Council Candidates – 4-year seat – Prompt 4 (26)

(26th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

 Bethlehem NAACP “Candidate’s Night 2019,” April 22, 7PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

registration deadline April 22

Election Day is May 21

vote for 3

4th in the series of candidate statements

statements in alphabetical order this time

Talk about budgets and the budgeting process, arguably the most important power and responsibility that City Council has.

Michael Colon (incumbent) Colon 2

The City’s budget is a long, tedious process which is often not very appealing to the public. I understand why.  There are a number of budget hearings during the fourth quarter each year. City Council and the administration go through a budget book which is hundreds of pages long.  A couple years before I was elected to City Council, I went to a budget hearing and truthfully didn’t totally grasp what I was hearing.  Thankfully the members of Council at the time were polite enough to answer emails I’d send with general questions to help me understand.

What is important to understand with the City’s budget today are two things. First is personnel is the biggest cost driver in running Bethlehem. Second is the overall headcount of Bethlehem employees is as low as anyone can remember. Most employees are likely going to work each day to a department that had more manpower when they started their employment. The question then is how to maintain adequate services?

The City must continue to look at technologies which will allow employees to be more effective at their jobs. Continued investment in new technologies will help in delivery of services. An example is the water department rolling out more electronic meters each year which allow the meter to be read remotely, cuttimg down on time going meter to meter. That being said, the workloads only increase our departments at City Hall.  Sometimes adding to the headcount is necessary as we recently decided to add a part-time employee to the Law Bureau due to increased demands. It is important to consider the long-term budgetary impact of each addition to the City’s payroll. In this instance there are no benefits other than salary.

The cost of doing business will continue to rise. It’s only fair a hardworking employee should be paid more today than they were one, three, ten years ago. Am I opposed to raising taxes?  Can’t say that I am. I’ve been a part of a Council that has passed small tax increases. What I am in favor of is continuing to look at the budget, this massive document, comprehensively and continuing to understand how to meet the City’s needs so that when taxes do have to rise they are incremental.

J. William Reynolds (incumbent) JWReynolds

The following facts about the budget cannot really be disputed.

  • Most of the budget is fixed due to union contracts and obligations (such as debt relating to capital investments)
  • The vast majority of the budget is personnel (over 80 percent)
  • The majority of the budget is public safety (important when considering the service impact of any spending cuts)
  • Legitimate meaningful cuts cannot be made without touching personnel (which generally Councilmembers do not want to do)

With those four points in mind, it is very difficult to make substantial cuts during budget time. So, what is City Council’s role in the budget?

  • Determine, follow, monitor the long-term financial health of the city by understanding the budget revenue and expenditure drivers
  • Have an in-depth understanding of the direction of departments and the short- and long-term financial implications of annual proposed changes
  • Monitor and follow revenue and expenditure estimates throughout the year
  • Educate the public about the aforementioned structural limitations of our budget
  • Support initiatives that assist the city financially and do not sacrifice the effectiveness and efficiency of city services

The single most impactful thing that Council members can do as it pertains to the budget is to keep open communication with the Administration and department heads about their short- and long-term financial plans for their departments throughout the year.   The budget is passed in December, but important financial questions are being asked and answered every day in City Hall.  What is our pension obligation for next year? A few people retired, are those positions being filled? Would a change in departmental structure save money over the long run without sacrificing service? If we have a year with many winter storms, where are we moving money from to pay for snow removal?

City Councilmembers who wish to fund new initiatives also must work with the Administration and Department heads throughout the year (rather than during budget time) to understand where new initiatives work with the larger plans/strategies for the departments.  It is often a long and tedious process to build support and the necessary financial budgetary flexibility for even minor additions to the budget throughout the year. Working slowly is, however, necessary to not only fund new initiatives but also to make sure the implementation process is clear moving forward.  During my time on City Council, most Councilmembers have approached the budget process with the above information in mind and, as a result, the current and future financial position of the City is stable and growing stronger by the year.

Carol Ritter

Watch this space

David Saltzer  David Saltzer

When speaking about budgets, there are  multiple facets that change annually. I have had the opportunity to sit on the other side of the council table as a taxpayer, employee, and president of the union looking at the budget from different perspectives. Budgeting is one of council’s most important duties. To create a budget that is fair to everyone allows the city to operate, grow, provide essential city services, and not drain the pockets of the citizens.

Budgets should be reevaluated on an ongoing basis. By looking at our vendors and what they offer to the city, it may in our best interest to look at long-term contracts as opposed to monthly or yearly contracts for services to save money, while also continuing with a yearly fleet replacement plan for aging essential city equipment in the streets, parks, and public safety departments. This will also help in the long term by not having to replace multiple broken and aged pieces of equipment at once.

We can also look at attracting businesses that will help add to the tax base and give back to the community through sponsorships to maintain parks or monies to fund essential equipment, saving taxpayers monies. We can also continue to search and seek out grants for community upgrades, equipment programs such as Costars, and safe staffing such as the COPS and SAFER grants for fire and police to help offset the cost of salaries in public safety.

One area where we cannot afford to cut is city personnel. Our city is currently operating with the lowest number of employees in history, and it shows. Employees are constantly asked to do more with less, and this attitude is unacceptable and needs to change. Our employees can feel the lack of support from the current city administration and are burning out, and the city is seeing the results of this burnout.

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent) Van Wirt 2

Semper Pro Populus

City Council has fiduciary responsibility over the City operations — the budget, capital expenditures, and leveraging debt. In thinking about this duty I find the term “Semper Pro Populus” to be the guide: Always for the Public. It is in this role that Bethlehem’s finances must be abundantly transparent, and the decision-making behind the city finances accessible and easily understood.

City Council approves debt — in part by floating general obligation bonds, which are
backed by the power of the taxpayer. Taxpayers frequently backstop the bonds of
independent authorities, approved by City Council. It is in this responsibility I find the
most serious oversight responsibility lies — how do we ensure that we do not wind up like Scranton, where City Council approved general obligation bonds for the Scranton
Parking Authority to build yet another parking garage which subsequently was not
supported by parking revenue. The Parking Authority then asked Scranton City Council
to raise city taxes to pay the G.O. bonds. Scranton City Council refused to honor the
taxpayer guarantee for the Parking Authority’s G.O. Bonds — not wanting to raise taxes on it’s citizens — and Scranton wound up losing access to capital markets as a result,
precipitating a full-blown financial crisis. (Mary Walsh, “With No Vote, Taxpayers Stuck
with Tab on Bonds” New York Times 6/25/2012) Or Harrisburg, where the G.O. Bonds
for a trash incinerator provided the initial debt, which was subsequently inflated by the
Harrisburg Authority over the years, ultimately leading to the state taking over
Harrisburg’s finances. Or Allentown, where the debt of the struggling Lehigh County
Authority has provoked widespread concern. To compound the problem, these
obligations are frequently carried off the books.

In terms of function, the City budget is composed of a series of operating funds
(general, water. and sewer) as well as a capital budget. Within this framework, there is
often very little room for leverage in council towards goals that differ from the
administration, with the exception of the capital budget. It is here that I think a unified,
cohesive City Council has the most room to guide the administration- How we invest in
our downtowns to help Bethlehem’s small businesses? What are the projected costs of
replacing our fleet with electric vehicles? How do we improve our sidewalks? How do
we use the power of the purse to create a city with a diversified economy, an affordable
housing stock, and lively, energized streetscapes in our downtowns?

A fiduciary must always act with highest ethical standards. This means honesty and full
disclosure. The power of the purse, as controlled by City Council, is another reason we
must have a strong ethical foundation for our elected officials; the proposed Ethics
Ordinance, which I will be reintroducing, is meant to reassure the taxpayers that no
conflict of interests will affect Bethlehem’s elected official’s obligation to the people.

Bethlehem is pressured by many responsibilities — pension obligations, retiree and
employee healthcare, aging infrastructure are just a few — and is looking for ways to
creatively increase the tax base and to find new sources of revenue all without adding to
the taxpayer’s burden. It is in the fiduciary role of City Council — to ensure that
Bethlehem’s financial obligations and decision-making are transparent, that taxpayerbacked bonds are vetted and publicly discussed, particularly when it comes to off-the-books Authority debt, — that we must ensure we are Semper Pro Populus — always for the public.

Council Candidates – 2-year seat – Prompt 4 (25)

(25th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

 Bethlehem NAACP “Candidate’s Night 2019,” April 22, 7PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

registration deadline April 22

Election Day is May 21

vote for 1

4th in the series of candidate statements

statements in alphabetical order this time

Talk about budgets and the budgeting process, arguably the most important power and responsibility that City Council has.

Will Carpenter Will Carpenter

As a new member to Council, I would first need to listen and learn about process and the current and past budget initiatives, long-term objectives and challenges.  While I have created budgets, had profit/loss accountability, projected expenses and negotiated costs, I have never been a part of a municipal budgeting process and will have much to learn.

For expenditures, my priorities would start with public safety — from police, fire, and EMS to health and water quality. Keeping our community safe and our first responders well-equipped should be non-negotiable. Code enforcement is also part of public safety.  We have rules, so we should make sure they are consistently enforced and our departments have the resources to do so.

On the revenue side, we must protect and support our current strongest sources of revenue while looking ahead to the next revenue generators. Our business community and residential neighborhoods are the backbone of our city.  We are partners in success.  As the economy and the world continues to change, Bethlehem must be forward-looking to meet the needs of the next generation.

