Aug 17, 2018

The Butchers Of Allentown

photograph by Bob Wilt

A&B (Arbogast&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.

Allentown Meat Packing was owned by my father and uncle. The area was criss-crossed with tracks, owned by both LVRR and Jersey Central. All the plants had their own sidings. This is an era when commerce was measured in factories and production, not just relocated office workers.

Molovinsky On Allentown occasionally takes a break from the local political discourse to present local history.  My grandfather came to Allentown in 1893 and lived in the Ward on 2nd Street. By the time my father was born in 1917, they lived on the corner of Chew and Jordan Streets. 

Aug 16, 2018

Trump Protesters Speak Independently In Unison?

The editor of the Boston Globe opinion page, Majorie Pritchard,  about two weeks ago asked all papers across the country to join her on August 16th and let President Trump know that the press isn't the enemy of the people. In reality it was just an organized attack against Trump, which many papers have been doing separately for two years anyway.

Apparently, Ms. Pritchard sees no contradiction between protecting an independent press, and all the newspapers printing essentially the same thing at the same time.

Even though the Morning Call is between editors, they couldn't resist participating.  Never mind the local sacred cows that they routinely protect.  Here in the local blogosphere, Bernie O'Hare's Lehigh Valley Schadenfreude joined the chorus of Trump protesters.

ADDENDUM: O'Hare had a problem with me calling his blog schadenfreude.  Last night in his comment section he wrote.... appears regularly on Molovinsky's blog, where the racists congregate. That distortion is his attempt to marginalize this blog. In reality,  O'Hare does promote schadenfreude by taunting favorite targets, and then submitting them to anonymous comments. His news is tailored to compliment those (politicians) he likes, and bash their opponents.

Aug 15, 2018

Allentown's Misguided Train Plans

Up through the 1960's, Allentown's train system remained much in tack. In it's heyday, there were two passenger stations, and three commercial branch lines with dozens of individual business sidings. The WestEnd Branch ran along Sumner Ave, crossed Tilghman Street, headed west till 17th Street, and then looped back east  to 12 St. The Quarry Barber Branch ran along the Little Lehigh Creek, crossing Lehigh Street and running under the 8th Street Bridge. After crossing S. 10th Street, it proceeded west till it reached Hawk Flour Mill, where it turned north heading to Union Terrace. It crossed Hamilton Street by the current Hamilton Family Diner, and ended at the park department building, across from Birney Crum Stadium. Both these branches have been totally removed, not a track nor railroad tie remain. The third branch, which was the Old LVRR main, as opposed to the New Main, ran along the Lehigh River and crossed Front Street on a diagonal at Linden St. This branch line, although unused, still exists. One of it's main customers was Lehigh Structural Steel, under the Tilghman Street Bridge. Lehigh Structural had it's own engine to shuttle material on it's own tracks within their complex.  Although the steel fabricator closed, the parcel still has industrial tenants. Currently in Allentown there are two simultaneous plans which would misuse our railroad assets. The AEDC, headed by Scott Unger, wants to use a government grant to restore the Quarry Barber Branch to an empty building on S. 10th Street. The former plant operator never cited lack of train service as a factor in it's closing. To restore the line would cost untold millions of dollars, and require miles of track.  This is a folly which only seasoned bureaucrats could entertain. On the other hand, there is another plan by another group, to abandon the potential of the last remaining intact former branch line. The NIZ now controls the riverfront and the former Structural Steel property. Their plan is to vacate the industrial tenants, including Air Products, and convert the property into residential and light commercial, such as restaurants and gift shops. All these plans are driven by federal and state grants and tax incentives, which do not factor in Allentown's particular existing assets and long term interests. In a short sighted grab for some quick tax dollars, we would build one track to nothing, while ignoring another track and vacating an existing viable industrial site.

The photograph is from the Mark Rabenold Collection, and shows the Union Street crossing. 

above reprinted from October of 2012

ADDENDUM August 15, 2018: I'm afraid that taxpayer-grant and train-wise, things have gotten much worse since I wrote the post above in 2012. The Old Main Line along the river was removed, and the last railcar client in Allentown was displaced. Scott Unger and the Allentown Economic Development Grant Siphon is receiving $millions of our dollars to rehab the old Metalworks factory on S. 10th St., and still wants to reinstall the rail spur-line, although the chances of a future tenant needing rail service is one in a million.

Aug 14, 2018

As Allentown Turns

Early this morning I was imagining J. B. Reilly's reaction to Don Cunningham's column identifying the boroughs surrounding Allentown as the new haunt of the millennials.  He wrote about a packed old tavern in Hellertown  serving craft beers, with a food truck instead of a kitchen.  While J. B.'s spending $millions of our tax dollars building designer palaces in center city Allentown,  Donny says that the target audience is starting to hang in places like Emmaus.

Hopefully, J.B. will forgive both Donny for writing the article, and his tenant, The Morning Call, for publishing the piece.  The Call is between publisher/editors right now,  with Robert York having been transferred to the Daily News by Tronc, the current outside media giant owning the paper.

Before York left,  he told me that my agenda seems to be taking the paper to task. While I had always fancied this blog as the intersection of local politics and history,  I'm willing to also accept York's description of this site as an additional mission.

Aug 13, 2018

A Morning Call Omission

I've been wrestling with something over a week now,  but Bill White made the answer much easier yesterday.  In his column he writes about the contributions of Wally Ely, both to the valley in general and to him in particular.  He mentions that Ely's last contribution to the paper concerned the Philly's,  his favorite team.  Actually, that was the last contribution they used,  but not his only recent piece.  His previous piece, submitted to the paper only weeks before, was a protest against the weed walls in the Allentown park system.

Ely was too much of a gentleman to make a big deal out of the paper ignoring his submission, but he was passionate enough about the topic to contact me about it...I even alluded to it in a previous post,  but didn't identify him.  Likewise, because he passed away,  I wasn't planning on using his name.  However, since White has chosen to enumerate Ely's contributions,  I decided to come forward.

If White really wants to pay tribute to Mr. Ely,  they should print his letter about the park system.

Aug 10, 2018

Wildlands Conservancy Responsible For Fish Kill

In their indiscriminate haste to remove all dams in the Lehigh Valley, the Wildlands Conservancy is responsible for the massive fish kill this week at the Fish Hatchery. When General Trexler had the trout nursery built, they also built, just upstream,  a small dam, to insure and regulate a water supply for the nursery. Last fall the Wildlands gleefully demolished that dam, removing an important component of the trout nursery. Although the heavy storm Monday night occurred hundreds of times in the last century, this time the dam wasn't there to regulate the fast moving water. Over 1,400 fish were flooded out of the holding pools and died. Last summer, I watched the Wildlands Conservancy give a power point presentation to Allentown City Council on dam removals. When I invited City Council to Lehigh Parkway to defend the Robin Hood Dam, the Conservancy crashed my event, and asked the council members instead to come with them to the trout nursery dam, to see their wonderful plans. I hope yesterday that the Conservancy had the decency to help pick up the dead fish.

The lesson here is that not all dams are without purpose.

