Apr 30, 2016

The Second Battle For Wehr's Dam

Regular readers of this blog know that two years ago I started a prolonged battle to save Wehr's Dam. Joined by several energized people, including the descendants of Wehr's Mill, we prevailed on the South Whitehall Commissioners to halt plans by the Wildlands Conservancy to demolish the iconic dam. Unfortunately, that turned out to be only a reprieve. The Wildlands and Commissioners have now conspired to put the dam issue to referendum, linking preserving the dam with approving higher taxes. Time has marched on, and some of the veterans of the last battle are now dealing with issues of aging. I will not allow the referendum go forward without noting its devious intent. I will not permit the beauty and magic of that place to be destroyed, without identifying the true motives in play. Those interested in saving this icon of our past can stroll down to my recent posts on the dam. For more background, use the search engine on the right sidebar with Wehr's Dam.

photocredit: K Mary Hess

Apr 29, 2016

Morning Coffee With Molovinsky and Pawlowski

In my post yesterday, I showed this selfie with my early morning coffee. A reader noticed that I have lost weight; Thank you for that, but the picture is flattering. What really amazes me in the morning is Pawlowski's facebook posts. Here is a man who marches forward, despite those damn indictments. Talk about cherry picking, every piece of good news about Allentown is shared on his page,  even including pictures of actual  cherry blossoms.  Someone, from out of town, reading his feed would have no idea about the cloud hanging over him, and subsequently Allentown. Yesterday, he had about ten postings, including one by the Urban Land Institute, praising Allentown as a success for it's innovative private/public use of funds for development. Considering that over $70 million of state taxes went for that private/public debt service last year,  it's certainly a success for J.B. Reilly's portfolio.  Apparently, these urban planning bureaucrats, delusional as Pawlowski, don't know the difference between real development,  fairy dust and tax dollars.

Apr 28, 2016

Political Blogging In Allentown

Blogging in Allentown isn't as easy as it may seem. It requires rising early and usually having the post ready by 5:00AM. In the case of this blog, it is fueled by caffeine. molovinsky on allentown is a non-monetized political blog, also featuring local history and advocacy for the iconic park system. Although, the suburban turnout was large because of the presidential primary, the election reveals that locals are not so interested in state politics.  Someone with no experience or knowledge of state government can win a state rep nomination, by sending out four mailers. The candidate doesn't even have to know about the issues mentioned on his own mailers. While one candidate for United States Senator can literally walk across the state to meet and listen to the voters, someone else can win by simply having ads on television,  a few days before the election.  In the city itself, Pawlowski could still influence an election.  I suppose I should be grateful that at least I don't have to print this on paper, and deliver it to houses in the morning.

Apr 27, 2016

Julie Harhart's Revenge

When Julie Harhart decided to act out on her resentment toward Cindy Miller running for the 183rd, the only place to put her support and money was on Zach Mako. Marc Grammes had been put off the ballot for not properly filing a document, and I had decided not to circulate a petition as a Republican.*    What Mako lacked in knowledge of issues pertinent to the job, he made up for in campaign money from Harhart. I have never seen a primary candidate spend so much. He sent out four full size mailers, and seven robo calls, including one at 4:30 pm on election day. When you overlay Harhart's promotion with the candidate's unpreparedness, she should be ashamed of herself.  Let us hope that in the coming months Mako can learn about the issues referred to on his mailers. Although, not very accomplished for 22 years in Harrisburg, Harhart should have ended her career on a higher note.
*Allowing me the option to still run as an independent

                                    Another Post On Bad Government Below

Masonic Temple Plight, West Park Pain

Shocker! Last night the dupes on the Allentown Zoning Hearing Board allowed the Masonic Temple an “exception” to become a "halfway home". Officially it will only be for outpatientservices for pre adjudicated youth, but the designation is a giant red flag to the twenty one local residents who showed up to express their concern and asked for a continuance so they could have more details and perhaps even seek council. These legitimate concerns were brushed aside by Unger, MacCarthy, and Salinger. They even denied standing for a West Park objector because he lives too far away for the property in question. A plea from the president of West Part Civic Association to allow him to testify as part of the objector effort was denied, so was the appeal for a continuance.The good people of the WPCA were told they could appeal the apparently pre-ordained decision to the county. So this is how Allentown'sbetters/Pawlowski hacks, treat its good citizens and this exemplary community group. I tried to warn them before hand; they were believers, afterwards they said I was correct. It is no victory for me to have won that bet, now they too will think the worst of their local government, and they will do so based on experience. Just another day in the Queen City that is rotten to the core. 
                                                                                     Scott Armstrong 

Editorial by Molovinsky: Scott, this zoning board, as previous boards, is composed of people with a deep involvement in Allentown politics, as always has been the case. Nobody has ever accused an Allentown Zoning Board of being honest brokers. However, allow me to remind you that for a while in the past, the  zoning board did the bidding of the West Park Association. For years, one small business after another was denied a non-conforming use, back in the day when your group had influence. Putting aside that history lesson, lets not discount the influence of the Masons. Although such organizations are now dinosaurs, many of those dinosaurs still have connections. The group owns three large significant parcels, and is hard pressed for income to maintain the buildings, since the NIZ stole their primary tenant.

Apr 26, 2016

South Whitehall Conspiring To Steal Our History

You can enlarge the last Pa. State report above by clicking on the image. As you can see, there wasn't anything about the dam that was very problematic for the state. They concluded that it was "overall in good condition." What happen since, besides politics and greed? The Wildlands Conservancy approached South Whitehall with a plan to demolish the dam, with their usual patter about stream health and happy fish. The commissioners, with no sense of history or esthetics, were ready to give their OK, and then entered Molovinsky. Because of my initial defense of the dam and the writeup in the paper, the Wehr descendants become aware of the threat, and joined the battle. The Wildlands then commissioned a study which approached the dam as if it was Hoover Dam, endangering a community below. In reality, all through the years, the township workers themselves filled in cracks as noted by the state in prior inspections. The Wildlands quarter million $dollar study suggested  that they demolish the dam, at no cost to the township, or the township would have to spend $1.5 million to completely rebuild the dam.  After the commissioners yielded to public pressure and voted to not allow the dam's destruction, they supposedly were going to get bids from an actual contractor to do necessary repairs.

Now, two years later, and continuing pressure from the Wildlands and their minions within the township, they instead commissioned another study with a pre-set agenda;  Make the price high enough so that we can justify calling for a referendum.  So now, we hear the new engineer saying things like "To do it correctly", we must replace the middle third.  Actually not,  as they well know, it doesn't matter how much or how little water goes over or through the dam.  It's a thing of history and beauty, not a working mill dam.  No where else can the public see water going over a dam and then under a covered bridge, at one place.  For this reason and the beauty, the public has been coming to Wehr's Dam for over a hundred years. I may not succeed in saving the dam, but there will be at least one place where the truth will be told.

Apr 25, 2016

The Deception About Wehr's Dam

Back in March of 2014, when the South Whitehall Commissioners voted to keep Wehr's Dam, I knew that it wasn't the end of the issue. I told the Wehr family descendants then, that the only real way to keep the dam was having it placed on the township's new historical list. Although, the Wildlands Conservancy President Chris Kocher had said that if the commissioners voted to keep the dam, that his organization would stand down,  I knew that they really wouldn't.  The damage had already been done. It's a complicated story, mired in influence, if not outright corruption.