So initially, my responsibility is to ask questions, hold departments accountable and learn. Are we, the citizens, receiving good value on the expenditure?  What can we learn from past experience, or other municipalities experiences? Times aren’t always good, and bad times don’t last forever. Don’t overspend and don’t under-invest. It is a difficult balance, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I will certainly ask the questions.  Above all, don’t play politics with the budget.  I will tell it like it is and make the hard choices with a long-term perspective.

Ashley Daubert Ashley Daubert

In a healthcare setting, members of nursing leadership (like myself), are involved with some of the most critical functions in budgetary planning. Like nurse managers, the members of City Council serve as the link between the plans of administration/City and the workforce/tax payer. In my experience, the use of historical budgeting is a vital component of planning the next fiscal year’s budget. As a member of City Council, I would review historical budgets from the previous (at least) four years, and identify patterns and trends. I would also compare this data to a chart of accounts for the City – analyzing revenue, expenses, liabilities, and assets. I would then compare actual revenue and expenses to the budgeted revenue and expenses for each year. Variances would be identified and variance analyses completed, as appropriate. The budgeting process is ongoing and dynamic. It should provide feedback and opportunity for corrective action; this is essential in managing a budget.

In the development of a budget, it is important to really analyze what is being requested. For example, in the healthcare setting, there are things we need to function, and there are things that would be wonderful to have in an “ideal situation.” This is a concept I use when creating our household budget as well. I call it the “need vs. want” scenario(s) – the same mentality I would use as a member of City Council. I have reviewed the City of Bethlehem 2019 Operating and Capital Budgets, but without being able to (also) review some of the aforementioned historical documentation, at this point, I can only say it is very comprehensive and diverse. I can appreciate that it is does not intend to allocate funding disproportionately in one area versus another.

It is difficult to condense such a broad topic into the summary above – but in closing, a critical task in creating and/or approving a budget is collecting relevant data. Armed with this knowledge, Council can make fiscally responsible decisions to ensure the City can run efficiently, without raising taxes.

My Grandfather, Dale Daubert, served on the South Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners for 25 years. He was an outspoken advocate for preservation, and consistently voted against tax increases in the township. This is something he was known for, and I intend to fight the same way for the taxpayers of my City. You might say – it’s in my blood.

Grace Crampsie Smith grace crampsie smith

My previous budgetary experience with allocating federal, state, and local funds will be beneficial in my role as city councilperson. In my capacity as Addictions Counselor and Coordinator of Community and Early Intervention Services for Lehigh County Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, I was faced with the arduous task of assuring limited taxpayer funds were utilized most efficiently for my clients and families.  Budgetary battles were the norm, for there were never enough funds to adequately serve those in need, and waiting lists prevailed

Currently as a school counselor I again am faced with budgetary dilemmas in that school districts are faced with rising costs, especially given the diversion of sufficient funds from the budget to charter schools. As AP Coordinator, I am responsible for the AP budget and am facing increasingly challenges to offset rising costs with assuring quality administration of the AP program.

Negotiation and mediation skills have been the hallmark of my career as a counselor and human services administrator. While at Lehigh County, I facilitated the transformation of our service delivery from contract-private provider based to a Family Driven- Family Support Services model. This entailed weekly meetings with a Family Council, comprised of parents of those with developmental disabilities.  After more than a year of intense negotiations, we successfully transformed our delivery system, eliminating waiting lists, and assuring all clients/families received services. Negotiation was certainly the key during this arduous yearlong process, and I was complimented for my efforts.

What we need to remember re: the city budget is that like most budgets, the majority of the budget is comprised of fixed costs items such as personnel and health care. In fact 75.2 % of the general fund is comprised of personnel costs.

As a taxpayer I certainly “get it” that no one wants to have their taxes raised.  Concurrently, as a long-time professional in the area of human services, I see on a daily basis the need for services funded by public monies.

As time commences, costs increase — that’s why we have cost of living increases. So how do we balance this, especially for those on fixed incomes that receive minimal to no COLA?  As a councilperson, it is vital to assure funds are spent most efficiently, and prioritization is essential. We can also look at alternate sources of funding such as grants. When I wanted to empower our at-risk 9th graders, I applied for a grant through the Rt. 22 Anti-Gang Task Force and was able to institute the “Skills for Success” program in collaboration with Lafayette College. Collaboration with private entities/individuals should also be encouraged. For example, my friend Mary Sculion recently celebrated 30 years as Founder of Project Home in Philadelphia. At the celebratory dinner this past week, the private benefactors in attendance raised $10 million dollars in one night for her organization. We need to see more of this in Bethlehem.

As a young child, my family faced financial crisis when my father became very ill and was out of work long-term. My family of 9 would never have survived had it not been for the good will of our community.  This experience had a profound impact on me and is one of many reasons I want to be a city councilperson to assure we all work together for the benefit of ALL, regardless of budgetary constraints.

Martin Tower: the EAC wanted “a showpiece of sustainable design” (17)

(17th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19
www.martintowerbethlehem.com

Gadfly would like to stay on the Martin Tower beat a little longer. Lots of good stuff here.

Let’s back up a moment.

Gadfly caught the “City bug” in January 2018 and started going to meetings, not only the Council meetings but many of the citizen-based committees and commissions that most of us, frankly, don’t know much about.

Take a look at the list of the City Authorities, Boards, and Commissions. Quite extensive, no? Lots of residents volunteering their services.

He found that one of the most impressive and enjoyable groups is the Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) chaired by Lynn Rothman, with members Elizabeth Behrend, Elisabeth Cichonski, (ubiquitous) Kathy Fox, Brian Hillard, and Mike Topping — in addition to a cluster of regular attendees known for their environmental knowledge and activism and Councilman Reynolds often present as well.

Think EAC and think CAP and PBO. That’s Climate Action Plan and the Plastic Bag Ordinance. Not only nice people but productive people.

So the EAC has weighed in significantly on Martin Tower, both past and present, and Gadfly would like to highlight their “public sapience” – the nerdy term you saw him coin recently and which he must use a few times to wash it out of his system!

In a phrase designed to make Gadfly’s palms sweat, blood race, breath heave, and loins leap, the EAC dreamed of the Martin Tower site as “a showpiece of sustainable design”!

As a prime location for a landmark redevelopment, this site could showcase cutting-edge green design, respect open space and utilize smart growth principles. Such a design could encompass transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, with mixed-use development. Many long-range sustainability and environmental goals articulated in the City’s 2008 Comprehensive Plan could be explored.  EAC-Martin Tower-2016

Think of it! “A showpiece of sustainable design”!

Gadfly imagines the Town Hall lights dimmed (except for that one damn light that seems to have a mind of its own! You know the one I mean.) and a crescendo of pencils tapping on chair arms leading up to the dramatic unveiling of Bethlehem’s SHOWPIECE OF SUSTAINABLE DESIGN!

Followed by a collective gasp so strong it would suck the panels off the ceiling.

Be still my heart!

But – sigh – we live in a fallen world.

Common wisdom in the cheap seats is that the design for the Martin Tower site fell well short of a showcase.

In addition to submitting a detailed letter (EAC-Martin Tower-2019), EAC members Brian Hillard and Mike Topping attended the Planning Commission meeting April 11.

Listen to their different voices.

074Brian, the younger guy, calm, diplomatic, showing just a trace of wry impatience at developer shortsightedness (“Looking at that pocket park, it’s like in the pocket”), even-temperedly calling attention to things you would think the developer would certainly have highlighted (Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, solar, etc.),  and ending with an echo of the “showcase” dream: “This site was an icon to our city and our region, and we would be well served to continue with that thought. This could be an icon to the future as we remove the icon from the past.”

079Mike, the older guy, experienced (“I used to sit on the other side of that table”), a bit gruff-voiced, tough talking, finding student designs better, forcefully invoking the specter of Levittown coming to Bethlehem, speaking definitively, authoritatively, for instance, about parking and subdividing (“It’s just wrong. It’s just not the way things are done”), attributing the design to an unimaginative engineer when real planning (by someone capable of creating a “showcase”) should be done.

A marvelous 1-2 presentation from these EACers.

Gadfly is not sure what impact these public voices can have on the Martin Tower project at this point. He doesn’t know as much as he needs to about the process of development. Such comments almost seem too late once the developer has presented a plan. Maybe not.

Gadfly is sure, though, that we’d all like a “showcase.”

And this isn’t it. Yet.

How do we get such ideas in on the “ground floor,” as it were – at the beginning of the design process?

Gadfly will be trying to learn and think more.

Candidates – are you listening? Are you thinking?

A couple election notes

May 21 is primary election.

Hoping everybody will vote.

Gadfly needs everybody involved in making informed choices for the best candidates for city government.

Thus, please note and continue to refer to our “candidates for election” thread (see under Topics of the sidebar and under Serious Stuff on the top menu).

We are getting great cooperation from the candidates in providing statements on various topics.

By election time each candidate will have prepared a portfolio of sorts where we can find their views and hear their “voices.”

Three sets of responses to prompts so far, and the fourth comes tomorrow.

And Carol Ritter (who’s had what Prof Gadfly nostalgically calls an excused absence) has posted her prompt #2 now and is getting back on track. Please take a moment now to read Carol’s post.

Do all you can to get to know the candidates. I hope they will let me know where they are “appearing,” so I can pass that on to you.

But mark this:  The Bethlehem City Democratic Committee is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall, 53 E. Lehigh St.

Also, for the incumbents, attend the City Council meetings or watch them on video. You can find past videos here. Several incumbents were vocally “active” at the April 16 meeting, for instance.

And the key thing is that you are registered to vote and registered Democratic (will there be any Republicans running?). In the primary election, you can only vote in the party in which you are registered. And since in a basically one-party town, the primary is tantamount to the general election, you must make sure that you are registered.

