Jul 22, 2019

A People's Candidate


On Friday morning I was at Tim Ramos' well attended press conference. His speech mainly had to do with the recent shootings, and that as mayor he would do better than the current administration. He stressed restoring community policing,  a temporary curfew for young people, and city sponsored youth activities.

I've known of the Ramos family for years. since his brother Steve ran for Harrisburg a number years ago.  Tim, as was Steve, is on the Republican ticket. While most of the local Latinos are affiliated with the Democratic Party, Tim's earnestness transcends party considerations.

Although I took pictures showing the crowd, I use this picture with Ramos' back to the camera, taken after the press conference, to illustrate his ability to reach out and relate on a one to one basis.

Jul 19, 2019

Greg Weaver Art Scene


For about ten years, mid 70's to 80's, Allentown was graced with a one man art machine. Greg Weaver studied at Carnegie Mellon and then returned to the Valley to become artist, promoter and inspiration to dozens of local artists. His large studios, which moved from one low rent location to another over the years, became hubs for innovation and social activity. He was very prolific with his work, and generous with his encouragement. A typical monthly bash involved perhaps a poster by Mark Beyer( now an internationally known underground comic) performance by a jazz group such as Gary Hassey,(Greg also had a band) and perhaps a new showing by a local artist, such as Barnaby Ruhe. The loft parties were always mobbed, by many of the same people who now attend the Museum social events. This art "scene" cost the taxpayers nothing, it was done by artists, and it was real. Greg suffered from diabetes, and eventually lost his sight. Although blind he continued to produce art and inspire people until his death. Several of his works are in the Allentown Museums' permanent collection and his memory is in the hearts of his friends.

This post, which goes back to the early days of this blog, renewed interest in Greg's art scene and work.  It is still my hope that his art and inspiration be given more prominence by the Allentown Museum.

Jul 18, 2019

Tough Look At A Bad Time In Allentown


On Tuesday evening as a group of concerned citizens were meeting at a church on Ridge Avenue to discuss the recent spate of 24 shootings, another one took place. On facebook there is talk that the city needs better leadership, at both city hall and the police department. I do not subscribe to those theories. In larger urban centers, shootings are a daily occurrence. Although Allentown is still a small city, the poverty ratio now defies the normal socioeconomic bell curve. Many people consider associating poverty and crime as racist. I'm not a sociologist, nor prepared to provide qualifying data, but observation and crime reports certainly suggest a strong relationship between poverty and crime.

In 2005, as an independent candidate for mayor, I claimed that Allentown was becoming a poverty magnet. I saw thousands of people on entitlements being staked to move-in money by several well meaning but misguided agencies. For my observation, I was inappropriately accused of racism. My contentions were based on the apparent connections between poverty and crime, regardless of people's race and ethnicity. I certainly realize that not all poor people are criminals, but poverty does seem to generate desperation. Here we are 15 years later, and people are wringing their hands about what can be done.  In reality, if anything easy could be done, the shooting deaths in Baltimore and Chicago wouldn't be going up every year.

Despite my bluntness, I do believe that things can be made better in Allentown. Obviously a zero tolerance crackdown is in order. Hopefully our leaders will have the fortitude not to be intimidated by  accusations based on political correctness, whether they be of profiling or even of racism.

photocredit: Rick Kintzel/The Morning Call

Jul 17, 2019

Treasures Lost On Hamilton Street


                                                   click photograph to enlarge
The merchants who built Hamilton Street counted on architecture to attract shoppers into their emporiums. Large neon signs wouldn't appear for another fifty years. The soffit and fascia shown above, halfway between 7th and 8th on Hamilton, is one of the most elaborate facades in Allentown. One thing you can say about Allentown City Hall, they never let culture, art, or history get into the way of their plans. As successful cities come to value and profit from their history more and more, Allentown keeps using the standard catalog of proven failures. I know from other projects on Hamilton Street that Pawlowski isn't big on history. The Cityline Building in the 800 Block was permitted to stucco over beautiful brickwork. Sad that the puppies, who are directors at the Art Museum and Historical Society, remain silent on the planned destruction. It's hard to describe the magnificence of the skylight shown below, also in the targeted block. It's very large in three sections, in pristine condition. Should be quite a snack for Pawlowski's bulldozer.
The bulldozer prevailed, and the former architectural treasures of our mercantile history were not preserved, save for this blog's archives. Above is reprinted from May 2011

ADDENDUM:   This past weekend, a member of Old Allentown Preservation Association, and an active local Democrat, bragged on facebook about how he had recycled an old second floor office door from the demolished buildings in the arena zone. In truth, Old Allentown also turned a self serving, callous eye to the destruction noted in the above post. Although I'm glad the door was recycled, allow this post to note the irony and hypocrisy of the Association.

reprinted from January of 2015


UPDATE NOVEMBER 16, 2017: Although there's always some group bestowing some award on any new development, the Allentown NIZ is certainly no architectural destination.  Although I've taken hundreds of photographs in Allentown, including the ones shown here,  I have yet to buy film for any new building in the NIZ.

Jul 16, 2019

NIZ And Our Tax Dollars

All citizens of Pennsylvania subsidize the NIZ in Allentown. While state taxes are used for the developer's debt service,  those taxes must be made up to maintain Pennsylvania services. The NIZ is administered by an oversight board called ANIZDA.  That is the official description in a nutshell.

Students of this blog know that my description of the district is much more realistic.  It is a legal real estate deal worked out by state senator Pat Browne and his friend, J.B. Reilly.  Reilly owns most of the developable property in the 128 acre district, and is by far the biggest developer. With a couple exceptions, all the new buildings belong to him.  He is now even landlord to the Morning Call.  Over the years I have documented many of the backroom shenanigans,  including the explusion of the former merchants and property owners.

A recent article outlined new board member Adrian Shanker's attempt to make the NIZ more diversity conscious. He slowed down approval of an eventual $250,000 advertising contract promoting the NIZ. In reality, the advertising agency is a Reilly tenant, and the contract insures the rent stream to Reilly, and hopefully more tenants for his buildings.

Jul 15, 2019

Vibrant Downtown Living


On Saturday at 2:00pm, on a clear sunny afternoon, I drove down Hamilton Street. Between 10th and 7th Streets there were only four people.  Two of them were not a asset to center city, under any criterion.  The other two were almost at 7th, and carrying bags.  I suspect they may have been shopping at Villa, on 8th and Hamilton.  Although downtown apologists and cheerleaders will say that my report isn't true, unfortunately, it is all too true...especially on Saturdays.

J. B. Reilly's financially attainable apartments in the former Holiday Inn are just the beginning of his entry into the prevailing rental market.  There is no way that he will even attempt for the Strata rents in his new apartments on S. 8th Street, when they are completed.  Although he and the Morning Call refer to center city as vibrant, it is in fact a dead zone.  The paper and cheerleaders on local social media have bragged that these new apartment units are being financed without the NIZ. Actually, the NIZ was never to include residential. Offices and stores on the first floor of these residential buildings does allow Reilly to tap some NIZ benefits. Furthermore, there is no scrutiny of the prorations by the ANIZDA board.  Adrian Shanker,  head of the local gay and lesbian organization, is a recent appointee to the board. He managed to see that the guidelines were changed to include gays with other minority contractors,  that should be hired by the developers. Expect to see steel workers singing and dancing on the high beams.*

When Reilly is done building his new attainable rate apartments,  Allentown may become worse than it is now.  Allentown's problem isn't a lack of affordable housing, but rather a surplus of it. In that sense, Reilly is only contributing to the problem. Likewise, so are the new units in former converted factories.