The township now claims that it will cost $600,000 to repair the dam, and will put it to the voters in a referendum, come November.  The South Whitehall Park and Recreation Director is the son of a Wildlands official, and wants the dam demolished.  The township and commissioners know that for $50,000 they could repair the dam, and meet the current state requirements. They and the Conservancy also know that when voters are given a choice between lower or higher taxes, they always vote their wallet. This disingenuous choice is contrived, just like picking a card from a magician. In 2012, before the Wildlands set their sites on demolishing the dam, the state inspection stated that the dam was essentially in good shape. Understand that the dam, although 18 inches wide at the top, is shaped like a wedge, with the bottom 6 feet wide. If that wasn't enough structural integrity, that massive wedge sits on an enormous concrete platform. It was the most substantial concrete dam of its era, and untouched, will stand there another 200 years.

The Wildlands Conservancy is tied to a grant faucet in the bed of corruption that we call Harrisburg and state government. They used a $259,000 grant on an engineering study, which had the objective of finding the dam deficient. The current study by the Commissioners parrots those findings. Going back to the 2012 state inspection, prior to the politics and influence getting involved, the state classifies it as a low hazard dam. That means that being located at the beginning of a very long public park, the dam poses no danger to people or property, regardless of its condition. Without the politics, the dam would need $50,000 dollars of patching to meet current state standards. However, with the Wildlands engineering firm tied to previous dealing with the DEP and other state agencies,  the new engineers know where their future bread is buttered.

The group hoping to save the dam will have their work cut out for them. They were gullible and allowed the South Whitehall Commissioners to stack the deck against them and the township's history. Once again,  elected officials are willing to allow the Wildlands Conservancy  to steal local history.  The Wildlands Conservancy is allowed to use 15 percent of state dam demolition grants toward their salaries.  Unfortunately, there hasn't been a contested election in South Whitehall for many years. What was once a bucolic place to live, has succumbed to the prevalent culture of influence and deception.

Apr 22, 2016

The Corruption of The Lehigh Valley

When I debated Mike Fleck on Business Matters, he called me a naysayer and spoke much louder than me, but perhaps with less integrity. 

The Lehigh Valley is becoming corrupt. It's not always the outright crime as now being investigated in Allentown by the FBI, sometimes it's simply misdirecting the voters, as is occurring in South Whitehall Township, in regard to Wehr's Dam. Either way, the citizens are being short changed.  Sometimes, that deception enriches the officials,  other times the public is simply cheated out of their history.  In some ways the voters are responsible for their own victimization.  If they insist on always voting one party, as in Allentown,  eventually there is no longer any checks and balance.  If not enough people are motivated to serve, as in South Whitehall, eventually the uncontested elections result in arrogance.  While the story of Mike Fleck and Allentown will dominate the main stream and alternative media this weekend,  my next post will outline the upcoming crime against the people in South Whitehall.

Sign Of The Times In Allentown

Yesterday, Mayor In Limbo put a picture of the new Jordan Park sign on his facebook page. I have an issue with these signs, allow me to explain. When I unsuccessfully tried to save the quaint little WPA Robin Hood Dam, the park director at the time offered to erect a sign explaining where the dam had been. I suggested instead that we keep the picturesque dam, with no signage. Signage is the rage with the recreationally trained, and all the park directors since Mr. In Limbo's first election, have that same background. By the park office in Cedar Park, I have been advocating for the patching of the old parking lot retaining wall, along the path. Rather than patch the wall, they have installed decorative wooden railing, poured a concrete planter area, and painted parking space lines. While the new CVS type parking lot really added nothing necessary, the retaining wall continues to deteriorate. While the parks get new signs, the Cedar Beach pool project remains dead, without water.  What should be done in the park system is quite simple;  Maintain those wonderful things that still remain, because we have already lost so many treasures. Once there was a beautiful tropical greenhouse in Trexler Park, torn down to plant native bushes along the Little Cedar Creek. Three years ago those bushes were cut down, so now neither feature remains, but we have some nice signs.  I'm still hoping that City Council will appoint me as a citizen liaison on park issues, but I suppose I won't be getting Julio's vote.

                         BONUS PARK PHOTOGRAPH BELOW

Bogert's Bridge, Lehigh Parkway

The Photography of K Mary Hess

Apr 21, 2016

Not Easy Blogging In Allentown

Yesterday, somebody called me an attention seeking blowhard. Someone else, commented on a very old post,.Molovinsky's twist of the facts. On facebook, Mayor In Limbo put a picture of the Lehigh Parkway wall being repointed. Truth is his neglect caused part of the wall to collapse, and my advocacy resulted in repairs being made at Fountain Park and Union Terrace. I've been called a naysayer by the best of them. I suppose their hubris makes those I scrutinize so outraged at my observations. Their outbursts toward me are personal, venomous and much more offensive than anything I write about their business or voting. I normally don't directly address those insults, and usually allow them the last word.  Probably being self-depreciating is an asset for me, in this endeavor that I call molovinsky on allentown. Perhaps, in the All American City of my youth, I would be a naysayer. However, in this era of self serving politicians, opportunists, and a newspaper which doesn't know if it wants to be journalistic or an advertising agency, I believe that I serve a public good, even if it's not universally appreciated.

Apr 20, 2016

Reilly Gain, Masonic Pain

The Masonic Temple is perhaps the remaining architectural wonder of Allentown. The five story Classic Revival building took over two years to construct, opening in 1926. The large ritual meeting rooms are adorned with murals. General Harry Trexler was a Mason, and largely responsible for Allentown's Temple, which is on the list of significant historic buildings. Unfortunately, after almost ninety years, it's future is in jeopardy. It is essentially supported by one large commercial tenant, an accounting firm which rents the office space on the first floor for $10,000 a month. The accountant will be moving into J.B. Reilly's new office tower when completed. The Masons are hoping to find ten smaller tenants for $1000 each to fill the void, or perhaps twelve at $800. The only certain thing is that their good fortune with a large dependable tenant appears to be over. When Pawlowski cuts the ribbon for Reilly's new tenant, he'll be actually pulling the plug on an important part of west Allentown's history. He'll give mouth service that his department of Musical Chairs will help find them a tenant.

reprinted from April 15, 2013

Special Use for Halfway House for up to 30 youths, ages of 12-18 years.

In 2013. I knew that the Masonic Temple would never again have such a quality tenant as Buckno and Lisicky. However, to go from the most prestigious accountant in the valley, to a halfway house for delinquents, is indeed a sorry consequence of the NIZ. The beautiful murals and decor of that building will not survive the new tenants.

Smoking News From The Morning Yawn

Yesterday's Morning Call tells the story of a wonderful smoked-on-site barbecue venue coming to the former Shula's. Beyond the spin by J.B. Reilly and the Morning Call, there are many factors to digest. We learned that while Lafayette Ambassador bank will be made mostly whole from the Shula bankruptcy, the other creditors will be getting peanuts. We understand that because the deal will include the former restaurant equipment and liquor license, the new operator will be going in virtually for nothing. But, there is more to this story, which you will not learn anywhere else.

Years ago, I told the story of Jerry's coffee house,  cooking an occasional egg on a George Foreman grill. The city made that poor little immigrant install a $40K exhaust system. Readers of this blog know that I refer to Strata Lofts as the plywood palace, because they allowed J.B. Reilly to build using plywood, under the thin fake brick facade. We learn now that below this palace for millennials, they will allow the new barbecue pit to operate a smoke house. If that's not enough of a hazard, there will be an open fire pit outside, between the Strata Lofts and the PennRose apartments. If that was the little immigrant Jerry's plan, they would imprison him for even mentioning a fire pit.

