Jan 31, 2012

Ain't That Rich

It's politically incorrect to take shots at Alan Jennings. He runs a multi-million dollar organization which supposedly helps low income people. People and companies feel good about themselves when they answer his call for contributions. He has developed into a self righteous ego maniac, who even boasts of having people incarcerated. Although I just took him to task a couple weeks ago, his new hypocrisy needs a mention. Alan's running an entrepreneurial training program for people of low to moderate income who are thinking about starting a business or expanding their current business in the neighborhoods of center city Allentown. The course will be conducted at 702 Hamilton Street. Alan, Alan, Alan, where do I begin! There were such merchants across the street in that now vacant rubble who were displaced while you sat silently by. The merchants which you will train, and bankroll with contributions and taxpayer grants*, will never be allowed to operate on Prime NIZ Hamilton Street. You have been appointed to serve on the new NIZ Authority, and you're conducting your class in J. B. Reilly's building; The biggest private beneficiary of the NIZ, who intends to apply for even more loans. Ain't that rich!

*give them a fish market

Behind the Browne Story

As I shifted through Bernie O'Hare's revelations about Browne's wife being a lobbyist, and the new Morning Call story, a couple layers of this onion need dicing, from the molovinsky on allentown perspective. Once again, I'm struck how the Morning Call lifted a story from a blogger, without proper attribution. I believe, from my own experience, that this policy is dictated by their metro editor, not the reporters. If the reporters are not embarrassed, they should be. Although the blogger readership is a fraction of the papers, it is a who's who of the Lehigh Valley. The second layer pertains to my previous post about Browne's repeated statement; "I'm not sure why anyone is confused. The law is very clear." The newspaper story states that Vaughn Communication hired Pugliese Associates because of the complexities of the law. Vaughn works for the Arena Authority, Pugliese works for the private developers, and Browne's wife works for both companies. The NIZ appears to be a law, that on one hand is so clear that the public didn't deserve clarification, but on which select developers received guidance, so as to take full advantage.

Jan 30, 2012

A Question of Priorities

I was surveying and photographing demolished Hamilton Street yesterday. My thinking is that there is less asbestos floating around on the weekend. While I worried about the hypothetical, some Allentonians were devastated by the all too real; But first, The Family Dollar story. In the Allentown of my youth, the building held the McCrory Five and Dime. Considering that history, it wasn't inappropriate to end up a dollar store. The building's landlord just had a lucrative 14 months. Purchased for $325,154.00 in November of 2010, the City ponied up $1,100,000.00 in the beginning of this month. There has been a number of such home runs involving the arena, but not within such a short time frame. Meanwhile, Easton Express Times reporter Colin McEvory was checking out the homeowners displaced by last month's water main break and sinkhole on 10th Street. While the City was prepared to exhume graves in the adjoining cemetery, the homeowners have learned that Allentown will not assist them. We were going to treat the dead better than the living.
Through no fault of their own, they have been made homeless, and in some cases, penniless. While this City can spend $35million to acquire and demolish properties for the arena, we leave the sinkhole victims clinging to the edge of the precipice. Allentown is serviced by water pipes over 100 years old. It is City policy to never admit that a water leak caused a sinkhole. While I won't debate their legal strategy, it's apparent we could do much more for these victims; It's a matter of priorities.

photo: The Express Times

Jan 28, 2012

Township Managers Wake Up Shocked!

Township managers are waking up from their nap, shocked! Whose Earned Income Tax did they think was going to be used to pay for this white elephant, the six people who work on Hamilton Street and live in Allentown? The managers have scheduled a meeting with Pat Browne in mid February. At that meeting, Browne will tell them that any left over revenue will come their way. The purpose of this post is to try and restore their dignity, and persuade them to cancel the meeting. Gentleman, there will be nothing left over for the next 30 years. Please understand that the arena will cost at least $160 million dollars. In addition to that, approved private developers, also have $100 million already approved. Pawlowski said recently, while you were napping, that his vision is for $600 million in development. The Earned Income Tax is to be first applied toward the debt service. You're financial managers, how much do you foresee being left over? Also written in the law that nobody read, is the ability to use property taxes, if necessary. This blog maintains that when would be more honest than if. Everyone, everywhere, will be paying for this, but none more than Allentown taxpayers.

Jan 27, 2012

Where's the Rent?