* I'm not a fan of rewarding contracts based on minority ownership. The practice is not merit based, and has been exploited. While this blog does not adhere to political correctness standards,  Shanker has introduced some new thinking into the Good Old Boy Club called ANIZDA.  More on that in a future post.

Jul 12, 2019

New Park Plans All Wet


Allentown has announced plans for  new parks on the distressed parcels purchased during the Pawlowski regime. Pawlowski purchased these brownfields from a developer who had no other possible offers. Furthermore, he paid triple the appraised value. Cedar Beach swimming pool, after finally opening last summer, is again closed because of another leaking pipe. I believe that if the FBI didn't have more than enough shady deals to charge Pawlowski with, both the land purchase and swimming pool contract may also have been scrutinized.

Budget wise, Allentown Park Department already has far too many deficits to justify expanding its burden even farther. Although I support both the mayor and the park director, they are misguided to pursue this expansion. While grants may be found for new parks, the future ongoing maintenance will only increase the strain on the annual park budget. Instead, they should concentrate on restoring the existing parks to peak condition.

Jul 11, 2019

Jennie Molovinsky, Part 1

I was at a party where the host recently acquired a lawn sculpture. Unknown to him, a section of it was comprised of an old Jewish tombstone, of a wife and mother, M. Azrilian, who died at the age of 25 in 1918. It's a beautiful carving of a branchless tree trunk, symbolizing a life ended prematurely.
I became concerned as to where this stone had come from. Who would know if their great-grandmother's stone was taken? I had no idea even where my great-grandmother was buried. I searched for this young woman's grave. Finally, Rabbi Juda from Bethlehem directed me to the old Agudath Achim Cemetery in Fountain Hill. There I found the woman, M. Azrilian, with a new grave marker. Next to her I discovered Jennie Molovinsky, my great-grandmother.

My thanks to Rabbi Juda and M. Azrilian (1893-1918)

I  wrote the above paragraph in July of 1997.  In searching for M. Azrilian, I first became aware of Mt. Sinai, the small Jewish portion of Fairview Cemetery on Lehigh Street in Allentown. Early posts on this blog deal with my advocacy for that cemetery, and the history of the Mt. Sinai portion.  When Jennie died in 1913, the former Agudath Achim Synagogue on 2nd Street in Allentown had just consecrated their new cemetery on Fullerton Avenue. Jewish tradition requires that the first burial be a man, so Jennie was buried in the old cemetery, on Fountain Hill.

reprinted from June of 2014

Jul 10, 2019

Separate But Equal Housing For Allentown


When Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski gave his State Of The City speech the other day, he spoke the usual platitudes; He wants the lives of all Allentonians to be better. That sort of stock speech is not worthy of my analysis, but I would like to discuss where he gave the speech. Needless to say the lives of all Allentonians won't be better, considering one objective of the NIZ is to push the underclass out of the new nirvana. What should be a goal is improving the lot of all businesses, beside those few new chosen ones, subsidized by the NIZ. For decades the speech was given at the current Holiday Inn at 9th and Hamilton. With J.B. Reilly's brand new subsidized Renaissance Hotel, the future for the Holiday Inn looks bleak. Pawlowski had an opportunity to tell the owners that they're not forgotten, by once again using their facility to give the speech; Instead, he pontificated at the shiny new Renaissance.

above reprinted from February 2, 2015

UPDATE JULY 10, 2019. Ce-Ce Gerlach has been campaigning for Inclusionary Zoning. Under that proposal, a certain percentage of Reilly's new Strata Loft apartments would have been made available to people of less income for less rent. Although J.B. bulked at making his Lofts' mixed income, he has announced a separate domicile for the less fortunate. The former Holiday Inn at 9th and Hamilton is being converted for those of lesser means. Actually, Reilly's gentrification for millennials never made it west of 8th Street anyway.

Jul 9, 2019

Shootings And The Renaissance

One wonders if there can be a true renaissance, when drive-by shootings are occurring three blocks away. Although discussions of this sort are referred to as nay-saying in Allentown, that reality is affecting the marketplace. Lehigh Valley Health Network was supposed to put their orthopedic satellite on Hamilton, at the arena. After realizing that patients wouldn't go there, they chose the Westfield Building, out on Tilghman street. To fulfill their obligation to J.B. Reilly, they instead installed a fitness center. However, to induce employees to go down there and use it, they must now hire security personnel to escort the nurses to their cars. Although Pawlowski and his police chief say that crime is down, the nurses know better, they see too many victims. Reilly is succeeding in inducing a critical mass of office workers into the zone. They will need lunch, and there will be a market for restaurants. The success of any shops remains to be seen. How many new apartments can be supported, and who will occupy them, also remains to be seen.

Rumors are starting to circulate that Pawlowski is making plans to resign. Consequently, there are discussions on who council would appoint to replace him. This blog will wait to address that topic when a change occurs. However, the uncertainty doesn't help Reilly's Marketplace.

artwork courtesy of Mark Beyer

above reprinted from July of 2015

UPDATE JULY 9, 2019: When I wrote the above post four years ago, I never imagined that Pawlowski would get reelected again, and hang around until they were ready to drag him away to prison. I also never imagined that shootings would become a common event in Allentown. The latest one at the Maingate Nightclub unfortunately illustrates how mainstream they have become. There is no renaissance in Allentown, despite all the promotion that Reilly and The Morning Call can fabricate. On the contrary, the new buildings are just a ironic backdrop to a rapid decline in the civility and livability of the city.

Jul 8, 2019

View From Fairview Cemetery


This past weekend the Morning Call reported on current efforts to tame Fairview Cemetery, located on Lehigh Street, just west of the 8th Street Bridge. The article was very kind to the current operator, who should have been keeping the cemetery mowed. The article mentioned my efforts there, over a decade ago. At that time, although the cemetery was generally neglected, it was still in better shape than this year, before the current volunteer efforts began. While the reporter mentioned only one funeral in an old family plot, he didn't report on the numerous new burials taking place in questionable places. These places include former designated walking paths between plots,  and spots in old family plots, where new outsider burials should not be taking place at all. Although the operator wasn't mowing this year, he now more income than ever from the new burials.

When I became involved in the cemetery in 2008, Chris Casey was already caring for his inlaws' plots. While he and other volunteers are now mowing more and more of the cemetery, he realizes that his labor is ironically making the operator's funeral business more marketable.

Last month I encouraged Tyler Fatzinger to start a facebook group, where those interested in Fairview can congregate. Tyler, in addition to an enormous amount of hard work at the cemetery, has managed to get the attention of the local media. So far two meetings have occurred, one with the operator himself. Tyler is a young man in this challenge for the long haul.  His informal group has begun exploring the possibility of creating an organization dedicated to the cemetery's upkeep.