ADDENDUM: The Morning Call followed through today with yet another article on the coming barbeque restaurant, this time featuring their plans, including a robust take-out service.  I can see where 7th and Linden would be a convenient location for takeout, especially for the suburbanites.  I expect the Call to outdo themselves promoting Reilly's latest offering.           

Apr 19, 2016

A Blog and a Cemetery

About ten years ago, I began searching for the grave of a young Jewish woman, who died around 1900. Among several Jewish cemeteries no longer in use, I searched Mt. Sinai, a small section of the sprawling Fairview Cemetery on Lehigh Street, just west of the 8th Street Bridge. The cemetery is the history of Allentown past, including the graves of Harry Trexler, John Leh, and Jack Mack. As one proceeded deeper into the cemetery, away from sight on Lehigh Street, conditions worsened. As is the case with many old cemeteries, fees paid for perpetual care, 100 years ago, were long gone. Complicating the situation, the current private operator wasn't particularly assessable. In addition to extended family members upset about conditions, the situation was compounded by his refusal, with few exceptions, to allow private upkeep. My early posts on the situation drew response and phone calls from people with no interest in local political blogs; They were just exasperated relatives, with a family member buried long ago at Fairview. After beginning a series of posts, and letters to the editor, I prevailed upon The Morning Call to write a story one year later. The Call's story appeared on August 11, 2008. Within two weeks, the cemetery operator agreed to a public meeting I had organized at a local church. Arrangements were made between the operator and several parties. As with several of Allentown's older cemeteries, the issue of maintenance will be ongoing. This would be a worthwhile project for City Hall.

Mt.Sinai In Fairview Cemetery

Jews have been buried in a small section of Fairview Cemetery, called Mt. Sinai, for over 138 years. Although the markings on several stones have worn away, Hannah Dreifuss was buried there in 1868. The September 10th Chronicle in 1875 reported that two members of the Jewish faith, prominent Hamilton Street merchants, Joshua Schnurman and Simon Feldman, purchased a section from Fairview Cemetery and applied for a charter for Mt. Sinai Cemetery, thus creating the first Jewish Institution in Allentown.
Fairview Cemetery itself was not formally laid-out until 1870, when the renowned architectural firm Lathan of Buffalo was hired to create the premiere resting place in the Lehigh Valley. The giants of Allentown would be buried there, among them Harry Trexler, the Leh's, and the Mack's of truck fame.
The History Lehigh County, published in 1914, notes Mt. Sinai contained 29 graves. Among them was Julia Wolf, who died in 1907. Her husband Morris served with the local regiment in the Civil War, and lived to be 98 years old. Feldman and Schnurman were among the earliest Jews in Allentown, immigrants from Germany who practiced the modern "Reformed" Judaism. These gentlemen and their extended family members would go on to form the "Young Ladies and Men's Hebrew Society" in 1883, a predecessor to the Keneseth Israel Congregation organized in 1903. Mt. Sinai remained the resting place for Reformed Jews till 1928, when Keneseth Israel established its own cemetery. Burials continued at Mt. Sinai through the 1940's as spouses and passing family members joined those previously departed in family plots. Today there are 78 graves. In July of 2006, thirty years after the previous burial in 1976, Joseph Levine was laid to rest at the age of 103.

Blogger's Note: Mt. Sinai Cemetery is unaffiliated with any synagogue, and with few exceptions, has been unused for 60 years.


Apr 18, 2016

There Never Was Suppose To Be A Managing Director In Allentown

Allentown news is buzzing with the resignation of Fran Dougherty, Allentown's managing director. Since Allentown historical perspective is limited mostly to this blog, allow me to address the position itself; I leave speculation as to why Dougherty is resigning to the speculators. In around 1996 Allentown decided to redo it's city charter, and at that time decided if it wanted to stay with a strong mayor, or go with the managing director system. The charter committee decided to stay with the strong mayor system, and the second most important position was always the Community Development Director, to whom the department heads reported. When Pawlowski was elected and began his first term, he was the first mayor in Allentown's history to hire a managing director. At the time I stated that we were in essence paying two people for one person's job.

If our mayor wasn't in legal limbo, I would say that we shouldn't replace Dougherty, let Pawlowski do the job for which he is being paid. HOWEVER, with an indictment coming, perhaps sooner than later, we best replace Dougherty, and quickly at that.

ADDENDUM:  Ray O'Connell, president of City Council told the Morning Call "We are losing the heart and soul of the city," O'Connell said. "The mayor is the mayor, and the mayor does what he has to do, but Fran does the day to day operations."  Apparently, the current council doesn't even know that there wasn't even supposed to be a managing director.  

Pretty Boys and Politics

George Clooney had a celebrity fund raiser at his house, and the beautiful people raised $millions for Hillary. Hollywood fawning over Democrats is nothing new, but Clooney's public explanation was ridiculous. George admits that the amount of money raised at his dinner party was "obscene", but claimed that his intent is to elect downticket Democrats, who can then legislatively do away with such contribution excesses. Either George is a moron, or thinks that his fans are gullible. Either way, I think that pretty boys should stick to acting, they come off much better that way.

When Mack Was Allentown

I grew up around the corner from Mack's famous 5C plant, on the corner of Lehigh and S. 12th Streets. In the early 1950's, the brightly colored truck tractors would cover the lot next to the old assembly plant. All day long, a new tractor would leave for delivery somewhere, with two more piggy back on the coupling hitches. Over the years I have written a lot of posts about Mack, especially how their workers would use the Fountain Park WPA steps,  walking to their jobs on S. 10th Street.  Mack made all their own truck parts there, except the tires. Built Like A Mack Truck, was a result of the local craftsmanship.

In Saturday's Morning Call article about Mack investing in the Macungie plant, the vice president is quoted as saying that Mack was here to stay. By Saturday evening, that vice president was no longer with the company, according to WFMZ. I remember when the larger share of production was moved to South Carolina in 1987. Shortly before that plant closed in 2002, they handed out sunglasses to symbolize their bright future there. I remember when the World Headquarters on Mack Boulevard moved to North Carolina. I don't know about Mack's long term future in the valley, but I do know that the ties that bind have long since been broken.

Jack Mack, one of Mack Truck's founding brothers, was killed in an auto accident in 1924.  He is buried in Fairview Cemetery on Lehigh Street. This week I will be revisiting my work and posts about that cemetery.                                                                                                                                                               

Urban Shopper

Apr 17, 2016

Pandering Politicians In NYC

I thought that John Kasich was pretty sharp, until I saw him trying to pander to the ultra Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. He asked some Yeshiva students if they knew the story of Joseph?  Worse yet, he then proceeded to tell them what the story meant. Understand that these young  men have been studying the Bible, related commentaries and teachings their whole life, from sunrise to sunset. Ted Cruz was equally ridiculous in Brooklyn, he helped make matzah for Passover.

Apr 15, 2016

A Trip Around Allentown

The other day on a trip around town,  I drove past the current house on 2nd Street where my grandfather first lived when he came to Allentown in 1895.  A couple minutes later,  I drove by my grandparents house that I remember, near Sacred Heart Hospital.  It's the house where my father and his four siblings grew up.  Earlier that morning I was on the south side, where my parents lived when I grew up.  Allentown is a small place, I even drove past a couple of houses that I lived in as an adult.

