Oct 29, 2009

Media and Democracy

In 2005, mayoral candidate Ed Pawlowski gave a press conference at a house in the 400 block of Liberty Street. He praised the renovated house being occupied, as typifying his vision of Allentown moving forward. The Morning Call reporter, Daryl Nerl, wrote a glowing story. I decided to research the property. It turns out that the house was passed back and forth between two low income housing agencies for six years. (Pawlowski had been Director of the Alliance for Building Communities, a low income housing agency). After the six years it was "sold" to a low income couple who defaulted on the easy loan, but also destroyed the renovated house in the process. After six more years, two more agencies, and another renovation, Pawlowski gave his press conference.

At my press conference, also attended by the media, I spelled out the problem; Twelve years, no taxes, two renovations and two unqualified "buyers" attracted to Allentown by these give away programs at the expense of the tax paying homeowners. Channel 69 ran the story, but nothing in the Morning Call. I asked Daryl if he thought the story would resonate with the public? He replied that it certainly would. I asked if he was going to print the story before the election? The story never appeared.

photo: Channel 69, Liberty Street Press Conference

Oct 27, 2009

2005 Campaign Revelation

In 2005, when I ran for Mayor, I felt that my campaign was suppressed by the Morning Call reporter, Daryl Nerl. Now, four years later, Mr. Nerl and I discussed this subject yesterday at O'Hare's Ramblings. I have posted about this at Poliblog. Although I will accept no comments here, please feel free to comment at Poliblog.

Oct 26, 2009

Lost Treasures of Allentown

The Boat Landing Project has been completed. A total of nine different people worked on two separate occasions to clear away almost forty years of neglect and reveal this gift from the WPA. Although everybody deserves recognition, without the energy and enthusiasm of Chris Casey, the project could not have been completed. Let me elaborate on "completed." The landing at the bottom of the steps has been completely cleared.

The remainder of the landing, which is narrower and both to the right and left of the stairway area, remains unreclaimed. The photographer in me would have liked to document our accomplishment with a picture taken from the Island, which would provide the best vantage point. Before the Landing became abandoned, the Island was also a destination. A walk bridge took park visitors to a well kept spot, which sported benches and picnic tables. We lost the bridge and Island about the same time the Landing was discarded.

In 1981, long time Park Czar Donald Marushak, wrote a history of General Trexler. By 1985 he had pursauded the Trust to petition the Court to tear down the Trexler Greenhouse. The petition was necessary because Trexler's will specifically protected and funded the perpetual care of that treasure. He promoted this scheme to save money, but the same year he spent $750,000 to plant the riparian buffer in the southeast corner of Trexler Park. Ironically, that same year, Longwood Gardens built their new greenhouse for $750,000. It was during Marushak's tenure that both the Boat Landing and Island were abandoned. He is also responsible for not replacing the water edge willow trees and starting the practice of indiscriminately planting trees in the destinated open spaces.

Now, under another Park Director, the open space at Cedar Park will be replaced with multiple paved walkways. Perhaps in the future, another writer will take the current Trexler Trust to task for their lack of stewardship.

Prolonging the Pain

Over the weekend, Morning Call reporters Renshaw and Baxter shined the spotlight on State Act 44, which allows municipalities the option of extending the payment schedule on pension contributions. Locally, only Allentown's Mayor Pawlowski seeks to take advantage of this election time ploy, recently crafted as a gift from Harrisburg. To his credit, Controller Bill Hoffman has stepped forward to City Council and denounced this ploy for what it is, a bad idea which prolongs the pain.

ADDENDUM 5:30am: I just discovered that one of the nightshift bloggers, LVCI, also covered this revolting development.