The Morning Call article on mcall Tuesday afternoon contained a paragraph describing how the fish hatchery workers believe that the dam removal factored into the fish kill. That paragraph was edited out of both the hard and soft copy editions Tuesday evening.  I have no doubt that that the deletion was done to shield The Wildlands Conservancy.
Reggie Rickard an Allentown resident who has been volunteering at the hatchery for 45 years said the fish kill is probably the worst in the hatchery's recent history. Initially, he estimated as many as 2,000 may have been killed, but the final tally was about 1,400.
Fish have been lost in other heavy rains storms, but Rickard said this was a major fish kill. He and other volunteers who joined city workers in collecting and counting the corpses Tuesday believe the death rate may have been exacerbated by recent upstream dam removals on small streams.
photo:April Bartholomew/The Morning Call/July15,2014

ADDENDUM: Above I have combined and reprinted two posts from July of 2014. The fish hatchery again experienced a massive fish kill in this recent storm of August 2018. The former fish hatchery dam, and its removal in connection to the fish kills, has been removed from the Morning Call archives and the memory of its news reporters. However, this blog knows the truth, and so will my readers.

Aug 9, 2018

Tony Phillips Reemerges

Yesterday on facebook a Hispanic woman commented that she was glad to hear that Tony Phillips was involved with the local NAACP.  Another Hispanic woman responded that although she was here for over a decade, she never heard of him... they're both correct.  Tony is a former Allentown policeman who then served on city council.  In 2009 he ran against Pawlowski for mayor,  as a black Republican no less.  Tony has always been his own man. After that election he dropped out of Allentown politics to work as an educator in the Philadelphia area.

In the NAACP demand letter about the South Whitehall shooting,  Phillips is described as the vice president of the local chapter.  Although I stand by my criticism of the demand letter,  I'm glad to see Tony reengaging in Allentown.  We worked together on a few issues back in the day, and I hope we can do so again in the future.

photo shows Tony outside my SPEAK OUT meeting in 2009. 

Aug 8, 2018

Local NAACP Letter Inappropriate

The local branch of the NAACP has, in my opinion, misspoken with demands concerning the South Whitehall Police Department.  Their demand letter was published even before District Attorney Jim Martin released his determination on the recent Dorney Park shooting.  The letter demanded that the police department fire the officer and hire minority officers .  It further demanded that Martin recuse himself from the case.

As it turns out Martin did determine that the shooting was unjustified, and charged the officer with manslaughter.  Besides knowing that I would not have wanted to be in the officer's shoes that fateful afternoon on Hamilton Blvd,  at this point I'll leave judgement to a jury.  

Even as a blogger who is not afraid of being politically incorrect,  I realize that this blog post will rub many people the wrong way.  I appreciate that the local NAACP fights against local prejudice, but in this instance I find them acting as the bully.  The outcome of the confrontation was indeed tragic, but the police were reacting to pleas for help from motorists being terrorized by someone apparently out of control. I see no local police pattern that mistreats minorities.

Aug 6, 2018

Allentown's New Park

A reader wondered back channel about yesterday's post on Allentown's trail plans.  He was perplexed about why Emily Opilo would write such a story, especially quoting no less than two people who are no longer with the city for dubious reasons.  The article mentioned that the Wildlands Conservancy donated $50K to further the project along.  It may well be a strategic investment by the Conservancy.  After volunteering to help South Whitehall develop their park masterplan,  the Wildlands was awarded the contract to build a trail along the Jordan through the township.  This is a $multi-million dollar project, and the Wildands Conservancy takes 15% off the top for their administrative fees.  By the time Allentown would have the financing lined up,  the Wildlands could claim that they have experience in trail building.

I have complained on this blog before about the newspaper qenching  my op-ed on Wehr's Dam to protect the Wildlands.  Sacred cows are not new to the valley.  With the Morning Call in business limbo, expect it to be more kitten like than ever.  Although the recently departed publisher denied it, I believe that Bill White is making the editorial decisions.  They couldn't possibly be paying him to just write another column about eating his way through another festival.

photo: the Basin Street parcel, purchased by Pawlowski and being developed by Ray O'Connell as Allentown's newest park.

Pawlowski's Bicycle Scam

Emily Opilo is my favorite Morning Call reporter, but she added up 2 and 2 and got 5 in her recent article about the bicycle path.  In that article she quotes Fran Dougherty as saying the two park purchases from Abe Atiyeh were a unique opportunity for Allentown.  She also interviewed Lindsay Taylor, who advocated for the trail plan.  Although she does mention that there are some brownfield issues, she has no idea how extensive they are,  and how unnecessary those useless  parcels are. There is no redeeming feature or purpose, what-so-ever, for the Basin Street parcel.  Before I dissect the parcels,  lets examine the cheerleaders.  Fran Dougherty is facing a prison sentence for his service to Pawlowski's corrupt administration.  Lindsay Taylor has been dismissed by O'Connell for reasons unknown.  At the very least she also served Pawlowski shenanigans. She was on board for the recent Cedar Beach stunts,  including Pawlowski knowingly opening a leaking pool before last year's election.

Basin and Union Street is near no residential neighborhood at all, and has housed numerous heavy industry over the years.  The ground is saturated with arsenic from thousands of railroad ties alone, much less whatever dripped from endless railcars for over 100 years. It was  the busiest train crossing in the Lehigh Valley.  The fertilizer plant on the parcel west of Schreiber's Bridge was a hell hole.

No offense to the spandex cycling crowd, but those portions of the trail plan were just a ruse to justify another Pawlowski deal.  The notion of providing Allentown a way to ride bikes to work is utter nonsense.  

Grants or no grants,  Allentown and its park system will be better served by selling those parcels and starting to operate the city with integrity, instead of taxpayer funded justifications for previous poor policy.   

Aug 3, 2018

Using Trump As A Local Slight

Before the mass media coined Trump Derangement Syndrome,  I had noted on this blog that people, mostly women back then, were losing their minds over Trump.  The dislike of him  spread to the media, with CNN now the leading obsessor.

Locally,  the Morning Call's Bill White has been possessed.  He now links Trump to the tragic shootings at the Gazette newspaper in Annapolis,  even though he knows that the shooter had a long term grudge against the paper, because of its reporting on harassment charges against him by a girlfriend.  Another local blogger has painted this blog and its readers as Trumpters,  because he considers that designation an insult. Those types of accusations amuse me.   My post yesterday about the shooting by Dorney Park was met on social media with speculations about my having White Privilege attitudes,  or worse,  hidden racism.  I have become somewhat immune to these types of accusations...  I understand that they're intended to intimidate me for my bluntness.  In that sense I take them as a compliment.  This ties back to Donald Trump.

One of the many reasons that Trump infuriates so many liberals is that he's not crafting his words to be politically correct.  I'll leave it to future historians to evaluate any accomplishments of his term.  However,  I must confess that it amused me that he called in to Rush Limbaugh to compliment the radio host on his show.  Listening to the liberals mutter about that will be priceless.