Jul 5, 2019

Good News For Joe Paterno Fans


If the memory of Allentown, Pennsylvania is any indication, in about 30 years, the name of Joe Paterno might return to Beaver Stadium cleansed by time. Back in the 1940's, Allentown was the powerhouse of high school sports. Its football team compiled a record of 60-3-3. In basketball, between 1945-1947 they won 60 straight games, and both sports were coached by one man, J. Birney Crum. Over 20,000 fans would pack the Friday night football blowouts. Allentown set out to build the biggest, most elaborate high school football stadium in Pennsylvania. However, when the stadium was completed in 1948, Allentown High School was under suspension by the PIAA, for using 21 and 22 year old ringers on its basketball and football teams. Information about this unfortunate misunderstanding is now hard to come by. Birney Crum's image has been completely restored. In 1982, they renamed the stadium after him. From the current school district website: Crum was much more than a demanding, hard-driving coach. He was also a soft, kind-hearted man who took care of the people in his AHS program. Crum recruited boys to go back to high school to finish their education. It doesn't mention that he recruited them back to play football and basketball again, until he got caught. Time is kind to former coaches. Birney even married one of the former cheerleaders, after she graduated. Expect to see Joe Paterno's statue back in 2042.

Forrest Gump card courtesy of Bob Lemke

reprinted from September of 2012

Jul 4, 2019

Freight Trolleys and Shenanigans


This was supposed to be a Men's Stuff post, about the working cars on the Lehigh Valley Transit Company. Doing research for the previous post on that company, I became fascinated that they operated a freight operation with the trolley cars. I started acquiring documentation and photographs about the working cars necessary for such an operation. They built power substations throughout the valley that generated electric, then converted the AC to DC for their use. The rolling stock required coal trolleys, wire stringing trolleys, snowplow trolleys, and etc. I will present these black and white photo treasures in future posts, because I got side tracked by a shenanigan; you know me. Lehigh Valley Transit operated out of the Fairview Carbarn, which Lanta still uses off of Lehigh Street. Despite a trolley fleet that covered the entire City, plus the remainder of the Valley (Bethlehem and Easton), all the Men's Stuff working cars, and trolley service to Philadelphia, Lanta now needs Bicentennial BallPark because they acquired five (5) new hybrid buses? Supposedly these five new buses require a special garage. Although the Fairview facility now handles 78 regular buses, the ballfield has to go because of the five new hybrids.

men only: enlarge freight trolley by clicking on image

above reprinted from May of 2010

UPDATE July 4, 2019:  Attempting to save the ballpark, I organized a meeting at a center city church.  Attending the meeting were two city council members and families involved with Bicentennial Park.  Pawlowski and Lanta finally backed off, and the ballpark remains. Some people who attended that meeting became interested in Allentown politics, and attend council meetings to this day. Pawlowski's shenanigans have since caught up with him.

Jul 3, 2019

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 from September of 2011

Jul 2, 2019

The Culverts Of Constitution Drive


As an advocate and student of the WPA, I'm often asked about the stone walls on Constitution Drive. None of the walls there invokes as much curiosity as the one I'm shown photographing. Locals refer to this structure as The Spring. Notice that there is a small short wall in front. This stone barrier protects vehicles from driving into the pit, designed to drain water through a pipe under the gravel roadway. Culverts and other practical structures were common WPA projects. Constitution Drive has several WPA culverts, but none of the other retaining walls are as elaborate as the one seen in the photograph above. Although Lehigh County designated funds several years ago to repair this wall, the work was never done. Such neglect is also the case in Allentown. The top wall of the double stairwell descending into Union Terrace is in dire jeopardy. This blog will soon once again document the condition of that structure. While our history and legacy crumble, this community and it's leadership is preoccupied with the arena and Philadelphia cheesesteaks.

UPDATE: Since I published the above in November of 2014, I successfully advocated to have the top wall of the Union Terrace Stairway repointed. However, the landings on that structure and the landings on the Lehigh Parkway Staircase, desperately need work.

photograph by K Mary Hess, 2014  

Jul 1, 2019

The Aineyville Viaduct


The other day I referred to myself as a local historian. I earned that self appointed degree by a long standing interest in local history.  Another interest, photography, enabled me to record some things that are no longer here to see. My degree is not unique. As I mentioned several times before, the local rail buffs are the real local historians. Their knowledge of our former industrial base is unsurpassed. Shown above is the Aineyville Viaduct (Bridge), which allowed  Lehigh Valley Transit's Liberty Bell trolley to cross over Trout Creek,  on the way to Philadelphia. Shown in the background is the Good Shepherd Home.  The bridge was in line with St. John Street.   Aineyville refers to the area south of Trout Creek, now referred to as South Allentown,  in the area of S. 4th  and Basin Streets.  The photo dates from 1948, photographer unknown.  The viaduct was dismantled in 1953.

reprinted from August of 2013

Jun 28, 2019

Mota's Version Of Confrontation

Cynthia Mota lodged a public complaint with the Parking Authority on Wednesday.  In her description the officer talked down to her because of her race, and imagine, asked to see her driver's license.  Joining her in the complaint was Hasshan Batts,  that would be Dr. Hasshan Batts to us.

While the Morning Call article on the complaint creates credibility for Mota and Batts,  I'm more convinced than ever that these two don't bode well for Allentown's future.  Let us not forget that Mota voted eleven times for Batts to be appointed mayor, without divulging that she worked for him.

In Batts' tape, Mota is heard saying that the incident shows why more people of color are needed to work for the city. Batts demanded to know where the officer lives.

I was at the city council meeting when Mota keep nominating Batts for mayor. Neither one of them acknowledged their arrangement.  While Mota and Batts want to see reform within the Parking Authority,  I believe that a greater concern is Mota and Batts' propensity for cronyism.

Jun 27, 2019

Allentown's Disability


I saw a reference in facebook to Allentown having the highest rent to income ratio in the United States. After a few searches, I discovered that the reference went back to a report from January of 2017, and was based on the number of evictions.

The source of the article was a report on Redfin. I believe that the conclusions are misleading, and I base this report on my own experience as a rental agent. The issue in center city Allentown isn't  the rents being so high, but rather the income being so low. Thousands of people in center city are living on disability payments. Recently, when I questioned the legitimacy of these disability claims, I was told that unless I'm a physician, I'm not qualified to make such a statement. So, let me instead say that over the years I've seen many disabled people carrying refrigerators into apartments. Instead, let me say that recently I saw hundreds of people on 7th Street, in the middle of day, jeering the police. So, although I'm not a physician, somehow so many strong looking people can somehow afford to mill, and even run, around center city during the daytime.

As for the evictions, although they claim that don't have the money to pay their current landlord, they always have it to pay the next one, until they decide to repeat the cycle.

Years ago I saw that Allentown was becoming a magnet for bad apples. Now we're officially hard core, reduced to funding programs called Promise Them What They Want To Hear.

Jun 26, 2019

Allentown Postcards

I have often used old postcards of Allentown on this blog. Most of the cards have a similar coloration, and were photographed by Harold Becraft in the early 1950's. Becraft was a photographer from Suffern N.Y., who produced many of the images used in the postcards of Allentown's parks. These cards were produced locally by E.H. Scholl Co. In addition to Becraft's name on the front, they're also marked Kodachrome. Although Becraft did many park scenes for Schall, the image shown above is one of his few cityscapes.