Monday is the last day to register!

See detailed registration info in a previous post here.

Thanks again to follower Al W for the registration info and — correcting the record — to follower Carol B for suggesting I provide this info on Gadfly.

Are you registered to vote?

Gadfly thanks to follower Kate for the nudge and thanks to follower Al W for the info

This coming Monday, April 22, is the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania for the May 21 Primary Election. If you are not registered to vote in Pennsylvania, the PA Department of State offers an online application that only takes five minutes, and can be completed online. The application can be accessed using the web address: https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx

Other information on voting rules and info can be found at

votespa.com

The two county voter registration websites:

https://www.northamptoncounty.org/CTYADMN/ELECTNS/Pages/VoterRegInfo.aspx

https://www.lehighcounty.org/Departments/Voter-Registration

The League of Women Voters usually has helpful info too:
https://lwvlehighcounty.org/

http://www.lwvnorthco.org/

Northampton County

Election:

Contact Elections for questions related to your polling place, when or where an election will be held and other election related information.

​Ms. Amy Hess
Election Director
669 Washington St., Room 1211
Easton, PA 18042-4101
(610) 829-6260
election@northamptoncounty.org


Voter Registration
:

Contact Voter Registration to confirm if you are registered to vote, how to register and other questions related to voter registration.​

Ms. Amy Hess
Election Director
669 Washington St., Room 1211
Easton, PA 18042-4101
(610) 829-6260
election@northamptoncounty.org

County WebsiteNorthampton County Website

Lehigh County

Election:

Contact Elections for questions related to your polling place, when or where an election will be held and other election related information.​

Mr. Timothy Benyo
Chief Clerk, Board of Elections
Lehigh Co. Government Center
17 S. 7th St.
Allentown, PA 18101
(610) 782-3194


Voter Registration
:

Contact Voter Registration to confirm if you are registered to vote, how to register and other questions related to voter registration.​

Terri Harkins
Deputy Chief Clerk
Lehigh Co. Government Center
17 S. 7th St.
Allentown, PA 18101
(610) 782-3194

County WebsiteLehigh County Website

Martin Tower response: the friction that makes the machine run smooth (16)

(16th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19
www.martintowerbethlehem.com

Writing in haste in case the recordings and my rushed thoughts
can be of any use tonight.

Nobody has asked me who my Gadfly heroes are. I give a nod to Socrates in the very first words of the Gadfly “About” page. Obvious choice. He’s a given.

But Thoreau too — Henry David Thoreau. The guy who lived by himself in a cabin for a year or two and wrote the classic Walden; or Life in the Woods.

He was a fierce social critic. Read “Civil Disobedience.” Or “Slavery in Massachusetts.”

Quite a guy.

Thoreau talks of the necessary friction that makes the machine (of government) run smooth.

I like that idea. It’s a Gadflying idea.

The 11 people who spoke to the Planning Commission might be seen by some as friction-filled.

In fact, the ugly term CAVE people rattled around in my mind. Remember that unhappy episode from last year? The unfortunate notion from a source or two on Council that “Citizens against virtually everything” show up to sour City projects.

But I saw these people as the necessary friction that makes the machinery of government run smooth.

Or try to.

Gadfly was very proud of what he saw and heard on last Thursday and which he archives here below — hoping that you’ll listen.

In a comment to a previous post, follower Al Bernotas thanked Gadfly for relaying “public sentient.” I thought at first that was a misprint. But I liked the unusual phrase.

Then the sound of it led me to “public sapience.”

Kind of nerdy, I know — sorry — but what Gadfly sees here is “public sapience.”

They who have ears to hear, let them hear.

—————

Here are the full recordings of the presentations I clipped in my previous post Martin Tower: “Please, City of Bethlehem, make this a jewel” (15). The presentations are all short. If you are being selective, take a look at the clips in the previous post for speakers you might be especially interested in.

Brian Hillard

Diane Backus

Ed Deluva

Steve Melnick

Paige Van Wirt

Mike Topping

Stephen Antalics

Dana Grubb

Steve Glickman

Bruce Haines’s proxy

Charlene Donchez Mowers

Second thoughts about the City Council meeting tonight!

REMEMBER!

City Council tonight 7pm, Town Hall

A new follower asked Gadfly a simple question: “Should I attend the meeting tonight?”

It made me think of something I should have thought of before.

Gadfly plans to post the impressive public comment recordings from Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting on Martin Tower.

As well as some personal commentary.

But he is in a bit of a time-bind right now.

Though the Mayor and most of City Council might follow the blog, might have followed the last several posts on Martin Tower, and might have the opportunity to hear the recordings when I post them in the near future —

it would have more impact for them to hear such views as were presented last week in the immediacy of the Council meeting tonight.

As is, only one Councilperson attended the meeting and heard the excellent public response.

For maximum impact — for maximum pressure — the Mayor and all City Council must be confronted with those views and ideas — in person.

So Gadfly is suggesting that Thursday presenters present again tonight.

So Gadfly is suggesting that people not at the Planning Commission who were able to follow it through the recent Gadfly posts also come tonight and contribute their views.

Use the time at the beginning of the meeting for “comments on matters not being voted on tonight.”

If, for instance, a member of the EAC will be present tonight, he or she could synopsize their excellent letter to the Planning Commission.

Sorry for the late notice in suggesting this, but this would be a ripe time to be heard on matters Martin Tower.

Gad

Gadfly on the move

REMEMBER!

City Council tonight 7pm, Town Hall

Go to the City web site >>> Quick links (bottom left) >>> City Council Meeting Agendas and Documents >>> “View Live Stream City Council Meeting” at the top of the page. You can also go to YouTube at <City of Bethlehem Council> for live-stream and archiving. HD

Gadfly must miss City Council tonight. Conflict with the latest event in the FINDING H. D. year-long series on Hilda Doolittle (1886-1961), “the Lehigh Valley’s most important literary figure.” Posts from attendees, real and virtual, welcome.

Also, Gadfly may be somewhat absent during the latter part of the week. Death in the near-family. On the road.

Signed,

Gad

Neat buttons courtesy of Josh Berk, Matt, and BAPL

H. D. portrait at the library (15)

(15th in a series of posts on H.D.)

Finding H.D.: A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm
at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Speaking of the library, BAPL is trying to raise $3500 for a portrait of H.D. to hang there.

Only $515 raised so far.

Can you help?

https://www.bapl.org/hd/

001

Public expertise “basically ignored” by the majority vote of the PC (16)

(16th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19
www.martintowerbethlehem.com

Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

Gadfly:

Steve Melnick is the individual who commented about the hotel location. Steve has 40 years or so of economic development experience.

I think when you look at the quality of the speakers it behooves one to question the qualifications of some on the Planning Commission. The public speakers offered a broad background of expertise that was basically ignored by the majority vote of the PC.

That is why the quality of how development takes place in Bethlehem is regularly under fire by members of the community. They’re not anti development, they just want it to be right for the City of Bethlehem. There is no profit motive, just social, environmental and physical integration at stake for the public.

Dana

(sorry, Steve!)

Martin Tower: “Please, City of Bethlehem, make this a jewel” (15)

(15th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19
www.martintowerbethlehem.com

We come now to Gadfly’s favorite part of the Martin Tower marathon postings.

Public comment.

Followers might remember that one motivation for the Gadfly project is to more widely distribute and archive public commentary.

When he began attending City meetings in January 2018, one of the first things that struck him was the high quality of public comments.

And how much of a shame it was that such good commentary simply disappeared into the Town Hall ceiling.

Gadfly loves to hear “the people” talk, and he hopes that the Gadfly blog will even encourage more such commentary.

The hour and more of public commentary at the Planning Commission last week more than met Gadfly’s high expectations.

And the nature of the commentary was different than it was four years ago in 2015 (as examined a few posts back) – even the Planning Commission chair made a big point of that. Only one comment referenced the dreaded creation of a “3rd downtown” that was so much on people’s minds – especially the merchants – at that time.

Not at all surprising, the public commentary this time criticized details of the Master Plan: the size-location-nature of the park, the shamelessly low percentage of open space, the lack of diverse housing, subdividing the property, lack of solar, light pollution, potential gridlock, location of the hotel, parking, the destination of our tax dollars, the mysterious owner, and so forth.

But surprising, pleasantly surprising, was the concerted attack on the quality of the Master Plan. Our commentators to a person wanted the absolute best design and didn’t find it here.

The Master Plan was dull, unimaginative, routine, lacking creativity – the work of an engineer not a planner, much less an artist.

Speakers found the plan underwhelming, something only someone with a Franklinian penchant for right angles could love.

The plan was rather vanilla, with a Levittown look, and better could be found in introductory College design courses.

The Martin Tower site is a gem, a jewel, an icon – it is unique – nothing these people saw in the design rose to the transcendent level it deserves – and which the City must have.

Why not a public market? Why not a big park? Why not a central park/fountain with the iconic I-beam?

Where is the root in the Bethlehem Comprehensive Plan? Have they not heard of the Bethlehem Climate Action Plan? No evidence of either.

So the developer’s Master Plan meets the technical requirements – ok, but ho-hum — can’t we expect more than that!

What here is to be really proud of?

People were asking for more than just technical competence and increased tax dollars.

They yearned for a design that matched their exalted sense of their hometown.

They wanted excitement. They wanted to be enthused — “turned on”!

They wanted something to love.

There was not enough “spark.”

Simply good enough is not good enough.

Strong stuff!

Our people were demanding imagination, creativity, specialness, excellence. They worried that the City would just “settle” with what was presented.

