Mar 17, 2008

Chicken or Egg

The Allentown Parking Authority appears to be involved in an impropriety. The Authority professes it had "excess" lots which it is selling to Nic Zawarski through proper procedures. It appears the mayor wants the parcel for his "moving ahead" plan and the Parking Authority is accommodating his agenda. The Authority Board is a who's who of Pawlowski supporters; Malcolm Gross, chairman of Pawlowski's mayoral campaign. Lawrence Hilliard, Pawlowski's finance director at city hall. Democrat Michael Donovan, endorsed by Pawlowski for city council. On January 19, the Board in full agreement declared the lots in "excess", despite the fact that there are more than 124 contracted parkers, using about 60% of the lots capacity. This lot adjoins the hugh Verizon Building and provides safe convenient parking, especially for the night sift women. By January XX *, a complex Request for Proposals was completed and sent out to whom? Is January XX the same as January 20, or is it XX as in who cares anyway. The deadline for proposals was Feb. 15. By the February 27th meeting, Zawarski had complete plans and architectural drawings. Although the Board was ready to approve the deal, Larry Hilliard suggested they wait till next week to avoid the appearance of rushing. Although no price has been officially negotiated, the 1990 tax appraisal was mentioned as the basis. In today's era of sub-prime scandals, using the 1990 tax assessment could quality an appriser for a jail-term. The property should be appraised in 2008 dollars with current comps. The bidding should be competitive with proposals send to a verified list of developers, who would have an appropriate amount of time to response. Most importantly, is there a market for $200,000 plus townhouses at 7th and Linden Streets, and would such a project serve the public interest more than providing safe parking for a large, long time employer? The Authority claims "Within a block to a block and a half radius there are......parking spaces." That's a long distance for a woman to walk at 1:00am., shame on the Authority. I maintain the Mayor's desire for the property came first, and the designation of excess, the request for proposals etc. is a ruse to accommodate him. My problem with the plan is the real victims, the Verizon workers losing their parking for very speculative townhouses. Chicken or Egg, impropriety or shenanigans, excess or coveted, something seems very wrong.



bob said...

Michael, Allentown voters must relieve themselves of this mayor. And we thought Afflerboob was bad. The real problem is the apathy of the Allentown populace. Look at who they recently elected.God will they ever get it right.

Michael Schware said...

Michael -

I had recently submitted an Op-Ed piece to the Morning Call regarding both the new sign in requirement at City Hall and the proposed sale of the parking lots. The part of the piece on the parking lots was rejected and I was asked to resubmit the piece with the focus being on the sign-in.

For what it's worth, I have copied below the part of the piece that dealt with the lots. I hope you don't mind my posting it here, but I thought it was somewhat appropriate. Here goes:

...On a similar theme is the on-going story of two downtown parking lots that have been identified by the Allentown Parking Authority as “excess” and put up for sale. This has the current users of those parking lots, many who are Verizon employees, upset at the prospect of losing parking close to their workplace. Like most of us, they like the idea of not having to walk a great distance outdoors during inclement weather and also appreciate the added security of having only a short walk to their cars after dark.

Yet despite the fact that only one bid was received to buy the lots and the price offered seems rather low, the sale moves forward and final approval seems only a formality at this point. City Hall has been fully supportive and involved with the Authority’s plans to sell the lots.

Now contrast the plight of those Verizon workers with what’s happened down at City Hall. At City Hall, a new multi-million dollar parking deck has been built right next door. It even has a ramp from the parking deck to the courtyard of City Hall that is covered to provide shelter from the elements. City Hall employees could conceivably drive to work, park, walk to their offices in the morning and leave that evening without having to deal first-hand with either the weather or the effects that their many decisions have on the streets of Allentown.

Now I don’t want to demean city employees for being able to park close to their place of business. I’m sure it makes working downtown more attractive and also benefits the visitors to City Hall as well. But the same could be said about having parking readily available at other locations downtown, like it currently is for those Verizon workers and others who use the lots in question.

One must wonder if City Hall remembers what it’s like for many of us who still might have to walk a distance - in any weather - to get to our downtown destinations, or feed the meter if we need to make a quick stop. Would the bureaucrats supporting the decision to sell the lots still feel the lots were “excess” if they were the ones currently using the lots, or if they had to walk a bit further to get to their cars at night?

We’ll never know the answers to these questions. But now we know that if we want to talk to someone in City Hall about them, we need to get in line.

michael molovinsky said...

michael s, the parking authority and the morning call have been partners since the beginning. The Authority purchased the 13 lots owned by Park and Shop in 1991 for considerably more than market price. Park and Shop's foundering father and biggest shareowner was donald miller, owner of the morning call. two years ago the Parking Authority purchased the Morning Call parking lot to built the new parking deck, to service the patrons of the art district ????? (Lanta included to harvest state grant- screw the hamilton street merchants). The Morning Call gets free parking in the new deck and no longer has to pay property tax on the lot. How surprising that the Morning Call would decline an op-ed piece critical of the Parking Authority.

Bill said...

I park my car in one of these lots every day for my job downtown (not at the Verizon building). I have workers leaving at late hours to go to their cars.

Safety is a real concern for me, as is the position that these spaces are underutilized.

I don't like the apparent time line on this or the connections between interest groups and government entities. I had hoped for more transparent and open governance than this.....

Have all the checks and balances within the APA and City Government signed off on this? Even if the sale of this property made sense - and I don't think that it does in this case, how can a public entity sell a piece of land with one bid in less than a month and present it as the best deal for the public that it ultimalty answers to?

Bill Villa said...

The best renaissance improvement I can think of for Allentown would be a 2nd, competitor daily newspaper ...