Jun 25, 2019

Growing Up Allentown


Life in Allentown during the 1950's was pretty easy, compared to now a days. Whether you were white or blue collar, there were plenty of jobs. Whether you lived in the west end or center city, all the neighborhoods were clean, well maintained and relatively crime free. The school system was the envy of the county, and people finagled to get their children enrolled in it. Allentown High School had championship teams in multiple sports, and the football stadium was one of the most lavish high school stadiums in the country. The park system was the subject of numerous picture postcards. Likewise, downtown was widely known, with Hess's being a destination. All the above attributes would stay in place throughout the 1960's, into the early 70's.

I bill this blog as the intersection of politics and history in Allentown, and the greater Lehigh Valley. Although I will continue to speak out on current events of concern, I suspect that this page will turn more and more to history. Perhaps nostalgia is so appealing because the current reality is so disillusioning. 

Although my archive of older Allentown pictures is extensive, I invited Ozzie and Harriet Nelson to illustrate this post.

reprinted from July of 2016

Jun 24, 2019

Dr.Batts and My Tax Dollar


In a video which surfaced on Saturday, Hassan Batts is seen berating a Parking Authority officer for issuing tickets or a warning at a public event.  Although I believe that a ticket can be inappropriate, Batt's behavior is of much more concern to me.  In the video,  Batt's is accusing the officer of harassing people and disrespecting them. When officers do their job, be they police or parking, they are not harassing people. If their action or ticket was inappropriate, there is proper recourse. If you don't get satisfaction at the Parking Authority office, you can always make your case in parking court. When the officer, presuming calling in for backup, describes Batts as a black male with a gray beard, Batts really gets agitated.  Although I would expect to be described as a older white male with gray hair, Batts cannot believe that this officer doesn't know who he is. Not only does he want to be referred to as Hassan Batts,  but Dr. Hassan Batts.

What's beyond disappointing about Batt's attitude is that he is executive director of Promise Neighborhoods.  Promise Neighborhoods receives taxfunded grants to improve neighborhoods, including relations with police.  After the shooting at Deja Vu,  his organization was headlined as how to deal with the gang/gun problem.   How can he teach respect for the police with a chip on his own shoulder?

Mr. Batts, and Phyllis Alexander, defended his behavior because of micro aggression, or a cumulation of slights.  After the shootings at Deja Vu,  state representative Pete Schweyer called Batts and asked "What do you need?",  referring to how much of my tax dollars.  I need Schweyer to watch the tape first, before handing out that money.

 video link

Jun 21, 2019

Political Correctness Degrading Allentown

PART 1
It was deja vu at Deja Vu nightclub.  This time ten people got shot outside the Hamilton Street bar early Thursday morning.  Over the years I have seen several so called nuisance businesses closed down in Allentown. Perhaps because Deja Vu is a minority owned business, frequented by minorities, authorities tip toed around the problems there. This is no Happy Days soda fountain,  the clientele is patted down for weapons before entering. While the local NAACP  turns loose a bull horn against local police departments,  they never seem to protest against street violence.

Besides this blog, don't expect to read about such realities in Allentown...Such frankness results in accusations of racism.  Authorities will say that people have nothing to worry about,  it's gang related, not random violence.  Politicians will say that the solution is gun control.

Meanwhile, as usual, nobody cooperates with the police. Allentown cannot revitalize until it cracks down on the current bad actors overwhelming it.

PART 2

When I was writing part 1 yesterday, I knew that the Deja Vu nightclub wouldn't have much of a future. The shooting made national news, and there is no way that state senator Pat Browne would allow someplace so close to the NIZ to impact negatively on it. But Browne and the NIZ's barron, J.B. Reilly, have a bigger problem. Yesterday afternoon there was a riot in the 100 block of N. 7th Street, visible from the windows in the new Strata Loft apartments. While police were trying to arrest a man for theft, he assaulted the officers. While trying to subdue the man, a large crowd of the unemployed gainfully unproductive gathered to jeer at the police. Videos were distributed on facebook showing the arrest, and of course not showing the resistance which preceded it. Those imbued with the victim mentality chanted police brutality. While Browne and Reilly can close the bar, those numerous chanters are Allentown's greater problem.

Jun 20, 2019

Securing Our Assets


During the World War we secured our assets with armed guards. The private police force at Bethlehem Steel outnumbered the City's police force. Last week, Wayne LaPierce, vice president of the NRA, outraged some liberal elements when he suggested policeman for our schools. The president of the Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten, responded: Schools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses. Anyone who would suggest otherwise doesn’t understand that our public schools must first and foremost be places where teachers can safely educate and nurture our students. An unintended consequence of this debate was the frenzy it created at gun stores across America. Although the figures have not yet been compiled, it may have resulted in the sale of an additional 30 million firearms, especially those of high capacity. Weingarten must consider that even if the sale of firearms were banned tomorrow, there will still be over 200 million guns in the United States. I believe that a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines does not infringe upon the Second Amendment. However, whatever changes are implemented in regard to the sale of firearms, it will take decades to affect the volume of weapons currently in private hands. In the meantime, I don't think that a friendly policeman at a school is a bad role model. We must guard our assets.

reprinted from December 2012

Jun 19, 2019

A CyberVisit To Allentown


The responses and comments to the political posts are usually within a day or two. The historical posts have a much longer shelf life. People using search engines find something of their youth often years after I wrote the post. I still occasionally get a comment from someone who worked at a Mohican Market, often somewhere in upstate New York. Yesterday, a former post on the 6th Ward received such a comment.

 Hello molovinsky, I found your blog today. I was born in the 6th ward in 1933. My grandfather, who died very young, long before I was born, was Emanuelle Markowitz and was, I believe, the first religious head of Aguda Achim. His wife was Ida Markowitz. We lived at 234 and then 244 Hamilton St. and went to Harrison Morton grade school before departing permanently to New York City. Arnold Fein (brother is Barry)

 My grandparents lived on Second Street in around 1900, and belonged to the Agudas Achim congregation. After Arnold and I exchanged a couple comments, I invited him to send me a note about Allentown via email.

  Yeah, Michael, I went back for a visit about 3 yrs. ago. All of lower Hamilton St,is part of a highway and the Jersey RR Station ,I was told, failed as a restaurant.The stores I remember on Hamilton between 2nd and 3rd were, Queenies Luncheonette, Bucky Boyle's Bar, Harry Gross Shoes,an A&P on the corner of 1st (Front?)and Hamilton, a "holy roller" storefront church, a travel agency with a large steamship model in the window,Taylors Plumbing Supply (now Weinstein's-I visited the place when I was there), a "Giant" supermarket on 5th and Hamilton across from the P.O., Francis the barber on the hill,the Colonial theatre,etc.Harrison Morton is still there and 2nd St.off Hamilton is still the same including the "A Treat" sign on the little store near HM, which I remember. Some friend's names from that time are: Stanley and Nancy Kulp (Culp?) who lived in an old wooden house next to the Lehigh Valley RR Freight terminal across from Taylor's. Michael Miller, Bobby Kressler, George Mevrides(sp?), Andrew Kent,Dickie Catalina(whom I'll never forget as the guy who came running out on Hamilton St. on 12/7/ shouting, "the Japs bombed Pearl Harbor"), the 4-5 Delaney kids,Dickie Gross who lived in a stone house on 2nd St.just off Hamilton where his father had his dental practice, Lucille Wiener, Phyllis Malatrott,Victoria Minner,Ronald DiLeo whose father was a Dr., (told me my first "off color" joke in the 1st grade while we were standing side by side at a HM urinal)), Marvin Karll, 2 HM footballers (who were not friends as such), Barney Garulla(sp?) and Albert Casium, whom I believe was Albanian.Other places were the slaughter house, Arbegast and Bastion (sp?). Couldn't miss that!, Riverfront Park, and a horse watering trough on the corner of Hamilton and Front(?)Lots of others. Something priceless about childhood, no matter where it's spent.