This could be an icon to the future.

There’s more than a hint of desperation in this haunting plea:

“Please, City of Bethlehem, make this a jewel, not another missed opportunity.”

——————

074Looking at that pocket park, it’s like in the pocket, it’s like something you might forget . . . having something centralized, having something with more of a focus on it would be a better served opportunity for this site. (Brian Hillard)

Disappointed that there is no opportunity for owner-occupied housing.  (Dana Grubb)

We are concerned about the effect of so many people in such close proximity to the Burnside Plantation. (Charlene Donchez Mowers)

I’m certainly underwhelmed currently by what’s proposed here. (Diane Backus)

Don’t rush to say let’s just get this thing over with. (Edward Deluva)

CRIZ is 53 acres, now imploding the 5-acre asset the CRIZ was designed to preserve. 48 076acres should be returned to the state. (Bruce Haines proxy)

I’ve seen plans like this submitted by Lehigh students in my office when they were just starting out in some kind of urban design program at Lehigh, their plans were better than this. (Mike Topping)

Missing individuality and some of the precepts of modern planning. (Steve Melnick)

You never mentioned the Bethlehem Comprehensive Plan. (Steven Glickman)

The plan is a design only Ben Franklin would love . . . straight lines are not friendly. (Diane Backus)

077Mr. Herrick is a multi-billionaire, owning over 5 billion dollars of real estate, thoroughbred horses, he owns companies doing movies and Broadway shows, he owns athletic groups and a massive art collection. Now with a background like that . . . crying poverty in terms of getting rid of asbestos. (Stephen Antalics)

I would encourage us to seek out development of that property in a remarkable way to really make something the City will be proud of just as what Bethlehem Steel had done for this City and this Valley and the world.  (Edward Deluva)

Who’s going to enjoy the space [of the park] – facing the thruway? (Diane Backus)

What we’ve heard so far is this plan meets the ordinance, this plan is good enough, but good enough is not good enough for this piece of land, and good enough is not good 079enough for Bethlehem. (Paige Van Wirt)

The idea of subdividing this land is a mistake. (Mike Topping)

Why is there no low-income housing? (Diane Backus)

On social media the gas station has been panned big time. (Dana Grubb)

Mixed use does not mean housing over here, and office over there. That is not how cities grow. That is how developers generally think.  (Steven Glickman)

083The lack of a major corporate tenant is a huge disappointment. (Bruce Haines proxy)

The man said it meets requirements – is that the best we get? (Diane Backus)

I think it’s incumbent upon the City to follow these policies [e.g., the Climate Action Plan]. (Edward Deluva)

This site was an icon to our city and our region, and we would be well served to continue with that thought. This could be an icon to the future as we remove the icon from the past. (Brian Hillard)

A park there only to meet the requirements of the ordinance not to become useful not necessarily to become useful to the people who are living there. (Steve Melnick) 091

This was drawn by an engineer who had a straight edge and a scale, and that’s about it. (Mike Topping)

The open space percentage is a shame, an absolute shame. (Diane Backus)

Where is the park? I don’t see the park. (Anon.)

This is a rather vanilla development plan. (Charlene Donchez Mowers)

Why the deception? Why the misrepresentation? . . . So in essence Mr. Herrick owns 62.5% of Martin Towers. Has anyone here ever heard or seen of Mr. Herrick? So where will the profits be going? . . . That site is in a CRIZ zone that will get developmental help by tax dollars, tax dollars generated by citizens of Bethlehem and the state of 094Pennsylvania. (Stephen Antalics)

Why is the hotel not on the street where there is the most traffic and visibility? (Steve Melnick)

I think it would speak very well for these developers if they understood how valuable that remaining land is for the City and to give it back to the City to determine where is the best place for it to be used not by a private entity. I’m speaking to you guys, and I’m hoping you will take that into consideration as a good faith gesture to the City. (Paige Van Wirt)

A pocket park – why not a big park? (Diane Backus)

There’s something here that is truly unique . . . and to just settle for something good is 097not good enough. (Edward Deluva)

Disappointed that we’re not providing housing for all social and economic strata . . . almost every development that comes in nowadays is upscale rental, and gentrification is a real issue. (Dana Grubb)

Why not a public market like Easton has? (Diane Backus)

Competitive disadvantage over the existing hotels and draws customers away from downtown shops and restaurants. (Bruce Haines proxy)

Sort of the look of Levittown coming to Bethlehem, and that is not what Bethlehem planning has been about. (Mike Topping)

098Hire a planner not an engineer and develop your plan using the goals and guidelines outlined in the Comprehensive Plan. (Steven Glickman)

Where are the solar roofs?  Where are the grass roofs? (Diane Backus)

If this is only using 5 acres of the CRIZ, my overriding question is what is going to happen to that very valuable remaining CRIZ land?  (Paige Van Wirt)

This is truly a gem project. . . . It’s incumbent upon the City to take a really hard look at this.  (Edward Deluva)

Light pollution is [will be] real [for people in the townhouses]. (Steve Melnick)

Is it fair for a multi-billionaire to take Pennsylvania tax dollars with no interest and 099redeveloping down in Florida? (Stephen Antalics)

Going to be a fair amount of gridlock. (Steve Melnick)

Please, City of Bethlehem, make this a jewel, not another missed opportunity. (Diane Backus)

 

Martin Tower Master Plan

Eaton Ave. north

1 – medical
2 – medical
3 – retail
4 – gas/convenience
8 – Offices
7 – Hotel (132 rooms)
6 – Restaurant
5 – Retail
9 –528 apartments, 3 stories

1-2 bedroom

pocket park at bottom

 

Rt. 378 south

 

Ron’s henro [pilgrimage], day 40: Kiyo sukete [take care], Ron

(5th in a series of posts on Ron Yoshida’s pilgrimage)

https://88-photos.com/

Yoshida 5

“Kiyo sukete,” Ron, “Kiyo sukete”

Customs we’d like to make customary:

Yoshida 9

 

As breakfast ended with a last taste of another homemade umeboshi, our host placed our bill on the table with a small plate containing two go (five) yen coins, one for each of us. Ayoyama-san explained that the coins were symbolic of wishing that the guest would return one day.

 

 

 

Heat waves far off look real, but close up are nothing.
Heat waves look like running horses or a stream, but are nothing.
Fantasies arise from wrong thinking.
Beautiful men and women fill a fortress;
But it is wrong to think that men and women have essential being.
Sages and wise men are only assumed to be so.
The all-voidness of the five functions of body and mind is the real truth.

Kukai (Kobo Daishi)

Buddha: “I am the awakened one.”

  https://88-photos.com/

 

Council Candidates – 4-year seat – Prompt 3 (24)

(24th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Election Day is May 21.

Order in which contributions were received this time.

Vote for three.

All of the candidates deserve our thanks!

Please expand on one of the points that you listed in response to question #2.

J. William Reynolds (incumbent) Reynolds 3

NorthSide 2027 is an initiative that encompasses the work that we need to continue to pursue in Bethlehem. Bringing together the Bethlehem Area School District, Moravian College, citizens, small businesses, and City Hall, we are trying to invest in and revitalize our neighborhoods with a comprehensive approach to community development. In the past year, we have brought together neighborhood stakeholders, hired a consultant, held public meetings, and gathered ideas relating to the strengths and weaknesses of our north side neighborhoods. As the initial plan nears completion, the implementation of the neighborhood strategies will be one of my priorities if elected to another term.

Different priorities for different neighbors have emerged during the planning process for NS2027. While that can be a challenge, it also holds the potential for the initiative to bring together neighbors for a shared, unique purpose. Projects such as the Bethlehem Food Co-op give us the opportunity to make structural investments that can positively impact the future of our city’s families.

Improving our community’s connections with our neighborhood elementary schools,
making our neighborhoods more walkable, and improving opportunities for our families are all priorities that will be important tenets of the NS2027 plan moving forward. As important as the priorities of the “plan” are, however, I am hoping that the legacy of the plan will be the permanent structure of interested community stakeholders that has been created, engaged, and empowered.

Bethlehem families’ lives are often intertwined between our school district, city government, the physical space of their neighborhoods, and the businesses/services that are within walking distance of their home. As a city, we owe it to our neighborhoods to look through that interconnected lens if we are going to maintain and improve the quality of life that has always made Bethlehem special.

David Saltzer  David Saltzer

I am happy to follow up on my statement in last week’s edition that, as a city council member, my first and foremost goal is to make Bethlehem a safe city for our residents, visitors, and employees. As a retired City of Bethlehem Firefighter who had to retire early due to an on-the-job injury, I believe strongly in upholding the motto of public safety workers — Everyone goes home.

I’ve worked in a multitude of emergency services facets, starting at age 16 as a volunteer firefighter and EMT, and later becoming a 911 dispatcher and, in 1999, an acting supervisor. Through these experiences, I gained a first-hand understanding of what goes into the everyday aspect of each job. I also have a firm understanding and knowledge related to negotiating with the city administration and council on topics such as safe staffing levels for fire, police and EMS, and making sure that first responders have working equipment to do their jobs. I understand the budgeting of these items and the cost factor that accompanies them; however, what is the cost of a life? For first responders and their families, this is a common worry. For those not close to the job, sometimes strains related to emergency services staffing levels and equipment shortages seem not as dire. With ongoing cuts to the fire department’s staffing levels, our aging and outdated equipment, and fleets of vehicles that may or may not work, the job becomes more difficult and it makes it much more complicated to keep fellow firefighters, residents, and visitors safe.

