paid directors and staff. You know that over the decades thousands and thousands of people have visited the dam, and that the dam made the park a destination.
The referendum is disingenuous. You know that the dam could be repaired for a fraction of the cost contrived by your estimate. You also know that the voters are not inclined to vote themselves a tax hike. You're fullfilling the agenda of the Wildlands Conservancy, forsaking your own constituents, and one of the most beautiful spots in the township. It's really a disgrace.
According to The Morning Call, the commissioners were offended by my comments. I had expressed the same sentiments previously on this blog, and even in a letter to the editor. I thought the adult thing to do was say it to their face. In a perfect world the voters would choose to keep the dam. Would the commissioners then repair it for the real cost of $25,000, or would they spend the $600,000, to spite the voters? I knew that the commissioners were offended. They're not used to being called out when they play games. It's a shame that the residents of South Whitehall and beyond are going to lose a destination, so that the Wildlands can make 15% administrative fees, demolishing another beautiful place.
Report by WFMZ
photo by K Mary Hess
Jul 21, 2016
Readers of this blog, who view it on a computer screen, know that I don't have an agenda with the national main stream candidates. On the sidebar, I display the Libertarian banner. Before I get into today's post, allow me to explain that I design this blog to be seen on a full screen. Although, I appreciate the readership of those using mobile devices, the attitude of this blog will not be fully understood.
Prior to this week, most of the liberal pundits were claiming that Trump's meager organization was going to catch up with him at the convention. Too many party name-brands were going to be absent to make a positive image. Lo and behold, once again Trump appears to have exceeded expectations. His family did a great job representing him, even with accusations of plagiarism.
Some Republicans have doubled down on Trump losing. While most of those stayed away from the convention, Ted Cruz decided to make his point while attending. As somebody who has been registered as an independent most of this decade, I can appreciate his tenacity; however, Trump does seem very adept at making lemonade from the ingredients at hand.
Jul 20, 2016
Yesterday, Matt Assad of the Morning Call revealed that local state senator Pat Browne essentially amended the state NIZ rules, in favor of his friend J.B. Reilly's current court case. It always seemed as if the NIZ was designed as a personal business plan for Reilly. However, Browne's latest revision makes no pretense of the relationship. Pat Browne has now taken Reilly's tax appeal defense, and codified it into law. The new NIZ rules restrict assessment of properties to an income basis only, ignoring construction cost. There is something extra judicial about this end run that should be challenged by the county.
The taxpayers of Allentown are in real ways subsidizing the Reilly Real Estate Empire. We are providing extra police downtown. We are paying $2 an hour to park. The old lady used to ask, Where's the beef? We ask, Where's the taxes?
I have been on Morning Call reporter Matt Assad's case, accusing him of writing articles promoting Reilly's real estate interests. I must acknowledge that it is his article that has made this latest Browne/Reilly shenanigan public.
Jul 19, 2016
Back in the early 1970's, a former teacher in Allentown's West Park neighborhood borrowed my photograph of a grain mill, and championed its preservation to the Lehigh County Commissioners. Her efforts resulted in Haines Mill being preserved. It was a time when the county commissioners understood the concept of history and uniqueness. The county now preserves farmland, with the pollyanna notion that farmers will spout there, wear straw hats, and sell organic vegetables on the weekends. Although 22,000 acres have already been preserved, the county just authorized additional $millions to that end. A comment in the Morning Call said that it will insure that we have food in the future. Amazing how little people know about how food gets to the supermarket in 2016. While there is nothing unique about this farmland, and nothing really guaranteed about the preservation, it seems like progress to the environmentalists. Meanwhile, the commissioners and Historical Society turn a deaf ear to Wehr's Dam and other irreplaceable structures, being needlessly destroyed.
That former teacher just passed away at 98 years of age. I still take photographs and champion for places that will never be again, but the current board of commissioners does not have the sense of history and esthetics of their predecessors.
Jul 18, 2016
As if the most lucrative state subsidy program in history wasn't enough, Pat Browne threw a few more goodies in the bag for J.B. Reilly, in this most recent state budget. The hotel tax, instead of going to the Visitors Bureau and usual beneficiaries, will be retained by the NIZ, for the hotels within the zone. Browne's explanation was that such a thriving district needs more quality hotel rooms. I think what he means is that Reilly's Renaissance Hotel is so dead in the water, it needs its taxes back. The only public figure to question this nonsense was Tom Muller. Michael Schlossburg voted for it three times, his own and two ghost votes. However, in his defense, he like the rest of our midgets in Harrisburg, really didn't know what they were voting for, they seldom do. The fact that Browne could stuff this into the budget, illustrates what we suffer as state government.
Elsewhere in this weekend's Morning Call, Manuel Gamiz wrote in regard to a new police officer, (his)old neighborhood began to transform into the thriving downtown shopping, dining and entertainment district that it is today. Manuel must have interned under Matt NIZ Assad. However, Assad and Scott Kraus did do an excellent job on this hotel tax article.
Jul 15, 2016
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.
reprinted from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015
UPDATE: On July 4th, Israel noted the 40th 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.
ADDENDUM: The above post is reprinted from January of 2015. An article in today's local paper refers to the dangers of trucks in terrorist attacks. Israel knows who its enemies are. France is learning the hard way. Here in the United States, political correctness makes us soft targets.
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, 2011photo of Israeli Commando Binyamin Netanyaho
reprinted from 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015
UPDATE: On July 4th, Israel noted the 40th 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.