 Even in Allentown.

UPDATE: More memories from "Arnie" Fein
Also, my grand parents owned a store on 2nd St. around Tilghman, before I was born. My mother always remembered the few words she knew in Slavic because some of the customers spoke only "Slavisch".Another recollection was in 1943 when a lot of us went to the JerseyRR terminal to watch a train full of German POWs being transported west. Larry and Jimmy Whitman lived above the A&P on that picture you sent. Their name was anglicized from a Polish name their parents shortened.Harry and Jean Getz, friends of my mother, owned a small shoe store between 2nd and 3rd Sts.The name of the travel agency was, if I'm correct, something like Bortz. On Walnut St. around the corner from Weinstein's was the "Perkiomen Transfer Co." The local movie house was the Townie which I believe was in the 6th ward.Further up the hill were the Colonial, the Midway and the Transit.There was a trolley named the Liberty Bell which went from 8th St. to Philly and a trolley to Bethlehem along the "Bethlehem Minsi Trail". Other memories as they come from the distant past...

 photo supplied by Arnold Fein, showing him, brother and mother at Hamilton and the current American Parkway, next to the current Weinstein Supply Company.

reprinted from 2012, 2017

Jun 18, 2019

2nd & Hamilton


Up to the mid 1960's,  before Allentown started tinkering with urban redevelopment, lower Hamilton Street still teemed with businesses. The City had grown from the river west,  and lower Hamilton Street was a vibrant area.  Two train stations and several rail lines crossed the busy thoroughfare.  Front, Ridge and Second were major streets in the first half of the twentieth century.  My grandparents settled on the 600 block of 2nd Street in 1895, along with other Jewish immigrants from Russia and Lithuania.  As a boy, I worked at my father's meat market on Union Street.  I would have lunch at a diner, just out of view in the photo above.  The diner was across from the A&P,  set back from the people shown on the corner.  A&P featured bags of ground to order 8 O'Clock coffee, the Starbucks of its day.
please click on photo
photocredit:Ed Miller, 1953
reprinted from previous years

Jun 17, 2019

The Butchers Of Allentown


Those coming here today looking for a story about sloppy civic leadership will be disappointed. This post is literally about butchers, more specifically, some butchers at Allentown Packing Company. A few days ago, while at the Fairground's Farmers Market, I learned that Bobby had passed away. Bobby was the "kid" who worked at my father's meat market on Union Street. Bobby grew up in an orphanage, a hardship which my father respected.

One meat cutter that I knew nothing about was Lamont, other than he lived at the West End Hotel. He was a bear of a man, who could carry a beef quarter from the cooler with no effort. I never saw Lamont in the market portion of the shop, he always remained in the back, either in the large cooler or the adjoining cutting room. While my father insisted that people working on the counter change their meat coat and apron several times during the day, no such rule was imposed upon Lamont. Although he would look over the trays of meat before being taken out to the display cases, he never spoke.

Last time I spoke to Bobby, he told me that he appreciated that my father had taught him a trade, which he used throughout his life.

reprinted from 2014

advertisement shown above from December of 1949

Jun 14, 2019

A Busy Week At Fairview


As the blog week started with Fairview Cemetery, so it will end.  I sort of feel like one of the grandfathers of the current effort there.  While I did suggest to Tyler Fatzinger to start Revive Fairview Cemetery,  he has accomplished more in a week than I ever imagined.  He has arranged publicity for the effort with local media, in addition to investigating what recourses both the city and state could provide.  Furthermore, he has reached out to various local elected officials. Overall, he has created a genuine buzz about solving the problems there.

One person who took interest in the cemetery is an old friend of the operator.  Although he never visited the cemetery prior to this week, he recommended giving the operator an opportunity to work with those volunteering their time, claiming that the operator is willing to cooperate.  Another veteran of the problems there pointed out that the operator has made those commitments before, and that the cemetery is actually in worse shape now than ever.

Tyler Fatzinger suggests applying pressure from all angles, including contacting the attorney general's office.  Tyler pointed out to me that he is only 26 years old, and prepared to be engaged for the long haul.

Jun 13, 2019

Engines Of Allentown


Fifty years ago Allentown was home to heavy industry, which required private engines to push material and finished product around their plants. Shown above is the engine at Structural Steel, located under the Tilghman Street Bridge. The Mack 5C plant, located at Lehigh and S. 12th Streets, had it's own engine. Traylor Engineering, on S. 10th Street, also had an engine. Although the private engines of Allentown are gone, a train whistle still blows, as Norfolk Southern rolls through South Allentown, on the old main line.

photo from the Mark Rabenold collection

reprinted from October of 2012

Jun 12, 2019

Browne Power


Yesterday, the state senate passed Pat Browne's proposal to demolish the state hospital by a 49 to 0 vote. This is in spite of a local petition effort to save the historic campus of buildings.

Although the original portion of the plan to sell the property to a Doylestown developer has been set aside, which developer ends up with the cleared parcel remains to be seen. Considering Browne's influence, it may well be the Doylestown guy, or some proxy for him.

Although different locals are offended by almost every element of this screenplay, my attention is focused on the power of Pat Browne.  He is the same senator who created the J.B. Reilly empire called the NIZ.

But as amazing as Browne's power is, we must also marvel at the ineptitude of state government in Pennsylvania. Since the reformer governor Wolf was elected, we haven't seen one reform in this state. We still have the highest gas tax. We still have the largest number of representatives in a state house. We still have dozens of overpaid commissions who do nothing but collect a salary.

I snickered at the news about exploring doing away with school taxes. They have been saying that since 1975. First it was going to be the lottery, You gotta play to win. Then it was the casinos.

What we have in Harrisburg is nothing but a club of mutual back scratchers. How else could anybody explain a 49 to 0 vote.

Morning Call file photo

Jun 11, 2019

Allentown Forsakes Its History


Once again the plan of a developer is being promoted as progress in the destruction of our history. Waterfront developer Mark Jaindl is going to rip out the LVRR Old Main Line, and give the yuppies another trail for their spandex clad bicycling. He has Whitehall, Allentown and the local planning rubber stamps on board. None of them have a clue about this historic rail line along the west side of the Lehigh River. It is simply the link to the success of Allentown, and in many ways the valley, state and country. I have no plans or allusion about stopping it. I will not be speaking to any more boards and commissions of deaf ears and blind eyes. They are even calling it a Memorial Trail for 9/11. A more enlightened community would preserve the historic track, for a future tourist train ride of our industrial past. Instead, here in the valley we destroy our history, and replace it with a sign. This blog will present photographs of the line and its place in our history, for the edification of those who care.

Enormous fabrication by Fuller Company sided at  Lehigh Structural Steel, on Lehigh Valley Railroad Old Main near the Tilghman Street Bridge

above reprinted from February of 2015


UPDATE JUNE 11, 2019: The historic rail line documented above has been removed. It was serving the last active rail customer in Allentown.