Oct 24, 2009

Allentown Parks, The Real Deal

Separating the truth from myth about the Allentown Parks isn't easy. Although there is no question that by the early 1940's we had one of the finest park systems in the country, how it got to be that way has become clouded by the largeness of Harry C. Trexler. Here was a man who was encouraged to raise Buffalo by none other than Buffalo Bill himself. Trexler was one of the most wealthy men in the country and had a hunting retreat at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which was where he met Buffalo Bill Cody. Years later he was encouraged by his friend, George H. Hardner, to donate his various retreats to the public. These places are now known as Hickory Run State Park, Trexler-Lehigh County Game Preserve and the Fish Hatchery. George Hardner was a major Contractor of that era, among the many things he built was William Allen High School and The Tilghman Street Bridge.

The General and his wife had no children, he was killed and she had died within one year (1933-1934). His will provided for a Trust of well over ten million dollars, now over 100 million, to maintain the Allentown Park System, among other missions. Over the years he has become known as the father of our iconic park system. Most of us assume he donated most of the land for our parks. He did create the first park in Allentown, West Park, dedicated in 1909. In 1922, a national magazine published a story about Allentown, it was not too flattering. It described our park system as being limited to boulevard with a few plants hanging from the street lights.

What we now know as our iconic park system was then began out of embarrassment by Trexler and our city fathers.*

Harry Trexler donated 30.5 acres for Lehigh Parkway. The City then assembled 350 more acres from 20 separate parcels to create the park. At the same time twelve properties were acquired to create Cedar Creek Park. Altogether 450 acres of land was acquired and the park system was started.

* Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Internal Affairs, Vol. 6, No. 2, July 1938

Oct 22, 2009

In The Jungle, The Mighty Jungle

This coming November 3th, Allentown will have the opportunity to restore the Lion to the sleepy City Council. Without Hershman, the new Council will provide no checks and balances, what-so-ever, to the Administration's version of government.

Lou Hershman is a one man thorn bush. Rest assure that if any counter balance can be cajoled out of this essentially one party town, Lou is the man to do it. Regardless of one's political persuasion, there can be no down side to electing Lou.

Which executive in our little world doesn't need at least some scrutiny, at least to answer an occasional question.

Oct 21, 2009

Loose Ends At Boat Landing

I once again need help to finish up the Boat Landing project. The goal is to simply remove the remaining dirt at the bottom of the steps and provide both the citizens and the City a finished project. Although the original landing extended both to the left and right of the area we will finish up, the abbreviated area in front of the steps provides a pleasant vista on the water and captures the feeling of the structure. Please join me at noon, this Friday, Oct. 23. Thank You.

Oct 20, 2009

Main Street Program

This past Saturday, long time Allentonians could only shake their heads reading the news. Because of budget cuts in Harrisburg, plans
"to launch a Main Street Program on Hamilton Street that would duplicate the rejuvenation of neighborhood businesses along Seventh Street"
have been postponed. Of course, in the bizarro world of Allentown 2009, it's sad that the Administration hopes Hamilton Street can do as well as Seventh Street; sadder still, is that our "leaders" don't know what they did or what happen. There are all levels of business in retail. Someone once noted that there are more quarters in the world than dollars. Hamilton Street, up to few years ago had viable businesses in the 700 Block of Hamilton Street. The Lanta transfer stops provided an continuous customer base for merchants, although not upscale, they provided the goods those passengers wanted. The Family Dollar Store was one of their most successful outlets in the country. Rainbow Jeans had a half dozen clerks. Pawlowski, encouraged by a few others, decided that the bus people had to go, to provide the atmosphere for the gentrification they envisioned. In response to protests organized in part by this blog at the time, Pawlowski claimed the decision was Lanta's alone. In reality, Lanta was induced to do this by the Allentown Parking Authority, controlled by the Administration. Almost overnight sales plummeted forty percent on Hamilton Street. Rite Aid Drug Store closed their Hamilton Street store. (they since reopened because of a building problem on 7th Street.)

