Jun 22, 2015

Allentown's Lehigh Parkway Pays Price Of Neglect

Early Saturday morning a section of Lehigh Parkway's entrance wall collapsed onto the bridle path below. This was a result of long time, gross neglect. As an advocate for the WPA, I know more about this catastrophe than others. Today and tomorrow, I will chronicle how this happened, and propose a solution to save Allentown's incredible park legacy.

 In 1928, Harry Trexler commissioned a leading American park architect to design Allentown's park system. When Roosevelt announced the WPA as part of the New Deal, Allentown was shovel ready with those plans. Four thousand men labored throughout the citys' parks, mainly between 1935-37, creating the stone icons which made the parks literally a picture postcard.

Since the early 2000's, when Ed Pawlowski first worked as Afflerbach's Community Development Director, not one nickel, nor one moment, has been spent on the WPA structures. Cracks on the top surfaces of the walls were not kept sealed, allowing water and the winter's freeze cycles to loosen the stones. The Park and Recreation Departments were combined, and a series of new directors, with their background in recreation, were preoccupied with playgrounds.

In addition to the administrators, all originally from out of town with no personal history or feeling for the parks, City Council never asserted themselves on this problem. Understand, that I have lobbied and informed everybody on the WPA neglect for the last decade.

The Trexler Trust also has not exerted themselves on this subject, although they are a major contributor to the park department budget. I was informed that they do not specify how their contribution is spent, but we know that they do have influence.
The Morning Call
The media, specifically the Morning Call, has been a mixed bag. Former columnist Paul Carpenter did  a column on my efforts. Former Opinion Page Editor Glenn Kranzley  featured several of my WPA pieces. However, the paper did not publicize or report on my Parkway WPA tours the last couple of summers.

The section of the wall which fell on Saturday was supposed to be repaired four years ago. Funds were already budgeted for that purpose twice already. The original drainage swale, built as part of the wall, was macadamed over years ago. An overflowing storm sewer, which pushes tons of water against the wall, has never been addressed. The wall had endured decades of neglect. It's a testament to it's builders that it defied so much abuse. While I care about replacing the fallen section, my real concern is maintaining the remaining walls. They need some long overdue attention.

ADDENDUM:  Francis Dougherty, the city's managing director, said that the city has been criticized repeatedly for the deterioration of the structures.
"This is not an issue of neglect by this administration," Dougherty said. 
"[The structures} have been neglected for decades."
 From the Morning Call

Mr. Dougherty, the structures have not been neglected for decades,
but what is your point beyond admitting that the Pawlowski 
Administration has done nothing in it's three terms?

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wall repairs are estimated at $600,000, the paper says. Often estimates are low and unrealistic. If only the city had spent even $100,000 annually on this stone wall during the past few years, it would be less than taxpayers are now going to have to pay.

Dreaming of Justice said...

The city looks filthy, unkempt. During the Winter streets are barely kept passable. There are many blocks littered with blowing trash, and as many of those blocks are lined with vacant buildings. Most residences are rentals with little evidence of maintenance- curling paint, broken guttering, broken windows, and over-grown lawns. I have never seen such wide-spread decay in every direction in such a small city. I find it difficult to call Allentown a city, actually- it is a fiefdom. There are a few hugely wealthy chessplayers who are allowed and encouraged to move their pieces around the board of Allentown with impunity. Violent crime has lessened, of that I am relieved to note but the appearance of the town is that of a crime-ridden slum. There are still a few charming pockets - neighborhoods that have persevered, homes that have been well kept and sidewalks and porches that are welcoming. That is far from predominant, however. I lived in an urban area for years- in fact, I've always been a city dweller until I moved to this region and drove through Allentown. No way on earth I was buying a house in that place, I told the real estate agent. I had plenty of money from the sale of my home in the Washington DC area- I probably could have purchased any house I saw on the market downtown. Glass buildings and a few coffee joints and an arena will not change peoples' minds who are in a similar position. $10,000 would not have changed my mind- I had my son to consider, the schools he would have to attend. The little bit of monetary bait would have been swallowed and offset by the additional cost of private schooling. NOTHING is going to change, until and unless basic necessities are met with a much higher bar than currently. People with money have choices- especially in a persistently down real estate market. PARKS are a possible tool to attract such upper middle class buyers- BUT NOT WHEN THEY LOOK LIKE ALLENTOWN'S.

michael molovinsky said...