ADDENDUM: The above post is reprinted from January of 2015. An article in today's local paper refers to the dangers of trucks in terrorist attacks. Israel knows who its enemies are. France is learning the hard way. Here in the United States, political correctness makes us soft targets.
Jul 14, 2016
The Allentown Planning Puppies are adorable. Although, they approved Reilly's Tower of Condo Speculation, they are concerned about Hamilton Street losing its historical character. I have no idea what these puppies are talking about; there hasn't been any historical consideration on Hamilton Street since the Pawlowski era began, and certainly there is no character.
Allentown's Preservation League also chimed in. They don't mind historical buildings being demolished for new development, but they don't think that buildings should be demolished for speculation, like the former Elks Club on South 8th Street. Of course, those enablers didn't protest at the time. Understand that the arena complex demolished 37 buildings, of which 34 were historic, and several were unique, one of a kind in Allentown. Reilly just demolished another square block for his now, put on hold, twin mega towers.
When the Hamilton Street treasure shown above, in the 700 block, was demolished for the arena, save for this blogger, there was no concern for its loss. There wasn't a sound from any of the puppies mentioned here.
The current office condo project must still go in front of Allentown's zoning board, and Historical Architectural Review Board. Oh, the suspense, will the Reilly project get the final go ahead from the city?
Jul 13, 2016
Jul 12, 2016
reprinted from September 2, 2013
ADDENDUM: Since I wrote the above post almost three years ago, we have yet another new park director, with the exact same background. The dam was demolished, the WPA wall collapsed, and has just been rebuilt. The sewage still overflows from the manhole covers along the creek, but all the parks have new entrance signs.
Jul 11, 2016
molovinsky on allentown is meant to intersect local politics and history. I grew up during a very prosperous era in Allentown's history. The post war (WW2) factories couldn't produce enough goods, despite some having three shifts. Local government was small, concerned mostly with infrastructure and public safety. There was little concern with affordable housing and other social programs. Then, as now, there were always poor people. Eleanor Roosevelt visited Allentown for the opening of Hanover Acres, the public housing above the east side of the Lehigh River. For many residents of that project and Cumberland Gardens, the public housing was a stepping stone, not a lifestyle.
Hamilton Street was a thriving shopping district. No subsidies needed there. Those successful merchants handled their own parking system, no Parking Authority needed. There might have been some nepotism and cronyism in city hall, but no need for FBI investigations. Information and news came from your television screen and newspapers, but without agendas and misdirection.
A reader asked me why I made commenting more difficult. Question.......isn't one of the purposes of your blog to foster discussion of the matters you raise? Purposely seeking to curb comment responses and possibly readership, seems counterintuitive to me. Topics are not chosen in regard to expanding readership, nor do I count comments as a gauge of success. This blog is not monetized, directly or indirectly. I address those topics which are either under-reported, or misrepresented by the local main stream media. Consequently, I want the comments to be as relevant and responsible as possible.
When Walter Cronkite gave the news in the early 1960's, he signed out each program by saying, "And that's the way it is."
Jul 8, 2016
When I ran as an independent for mayor in 2005, my message was shunned by The Morning Call and the establishment. I stated that Allentown had become a poverty magnet, and very soon that density of poverty would create urban problems not normally associated with cities this small. Multiple social agencies were giving hardcore transients "move in" money. Lo and behold eleven years later, despite a $Billion dollars of development, the city still thinks that the problem is a lack of affordable housing.
Allentown doesn't suffer from lack of affordable housing, Allentown suffers from too much affordable housing, and too much political correctness. Stand across from a city center corner market and watch three generations of people throw their empty snack bags on the sidewalk, even though they are only 25 feet away from a trash can. We don't need $2 an hour parking meters, we need $25 dollar littering fines. We don't need a Parking Authority, we need a Littering Authority.
The City and the NIZ board are going to do a study about affordable housing, hire a consultant and probably include some local neighborhood advocates. The Morning Call will write some articles about it. When they come up with a solution they should share it with Detroit, Camden, Los Angeles, and the other 100 poor urban centers. Gotta love government studies.
ADDENDUM: If the above sounds harsh, understand that as someone who grew up in the 1950's, Allentown was a wonderful place to throw away, and thrown away it was. Although the town has changed radically, that toothpaste is not going back into the tube. New pragmatic leadership is needed. Nothing could be less relevant to overall Allentown than a few blocks on Hamilton Street.
Jul 7, 2016
If you believe that Pawlowski was color blind when he hired Joel Fritzgerald as police chief, you might as well stop reading this post now. I believe that skin color helped propel Mr. Fritzgerald to the top of Pawlowski's search list. I was at the NAACP candidate's night in 2005, when Pawlowski pledged to make city hall more representative of the city's demographics.
The Fritzgerald family had no issues with such affirmative action when senior was hired. They had no issue with favoritism or nepotism when junior was hired as a guard at Lehigh County Prison.
Junior is now suing Lehigh County for racial profiling, because Jim Martin charged him after he pointed a gun at two detectives. I'm not bothering to rehash details of the case, or the subsequent acquittal here on this post. I understand that some may find my perspective on this situation offensive; However, this blog is not meant to comfort. Junior is lucky that the detectives didn't shoot him.
Jul 6, 2016
While national politics is not my normal wheelhouse, the adversity of this particular election does fascinate me. I do not ever recall a more polarized electorate than in this cycle. Supporters of each candidate truly hate the opponent. While Hillary has taken the long road to be her party's nominee, Trump shot to the top because of an unusually crowded field. Only on a stage with sixteen other candidates could someone succeed with one liners, and not even memorable ones at that. Who could have imagined that Jeb Bush would disintegrate as he did, with a $150 million dollar campaign fund. Factor in Trump's background on television, in this age of reality shows.
