Nov 29, 2010

The World of Mirth

Allentown at one time had two very productive railroad branch lines; The West End, and the Barber Quarry. The Barber Quarry, for the most part, ran along the Little Lehigh Creek. It serviced the Mack Truck plants on South 10th, and continued west until it turned north along Union Terrace, ending at Wenz's tombstone at 20th and Hamilton Streets. The West End, for the most part, ran along Sumner Avenue, turning south and looping past 17th and Liberty Streets.

The Allentown Economic and Development Corporation has received a $1.8 million grant, toward a $4 million dollar project, to restore a portion of the Barber Quarry branch to service it's industrial building on South 10th Street. This building housed Traylor Engineering, which was a giant back in the day. Recently it housed a fabricator who President Obama visited on his Allentown photo opportunity mission. The business has since closed, but let's not have that reality stand in the way of grants. Last summer, I fought against Allentown's Trail Network Plan, which catered to the spandex cyclist crowd. The new trail was to be built on the Barber Quarry track line. Not only didn't the AEDC oppose the plan, it's director was an advocate. Now they will be funded to develop that which they wanted to destroy. Where do I begin in Allentown's World of Mirth?

The wonderful photograph above shows the World of Mirth train at 17th and Liberty. World of Mirth was the midway operator at the Allentown Fair during the 40's and 50's. In the background is Trexler Lumber Yard, which burnt down in the early 1970's. The B'nai B'rith Apartment houses now occupy the location.
photograph from the collection of Mark Rabenold

Nov 28, 2010

Defending The Wall

The Western Wall was built in 19 BC by Herod the Great, almost 600 years before the birth of Mohammed. Herod built the current wall to expand the Mount of the Second Temple, built in 516 BC, after the Jews returned from the Babylonian Exile. The Second Temple would stand until destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Over 600 year later, in 691 AD, Muslims would build the Dome of The Rock, on top of the Mount where the Temple had stood. Today, there are 17 stone courses of the wall below the current street level. Although Jews have been praying at the Wall for over a thousand years, last week the Palestinian Authority issued a report stating that the wall is not Jewish, but part of the Dome. This report, although contradicted by Bible, history, archeology and even photography, is never the less disturbing; It plants another seed of revisionism against the history of the Jewish people. Recently, UNESCO declared that Rachel's Tomb is actually a Mosque, ignoring the thousands of years of Jewish reverence.

photograph shows Jews praying at The Wall in 1895

Nov 26, 2010

Black Friday

Once a upon a time, Allentown didn't have the benefit of current regulations. City Hall didn't have the vision it does now; they just let the merchants put up large neon signs without extensive guidelines and approval procedures. We didn't have the benefit of a Parking Authority; Allentown Park and Shop, one of the first in the nation, irresponsibly gave free parking just to encourage business. We didn't have the benefit of a remote Lanta Terminal; shoppers and buses clogged the street and sidewalks. Prosperity is over-rated, appreciate today's vision in The City Without Limits; Bon Appetit.
watercolor by Karoline Schaub-Peeler

Nov 24, 2010

Moving on Up

Allentown moved up the Most Dangerous City List, with an impressive 16 point jump, from 86th to 70th. The apologists will say that although rape is up, murders are down! What the apologists have in common, is that most of them are either young or transplants, with no knowledge of Allentown past. We old Dutchmen ( a figure of speech) are appalled. We used to be on list for the cleanest city; We were the All-American City. After Pawlowski's first election victory, he invited 100 people to give advise on his transition team. Apparently, he should have invited 101. Bon Appetit at the couple new restaurants, it's all this Administration has to show.

cityscape by Mark Beyer

Nov 23, 2010

Capernaum by the Sea

Matthew 4:13: And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum,...

Capernaum, the city of Jesus, is on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The foundation of the Synagogue of Jesus, is beneath the ornate 4th century synagogue, partially restored by the Franciscans in the early 1900's.
Mark 1:21: he entered into the synagogue and taught
Nearby, the modern Church of St. Peter's House was built by the Franciscans in 1990. It's glass floor reveals the lower walls of the 5th century octagon church, which was built around the walls of St. Peter's House. Also there, shown in the photograph, is the Greek Orthodox Church of the Twelve Apostles. It was built in 1931, during the British Mandate period (1917-1948).