@6:07, in tomorrows post, I will propose a very reasonable way to repair the wall

@6:36, although most of your comment is off topic, allentown did have a nationally renowned park system. because of administrators with no institutional memory or knowledge of the park system, the emphasis has been on playgrounds, which is politically correct. Currently, we are rebuilding the jackson street playground, which is on a dangerous street island, and nobody uses. we are also building a "feel good" playground using "community helpers" , while neglecting these irreplaceable WPA iconic structures

Dreaming of Justice said...

Actually my comment is very on topic..being that the continued neglect of the city as a whole and the mindset that is part of it has led the parks to this state. When the city looks awful, and even the parks look awful- it defeats the entire. However I respect your right to run your blog as you wish, so please feel free to edit the comment I submitted as necessary.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for caring about these walls. You've endured insults and mocking, more courage than I'll ever have. Mr. Molovinsky, if the city had wanted the walls fixed, they would have been fixed. If a boss tells a worker to do something, either the worker does it or is fired. The city can make all the excuses it wants but that's the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

The $600,000 figure has no meaning in the real world, it is a wild and unreliable figure pulled out of a hat. The road leading into the park looks like it's in danger of collapse. For several years now the City of Allentown has been running heavy trucks and equipment into and out of the parkway past this compromised wall. This dangerous terrible collapse could easily have been prevented,instead neglect and abuse has led to a real breakdown of the WPA treasure. Criminal negligence and abuse has brought us to this place.

Anonymous said...

After the major repairs are made, they should consider hiring a fulltime stone mason.

Anonymous said...

I beleive a reprint of " shame on trexler trust" is in order.

michael molovinsky said...

@8:14, i have personally lobbied every decision making group mentioned in the post, including the trexler trust. understand that $millions of dollars were spent; putting brick walkways in the rose gardens, paving the paths, building the destination playground. all good projects, but the priority should be first maintaining the existing features. consequently, we have two closed swimming pools, a wall that fell, and all the WPA structures in deplorable condition.

Anonymous said...

Thank God no one was injured or killed. This is a very dangerous situation for anyone near that wall, above or below. I certainly hope they secure the area and prevent an even greater tragedy.
How many Walk A-Thons are scheduled for this season? Safety dictates that they be cancelled.
The danger should not be minimized.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable

Anonymous said...

Is the two way then one way then two way then one way street two ways again,in spite of the One Way signs??? I guess it doesn't really matter as cars went whichever way they wanted anyway. It's the Park Without Limits, certainly without speed limits. What exactly is the traffic situation?

Anonymous said...

Someone needs to be held accountable for this.
Heads need to roll. This is just atrocious.

michael molovinsky said...

@9:43, nobody will be held accountable. in the last 2 years we had three park directors and two city engineers. expect pawlowski to hold a press conference and announce that HE Will do this and that, but not mention the neglect for the last decade.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there an engineering study done when Weitzel was parks director?
What was the result of that study?

michael molovinsky said...

@10:46, i do know from my meetings with weitzel (two park directors ago) and richard young (one city engineer ago) that there were both plans and funds to repair the wall (which is now down the ravine and on the bridle path). what happen to those plans or funds i don't know. i will ask no questions and receive no lies. i will however make myself available to the city, if anybody is interested in my knowledge of these structures.

Anonymous said...

Which city official is in charge of this situation?
Who is the point person?

Anonymous said...

MM,
I found this mornings post almost as sadening as the collapse¿ Francis Dougherty will be the one ovoiding and ommiting this factual tragedy¿

Under the insurable perils of the polocy underwritter is this covered because of allocation misapprropreation allegations¿

redd
patent pending

michael molovinsky said...

redd, dougherty from philadelphia was hired by pawlowski from chicago. dougherty has hired all three park directors, two from the same penn state recreation program, all from out of town with a background in recreation.. the wall and road is very interconnected, i will post about this tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

All with a background in recreation, yet youth sports involvement seems to be at an all-time low in the city.

I guess accountability isn't an issue anywhere in the city.

michael molovinsky said...