A further complication to the above is the inability to retain fully-trained public safety workers in the city when they can take their experience to another municipality or township and make better wages, while working in an environment with more secure staffing levels and better equipment. For example, our city paramedics are top-notch but must work at multiple places just to make ends meet. These men and women clock in and may not see the station again until they go home and are highly under-appreciated. These are things that need to change. I also feel, as a 911 dispatcher and acting supervisor since 1999, I would be a key person to aid in the facilitation of the ongoing transition of our 911 system going to Northampton County. I have input and ideas to help with a much smoother transition than how it is occurring currently.

My last part of the plan that I would like to see is a joint public safety training facility for fire, police, and EMS—a place to train that isn’t in a parking lot somewhere. This isn’t a new idea and has been talked about at length before, but it has never materialized. I’d also like to look at other opportunities for employee recruitment and retention, such as the apprenticeship program that Allentown Fire Department uses. Together, these elements I outlined: safe staffing, working and upgraded equipment, a better- functioning 911 center, and proper training will help keep this city one of the safest in the country for its residents, visitors, and employees.

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent)  Van Wirt 2

Gadfly, in answering your questions, I have been thinking a lot about Jane Jacobs. Jacobs, an urbanist, changed the way city planning was understood in America. In her book Death and Life of Great American Cities, written in 1961, Ms. Jacobs challenged the status quo of large, shiny projects, arguing for eyes on the street and human scale. “At a time when both common and inspired wisdom called for bulldozing slums and opening up city space, Ms. Jacobs’s prescription was ever more diversity, density and dynamism – in effect, to crowd people and activities together in a jumping, joyous urban jumble.” NYT, 2006.

Bethlehem is in the same type of moment as New York City in Jacobs’ day — do we continue with auto-centric thinking for our two downtowns? How do we create a city where people want to walk — for recreation, for exercise, for work? A city in which people want to walk creates a human scale and that elusive but magical word — community. Walkability doesn’t mean shaming people into not driving — just the opposite. It means understanding the “jumping joyous urban jumble” and how to foster development that honors the humans in the downtown, rather than a Corbu-inspired “tower in the park” idealism. We see it playing out every day as our beautiful city is appreciated by investors — how do we capture this energy and steer it to create a city where we all want to be? It means having a plan and expecting others who want to invest here to honor a city’s vision for itself.

One of Jacobs’ epic battles was with Robert Moses, the powerful chairman of the NYC Parks Commission. Moses favored highways over public transit. He saw his efforts in placing the Cross Bronx expressway in the middle of a vivid working-class neighborhood as “slum clearing.” She successfully fought his efforts to do the same to her beloved Greenwich village, by defeating the Lower Manhattan Expressway ripping through the heart of the village. Bethlehem is at a pivot point where we can continue to look at our city through old paradigms of “any development is good development,” or we can take Jacobs’ philosophy to heart locally and understand that when change comes to our beautiful city, it should be shaped and guided by principles that value the human, the public, the citizens of Bethlehem.

Michael Colon (incumbent)  Colon 2

Last time I mentioned I want City Hall to continue to have the resources to meet the needs of our community. Since I’ve been on Council we’ve consolidated departments (Recreation and Public Works), eliminated departments (911 moving out of the city), and cut a few positions (various departments). The primary function of local government is to deliver core services: police, fire, EMS, public works (streets), water, sewer, and community and economic development. City Hall is currently seeing its lowest staffing levels anyone can remember. This makes the delivery of services all the more challenging.

These moves and decisions are usually made during the budget process, which makes Council’s role in adopting a budget so important. However taxes are also raised during the budget process. All policies, agendas, programs, etc. have a cost associated with them. Bethlehem has been fortunate to maintain the delivery of services while only adopting modest tax increases the last few years.

At the end of the day that’s what I hear most from citizens, “Don’t raise my taxes.” What is implicit is the understanding that citizens still want a police officer nearby when they need one, their street maintained, a firefighter on standby in case of an emergency, and someone at City Hall to help them when they call or walk-in.

The budget process is tedious, it is complex, and it always has to be balanced. What I will continue to do is look at it comprehensively each budget season to balance the needs of our city and neighborhoods with the resources we have at our disposable.

Carol Ritter Ritter

Carol has an excused absence from d’professor.

 

 

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Council Candidates – 2-year seat – Prompt 3 (23)

(23rd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Election Day is May 21.

Order in which contributions were received this time.

Vote for one.

All of the candidates deserve our thanks!

Please expand on one of the points that you listed in response to question #2.

Ashley Daubert  Ashley Daubert

In prompt two, I explained (briefly) that one of my initiatives as a BCC candidate was “community wellness.” Specifically, destigmatizing mental illness and eliminating the division that exists between mental and physical health – and, instead, integrating them into the umbrella term “wellness.” As an ANCC psychiatric-mental health RN, I have seen people at their lowest. Mental health does not have a face, or a socioeconomic class, or an age, or a gender, etc. It does not discriminate. The purpose of this initiative is to examine the “wellness” of our community – to address the opioid epidemic; to examine the affordability of housing related to respective income potential, rates of homelessness, crime rates and public safety; to talk about why the suicide rate in the Lehigh Valley is at an all-time high; to be aware of the issues our children and our aging population are facing; and to come together as a community to address these issues. My plan is to increase education and awareness – to get out in the community and talk to community leaders and school officials, those who are currently suffering from/with one or more of the aforementioned challenges, local law enforcement, and organizations that work to combat these issues. We need to talk about these things – and not just hear one another, but actively listen, and work together to come up with viable solutions to address human suffering within our City. I see it every day. Creating partnerships and increasing education and awareness are the first steps in the development of a plan of action. A plan that has the ability to change the quality-of-life for those that need it most. In terms of value, you can’t “quantify” waking up every morning with purpose and being thankful to be alive. Imagine being able to change the course of someone’s life – to know that your efforts have made your community a better place to live, work, and raise a family, for all.

I have the power to do that.

You have the power to do that.

We have the power to do that.

Will Carpenter Will Carpenter

Why have a plan?

I have witnessed many cities progress through a reactionary process. If someone wants to put something new here, then let’s be grateful  and find a way to make it work.  The results are not always bad. Most development comes about because a need is identified and filling that need can benefit the investor and the community.  The problem with this type of reactionary planning approach is that each new piece takes away a little from what exists rather than building together on a unified vision.

As a member of the Bethlehem City Council, I will become fully knowledgeable of our current comprehensive plan to understand the stake holders and its history.  I will work to understand what the vision of growth was, what parts of our natural resources it seeks to enhance, what deficiencies in our commercial, housing, or transportation policies it seeks to address. What coming trends and future needs it looks to adapt to and prepare for. This will be the context through which I would consider zoning issues, traffic flow, use of public funds, and other issues.

Cities with good leadership and a solid vision become the most attractive place to live and invest in. Taking a thorough look at what we have, what we want, and what we need to protect will help to refine a vision and a plan.  For residents, investors, and developers this plan gives a structure, a level of certainty, and that tends to attract more investment and development, which bring good jobs and a vibrant economy. No plan can ever anticipate all the future needs or possibilities. Changes must be made thoughtfully, with public input and open discussion, and we must trust our planning staff to protect the long-term thinking and not allow short-term political needs to take us off course.

Grace Crampsie Smith grace crampsie smith

While all of my priorities are vital, I would like to expand on priority #1, assuring the health, safety, and well being of all. As a school counselor, within the past 2 years, I have seen an astoundingly significant increase in the number of students and families facing homelessness. This is a direct result of the lack of affordable housing throughout our country and within our communities such as Bethlehem. The disparity between housing costs and income has grown considerably and has received national and local media attention.

Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered
cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing,
transportation, and medical care. An estimated 12 million renters and homeowner
households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing. A
family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local
fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.

While development of residential properties is essential, let’s examine the
disproportion between the development of high-end luxury apartments and condos
versus affordable residential units. We are all interdependent upon one another and thus must assure that our neighbors have the basic needs of life met, first and
foremost, affordable and suitable housing.

As I have noted previously, Council members must be mindful that our community
is made up of people from all walks of life who have varied incomes, educations, and
skills, and we all want the same thing – to provide for our families and have a good
quality of life.

Recent initiatives such as the partnership between the Community Action
Development Corp. of Bethlehem and the City of Bethlehem to rehab homes on the
South Side is promising and needs to be expanded upon.

To further address this issue, I would propose developing a task force of public and
private entities. I have been fortunate to witness the success of my dear friend and
mentor Mary Scullion, Founder of Project Home in Philadelphia. Mary has
developed a successful plan to address homelessness that has received international
recognition. She accomplished a significant decrease in homelessness via the
collaborative efforts of public officials and private entrepreneurs.

After all, assuring our community members have affordable and suitable housing
promotes stronger, safer neighborhoods, which benefits the community at large.

 

 

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Martin Tower: The City’s review response (15)

Ok, so you have taken the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey, but have you forced others?

(15th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19
www.martintowerbethlehem.com

Martin Tower Master Plan

Eaton Ave. north

1 – medical

2 – medical

3 – retail

4 – gas/convenience

 

8 – Offices

7 – Hotel (132 rooms)

6 – Restaurant

5 – Retail

 

9 –

528 apartments, 3 stories

1-2 bedroom

pocket park at bottom

 

Rt. 378 south

Gadfly is taking the April 11 Planning Commission meeting on the Martin Tower Master Plan one step at a time.

After Mr. Wagner presented the Master Plan for the developer, the City hit the high points of its detailed April 5 review of the plan, the “Martin Tower Complex Master Plan Review. “

Now’s the time we should spend some time reviewing the review.