In the course of writing the political aspect of this blog, I sometimes clash with the millennials and X'ers,  who think that my observations are so historically based that they're no longer relevant.  Perhaps they think that I'm frozen in time,  still eating strawberry pie at the Patio restaurant in Hess's.  It is true that I remember an Allentown very different than the current one,  but I was here and present, for the transition.

Yesterday, we learned that one NIZ baron got $28 million,  out of a total of $29 million, of state tax money toward his portfolio of buildings.  Years ago, there were so many business leaders in Allentown that they had a special club for lunch, named the Livingston.  In today's Allentown, the barons could all met at one table for four, and there would still be empty seats.

photo:  I'm on the front lawn in Little Lehigh Manor, around 1949.  Never imagined that I would have to defend the park 60 years later.
                                                   BONUS ART BELOW

                                                     FREE ADMISSION
                                                       HIGH CULTURE

Kitchen Friends

Apr 14, 2016

Rite-Aids Return, Figment Of My Imagination

Dear Mayor Pawlowski,
Forgive me for saying this, but I'm very disappointed in the changes made to my town. After my wife passed away, I moved to the senior high-rise at 8th and Union St. I can see the old Mack Transmission Plant from my window, I worked there for 40 years. I understand now it's a indoor go-cart track, I find that a bitter pill. Actually pills are why I'm writing. I used to walk to the Rite-Aid on Hamilton Street. With that closing, I don't think I can walk out 7th St. to the old Sears. Forgive me Mayor, that's before your time in Allentown. The other Rite-Aid used to be Levines Fabrics, they bought it from Sears. The Army Navy store was across the parking lot. Anyway, back to my problem. Now I can't even catch the bus on Hamilton anymore to go visit my daughter in Catty. What have you done to me? My neighbor, a nice widow, tells me you gave that Mexican Restaurant lots of our money and they don't even pay their bills? Never ate there, what were you thinking? Anyway, sorry to bother you, I know you're a busy man, but I don't know where I will get my medicine from, and I'm upset. Sorry.

PhotoCredit: molovinsky

Reprinted from July of 2008, to commemorate the return of Rite-Aid.  Isn't it wonderful that J. B  Reilly will finally get a tenant who will do enough business to actually pay rent.

Molovinsky Opposes Dog Park

I'm opposed to Allentown creating a Dog Park. As someone who visits one Allentown park or another every day, I can tell you that every park is a dog park. At least half the people in any given park are there with their dog(s). So, while there is no reason for a separate dog park, there are reasons why we shouldn't create one. Pawlowski has already suggested that it be placed in one of the two unneeded parcels that he purchased, to help justify that controversial deal, which may be under investigation. Instead, both those parcels should be sold, because the current park system is underfunded.

Now, as far as the park system being currently short funded; The Cedar Beach Pool project is dead in the water, or I should say, without water. Since our Mayor In Limbo announced the project on his facebook page, no work has occurred.  Although the bottom of the pool was removed,  the project has come to a standstill.  Apparently, it is yet another project that has no budget led way or time frame, which is becoming an Allentown tradition.

Although City Council Park Committee Chair Cynthia Mota knows nothing about the parks, Council still has never responded to my offer to be a citizen liaison on park matters.

molovinsky on allentown would like to concentrate on historical posts this spring. Let us hope that the administration's shenanigans slow down,  permitting time for some history lessons.

photo: I'm explaining the spring pond and its neglect, while giving a tour of the WPA structures in Lehigh Parkway.

Apr 13, 2016

When 6th Street Was West Allentown

In 1903, the 600 block of 2nd Street housed one Russian Jewish family after another. They built a small synagogue there, which was kept open until about twenty years ago. My grandfather, who then worked at a cigar factory, had just saved enough to bring his parents over from the old country. They lived in an old house at 617 N. 2nd. The current house at that location was built in 1920. By the time my father was born in 1917, the youngest of five children, they had moved to the suburbs just across the Jordan Creek.

My grandfather lived on the corner of Chew and Jordan Streets. He butchered in a barn behind the house. The house is still there, 301 Jordan, the barn is gone. He would deliver the meat with a horse and wagon. On the weekends, when the family wanted to visit friends, the horse insisted on doing the meat market route first. Only after he stopped in front of the last market on the route, would he permit my grandfather to direct him. excerpt from My grandfather's Horse, May 13, 2008

Allentown has just designated the neighborhood west of the Jordan to 7th Street, and between Linden and Tilghman Streets, as Jordan Heights. The area encompasses the Old Fairgrounds Historic District. Allentown's old fairground, in the years between 1852-1888, was in the vicinity of 6th and Liberty. It was an open space, as is the current fairground at 17th and Chew Streets. When my grandparents moved to Jordan Street it was a modern house, just built in 1895. Many of the Jewish families moved to the suburbs between Jordan and 7th. The Jewish Community Center was built on the corner of 6th and Chew, today known as Alliance Hall.
I wish the Jordan Heights initiative well. There's a lot of history in those 24 square blocks, and hopefully much future.

reprinted and retitled from 2014

photo: Opening of Jewish Community Center, 1928, 6th and Chew Streets.  Now Alliance Hall

Apr 12, 2016

Vince's Cheesy Opening

Yesterday, Vince's Cheesesteak Shop opened in the same space as the now gone Tony Luke's Cheesesteaks. The Morning Call gave that former cheesesteak business so much press that I blogged about it several times. Although, I wish the Cocca family and Vince's nothing but success, I'm so cheesed off about another fuss at the same spot, that I used the Tony Luke's photo for Vince's. Talking about cheesy, I think that Peter Schweyer was at both openings. I'll be sure to patronize Vince's, along with Zandy's and the Brass Rail.

Apr 11, 2016

Julio Guridy On Julio

First, I congratulate Mr. Molovinsky for maintaining his blog. I would had preferred that he would had contacted me to get the true and correct story of what he wrote about me. However, I will try to set the records straight and address some of Mr. Molovinsky's pedantic, condescending and accusatory statements. Here are the facts: In the 14 plus years I have been serving the public in Allentown City Council, I have been chosen by my colleagues in council as their president for 3 years, and vice president for 5 years (4 years in early 2000s and in 2015). In 2009, I was again nominated by the late Councilman Michael Donovan (may he RIP) and seconded for VP of Council and I declined it as a good gesture to give the position to newly appointed Tony Phillips, the first African American councilman who unsuccessfully ran for mayor as the Republican candidate against Mayor Pawlowsky.

