“Emil Lukas has the alchemical gift of transforming common materials into objects that display a keen sense of the sublime.” Squarecylinder.com
“We welcome you. Living in Bethlehem is a real wise choice. It’s a great city.” So saying, Zoning Board Chairman William Fitzpatrick concluded last Wednesday’s meeting approving Stockertown artist Emil Lukas’s proposal to turn the 2nd Ave. Armory drill hall into a live/work space.
“While the drill hall is about 10,000 square feet, Lukas told the board the studio would be about 2,000 square feet and the living area, for him and his wife, would be an estimated 1,000 square feet.”
“The remaining 7,000 square feet would be minimally heated and cooled to maintain the integrity of the interior building materials, but for the most part
would go unused except if large materials for the artwork needs to be spread out, Lukas said.”
“Lukas said he is a visual artist working with painting and sculpture, ceramics and wood blocks, but none of the materials he would use in the studio are solvent-based, eliminating concerns about strong odors.”
“He said there would be no regular visitors coming to the studio or sales since his work is handled through galleries in New York City, San Francisco and Italy.”
“Lukas said he has no plans to vacate the space and that moving to a residential neighborhood is something he and his wife have wanted.”
“[The developer] said the interior renovation for the studio along with other development on the property should begin in late fall or early winter. The other developments include 64 apartments and six more units built in other armory structures.”
“[The developer said] The other developments include 64 apartments and six more units built in other armory structures” (print edition)
Lukas testified at the meeting, and Gadfly followers can learn more about him and his work in the following video and audio clip (6 mins.):
“visual artist mainly making paintings and sculpture”
“limit to the plan is to the inside of the building, I have no responsibility for the outside”
“return it to Spillman and Farmer’s originally 1930’s design”
“work with paper, canvas, wood, water-based paints, thread”
“I don’t use any paints that use fumes”
“I don’t use anything with odor or solvents”
“I have galleries that represent my work”
“It’s a private workshop”
“I have been in the Lehigh Valley for twenty-five years”
“I’m the only artist that works there”
“We have three children, but they are adults” (and not living there)
Gadfly takes this opportunity to open a thread on the Armory. The Armory was “hot” at the time when Gadfly first began to haunt City meetings — long before he was Gadfly. There were significant issues between residents and the developer. At this April 24 meeting two residents raised issues, to which Gadfly will return. But first enjoy some familiarity with Lukas and his work, both of which seem well worth welcome to our town.
Lot going on. And Gadfly has let several topics fall behind. Martin Tower one of them.
He has a kind of wrap-up post on this current phase of the MT doings in mind, but first he wants to use the public response to the proposed MT plan for a different purpose.
The Gadfly project slogan is “Good conversation builds community.”
About a month ago in a private email a Gadfly follower called him “the Pied Piper of civic engagement.”
Now that was striking. A powerful branding. But kind of embarrassing and disconcerting too.
He tried to laugh it off. Then forget it. Wouldn’t work.
Might as well own it.
No question Gadfly before he was Gadfly fell in love with the sound of your voices in the public comment spaces at City Council meetings.
And wanted to capture them.
And — here goes — draw even more people to speak/write out.
Somewhere the professor who reinvented himself as Gadfly learned that the Aztec word for teacher was “one who makes you put on a face.”
He would say that the goal of his classes was to make you put on a face. To speak/write your own individual thoughts in your own individual way and thereby to feel empowered and thereby to feel individual — and thereby to have a “face” recognized and respected by others.
Gadfly wants everybody to post here. Gadfly wants everybody to speak at Council. (President Waldron just fainted.)
But some people say they can’t be like you, Gadfly, without realizing that the professor who reinvented himself as Gadfly is painfully shy and would wall himself in his office the hour before class mustering courage. Listen to the modest proposal audio he posted a short while ago, and you can hear his voice crack part way through as the mustered courage wanes.
Everyone can do it. In his or her own way.
And I want to make that point by contrasting the polar opposite styles of Diane Szabo Backus and Brian Hillard during public comment at the April 16 City Council meeting, available on video here:
Brian (begin min. 13:10) is soft-spoken, calm, sober, focused, rational, cerebral, speaking a polished piece of writing.*** Beautiful.
Diane (begin min. 5:30) is “a little nervous,” reading from what look like handwritten scratched notes on a tear-off pad any of us might doodle on at the kitchen table, emotional, so emotional that her body has to move, her arms wave, her fists pump, her fingers point, her knees buckle and dance, she turns to the left, she turns to the right, she ups the Council president’s response to a question she shouldn’t have asked, she confronts the Mayor. Beautiful.