Jun 10, 2019

New Thoughts On An Old Cemetery


This past weekend I visited Fairview Cemetery. Over a decade ago, I spent many hours there and wrote numerous posts about its poor condition, resulting in some temporary improvements at that time. I can tell you that now it is in worse shape than ever. However, ironically, there is now much more activity and income being generated.  It has become an active Hispanic graveyard, with numerous new burials.

I was at first very disturbed about this new activity, because the new burials appear to be on old family plots, and on former common ground, such as alongside internal roadways. In one spot, it appears that all the old family stones have been placed around the family obelisk, and the old individual plots are being prepared for new burials. Almost all the new burials are Hispanic, while the old family plots are mostly old Pennsylvania Dutch. There is even a new Hispanic Jewish burial in the old Jewish section. I will leave the legal and moral implications of reusing these older plots to those better informed about such issues.

One reason the cemetery operator can get away with this reuse, is that for the most part, these old families are long gone. The families have died out, and their descendants have moved away.  Most of the new Hispanic graves are well tended by family members. I believe that these new burials may well become the saving grace for the cemetery. While the older families are gone, the new burials will help insure that there are new families who care about the cemetery, and how it is maintained.

Jun 7, 2019

Ce-Ce's Issue


I'm fan of Ce-Ce Gerlach, despite her campaign for Inclusionary Zoning. Ce-Ce told WfMZ that the city has an affordable housing problem. "These apartments(Strata) are great, a block away there is poverty," There is always poorer people a block away, no matter what city you go to. The contrast is even greater in the more affluent cities. Unfortunately, to some extent, it is more of a people problem than a housing problem.

Ce-Ce should visit the Social Security Office. There she will see many young people signing up for disability. While there are certainly people who really need such assistance, too many have chosen assistance as a life-style.

I support Ce-Ce because I see her as a genuine candidate of the people, as opposed to a poser. I was an opponent of the NIZ,  because it made the playing field so un-level. Even a building like the magnificent PPL Plaza cannot compete against the taxpayer subsidized new Reilly buildings. Ce-Ce proposes incentives for affordable housing within and adjoining the Strata buildings. Allentown would need a new Department Of Incentives to keep track of it all. What Allentown really needs is more incentivized people.

Jun 6, 2019

PPL Plaza Lawsuit


Yesterday, I said that I was deferring opinion of the Plaza lawsuit, the deferral is over. The building was purchased by New York investors with what I call a New York City frame of reference. At the time of purchase, they had no idea that Reilly/Brown would be scheming up the NIZ. They paid top dollar for a premiere building, with a blue chip Fortune 500 tenant. Because they didn't pay NYC prices, although an associate referred to it as a Philadelphia price, they thought it was indeed a solid investment. It is a unique building, which was custom designed to accentuate PPL's promotion of energy efficiency. Although the center atrium facilitated natural daylight, it wastes an enormous amount of space. The grass on the roof and other high tech energy concepts of that moment, bring no added value for other tenants.

The KOZ was originally conceived to help cities draw businesses to brownfields. That concept was bastardized over the years to regular parcels, including the former prime address of Lehigh Valley, 9th and Hamilton. With the KOZ expired, PPL having spun off Talen Energy, and Reilly and Jaindl competing for their tenant, their investment does indeed look like a white elephant.

The NIZ certainly does create an uneven playing field, but so did the previous KOZ's, to a much less extent. If class A space like the Plaza cannot compete, older office buildings have no future what so ever. If we had anything more than moral and mental midgets in Harrisburg, perhaps they would have thought through the NIZ,  in regard to the consequences to the greater marketplace.

reprinted from December of 2015

UPDATE JUNE 6, 2019: The Plaza building has been purchased at sheriff sale by another NYC investment firm.  The Plaza cost $60 million to build. It was purchased by the first NYC firm for $90 million.  They unsuccessfully sued after losing Talen Energy, claiming they could not compete with Reilly's NIZ.  After the first NYC firm defaulted on their loan, the latest NYC firm paid $16 million at sheriff sale. They now have refiled the same suit against the NIZ, on the same basis.

Jun 5, 2019

As Allentown Turns


Luiz Garcia reported receiving a poll survey call. Who would you vote for, Democrat Ray O'Connell, Republican Tim Ramos, or independent Nat Hyman? Garcia wanted to know if anybody heard that Hyman was running? To me, the question is who paid for the poll, and the answer would be only Hyman. Elsewhere in Hyman's world, State Senator Pat Browne appears determined to sell a cleared parcel, formerly known as the state hospital. While he changed his bill's number, the intent stays the same. But the new wording seems to suffice, even the Call's columnist, Paul Muschick, thought that it was indeed a new deal. With Browne's NIZ law written in flexible pencil, land trades are now allowed. Maybe the east side parcel will become Reilly Office Campus?

I suppose if Hyman was interested in a third party attempt, this would be the year. Allentown's Republican Party hasn't seated a mayor since Bill Heydt in 1998, so in essence, an independent would be the second party in this town. Ray O'Connell isn't exactly a full fledged incumbent, having been appointed by council. Between O'Connell's 27% tax raise, and Hyman being a landlord, I would expect a less than gentlemanly contest.

UPDATE JUNE 6, 2019:  Today blogger Bernie O'Hare claims that I implied that Hyman was running for mayor,  while he (O'Hare) actually asked him.  While trying to imply that he is a better reporter, what Bernie actually did was confirm that indeed Hyman did have a poll conducted.  Allow me to imply that apparently Hyman didn't like the results, if he paid for the poll, but isn't running.

Jun 4, 2019

Revive Fairview Cemetery


About ten years ago, I began searching for the grave of a young Jewish woman, who died around 1900. Among several Jewish cemeteries no longer in use, I searched Mt. Sinai, a small section of the sprawling Fairview Cemetery on Lehigh Street, just west of the 8th Street Bridge. The cemetery is the history of Allentown's past, including the graves of Harry Trexler, John Leh, and Jack Mack. As one proceeded deeper into the cemetery, away from sight on Lehigh Street, conditions worsened. As is the case with many old cemeteries, fees paid for perpetual care, 100 years ago, were long gone. Complicating the situation, the current private operator wasn't particularly assessable. In addition to extended family members upset about conditions, the situation was compounded by his refusal, with few exceptions, to allow private upkeep. My early posts on the situation drew response and phone calls from people with no interest in local political blogs; They were just exasperated relatives, with a family member buried long ago at Fairview. After beginning a series of posts, and letters to the editor, I prevailed upon The Morning Call to write a story one year later. The Call's story appeared on August 11, 2008. Within two weeks, the cemetery operator agreed to a public meeting I had organized at a local church. Arrangements were made between the operator and several parties. As with several of Allentown's older cemeteries, the issue of maintenance would be ongoing.

The current operator of Fairview, in addition to operating an on-site crematorium, is actively having new burials in the cemetery. It appears as if some of these new burials might be on old large family plots, which haven't been used or even visited in decades. In other cases, they appear to be along the internal roadways, which were previously not considered proper burial places.