Recently, this blog explained the heavy handed way that City Center Investment Corporation had acquired virtually all the buildings across from the arena site. Yesterday, The Morning Call reported the compelling story about how a luncheonette tenant on 7th Street was told to vacate, for being a couple days late with her rent. I was glad the newspaper picked up on the story, but like the rent check, they're a little late. In the article they refer to the displaced merchants of the arena site has having served low-income shoppers. Perhaps the reporters didn't notice, but the luncheonette clientele are not from the west end. It's not the fine dining favored by the Administration. The same reporter, before the eminent domain hearing, referred to the merchants as selling discount clothes and cheap electronics. While it's nice that they're injecting a little humanity into the plight now, the damage has been done. The same reality applies to recent revelations about the Earned Income Tax in the NIZ. As the picture below shows, we no longer have a center city; We have a square block of rubble with the surrounding properties all owned by virtually one person. Welcome to the Transformation.

the rent collector is boxer Abe Simon, training for his heavyweight fight with Joe Louis in 1942; the photographer asked him to look mean. the bottom photograph is by The Morning Call.

Jan 26, 2012

Hawking a Newspaper

The full page promotion of The Morning Call by Tony Iannelli, on the back of Tuesday's front section of that newspaper, seemed inappropriate to me. The copy said it was important for Tony to get news from a credible source that he could trust. It identified Tony as President and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. Doesn't Tony realize that there are two cities in the Valley with a newspaper? If Iannelli is a spokesman for The Morning Call, can we count on honest reporting about his organization? This blog has previously wondered why the Chamber sponsored Vision Meetings for the merchants of Hamilton Street, while the Administration was starting to think about a bulldozer. The citizens of this city have been under-served by both the Chamber and the paper; where can we find a credible source we can trust?

Jan 25, 2012

Flash From Past

Occasionally, some of the older boys in Lehigh Parkway would get saddled with taking me along to a Saturday matinee in downtown Allentown. We would get the trolley, in later years a bus, from in front of the basement church on Jefferson Street. It would take that congregation many years to afford completing the church building there today. The trolley or bus would go across the 8th Street Bridge, which was built to accommodate the trolleys operated by Lehigh Valley Transit Company. Downtown then sported no less than five movie theaters at any one time. Particularly matinee friendly was the Midway, in the 600 Block of Hamilton. Three cartoons and episode or two of Flash Gordon entertained our entourage, which ranged in age from five to eleven years old. We younger kids, although delighted by the likes of Bugs Bunny, were confused how the Clay People would emerge from the walls in the caves on Mars to capture Captain Gordon, but our chaperones couldn't wait till the next week to learn Flash's fate. Next on the itinerary was usually a banana split at Woolworth's. Hamilton Street had three 5 and 10's, with a million things for boys to marvel at. The price of the sundae was a game of chance, with the customer picking a balloon. Inside the balloon was your price, anywhere from a penny to the full price of fifty cents. The store had a full selection of Allentown souvenirs. Pictures of West Park on a plate, the Center Square Monument on a glass, pennants to hang on your wall, and picture postcards of all the attractions. Hamilton Street was mobbed, and even the side streets were crowded with busy stores. Taking younger kids along was a responsibility for the older brothers, the streets and stores were crowded, but predators were limited to the Clay People on the silver screen.

reprinted from April 11, 2011

Jan 24, 2012

Allentown's Vanishing History

A reader sent me the above image last night. It looks down the hill from 7th and Hamilton, north, toward Linden Street. He has been attempting to locate the old Lafayette Radio store on 7th street, because of a pleasant memory from his childhood. By my day, the store had moved onto the southern side of the 700 block of Hamilton Street. History is quickly succumbing to the wreaking ball in Allentown. All the buildings shown above, on the left or west side of 7th Street, have been knocked down for the arena. Most of the buildings on the photo's right side are also gone. I suspect the few remaining ones will be gone soon, as they have been recently purchased in speculation of the Transformation Phrase 2, the Event Center. With the departure of Salomon Jewelry, Tucker Yarn remains Hamilton Street's last remaining business from the glory days. It's first store, on 7th Street, can be seen on the left side of the above photo.