@1:15, i have some optimism about the new park director. she "inherited" some politically correct nonsense projects. one is the refurbishing the jackson street playground, which is a dangerous island between two hazardous streets. the other is building a new playground at jordan park with "community involvement" so the residents "have a stake" in the playground. these are moronic national programs, for large cities overwhelmed by crime. not a small city like allentown, with a beautiful park system. if anybody hasn't noticed, this mayor's administration is preoccupied with the arena and niz, everything else goes to hell in a hand basket.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Pawlowski is focused on the arena and the NIZ (as well as running for outside office), but I'd question if he's even doing any of that well.

Have you checked out the event calendar for the arena? Not exactly the events "every other night" we were promised.

The point being that if he can't even get his pet project to succeed, I'm not optimistic that he'll get our parks fixed.

michael molovinsky said...

@2:37, unfortunately, the WPA structures have suffered enormously during the last decade under his watch. this week, i will propose an alternative method to save some of them.

Anonymous said...

That important, historic, WPA evidence is not only worth preserving, but the ugly truth about Allentown's once-revered park system is that it's been neglected in many other ways, too. That riparian buffer effort is simply ABSURD. Looks like the 'crap' it is, and drags down the overall park settings where it's been applied. But, mowing is easier, so that's something. What an obvious stain on the city's first impression!

Unfortunately, Pawlowski has never been challenged. Not by the media, not by City Council, nor by enough of its residents. Allentown 'dresses itself' every morning. Someone oughta whisper something in its ear!

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

What do we need a WPA for?

We have an NIZ, not to mention a nifty minor league ice hockey rink.

Besides, as I learned here on this blog a long time ago, I'm just a slave to the wealthy (like that Reilly guy), anyway. So, I learned a long time ago to just put all my faith blindly into Big Government, the only institution that can possible "save" me (even if that very same institution doesn't do so well at saving other stuff). I have complete confidence in my esteemed local leaders (such as that Pawlowski guy) who, of course, always know much better than me.

michael molovinsky said...

fred@5:24, i have some "better" news ( i wouldn't call it good ) about the riparian buffers which i will publish later this week

Anonymous said...

Did you see the comment made by a city official to the effect that the wall was in bad shape for years and years so it's not the current city leaders who should be blamed. Can you imagine.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
That important, historic, WPA evidence is not only worth preserving, but the ugly truth about Allentown's once-revered park system is that it's been neglected in many other ways, too. That riparian buffer effort is simply ABSURD. Looks like the 'crap' it is, and drags down the overall park settings where it's been applied. But, mowing is easier, so that's something. What an obvious stain on the city's first impression!

Recently a fishing contest resulted in chaos along the Parkway's walking path as trucks parked everywhere to set up overnight tents, open fires, drinking, toilet duties in public and more. The grass was destroyed by these trucks coming and going and the trees roots terribly damaged. Who is enforcing park regulations
anymore?

Steven Ramos said...

Let's not forget the negligence of the 15th St bridge. Painting it would have gone a long way in keeping that bridge safe and usable, while the city and the state determined who was ultimately responsible for it's maintenance, instead negligence led to its closure and directing heavy traffic to Schreiber's Bridge putting it at greater risk.

The city has neglected a lot of existing infrastructure, has allowed dams to be destroyed that may have caused the fish hatchery disaster, has allowed WPA works to be destroyed that would be very expensive to build in our time, and is allowing overgrowth and natural decay to swallow up beautiful features of our parks such as the boat landing.

[img]http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-aNwSWJyLVzw/UVidXUIJN-I/AAAAAAAAKsU/GADKEdVNrvk/s1600/boat+landing.JPG[/img]

Anonymous said...

Blogger Steven Ramos said...
Let's not forget the negligence of the 15th St bridge. Painting it would have gone a long way in keeping that bridge safe and usable, while the city and the state determined who was ultimately responsible for it's maintenance, instead negligence led to its closure and directing heavy traffic to Schreiber's Bridge putting it at greater risk.

Let's not forget the newly installed digital tri-fecta billboards at the 15th Street Bridge. If that doesn't cause driver distraction and possible accidents, what will? How could any city allow something like that to be installed feet from a major city artery that doesn't even have directional concrete barriers so cars don't drift into the opposing lane?