Aug 11, 2015
Lesson At Dieruff
A Dieruff High School social studies teacher would not have to take his class very far for a lesson in Allentown's history. Although never elected, East Side activist Dennis Pearson has been complaining for thirty years that the East Side always get short changed in Public Works. Such was the case in the mid 1930's, during the WPA work in Allentown. Roosevelt's New Deal program built the elaborate walls in the south side's Lehigh Parkway. Central Allentown received the magnificent Lawrence Street stairwell. The culturally elite of west Allentown received the Union Terrace Amphitheater, envisioned for Shakespeare. Pearson's east side got a few scattered steps to nowhere. The steps remained, and thirty years later Allentown built Dieruff High School. With expansions and renovations, some of the steps now adjoin the school. Flash ahead to the summers of 2009 and 2010.
I lobbied Allentown City Council members to appropriate some of the $millions of dollars in Cedar Park plans to begin preserving the irreplaceable WPA structures, starting to crumble throughout our park system. East Side elected councilman, Michael D'Amore, assured me that he only signed off on the Administrations plan, with the stipulation that the steps in Irving Park-Dieruff area would be restored at the same time. The work in Cedar Park was completed last year, including $millions of dollars with of recreation equipment from catalogs. The deterioration of the steps around Dieruff continues. Now there's a lesson in government!
photos courtesy of Mark Thomas
reprinted from September of 2011
ADDENDUM: Flash ahead again four more years, and the steps at Irving Park are now finally being repaired, using a $20,000 grant from the Trexler Trust. Although the grant was secured through Friends Of The Parks, it's actually also the fruit of my labor. That organization's director learned of the plight of the WPA structures through meetings I conducted at the Allentown Library in 2011. I then took her on a WPA tour of the parks, and we have been collaborating on the WPA ever since.
At the city meeting last week, I asked the councilmen to compare $20,000 from an outside source, to repair something as tangible as the stone structures, to the $1.4 million of city money, to buy land that we didn't need, nor are using. I explained that the consequence of the WPA neglect was that our largest park, Lehigh Parkway, is now virtually inaccessible. Considering that I had approached both previous park directors about the WPA, with no success, I asked council to appoint me special WPA envoy, and to instruct the new director to consider my suggestions in both her plans and budget.
Council didn't respond to my request. I think that maybe they were preoccupied with the mob behind me, the ones with the pitchforks and torches. As things simmer down from news of the FBI investigation, and council has to deal with the business at hand, perhaps they will reconsider my offer.