Readers of this blog may have noticed the Libertarian banner on the sidebar. As a former independent candidate I often heard that another option was needed, but people didn't want to waste their vote. Independents are often viewed as spoilers. In reality there can only ever be a third option when voters start pushing that alternative button.
My Democratic friends think that Hillary will win in a landslide. They talk about the math. I think that they are underestimating the discontent festering in this country. Regardless of the outcome in November, my concern remains with local decisions.
Jul 5, 2016
The 8th Street Bridge is one of the marvels of Allentown. It was built to facilitate the Liberty Trolley run, from 8th and Hamilton to Philadelphia. I posted about it before, with its impressive statistics. At the time it was the largest concrete bridge in the world. It involved two business interests of Harry Trexler, both the transit company and the local cement industry.
Harrisburg and The Morning Call have been braying about the bridges scheduled for improvement and replacement in the area. Although, I virtually stopped attending municipal meetings, I still partake in field trips to the local construction sites. I don't announce myself, and try to be quick and quiet on these unauthorized inspections. I would prefer not to vanish like Jimmy Hoffa. I want to inspect the bridge, not end up in the bridge.
On first glance the work on the bridge looks very impressive. The bridge walls have been replaced with new concrete walls, almost identical to the original, even including the lighting pillars. My question is that the roadbed has been raised about 18 inches, but is still supported by the same arches. Eighteen inches of additional concrete on the roadbed and sidewalk is an enormous additional weight load. Furthermore, I have learned that there was bonding issues between the older base and new concrete. Only the approaches, on both ends of the bridge, have been replaced. This was done because they are the lowest part of the bridge, and the most feasible parts to replace. However, they were replaced with pre-stressed concrete beams, and the new arches are only decorative panels. The original approach bases were massive constructions, which probably would have stood another 1000 years.
Only now is the part of the project which I knew to be necessary beginning. The massive bridge arches has been showing spalling damage over the last decades. That is the process where old concrete lets loose from the steel re-bar used as the construction frame.
When the project is completed, I do not expect to be invited to the ribbon cutting.
Jul 4, 2016
The Molovinsky entourage entered Easton about 4:45 Sunday evening. Although early for dinner, there was already sizable activity in center square and the nearby restaurants. The 64 thousand dollar question, or more precisely, the $1billion dollar question, is how can little Easton outperform Allentown when the latter has benefitted from the largest incentive program in state history?
I'm afraid I can't give Sal credit. His bus terminal/parking deck is a bigger abomination than I predicted. Truth is because nothing else was done, Easton has retained its historical character, and the charm that conveys. People want some ambience. It can be authentic, such as historic Bethlehem, or it can be completely fabricated, such as the Promenade in Saucon. But Allentown has nothing, except new buildings, devoid of any character. Before Reilly builds another thing, he should consider hiring an architectural consultant.
Jul 1, 2016
Life in Allentown during the 1950's was pretty easy, compared to now a days. Whether you were white or blue collar, there were plenty of jobs. Whether you lived in the West End or center city, all the neighborhoods were clean, well maintained and relatively crime free. The school system was the envy of the county, and people finagled to get their children enrolled in it. Allentown High School had championship teams in multiple sports, and the football stadium was one of the most lavish high school stadiums in the country. The park system was the subject of numerous picture postcards. Likewise, downtown was widely known, with Hess's being a destination. All the above characterists would stay in place throughout the 1960's, into the early 70's.
I bill this blog as the intersection of politics and history in Allentown, and the greater Lehigh Valley. Although, I will continue to speak out on current events of concern, I suspect that this page will turn more and more to history. Perhaps nostalgia is so appealing because the current reality is so disillusioning.
Although, my archive of older Allentown pictures is extensive, I invited Ozzie and Harriet Nelson to illustrate this post.
Jun 30, 2016
Director Harms Lehigh Parkway
February 04, 1993|The Morning Call
To the Editor:
The WPA in the 1930s created a three-acre island by diverting water from the Little Lehigh Creek. The island had remained a source of joy for birders, naturalists, and nondescript strollers. No one foresaw Marushak arriving on the scene with wrecking tools to rip up the bridge, terminating public access to the island. Three masonry piers remain in place. Also remaining are 12 discarded auto tires gathering silt in the small stream.
ALLENTOWN (February 4, 1993)
20 years later......
Most people have long ago forgotten that there was a bridge to the island, although the stone piers still remain, obscured by overgrowth. The curved wall and landing of the Boat Landing, shown in the lower right of the photograph, are buried. In 2009, with help from others who appreciate our treasured parks, I had the privilege to rescue the steps which lead to the landing. Over the decades, the debris and silt mentioned above has enlarged the island, almost to the boat landing. This Saturday, April 6, in conjunction with Friends of The Parks, I will conduct a tour of current and former WPA sites remaining in Lehigh Parkway.
reprinted from April of 2013
Jun 29, 2016
Hurricane Diane hit the Lehigh Valley in August of 1955. Living in Little Lehigh Manor, I remember huddling in the house, while the metal garbage cans of the era flew around the neighborhood. My father, whose meat market was on Union Street by the Lehigh River, worked throughout the night. Fortunately for him, his market had an second floor backup cooler, and a small freight elevator. While the retail business district on Hamilton Street is elevated enough to be unaffected from flooding, center city Easton was devastated by the Delaware. The next morning was rather surreal for a nine year old boy. A large willow tree on the corner of Lehigh Parkway South and Catalina Ave. was lying on it's side. Although the Little Lehigh receded quickly, the park road and basin had been flooded. Diane remains a record in flooding and damage. Let us hope it remains that way.
reprinted from August 2011
photo from August 1955. Delaware rising up Northampton Street in Easton.