Nov 21, 2010

A Tale of Two Bridges

In the mid 50's, it was a big deal to us southsiders when they opened the new 15th Street Bridge. Prior to that, we had to either go over the 8th Street Bridge, or use the old stone arch bridge by the fertilizer plant. The fertilizer plant is long gone, but the old stone bridge is still there. Schreibers Bridge was built in 1828, and rehabilitated in 1920. The new 15th Street bridge was built in 1957, and is now restricted to south bound only, until which time it can be completely replaced. So the new bridge lasted 54 years, while the old stone bridge is still in use, 182 years later.

Recently, I urged Donny Cunningham not to replace the stone arch bridge on Reading Road. His project manager, Glenn Solt, insists that the historic bridge must be replaced. He stated that stone arch bridges look nice on the outside, but inside, they're filled with "crap." Thankfully, Don and Glenn didn't target Schreibers Bridge, because we're really going to need it with the new 15th Street Bridge out of commission. Hopefully, they will reconsider about stealing our history on Reading Road.

Nov 18, 2010

Ron Angle's Hearing

After first promoting the private detention center for illegal aliens, Ron Angle has done a 180; He now can hear the protesters against that private facility. While I'm glad Ron's hearing has improved, now I wish he could hear the sobs coming from Gracedale. While he has heard the 400 against the detention center, he has yet to hear the 10,000 for keeping Gracedale. There are those of us who believe that county nursing homes are a core mission of that level of government. Nobody is born, works and pays taxes aspiring to end up in the county nursing home. When life has taken that turn, for generations, families have taken consolation that their loved one is in a caring facility, despite any lack of funds. If Gracedale has become upside down financially, it is clearly because of management decisions made by our elected officials. Although I understand that a private operator would not be bound by the union costs and legacies borne by the county, and can charge more to medicare, many questions remain unanswered. How can a private operator buy the nursing home, pay all that debt service, and still make a profit, while the county only sees red ink in the same facility? The County sees and hears what it wants to.
Any sale contracts or deed restrictions to protect the rights of county residents can be broken in the future. The only way for Northampton County to guarantee the affordable, quality care of it's citizens is to operate the nursing home itself. It is a question of priorities.

letter in Morning Call: Northampton County has misplaced priorities

Nov 17, 2010

The Pioneers of Israel

When the Syrian tank entered the gates of Degania Alef, in the early morning hours of May 20, 1948, it was greeted with molotov cocktails: It hasn't moved since. Started by Russian immigrants who arrived in 1909, sitting on the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, it's the oldest Kibbutz in Israel. When Moshe Dyan was born there in 1915, they were still under Ottoman rule. He was named after the first defender killed, in 1913.

Nov 16, 2010

Olbermann's Meltdown

Like Ted Koppel, I miss "objective" journalism in television news. The fact that it was never truly objective is well understood. Competing stories and time restraints dictated what was presented. Koppel's lament that Fox and MSNBC today present opinions, dressed as news, is spot on. The media today lacks the goal of objectivity, and the integrity to admit it. Perhaps worse in this regard than television, is the digital mediums. The Huffingtonpost and MSNBC are joined at the hip. Last night, Keith Olbermann questioned what good was the "objective" media if they failed to take Bush to task for invading Iraq. He just doesn't get it.

Nov 15, 2010

Allentown's Sewage Vision

Allentown's Mayor Pawlowski has a new vision for Allentown; mixing our trash and sewage together to make energy. Yesterday's paper had a long article on the power brokering involved in this trash to energy proposal. A facility would be built next to the sewage plant on Kline's Island. Sewage sludge would be mixed with trash and burnt to produce electricity. This particular mixture and process has never been tried before, lucky Allentown. The principals in the project are counting on Governor Rendell's appointee's to approve a $32 million dollar bond for the project, on their way out the door, before year's end. What doesn't smell about this vision?