Meanwhile, about eight years ago, a viable Hispanic business district started developing in 500, 600, and 700 block of Seventh Street. This occurred because rents were more reasonable and parking more available than on Hamilton Street. Although Allentown started a Main Street Program there a couple years ago, it was not responsible for the revitalization that occurred. The program has dressed up some facades and given some grants, but clearly the dynamic in place is the growing Hispanic Community cultivating their own merchants.

Allentown can make Hamilton Street all that it can be, in this era, by simply returning the buses. I know that they would prefer a different answer, but they will not find it in another Main Street Program.

The image shown is part of a watercolor by Karoline Schaub-Peeler

Oct 17, 2009

Losing Our Parks

Anybody who owns farmland knows that if you don't plant it, you must still mow it once a year, or lose it to saplings and trees. The effort to clear the land by our forefathers was enormous, but necessary to feed our growing country. In the 1920's, General Trexler and others of foresight had sections of the Little Lehigh and Cedar Creek cleared to make our magnificant parks. About 20 years ago, people of good intentions, started sponsoring trees in our park system as a memorial to loved ones. The sponsoring of trees for one reason or another became an accepted practice in the park system, encroaching on the open space used for passive recreation. It's these open spaces which made it a park, we do have state gameland which is still wooded.

The location for the Destination Playground was chosen because it was the only area of Cedar Beach which has not been planted with these new trees. The former open space on the corner of Hamilton and Ott was planted in rows like an orchard. The Park Director emphasized that no trees would be cut for the playground; as if the trees are more important than the open space.

Today 550 new trees are to be planted in Lehigh Parkway. Those doing the planting think that they're doing a good thing, adding to the park. Soon there will be no park, instead only the sort of woods that had to be cleared 80 years ago to make one.

photo: from the Morning Call, northern Lehigh County, by Monica Cabrera

Oct 16, 2009

Road Warrior Spills Beans

Craig Friebolin has a bone to pick with the Allentown Parking Authority. It was my pleasure to publicize his plans to crash one of their board meetings. His ears should pick up as he reads this post. Today Dan Hartzell, the Morning Call's Road Warrior, inadvertently tossed Craig a cookie, and it's my pleasure to point out the treat. Allentown doesn't mind being a little sloppy with testimony to City Council. In 2000 Council readily accepted that a majority of residents wanted a historic district, in spite of the fact that the majority was in the audience protesting. In 2005 Council accepted testimony from the Director of the Authority, then Linda Kauffman, that the majority of merchants supported a doubling of the meter fees and fines. I conducted my own survey, and discovered that in reality the merchants were never polled and were opposed. Although I presented City Council with names and addresses at the time, they chose to go with Kauffman's version.(new rates were to finance new parking deck at City Hall)

Today, in the Road Warrior Column, we learn that a majority of residents requested and approved the various residential permit zones imposed in the late 1980's. Although such testimony may have well been presented to and accepted by City Council, I know it isn't true. I managed numerous buildings in those zones at the time, and never was polled. If you live in such as zone, find it burdensome, ask your neighbors if they were polled.

WFMZ Stairs to NoWhere


Explanation from WFMZ

"We don't post all of our stories to the website, however it has
been brought to our attention that several people are requesting to see
this particular story. We have passed that information on to our web
producers and they will be adding it at some point today."

Received yesterday, Thursday, Oct. 15th. The story has not yet been added to their website.

Oct 15, 2009

Was Parkway Story Squashed?

When I saw the story on the 5 O'clock news, I realized I would need no tuxedo for the Emmy's, but they did cobble together a short piece and air it. A friend who stays up very late, emailed me that the segment did not appear on the 10 PM broadcast. I have confirmed, as The Banker wrote, that there is no reference at all on the web page, even on page two with stories about bread rising. Makes me wonder....