Aug 2, 2018

Shameless Over Police Shooting

It appears to me that some people are shameless about the hay they want to make out of the South Whitehall shooting. “This act of extreme police brutality is not a fluke or an accident, but part of the police system that regularly works to detain, deport and kill black and brown people across the country,” Make The Road said in the release. As someone familiar with South Whitehall, I can assure Make The Road officials that South Whitehall has no such agenda, if they have one at all. Perhaps the person trying to make the most exposure from this tragedy is Mark Pinsley, who is running for State Senate. The Morning Call describes him as a South Whitehall Commissioner. In truth Pinsley announced his candidacy for state senate before he even began serving his first term as commissioner this past January . He now is asking District Attorney Jim Martin to hand the case over to the State Attorney General's office. As someone who has attended dozens of South Whitehall meetings, Pinsley was never involved in community government until he decided to run himself. He should be ashamed of his grandstanding. 

Yesterday a liberal friend asked me why the police officer couldn't have wrestled the man to the ground, instead of shooting him. I have included a picture from the Morning Call of the shot man above, I think the answer to that question is self explanatory.

I have no opinion on the properness of the shooting. I will leave that determination to the authorities. I do have an opinion on the local haymakers, they're shameless.

photo from The Morning Call

Aug 1, 2018

Misplaced Anger Over South Whitehall Shooting

While a coalition of Allentown minority groups were scheduling a protest over the police shooting in South Whitehall Township,  there was at least one stabbing and a shooting in center city Allentown. Three more shootings occurred Tuesday afternoon in South Allentown. Although resident on resident violence has been commonplace,  police shootings have been very few and far between.  This is not to say that there hasn't been police overreaction elsewhere,  but not here. As for the incident on Hamilton Blvd by Dorney Park,  it is too early to make conclusions on the appropriateness of lethal force in that case.  With the incident being investigated by no less than two separate entities, hopefully a finding satisfactory to the community will emerge.

This particular protest is being organized by various minority leaders in Allentown, some of whom have been both elected and appointed to oversight functions in our local government.  I believe that by prematurely questioning and accusing our local law enforcement, they may be inadvertently sending the wrong message to their own youth.  Instead of being scared for their children about the police, they should be scared because of the violence within their own communities. While they protest against an isolated police incident, they remain silent about all their own shootings.

I expect that my politically incorrect, blunt appraisal of this situation will not be warmly received by some segments of the community.....  So be it.

photocredit:The Morning Call

Jul 31, 2018

Molovinsky On Philadelphia

Molovinsky On Allentown has rented temporary space in Philadelphia to help in predicting Allentown's future.  I use my father's old meat truck route all the way down Broad Street to get to the new office,  which is high over the city near Rittenhouse Square.  Although J. B. Reilly hopes for a taste of the sophistication which surrounds Rittenhouse,  I think that he better not hold his breath.  The area between Broad and Rittenhouse is full of beautiful classic buildings,  unlike Allentown, where the older buildings have been demolished to make way for new plain mid-rises of architectural meagerness.

However, lets get back to the meat truck route. North Broad Street is a litter filled desolation of urban decay.  Apparently gentrification doesn't spread like wildfire.  I'm afraid that J. B. will have to learn how to clone the few millennials he supposedly attracted to the Stratas.

In conclusion, I give Reillyville a slight chance of success in terms of any energy resembling the Rittenhouse area of Philadelphia. Fortunately for him it's our tax money funding his NIZ.  For Allentown beyond Linden and Walnut Streets, my best recommendation would be a trash can every ten feet.  Maybe some of the litter will accidentally land in them.

Jul 30, 2018

The Liberal Dilemma In Allentown

In 2005 when I ran for mayor, I stated that Allentown was a poverty magnet, and unless certain policies were changed there would be consequences. I spoke of a normal income bell curve, and its importance for a healthy community. At the time I was accused by a few of employing code for racism. The reality of the situation was that as a landlord I was being approached all day by people moving here with no work history, looking for apartments. They were being staked to move-in money by no less than three organizations.

Move ahead 13 years, and this weekend I read on facebook a piece by a well known local liberal, lamenting the over presence of the low-income in Allentown. He was complaining about quality of life issues, and the daunting challenges facing the Allentown School District as a result. His recommendation is a code war on center city apartments, essentially those occupied by the low income. He figures that if enough of them are torn down, Allentown's problems will also disappear.

 I was suggesting in 2005 that we tell the welcome wagons to stop handing out money. He is now suggesting that we essentially chase people away. I won't pass moral judgement on his plan, as was done to mine. However, I will say this...  My plan at the time would have worked, his will not. You cannot undo the transformation that changed Allentown from quaint to intercity urban... there is a new Allentown.

If this gentleman, who lives in the Old Allentown Preservation District has his way, we'll be condemning hundreds of buildings at great expense. Such experiments in urban renewal and social engineering have a proven history of failure. It would be much cheaper for us to buy him a new house elsewhere. He's away every winter anyway.

photo above: In the early 1970's, Allentown demolished the entire low-income neighborhood between Wire and Union Streets

Jul 27, 2018

The Morning Call Compromised

Hell broke out last night between myself and Bill White of the Morning Call.  In his blog post about The New York Daily News, he once again couldn't refrain himself for complimenting the Call on maintaining their journalistic standards.  I wasn't having it. We had the following exchange on his facebook page.

I wrote:
  the Morning Call hasn't done one honest story about the NIZ. Although I concede doing so wouldn't change the paper's economic reality, at least you would be doing the journalism that you purport in your piece.

 White replies:
 The Morning Call has done a great job reporting on the NIZ. You don't like it because you preferred downtown the way it was before all this started.

 With Bill White being the professional journalist, and me being the lowly blogger, Bill couldn't resist describing their coverage as great, and dismissing my point as coming from a malcontent. I decided to spell out the Morning Call compromises loud and clear.

My reply to White:
 "I don't like it" because the paper promotes Reilly's apartments like it's news. " I don't like it" because the paper never discussed why the Morning Call building was included in the NIZ, when it is on the other side of Linden Street. "I don't like it" because the Morning Call never reported that the Hospital has ghost offices on the top floor of the arena, so that the state taxes from their highest paid employees can be used for Reilly's debt service, a story I broke and you ignored.

photo above: molovinsky at a Morning Call function, before being outlawed for candor

Jul 26, 2018

A New Allentown Park Director

This post is meant as an open letter to Ray O'Connell.  In 2005, Allentown combined the park and recreation departments.  This merger in itself wasn't a bad idea,  but the implementation was flawed.  The first combined director was hired by Francis Dougherty, as were the next two.  Each of these hires had the same background, a graduate degree in recreation.  The first hire came from Lewisburg, and he eventually purchased every item manufactured by a Lewisburg company, Playworld.  Before he left for another position,  he planned an enormous water park for Cedar Beach, stretching up to Hamilton Blvd.  Parking for this monstrosity would have taken up the remainder of the park.  Not having a background in parks,  he turned to the eager Wildlands Conservancy for advice and cooperation.  By the time his replacement arrived,  the Wildlands was so entrenched that they dictated that Allentown remove its small ornamental dam at Robin Hood, and totally obscure the stream banks with Weed Walls. The recent former director assumed the same protocols of her predecessors.

As someone who is familiar with the current park department, I know that the next director need not have the same background.  On the contrary,  he/she shouldn't.  There are managers in place for all the existing recreational components.  The new director should be a competent administrator,  who cares about providing Allentown's children with recreation, but also has an appreciation of the beauty and serenity that the parks can provide all citizens of Allentown,  irregardless of their activity level.