UPDATE: Allentown should be concentrating on upgrading the LCA sewage line along the Little Lehigh, which periodically spills raw sewage into our creek and water supply. Also periodically, the sewage plant must bypass raw sewage into the Lehigh River. It is inappropriate to be promoting a private for profit company, with unproven technology, instead of fixing long existing problems.

related post by Bernie O'Hare

Nov 14, 2010

Night of Broken Glass

In 1938, on the nights of November 9 and 10, the Nazis whipped up anti-Jewish riots in a pogrom now known as Kristallnacht.

During these two nights, synagogues were set on fire and thousands of Jewish shop windows were broken.

Ninety one Jews were killed. 30,000 were arrested and taken to camps, a harbinger of the Holocaust.

Nov 11, 2010


                   Joe Louis vs. Abe Simon, Madison Square Garden, May 1942

In the 1930's and 40's, slow film emulsion and fast action, required bright light to capture the scene. A Speed Graphic camera, equipped with a large flashbulb gun, was the standard workhorse for the ringside photographer. By the 1960's, smaller format cameras, electronic strobes and faster film were standard equipment.

Nov 9, 2010

The Nickel and Diming of Allentown

Everybody keeps telling the Allentown taxpayer that their increase is only twenty five cents a day, two thin dimes and a nickel. Two thin dimes and a nickel for Cunningham, because when times are tough, the demand on county service is higher. Mayor Pawlowski will have your employer deduct his dimes at work, with an increase in the Earned Income Tax. New school superintendent Zahorchak supports the new city taxing plan, guess why? Yesterday he announced a new position, Chief Turnaround Officer; “The creation of the chief turnaround officer position is another step in our goal of ensuring that every student is prepared to go to college or successfully complete post-secondary schooling,” explains Superintendent Gerald L. Zahorchak, D.Ed.
Silly me, I thought that was his job! He's creating about a dozen new administrative jobs, how many nickels and dimes will that cost? The real estate boom in Pennsylvania was largely caused by excessive taxation in New Jersey; where are you going to move to now?
related articles:
The Morning CallPPL Opposes Mayor's Tax Hike
Ramblings by O'HarePaCan Condemns Pawlowksi's 40% Tax Hike
Inclusion by DonovanChief Turnaround Officer?????

Nov 8, 2010

The Monster Parking Authority

Back in September, I wrote about a center city homeowner exasperated beyond fairness by the Allentown Parking Authority. Here are a few excepts from his letter in that post.

I am writing to express my surprise and dismay upon receiving yet another citation from the City of Allentown.
This time a street cleaning ticket. THIS ONE IS FOR 50.00!! It states repeat offender.
Is this really how to construct a GOOD neighborhood?
Now I am in the pool for the city to collect fifty dollars at a time?
This policy is unbelievable and unconscionable.
I realize that the city is hurting for money, but this is not the way to raise revenue.
Sweep tickets, APA tickets, all kinds of inspections, fees to visit fish, and what else?
I really wanted to have a good experience living in this city.
You must not allow the city to tax/fine/extort this kind of money from cash strapped intercity residents.
I will not pay 50.00 for a street sweeping ticket.
The insult is further compounded because there is no redress to these matters prior to the escalation of the fine fee.
No good will come from the City of Allentown continually stepping on the very citizens that stabilize our neighborhoods.

Mark's new letter, to the full City Council
Where did this insult of a program (the "repeat offender designation")originate and who supported it?
I am a stabilizing element in my neighborhood and a twenty year plus resident in center city Allentown.
I pay my taxes and my street cleaning fees.
The Allentown Parking Authority makes a profit from street sweeping. I have now been designated as a "repeat offender".
Am I to be subject to this new tax forever? This is certainly another tax.
How about parking tickets? Will they too have a repeat offender category?
I Have to work different hours, and can't always get back to move a vehicle at noon.
I can't park on the north side of my block because drug dealers punch and otherwise dent my and other citizens cars parked in front of their shops.
The Allentown police are working hard to control this problem - tax money well spent.
The police department does not produce income. Why does the Allentown Parking create wealth?
Hammering low income city folks with this predatory penalty driven program to fill city coffers is just wrong.
Living in the center city should be tolerable and maybe even safe and enjoyable for residents.
One more straw on your camels back.
This is how you cause citizens to say "I'm done".
I would appreciate a response. Please tell me how wrong I am and why.
Thank you,
Mark's reward for his protest? While waiting for his day in district court to appeal his "Repeat Offender" status, the Parking Authority mounted the orange boot on his car. While OAPA holds house tours on 8th Street, and $millions of dollars are spent dressing up 7th Street, the salt of our city is punished for living on 6th Street.