Jun 28, 2016
There are two articles in the paper that have me shaking my head. One is that the mayor may escape prosecution, because of the recent supreme court case outlining what the new legal threshold is for corruption. I personally don't have much attitude about Pawlowski's situation, one way or the other. But, when we think about how much time and effort was taken, not counting the collateral charges filed against others, we can just see our taxdollars sucking up in the vortex of government.
Talking about evaporating taxdollars, we learn that it will cost us a $quarter million to have the school superintendent not work. I noticed the news reports that the school board approved Mayo's sabbatical. The reporters know full well that Mayo didn't request this situation, it was forced upon him by the school board. I enjoy being a blogger, and not having to mince my words.
The photograph shown above, and the post title, are inside jokes for the older baby boomers.
Jun 27, 2016
In 1928, Harry Trexler hired Philadelphia's prestigious landscape firm Meehan and Company to design the park system for Allentown. When the depression struck the next year, the plans were put on hold. However, when Roosevelt announced the WPA in mid 1930's, because of those plans, Allentown was shovel ready. Thousands of men worked throughout Allentown's new parks, creating masterpieces that normally would have taken fifty years to build, and cost untold millions of dollars. Allentown ended up with an iconic park system, virtual picture postcards, which lured tourists here for the next 75 years.
In 2006, Ed Pawlowski became major, combined the park and recreation departments, and started hiring directors from out of town with a background in recreation. Although, not one thing was done for the traditional park system, we started buying whole catalogs of playground equipment. We have been named Play City of the country by the playground equipment manufactures association. Through my advocating, Karen El-Chaar from Friends Of the Parks, was able to secure a grant from the Trexler Trust to restore the steps at Fountain Park. I was able to prevail upon the current park director, Lindsay Taylor, to allow the masons to also repair the stairwell at Union Terrace. The Parkway wall in now being repaired, but only because it's necessary in able to open the road.
Park strategy, aside from recreation, is now being decided by the Wildlands Conservancy. The Conservancy has been instituting current environmental fashion, even if it's not site specific to Allentown. Consequently, the park streams have become riparian buffer zones, even though the storm runoff is piped directly into the streams, and bypasses the buffers. The WPA ornamental dam has have been demolished, even though the streams are stocked from General Trexler's fish hatchery. Even the fish hatchery dam, which regulated the amount of water entering the fish ponds, was demolished, resulting in a massive fish kill.
What is most discouraging in my battle to preserve the icons of our traditional park system is that the Wildlands Conservancy is being funded by the Trexler Trust. Although, sacred cows and good old boy networks working together is nothing new, how ironic that the Trust is funding the main reason that Harry Trexler's park designs are now being ignored and neglected.
For decades the park system was a favorite scene on souvenir postcards from Allentown.
Jun 24, 2016
The Wildlands Conservancy now effectively runs both the Allentown and South Whitehall Park systems. While Allentown's official director is reduced to placing new park signs throughout her park system, in the township, their boy shows outdoor movies.
The rains have been good for the Wildlands specified riparian buffers along the creeks in Allentown. Although they serve no environmental purpose, because the storm sewers are piped directly into the streams, they do succeed in keeping both pets and children away from the water. Although, still only June, in many places the creeks have been completely obscured. The other day I saw an elderly woman and her old dog trying to access the creek. Her frustration would have brought smiles to the Wildlands and their lackey park directors.
With both the Robin Hood and Fish Hatchery Dam demolished, the bulldozer now turns to Wehr's Dam. South Whitehall says "Who needs history and beauty, when we can soon show children's movies by the former dam."
photo of Cedar Creek by Allentown Rose Gardens
Jun 23, 2016
Lehigh County isn't sure how much it should commit to the historic cement kilns in Coplay. The Saylor Kilns are some of the oldest of their type still existing in the world. The county is currently restoring one of the nine kilns. Meanwhile, the retiring farmland preservation official regrets only preserving 22,000 acres of farmland. There is nothing unique about farmland in Lehigh County, but its preservation is the current ecology fad. Little details, like who will farm this land, is not considered. These organic types confuse going to a farmers market once a month with the daily hard work of farm life. Perhaps, Lehigh County can start a share cropper program? I'm not joking, they actually want to do such a thing. Meanwhile, things unique to the county are discarded. My plea for Wehr's Dam fell on deaf ears.
photograph by Mexx69
Jun 22, 2016
If anyone doubts that the South Whitehall Commissioners are merely puppets, serving one special interest or another, just read this article about the Jordan Trail, being supervised by the Wildlands Conservancy. Close to a $Million dollars will be spent on this project to appease the Wildlands, while the same commissioners felt the voters should decide about Wehr's Dam. The referendum on Wehr's is as disingenuous as local government gets. They know that the voters will reject a tax increase to keep the dam, while for a Wildlands pet project, the public gets no say. The Wildlands has its own agent in the township, who is paid as park director by South Whitehall. He hopes to have all the funding in place by year's end for the Wildlands trail. While tens of thousands of people visit the historic dam every year, how many will walk the Wildlands trail?
