Aug 11, 2015

Lesson At Dieruff


A Dieruff High School social studies teacher would not have to take his class very far for a lesson in Allentown's history. Although never elected, East Side activist Dennis Pearson has been complaining for thirty years that the East Side always get short changed in Public Works. Such was the case in the mid 1930's, during the WPA work in Allentown. Roosevelt's New Deal program built the elaborate walls in the south side's Lehigh Parkway. Central Allentown received the magnificent Lawrence Street stairwell. The culturally elite of west Allentown received the Union Terrace Amphitheater, envisioned for Shakespeare. Pearson's east side got a few scattered steps to nowhere. The steps remained, and thirty years later Allentown built Dieruff High School. With expansions and renovations, some of the steps now adjoin the school. Flash ahead to the summers of 2009 and 2010.




I lobbied Allentown City Council members to appropriate some of the $millions of dollars in Cedar Park plans to begin preserving the irreplaceable WPA structures, starting to crumble throughout our park system. East Side elected councilman, Michael D'Amore, assured me that he only signed off on the Administrations plan, with the stipulation that the steps in Irving Park-Dieruff area would be restored at the same time. The work in Cedar Park was completed last year, including $millions of dollars with of recreation equipment from catalogs. The deterioration of the steps around Dieruff continues. Now there's a lesson in government!
photos courtesy of Mark Thomas

reprinted from September of 2011

ADDENDUM: Flash ahead again four more years, and the steps at Irving Park are now finally being repaired, using a $20,000 grant from the Trexler Trust. Although the grant was secured through Friends Of The Parks, it's actually also the fruit of my labor. That organization's director learned of the plight of the WPA structures through meetings I conducted at the Allentown Library in 2011. I then took her on a WPA tour of the parks, and we have been collaborating on the WPA ever since.

At the city meeting last week, I asked the councilmen to compare $20,000  from an outside source, to repair something as tangible as the stone structures, to the $1.4 million of city money, to buy land that we didn't need, nor are using.  I explained that the consequence of the WPA neglect was that our largest park, Lehigh Parkway, is now virtually inaccessible.  Considering that I had approached both previous park directors about the WPA, with no success, I asked council to appoint me special WPA envoy, and to instruct the new director to consider my suggestions in both her plans and budget.

Council didn't respond to my request. I think that maybe they were preoccupied with the mob behind me, the ones with the pitchforks and torches.  As things simmer down from news of  the FBI investigation, and council has to deal with the business at hand,  perhaps they will reconsider my offer.


4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Take a look at the historic stone steps right in front of the Jordan Park pool entrance. The steps are a few feet away from the brand new playground. They are a real hazard. I can't believe they weren't fixed as part of the playground project.

Also, I don't understand why the City put some much money and effort into a new playground that is so far from the neighborhoods of Allentown. Why wasn't this playground placed 1/4 mile closer to the kids in the dense neighborhoods?

In the same way, why was a million plus dollars spent for a huge playground in Cedar Beach Park at the edge of the city, when that same money could have been used to build several playgrounds close to the thousands of poor City kids who have no way of getting to Cedar Beach Park?

Also, I wished that the temporary traffic signal at 15th and MLK would have been made permanent, so it was possible for pedestrians and bicyclists to safely cross MLK to get to the parks and playgrounds along MLK. Many kids have to put their lives at risk trying to run across MLK.

Most of the kids in dense neighborhoods of Allentown end up playing in the streets and the alleys because they don't have access to parks. I've watched many almost get killed as cars race around corners. The kids aren't allowed to play in West Park. Most of the schools don't have playgrounds, because they eliminated recess to allow for more hours of standardized test prep time.

Anonymous said...

The overstuffed overstocked playground at Cedar Beach is why Mal Gross and FBI Fran
hired the now disgraced Greg Weitzel.
Weitzel, now remembered as the King of the Phoney Survey and for a "plan to improve the forest" on South Mountain, had a cosy inside deal with the plastic fantastic playground equipment manufacturer.
Yes, another "special relationship".
Astute readers will recall that this playground was installed after the Trexler Trust's own report said the Cedar Beach location was overused and" being loved to death."
The rest is history,

Anonymous said...

10:49 asked:

"I don't understand why the City put some much money and effort into a new playground that is so far from the neighborhoods of Allentown.",

and

"In the same way, why was a million plus dollars spent for a huge playground in Cedar Beach Park at the edge of the city, when that same money could have been used to build several playgrounds close to the thousands of poor City kids who have no way of getting to Cedar Beach Park?"


Answer {with heavy sarcasm}:

Because kids in Whitehall and other suburbs need a place to play?

michael molovinsky said...

@10:49and 12:09, although I was an opponent of the destination playground for the reasons you both state, i find that the playground is well used, and by many center city children, albeit with their parents driving there. i agree that perhaps the city would have better served the population with several pocket parks, but it could be worse; weitel had plans for a destination water park, which made his destination playground look modest.