The above image can be found in Doug Peters' Lehigh Valley Transit

Jan 23, 2012

Pat Browne's NIZ Shell Game

Back in the fall, when it was discovered that J.B. Reilly was loaned $20 million under the same terms as the arena, and that taxes would be used for his debt service, and before the rules to apply were formulated and publicly announced, Pat Browne said "I'm not sure why anyone is confused. The law is very clear." Yes, this is the same Pat Browne whose campaign brochure touts reducing the size of government, and sponsored the Taxpayer Transparency Act. Scott Kraus and Matt Assad, of The Morning Call, have reported* that various professional fiscal managers in the surrounding townships, have been caught off-guard by the NIZ wrinkles. Bethlehem's business administrator said, "What? That's crazy....we're not getting money we already included in this year's budget." Upper Milford's manager said "Our bread and butter is that Earned Income Tax. Any amount we lose is significant to us." Pat Browne's reply to the beleaguered administrators: "I'm not sure why anyone is confused. The law is very clear." This blogger has maintained, contrary to the patter coming out of the mouths of Pawlowski and Browne, that every dollar going toward these NIZ projects will have to be made up by the taxpayers, somewhere, somehow. Pat Browne says, "There is naturally going to be some adjustment, But we're talking about rebuilding the urban core of Lehigh County. The benefits to everyone, including the suburban municipalities, are going to be well worth the adjustments we have to go through to get there."

Senator Browne, those benefits remain to be seen. For someone who sponsored The Taxpayer Transparency Act, you sure can move those shells around fast.

*Taxing question:Arena tab extends beyond Allentown/by Scott Kraus and Matt Assad/The Morning Call/January 22, 2012

Jan 22, 2012

Misguided Park Priorities

The plan to turn one lane of both Linden and Turner Streets into bike paths, through center city, casts a spot light on current Park Department thinking. If ever there was an idea that was devoid of reality, and which ignores the welfare of the vast majority of citizens, that may well be it. In addition to affecting the two sides of Allen High School, Central Elementary School would also be adversely impacted. Those familiar with center city know that double parkers already have largely reduced traffic to one lane, never mind the pending Arena traffic. This bike plan is a component of the Trail Network Plan, which has dominated the park agenda for the last several years. It caters exclusively to the cycling enthusiasts, paving the existing paths and connecting the parks with more bike paths. This past fall a group of concerned citizens surveyed the iconic WPA stone Structures within our park system. The cyclists may be peddling too fast to notice the state of disrepair that has overcome these monuments. Last summer, a City Councilman agreed to vote for the Trail Network Plan, with the understanding that a set of stone steps on Jerome Street, at Irving Park, would be fixed. The Park Department then removed the steps; I suppose that's a fix of sorts. One of the stone pillars on the Union Terrace Amphitheater stage is being undermined by the stream. The grand stairwell at Fountain Park has numerous missing steps. While millions of dollars have been sought for the cycling plan, the stone structures are approaching the point of no return. While I wish the cyclists enjoyable use of the parks, the Park Director and Mayor must realize that the young and the old, and other passive users, are also entitled to enjoy the parks. They are entitled to sit a bench and enjoy the view . They are entitled to explore the stone structures with their grandchildren, safely, on maintained steps and walls. These structures defined our park system long before the current Administration. We have too many plans for new venues in this city, while our history is literally crumbling. We don't just need more new ribbons to cut, we also need to maintain those things which made us unique.

The above piece, under a different title, appeared January 21, 2012, on The Morning Call opinion page.

Jan 20, 2012

A Park Protester From The Past

`Green' Curtain Blocks Sledding And The View
January 09, 1992|The Morning Call
To the Editor:
Hold your sleds girls and boys! Others, too, on the alert! With the planting of a dense cluster of 60 evergreen trees and the erection of a "No Sledding" sign, creating a veritable iron curtain, the park and watershed people have once again undertaken their repetitive effort of the past 45 years to eliminate a most popular sledding slope in Lehigh Parkway. The motive -- crass self-interest in defiance of public good. The effect -- an impassable barrier and concealment of a magnificent vista of "one of the finest valleys in Eastern Pennsylvania."
Children and adults from the 400 homes with longtime and easy access to the slope and others arriving in cars have enjoyed sledding here after school and into the night and throughout the day and night on weekends. Yet sledding is but one of the attractions of this enduring slope. In summer children and teachers from Lehigh Parkway Elementary School have enjoyed a walk down the slope and into the park for a break from book and blackboard. Birders, joggers, hikers and others on a leisurely stroll engrossed in their particular interest have found the slope irresistible.
For a host of others, this opening into the park after a long stretch of woods presents a charming vista and urge to descend. Interest is immediately evoked by the sight of a mid-19th century log house (now tenanted by a city employee whose privacy is further enhanced by the closure of the slope) and a historic wagon trail leading past the site of a lime kiln to tillable lands of earlier times.
The view takes in an expanse of meadowlands, now groomed, to the Little Lehigh River and up the western slope to Lehigh Parkway North. Indeed, a pleasant view to be esteemed and preserved for generations to come. It was distressing on New Year's Day to see a family and their guests intent upon a walk down the slope suddenly stop in amazement and shock as the closure became evident.
The cost in dollars through the years of the park peoples' fixation on destroying the Parkway slope must be staggering indeed without dwelling on other deliberate depletions. Typically, the placement of the 1991 "No Sledding" sign employed a team of four men with three vehicles -- a backhoe, a panel truck, and a super cab pickup truck, the latter furnishing radio music.
ALLENTOWN The Morning Call, January 9, 1992
reprinted from May 25, 2010