Oct 14, 2009

Just Got The Call

69 WFMZ TV is going to do a short blip on the Boat Landing excavation in Lehigh Parkway this evening.

TeNSion in BLoGOsphERE

Despite the best efforts of some well intended intermediaries, there still exists tension in the local blogosphere. Bernie O'Hare goes banana's when I write about events I didn't attend, and he did! So here's another one Bernie, don't slip on the peel. According to O'Hare, there was no article in today's Morning Call, Tony Phillips owned the room last night at the NAACP Debate. But don't count Pawlowski out with that constituency. Last time, and I was there in 05, Pawlowski made pandering an art form. He pointed out to the audience and said, "If i"m elected, there's a man who will work at City Hall, that women will work at City Hall." They both now do work at City Hall, and they remember. I suspect when local black people get inside the booth, they will not be able to resist voting for Tony. I recall black republicans last year saying that the historic opportunity to vote for Obama was irresistible. I would suspect the real value for Phillips last night was to energize him for the remaining two weeks of the campaign.

Andrew Kleiner and I have been having issues. Now I realize he's been studying environmental science now for five weeks, but I still thing I know a thing or two about the park. According to Andrew and the Wildlands Conservancy, without the riparian buffers being installed, our streams are doomed. Now I know the creek isn't measurably wider than it was 70 years ago. I know this because they haven't lengthened the bridge at Robin Hood, yet it still spans the creek. I think the old timers knew more about conservation than their given credit for. Replace the willow tree's which have died out from old age, hurricanes and disease, and you will stabilize the banks and yet still provide both visual and actual access to the water. The Conservancy and other advocates for the riparian buffer remain mute about the paving over of large sections of Cedar Park and the digging of wells by the County at the streams' headwaters in Lower Macungie. Until they're willing to speak out against the real threats to the park and stream, they compromise themselves.

Oct 13, 2009

Allentown's Park Plans

Allentown's park plans can best be described as schizophrenic. What made our parks so iconic was the visual contrasts between the woods, open spaces and the water. We are now getting the worse of everything. The streams will be hidden by plants, called riparian buffers. The open spaces will be either planted with tree's or occupied by some recreational venue. Although the beauty of the park system had more less survived for 80 years, it's glory days, like Allentown itself, will soon be but a memory.

In the 1950's my father's uncle worked for the park department. He would drive a tractor with a large gang mower behind, and cut large portions of Lehigh Parkway in a single day. Today, witness Cedar Beach area, all the open spaces have been planted with trees. Park workers must toil with riding mowers in and out and around each tree. The remaining open area will soon be occupied with the Destination Playground.

The open area between the creek and Honochick Drive on the west side of Ott Street will be occupied by three additional paved paths. Access and view of the water will be cut off by bushes.

The environmentalists are appeased by the riparian buffer and being allowed to plant more and more trees; they remain silent about all the paving. The recreationalists are appeased by paved paths and remain silent about losing the park's viewshed. The viewshed is what we see and what made our park system nationally known. The parks cannot be everything to everybody. Those who may have protected the parks in the past have become politicized. I find our parks too precious not to speak up.

Oct 10, 2009

Trexler Smiles, Landing Revealed

I believe that today, for the first time in decades, General Trexler had something to smile about. Most people never understood why three steps were near the lower entrance of Lehigh Parkway; they seemed to lead nowhere. This morning eight people joined a grass root effort to unveil, for the first time in decades, the structure I called the Boat Landing.

Buried under the dirt and grass were several more steps leading to a landing. Chris Casey was the first to arrive and cleared these steps and the first landing himself. A second set of steps led from the landing to the main landing on the creek. These second steps had a foot or so of ground and plants.

The quality and condition of the stonework is excellent, as was all our WPA icons. I will be polite and say only that it was a crime to have let this neglect occur. On the main landing the accumulated earth was two and half feet thick. The crew dug out the curving retaining wall several yards in each direction, and cleared off the top of the wall.

Eight people working four hours managed to reveal about one third of the landing at the bottom of the steps. It was a thrill to realize we were standing at creek's edge as the WPA architects had envisioned. I stood there often as a boy. There still remains a large portion of dirt to remove at the steps base, but you can now experience the Boat Landing.