Jun 21, 2016
There's not many mid size cities that can boast having two national chain stores within one center city block, Allentown could. Not too many cities could say that one of those stores was one of the biggest producers in a chain of over 7000 stores, Allentown could. There's not many cities that are ignorant enough to tear down their most successful block, a virtual tax machine, Allentown is. This horrible mistake took a combination of political arrogance and public misconception. The arrogance is well known, so let me concentrate on the misconception. The perception was a few undesirable people, buying cheap things. The reality is Family Dollar sells the same merchandize in their suburban and rural stores. Rite Aid fills the same prescriptions and sells their standard merchandize. The new upscale stores, visioned for the arena front, will never produce the sales tax produced by Family Dollar and Rite Aid. The arena will never have that amount of employees, nor produce that much earned income.* The traffic congestion and lack of parking for arena events will destroy the new restaurants. Welcome to the white elephant, welcome to the ghost town.
Shown above and below is the early morning delivery to Family Dollar, every week of the year.
*sales tax and earned income currently going to city and state will now go to debt service for arena
reprinted from December 5, 2011
ADDENDUM: While The Morning Call promotes Allentown's new NIZ zone, only this blogger documented the reality of the former Hamilton Street. While the Moravian Book Store could be restocked from a small hand basket once a month, the previous Family Dollar Store needed a full tractor trailer every Sunday.
Jun 20, 2016
Call it Allentown's NIZ, or J.B. Reilly's City Center Real Estate, by either name it's subsidized by the tax payers of Pennsylvania. That $70 plus Million Dollars a year would be going into education or infrastructure, instead of into the arena and Reilly's debt service.
On Saturday, I visited our business district both in the afternoon and evening. For the afternoon excursion, I can report that there was absolutely more foot traffic and activity before the revitalization. Although, there is some more activity during the weekend evenings, the return on the taxpayer investment is meager by any standard. I guess my best image on Saturday night was Don Saylor standing in front of Roar, explaining to some street person that the restaurant has valet parking. That's a sight you would have never seen when he operated the Shanty on 19th Street.
If we already spent a $Billion for the little we got, what would it cost to duplicate all those people walking around in the artist renderings approved by the ANIZDA, and promoted by the Morning Call?
Shown above waa a time when people came to Hamilton Street on their own, without our taxes subsidizing private business interests.
Jun 17, 2016
In a action that was unthinkable for the past 10 years, Allentown City Council voted NO on an administration proposal. The park department wanted to commission a study on their parcel behind the Hamilton Family Diner, to see if it was feasible to again reuse that area for their trucks and machinery. The buildings were flooded in Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and a number of trucks were destroyed. Some council members, rejecting the study proposal, claimed that because the facility was in a flood plain, nothing there should be renovated. I disagree. Until the early part of the 20th century, almost every industrial building was built in a flood plain, both for power and transportation. Hurricane Sandy did not ruin those buildings, they were ruined by neglect. The roof singles on the older brick building were in a terrible condition, with large bare patches. I posted about this neglect years before the flood. The mold contamination came from normal rains, not the flood. Just as the city allowed the former 15th Street Bridge to decay from neglect, it was the same with that park building. Likewise, the trucks should have been moved prior to the storm, as they had been for years before. Although, I agree that they can save the $3,950 consultant study, my vote would be to replace the roof, and rehabilitate the building.
On a side note, the sentencing for those that Pawlowski led astray, has now been postponed from July until November. That would suggest that the mayor may be charged later than sooner. Maybe the no vote was city council rehearsing for the long haul.
ADDENDUM: The blogger at LVCI disagrees with my take on the issue. Yes, although it is in what is now referred to as a flood plain, at one time the brick building was the Pepsi Cola bottler, and serviced by the Barber Quarry rail spur. The location is near both Cedar and Trexler Parks, and proved an ideal location for decades. The issue isn't whether to locate a facility there, but rather to take advantage of an existing facility. Currently, the heavy park trucks are stored in Lehigh Parkway, and it is believed that their weight may have contributed to the WPA wall collapse.
Jun 16, 2016
The next generation of business, like Kraft Food, was less industrial, and located here because of location and the ethic of the residual work force. Yesterday, we learned of a proposal to tear down Kraft, and replace it with warehouses. If not for our central location in the dense northeast, I fear we would be in dire straights. We are now becoming a major distribution center. Too bad that almost of the products being distributed are made in China.
Jun 15, 2016
While Nestlé Water is finding resistance all across America, one locality sold it's residents out, and we be it. When Don Cunningham was County Executive, he welcomed this siphon of natural resources with open arms. Although Donny and his easy smile remains popular, he's the ultimate go to boy for corporate interests. He has been rewarded, being appointed executive of the regional development authority. Nestlé has been further legitimized in this locality by the Wildlands Conservancy. This bastion of hypocrisy hosts children education days, sponsored by Nestlé, where children are taught by the good environmentalists of the water corporation. Nothing says nature like water bottled in plastic.
You won't read these truths elsewhere in the local media. While you have to be both independent, and a bastard, to tell it like it really is, truth is most people don't care. Give them a free bottle of water and they're OK with it. Give them some free music, BBQ, and beer, they'll dance in the street.
Jun 14, 2016
Ce-Ce Gerlach has been trying to wrestle some concessions from the ANIZDA concerning affordable housing, more less as a community benefit for the little people. After all, big bucks are piling up in Reilly's account. So far, she has gotten a little lip service, but I'm afraid that's all that's coming her way. As Sy Traub likes to point out, Allentown has a lot more gentrifying to do before it need concern itself with the little people. She should have have been at the Business Matters NIZ debate, when a NIZ spokesman called the former merchants and their customers a cancer. Sy Traub was on the show and didn't object. The only objector at the time was this blogger, and i don't even agree with Ce-Ce on the affordable housing. Allentown has an abundance of affordable housing, that's why poor people keep moving here. Besides, the little people will be living in Strata 1 and 2 soon enough. It's one thing to induce companies to locate downtown, but it's another thing for those office workers to want to live there. Ce-Ce need not worry about gentrification forcing lower income people out of center city. Reilly did dislocate some tenants with his failed attempt to build a mega project along Walnut Street, but even he knows that the revitalization has peaked.