The four remaining swimming pools should be kept in operating condition, and fully staffed. The parcels purchased by Pawlowski, if not offered for sale,  should not be developed until which time the park department catches up with deferred maintenance.  Frankly, that will take at least a decade.

Allentown had an iconic designation park system which adorned picture post cards for decades.  It is time to put away the Playworld plastic catalog and restore the gems in our park system.

a picture post card from Allentown park system's past

Jul 25, 2018

Son Of A Butcher

When I was a boy my father and his brother operated two meat markets, one in Allentown, the other in Easton. Once a week my father would drive to Philadelphia to pick up sides of beef for the markets. For me it was a big adventure when he would take me along on the trip.  Before dawn we would drive to the Allentown market on Union Street, near the Lehigh River, and pick up his truck.  Basin Street would take us to S. 4th, for the slow ride up South Mountain.  Route 309 would take us down to Philly,  one stoplight at a time.

The meat district was along the River, on Delaware Avenue,  now flaked by Route 95 and Penn's Landing.  The extra wide brick street in the 1950's, complete with train tracks, had numerous packing houses on both sides. My father would walk through cavernous coolers,  marking his choices with wooden skewers.  After he settled up in the office,  the sides of beef were loaded into the truck. The next stop was the ice house, where blocks of dry ice were put into hanging baskets to keep the meat cold for the return trip.

He then headed back north up 611, along the Delaware to Easton.  The Easton market on S. 4th Street, and the adjoining buildings, were demolished decades ago for new insurance agency building. The side alley has been widened into Pine Street.  Next was the William Penn Highway to Bethlehem, and then on to Allentown to unload the rest of the meat.

Rocky and Paulie in the meat cooler

Jul 24, 2018

Morning Call Owner Taking Deposits

If I have succeeded in drawing you in with this teaser headline,  allow me to explain.  Today's local paper had two story titles which drew my attention.  One said that the owner of the newest apartments in Allentown was taking deposits, and the other said that the paper's publisher was moving on to another assignment, with The New York Daily News.  In my mind both of these stories are interwoven.

Needless to say that the newest apartment owner is J.B. Reilly.  Before my life as a blogger, I was a property manager in Allentown.  Myself and my counterparts had to spend $thousands advertising our apartments with the Morning Call.  However, we were not the current landlord of the Morning Call building, as is Reilly.

Although we have never met,  over the last few years Robert York and I developed a rapport of sorts.  I would complain to him about editorial policy,  mainly repressing my submissions about sacred cows and cronyism.  He in turn would express concern about what he felt were unfair complaints about the paper on this blog.

Neither of our replacements have been announced.

Jul 23, 2018

Alan Jennings' Missed Opportunity

This weekend Alan Jennings has an editorial in the paper about affordable housing, and landlording in Allentown. One would hardly know that the other week when I appeared on Jennings' radio show, Lehigh Valley Discourse,  he brushed by my experience as a city center landlord.  Instead,  Alan wanted to complain about Trump, never mind that we have our own issues here in the valley.  In light of  his editorial this week,  it may have been a lost opportunity.  I say may have been, because Alan wouldn't have agreed with my take on the problem,  and never has since 2005.

In 2005, when I ran as an independent candidate for mayor, I said that Allentown was becoming a poverty magnet.  As a landlord I saw how many people were being staked to move-in money by various social agencies in the valley. Thousands and thousands of people moved here whose career is exploiting Social Security Disability,  the job market was never a factor for them.  Those with that career are transient, with low and skipped rent deciding which town they move to, and for how long they stay.  That was a very politically incorrect observation at the time,  and is still a very sensitive issue.  However,  what isn't debatable is that Allentown has become a much poorer city in the last 15 years.   In a sense, Alan is in the poverty business.  Needless to say he still has social engineering recommendations, now about what should be done in 2018, to better the situation.  I could dissect them point by point, but let me instead make just one observation.  In reality there is no lack of affordable housing in Allentown, or there would not be so many low income people moving here. I do not believe that enlarging and making that segment of the rental market more attractive benefits Allentown in the long term.

Jul 20, 2018

Alan Jennings To Train Sharecroppers

Those of you who listened to the podcast of my interview with Alan Jennings know that toward the end of the interview I confessed to snickering about his organization's plan ( Community Action Committer of Lehigh Valley) to take over the farmer training at the Lehigh County owned Seed Farm.  Those who follow this blog know that I oppose Farmland Preservation,  because it is a ridiculous disconnect with the reality of food production in 2018.  It is however politically correct for urban liberals to think that if as much farmland as possible stays available,  there will be an endless banquet of environmental bliss, with organic food no less.  Alan sees it as an extension of food for the poor, sort of another ladder step in the food pantry mission. Low income food issues are because of money, not food production shortfalls. These liberals of course are ignorant of the long hours and hard work which goes into farming. They are also ignorant of the economic reality of competing with large scale agriculture.

Now, unless Alan wants to gift each of his graduates with a farm at our expense,  they will either be a farm hand, or at best a sharecropper.  What is really scary about Alan's plan is that it has the endorsement of the Republican controlled Lehigh County Commission.  They are apparently so vote craven, that they go along with such nonsense.

The only practical program assisting farming is Clean And Green.  Unfortunately, the Morning Call ran an expose on the program featuring photographs of large expensive houses,  surrounded by farmland. While the program limits tax reduction to only the land actively farmed,  the photographs give the impression that the tax breaks are going to people who don't need it.  I suppose the liberal paper thinks that those involved in agriculture are supposed to live in shacks.  Worse yet, the paper thinks that their story is a masterpiece, has has been running it on their website for months.

photocredit: Dorothea Lange, Son of Sharecropper, 1937

Jul 19, 2018

Cruising In Allentown

On Saturday Allentown will hold a Cruising Event,  celebrating a rite of passage from the Fonz days. Kids would cruise the circuit down Hamilton Street, back up Linden Street, and end up in the Fairgrounds at the Ritz.  The small town activity lasted well over twenty years.  Although the Morning Call article mentions it being banned in the 1980's,  I was a participant in the early 1960's.

While the newspaper does a good job reporting on the upcoming event, and the history behind it,  this post concerns our changing times here in Allentown.  I suppose we can now romanticize an activity that we once outlawed as the good old days, because the present is so much more dire.  Driving by and whistling at a girl is so much more innocent than drive-by shootings.  Driving around a loop is so much more innocent than drivers now being harassed and terrorized by gangs on dirt bikes, ambushing out of an ally in downtown Allentown.  Let up hope that we never get to the point of romanticizing those things.

artwork by Mark Beyer,  underground comic artist and native of Allentown

Jul 18, 2018

Change Coming To Parks

I tell people the only way that they will see my name in the paper is if I get arrested or die.  Considering that now you must order and pay for obituaries, I suppose only the arrest option remains.   I bring this up because it would not have been inappropriate for the Morning Call to ask me for my opinion about Lindsay Taylor being let go.  Nobody has had more to say,  or for longer, about the park system than me.  Although they do quote Cythnia Mota, I can  honestly say that I pass dogs being walked in the parks everyday who know considerably more about the park system than Mota.

