Nov 12, 2008

No Christmas For Merchants


The Klan would be proud of the disrespect being shown the Asian merchants of Hamilton Street. Last year, right before Christmas, all the foot traffic created from the bus transfer stops was eliminated. This year for Christmas, Allentown is finally enforcing a fourteen year old amendment concerning security gates. The merchants have been given 90 days to change out their gates from solid to mesh. They have been told, that although many of the gates have been installed since 1994 with approved permits, no solid gates will be grandfathered. They have been also told that appeals will prove to be useless, and frowned upon. The new gates are costing anywhere between two to seven thousand dollars each depending upon width. Imagine being told in November of 2008, that your gate installed by permit in 2000, is out of compliance with an amendment passed November 4, 1994. Please click and enlarge the above document to see how it feels to be a Coolie in Allentown. Word on the street is that this idea came from the Fegleys of the Brew Work, via a "Vision Committee". Once again Pawlowski forsakes long-term taxpayers and reality, to cater to grant recipients and an imaginary gentrification.

UPDATE: An officer in the code department was kind enough to answer a few questions from me. He stated that from a safety viewpoint concerning fire, and the buildings are all adjoined, the solid gates prevented fires from being seen. This seems to be a valid point. As often the case, , my issues are with Executive decisions, not those officials responsible for carrying out the mandates.

UPDATE 2: Isn't it interesting that Johnny's Manana's, as a startup business in a brand new building, was given a facade grant for 50k, while these merchants, who have been here for many years, were not offered any help to pay for these gates in front of their buildings.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can you please offer proof of one gate installed with a permit since 1994?

michael molovinsky said...

dear city hall defender, no, i don't have the resources for that, but here's a question for you. is this enforcement being applied equally, are all the stores along 7th st. to city line being tagged, or just those in the view-shed of the esteemed Brew Works?

michael molovinsky said...

anon 2:18, can you tell me why an amendment passed in nov. 1994 is being enforced in nov. 2008 ?

can you say it's fair to cost these merchants thousands of dollars because someone thinks the street might look slightly better?

can you say changing out those gates will result in more business?

what is the justification?

Sarina said...

I'm not sure I understand the difference in these types of gates. Why would one be in favor over the other? Isn't it, or shouldn't it be, the owner's discretion?

Katie Bee said...

I've got the same question as Sarina - what could be the benefit of a mesh gate? Is it because graffiti isn't as apparent on it?

michael molovinsky said...

sarina and katie bee, there are those who feel that the solid gates convey a message of crime and a need to prevent it. changing out the gates was a financial hardship for the merchants and a esthetic decision by the vision committee, who as grant recipients don't care about personal cost to merchants.

Anonymous said...

These merchants really don't give a darn about the community. And no, the vast majority are not not hard up for cash.

When was the last time one of them donated to one of our city's high schools or the United Way. Their lack of involvement in the community reduces their opportunity to be heard.

Enough said.

Sarina said...

Wow. I've never really formed an opinion of an area or a business based on the kinds of gates in front of the closed businesses. This is news to me.

I think maybe there should be more concern for how these places look when they're open, rather than when they're closed overnight.

Overall, though, I think the visioning committee can be a positive thing. I went to a couple of the meetings and at the very least, the committee got citizens talking about their downtown. I'm optimistic some discretion will be used when the group's ideas are put into action.

Anonymous said...

Uneven enforcement of anything creates uncertainty and problems. I also have a problem with timing - does anyone at the city know that the economy is pretty bad right now?

MM, what can the city do to enforce this ordinance? I would think the building owner is the party ultimately responsible (unless the lease includes things like this being the tenant's respnsibility) - can a merchant be shut down because his landlord can't/won't comply?

The Banker

michael molovinsky said...

dear Enough Said,
these merchants have been paying taxes for many years. compare that with us giving grants to johnny manana which lasted only a year. compare these merchants complying with a 14 year old draconian ordinance out of their own pocket, while brand new KOZ buildings get facade grants. since Johnny Manana was a tenant, we have no lien recourse, and the money is gone. that money could have paid for all the new gates. as i have said repeatedly, until which time pawlowski learns about the level playing field concept, we will just be opportunists raping taxpayers.

michael molovinsky said...

dear banker, it's being selectively enforced. (only on hamilton in view-shed of esteemed BrewPub) all the affected merchants have either installed the new gates or have them on order. It is not the Asian way to make waves. they were very reluctant to protest against lanta or against the parking authority. without them, hamilton street would have completely died many years ago, and any attempt at revival would be useless. pawlowski has no grip on reality. the brew pub is being kept on life support at least until the mayoral election next november (no, i have no proof)

Anonymous said...

MM,

Did the merchants apply for a grant to improve their gates? Of course not because they do not give a darn.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 5:23, what don't they care about, their building, their business, their expenses, who says it's an improvement? you have that screw them attitude, while in reality pawlowski and johnny manana's screwed us.

Bob jr said...

Are those really dollar signs ($$$$) at the bottom of this letter, in the City Hall address, or has the letter been tampered with to make a point? Good point, if that's the case.
If in fact there have been permits issued post-1994, the City (and the merchants) should look up the legal definition of estoppel.

Bob jr said...