I grew up in the same neighborhood and spent my childhood winters sledding on the same hill. Mr. Luckenbach would also be saddened that the historic Wagon Trail is now also blocked off, near it's exit halfway on the hill. I suppose children, mittens and sledding is too passive a recreation for this Administration's taste.

Jan 19, 2012

Scrapping Allentown's History

The following communication is from a center city homeowner, irate over a recent theft from his property.
The fleecing of our city.
Copper and brass hardware has been disappearing from homes all over the region for a few years now.Gutters, flashing, pipes and wiring are all subject to a new form of recycling.There is a cadre of crack heads and thieves daily casing our streets and alleyways looking for anything of value not tied down and watched. They drive around in old junk trucks and beat up vans searching back yards for booty.This behavior has ratcheted up over the last several months to stealing iron and steel goods.
I have had three cellar window sidewalk grates stolen in the past two months. These grates have been in place for at least the twenty five years I have lived here in Allentown.The grates weigh maybe fifteen pounds each - worth five dollars? BUT more like five hundred dollars to replace.The local salvage yards talk the talk about recovering materials stolen from many properties.
The truth is that these scrap yards are fences.They happily pay for stolen goods.I went to three scrap yards here in town looking for my property.All three yards were totally acquainted with the fact that a new bunch of criminals are stealing metal items and disposing of them for cash at their businesses.One asked for my name, but the other two just feigned concern while rolling their eyes. They all asked if I had reported the theft to the police. I did.The yard that asked for my name allowed me to look at the scrap steel they purchased that day, but the other yards refused to let me look for my property.
This should be a criminal offense called "receiving stolen property".The truth is that the thieves working our streets are not mining a legal claim.The yards buying the scrap crush and dispose of it daily - rendering any stolen property untraceable.
Materials located on any property, private or public, belong to some one.It is illegal to enter onto any property and take anything without asking, or without purchasing said materials.Anyone doing business, especially daily business, with these establishments should be showing proof of ownership for all the goods and materials they intend to sell.
The scrap yards accepting and buying metals are complicit with the robbers.

Over the years I photographed some of the scrap yards and know a few of the owners. They are, for the most part, fairly large businesses, with regular clients. I'm sure occasionally, all of them get snookered into buying something stolen, but I do not believe it's fair to characterize them as fences. I also have known some pickers, who are incredibly hard working, honest men. Recently, someone was arrested for stealing the copper downspouts from at least 73 houses in the west end. When someone steals something from your house it's very unpleasant. If it's an older house, with essentially irreplaceable features, it seems even more crass.

Jan 18, 2012

Behind The News, rental inspections

Devon Lash of The Morning Call reports on the landlords suing Allentown over last year's 600% increase in the rental inspection fee. As a target and scapegoat, landlords have always been low hanging fruit. Here's some background not known to the public and press. When the Administration first approached City Council, I was told that it was their intention to raise the fee to thirty five dollars. Because Council did not blink or question that figure, the Mayor's office then realized that they had a ticket to ride. Without hesitation, Council agreed to more than double the initial figure, to $75.00 per each apartment unit annually. Rental units are on a five year inspection cycle, making the actual fee $375.00 per inspection. Of course, the public wouldn't care if the landlords were charged $750.00 a year, or even $7,500.00.* This stigmatization of landlords has allowed the Administration to even have a Landlord Hall of Shame on it's official website. Could you imagine a page dedicated to another class of property owners? Homeowners of Shame. Taxpayers of Shame. Citizens of Shame.

disclaimer: I'm a landlord, but not part of the lawsuit.

first comment on The Morning Call website about this article, but it won't be the last: where in the constitution does it say that a slum lord in Allentown cant be expected to pay more on his rental property? I guess when RCN raises their fees its unconstitutional, or when PPL raises fees for basic living needs its unconstitutional? 90% Of landlords are scum, drivin by greed, why else would you own 46 places, Greed American greed!