Getting back to Ms. Taylor....Although I certainly have faulted her taking direction from The Wildlands Conservancy over park policy, especially the Weed Walls,  I never advocated for her dismissal.  However,  now that she has been handed the proverbial pink slip,  let me say that I didn't appreciate her attempts to justify Pawlowski's purchase of two parcels for future parks, among other things.

Lets get back to Ms. Mota.  The paper quotes her saying ....The next director of the department needs to reflect the city’s charging demographics, Mota said, emphasizing the city’s Hispanic population which now encompasses more than half of city residents. Taylor was the only woman who held a cabinet-level position in Allentown. All of O’Connell’s cabinet appointees so far have been white men. Although I will opine in another post about what qualities the next park director should process, none of them involve race or gender.

Although this next statement doesn't apply specifically to Ms. Taylor,  I am glad to see Ray O'Connell  willing to make changes in his administration.


Jul 17, 2018

Jennings Interview Of Molovinsky & O'Hare


Drag Races And Such At Dorney Park

Dorney Park is celebrating it's 125th Anniversary, as noted by The Morning Call. A landmark that old, has provided memories for five generations. As a teenager in the 1960's, friday nights at Castle Rock, a dance hall from the twenties, were literally a Freddy Cannon moment. Park admission was free, and there were many attractions which no longer exist, most victim to fire. In addition to the dance hall, there was also a roller skating ring and a stock car race track. The picture above was part of a large neon sign on Hamilton Blvd., on the northwest corner with Cedar Crest Blvd.

In 2007 John Travolta,dressed in drag, portrayed Hollywood's version of Hairspray, initially made by campy underground film maker John Waters, and shot at Dorney Park in 1988. Travolta's part was originally played by a less wholesome, real life female impersonator named Devine, who died shortly after the movie was released.

In my father's time, you could get the trolley at 7th and Hamilton and take it to Dorney Park. Through the 1980's, you could still drive on the road which went right through the middle of the park. Now, combined with a water park, Dorney has become a regional attraction. Busloads of children and families come from New York and elsewhere, but it will always remain a rite of passage for local youngsters.

reprinted from May of 2009.

UPDATE: The large Dorney Park sign stood on the northwest corner of Hamilton and Cedar Crest.  Historic stone homes,  including the former King George Inn, stood on the other three corners. The intersection was called Dorneyville. At the Dorney Sign there was a diagonal road which also entered the intersection,  and the sign pointed to follow that road to the amusement park.

Jul 16, 2018

The Valley Of Cronyism

On Thursday I was a guest on Lehigh Valley Discourse, WDIY's program hosted by Alan Jennings. Despite some distractions, I was able to bring up one of Lehigh Valley's biggest problems, cronyism. Cronyism and sacred cows run the valley. An Op-Ed piece in this weekend's Morning Call illustrates the point. Because they hire veterans, Nestle is lauded for its plans to build another large plant, this one in central Pennsylvania. Their Lehigh Valley plant is at capacity for water usage. Of course hiring veterans sounds like a good thing, but sucking the water out of Pennsylvania to fill plastic bottles all over the world is a problem.  The Op-Ed is essentially a public relations piece for Nestle, presented as an editorial.

Here in Allentown we face higher water prices because LCA wants to implement a back door price hike, by increasing the residential billing cycle. (each bill contains a minimum charge, effectively resulting in an increase) We are in essence subsidizing the profit margin of Nestle and other commercial users.

Nestle was bought to the valley by Don Cunningham, now director of Lehigh Valley Economic  Development Corporation. Apparently, the Morning Call has no problem with a Nestle feel good editorial piece, but try and submit something critical about the local sacred cows and cronyism to the paper. Expect no reply, much less seeing it printed.

Jul 13, 2018

Allentown's Corner Markets

Although I doubt that there will ever be a show at the Historical Society, or brochures at the Visitors Bureau, perhaps nothing encapsulates the history of Allentown more than the corner grocery stores. Allentown proper, is mostly comprised of rowhouses built between 1870 and 1920, long before the era of automobiles and suburban supermarkets. Most of the corner markets were built as stores, and over the years many were converted into apartments. Up until the late 1940's, there may have been well over a hundred operating in Allentown. Some specialized in ethnic food. The bodega at 9th and Liberty was formally an Italian market. Live and fresh killed chickens were sold at 8th and Linden, currently H & R Block Tax Service. A kosher meat market is now a hair salon on 19th Street. The original era for these markets died with the advent of the supermarket. In the early 50's some corner stores attempted to "brand" themselves as a "chain", as shown in the Economy Store sign above. That market is at 4th and Turner, and has been continually operating since the turn of the last century. Ironically, as the social-economic level of center city has decreased, the corner stores have seen a revival. Most of these new merchants, many Hispanic and some Asian, know little of the former history of their stores, but like their predecessors, work long, hard hours.

ADDENDUM: The above post is reprinted from 2012.  The sign shown above has been removed or sold. When my parents were first married they lived next door and would patronize the same store.  My grandparents lived nearby on the corner of Chew and Jordan Streets.

ADDENDUM 2: the Economy Stores sign shown, apparently came from an early A&P format in 1912 when they leased small stores. If this particular store was such an A&P, or just dressed later with a reused sign, I have yet to determine.

Jul 12, 2018

Allentown's Mysterious Millennials

The Morning Call has been running an article now for over a week wondering what millennials want in  downtown Allentown.  Another article mentions that another restaurant is closing, and that J.B. Reilly has built a dozen new buildings, but must keep trying different pieces to find ones that fit.  The articles don't ask how come he can afford to keep looking for pieces that fit,  or how come the newspaper keeps promoting every new attempt to find the right piece.  For these questions you are limited to this blog.

Reilly can keep building and trying because it's not his money, it's ours.  The paper keeps promoting the phenomenal as revitalization, because they also are not as they appear.  They are just tenants in their former building, now owned by Reilly.  The paper is printed in Jersey City and I conclude might even be for sale itself.

The closing restaurant is Grain, and the article tells us that millennials want open spaces,  not tight narrow ones.  I remember when the space was the successful Federal Grill, and then it was considered cozy.  The truth is pretty simple..  There are too many restaurants and not enough millennials.  One would think that by now there would be... After all Reilly built hundreds Strata apartments, and The Morning Call tells us that they're all filled with waiting lists.  Go figure?

Meanwhile the paper continues to ignore my letters and others which criticize any policy of the sacred cows which they protect,  be it the NIZ or The Wildlands Conservancy.

ADDENDUM:  Mr. O'Hare and I spar tonight on WDIY 88.1 FM at 6:00PM. He has sociopathically taken to attacking me as a racist because he didn't like some comments by others on my blog, I don't obsess about Trump, and I oppose double parking. I understand that he is chummy with the Northampton Judiciary, but I didn't realize that they made him judge and jury. Yesterday he wrote about Better Angels, he clearly isn't one. Although he's preaching to the choir on a NPR station, I interrupt this bully with some truths.

