Jul 30, 2008

Jul 27, 2008

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

Jul 23, 2008

The Consequences of Denial

Last year when observers of local government pointed out that City Hall was gutted of it's most respected administrators, the apologists said those gone were just dead wood. Never mind that they have been replaced by people with virtually no experience. When long term private investment has left Hamilton Street, despite massive grants to a couple chosen venues, the apologists refer to transitional growing pains. When a report states crime is down, despite a recent horrendous murder and general fear, the Mayor credits his spending on technology, such as surveillance camera's and shot spotter microphones. Someone should remind the Mayor about the grassy knoll in Dallas. Despite media camera's and microphones from around the world, to this day, we still do not know how many shots were fired or where they came from. The apologists will apologize; the Mayor will rationalize, the editorials will endorse, the reports will verify, but middle class homeowners see the truth, and put up "for sale" signs.

Jul 16, 2008

Mt. Sinai Cemetery

Unknown to most people, contained within the sprawling Fairview Cemetery, is a small section with the oldest Jewish Burials in Lehigh Valley, called Mount Sinai. Fairview, along Lehigh St, is Allentown's most famous and now neglected cemetery. Among the notables buried there, is no less than Harry Trexler, whose largeness keeps bailing Allentown out, even 70 years after his death. Using diplomacy, not my forte, I have been trying to urge more upkeep for Mt. Sinai. Today, a letter to the editor laments the condition of the whole cemetery; perhaps this approach will be more successful. I urge everybody to take a stroll(OR DRIVE) through history, the views of Allentown are among some of the best you can find.

UPDATE: I have reason to believe the Morning Call may shed some light on this problem. Perhaps, considering the enormity of the cemetery, certain area's may have to be" adopted" by interested parties for care. It seems that as old cemeteries fill up, and the descendants move away or die off, the perpetual care becomes problematic. This is certainly an historic, significant site for Allentown, hopefully the Community can respond.


Diversity Celebration Not Needed

Apparently official Allentown doesn't have much use for a multi-cultural celebration. If the City Administration promoted the Upward Bound Festival through it's public relations firm aka The Morning Call, I missed it. Alfonso Todd. promoter, did a remarkable job, especially considering the City had evicted him and four other minority owned businesses last week from their production facilities at 645 Hamilton Street. I started at the corner of 7th and Hamilton at the Latino's for Obama, and worked my way down pass about 20 vendors and organizations to the end of the block, where the Lehigh Valley Republican Party had a booth. I note that the Grower's Market, outgrowth of the Allentown Economic Development Corporation, is promoted by the newspaper every wednesday. The Development Corporation staff cost the taxpayers about half a million a year to bring us four vendors with a few heads of lettuce. Alfonso cost us nothing, and did more than the bureaucrats could in years. Thank you.

Jul 14, 2008

Open Mike

This posting is intended to provide an opportunity to comment on any topic, or on an earlier posting.

Jul 12, 2008

Jewish Cemetery Desecrated

Within the sprawling Fairview Cemetery on Lehigh Street, is the oldest Jewish Burials in the Lehigh Valley. The small Jewish section, called Mt. Sinai, predates all the existing Congregations, which have their own cemeteries. Graves here date back to the Civil War, and the descendants are long gone. The graves are being desecrated not by vandals, but by neglect. The cemetery is maintained, or not, by Boyko Funeral Services. My offer to pay for the restoration of the Jewish section has been ignored, I repeat the offer publicly. My calls, and calls from others, to The Morning Call, for exposure on this problem have likewise produced no results. Other large sections of the cemetery are in similar distress. Behind the grave marker of this Jewish child, the marker of a second child, has slid down into an enormous groundhog hole.