Jan 17, 2012

A Giant Among Midgets

Here's a story you will not read about on any official City of Allentown website. It's a story of private gumption, instead of the usual public subsidy. It's the late 1990's, and I stop in and visit infamous Allentown landlord Joe Clark. He's sitting at a desk in the middle of a large empty storefront at 7th and Turner, surrounded by landlord supplies and building materials. The phone rings and it's Mayor William Heydt. Heydt just learned that Clark purchased the vacant Eastern Light Building on Hamilton Street, and wants to know Clark's intentions. Clark tells him he's going to build the best nightclub Allentown has ever seen. Heydt doesn't offer any help, but tells him that he'll be under close scrutiny. Clark does go on to build the club, without a nickel of help from Allentown. Years later, when the BrewWorks would open with unlimited city subsidy, a public parking lot on 8th Street was given exclusively to the BrewWorks. A few weeks ago Clark asked if he could rent the Parking Authority lot behind the nightclub; Request Denied. This week, based on ticket sales, Crocodile Rock was rated the 60th most successful nightclub in the world for 2011. The midgets at City Hall pay for consultants, when there's a genius half a block away.

Jan 16, 2012

Whine and Cheese

Decades ago I could be found at an Allentown Art Museum opening. As the years passed and I became more cynical, I started referring to those events as Whine and Cheese. Now of course, I call those people yuppies, and have long since been removed from their mailing lists. In the last several months my regard for them, and the Old Allentown Preservation Association, has grown even lower. Both groups sat silently by, while the architectural and historical gems of Allentown were destroyed. Allentown only had a few significant facades. I captured the above image this summer. We need not speculate if the new arena will last 80 years, or if people in the year 3000 will consider it's architecture significant; It will be long gone.

destruction image from the Rebellious Evil Brothers Film

Jan 15, 2012

The Butchers of Allentown

photograph by Bob Wilt
A&B (Abogast&Bastian), dominated the local meat packing industry for almost 100 years. At it's peak, they employed 700 people and could process 4,000 hogs a day. The huge plant was at the foot of Hamilton Street, at the Lehigh River. All that remains is their free standing office building, which has been incorporated into America on Wheels. Front and Hamilton was Allentown's meatpacking district. Within one block, two national Chicago meatpackers, Swift and Wilson, had distribution centers. Also in the area were several small independents, among them M. Feder and Allentown Meat Packing Company.

reprinted from January 17, 2011

Jan 13, 2012

The Longest 90 miles

I think that one of the longest 90 miles stretches in United States has to be between New York City and Allentown. Although only two hours away, it's a different world. In Manhattan, a one bedroom apartment rents for $3200, in center city Allentown, $650. In Manhattan there are a million office workers earning in excess of $100,000. In Allentown, they couldn't fill the BrewPub. In Manhattan, it costs $750,000 to buy a small one bedroom condominium. With this frame of mind, many New York investors came to Allentown and purchased apartment buildings. They thought because they were paying less than the price of their Beamer, for each apartment, how could they lose? They gave the tenants self addressed envelopes and told them to send the rent. They learned how they could lose, and many of those buildings are now for sale or empty. This brings to mind an urban minded blogger writing about the Lehigh Valley. He wants all of us to move into center city and take public transportation. He wants the city government to insist on tall buildings and high density. He has the New York City frame of mind. Blogger Jon Geeting is heartened by the current NIZ development. As one developer candidly admitted, it's only possible with your tax dollars. Only when Allentown begins being developed with private money, as in New York City, will it be meaningful.

Ironpigpen Uncensored

In addition to his site on World Soccer, Rolf Oeler also produces a blog on World Hockey. Here at molovinsky on allentown he has received penalties for unnecessary rough play, but at his own site, he's the referee. Here's his take on Pawlowski's Palace of Sport.

Jan 12, 2012

Alan Jennings:The epitome of Self-Righteousness

Alan Jennings, like all the self-righteous, feels he's entitled to adapt truth for his purposes, which are greater than ours. Karen Beck Pooley wrote a letter to the editor, praising the zoning decision against Rite-Aid's suburban store design for 7th Street. She noted that although the Administration and The Community Action Committee supported Rite-Aid, the zoners rejected the request for a variance. Jennings has responded on his blog with a rather far fetched defense of his position, and a distortion of Ms. Pooley's points. Jennings chides Pooley for not appreciating the accomplishments of the 7th Street Main Street Program, operated by one his divisions. On the contrary, Pooley actually praised the program's success, and wants Rite-Aid to fit in with all the other facade accomplishments. Jenning's distortion of Pooley's position is only the beginning of his fabrication. He ties the approval of Rite-Aid not only to thousands of jobs, but the actual "Salvation" of Allentown. I seriously doubt if more than a couple dozen people will work at the arena. The arena project is totally separate from other projects in the NIZ, such as the J.B. Reilly office building. Jennings cannot tolerate anything short of praise. He and his organization has been immune from criticism because of political correctness. When you work professedly to reduce poverty and with other sacred cows, I suppose it's easy to become sanctimonious.