Jul 11, 2018

The Union Street Train Tower

The Union Street crossing was a busy place. It was located between the Jordan Creek and south 3th Street. Virtually all the train lines serving Allentown converged here. The Lehigh Valley Railroad's old main line also crossed Union Street further east, toward the Lehigh River. Allentown was at this time served by two train stations, the Lehigh Valley Railroad Station which was built over the Jordan Creek, and the New Jersey Central, which still stands as a closed restaurant and bar. This photograph, from 1930, is first in a series which will chronicle both the demise of our railroad era, and manufacturing base. Today, the tower is long gone and only one track survives. It is used by a private short line operator.

photograph from the Collection of Mark Rabenold 

reprinted from June 2013

Jul 10, 2018

Rumble On The Radio

In 2014 Alan Jennings invited Bernie O'Hare and me to join him on his radio show, Lehigh Valley Discourse.  The station manager refused to archive the show,  and Jennings quit in protest against the censorship.  Move ahead four years, and Alan is back on public radio at WDIY.  For his first new show he again invited both O'Hare and myself.  However since that first appearance, O'Hare has developed hostility toward me,  for pointing out some aspects of his blog operating manner.

Since O'Hare and I both accepted Jennings' invitation,  I assumed that he was putting his hostility aside for the show.  Less than halfway into the taping he pounced on a word which I had mispronounced. I then noticed that he has a legal pad full of my blog quotes, and notes pertaining to them.  He accused me of hosting a hate blog based on a reader comment, which I didn't reply to.   Although O'Hare knows that I prefer not to debate in the comment section,  he delighted in taking his example out of context.  Ironically, Jennings wanted to talk about Trump's hostility and incivility, but seemed somewhat oblivious to O'Hare's hostility unfolding right in front of him.

I appreciated Alan's invitation, and although Bernie's attacks and my replies might make for an interesting show, O'Hare's behavior was unnecessary.  Hopefully this show will make it through the archive procedure,  and Alan's new run on the show will be well received.

ADDENDUM: Occasionally, someone says something rich in irony,  especially if they maliciously enjoy weaponizing words.  Such was the case on last week's taping, when O'Hare accused me of misogyny. In early 2016 O'Hare wrote...Whether I agree or disagree with her on this or that, I must say Susan Wild has been a breath of very fresh air in Allentown. She was put into a nearly impossible situation, and has reacted with integrity and honor. People with my history tend to bring the profession down, but someone like Wild can rescue a democracy in peril. He continued praising her for almost two years. Toward the end of 2017 he wrote...She has handled herself with integrity and a sedulous nature that kept the ship of state from foundering. With O'Hare, friendship seems to trump truth. When Wild put out a mailer about his friend Morganelli that O'Hare didn't like, the truth changed. When I pointed out that he did a 180 on Susan Wild, and essentially called her a whore, he tried to deflect away the truth of my observation by claiming that my statement was misogynistic. By May of 2018 O'Hare was accusing Wild of bashing little people to benefit hospitals...All of the regular people she screwed over 30 years will be contacted. 

O'Hare thinks that his readers are a weak minded jury that he can bully and manipulate at will. He delights in playing up to local judges and the district attorney. When one of his anonymous readers took him to task last primary, O'Hare replied...Sign your name so we know who to sue 

          Show will air Thursday July 12th at 6:00PM WDIY 88.1 FM

                                                             PODCAST OF SHOW

Jul 9, 2018

A Crime By The Wildlands Conservancy

photo by Tami Quigley

The top photo shows the Robin Hood Bridge, before the Wildlands Conservancy demolished the little  Robin Hood Dam, just downstream beyond the bridge. The dam was only about 10 inches high, and was built as a visual effect to accompany the bridge in 1941. It was the last WPA project in Allentown, and considered the final touch for Lehigh Parkway. Several years ago, the Wildlands told the Allentown Park Director and City Council that it wanted to demolish the dam. The only thing that stood between their bulldozer and the dam was yours truly. I managed to hold up the demolition for a couple weeks, during which time I tried to educate city council about the park, but to no avail. If demolishing the dam wasn't bad enough, The Wildlands Conservancy piled the broken dam ruble around the stone bridge piers, as seen in the bottom photo. I'm sad to report that the situation is now even worse. All that ruble collected silt, and now weeds and brush is growing around the stone bridge piers. I suppose the Wildlands Conservancy considers it an extension of its riparian buffer.

The Wildlands Conservancy should be made to remove, piece by piece, all the rubble that they piled around the bridge piers, despoiling the bridge's beauty. City Council should refrain from ever again permitting The Wildlands Conservancy to alter our park designs.

ADDENDUM JULY 9, 2018: It has been five years since the dam's destruction in 2013, and the bridge piers look more disgusting than ever. While Allentown has the third Pawlowski appointed park director taking orders from the Wildlands Conservancy, we do have a new mayor. Hopefully, Ray O'Connell will wrestle park system decisions back to the city.

Jul 6, 2018

Downhill On Lehigh Street

During the early 1970's, Allentown demolished the entire neighborhood between Union and Lawrence Streets. It was, in a large part, home to the black community. How ironic that we destroyed the cohesion of a neighborhood, but renamed Lawrence Street after Martin Luther King. The only remnant of the neighborhood is the St. James A.M.E. Church. Going up the hill today we now have a vacant bank call center on the east, and the Housing Authority Project on the west. A whole neighborhood existed in from both sides of Lehigh Street, including black owned shops. The houses were old and humble, but people owned them, many for generations. Some blacks at the time wondered if the project was Urban Renewal or Negro Removal?

reprinted from January 2017

The bank call center referred to above is now Building 21, Allentown School District's own alternative charter like high school.

ADDENDUM: I was recently asked if I had done any posts on Allentown's black community. I graduated Allen in the mid 1960's when blacks only comprised about 2% of the town. Only one black guy hung out with my group, and he attended Dieruff. My father's meat market was on Union Street just before the bridge over the Lehigh. Mr. Brantley purchased meat there for his cafe, one of several black owned businesses in the former neighborhood chronicled above.  Although many of Allentown's black residents lived there,  the neighborhood was still predominately white.

Jul 5, 2018

To Whom Do The Allentown Parks Belong

Recently the Allentown Park Director told me that she is being pressured to plant wider riparian buffers by the Conservancy/Greenlands, and to cut them down by me.  But, who are we?  I represent the park sentiments of thousands of Allentonians.  I know this from social media such as facebook,  where hundreds of people every week tell me to keep fighting for the parks.  I know this from visiting the parks, where dozens of people tell me to keep fighting.  But more importantly,  who is the Wildlands Conservancy and Greenways of Lehigh Valley? They are regional groups with paid professional directors who seek and award grants.  Although their counsel might be useful for a small township or municipality without its own park department,  why should they dictate policy in Allentown?  Allentown has its own iconic park system, and even its own grant benefactor, The Trexler Trust.

In Allentown the storm sewer system is piped directly into the creeks, bypassing the riparian buffers, making them useless as buffers anyway.  All they accomplish is to block both access and view of the streams.  The Allentown Park Department allowed the Greenway Project to plant a buffer on the Little Lehigh in Fountain Park,  while at the same time allowing the swimming pool there to succumb to neglect and permanent closure.  It is time for Mayor O'Connell and Allentown to reclaim direction of the Allentown Park System.