NIZ Debate: l to r; Tony Iannelli, Steve Thode, Sy Traub, Michael Molovinsky, Mike Fleck
Jun 13, 2016
Last night I went to what I thought would be a vigil for the Orlando shooting victims at Candida's. It turned out to be a anti-gun rally, and political speech opportunity for the valley politicians. Perhaps none took more advantage of the event than Ed Pawlowski. He kept asking if the crowd was with him and when is enough, enough? He hasn't been cheered like that lately. He was also one of the most ill-informed about firearms, referring to the AR-15 as an automatic weapon. I could tell that he thinks that the gun functions like a machine gun. However, needless to say, he was speaking to the choir. While every speaker addressed gun control, not one called the shooting what it actually was, Islamic terror at a gay club. I believe that if the gay club door was locked, the terrorist would have gone somewhere else, and killed non-gay people.
Now, I understand that homophobia is a very real thing. I also understand that there has been mass shootings, unrelated to Islamic terrorism. I even believe that gun regulations should be tightened, and that it would not be a slippery slope against the 2nd Amendment. However, we jeopardize our security without acknowledging that Islamic terrorism was the main factor in this mass shooting.
Among those in attendance and speaking last evening were Ed Pawlowski, Peter Schweyer, Mike Schlossberg, Pat Brown and Charlie Dent.
Jun 10, 2016
After announcing the loan contest last fall, Allentown is now begging for applicants for the Shark-Tank type business loan program. As you can tell from the sponsors, this is essentially geared for minority applicants, although such a thing would never be actually printed in our politically correct era. Ed Pawlowski titled his facebook post, City Seeks Retail Entrepreneurs. Real entrepreneurs don't have to be sought. The next step will be actively recruiting people to apply. No non-profit bureaucrat worth his salt would ever let a gift horse get away unused. In the molovinsky world, if someone doesn't have the volition to get funding on their own, who needs them. Imagine a contest where nobody comes forward even for free money. Rather than say, OK, no worthwhile applicants, you now try and create them. Mayor Ed calls this program a fanastic use of CDBG funds. Actually, it's a colossal waste of our federal taxdollars. Welcome to Allentown. Welcome to Pennsylvania's premiere poverty magnet. Welcome to the place where even a $Billion dollars of taxpayer money hasn't really kick-started the town.
Jun 9, 2016
It was difficult seeing the state house midgets not pass a budget for 18 months. It is difficult seeing useless commissions cost taxpayers $millions of dollars, decade after decade, administration after administration. It is difficult seeing the degree of cronyism is a state which can only be called corrupt, anything less is mincing words. Where else than Pennsylvania can you have an Attorney General's sister suing the state for equal pay from her sister's office. How is that for nepotism gone wild?
Although, the new liquor bill seems to be win/win for both the state and residents, in Pennsylvania, the devil is always in the details.
Jun 8, 2016
I must confess that it can be a little fatiguing fighting the politically correct sacred cows in this community. Now, that the new towers are up on Hamilton Street, the sanctioned activists are speaking out against gentrification. Four years ago, when I was defending the former merchants, I was called a naysayer, trying to impede Allentown moving forward.
As my rage against the hypocrisy continues, I take note of the political landscape. While I point out how the Wildlands Conservancy blocks the creeks in Allentown Parks with their riparian buffers, the Trexler Trust bestows large grants upon them. While the Conservancy degrades the original park designs paid for by Harry Trexler himself, they are funded by his very trust. I continue the battle against these absurdities for two reasons; I know that my complaints don't go unheard. They do result in small repairs to the traditional park system. Secondly, if I don't speak out, who will?
Although I'm Jewish, I wore a cross for dramatic effect in this photo.
Jun 7, 2016
photo of Wildlands Conservancy hypocrites enjoying dam release by Harry Fisher of The Morning Call
reprinted from June 30, 2015
ADDENDUM: This past Sunday, June 5, 2016, Chris Kocher had an editorial in The Morning Call praising the accomplishments of his organization. Although he mentions their upcoming river trip this summer, he doesn't use the word dam. Additionally, although he mentions stream miles open for fish passage, he still doesn't use the word "dam." He doesn't mention demolishing a 10 inch high WPA dam, and dumping the ruble around the beautiful stone bridge piers. He doesn't mention contributing to the largest fish kill in Lehigh Valley history, by demolishing the Fish Hatchery Dam, which regulated the water flow into the fish ponds during storm flooding. He doesn't mention spending $259,000 on a taxpayer funded engineering study, to greatly inflate the cost of repairing Wehr's Dam. He doesn't mention reneging on his own pledge to back away from trying to demolish Wehr's Dam. The Wildlands Conservancy remains a sacred cow, allowing people to feel politically correct about the environment, even if the Conservancy tells a few fibs along the way to pay their own salary.
Jun 6, 2016
The Talen sale to a private energy firm headquartered in NYC could throw a wrench in Janidl's Waterfront project. Although, he stated that they're not dependent upon one particular tenant, we know from uptown in Reillyville, that tenants are not growing on trees. If Allentown loses Talen at the end of the Plaza lease in 2018, it will indeed be a loss. I for one, was sorry to see PPL spin off Talen in the first place, despite the fluctuations of that sector. Somehow, a PPL which no longer produces electricity, seems far removed from the company that built that ionic tower in 1928.