The retaining wall and the landing continue for fifty feet or so in both directions. Unfortunately a huge tree has grown on the landing to the right, but the left appears reclaimable.

We who worked there today, hope to return and clear off the remainder of the dirt at the bottom of the steps.

Perhaps others will be motivated to clear off the remaining portion of the landing to the left. Now that might even be an idea for the City; imagine restoring an irreplaceable icon instead of buying something from a catalogue. I'm most grateful to all those who helped today, and will reveal their names with their permission.

ADDENDUM:Michael –

I just wanted to thank you for organizing today’s cleanup at the “Boat Landing” in the Lehigh Parkway. It’s not often that one gets to help unearth a treasure while barely leaving home, but that’s exactly what happened today.

It was truly impressive what big difference a small group of people can make. I can’t even estimate the amount of dirt that was moved with nothing more than a few shovels and a lot of hard work.

We can only hope that the City and the Trexler Trust will become aware of this location and start giving all the great structures in the Parkway the care they deserve.

However, the best part of the story for me came after we all left. I got home and my daughter Lucy (age 7) wanted to know how things went. We hopped in the car and soon we were walking up to the stairs leading to the landing. The sun was shining, and the sunlight trickled through the trees and onto the freshly-exposed stairway.

Lucy asked if she could go down to the landing by the water and next thing I knew we were both there at the waters edge, standing on what had been buried only a few hours earlier and marveling at the beauty of the location.

We spent a few moments there - a father and daughter both enjoying something completely “new” to us (even though the landing is over 70 years old). We talked briefly about what was – and more importantly what could be again.

Thank you for making that moment possible, and I hope many others take the opportunity to visit the landing in the near future.

Mike Schware

P.S. – After visiting the landing, Lucy and I walked further upstream and saw the remnants of the bridge to the island (near the water fountain). The remaining supports of the bridge confirmed what you had told me earlier about the island being much smaller years ago.

Oct 9, 2009

Lehigh Parkway, Allentown, Pa.

This was the scene which was chosen to represent Allentown's parks during the golden era of picture postcards, circa late 1940's. The card is captioned simply, Lehigh Parkway, Allentown, Pa.. Shown at the park entrance, it was called the lower entrance, was the magnificent Boat Landing.* Lehigh Parkway is still there, while Christmas lights provide a gaudy distraction, the WPA treasures deteriorate under debris. Please join Chris Casey, myself and others tomorrow morning, as we attempt to clear and reveal a portion of our proud past.

* Boat Landing is my term for structure, lower entrance near Regency Tower, meeting at 10:00 am, Saturday Oct. 10th.

Oct 8, 2009

Allentown's Love Canal

The phone rang at midnight last night, it was Dan Mest, neighborhood activist in the St. Paul's area. Dan's one of those guys you don't hear that much about, but if you live in center city, your life's better because of him. The Jackson Street Playground is just one result of his efforts. Back to last night; seems that City Council suspended their rules and bought the parcel from the Atiyeh family along Martin Luther King Drive. Council didn't see fit to suspend the rules about the Cedar Beach Project, but that's my spilled milk. Last time I heard about this property was when the Rev. Afaf Atiyeh Darcy was complaining to Council last month that her rights were being violated. Seems that no operation meet the approval of Zoning or Code, even as a tree nursery. Here's Dan's concern; that property had previously been a fertilizer and chemical plant, and is only a half mile from our water plant intake pipe. He's afraid we purchased a huge liability with no due diligence. Consider this post be to printed in pencil. I didn't attend the meeting last evening. I don't know where we are getting the money. I assume it will be an extension of the Park System, although there is no money in the budget for the WPA restorations. I do know that the land lies level with the creek and is very much in a floodplain. I do know that Dan's concerns about chemical contamination are probable. More to follow.....