Jul 4, 2018

A Victory For The Traditional Park System

Followers of this blog know that I have been waging a war against the weed wall blocking both the view and access to the streams.  Perhaps my last post on June 14th finally struck the right chord, but at any rate the weed wall has been cut down from behind the rose garden.  Although this is done occasionally to control invasive species in the weed barrier,  I have confirmed on good authority that indeed this recent cutting represents a change in policy.   I would like to express my gratitude to both park director Lindsay Taylor and Mayor Ray O'Connell for their time on this and other issues.

Although I am grateful,  there is another issue needing attention....  Along the entire stretch of the Cedar Creek between Ott Street and Cedar Crest Blvd there is but one bench along the creek.  We elderly not only need access to the water, but a place to sit, rest and enjoy the serenity General Trexler intended.

As residents flock to the parks today to celebrate the holiday, I will continue to advocate for those aspects of the traditional park system which for decades were featured on picture post cards, as shown above.

Jul 3, 2018

Allentown's Poor Pool Excuse

Four reporters from the Morning Call joined forces to report on Here's Why Summer After Summer, Some Pools Are Closed.  Apparently the paper needs to assign more reporters, because they all seemed to accept the city's sorry excuse.  The article explains that the shortage is caused by factors such as teenagers wanting more comfortable indoor jobs.  The article mentions that the city has a limited budget and pays $8.75 an hour.   Although I do not have an advanced degree in finance,  I bet that if the city would pay $10 or even $12 an hour, there would be a surplus of applicants.  Furthermore, again even without the advanced degree,  I know that the extra pay would be taxpayer beneficial, compared to closed and underutilized pools.

I'm amazed at both the city and the paper for giving and printing such disingenuous answers, summer after summer. There is  little reason to believe that the city ever intended to open Irving Pool, which is on the books for conversion to a spray park.

Shown above is the former Fountain Park Pool which closed after years of excuses, as being reported now about the other pools.

Jul 2, 2018

LV Politics and Pro Wrestling

Lehigh Valley politics and professional wrestling have a lot in common... they both involve fakery with a pre-determined outcome.

Every year our state senators and representatives get to be white knights with the school budget. The state mandates that the districts must determine their budgets before the state contribution is known. This formula allows our elected officials to be heroes just a few months before the election every year.

Every summer Allentown parks has shortage of life guards, and must curtail the swimming pool options. If it's not just an excuse, you would think that by now they would learn that they must outpay the local amusement park, and start their yearly search earlier. This season Irving Pool will not open at all. The city is phrasing this pool out,  just as they did to Fountain Pool years ago. Shortage of lifeguards is an convenient excuse.  With the Tilghman Street Bridge closed,  the east side once again gets the short end of the stick.  Alan Jennings and Community Action Committee of Lehigh Valley want to train their low income clients to be farmers, how about life guards?

Most Allentonians of memory share my disgust about the weed wall barriers blocking the streams in the parks.  The Morning Call has been withholding letters on that topic to accommodate the agenda of the Wildlands Conservancy.

Those looking for a little truth about Allentown to sprinkle on their early morning gruel are pretty much limited to this blog.

Jul 1, 2018

Imantrek On Local Democratic Democracy

Imantrek isn't happy about the way certain people were treated at the recent Democratic Committee Selection Meeting. He isn't happy about how the event was covered by The Morning Call, and he isn't happy about how the party is now trying to distance itself from his coverage of the event. This blog will present Iman's presentations on this event, above is the first of three videos.

Jun 29, 2018

Lehigh Valley Railroad Piers

In this era of class warfare, while we worry that the rich are only paying 35% income tax, instead of 39%, let us be grateful that once upon a time we had the Robber Barons. In this era when we have to pay their mortgage for developers to build on Hamilton Street, let us be grateful that men built railroads with private money. Let us be grateful that incredible feats of private enterprise built piers, bridges and trestles. Trains allowed us to move vast amounts of raw and finished materials across America. This network allowed us to protect ourselves during two World Wars, and provided the prosperity upon which we now rest.

The Lehigh Valley Railroad tracks extended from their piers in New Jersey to the shores of Lake Erie. The Mile Long Pier in Jersey City was the scene of German sabotage in 1916. A train full of munitions, awaiting shipment to Europe, was blown up on July 30th of that year. In 1914, the railroad built the longest ore pier in the world, in Bayonne. The ore would come from Chile, through the new Panama Canal, for shipment to Bethlehem.

reprinted from August 2016

Jun 28, 2018

Blogging, The Last Watchtower

Anybody who buys The Morning Call on Monday knows what slim pickings is. The paper is produced on Friday, with a one man weekend crew, to cover the police blotter. There's hardly enough paper to cover the bottom of a bird cage. That leaves the news junkies forced to read garbage like this. Even the blogosphere is slim pickings. Another local blogger says that I'm lazy and preoccupied with choo choo trains. I actually haven't done a choo choo post in over six minutes, that's how long it took me to read the paper this morning. Truth to be told, I am fascinated with how much Allentown has changed within the last 50 years, and the railroads are a good metaphor. In my youth, the city was serviced by rail branch lines with dozens of sidings, supplying many industries with raw materials, to produce products distributed all over the country. Those industries fostered a large middle class, and a high standard of living. We were the truck capital of the world, we were home to the first transistors, and a retail legend. The tower shown above in 1963, and the gas tank in the background, were on Union Street. Although they are both now gone, this lazy blogger will continue to combine history, news and commentary for those of us who still remember a different era.

reprinted from November of 2013

Jun 27, 2018

Farm Nonsense In Lehigh Valley

There is no end to the nonsense about farms in the Lehigh Valley.  Subscribers know that I oppose Farmland Preservation.  While there is plenty of farmland in the valley,  all Farmland Preservation does is buy development rights from land owners who never intended to sell the land in the first place.  Ironically the rational farm program, Clean and Green, was misrepresented and bashed in a Morning Call article which has been featured on their webpage now for over three months.  If Farmland Preservation wasn't enough waste of our taxes,  the County has been subsidizing a program to teach farming.  Next, we'll be paying for actors to make believe they're farmers at county display farms.  Get over it... farming is hard work for real farmers on real farms.  Clean and Green provides a tax break for such real farming.

But continuing the nonsense,  now Community Action Committee of Lehigh Valley,  which assists low income people in various ways,  wants to take over the county training farm.  Next we'll be giving their graduates their own farms.  That organization already sets people up in business.  They don't just give fishing poles, they give fish markets.  The Seed Farm offers opportunities for those in the inner city to discover their green thumbs. “I like the idea of bringing in a more diverse population,”  County Executive Phil Armstrong said,  as if minorities were excluded from the previous program.

Ironically the director of Community Action just asked me to appear on his new radio show.  I'm not trying to be the guest from hell, but this blog would serve little purpose if I pull punches,  even with an upcoming host.

Jun 26, 2018

Allentown's Delusions Of Grandeur

On yesterday's post about the All American City,  someone commented that Allentown had a lot of nerve applying,  considering that the city elected a mayor facing numerous corruption charges.  Also yesterday,  I announced on facebook that Bernie O'Hare and I will be Alan Jenning's first guests on his new WDIY radio show,  after he resigned in 2014 in protest that the station wouldn't air his previous show with us.  Not to be an ungrateful guest,  but I scanned the station's upcoming schedule, and it's business as usual.... Another host interviews J.B. Reilly, talking about business leadership in Allentown.  I don't mean to imply that Reilly has delusions of grandeur,  we are building him a $Billiion dollars worth of real estate. However,  not only was the deck stacked in his favor, it was made for him.