Mr. Molovinsky, please know that before being appointed by Gov. Rendell to the DRJTBC position as director of Compact Authorized Investment (now I am Director of Contract Compliance), I was Vice President of Bank of America. I started banking as a Management Trainee for First Valley Bank and rose to become Assistant Branch Manager to an Assistant Vice President and from there to Vice President and worked in the Community and Economic Development Department in Summit Bank, Fleet Bank and Bank of America. I worked in the banking industry for over 11 years. Simultaneously, I opened a Travel Agency with my wife which we had for 13 years and employed 3 full-time and 4 part-timers people. During the same time, in 2001, I ran for City Council and with the support of the great voters of Allentown (Republicans, Democrats and Independents) I won and have been reelected ever since.
 I am always mindful that God has blessed me as I came to the this beautiful country at the age of 15 years old not speaking a word in English and have been fortunate enough to be elected as a councilman to serve ALL people. In my tenure in council, I have sponsored and supported hundreds of legislations to make Allentown a better place for ALL.
 Mr. Molovisky, I am sure you can remember that since the early 1980s decades there were hardly any new economic development projects in Allentown coupled with an immense amount of corporate flights from the city as well a significant number of homeowners moving out of Allentown to the suburbs. As you can see, now there has been over 1 billion dollars of investment in the city and a great number of middle class and upper class coming back, as well as millenniums buying and renting properties in Allentown. I don’t think you would deny that thousands of people are coming to Allentown’s restaurants, stores, and entertainments at the PPL Center, AAM, AOWM, and others venues! For more information please go to www.allentownpa.gov. Yes, I understand that we still have a lot to do and we are trying to make the city a better place for all citizens. I know there are a lot more good people in our city than bad ones. Hence, many of us will continue volunteering our time to make our city a better place to live for all of us.
 Lastly, please speak with me and I will gladly share with you what we do at the DRJTBC. I wish you the best and hope that we can productively work together for the benefit of our citizens. I know that some tend to feebly fall into the abysmal of negative criticism of those whom they don’t like or agree with, but it is a lot more fruitful if we all work together for the benefit of our city, state, country and the world, regardless of the populists demagogue harangued by a few. I believe that we the people who truly care will continue working to make our city a better place for all. God bless you, and God bless our city.

The above was submitted as a comment by Mr. Guridy to the post, Julio Guridy's Confession.  Because the post goes back to January 22, 2016, I know that very few people saw Julio's reply, submitted on March 18th.    Julio writes that he would had preferred that he would had contacted me to get the true and correct story of what he wrote about me.  This is something that I tend not to do, I prefer not to be spun. On the other hand, I have known Julio since he was elected the first time,  and have observed him at countless council meetings.  I bill this blog as informed commentary, and that certainly pertains in the case with Julio.  I will not analyze Julio's comment line by line, but do take exception with his statement about a great number of middle class and upper class coming back.  I think that the actual public return on a $billion dollars has been very small.  We couldn't afford too many programs like this one.  I'm glad to host Julio's reply,  and will always do so for anybody mentioned in a blog post.

Apr 8, 2016

Allentown Tenant Association

The Tenant Association was started and is run by two well intentioned young men, Julian Kern and Ken Heffentrager. They believe that there are far too many problem landlords in Allentown, and that the city is lax in dealing with the situation. They routinely display photographs of buildings they consider deficient on their facebook page. They have become regulars at Allentown City Council, where they present their documentation. They are now asking the city to establish a tenant/landlord court, because they believe that the district court system is too lenient on landlords.

Before I was a blogger, and before I was an advocate for the Park System and WPA, I was a landlord. A couple of years ago I explained to Julian and Ken that I don't believe that anybody buys a building with the intention of depreciating their asset. Generally speaking, the current available tenant pool in center city isn't an easy one to deal with. Although, I'm not known to shy away from controversy, I have remained somewhere between neutral and supportive of their efforts. However, I believe now something needs to be addressed, and that is simply that overstated blight designations can actually cause more blight.

Looking at the map above, who would want to invest in that neighborhood? A tenant moves out, leaves an apartment full of furniture and trash. The landlord can't really clean and paint without putting it somewhere, usually outside. The city garbage carrier will only take away a few bags at a time, and only a couple pieces of furniture on a designated night. It's easy to take an unflattering photograph of a property, but is it indicative of its normal condition?

Despite the paint commercials on television, I can tell you that paint now a days starts to fade and peel about ten minutes after it's applied. Nothing in this post is meant to imply that there is no basis to the good work that Julian and Ken are doing. There are certainly deficient landlords and properties, however, there's far too many flags on that map to be in the city's best interest.

ADDENDUM: The Tenant Association,  in addition to calling for a Housing Court,  would also like to see Allentown enforce more state statutes on blight. They apparently don't have the historical perspective to realize that in the recent past Allentown has used blight designations as a backdoor to eminent domain.  The designation was used against the 5th Street residents for the benefit of Sacred Heart Hospital's expansion.  It was used to take the Neuweiler Brewery, although the city has done nothing responsible with the property since.  It was also even used against the former property owners of the arena block.  Any expansion of law requires an ethical government for fair implementation.  The current ethics of city hall are too questionable to encourage them with more legalized weapons.

Apr 7, 2016

Pawlowski's Magic Hat

Saturday's Morning Call, presented a story* outling a grant program designed "to help people at least give you a second look", according to Mayor Pawlowski. The truth is Pawlowski uses our money as the gift that keeps on giving. Two of the seven are restaurants which have received substantial aid from other city programs. Three are small startups which occupy space which appears to be owned or handled by the same realtor. One recipient, New York Urban, was a successful clothes retailer who opened a second shop. The city claims if the businesses stay open less than five years, they will try to recoup the money through liens; but only one of the seven is not a tenant, so that claim is baseless. Three of the shops have recently had their facade redone in an identical finish. Did we pay to remodel the building with facade grants and then provide tenants with these business grants? Coincidence or shenanigan? Talking of shenanigans, I must mention Pawlowski's peek-a-boo and hide-a-fund system**. One receiver of these new grants is Johnny Manana's. Yes, it's the same place that has been receiving grants since before Pawlowski was mayor. This joke is located in a KOZ and already pays no taxes. It was given a special low cost city sponsored liquor license. It appears this latest grant, $50,000, was virtually blackmail to open up, so our agency leaders could crow about how wonderful are their accomplishments. Another $50,000 went to the Cosmopolitan, not yet built, but named. The owner received the location for one dollar, the previous building was torn down at our expense, and of course he received the customary city discounted liquor license. I could say a few more things,but I will be polite. Some of the small shops, the ones with the redwood fronts, you better visit quickly. When the grant for their rent is up, so will they.
Vickey's Sweet Spot 621 Hamilton St. $11,190
New York Urban 740 Hamilton St. $19,366
Total Office Solutions 915 Hamilton St. $20,000
Wireless & Beyond 965 Hamilton St. $20,000
Ileanette's Beauty Salon 913 Hamilton St. $20,000
Johnny Manana's 835 Hamilton St. $50,000
Cosmopolitan 18 N. Sixth St. $50,000

UPDATE:" Pawlowski said some of the remaining money ($155,000) could be used to promote existing restaurants"


**Allentown Economic and Development Corporation,Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority, Allentown Redevelopment Authority

reprinted from May 11, 2008

ADDENDUM 2010: Since I wrote this post two years ago, both Vickey's Sweet Spot and Johnny Manana's have gone out of business. The Morning Call now reports that Pawlowski hopes to set up another recipient, a sports bar, in the Manana spot.

ADDENDUM 2016: Photograph and post originally published in 2008, and then reprinted in 2010. Now in 2016, apparently the NIZ isn't enough for Mayor In Limbo Pawlowski, who is still spending tax dollars to provide chosen property owners with commercial tenants, via the Retail Mosaic program.

