Still seeking info from Lehigh (15)

(15th in a series of posts on Lehigh University)
Monday, March 4, 2019

Brent, Darlene, and members of the Planning Commission (except Ms. Cohen, for whom I do not have a permissible email)

To reiterate my comments at the 2/21 Planning meeting. I am concerned that Lehigh’s decision to do substantial building on parking lots might negatively affect low income Lehigh faculty and staff and contract workers for Sodexo, BrightView, and etc. — people who may be Bethlehem residents and taxpayers.

The attached document was distributed to the Lehigh community in September. I attended three follow-up sessions on campus. I had personal contact with Mark Ironside and the Lehigh Transportation manager in November.

Contrary to the impression given by the Lehigh lawyer 2/21, there was no doubt in any of these documents, meetings, and contacts that Lehigh was using a “Northside Commuter Lot” at 123 W. Lehigh St., and running a bus from there to Farrington Square on lower campus.

The Lehigh lawyer 2/21 made the point that Lehigh has no lease for northside parking, making it sound as if there was no plan for Lehigh people to park there at all. Given the knowledge and experience I had, frankly, I was rather dumbfounded. I checked with BPA. Indeed, there is no lease. But there was/is no question in any of the documents, meetings, contacts about use of that lot.

Take a look at the attached document. Lehigh is losing 518 spaces, partially making up that loss to “respond to a reduction in parking supply” by utilizing 150 spaces in a “Northside Commuter Lot.” There, in black and white, is what I have been focusing on.

The clear impression I have is that the Northside Commuter Lot is necessary. Some people might choose to park free there and take the bus or walk the 3/4 mile to campus. That’s good. Yes, Mr. Malozi, Lehigh has an ambitious and laudable walking and public transportation plan. But I am concerned about those who will be bumped or forced off-campus by inability to pay the $500 on-campus parking fee or simply lack of space for everybody on campus.

For it looks to me there will be a kind of hop-scotch going on. Mr. Stellato cogently asked where the cars displaced at 124 will go. The answer was to the nearby Lehigh parking garage. But then the follow-up question should have been, where will the cars in that now-filled lot go?

There may be no problem. I am simply seeking clarity. At a Planning meeting last year, Lehigh said all displaced parking would be absorbed on campus. I questioned that, and it was so affirmed. Then, to the contrary, comes the Northside Commuter Lot in documents and meetings by Lehigh itself.. So that statement does not seem to have been true. And now the Lehigh lawyer made it sound, frankly, that I was making up the plan to use the lot. As if it were not clearly in the documentation and in the air during conversations among affected persons on campus.

The new Lehigh parking plan is to be rolled out in April. I think the city needs to know whether lower-income Bethlehem residents and tax payers might be unfairly impacted.

There may indeed be no problem, no issue. Many contract workers work after 4PM, for instance, and can park on campus. Maybe many contract workers already walk or take the bus or car pool.

My question(s) might be easily answered. These matters might have been thoroughly thought through. I think we should hear the answers. But it seems to me like Lehigh is avoiding.

At the previous Planning meeting where I brought this issue up, the Lehigh lawyer at that time (a different one) and I ended in an almost comical cliched stand-off. He said Lehigh had done everything right legally. I said there’s a difference between law and concern for people.

How will Lehigh’s new parking plan affect low income Lehigh faculty and staff and contract workers for Sodexo, BrightView, and etc?

I will write about this later in the week on Gadfly, in case anyone would like to respond before then.

Be well–

ED

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