PS: Regarding the Hall of Shame for landlords: When I registered this past summer as a landlord, I had to argue with the City tax bureau to list my address as a Post Office box. The City wanted, very badly, my residence address. I didn't give in. The reason I was given was that "people close PO boxes and don't leave forwarding addresses." I told them the PO Box has been constant for 20 years while my personal address has changed several times in that period. Maybe the Hall of Shame explains all that nonsense.

michael molovinsky said...

bob jr., yes the city stationary has those dollar type marks at the bottom, why, i don't know.
how many gates were installed since 1994, and which kind, i'm not sure. I am sure that those solid gates have been there for many years, and now, out of a political decision, a 1994 law is being cited. clearly those gates are grandfathered, and the merchants are going along with it, but they know they're being buffaloed.

Chris Casey said...

I think there is great opportunity in downtown Allentown, but I wouldn't ask the city to subsidize my risk. I also can't for the life of me figure out why they would want to do things to discourage new business. You would have to be out of your mind to want to wade into the red tape involved down there.
This might be a bit off topic, but I share the amazement at the irony of dollar signs appearing on city stationary. The Power of suggestion, maybe? LOL!

Anyway, if I might make a suggestion to those in City Development, how about you start looking for ways to grow and encourage what business you have, instead of betting all the tax money on businesses that are pipe dreams? How much money was really pissed away at Manana's? Surely enough to subsidize security gate upgrades for all the businesses still there.
I'm torn here, because I don't think Government has any business funding private enterprise to the extent that it has, but if you are going to start enforcing mandates that are financially burdensome, you have to offer some kind of relief.
Government is supposed to be about keeping the playing field level, not tilting it in favor of one group or another. Yet in Allentown, that is how it appears.

Anonymous said...

That's not how grants work. A business owner (or non-profit or any grant seeker) APPLIES for a grant. I imagine facade grants are available to anyone willing to seek them out and apply.
Everything is not so black and white, good and evil dude.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 1:35 or if you prefer dude, anyway you spin it, that 50k was inappropriately given to manana's, with no recourse for the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

so the suggestion is that Johnny Manana's did NOT apply for a grant? A magical $50K check just arrived on their doorstep?!
Don't get me wrong, that was a huge waste of $50K. The restaurant looks great but the food and service were terrible. If the restaurant had been successful it would have been worth it.
Good news/bad news about being an American citizen. We have to pay federal/state/local taxes and don't have much of a say in where it goes. I've been paying for a shitty war for the past 5 years against my will, so a shitty mexican restaurant seems a little more innocuous. At least the latter was well intentioned.

michael molovinsky said...

my guess would be that pawlowski processed that grant himself to facilitate their opening, as he did with their county sponsored liquor license. he also stated last may that he may use grant money to support existing restaurants. how much money they received may never be known. you say if the restaurant succeeded it would have been worth it, not to me. you say it was well intentioned, not to me. subsidizing startup businesses is just a photo and political opportunity. maybe if we gave the federal grill 50k she would have stayed open. the bay leaf stays open and received nothing. we are now in the process of using borrowed money (bond) to finance the city and avoid a tax increase for the upcoming election year.

Anonymous said...

A new wind is blowing in the city. Its from elsewhere and for other reasons. Its to revive Allentown but only under the strict restraints of political correctness. Here are the commandments according to the select few:

Thou shall be 'green' as we define it;
Thou shall be hip;
Thou shall only implement things that resemble places that the city administrators have seen elsewhere;
Thou shalt understand that whatever the natives want is bad - whatever pleases the young professionals (as narrowly defined) shall be deemed good (as long as it adheres to the strict political correctness.
Thou shall not disagree with these precepts of you will be squashed.

So go forth and those in power now shall decide who prospers and who does not.

Anonymous said...

MM -

1) Regarding your update and fires being seen: I doubt Hamilton Street is the only area of the city where this situation exists, yet enforcement seems seems focused only there.

2) I think it is time that taxpayers demand an accounting - by property - of how much money has been granted or loaned to Hamilton Street merchants. It would be nice if the Morning Call would actually do its job an find this out.

Anonymous said...

Wait, are you suggesting racism is the driving force behind this policy?

michael molovinsky said...

no, of course it is not racism, but it is elitism. the city has little regard for the business success of the merchants in the 700 block

petelewnes said...

hi mike - I posted earlier on Bernie's blog...he mentioned my post was better suited here...hope all is well,

here's my comments: other than the pawn shop in the 600 block there are no stores on 7th street with metal grates on the windows...which i find totally bizarre (i'm saying that because there are alot on Hamilton). I never noticed really until your post but found it weird that none exist on 7th and so many exist on Hamilton. On a plus note...the number of broken storefront windows or breakins are not something I notice that much - when I first came onto 7, it was a regular occurence...my building included. I wonder if it's because alot of our merchants live above the stores?

michael molovinsky said...

pete, i used to visit a friend who worked in the 300 block, and helped him put the gate up in the morning.
fyi, i'll update your list of gates on 7th st. later this week.
would have liked to see the artshow at your place, and even through it was promoted by the mayor and community development director, several of us were warned to cross the street.
hope your posting here doesn't cause harassment
your doing a good job on 7th st., it hasn't looked better