Because of my longtime blogging on Fairview, periodically I would be contacted by someone with a family member buried at the cemetery. They were always frustrated by conditions at the cemetery, and asked where or to whom they could turn.  The photo shown above was taken by a frustrated family member. It occurred to me that a facebook group page could be a common meeting ground for such families.  Recently, after I started the Allentown Chronicles facebook group, local resident Tyler Fatzinger demonstrated strong concern for conditions at Fairview. I suggested that he moderate a new group dedicated to the cemetery. He agreed, and started Revive Fairview Cemetery.

Jun 3, 2019

Weed Wall Hiding Cedar Creek


If you want to see the creek in Cedar Park, the window is fast closing.   The weed wall, as encouraged by the Wildlands Conservancy, is already 5 ft. tall.  Although only the beginning of June,  with two small exceptions,  the creek is only visible from the bridge crossings.

One of the exceptions is a creek side bench by the park office, at 30th and Parkway Blvd.  Although I did lobby the park department to install a second bench at that spot, so far there has been no response.
The other exception is about six feet of open bank by the small wood bridge, just west of the Rose Garden.

Although I still yearn for the traditional park system designed for Allentown by Harry Trexler's landscape architect,  those days seem to be over.  Years ago, when the Wildlands Conservancy prevailed upon a former park director to stop mowing by the creeks,  the little work reduction corresponded with less park employees. Worse yet for park beauty, it also coincided with more park budget going for recreation.  So while we now cannot see or enjoy the creeks, we have a prison style outside workout station in Jordan Park, and a new skate park coming on board.

Although I recognize these new realities, I will give the park department or city hall administration no relief from my advocating for the traditional park values, which graced the picture postcards of Allentown's past.

May 31, 2019

A Bridge Stilll Stands


Last night, Glenn Solt, project manager for Lehigh County, came to the county committee meeting prepared with a twelve page report, and the engineer who wrote it. They testified that the condition of the Reading Road Bridge has deteriorated, the cost of repairing it has increased, but that the cost of replacing it has gone down. Solt's determined to rid Union Terrace of that old stone arch bridge. Never mind that it was completely rehabilitated in 1980, 156 years after it was built in 1824. Never mind that Hamilton Street Bridge is a quarter block north, and a new Union Street Bridge is being built a half block south.
Michael Molovinsky, an Allentown blogger who has previously written about the bridge, accused the county of exaggerating the condition of the bridge and the cost for rehabilitating it rather than replacing it. Molovinsky said the bridge's historic value is irreplaceable, "Let me be frank: Mr. Solt has no feel for history whatsoever," Molovinsky said. "... This bridge cannot be replaced. It's that simple." Colin McEvoy/The Express Times/June28,2012
This was the first bridge built west of Allentown, crossing Cedar Creek, on the route west to Reading, and one of the last remaining stone arch bridges. Although I would like to see a stake driven through the project, technical legalese demands that I periodically appear and defend our history and culture. The bridge replacement funds were approved years ago, and the matter at hand is a small contract for engineering studies.

reprinted from 2012

ADDENDUM: I'm happy to report that I would continue campaigning for the bridge, and eventually convinced the County Commissioners to save the structure.

May 30, 2019

Flash From Past


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

reprinted from previous years

May 29, 2019

New Graveside Tears At Fairview


In August of 08, after about a year of blogging on conditions at Fairview, The Morning Call ran the story shown above. I did manage to organize a small meeting between the cemetery operators and the public later that fall. Yesterday I received the following comment, submitted to a posting from that period.

Patti from California has left a new comment on your post "New Graveside Tears":

My family is buried at Fairview and 2 weeks ago I visited and was appalled at the horrible conditions and total lack of maintenance throughout the cemetery. I have been trying to reach Loretta or David most of the summer and was told they had taken an extended trip out of the country. (business must be good) They seem to be back now - but still no way to actually talk to them.

My mother is 97 - plans to be buried there with her parents and my Dad. I could cry at the thought ....

I googled Fairview and was led to your blog. Loretta told me in May I could get our plot maintained if I invested in their endowment for $1000. After seeing the total lack of care there, I feel like I would be throwing the money away. What do other people think or do about this appalling condition?


I feel sorry for this family, Fairview may have been a well maintained place when the father was buried there many years ago. I believe the cemetery is in better condition than it was two years ago, but that's not saying very much. I will occasionally revisit this topic, to at least continue a small noise on behalf of these families.

reprinted from September of 2009

ADDENDUM: Over the years I have published numerous posts about Fairview Cemetery. Today and yesterday, I revisited the cemetery to cast light on a problem; Allentown's orphan cemeteries. Although Fairview isn't really an orphan, it shares the same issues as the West End Cemetery, in center city. Our esteemed mayor took it upon himself to purchase two unnecessary parcels, ostensibly to add to the park system. In addition to their cost, $1.5 million dollars, there will be upkeep expenses by an already underfunded park system. City hall should instead concentrate on these cemeteries, which have been problematic for decades.

reprinted from November of 2016

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 7, 2017: In the picture above I'm shown walking in Fairview. Over the last decade, in addition to advocating for the cemetery's upkeep, I've made frequent return visits to keep checking on conditions. Starting about five years ago, I noticed new burials toward the rear of the sprawling cemetery, near Harrison Street. It certainly appeared to me that these new burials were on old family plots, probably no longer visited by any descendants. I mentioned my concern to several people associated with other cemeteries. They seemed to share my suspicion, but did not want to get involved. The new burials have continued, and now appear bordering old family plots even closer to the front of the grounds, near Lehigh Street. The current owner claimed years ago that the plot plan for the cemetery was destroyed in a fire. Let this post serve as public notice of what may well be a new problem at a very old cemetery.

May 28, 2019

Coffee With Emma And Ce-Ce


This blog did not take any overt positions on the recent primary election. Instead of profiling any candidate, I reprinted my piece on Emma Tropiano, The People's Candidate. I believe that Emma has a kindred spirit in Ce-Ce Gerlach. Now, I understand that a lot of people will take exception to my comparison, maybe even Ce-Ce herself.

Because of inaccurate media reports, Emma was falsely portrayed as bigoted. Her memory now unjustly bears that misconception. Most people today who repeat that slander never knew her. Emma was immensely popular, and easily won reelection to city council, election after election. Ce-Ce Gerlach was the top vote getter this primary, receiving almost double the votes of her fellow candidates.

As someone who knew both women, there are many similarities... Both being extremely accessible, down to earth, and making people comfortable.

Emma was energized to work hard for Allentown, as is Ce-Ce. Emma was passionate about the issues she championed, so is Ce-Ce.

I sat in diners having coffee with both of them, many years apart. I think that they would have understood and liked each other.

photo/The Morning Call

May 27, 2019

An American Hero


This painting, by aviation artist Mark Postlethwaite, based on World War 2, illustrates an actual air battle; Focke Wulf Fw 190D-9 of 14/JG26 flown by Ofw. Werner Zech is intercepted by a P-51 Mustang of the 339th FG flown by Captain Francis R. Gerard, 18th March 1945. Frank Gerard was one of our flying aces, shooting down four enemy aircraft from his Mustang in one battle over Leipzig, Germany. The retired Major General passed away this week (November 2008) and will be buried tomorrow with full military honors.

reprinted from November of 2011

May 24, 2019

Open Mike


This posting is intended to provide an opportunity to comment on any topic, or on a previous posting.  Anonymous comments were permitted on this post for several hours.