Apr 6, 2016

The Apologists of Allentown

I've been sparring on and off with a young apologist for the administration and the NIZ at facebook. While he's been active in some civic activities for a few months, he actually asked me what I have done for Allentown? Yesterday morning, another facebook friend relayed the tale of an 82 year old woman working at a local dollar store to make ends meet. The young apologist suggested that she should apply for one the small business grants being touted in a shark tank type contest by the administration, called Retail Mosaic. This program is in lieu of meaningful community benefit from the NIZ, but being partially financed by the ones who have profited the most, such as City Center Development and National Penn Bankshares.  It should be called what the sponsors really think of it; Crumbs For The Little Bums, and those involved should be ashamed of themselves.  The Retail Mosaic article mentions ready available  storefronts.  I should trust that they're not going to steer the Little Bums into certain storefronts for the advantage of certain property owners, but there is a basis for such speculation.  In a previous grant program run by the Pawlowski Administration, all the grants seemed to go businesses operating out of storefronts operated by one local real estate partnership.

Other readers informed the young apologist that at 82,  the elderly woman should be at home on a porch, watching her grandchildren play. The apologists are in a rough position. Although they defend the NIZ, they must restrain themselves from demonstrative support of Pawlowski, in order to maintain some credibility. However, at the same time, the Mayor In Limbo continues to wield power and make appointments.

Apr 5, 2016

Social Security Disability, Allentown's Growth Industry

Yesterday I went to the Social Security Office, across from the prison, to discuss my retirement options. I was given number 199. In addition to retirement, Social Security also dispenses money for disability. I would say from the gray hair, there were about three of us contemplating retirement, all the others were for disability. A few middle age men were carrying their fake canes. The canes aren't fake, it's the disabilities. I saw one such gentleman walk in from the parking lot, clearly the cane bore no weight, and was merely a prop. Most of the people waiting were quite young, in their twenties. Disability has been expanded to include mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, additive personality and anger management. I will say many of them did look angry to me. It was hard finding a parking space. Business also looked good at the prison. If Johnny Manana's had gotten these crowds....

reprinted from 2008

                                                Post on Emma Tropiano below

Emma Tropiano, The People's Candidate

In the late 1970's, neighbors would gather in the market on 9th Street to complain and receive consolation from the woman behind the cash register. Emma was a neighborhood institution. A native Allentonian, she had gone through school with mayor for life Joe Dadonna, and knew everybody at City Hall. More important, she wasn't shy about speaking out. What concerned the long time neighbors back then was a plan to create a Historical District, by a few newcomers.

What concerned Emma wasn't so much the concept, but the proposed size of the district, sixteen square blocks. The planners unfortunately all wanted their homes included, and they lived in an area spread out from Hall Street to 12th, Linden to Liberty.* Shoving property restrictions down the throats of thousands of people who lived in the neighborhood for generations didn't seem right to Emma. As the battle to establish the district became more pitched, Emma began referring to it as the Hysterical District.
Emma eventually lost the battle, but won the hearts of thousands of Allentonians. Emma Tropiano would be elected to City Council beginning in 1986, and would serve four terms. In 1993 she lost the Democratic Primary for Mayor by ONE (1) vote.

Her common sense votes and positions became easy fodder for ridicule. Bashed for opposing fluoridation, our clean water advocates now question the wisdom of that additive. Although every founding member of the Historical District moved away over the years, Emma continued to live on 9th Street, one block up from the store. In the mid 1990's, disgusted by the deterioration of the streetscape, she proposed banning household furniture from front porches. Her proposal was labeled as racist against those who could not afford proper lawn furniture. Today, SWEEP officers issue tickets for sofas on the porch.

Being blunt in the era of political correctness cost Emma. Although a tireless advocate for thousands of Allentown residents of all color, many people who never knew her, now read that she was a bigot. They don't know who called on her for help. They don't know who knocked on her door everyday for assistance. They don't know who approached her at diners and luncheonettes all over Allentown for decades. We who knew her remember, and we remember the truth about a caring woman.

* Because the designated Historical District was too large, it has failed, to this day, to create the atmosphere envisioned by the long gone founders. Perhaps had they listened to, instead of ridiculing, the plain spoken shopkeeper, they would have created a smaller critical mass of like thinking homeowners, who then could have expanded the area.

reprinted from 2010

Apr 4, 2016

Political Correctness and Allentown

Pawlowski helps feed some of the many poor who have moved here under his watch

The Library Of Congress is changing the term illegal alien to unauthorized immigrant,  to be less offensive.  On that note,  those easily offended should not continue reading beyond this point.

In 2005, at a NAACP sponsored event, I introduced the concept that Allentown was becoming a poverty magnet. An officer of that organization, who was also an employee of CACLV, asked me to prove that I wasn't a racist, since so many of the poor people moving to Allentown were of color. In 2005, even mention of a poverty magnet was unacceptable. The Morning Call reporter, assigned to cover the 2005 mayoral election, while generally marginalizing my candidacy as an independent, jumped on the chance to publicize the controversy.  Now, in 2016, the consequences of the poverty magnet is part of city planning. Alan Jennings himself has adopted the phrase in the last few years.  Allentown's trying to induce mixed income housing into center city. Yesterday, the Morning Call had an article about the mass migration to Allentown from Puerto Rico in the last decade. Unfortunately, a disproportionate part of that population limits itself to low income, by making Social Security Disability a career choice. However, that's a taboo subtopic, that is still years away, if ever,  from public discussion.

Despite Elton John coming to perform at a new arena,  Allentown has become a much poorer place in the last ten years.  The streets are strewn with litter, and the middle class avoids the school system.  Social programs that make Allentown an attractive landing spot for transients should be reevaluated for their long term consequences on the city.

I don't believe that Allentown is currently being well served by political correctness.  At any rate, it is not on the menu at this blog.

Apr 1, 2016

Omega Pills and Blogging

I keep seeing Larry King doing informercials and commercials for a supplement pill. He mentions more energy to play with his kids. Now, I get that he dyes his hair, but really, how young are his kids? I'm not much for that kind of research, and by the way, please don't submit comments which ask questions. Do your own research. While I digress to the subject of comments, the less incoming comments here was not unexpected, with the new registration requirement. While registration provides more credibility for your point of view, readers can still utilize a pseudonym.  As reader George Ruth noted on an earlier post comment,  ... it is helpful to readers to 'digest' a comment based on that commentators 'history'. It is much more enlightening. I know that registration requires more commitment, but this blog and your input is meant to contribute to the community.

Anyway, a short peek at King's bio reveals that he's 82, and has been married eight times. I suggest that you both register to comment, and buy omega pills.

Mar 31, 2016

A Critical Mass in Allentown

A group of cyclists meet in West Park and ride around Allentown. While they label their activity Critical Mass to bring attention to bicycles and bike safety in Allentown, they are also a critical mass in other ways. Allentown is trying desperately to integrate a diverse community. While the haves may live in the Strata Flats, most of the have nots live north of Linden Street. Meeting after meeting, and organization after organization, has yet to bring any real community benefit to the have nots, from over a  $billion dollars of development in the NIZ.  Although these cyclists cost the taxpayers nothing, their rides unite the different neighborhoods and demographics.  In real diversity, they had more success than the paid professionals have managed to achieve. Mostly millennials, many live in center city, and see Allentown as their Little Apple. I have met a couple of them, and if Allentown is to achieve any of the slogans paid for by City Hall, it will be by the efforts of such groups.