So Gadfly went to the Bethlehem Parking Authority meeting last Wednesday April 24. Perhaps more on the substance of that meeting later.
The meeting was at 4PM. Gadfly recently reported that at a Planning Commission meeting both Diane Szabo Backus and Paige Van Wirt made what we might call “vigorous proposals” [ha! not modest!] for later meeting times to accommodate the large number of citizens who work at that hour and are unable to attend such meetings. And Gadfly was later able to report that the Mayor heard those vigorous proposals and has pledged to require later times across the board in City committees for 2020.
A solid blow for citizen participation. Another shout-out to Backus-Van Wirt-Donchez.
There are many City Authorities, Boards, and Commissions. Take a look. Made up almost entirely of resident volunteers. Gadfly doesn’t know exactly, but he guesses the volunteers probably number in the vicinity of 125. A small army.
That’s a lot of people the Mayor has to round up. I mean, I’m not sure that people are thronging the Mayor during “Open Door” days and clamoring for such positions. He no doubt has to recruit. Though I hope we never see the day when he has to set up a card table in a mall and hawk for warm bodies.
Gadfly goes to a lot of these meetings. And can say without hesitation that there are a lot of wonderful people doing wonderful work. Good for the Mayor, good for the great people volunteering.
The Mayor nominates resident members, Council approves. Most of the time the approvals are pro forma. But there was one significant denial recently, probably for conflict of interest, a person serving on two closely related bodies.
Approvals should not be pro forma, especially for certain committees, and the Parking Authority is one such group. The Parking Authority was a center of controversy in the latter half of 2018 as 70+ posts in the Gadfly parking thread will attest (see the link on the sidebar).
Gadfly could not tell and had suspicions about the range and quality of Board member involvement. The New St. Garage, the Polk Garage, the Desman Parking Study, the conflict with Council, etc., etc. — strangely to Gadfly, it’s almost impossible to tell from the Board minutes that these things were going on much less that there were “hot” public “issues” about them. The Authority then had a powerful, involved solicitor and a long-standing Chair — Gadfly wondered if there was any debate or discussion at all, wondered what the role, if any, of the appointed members was.
For we must depend on the Board members to be our “voice” in Authority decisions. Gadfly would like to make sure that they are.
Reviewing minutes, Gadfly saw no evidence of conflict, dissent, alternative opinion; Gadfly is not sure that he saw a motion that truly originated with a Board member or new business that originated with a Board member. And if it were not for routine responses to “asks” by the chair for a motion and a second, you might not even know who is on the Board. Attendance at a few meetings suggested that the Authority authority resided in the Executive Director, the solicitor, and the Board chair.
Which is not to say that hot issues weren’t ever aired and that all Board members were not heavily involved. But the minutes — basically the only official public record of what transpired — don’t reveal much in that respect.
When those Board members come up for re-appointment, on what basis will Council make its oversight decision? Evidence of the quantity and quality of their participation and contributions in deliberations about non-trivial and non-routine matters — as attested to in the minutes — should be a prime body of evidence.
At the April 24 meeting, Gadfly suggested to the Parking Authority Board that the minutes be improved to at least capture the flavor of all viewpoints in discussion, that votes that are not unanimous clearly indicate who the yays and nays are, and he suggested to the members that they be sure not only that they contribute but that their contributions are detailed in the minutes. If they want to be re-appointed, that is.
You can hear Gadfly talk about this as an aspect of his “passion for public participation in city matters” (soooo pompous is your Gadfly!) here:
My modest proposal is that Council let the Mayor know that proposals for re-appointment of members of “hot” committees, commissions, and boards should include — in addition to resumes*** — specific and substantive evidence of the quality and quantity of member contributions as attested in the minutes.
At the last City Council meeting Backus made the interesting point that since such Board members are appointed by elected officials, they too are in a sense elected. And the public needs accountability, especially on the “hot” committees, and will call for it from Council when re-appointment time comes around.
*** Instructive here is the good dialogue about oversight initiated by Councilwoman Van Wirt and joined by Council President Waldron and Business Manager Evans sitting in for the Mayor at the January 15 Council meeting and recorded in the minutes on pp 11-12. But for re-appointments, Gadfly is suggesting more than resumes and contact info. There should be evidence of performance.