Allentown Planning Puppies

The Allentown Planning Commission Puppies yelped and practiced growling, about being asked to approve the arena, after work had begun. But, like good paper trained puppies, they voted yes.* They received puppy treats for their yes vote, just like Allentown City Council. You would think that these appointed and elected officials, especially after having their authority usurped on the biggest project in Allentown's history, might symbolically register a protest no vote. Show me someone on a lot of boards and commissions, and I'll show you a yes man. That's why the directors and executives appoint them.

*The Morning Call/Jan.10/Devon Lash

Jan 11, 2012

Dr. Lee County

With Lehigh County moving forward with a possible health agency, I hope they remember the Hippocratic oath to do no harm. As a baby boomer I have been concerned with reports of fluoride contributing to brittle bones. It's my understanding that fluoride only helps the teeth of young children, and can be effectively applied topically, and enhanced through toothpaste and mouth wash. The current director of the Allentown Health Bureau can foresee dental programs as a component of a regional department, perhaps that would be a more appropriate venue to provide fluoridation to children. Although my demographic might benefit from valium or viagra in the water supply, I think pure water should be the regional goal.

reprinted from Dec. 13, 2007

UPDATE: The Bi-County Health Bureau remains a concept, and the fluoride proponents still rule.

Jan 10, 2012

The Transformation of Allentown

Transformational is Ed Pawlowski's word for the change taking place in Allentown. What's happening at the moment is demolition. There is an odor and dust in the air. One merchant told me he's fearful for his health walking around; Is the white soot asbestos? Thirty five, one hundred year old buildings, do that. I recall when the demolished rows of buildings were jewelers, shoe stores, opticians and tailors. None of the stores, even the ones on Hamilton Street, harked back to that era. The demolished stores apparently catered to a disposable clientele, whose votes matter more than their opinion. Those merchants, in vain, actually had gathered thousands of signatures pleading for their survival. The bulldozers, in one week, have established that Hamilton Street will never again aspire to be a shopping district. The only question now is will Allentown succeed as an entertainment and office venue? Will the taxpayers be able and willing to support a vision in which they had no input? The official answer will take years to determine. The true answer, even longer.

Jan 9, 2012

Allentown Becomes Reillytown

molovinsky on allentown exclusive*
Just as William Penn gave this town to William Allen two hundred and fifty years ago, Pat Brown, Jennifer Mann and Ed Pawlowski have now given the town to J.B. Reilly. Actually, Reilly's getting a better deal than Allen, because the existing taxpayers will underwrite all his new acquisitions. This blogger has learned that with three exceptions, Reilly has purchased the square block across from the arena; that would be from 7th to 8th, and Hamilton to Walnut. The exceptions are the LCCC Portland Place building, and two adjoining store fronts. All other properties are either under an agreement of sale, or have one pending. One of the sellers claim that they were initially approached by a strawbuyer, who used language of eminent domain, similar to the tactics employed on the arena side. Although the offers appear fair to generous, several of the sellers supposedly felt they had little to no option. Although I initially thought that the threat of domain was an idle threat, perhaps it is possible. City Council really doesn't know what authority they gave the City and it's agents, when they signed that dotted line. One council member hoped it wouldn't result in just some rich white guys getting richer; Guess what? Just as the general public was not aware that the NIZ taxing mechanism could be used by approved private parties, few people understand that property taxes will be used if the earned income and sales tax fall short. In addition to the block outlined above, Reilly's City Center Investment Corp., funded by an initial $20million from the City Authority, and a yet disclosed second amount, is buying up both sides of Hamilton, from 5th to 10th Street. Additionally, he is purchasing the property north of Linden Street, to Turner Street. Several displaced former merchants who owned property on Hamilton, will now be tenants in Reilly buildings.
City Center Investment Corp. is a visionary real estate development and management company....We look forward to welcoming many tenants to live, work and play in what will be an inviting, accessible urban community.
Considering that Reilly hasn't been given the keys to the city, but rather the city itself, let us hope he succeeds.

*When The Morning Call reads this post, and produces their own longer version, with charts and maps, will they give this blog appropriate credit?