Allentown continues to run with sacred cows and cronyism.  My new radio debut may be very short lived.

Blogger on left before being outlawed at The Morning Call

Jun 25, 2018

Before The Transformation

For most of Allentown's past, there was no need for a Transformation. We were the ideal city, so much so, that in the mid 1970's, we were proclaimed The All-American City. We were Mayberry, only much larger. Our little leagues played under the lights, and our fathers worked for top union wages. Imagine a city that could boast that it actually manufactured its own fire engines! Imagine a city that had no litter. We now have so much litter, not only do we need trash cans, we need trash compactors. We once were a destination and envied. This blog will continue to report current city events as I perceive them, engage with the bureaucrats as my energy permits, and occasionally share a glimpse of our past.

reprinted from September of 2012

UPDATE JUNE 25, 2018: An article in yesterday's Morning Call compared our current  All American City application with that designation in 1975. Although the article gave statistics, it made no reference that any changes might be abnormal.  At that time, Allentown was 97% white, 2% black and 1% Hispanic.  We are now 53% Hispanic, 10% black and 33% white.  At that time, center city had 3 department stores and dozens and dozens of smaller stores, owned by different people.  All that is now gone, but we have eight new buildings, owned by one person. Besides the dramatic racial demographic shift, which sociologically is a case study in itself,  the article also omitted the social economic shift.  The center city population is drastically poorer than before.

Jun 22, 2018

Trolley Demise In Allentown

A local young urbanist speculated that automobiles put the end to trolleys in the Lehigh Valley. He was half right, actually it was the Mad Men from General Motors. In the early 1950's, Americans were still a one car family, even in the prosperous Lehigh Valley. The mass transit system was still full of the other family members, still using the system for work, shopping and school. Between the late 1940's and 1953, Hamilton Street had both trolleys and buses. In the late 40's, General Motors wined and dined transit officials all over the country, exhorting the benefits of their buses. Shown above is a Lehigh Valley Transit work car, towing a trolley to Bethlehem Steel to be scrapped. The photograph was taken in 1952 on St. John Street, heading toward the Fountain Hill route. In June of 1953, the last trolley would run on Hamilton Street.

reprinted for September of 2011

Jun 21, 2018

The Dinosaurs Of Sumner Avenue

Up to the early 1950's, Allentown was heated by coal, and much of it came from Sumner Avenue. Sumner was a unique street, because it was served by the West End Branch of the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The spur route ran along Sumner, until it crossed Tilghman at 17th Street, and then looped back East along Liberty Street, ending at 12th. Coal trucks would elevate up, and the coal would be pushed down chutes into the basement coal bins, usually under the front porches of the row houses. Several times a day coal would need to be shoveled into the boiler or furnace. By the early 1970's, although most of the coal yards were closed for over a decade, the machines of that industry still stood on Sumner Avenue. Eventually, they took a short trip to one of the scrap yards, which are still on the avenue, but not before I photographed them.

reprinted from 2016


Jun 20, 2018

Local Complacency In The Lehigh Valley

Most liberals in Lehigh Valley who are bent out of shape about Donald Trump are completely complacent about local politics.  Because of this complacency we have a former mayor being sentenced in early September on 47 counts of corruption.

It pains me to say that we also have a local newspaper steeped in protecting local sacred cows and cronyism.  There was never a word about corruption at city hall until the FBI raid in 2015. A former Allentown school board member, Scott Armstrong,  complains about how silent they are now about the up-side-down district finances.  I occasionally remind my readers about the paper's silence concerning the agenda of the Wildlands Conservancy.

Readers concerned about the unlevel playing field created by the NIZ are mostly confined to this blog for information.  When the paper publicizes their Keystone Journalism awards,  all we can do is wonder about the news in the towns with the losing papers.

Jun 19, 2018

Allentown's Double Parking

Yesterday, Paul Muschick of the The Morning Call speculated on the reason for all the double parking in Allentown.  Being politically correct,  he overlooked the oblivious answer... We have  herds of Rude and Crude living in Allentown.  Why has this problem persisted for so long?  The Allentown Parking Authority doesn't want to deal with face to face confrontations with the offensive offenders,  they prefer placing a parking ticket on an empty car and then running away.  The Allentown Police consider the problem beneath their law enforcement pay grade.  Muschick mentioned N. 7th Street as ground zero for the problem.  Fellow activist Robert Trotner referenced Muschick's column on facebook, and a Hispanic business owner complained about the lack of parking spaces on 7th Street,  for the volume of current businesses.  He does have a point, but the double parking in Allentown occurs everywhere in center city,  even with many empty spaces.

The city should identify parcels close to 7th Street that can be acquired for additional parking.  Peter Lewnes has done an excellent job developing 7th Street into a business district, as it was in Allentown's distant past.  Being as politically incorrect as I am,  I cannot refrain from noting that the same merchants and clientele now on 7th Street, were deemed undesirable when they were previously on Hamilton Street.  As I have written before, there was actually more commerce on Hamilton Street with the so called undesirables, than there is now.  However, the NIZ wasn't really meant to increase commerce, but rather to increase the real estate portfolio of certain individuals. Another recent article in The Morning Call,  on the NIZ,  avoided such realities.

Jun 18, 2018

Better Park Days Behind Us

A Guest Post
My walks with my dog along the creek in Cedar Creek Park between Ott and Cedar Crest Blvd. have been some of the best times of my life. I have met many nice people and dogs in the past twelve years. I have seen and spoke with many people picnicking, reading a book, or just relaxing to the gurgling of the water while laying on a blanket along this beautiful creek. None of my dogs through the years, nor I, have ever had any ticks in this park until recently. All of this is gone now, along with many friends who will no longer come here because of the decision to "save" this creek (the clearest, cleanest in the area) by allowing weeds to grow along it, outwards of 20-30 feet or more. Please tell mayor Pawlowski and the park department to end this nonsense. No one at the park agrees with or likes the weeds, but say that there is nothing anyone can do about it. General Trexler intended for this land to be enjoyed by people, their children and pets, not to deny access to the creek. Please people speak up and demand that these weeds be cut. It will not take long for the ticks, mosquitos, snakes and vermin and the deadly diseases they carry, lyme disease, west nile virus, etc. to spread out from the park to the homes and neighborhood surrounding it. No one would tolerate their neighbors to have weeds growing next door to them. Please do not allow the city to destroy the beauty of this park any longer.
Tony Martin

photo of park in 2008, when the creek was still accessible

reprinted from August of 2012

UPDATE JUNE18,2018: Although there is a new mayor and new park director,  the weed wall referred to above in 2012 is still there.  It is time that we let Mayor O'Connell and Park Director Lindsay Taylor know that this is unacceptable.  There must be at least some spots allowing open access to our creeks. Both the mayor and park director read this blog. Let them know how you feel about this in the comment section below.