Mar 30, 2016

Tax Dollars At Waste in Lehigh Valley

As some of you know, I'm an opponent of rail to trail.  I suppose I'm not very progressive, I'm even against farmland preservation.  I oppose the rail trails because of the enormous squandering of that irreplaceable infrastructure. Farmland preservation is outright silly. We don't have a fraction of the farmers necessary to farm the existing farms.  How many people now- a- days would want to work twelve hours a day, seven days a week?  They're even giving grants to induce people into becoming farmers, how quaint.  In the real world, the U.S. Department of Agriculture paid land owners NOT to plant,  because of the massive excessive acreage in our area.  But, enough introduction, this post is about The Lehigh Valley Transportation Study, deciding to put their emphasis on hiking and biking.  Last evening I put up The Bicycles of Allentown Video for a short run. I will be removing it later today.  George Ruth sent the following comment;  When will we at least be honest and call it what it is: recreation! Does the Transportation Study really believe we are talking about "transportation"? These youngns' really do think we are just dying to be a European city.  The nonsense is the child of  the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, which spends about $1million dollars a year thinking about our regional transportation needs.  The grants are used to pay the salaries of the planning puppies, to do studies and recommendations, which result in nothing.  How many decades did it take Harrisburg to begin widening Route 22 ?

Recently, Molovinsky University gave a brief presentation on Allentown's former branch lines,  gone now forever.  Ironically,  after the track was torn out, and new data indicated that rail service fosters industrial growth,  AEDC started seeking a multi-million dollar  grant to restore track back to its 10th street complex.  Perhaps Scott Unger and these other planners should have spent more time at this blog.

Bonus Video in post below: The Bicycles of Allentown will show today only.

Mar 29, 2016

The Bicycles Of Allentown

The limited showing of The Bicycles of Allentown has ended. It will return for another limited engagement this summer.

Pawlowski As The Messiah

Readers of this blog know that I have been finding Mayor Ed in denial of the allegations that have permeated his administration. Two subordinates have pleaded guilty to illegal acts, supposedly at his direction. I have also noted here that Pawlowski now seems much more interested in indentifying himself with the little people, as in the marginalized and downtrodden.  Activist  Robert Trotner felt that in his Easter Sunday facebook post,  Ed was perhaps comparing himself with Jesus.
A man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice  for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world.  It was a perfect act.  Mahatma Gandhi 
While such an interpretation is beyond my meager psychology and theology background, I find it plausible. Anyway,  realizing that he's not resigning,  I would prefer Ed just to concentrate on the nuts and bolts of running the city, rather than the redemption of mankind.  However, I am sensitive enough to realize that at best,  this must be a stressful time for him.

Mar 28, 2016

Cedarbrook, A Decision Never Reached

It took Lehigh County several years to award outsourced management to Good Shepherd, which was a no brainer decision in the first place. This evening,  the commissioners are having yet again another public meeting on Cedarbrook, this time to supposedly decide how many beds the facility should have. If they ever come to agreement on that issue, next comes if the building(s) should be remodeled or replaced. If any of this sounds familiar, it's only because they have been debating these issues for nearly a decade. Cedarbrook, although the recipient of election promises, never gets the green light for change.

Let me give the readers a two for one special with this post. One of the long time airport authority members is retiring, claiming he no longer has enough time to devote to the position. I recently inquired of another member, supposedly one very involved, as to why the airport was spending money to build a separate building for the car rental operations. I'm always amazed why the airport keeps expanding their facilities, when the passenger volume keeps decreasing. The current baggage area, like the airport itself, is never crowded, and the car rentals being there is convenient. This board member, while even being one of the officers, knew nothing about the justification for the proposal, although he had approved it.

Despite mountains of campaign mailers every spring and fall,  Lehigh Valley residents are not well  served by our elected officials, who in turn appoint their kindred spirits to the boards and authorities.

ADDENDUM: Last night, after two years deliberation,  the commissioner's committee on Cedarbrook decided that the nursing home should stay about the same size.  They literally patted themselves on the back for this statement, which is as close to a decision as they ever get on Cedarbrook.

photocredit: K Mary Hess

Mar 25, 2016

Allentown's Camera Contract and The Three Monkeys

When I read about Allentown's camera contract I think about the three monkeys. For my millennial readers, let me explain. In my grandparents day, the three monkeys were major advise; See no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. In those days naysayers got shot, now a days they become bloggers. I have a set of those monkeys carved from marble that belonged to my grandparents, they sat on their fireplace mantel, as a lesson for their children.

Allentown supposedly has 161 cameras that scan the city looking for evil. How many of them are actually being monitored, and when, is classified information. If they deter crime, or just move it down the street, is debatable.

Although it wasn't a no bid contract,  only a local company, CSI, submitted a proposal. This technicality, and the timing, allows City Council to turn a deaf ear to the contributions by principals of this company to Pawlowski and the PAC that he controlled.  Charlie Thiel, school board member and potential mayoral candidate, is the manager of the company. Thiel has both benefitted from Pawlowski, and has made significant donations to his campaign and PAC.

The city official in charge of our communication systems defended the contract by saying that you get what you pay for.  Although, that certainly is speaking no evil, for taxpayers it is always patently untrue.  However, the FBI is currently checking Allentown, because it's apparently true for some vendors.

Bonus train post below.

Anonymous comments, per se, are no longer being hosted. Commenters can use or create a Google/Blogger/Open ID. The identity need not be your real name, pseudonyms are permitted. The registration is with Google or such, and I have no access to the information provided. It is my hope that regular contributors to this blog get such a registered handle, to both help elevate the dialogue here, and protect the integrity of their input.

The Union Terrace Train

The Conrail engine backs across Walnut Street, as it delivers a flatbed of large granite slaps and blocks to the Wentz Memorial Company, by 20th and Hamilton Streets. Years earlier, the spur route extended across Hamilton Street and terminated at the building across from school district stadium, now occupied by the park department. On it's run to Wentz's, it went through the auto junkyard, continued on past the now closed Allentown Metal Works, and crossed the trestle in Lehigh Parkway. At Union Terrace the track was next to the former ice skating pond, behind the WPA Amphitheater Stage Mound. This photograph was taken by Dave Latshaw in the 1979, and is part of the Mark Rabenold collection. Rabenold is a local train historian, specializing in Allentown's former branch lines.

reprinted from September 2011

Mar 24, 2016

Seminar For Allentown's Little People

Various Allentown agencies announced that they're going to have workshops for Allentown's little people at the Renaissance Hotel, where the little people could never afford to stay. Let me clarify that the little people aren't midgets, but Allentown's underclass. While in reality the have-nots will not be there, it gives various administrators of various useless organizations an opportunity to put something on their proposal for next years' grants, justifying their useless taxpayer funded positions. Over the years there have been dozens of these dog and pony shows. In years past I even attended some of the meetings. And who says that the NIZ doesn't have any community benefit?

Bonus train post below.

molovinsky on allentown will be shortly changing the comment policy. Anonymous comments, per se, will no longer be hosted. Commenters will be using or creating a Google/Blogger/Open ID. The identity need not be your real name, pseudonyms are permitted. The registration is with Google or such, and I have no access to the information provided.  It is my hope that regular contributors to this blog get such a registered handle, to both help elevate the dialogue here, and protect the integrity of their input.

The Train of Lehigh Parkway

This holiday season, as people drive over  Schreibers stone arch bridge to get in line for Lights in the Parkway, few will be aware of the industrial past surrounding them.  The Barber Quarry railroad branch line crossed the road, just beyond the bridge.  On the left was the Union Carbine's Linde plant,  the concrete loading dock is still visible.  Although the last train ran in the early 1980's,  the wooden railroad trestle is still there, to the west and south of the bridge.  The area is now used as part of the disc golf course.  The photograph was taken by Dave Latshaw in 1976, and is part of the Mark Rabenold Collection.

reprinted from 2010

Mar 23, 2016

More Silliness From Allentown's Improvement Fathers.