Jan 7, 2012

Allentown Soccer History

Guest Post by Rolf Oeler

America has long been famously known as the Land of Opportunity for those born both here as well as abroad. And so, once upon a time in a blue collar, industrial city called Bethlehem, a local Hungarian immigrant businessman named WILLIE EHRLICH dared to pursue his own particular vision of American Exceptionalism. A feat many of his contemporary countrymen would have been inclined to believe impossible — to capture a championship in professional soccer using a good supply of homegrown players from right here in the Lehigh Valley.

The upstart PENNSYLVANIA STONERS — employing a trio of products from the local high schools of Freedom and Liberty in Bethlehem as well as Louis E. Dieruff in Allentown — spectacularly made Ehrlich’s dream a reality in just two years’ time when the club captured the American Soccer League title in 1980.
Professional soccer’s popularity in the United States had already peaked by the time the Pennsylvania Stoners contested their first league match and Ehrlich, who was named the A.S.L. Coach of the Year twice, would incur financial losses of almost a million dollars in only three short seasons. But the logo of ALPO, a local dog food manufacturer, delightfully decorated the team’s jerseys while a memorable bumper sticker — “Fifteen Games On One Tank Of Gas” — colorfully adorned the backs of many cars in the area to celebrate the shoe-string budget. And the team was triumphant on the pitch most of the time, as well; in short, it was a whole lot of fun while it lasted.
There can be no question that Ehrlich’s long-gone creation left a lasting legacy which exists to this very day in the Lehigh Valley by fostering an affinity and appreciation for The Beautiful Game to an entire generation of fans in the region — including a certain, unnamed 11-year-old kid who would later play his high school soccer in the very same stadium where the Pennsylvania Stoners used to perform and then, many moons on down the line, get his hands on a blog.
The memories are quite numerous and include a special, rain-soaked evening in April of 1980 on which a franchise record 8,300 people braved the elements at the since-remodeled as well as renamed Allentown School District Stadium (which had a capacity for 20,000 at that time) in the West End to witness the city’s own Polish cannon, ROMAN URBANCZUK, fire the game-winning goal in double overtime as the Pennsylvania Stoners dispatched the visiting Miami Americans 1-0 to open the A.S.L. title-winning campaign. The 21-year-old native of eastern Europe had been honored as a high school All-American at Dieruff on the East Side of town before signing his first pro contract to play the 1978/79 season with the Cleveland Force of the Major Indoor Soccer League. Urbanczuk, who also appeared with the Philadelphia Fever in the old M.I.S.L. during his playing days, would become the one and only player to play every season with the Pennsylvania Stoners during their four-year stay in the since-departed American Soccer League.
Urbanczuk went on later that season to score the only goal of the game at ASD Stadium when the eventual A.S.L. champion shutout the incoming Golden Gate Gales in early August, but that would be another Stoners Story for some other day …
Guest Post by Rolf Oeler

Jan 6, 2012

Lehigh County's Toilet

Allentown park system, and especially Lehigh Parkway, is becoming Lehigh County's toilet. It's where the waste ends up, and occasionally overflows. The new water line to the suburbs is currently being laid through Cedar Park, shown above, but the waste comes back through Lehigh Parkway, right along the stream. Although the County has been under federal mandate to upgrade the waste system, we continue to sell more water. Yesterday's Morning Call article concentrated on the jobs that Ocean Spray will supposedly bring to the western edge of the Valley, but failed to mention why Ocean Spray is moving. They have decided to move, rather than update their factory to current New Jersey standards for pollution. Apparently, making cranberry juice involves a nasty discharge. Our elected leaders can never wait to cut a new ribbon, regardless of it's true cost.

Jan 5, 2012

News Behind The News

This morning, molovinsky on allentown begins a new feature entitled, News Behind The News. Every morning, The Morning Call has my head moving side to side. First, as I retrieve my late arriving paper, then, as I read the articles which contain no knowledge about the subject's past. I believe that these shortcomings result from their two types of reporters; One is young with no institutional memory of Allentown. The other, older, has turned into a nine to fiver, who can't wait to get out of Dodge every afternoon. News Behind The News will provide few links to the paper's archives, those clicks are no longer free. When possible, a click will be provided to molovinsky on allentown archives. The feature will be in tabloid fashion, large photo, small copy.