Jun 4, 2016
In 1964, a young Cassius Clay trained in south Miami Beach for his first fight against Sonny Liston. At that time, this section of the city was home to mostly retired Jews on fixed income. The hotels, decades after their prime, became pension rooming houses. Decades later, these same buildings would be restored to their art deco splendor, creating today's South Beach. As Clay trained, a middle aged punch drunk necktie peddler told him, "After Liston punches your head, you'll be selling ties with me." The street peddler was a fixture in Miami Beach. He didn't ask, he told people they were going to buy a tie. The future champ probably didn't realize that the heckler was none other than King Levinsky, legend of the 1930's, and veteran of over 118 heavyweight fights. Levinsky was born Harris Krakow in Chicago, and worked at his parent's fish market on Maxwell Street, the Jewish section during the roaring twenties. Although he never got a title shot, and weighed only 185, he fought all the leading heavyweights of his time, including the 265lb. giant, Primo Carnera. Managed by his sister Lena, he was known never to turn down a fight, including those against Max Baer.
copy reprinted from Jan. 23, 2010
photo shows Levinsky with sister/manager Lena in 1932
retitled and reprinted in memory of The Greatest, Muhammad Ali
Jun 3, 2016
While Mayor Pawlowski and his compliant park director brag about catalog equipment which won't last 3 years, a fisherman was thrown to the ground and robbed at gunpoint early Thursday morning in Jordan Park. While the Allentown Police are too short manned to properly patrol our existing parks, Mayor Pawlowski and his compliant park director are seeking a grant to develop another park, at the former incinerator plant near Basin Street. Who is going to maintain an additional park after the grant runs out in year one? Who is going to provide safety at such an out of the way place? It's time for our park director, Linday Taylor, to seek the counsel of people familiar with Allentown and the parks. For her information, that would not include Ed Pawlowski.
I'm sure that Ms. Taylor saw a recent letter to the paper criticizing the grow zones along our park creeks. She should realize that the next mayor will most likely have more familiarity with the traditional park system, which does not include weed zones, that block both access and view of the streams. Allentown parks were created along the streams to add to the park experience, not to be a science experiment for the Wildlands Conservancy. Although the mayor may praise the new park signs, even they are symbolic of the new superficiality, which is not appreciated by most Allentonians. Ms. Taylor would do well to realize that soon there will be a new mayor, with an appreciation of Allentown's iconic park system. By that criterion, there will be a lot to mow and repair.
Jun 2, 2016
While Morning Call readers learned yesterday that Allentown School superintendent Russ Mayo would not be seeking another contract, molovinsky readers already knew that since early last week. However, today's post is a lesson in recent history. Before Mayo, the superintendent was John Zahorchak. The board that hired him thought very highly of themselves for that choice. Zahorchak was former Secretary of Education under Rendell. What the board didn't realize was that while the Rendell administration was a case study in cronyism, it was not concerned with expertise. Zahorchak came to town and turned the school system inside out, and upside down. He instituted every new concept ever written in the education magazines. Among one bad move after another, he transfered Allen High's very effective principal to desk job on Penn Street. In wake of the mess, the board was then glad to hire Mayo, who was familiar with the system before the chaotic changes.
Allentown School System has been suffering from the same problems which affect all urban systems with high poverty rates. Why the board thinks that a new superintendent will change the parameters of that reality escapes me. The district just announced that there will be another year with no tax increase, which would be considered welcome news in most communities.
Now some older history; Shown above is Dorothy Taliaferro, as pictured in the 1920 Allentown High School yearbook. Dorothy was a vocal supporter for woman suffrage, and hoped to become a doctor. She was the first black girl to graduate from Allentown. Although Dorothy did not fulfill that career ambition, she had two younger brothers who did become physicians. The family lived at 450 Union Street, which was later demolished in one of Allentown's misguided urban renew projects.
Thanks to Dan Doyle, for loan of the 1920 Comus.
Jun 1, 2016
When I made my presentation to the County Commissions on Wehr's Dam, I was preceded by Farmland Preservation advocates. I knew that farmland preservation is a fashionable topic, and even referenced it in my speech. In addition to being met with silence at that time, I have heard since, that the commissioners are not taken with the idea of adopting the dam. But, I have just learned that while they want to dwell on the farmland topic, Lehigh County has already preserved 22,000 acres, at up to $5,000 an acre. It's hard for me to imagine spending so many millions of dollars preserving land that may not be developed anyway, but not caring about preserving an irreplaceable historic structure of beauty, which has been treasured by generations of people from Lehigh County.
For those new to this blog, I'm no diplomat. I tend to become somewhat blunt when it comes our historical structures which cannot be replaced, once gone. Readers may be surprised, especially the ones who comment with a pseudonym, that I see and talk to the officials that I criticize. Yes, it can be awkward, but along the way I saved a couple of structures, and caused a few more to be repaired. Could I have done it more diplomatically, perhaps, but I'm an old dog.
The Wildlands Conservancy are hypocrites, who harvest state dam demolition grants because they're allowed to keep 15% for administrative fees. The South Whitehall Commissioners are reneging on their 2014 vote to keep the dam, and are disingenuously greatly inflating the repair cost, to accommodate the Wildlands and justify a referendum. Let us hope that the County Commissioners show more respect for the things that matter to the residents of Lehigh County, and save the dam.
May 31, 2016
When you're fighting the establishment in Lehigh Valley, you better get your P's and Q's in line before the deadline, because there are no extensions. However, for the establishment, deadlines are just the beginning.