Audio of this section of the meeting is here:

The highlights the City highlighted (Gadfly needs a rest!) “in a big picture kind of way” include:

  • minimizing parking
  • minimizing impervious coverage
  • allowing shared parking
  • increasing green space
  • moving buildings up to the street
  • mixed-use
  • residential uses on upper floors
  • greater variety of housing types
  • mixed use = more sustainable
  • active or passive outdoor recreational use
  • flat areas are developed for parking, beyond parking ground slopes off
  • pond and park on sloped area and wooded area, not good
  • trees removed must be replaced
  • need to retain as many trees as possible
  • thus more recreational space on interior of the lot
  • phasing of development
  • public roads? public utilities?
  • trail system is beautiful asset, has some funding, looking for other funding
  • connector to network of trails, very important
  • Burnside
  • sightlines
  • pedestrian and bicycle safety
  • connectivity to exterior sites as well as interior
  • need tree inventory
  • traffic numbers compared to Martin Tower unsure
  • but traffic patterns now will be much different for sure
  • variety of parking
  • matching street lighting

The City concluded highlighting (yuck) as important points: variety of uses (?), variety of housing types, cutting back on impervious uses.

Subsequent short discussion with Commissioners focused on parking, with the developer indicating that shared parking is not desired by tenants and thus is not acceptable, realistic, practical.

This is the first time Gadfly has had any concrete sense of the preliminary interaction between the City and a developer.

Interesting.

My sense is that the City is on to several concerns voiced by Gadfly followers.

Agree?

Want to add anything else before we actually look at what people like “us” said during public comment?

Ok, so you have taken the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey, but have you forced others?

H. D.: “beauty without strength, chokes out life” (14)

(14th in a series of posts on H.D.)

Finding H.D.: A Community Exploration of the Life and Work of Hilda Doolittle

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Sheltered Garden

I have had enough.
I gasp for breath.

Every way ends, every road,
every foot-path leads at last
to the hill-crest—
then you retrace your steps,
or find the same slope on the other side,
precipitate.

 I have had enough—
border-pinks, clove-pinks, wax-lilies,
herbs, sweet-cress.

O for some sharp swish of a branch—
there is no scent of resin
in this place,
no taste of bark, of coarse weeds,
aromatic, astringent—
only border on border of scented pinks.

 Have you seen fruit under cover
that wanted light—
pears wadded in cloth,
protected from the frost,
melons, almost ripe,
smothered in straw?

 Why not let the pears cling
to the empty branch?
All your coaxing will only make
a bitter fruit—
let them cling, ripen of themselves,
test their own worth,
nipped, shrivelled by the frost,
to fall at last but fair
with a russet coat.

Or the melon—
let it bleach yellow
in the winter light,
even tart to the taste—
it is better to taste of frost—
the exquisite frost—
than of wadding and of dead grass.

For this beauty,
beauty without strength,
chokes out life.
I want wind to break,
scatter these pink-stalks,
snap off their spiced heads,
fling them about with dead leaves—
spread the paths with twigs,
limbs broken off,
trail great pine branches,
hurled from some far wood
right across the melon-patch,
break pear and quince—
leave half-trees, torn, twisted
but showing the fight was valiant.

O to blot out this garden
to forget, to find a new beauty
in some terrible
wind-tortured place.

A revolt against the traditional image of femininity.” Sirma Soran Gumpert

“H. D.’s polemic against the wadding that, in the name of protecting (particularly) women from life, chokes life out of them.” Adalaide Kirby Morris

“The need for fearlessness. . . . a courage that fears stagnation and suffocation more than failure itself.”  Maria Stadter Fox

“The poem promotes a renewal of the concept of beauty; beauty ‘without
strength’, she writes, ‘chokes out life’.” Elizabeth O’Connor

The next event in this year-long series is a panel discussion on “H.D. and the Natural World,” Tuesday, April 16, 6:30-8:00pm at the Bethlehem Area Public Library.

Be there!

Martin Tower: the developer’s presentation (14)

Ok, so you have taken the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey, but have you forced others?

(14th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19
www.martintowerbethlehem.com

Martin Tower Master Plan

Eaton Ave. north

1 – medical

2 – medical

3 – retail

4 – gas/convenience

 

8 – Offices

7 – Hotel (132 rooms)

6 – Restaurant

5 – Retail

 

 

9 –

528 apartments, 3 stories

1-2 bedroom

pocket park at bottom

 

 

Rt. 378 south

Gadfly’s going to work through the Martin Tower meeting at the Planning Commission April 11 in several posts

Beginning at the beginning.

Duane Wagner presented the developer Master Plan, taking about 1/2hr. We have the full audio of his presentation below.

Gadfly thought his presentation was clear and thorough.

But Gadfly particularly noted how in his prefatory remarks Wagner was careful to frame the presentation of the Master Plan squarely in the 2015 debates.

Listen to the deference to concerns about a “3rd downtown” and specific injunctions from 2015 City Council in this pertinent interchange between Wagner and PC Commissioner Malozi:

Mr. Malozi: “What was driving how you came up with those mixes, what’s shown on the plan, the different uses there?”

Mr. Wagner: “The biggest thing that drove us was the direction from the zoning ordinance, the City Council, what we heard from them. It was important to create some residences that support the downtown and create a base, find office type uses that create employees, and also to provide some retail on site to support both the employees and the residents. . . . We tried to be cognizant of all the comments and all the direction we got. . . . not to put too much there to drain the downtown or put forth fuel to the concern that that could happen. . . . We feel it’s a good mix that accomplishes what the ordinance wanted as well as what we heard from City Council.”

Wagner clearly lists and discusses the take-aways from the 2015 debates that were considered in the formulation of the Master Plan:

004

And he also clearly addresses where the Master Plan stands in relation to the operative zoning ordinance:

015

In short, Gadfly felt that Wagner was “politic” in the way he approached his presentation. Gadfly felt a direct connection between his review of 2-3 dozen documents from the hot mess in 2015 in Wagner’s opening words.

The developers were roundly criticized in 2015 for their silence. Wagner here tries to show that they were “listening.”

So let’s get into the details of Wagner’s presentation, though, except for this example of what the apartments might look like, my pictures of his additional slides of the site are not useful.

019

Ok, now here’s the full audio of Wagner’s presentation with some pertinent time marks.

14:10: parking
19:30: access
21:41: walkability
23:10: sidewalks
24:28: the pocket park
25:23: sightlines
27:10: employment
28:06: tax revenue

Lots to chew on here. Comments welcome. But Gadfly will continue on especially to public commentary.

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Martin Tower: “Ok, now we have something to talk about” (13)

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 (13th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19
www.martintowerbethlehem.com

As one of the participants at the Planning Commission meeting said today, “Ok, now we have something to talk about.”

The developers presented their “Master Plan.”

Gadfly may want to spend 3-4 posts on this PC meeting, but first let’s just report the news.

Here’s the Master plan from Herrick and Ronca or HRP Management – Gadfly is not sure by what name to call the developers.

Orient yourself to the geography of the image:

  • that’s Schoenersville/Eaton Ave. running across the top of the property
  • that’s 8th Avenue running down the left side
  • across the bottom you can see the exit from Rt. 378 curling into 8th
  • Eaton Ave. is on the north side (top), 8th on the west (left), Rt, 378 on the south (bottom)

Martin Tower Master Plan

Now let’s look inside the site at what the developers propose:

Eaton Ave. north

1 – medical

 

2- medical

 

3- retail

 

4- gas/convenience

 

8 – Offices

 

7 – Hotel (132 rooms)

 

6 – Restaurant

 

5- Retail

 

 

9 –

528 apartments, 3 stories

1-2 bedroom

pocket park at bottom

 

 

Rt. 378 south

The Master Plan was submitted March 12. The City responded with a 4-page detailed letter titled the “Martin Tower Complex Master Plan Review” dated April 5.

Duane Wagner, representing the developer walked through the Master Plan in about a 1/2hr presentation. The PC members engaged in discussion, followed by comments from a dozen members of the attending public, before the PC engaged in discussion again and proceeded to a vote.

The PC chair framed the vote in terms of 4 options: 1) approve the Master Plan as is, 2) totally disapprove it, 3) approve it with suggestions and recommendations in the April 5 City letter, 4) ask for a total re-submission.

The choice narrowed to either #3 or #4.

The PC chair moved “to approve the Martin Tower Master Plan with the points highlighted in the April 5, 2019, letter [from the City], particularly under the ‘General’ comments #1, #5, #10, and in ‘Forestry,’ #2.” The motion passed 3-2.

This Master Plan was described as a “sketch plan,” and the PC chair said, “all will eventually come back” to the Planning Commission.

So, we should look in detail at the April 5 City letter titled the “Martin Tower Complex Master Plan Review.”

Here are the 4 parts of that letter especially cited in the motion for developer attention:

General

  1. Impervious coverage shall be minimized wherever possible. For example, opportunities for shared parking are encouraged in the Zoning Ordinance and should be explored. Opportunities for increased greening of the site should be maximized.
  2. Each of the uses provides a significantly greater number of parking spaces than what are required by the Zoning Ordinance. Parking should be minimized provide a reduction of impervious coverage, allow for greater opportunity for greenspace and landscaping and to provide for greater opportunity for additional uses.
  3. The plan shows the detention pond as a stormwater facility on a sloped and heavily wooded area of the site. We recommend that the site include infiltration and other alternative measures for stormwater management other than a detention pond if at all possible. If a pond is necessary, it should not be located on sloped or wooded areas; it could be incorporated as an amenity at the interior of the site and could possibly be a focal point for passive recreation.