Yesterday's Morning Call article, on the demolition starting, showed the storage facility on Linden Street. This building had an interesting past. Up till about 1990 it was Cata Garment, a successful textile factory and large inter-city employer. When the factory closed, the owner turned the building into condominium format, hoping to sell different sections as potential loft apartments. That plan never succeeded, and Atiyeh purchased the building for pennies on the dollar from his estate. City Council granted the building KOZ status in 2004, taking it off the tax rolls, but making it marketable for Atiyeh. Across the street, the parking lot is another interesting story. A couple years ago, Ed Pawlowski and The Parking Authority wanted to sell it to the then flavor of the week, Nic Zawarski. The only opposition to the sale was this blogger, molovinsky on allentown. Although the Authority approved the sale, Nic never followed through on his purchase option. The lot is now touted as part of the ample parking plan for the arena.

Jan 4, 2012

Arena's First Injury

Although Allentown is more than a year away from it's first hockey game, we already have an injury. The Morning Call's Devon Lash reports that earned income tax revenue , despite a higher rate last year, has not met the projections for 2011. Starting this year, all new earned income tax from the NIZ zone, up to 130 acres, will be diverted to pay debt service for both the arena and certain kingmakers, Butz and Reilly. Now, factor in the lost tax from the former businesses in that square block, and we can see another increase just to stay even. The collection of the earned income tax is complicated. I suspect that with the changing rules between where one lives and works, the cost of record keeping and collection might approach the revenue produced. Small businesses are already overwhelmed by the paperwork. Many have taken to out source payroll, even for only a few employees. Let not a few taxpayer teeth or dollars get in the way of ribbon cuttings.

Jan 3, 2012

Breaking Some Eggs

I'm afraid that once again some eggs got dropped in the 2011 recipe for molovinsky on allentown. Don't blame this chef if the politicians and newspaper don't always deal from the top of the deck, and I take notice. This blog realized early on that Zahorchak's Pathway to Success was anything but, and apparently responded appropriately, considering his departure before school ended. Along the way, The Morning Call helped itself to one of my reports, and defended the snatch. Those dropped eggs are a mess. Speaking of eggs, one of my favorite posts of the year was titled Boxing Eggs. In that post, I recall working in my father's market, and the ride there. Such posts allow me to introduce Allentown history, and share photographs of that by-gone era. I also promote 95 year old boxers, who fought in the 1930's. Occasionally. I get to combine history and current political mistakes, such as in Saving the Queen City. I also stretch the recipe to advocate, be it for the abused former merchants of Hamilton Street, or the neglected WPA park structures. The comment section of molovinsky on allentown is moderated. I reject repetitive and off topic submissions. Your readership, as always, is greatly appreciated.

King Levinsky

In 1964, a young Cassius Clay trained in south Miami Beach for his first fight against Sonny Liston. At that time, this section of the city was home to mostly retired Jews on fixed income. The hotels, decades after their prime, became pension rooming houses. Decades later, these same buildings would be restored to their art deco splendor, creating today's South Beach. As Clay trained, a middle aged punch drunk necktie peddler told him, "After Liston punches your head, you'll be selling ties with me." The street peddler was a fixture in Miami Beach. He didn't ask, he told people they were going to buy a tie. The future champ probably didn't realize that the heckler was none other than King Levinsky, legend of the 1930's, and veteran of over 118 heavyweight fights. Levinsky was born Harris Krakow in Chicago, and worked at his parent's fish market on Maxwell Street, the Jewish section during the roaring twenties. Although he never got a title shot, and weighed only 185, he fought all the leading heavyweights of his time, including the 265lb. giant, Primo Carnera. Managed by his sister Lena, he was known never to turn down a fight, including those against Max Baer.
copy reprinted from Jan. 23, 2010
photo shows Levinsky with sister/manager Lena in 1932

Jan 1, 2012

Down The Rabbit Hole

The unfortunate sinkhole on N. 10th Street has spawned the usual debate , which came first, the sinkhole or the water main break? We who have been around for a long time pretty much know that it's the water main break. In addition to holes, the breaks most likely caused some tragic gas explosions. This conclusion is based on the fact that there is almost always a water main break associated with the holes, and the rate of occurrences have been increasing as the pipes age. Even the famous Corporate Plaza implosion was probably caused by a water main break. Understand that for liability reasons, the City never admits that a water leak created a sinkhole. This post is not about that debate, but rather to question our priorities. It is acknowledged that the city has miles of pipe in excess of 100 years old. In spite of an infrastructure causing periodic tragedy, we are building a $158 million dollar arena, which is only phase 1 of more ambitious plans. Down the rabbit hole is an expression which means entering a state of confusion. By ignoring our infrastructure and the myriad of other quality of life issues, we are going down the hole.