It All Depends

While the sheriffs were starting to round up the corrupt in Harrisburg, Rendell was hiding out in Allentown, having a press conference with Pawlowski. They were unveiling a new Keystone Opportunity Zone act, which extends and expands the current version. The KOZ for politicians is the gift that keeps on giving; unlimited press conferences about development and contributions from the few chosen developers. For the taxpayer, it's really a leech. While the chosen pay no taxes, it creates an unfair playing field and hardship for the real investors, the ones who pay taxes. The new version of the KOZ apparently has less accountability than ever. In addition to the location, our executives can now openly choose and pick which developers get the golden ring. Pawlowski said "It depends on the plan and on the developer." The Neuweiler Brewery can be included, considering Pawlowski had the current owner jailed, I doubt he'll make the KOZ grade. The photo shows "for lease signs" from two hapless owners competing for tenants in downtown Allentown, competing against new buildings which are tax abated under KOZ.

Jul 10, 2008

City Truth Challenged

I'm sure it was with great pride that Lehigh Valley Latino Magazine, headquartered at 645 Hamilton Street, featured the letter from Mayor Pawlowski praising them for their long time contributions to the city and Latino Community. In today's Morning Call, "city officials said they found only two businesses operating in the upper floors... neither company had secured the proper business licenses from the city, officials said."

click on photo to learn more from your mayor

Latino's, Vamos

The current issue of Lehigh Valley Latino Magazine contains greetings and congratulations from Mayor Ed Pawlowski, complete with his official photograph and the City Seal. The Magazine, along with 5 other minority businesses are being forced out of 645 Hamilton Street, with the city now telling the Morning Call their just unlicensed nobody's. In April, Pawlowski wrote "I want to thank Valley Latino TV Show and Magazine for keeping the Latino community informed. Your dedicated effort shows a deep commitment...congratulations... I wish you great success!" This week the mobile cords from the Latino TV Show stage lighting were misrepresented as extension cords by the city. Along with the magazine and television studio, a graphic art designer, a festival promoter, and a security company were displaced. You won't hear them complain, their being assisted and relocated by city hall.

Unsafe or Rising Star

A couple years ago the website for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation described 645 Hamilton St. as "a monument to growth."* Today's edition of The Morning Call, reporting on violations from the City of Allentown, describes the building as unsafe.** It's the same building, with the same tenants, in the same condition. Unlike the city inspectors, or the well meaning reporter, I'm there every day for coffee at Jerry's Cafe. Jerry's was not one of the upstart businesses blessed with a grant. He had to pay for everything, and everything had to be inspected inside out. His plans had to be approved, his electric and plumbing had to be approved, his grill and hood system had to be approved. City inspectors in and out of the building during this process included no less than plumbing, electrical and health. Although the recent violation report issued to the building in general, lists extension cords, it fails to note those cords are attached to a movable lighting grid for the Latino Television production studio and are cords by design. Although the city citation reports cites unlicensed businesses, it omits the fact that the lower level was occupied by Sassi which performs drug testing for the Lehigh County, and the City's action recently caused Melendez Reality and Madison Mortgage to vacate. Unfortunately for this current hapless owner, the City was looking for violations. Last month Pawlowski promoted a building across the street which has not been occupied or improved in decades, although there is no running water there, breakfast was served to invited realtors. It's easy to beat the drums against the greedy absentee landlords, and surely the apologists will applaud Pawlowski for enforcing codes, but private money is running from this town. There is no work currently being done on any project on Hamilton Street without a grant. It's good politics, but bad business.

* http://www.lehighvalley.org/page.cfm?pag=58&new=132

** http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-b3_5code-r.6496980jul10,0,1594649.story

Jul 9, 2008

Allentown Memories

click on photo to enlarge
From low income sections of center city, to expensive suburbs, Allentown and the Lehigh Valley is becoming home to more and more outsiders. I'm afraid the time will soon come when local memorabilia will have little appeal. Fortunately, for those interested, some impressive collections still exist. This past year Robert Bungerz published Allentown Remembered, documenting his outstanding collection of historical postcards and other objects. David Bausch, former County Executor and authority on Automobile Art, is also a expert on things Allentown. Then there are the many small collections, home of the hidden treasures. Above is an early aerial photograph of the Allentown Fair. Those interested in the recent commotion concerning the 19TH Street Theater District may find the upper right of the photograph interesting. There is no theater, there are no houses on Saint George Street and most of the buildings seem to to garages and automobile in nature (don't tell Auto-Zone). This gem is probably from the late teens or early 20's, and comes from the Thomas Reed Collection. Thomas is aka Z1pyro, long time expert shooter for Zambelli Firework Company. He retired several years ago, and we who appreciate fireworks, notice his departure.