Forestry

  1. Driving lanes, buildings, trees, and parking areas are all in repetitive, monotonous straight lines. Provide some relief from this dull predictability by creating more interest and variety with angled building/parking areas, curved or meandering driving lanes and accesses, and more natural and uncontrived landscaped areas.

Ok, “now we have something to talk about.” Gadfly wants to come back and spend 3-4 posts more on this topic. But the floor is open for your comments.

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Martin Tower: just how “hot” was it in 2015? (12)

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(12th in a series on Martin Tower)

Initial sketch plans for Martin Tower site at Planning Commission
4PM today Thursday April 11 Town Hall

Martin Tower demolition May 19

How hot was it? Pretty damn hot. This ought to give you an idea. Think another heat wave is coming?

Martin Tower ad

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Martin Tower plans at Planning Commission today: the background (11)

Just take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey, wouldya?

(11th in a series on Martin Tower)

Initial sketch plans for Martin Tower site at Planning Commission
4PM today Thursday April 11 Town Hall

Martin Tower demolition May 19

Gadfly was in another life in 2015. But the Martin Tower issue was all over the news in the last half of that year.

Martin Tower had lain long without action, languishing on the tax rolls, a prime location not utilized. The City proposed rezoning to “jump-start” development.

Meetings were several. Meetings were long. Meetings were jam-packed. Meetings were “hot.”

Meetings were described as “boisterous” and raucous.”

Martin Tower was a major public issue.

The major concerns with the City proposal included whether to demolish the Tower or not, the effect of commercial development on our current two downtowns, the large percent of the CRIZ granted to the project, possible traffic problems, the burden on the school district from heavy residential growth, lack of transparency by the developers, back-room dealing by the Administration, campaign contributions to Council members.

City Council ultimately approved the rezoning, permitting but not mandating demolition of the Tower with limitation on retail space aimed at the concern for creating a competing third business area.

Where are we now?

  • Martin Tower is coming down May 19
  • Developer plans for the entire site are being presented today – for the first time – to the Planning Commission
  • This is an initial review of plans; no vote

What should “we” be looking out for?

  • Since the developers have been basically silent all the way, we should be curious about all aspects of their plan.
  • the retail space: since the fear of creating a third downtown was the strongest objection. Did the “compromise” limitation on retail space work? Will the business community accept it?

Now there are other elements of this process that Gadfly might take up (comparison with other CRIZ cities, campaign contributions, back-rooming), but right now he is very anxious to see the plans and hear stakeholder responses.

——-

Timeline: information mainly from Morning Call files.

2001: Bethlehem Steel declares Bankruptcy.

2007: Developers Herrick and Ronca (HR) receive approval for a mostly residential community in Martin Tower (MT), a project shelved when the housing economy collapses in 2008. The property is in an office and research district created for Bethlehem Steel with a neighborhood overlay, requested by the developers, allowing homes and some commercial space as long as MT is retained.

2010: MT receives Historic Landmark designation (at developer’s request) to be eligible for tax credits.

2013: Bethlehem receives a City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ) designation of 130 acres, which allows developers to use certain state and local taxes to pay off construction loans. The MT site occupies 53 of the 103 acres.

2013: The City removes MT from a list of historic landmarks protected from demolition.

July 10, 2015: Planning Commission (PC): To spur languishing development, the City proposes to rezone the MT site from research use/office use/residential development to a mix of uses: residential/office/commercial. The proposed new ordinance does not require that MT be retained and thus would allow MT to be demolished.

Concerns include:

  • demolition of the iconic MT
  • creation of a third, competing downtown subsidized by taxpayers
  • allocation of such a high percentage of the CRIZ to the MT project instead of to the downtowns

The PC tables the proposal, recommending revision to ensure that the entire site cannot be retail.

August 13, 2015: Planning Commission: The PC approves 3-2 a proposal to rezone the MT site as mixed-use but limiting the amount of retail space and with no requirement to keep MT (but not mandating demolition).

City Council in 2015 was Bryan Callahan, Eric Evans, Michael Recchiuetti, Cathy Reuscher, J. William Reynolds, Louis Stellato, Adam Waldron.

October 6, 2015: Public hearing: 4-hr, standing-room only crowd, marked by petition against the re-zoning proposal by 50 downtown businesses (no 3rd downtown) and request that some City Council members recuse themselves because of campaign contributions from developers. Lack of direct testimony from developers (no plan) is also raised.

October 20, 2015: City Council (CC): “Over intense opposition from downtown merchants,” CC approved the zoning change 6-1 at first reading with agreement to “massage the language” concerning the amount of retail space after it becomes law. Dominant concern by critics of the proposal is “fear that it would create a third downtown.” A lower cap on retail would meet that concern. There were again calls for recusals. Once again, the developers are silent about their plans, a point of some criticism. “Why would Council approve rezoning without knowing the developer’s plan for the site? Why did it vote for rezoning while simultaneously agreeing it should be amended?” (Barbara Diamond). Strong calls to limit retail space now not later.

November 4, 2015: City Council: In “an overture to disgruntled downtown merchants,” CC, voting 5-1, limits retails space to 380,000 square feet, necessitating sending the proposal back to the PC for consideration. The issue of campaign contributions leading to recusals was raised again in public commentary.

December 7, 2015: Planning Commission: The PC meeting is canceled on discovery of hitherto unknown City Administration contacts with the developer going back to the beginning of the year – contacts revealed by blogger Bernie O’Hare. The PC chair says discussion should have been done in “the light of day.”

December 8, 2015: Public hearing: The Administration is accused of “working behind closed doors” with the developers. “Corruption,” “ethics,” “integrity” are topics of commentary. Mayor charged with ignoring “near-unanimous train of residents.” The Mayor later presents a detailed defense of his proposal and the process behind it.

December 15, 2015: City Council: “Capping off a six-month raucous debate,” CC votes 6-1 to approve the rezoning with the 380,000 cap on retail. Same objections heard again. The Mayor defends self and Council defends him.

City Council in 2015 was Bryan Callahan, Eric Evans, Michael Recchiuetti, Cathy Reuscher, J. William Reynolds, Louis Stellato, Adam Waldron.

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Improve Northside neighborhood: make Linden and Center Streets two-way again

Just take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey, wouldya?

(the latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027 and Neighborhoods)

“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil.
The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.”
(Kurt Vonnegut)

Bill Scheirer is an economist who grew up in Bethlehem, spent 40 years in DC, and retired here in 2003. He is a life member of the Committee of 100 on the Federal City and was on the Mayor’s Task Force for the City of Bethlehem Comprehensive Plan, Zoning Ordinance, and Zoning Map.

Northside 2027 meeting Wednesday April 11, 5:30, William Penn School

Gadfly:

On Thursday, October 11, the City of Bethlehem, with their consultants, held a planning meeting in Liberty High School to gather ideas for a vision entitled North Side 2027, defined as the area bounded by Elizabeth Avenue, and Main, Broad, and Maple Streets. One of the announced goals was to create a greater sense of neighborhood identity and unity.

Possibly the most important thing the city can do to improve neighborhood identity and unity is make Linden and Center Streets two-way again. For example, Center Street is one-way northbound from Church Street to Elizabeth Avenue, with two lanes of traffic, plus one lane of parking on each side. At Elizabeth Avenue the left traffic lane must turn left into Elizabeth Avenue, leaving only one lane to continue northbound. There always seems to be one or two or three cars that do not want to get in line to go northbound, so they get in the left lane and drive faster, looking for a spot to cut into the line of cars waiting their turn to go northbound. Some of the cars in the proper lane also increase their speed, to avoid being cut off. This creates almost a wall of traffic splitting the neighborhood in half. When one wishes to cross Center Street on foot, or even in a car, it is necessary to look carefully to the south to make sure that the next pack of cars is not bearing down.

I have been told that it would cost a million dollars to make Center and Linden Streets two-way again. It is difficult to imagine what could cost so much. But if the City is really serious about improving neighborhood identity and unity, it will find a way to do this. Perhaps some grant money will be available, since the goal is a neighborhood more tied together.

This traffic pattern was established to quickly get the steelworkers in and out of the city. I haven’t seen many of those lately.

Bill

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An opportunity to hear several of the Council candidates (22)

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(22nd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

At the monthly meeting of the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee (BCDC) last night,  candidates were given two-minutes to speak. Not much time, but I think that hearing them even for a short time provides a helpful gauge of personality.

So Gadfly is glad to report that BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall, 53 E. Lehigh St. The expectation is that all candidates will be on stage together — so mark your calendars. Don’t miss!

The BCDC organizers didn’t elaborate on what the forum format will be. It will be interesting to see if it includes interaction among the candidates and questions from the audience.

Gadfly’s mission for all of us is better informed voting, so he hopes you will take advantage of all opportunities to learn as much as you can about each of the candidates.

So, lend an ear:

Candidates for the 4-year seat on City Council

Not attending were Michael Colon, Carol Ritter, and David Saltzer

J. William Reynolds (incumbent) Reynolds 3

 

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent) Van Wirt 2

 

 

 

Candidates for the 2-year seat on City Council

Not attending was Ashley Daubert

Will Carpenter  Will Carpenter

 

Grace Crampsie Smith  grace crampsie smith

 

 

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Martin Tower: Councilman Callahan “proud of the developers” (10)

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(10th in a series on Martin Tower)

Initial sketch plans for Martin Tower site at Planning Commission
4PM Thursday April 11 Town Hall

Martin Tower demolition May 19

The owners have submitted a plan for medical offices, retail stores, a gas station, a restaurant, and garden apartments for the 53-acre site.