When Chris Kocher of the Wildlands Conservancy said two years ago that if the South Whitehall Commissioners voted to keep Wehr's Dam, that would be the end of the issue, he must have given himself a good chuckle.
When Lehigh County reached the deadline for farmland preservation, they simply reset the clock. Their goal is to preserve 25% of all the land in the county, so far, they have only 10%. Now, of course that doesn't mean that the remainder is being developed, most of it will remain farmland. Those figures pertain to land officially preserved. It doesn't count in their eyes unless the development rights are paid for with our tax dollars. What these advocates really know about farming or land, you could stuff in one organic tomato.
Last week, when Allentown's Shark Tank business subsidy plan failed to attract enough applicants, they extended the deadline. On the other hand, when a local judge ruled against taxing the arena, the Allentown School District decided not to file an appeal. While there is a limit on trying to save the taxpayer some money, there's no limit on how much of our money can be spent. We learned that the NIZ board will be able to keep their full annual $million dollar budget, which they need to scrutinize project applications. As if they really scrutinize Reilly, Butz and Jaindl, or would ever deny them.
May 30, 2016
In 1958 my father had a food stand at the fair. It took him about an hour to realize you cannot sell hot dogs in the King's back yard; Yocco, the Hot Dog King. When Yocco's claimed last year they were not at the fair because their canvas ripped, I was skeptical. This year it's official, they have abdicated their spot. Tonight the fair was jammed. In Ag Hall the granges still compete in vegetable canning. A wiseguy still incites you to dunk him. The world's smallest horse hasn't grown. Maybe Yocco's is gone, but the fair is still much more like 1958 than any other aspect of Allentown.
REPRINTED FROM AUG.28, 2007
UPDATE 2016: Yocco's has announced that they have closed their original location in the 600 block of Liberty Street.
May 28, 2016
After imagining her hanging on the cross, and feeling somewhat responsible, I come to her defense. Comments on Ramblings suggest that the scholarships are not intended for people of means who already have a college degree. I personally have no knowledge of Ce-Ce's finances, or the criterion used in selecting applicants, but neither do those condemning her. Ce-Ce remains one of the more sincere people offering her time and energy to serve the city. If she is willing to drive to Center Valley one night a week to further her education, perhaps we should be grateful.
May 27, 2016
Mayor Pawlowski, the last thing Allentown needs is another park. In all due respect, I forgot more about the park system than you ever knew. There are endless items throughout the system that are in need of repair. The most used pavilions in the city, in Cedar Park on Honochick Drive, are in dire need of roof shingles and paint. Yes, I know that they are scheduled for replacement, but that is the story of the park department and the city, since your arrival in Allentown. Defer maintenance, and build some new feature. I know that maintenance looks boring on a resumé. The repaired wall in Lehigh Parkway does look good, but you're only fixing it because it's a retaining wall, and it must be repaired to reopen the road. It was deferred maintenance that caused the problem in the first place.
Anyway, back to the incinerator parcel. I know it adjoins the Basin Street parcel that you should have never bought from Abe Atiyeh. Making a new park out of the incinerator and Basin Street is just cover for one of your political maneuvers. How sad that you're sucking in the new park director on this transparent scheme. But, she's a big girl, and should speak up about priorities.
p.s. You should speak to Scott Unger, he may need that bridge to bring the choo-choo back to S. 10th Street.
May 26, 2016
Butz's are offering more than rental space, you have an opportunity to join in the revitalization of Allentown. Now, your opportunity will not be as lucrative as Butz's opportunity. Because of the NIZ, he can use your state income tax, and that of your employees, for his debt service on the building. Butz doesn't mention that in the promotional video, rather he talks about the time being right for their third phase. Actually, it's only right because the absurd NIZ legislation is an offer the family can't refuse, but the renting will be slow. To fill the previous two phases he had to call on his connections, placing both the County Visitor Center and the Chamber of Commerce as tenants. The new building even compromises the view and light for his existing building. I wish him well with the new space, but with Butz, Reilly and Jaindl having the same valley connections, the pickings are getting slimmer.
I would like to clarify for my readers that I have no ill will toward the Butz's, Jaindl's or J. B. Reilly. Although, my sure none of them have any use for me and this blog, my issue with the NIZ is the law itself, not the people involved. All the people I criticize as beneficiaries of the NIZ are otherwise contributing members of the community. I don't even fault them for taking advantage of this subsidy on steroids. I fault the excuse of a state government in Harrisburg, where we could teach even New Jersey the tricks of the trade in corruption.
May 25, 2016
Yesterday, the infamous Shula's Steakhouse singer was in district court on charges unrelated to the Arts Walk incident. He claims that the Allentown Police have a vendetta against him. Maybe they do, their boss's boss is known for his vendettas. The Hunsicker family, long associated with baseball on the south side, made the same accusation about Pawlowski last week at city council. But, this post is about the real crime last August by the steakhouse.
In the molovinsky on allentown hall of justice, J.B. Reilly, Pat Brown, Jennifer Mann, Sy Traub, etc. would have been in court yesterday, not the singer. They, and the others that are responsible for using public money to bring Shula's to the Strata Building (which is filled up no matter what Molovinsky says). They are responsible for the vendors who got stuck holding the bag for pennies on the dollar, when Shula's went bankrupt.
Elsewhere, in the upside down NIZ world, the parolee center is closing after 35 years, so that Reilly can build his City Center Tower Number 6. Some of the parolees will be transfered to Scranton and Wernersville, now, that shouldn't disrupt their lives. Hey, if you're a singer or a parolee, move along, it's Reilly Time.