Nov 7, 2010

Ezekiel's Tomb

Ezekiel's Tomb is south of Baghdad, in Al Kifl. The tomb dates back to the 6th Century B.C., during the Babylonian exile. Prior to creation of Israel in 1948, 100,000 Jews still remained in Iraq; Today, there are eight.

Last year Hebrew lettering was covered over in fresh plaster, in a process to turn the ancient Jewish shrine into a mosque. Fortunately, word leaked back to Israel and to the Jews of Iraqi descent. That community's history in Iraq spanned 2,700 years, 1,000 years before the birth of Islam. The renovation is now under international scrutiny, and hopefully the Jewish elements will remain. The photo shows Iraqi Jews in front of the tomb in 1932.

Conflicting reports: There are conflicting reports, both about the condition and intentions for the shrine. Here is an article from The Jerusalem Post, dated May 2010, which claims that there has been no damage (recent) to Jewish inscriptions.
NY Times recent article, Oct. 19, 2010

Nov 3, 2010

Lowering the Zoning Bar

While attention tonight will be focused on the Mayor's budget proposal, City Council will quietly pass a new zoning law. One of the major changes is the new process for conversion of commercial space into residential. While formally, practically every aspect was by variance, the conversions will now be encouraged by special exception leeway. The streamline procedure reflects the Administration's hope that young professionals will opt to live the loft life, and avail themselves of Allentown's urban charm; Of course, the only problem is reality. While the new upscale apartments near Wegmans filled quickly, the lofts in Allentown proved to be a hard sell, despite being beautiful. My concern for the City is not about the well done projects, but that this new ordinance will just create the last thing we need, more apartments. Not all loft apartments will be done equally. Not all loft apartments will attract the higher income demographic these changes are meant to encourage. The previous zoning procedure succeeded in producing more lofts than demand, the new one may well produce more apartments than is desirable.

Nov 2, 2010

The Clown and the Landlord

Yesterday's Morning Call had an article by Dan Hartzell on Sunday's Halloween Parade. Dan wrote "Last minute financial donations from community activists saved the 2005 parade..." Hartzell goes on to write about the candidates present and the weather conditions, but who were the community activists? He then writes "City Parks and Recreation Director Greg Weitzel said the parade is no longer under threat of extinction- a good thing, since the event dates to 1905 and could be the oldest Halloween parade in the country." But who were the community activists? As a boy growing up in the 50's, the Halloween Parade was one of the biggest events of the year. My family would watch from around 15th and Hamilton, avoiding the packed crowds further down in the teeming shopping area. I remember Hopalong Cassidy riding his horse in the parade. In 2006, another TV icon from that era, cowgirl Sally Starr, participated in the parade at age 83. I don't know how many people in 2006 had any idea who Sally Starr was? Now in 2010, not only is Sally Starr forgotten, so are the community activists who saved the Oldest Halloween Parade in America(Inc.)*. Saving the parade was organized by Everett Bickford, aka Apples the Clown, and Heidi Unterberg. The parade was able to occur because of a donation from John Chapkovich, at the time a 23 year old landlord. Thanks Everett, thanks Heidi, thanks John, for keeping a 105 year old tradition going.

*Oldest Halloween Parade in America Inc. is copyrighted by Everett Bickford

Nov 1, 2010

Rally for SANctimony

My post today about the rally is being hosted at Poliblog. Please click   here,     
 and join me there.