Jul 7, 2008

A Historical Coincidence

There's something odd about this photograph, it's from the cover page of the Old Allentown Preservation Association website*. A few day's ago when I suggested association members should have been careful of what they wished for in regard to Cannon's Bar, my observation was received with righteous indignation. One center city blogger may well have deleted a link to this blog because of it. Another prominent member, insisting he has no political agenda, suggested I may be unwittingly driving them towards the mayor with my accusations. Old Allentown exists of over twenty five square blocks. Out of this large area, only one side of three blocks contain porch houses, those houses built with porches. I refer to the unit block of both 11th and 12th Streets, and the 300 block of 9th St. Most of the remaining townhouses had a porch added in the 1920's. Years ago I interacted with the Historical Board when I learned those porches must be removed to receive a facade grant. Built of concrete, usually with a curved overhang shingle roof with curved wooden brackets, I felt they added to the architecture. They also provided a buffer zone between the homeowner and the realities of sidewalk life. The historical purists felt differently, and according to their website over 80 such porches have been removed thus far. It is strange that the Association would choose for their cover photograph one of the few porch houses rows in Allentown, certainly not representative of the district. Stranger still, they picture two the few porch houses which had their porch's altered. The house in the foreground is completely bastardized. The porch was enclosed by brick probably in the 50's. For many years the property was a clock store. The next house also has the porch enclosed with glass panels. This treatment, meant for the winter months. is not uncommon with porch houses further west of the district, but again does not represent the Associations' historical standards. It must be a coincidence, that the house with the glass panels is where Mayor Pawlowski lives, because the Association certainly wouldn't be that political.


Jul 5, 2008

Allentown Photographic

My experience with Allentown Photographic in the late 70's, at 12 N 8th Street, was not unlike my grandparent's with the Vendig Hotel. Neither were particularly successful, both only lasted a few years, but provided many memories. Now, Bela Lugosi never came into my shop, but my custom darkroom did attract numerous characters. I printed negatives supposedly smuggled out of Russia of the Romanov Family, while my strange anonymous customer watched by the door for KBG agents.(If they were real, I made no copies, nor did I keep the negatives) I once rented the darkroom to the local Porno King for his art directors to produce Puritan Magazine. His former building is now becoming the new Mayflower Condominiums. I snuck into a local high school to photograph an old circus juggler perform his act, one more time, on the stage. This photo gem, of a midget skating between legs, is from the jugglers' memento's.

Jul 3, 2008

Rumors and Innuendoes

I have a problem, I want to continue reporting on Pawlowski's war against private property, but I don't want to bring the wrath of the City down on any hapless owners. So, I will begin "Rumors and Innuendoes", in which I present unsubstantiated, second hand stories. I heard the following from a friend of a friend, who is a tenant at Regency Tower. Apparently, code trolled by and noticed the maintenance crew doing routine work on the swimming pool. Demanding to see a permit, they tagged the pool. Fee's will be paid today, and the management expects to have the pool open for the holiday. Let this be a lesson to you backyarders, who think you can just clean and use your pool like you own it.
In other news, Cannon's taproom will re-open. Although the yuppies in the neighborhood opposed it's previous closing, there is some hesitation about endorsing the new incarnation, which will have more of a Latino and African favor. What they would really like, is the old white crew back there, even if the bartender has to take a few more stabs from a screwdriver to protect them.