In a move to improve it's image, the NIZ Board is moving out of City Hall. They're moving to the AEDC building at S.10th and Harrison Street, which is an old Mack Truck Factory. According to The Morning Call, Ken Heffentrager, a local landlord slayer and activist, isn't happy, because it makes attending meetings more inconvenient. Bob Lovett, board member, counters that it's easier parking there and no meters! Bob and Sy Traub could accommodate their desire to put some distance between themselves and Pawlowski, and satisify Heffentraugher at the same time. They could simply ask the lord and master for an office. Supposedly, CityCenter Development has about a 25% vacancy factor,  and J.B. Reilly could give some space with no pain. I suppose such an arrangement would have a conflict appearance, but who are they kidding anyway?

Today, readers will find a second post below this one.  It is my intention to reprint some previous railroad posts, to accommodate those who couldn't attend Molovinsky University last week. Until the railroad series is complete,  two post will be necessary on days when silly political shenanigans take top billing.

 molovinsky on allentown will be shortly changing the comment policy. Anonymous comments, per se, will no longer be hosted. Commenters will be using or creating a Google/Blogger/Open ID. The identity need not be your real name, pseudonyms are permitted. The registration is with Google or such, and I have no access to the information provided.  It is my hope that regular contributors to this blog get such a registered handle, to both help elevate the dialogue here, and protect the integrity of their input.

Junkyard Train

Today, once again we ride a freight train of Allentown's great industrial past. In the early 1970's, the Redevelopment Authority tore down the neighborhood on either side of the Lehigh Street hill. At that time they had persuaded Conrail to move the the Barber's Quarry Branch line exclusively to the southern side of the Little Lehigh. The branch had crossed over and back to service the great Wire Mill. After crossing Lehigh Street, the train would proceed along the creek passing under the 8th Street Bridge. At the 10th Street crossing it would service another great industrial giant, Traylor Engineering.
In 2009 President Obama visited a successor, Allentown Manufacturing, which has since closed. The line would continue along the creek until it turned north along Cedar Creek to Union Terrace. After crossing Hamilton Street by the current Hamilton Family Diner, it would end at the current park department building. Nothing remains of the line, the tracks were removed. The Allentown Economic Development Corporation recently received a grant to rebuild the line to 10th Street, even though the plant Obama visited has closed. The neighboring former Mack Plant now houses a go cart track. How the money will be squandered remains to be seen. The top photograph was taken by local train historian Mark Rabenold in 1989. It shows the later relocated section of the track that was just east of the Lehigh Street crossing.

UPDATE: The County Commissioners recently denied a request by AEDC to grant KOZ status to the closed Metal Manufacturing building. Although the company never cited lack of rail service or property taxes as the reason for closing, the rail grant is still on the table. $Millions of $Dollars would be needed to lay bed and track from 3th and Union to S. 10th Street, to service an empty building; Truly, The Track To Nothing.

reprinted from December of 2013

Mar 22, 2016

Done With Meetings, Mostly

I'm generally done with meetings, after 30 years of jostling against the windmills. I noticed that Saucon approved removing a local dam, after a campaign by The Wildlands Conservancy. They got the Pa. Fish and Boat, Pa. Dept. of Environment, etc. to sign on. It's a grant sharing cabal, not unlike the politicians who used to share girls on the Monkey Business Yacht.  Now, if that anaology suggests comtempt for all the players, it was well chosen. I still get off the sofa for local history. Last week, I offered a short notice lesson on the LVRR branch lines at a local coffee shop. I will continue to defend the WPA structures in the Allentown park system. Annoyed by the corruption in Harrisburg, I might  even still throw my hat in the ring as an independent for the 183rd District.  However, for the most part, I'll let this blog speak for me.  molovinsky on allentown will be 9 years old this coming May, which is 63  in blog life.

molovinsky on allentown will be shortly changing the comment policy. Anonymous comments, per se, will no longer be hosted. Commenters will be using or creating a Google/Blogger/Open ID. The identity need not be your real name, pseudonyms are permitted. The registration is with Google or such, and I have no access to the information provided.  It is my hope that regular contributors to this blog get such a registered handle, to both help elevate the dialogue here, and protect the integrity of their input.

photocredit: Mary Ellen Mark

Mar 21, 2016

Allentown's First Waterfront

Although cheerleaders for the current waterfront NIZ think that they're inventing the Lehigh River, Allentonians already had a river port in the 1800's. As this section of the 1899 map shows, Wharf Street, which is still partically there, led to a man made river port, with two channels back to the river. The Lehigh Port was dug out in 1829, and was used in conjunction with the canal on the other side of the river. In the early 20th century, as the canal commerce was replaced by the railroads,  the port was filled in,  by an expanding Arbogast & Bastian Meat Packing.  Currently, a private boat club utilizes the river front near that location.  I exhibited the map at a recent session of Molovinsky University.

 molovinsky on allentown will be shortly changing the comment policy. Anonymous comments, per se, will no longer be hosted. Commenters will be using or creating a blogger/google/Open ID. The identity need not be your real name, pseudonyms are permitted. The registration is with google or such, and I have no access to the information provided.  It is my hope that regular contributors to this blog get such a registered handle, to both help elevate the dialogue here, and protect the integrity of their input.

The riverport was slightly north of the current America On Wheels Museum, by the Hamilton Street Bridge, going over the Lehigh River to East Allentown.

Mar 18, 2016

Nonsense News From Allentown

There has been some recent national news stories which state that Allentown is a desirable place to live, that's nonsense. These stories are written or researched by reporters, regurgitating misconceptions from previous erroneous articles, that appear in google searches. While a puff piece written last year by The Morning Call may praise downtown as a renaissance in motion, it doesn't mention a fraught school system. Articles about all the new jobs don't mention that they were hijacked from elsewhere in the valley.

For those who doubt the existence of nonsense articles, witness the report that Pawlowski does well in a matchup with Toomey. Never mind that the mayor hasn't been a candidate for eight months, or is implicated so far in three guilty pleas.

Pity the poor SOB moving to Allentown on the merits of such nonsense articles.

In a piece today, a study reveals that despite a $Billion dollar of revitalization, center city Allentown remains mired in poverty. It doesn't take a study to make that determination. Simply drive down Turner Street to 4th, turn north one block to Chew Street, and drive back west to 17th Street. Repeat the process on adjoining streets, and soon anybody not blind will realize that there is no revitalization.  What we have is one man, with a portfolio of new taxpayer financed buildings between 5th and 9th streets. While a few more men will add a few more buildings,  and the phenomena will be repeated in the 6th Ward by the river, revitalization only exists in the vocabulary of the newspaper, and a few optimists, most of whom have something to gain for their enthusiasm.

The reality is that Allentown is just another city in the rust belt, but with a bunch of new buildings. For millennials, who desire an urban experience, the unprecedented state subsidy is creating more dining and buzz than any real marketplace would have generated.

The optimists, needless to say, hate posts such as this.  Although, they will dismiss it as naysaying, they needn't worry.  Neither optimism or pessimism changes the facts.  With enough  money you can create an illusion that can last for a couple of decades, take Baltimore's Inner Harbor for example.  Eventually, reality catches up with such staged productions, but, by then our professional optimists can retire to Hilton Head.

photocredit:Harry Fisher/The Morning Call