May 23, 2019

Street Madness In Allentown


Recently, I blogged about a gang of off street vehicles recklessly running stop lights on Front Street, near Bucky Boyle Park.  On Tuesday, I witnessed the same type of activity around 13th and Tilghman. Reports on facebook indicate that these driving violators are roaming freely around center city.  Also yesterday, there apparently was a running gun battle between two cars over a large section of the west end.

The time has come for police chief Tony Alsleben to crack down.  While I understand that the shooting car chases aren't everyday, the herd of off street bikes has become a constant.  At the least, they are guilty of disturbing the peace and reckless driving.

It's past time for a crack down. Worry about conviction rates and civil rights later. Allentown is fast losing quality of life.

May 22, 2019

Another Lawyer For The Fritzgeralds


If you believe that Pawlowski was color blind when he hired Joel Fritzgerald as police chief, you might as well stop reading this post now.

When the former Allentown police chief's son was arrested for pulling a gun on county detectives, and the chief hired a Philadelphia power attorney to defend him, and then counter sue for racism, I blogged questioning the father's integrity.  Apparently, I'm not the only one to question the father's integrity...He has been fired as chief by his current city, Fort Worth, Texas. Those interested in the current issues in Texas can read about it in the Morning Chronicle article.

My issue with Fritzgerald was that he was specifically hired in Allentown to increase racial harmony, not incite discord. The Fritzgerald family had no issues with such affirmative action when senior was hired. They had no issue with favoritism or nepotism when junior was hired as a guard at Lehigh County Prison. Although his son's power attorney managed to get him acquitted from the gun charges, the counter suit was totally inappropriate for the son of this police chief.  The court also found the racism  charge baseless, and dismissed the suit.

I understand that some may find my perspective on this situation offensive;  However, this blog is not meant to comfort.

When asked about his dismissal from Fort Worth,  Fritzgerald replied that he's hiring a lawyer. 

ANNOUNCEMENT: In September of 2007, I introduced Open Mike to the local blogosphere. Readers could comment on any topic they chose. To celebrate this blog's 12th birthday, I am reintroducing the feature this coming Friday. In 2016, to enhance accountability, I eliminated anonymous comments. The Open Mike posts will allow anonymous comments until 7:30PM.

May 21, 2019

Martin Tower Dust



Bob Novotnack, emergency management coordinator for Bethlehem, said officials don’t expect any lingering air quality problems(from Martin Tower implosion). He said it’s too early to tell, but the dust was expected from the concrete of the building, but nothing out of the ordinary. What Bob doesn't say that there is nothing ordinary about imploding a 21 story building. On the contrary, it is one of the taller buildings ever imploded. If that isn't enough to worry those concerned about what they inhale, how about the air quality monitoring?  Rather than be performed by Bethlehem or Pennsylvania, the monitoring was done by an outfit working for the developers.

Locally, the only media concerned with this health issue was Bethlehem blogger Ed Gallagher, on his Bethlehem Gadfly.

Novotnack concluded by saying “Coming down just like it was supposed to, and dust being controlled right now, and cleanup taking place, it couldn’t go any better for the city of Bethlehem,”   I don't know about the City of Bethlehem, but for the residents of Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley, some assurance that there would be no future health consequences was sorely lacking.

ANNOUNCEMENT: In September of 2007,  I introduced Open Mike to the local blogosphere. Readers could comment on any topic they chose. To celebrate this blog's 12th birthday, I am reintroducing the feature this coming Friday. In 2016, to enhance accountability, I eliminated anonymous comments. The Open Mike posts will allow anonymous comments until 7:30PM.

May 20, 2019

The People's Candidate


In the late 1970's, neighbors would gather in the market on 9th Street to complain and receive consolation from the woman behind the cash register. Emma was a neighborhood institution. A native Allentonian, she had gone through school with Mayor For Life Joe Dadonna, and knew everybody at City Hall. More important, she wasn't shy about speaking out. What concerned the long time neighbors back then was a plan to create a Historical District, by a few newcomers.

What concerned Emma wasn't so much the concept, but the proposed size of the district, sixteen square blocks. The planners unfortunately all wanted their homes included, and they lived in an area spread out from Hall Street to 12th, Linden to Liberty.* Shoving property restrictions down the throats of thousands of people who lived in the neighborhood for generations didn't seem right to Emma. As the battle to establish the district became more pitched, Emma began referring to it as the Hysterical District.
Emma eventually lost the battle, but won the hearts of thousands of Allentonians. Emma Tropiano would be elected to City Council beginning in 1986, and would serve four terms. In 1993 she lost the Democratic Primary for Mayor by ONE (1) vote.

Her common sense votes and positions became easy fodder for ridicule. Bashed for opposing fluoridation, our clean water advocates now question the wisdom of that additive. Although every founding member of the Historical District moved away over the years, Emma continued to live on 9th Street, one block up from the store. In the mid 1990's, disgusted by the deterioration of the streetscape, she proposed banning household furniture from front porches. Her proposal was labeled as racist against those who could not afford proper lawn furniture. Today, SWEEP officers issue tickets for sofas on the porch.

Being blunt in the era of political correctness cost Emma. Although a tireless advocate for thousands of Allentown residents of all color, many people who never knew her, now read that she was a bigot. They don't know who called on her for help. They don't know who knocked on her door everyday for assistance. They don't know who approached her at diners and luncheonettes all over Allentown for decades. We who knew her remember, and we remember the truth about a caring woman.

* Because the designated Historical District was so large, it has struggled to create the atmosphere envisioned by the long gone founders. Perhaps had they listened to, instead of ridiculing, the plain spoken shopkeeper, they would have created a smaller critical mass of like thinking homeowners.

reprinted yearly since 2010
photo: The Morning Call

ANNOUNCEMENT: In September of 2007,  I introduced Open Mike to the local blogosphere. Readers could comment on any topic they chose. To celebrate this blog's 12th birthday, I am reintroducing the feature this coming Friday. In 2016, to enhance accountability, I eliminated anonymous comments. The Open Mike posts will allow anonymous comments until 7:30PM.

May 17, 2019

Upcoming Election And The Morning Call



When I ran as an independent for mayor in 2005, the reporter assigned to cover the election already didn't care much for me, because of my conservative positions on various previous issues. Back then the Morning Call was more arrogant about their dominant position as the conveyor of local news. When I proclaimed that Allentown was becoming a poverty magnet, which wouldn't be making Allentown a better place, it was pure heresy. The message was considered so politically incorrect, that the reporter had no flack from his editor about underreporting on my campaign.

I don't believe that any of the current candidates for mayor can complain about the coverage.  Each candidate was both profiled and interviewed.  In addition to the print copy, there were also video clips.

photo from 2014, shirt from 2005

May 16, 2019

The Trains Of Union Street



Up to the late 1960's, Union Street, between the Jordan Creek and Lehigh River, was  crossed by numerous train tracks. In addition to the main tracks for the New Jersey Central and Lehigh Valley Railroads, the area hosted many sidings for the industries that once huddled along this historic river front area.  There was a small rail yard with five sidings between the UGI gas storage tank, which dominated Allentown's skyline, and Allentown Meat Packing Company.  The photo above dates from the late 1940's.  The map below from the early 1930's.



Small rail yard on bottom left of map. Allentown Meat Packing was the former H.H. Steinmetz Co. in 1932.

reprinted from 2017