It’s Martin Tower Monday.

In what would seem to be another step to foster a climate of approval before the Planning Commission meets, Councilman Callahan took a few minutes at the Council meeting last week to reflect on seeing the Martin Tower site plans at the private tour provided by the developer.

The audio of Council’s video capture of the meeting went dead, but, fortunately, Gadfly audio’d this portion of the meeting in which CM Callahan reflected on the wisdom of Council’s 2015 decision, calmed fears from competing interests, and praised the developers.

“Council wanted a limited amount of retail, and that’s exactly what we got, so I think the fear of having a third downtown is not going to be seen by Main St. businesses.”

“I think it’s a good plan. I know there’s a lot more residential living back there than the school district wanted. And I think that’s really the key of why we made the decision.”

“The school district obviously wanted more business less students. And the Main St. businesses didn’t want a lot of businesses. So there was a lot of competing interests there.”

“And I think the residents that were in that area . . . wanted more retail and places to go shopping, and I think it was a good compromise by Council at that time, and I think it’s going to be a good plan.”

“I’m very proud of the developers for doing what they did, and we’re doing the right thing.”

“A lot of the fear we had at that time, did not come to fruition.”

Gadfly will attend the Planning Commission meeting Thursday and will make the site plans available as soon as he can find them. In the meantime, he’s going to see what he can find in the old files to help him understand the issues that were “hot” in 2015.

Gadfly invites those with information to share!

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Martin Tower: a private tour for Council members (9)

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(9th in a series on Martin Tower)

Initial sketch plans for Martin Tower site at Planning Commission
4PM Thursday April 11 Town Hall

Martin Tower demolition May 19

The owners have submitted a plan for medical offices, retail stores, a gas station, a restaurant, and garden apartments for the 53-acre site.

Field trip! Field trip!

City Council members were given a private tour of the view from the top of the soon-to-be-demolished Martin Tower prior to the Planning Commission meeting this week.

One sniff’s additional strategy from the Handbook for Developers.

Gadfly said the Don Cunningham article a few weeks back had the feel of a strategic attempt by the business/developer community to get out in front of possibly resurgent public controversy over demolition.

Gadfly was not Gadfly in 2015, but the conflict over rezoning the Martin Tower tract was no boudoir argument.

So, hence the field trip and full-court press (you gonna watch the NCAA finals tonight?) to create a climate of supportive public-official opinion.

Looks like the strategy worked. Look below at the appreciative comments by the good Councilpeople when absorbing the amazing view.

Nicole Radzievich, “A last look at a great view: Bethlehem City Council visits the doomed Martin Tower.” Morning Call, March 27, 2019.

Lewis Ronca, who owns the building with developer Norton Herrick, gave City Council members the rooftop tour of the 21-story building after his representative walked them through a master plan for the redevelopment of the 53-acre site once the dust settles.

The tour was not a public meeting because council was not there to deliberate on any issue, council solicitor John Spirk Jr. said. The media was granted access to the gathering upon request.

“I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to understand the topography of Bethlehem that I’m not likely to see again,” [Councilwoman] Van Wirt said. “I want to understand this parcel and its relationship to Bethlehem.”

“This is a nice treat,” [said Councilwoman Negron].

“I learned the view is as great as everyone says it is,” [Council president] Waldron said. “No,” [Councilman] Callahan cut in, “it’s even better.”

The tower is coming down to make room for a $200 million development of 528 garden apartments, a 132-room hotel, a restaurant, retail shops, three medical office buildings and a gas station. . . . There would be 8 acres of open space along a tree-lined hillside on the eastern edge of the property and sidewalks that connect to the adjacent streets, trails and parks, according to a sketch plan submitted by Ronca and Herrick.

Several council members said after the tour that the trip to the top provided a perspective of how important it was for the owners to get the redevelopment right.

On Wednesday evening, Bethlehem City Council members were treated to a private tour of the 21-story Martin Tower ahead of its implosion. . . . Owners Lewis Ronca and Norton Herrick allowed council members to visit the roughly 53-acre property at the corner of Eighth and Eaton avenues to review a new master plan for the site’s redevelopment.

The developers plan to invest $200 million in reimagining the property into a work-live redevelopment, featuring 528 upscale garden-style apartments along the eastern edge of the property, a 132-room hotel and a gas station and convenience store. It also includes two retail buildings totaling 33,100 square feet, a 5,080-square-foot restaurant and three medical office buildings totaling 124,854 square feet. A trail surrounding the site is designed to promote walkability and links to city and county parks, plus walking trails along the nearby Monocacy Creek.

Bethlehem City Council won’t take any votes on the property’s redevelopment. It rests solely in the hand of the Bethlehem Planning Commission, which will be tasked with approving all land development plans for the property. The commission is set to review the master plan on April 11.

The property is in Bethlehem’s City Revitalization and Improvement Zone, which directs certain future state and local taxes created by CRIZ development to cover construction costs.

And there was yet another interesting step in massaging the public before the Planning Commission meets. Coming up next!

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The plan for the Martin Tower property is in (8)

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey and encourage someone else also

(8th in a series on Martin Tower)

Initial sketch plans for Martin Tower site at Planning Commission
4PM Thursday April 11 Town Hall

Martin Tower demolition May 19

Important week. The owners have submitted a plan for medical offices, retail stores, a gas station, a restaurant, and garden apartments for the 53-acre site. Time to spend several posts coming up to speed.

Let’s start with the City:

April 2, 201912:03 PM

UPDATE on Martin Tower Demolition (Bethlehem, PA—April 2, 2019), On May 19, 2019, Martin Tower will be taken down through a controlled demolition. Many steps have been taken by the contractor to get to this point. Asbestos remediation has been completed. The DEP will be involved in the controlled demolition of the building. While still a towering structure, the building is a shell of what it once was, comprised of concrete and steel. On the day of demolition, the DEP will be on site. The demolition time has yet to be determined, but will most likely take place during early morning day light hours. The property owners, City of Bethlehem and demolition experts, are working together on defining safe areas for viewing as well as restricted areas where no one shall be permitted. An area map will be provide at a later date and will include all street closures and restricted areas. Additional information will be released in mid-April. All necessary provisions to ensure the safety, health and welfare, of the public are being taken for this large undertaking. Check back with the City’s website or www.martintowerbethlehem.com for updates.

Unfortunately, Gadfly will be away for the demolition. Granddaughter graduating from Notre Dame. Gadfly happy for her. And happy not to be downwind of demo-dust. But I  guess if there’s bad stuff, it will still be there to greet me on return.

Now let’s catch up on the news:

Nicole Radzievich, “Bethlehem sets date for Martin Tower implosion.” Morning Call, March 28, 2019.

Duane Wagner, the developer’s representative, confirmed that timeline Thursday, saying the time would likely be early morning after sunrise. The mayor has said the implosion would be timed for a weekend morning — when there is as little traffic as possible to disrupt.

The city is coordinating with various government agencies to ensure the implosion at 1170 Eighth Ave. goes smoothly. Roads will be closed and air quality monitored. Robert Novatnack, the city’s emergency management director, has said the city will share a map with the public showing the hot zone (where the demolition is taking place), a warm zone (where emergency personnel and demolition contractors will be) and a cold zone (where the public can safely watch the demolition). The map will show which roads are closed and which areas are restricted around what has been a Lehigh Valley landmark for nearly 47 years. . . . The explosions bringing down the 332-foot building will be timed to drive the debris eastward where there is more land on the property for the debris to fall.

As a lifetime resident of Bethlehem, I understand the sentimental desire to preserve and save Martin Tower. What I don’t understand is why more residents and businesses have not been up in arms over the potential environmental damage to the surrounding medical facilities, hospital, Moravian College, brand new middle school, B. Braun, etc. and people. . . . I would appreciate an article from The Morning Call stating the effects of post demolition on the community because I am more concerned with the environmental and health risks rather than the absence of a building. (Heather Brennan)

A golden opportunity is emerging to make Bethlehem an even better city. My wife and I have lived many years in the Carolinas and Florida, where attractive, affordable, mixed-use communities are commonly seen. These planned communities look and feel good, serve a variety of residents, and enhance their cities. They attract working singles, families, and retirees. So naturally we were surprised and disappointed to read what seems to be an uninspiring plan for this important land. . . . Hundreds and hundreds of apartments as the project’s dominant feature? The best we can do is more apartments? How about well-designed, architecturally appealing coach homes, condominiums, detached or paired villas? . . . Approving any plan for this special land whose central feature is hundreds of apartments would suggest the Planning Commission is losing faith in Bethlehem’s future. (Dave Zakeski)

Martin Tower took away the beauty of the city’s landscape. It did not represent the history of those workers who labored many hard years in a noisy, dangerous, and dirty steel plant or those workers who incurred chronic medical conditions. It did not represent the common working citizen. It only stood for the wealthy executives. (Sharon Johnson)

However, the majority of blue collar steel workers in the structural shipping yards of the now-deceased Bethlehem plant felt the money should have been spent on a continuous steel casting process and technology. They would have lowered cost, man-hours per ton and made the Bethlehem Steel plant a more competitive steel producer in a competitive marketplace. Instead we must look at a cold-looking tower of scrap waiting to be imploded. In fact, all Martin Tower means to me and many more plant workers is a lack of foresight, planning and poor judgement while fully lacking the right leadership. My reason for feeling this way is because I and many co-workers had a stake in the plant and expected to retire with dignity. We took great pride in producing quality structural beams. (Tim McNally)

Perhaps tricky stuff ahead — see next posts!

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