Oct 7, 2009

Second Job

Advertising revenues have been down here at molovinsky on allentown, so I've taken a temporary second job at The Lehigh Valley Political Blog. How long they will keep me on there remains to be seen. At any rate, you're welcome to visit me there anytime.

Oct 6, 2009

Heavyweight Championship of the World

On March 21, 1941, my mother's cousin Abe Simon, son a of Jewish egg and butter salesman, fought Joe Louis for the title in Detroit. Lasting 13 rounds, he earned another title shot against the Brown Bomber a year later in Madison Square Garden. After retiring he acted in several movies, including On The Waterfront and Requiem For A Heavyweight.

Administrator's note: I'm reprinting these photo's and captions in a much tighter time frame then originally posted, to give the viewers more of a feel for this period in Simon's career.

Oct 4, 2009

Our History Discarded

One of General Trexler's first land donations to the City of Allentown was some acreage along the Little Lehigh. He wanted to make sure that the quality of the water supply for the city was protected. The above photograph shows one of first things built in Lehigh Parkway. Please note that the retaining walls on the park entrance road have not yet been built. On the previous post Anon 8:49 PM asks;
Has the City showed you the complete inventory and locations of all the WPA sites?
Not to sound too presumptuous, but I believe the current Administration is learning about the WPA sites from this blog, starting with Stairway To Shame. (Stairway To Shame compiled from two posts written in Sept. 2008) The photo shows the spring pond and ornamental bridge. Although water still comes from the spring pipe, residents today would have a hard time locating this image, although it's in a very prominent place.

The spring pond has been allowed to become overgrown, but the stones lining the pond are for the most part still there, buried under a few inches of dirt and tall grass.

Likewise the bridge is intact, but obscured by high grass. Now, I'm not a fan of the low mowing, high mowing and riparian buffer zones. Giving the advocates of those programs the benefit of the doubt, there can be no justification, whatsoever, for letting our historic treasures be overgrown and buried. The spring pond and bridge is right next to the parking lot in Robin Hood, the City now calls it Hole Number One of the Disc Golf Course. Hopefully the City will have enough consideration for General Trexler to weedwack the bridge, so that a father and his children can have a moment like the one shown at the top of this post.

Oct 2, 2009

Save A Treasure

Yesterday I had an amazing experience, following the footsteps of Andrew Kleiner, I decided to research the WPA items at the Lehigh Valley Historical Society; like Andrew, I found that particular documentation lacking. But, from out of nowhere, an elderly lady handed me a photo from her pocketbook; a picture of the Boat Landing she had taken with a Kodak Brownie camera in the early 1940's. She had the picture with her because she had shown it to several friends who also lamented the loss of our icons.

Today I went to the park to photograph the remaining element of that structure, the steps, to write a post I intended to title "Lost Treasures". Despite my fear of ticks and other organic matter, I proceeded down the steps and pushed the bushes aside. There to my surprise, I found that the retaining walls were mostly still there.

Emboldened by this discovery, I went over to the other side of the creek and worked my way through the riparian buffer; there to my utter amazement I saw that the curved creek walls of the landing have withstood the years of time. Despite decades of neglect by our Park Department, I believe that a half dozen people equipped with a few clippers could unveil a lost treasure. There is a few large trees which have grown on the landing, and there are missing stones, but most of it still exists, waiting only for a few urban archaeologists with an appreciation of what once adorned this park. Will you join me in this act of civil unvandalizing and help restore this gift from our past?

Oct 1, 2009

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


ADDENDUM: Due to problems with the building on 7th Street, Rite-Aid has relocated back to its old building on Hamilton Street. They had moved to 7th Street because after the bus transfer stops were taken off of Hamilton Street. and moved to the Lanta Treatment Center, their volume decreased 40%. Although that Mexican Restaurant, Manana's closed, we're now going to be subsidizing two new restaurants on the same corner.