Saturday itinerary: 1) Bethlehem Rose Garden Farmers’ Market 9-1 and 2) The Great Southside Sale 2019 10-3:30

Bethlehem Rose garden Farmers’ Market
Part of the Mt. Airy Neighborhood Association’s “continuing mission to strengthen our local community.”


The Great Southside Sale 2019
JUNE 1, 10 am-3:30 pm
East 4th and Buchanan Streets
South Bethlehem

Last year the sale raised over $20,000 . . . and 100% of the money raised supports youth programs, three nationally-recognized homework clubs, and school field trips for Southside children, all administered by the Community Service Office at Lehigh.

“I’d like to see some of the current decorations re-imagined with the use of newer technology and enhanced lighting”(8)

(8th in a series of posts on Christmas lights)

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.


I couldn’t attend because I had a concert to photograph last night, so I can only comment on the photos included in today’s news coverage. I agree with Peter that some of it looked gaudy. It seems overkill. I’m very tradition oriented, so I’d like to see some of the current decorations re-imagined with the use of newer technology and enhanced lighting. What I really liked was the use of red and green lighting on the Hill to Hill Bridge, and the truth be told, I wouldn’t mind seeing all 3 bridges lighted architecturally all year round, much like bridges elsewhere in the world. The 3D stars located at certain intersections looked interesting, yet the stars on the end of the Main Street ramp looked overwhelming. I think the use of projection lighting on buildings, such as at Comenius Hall at Moravian College, has some potential as well. Peter’s question about using city money (if it is public money) and staffing time is very valid in my opinion.


The Christmas lights: “they don’t seem very imaginative or creative” (7)

(7th in a series of posts on Christmas lights)


I only saw the images via an article on LehighValleyLive, and while I think some of the proposed designs are somewhat attractive, they don’t seem very imaginative or creative—and I’d describe some of them as almost gaudy.

They might have gotten much better results at a much lower cost by soliciting local ideas—including from students. At the end, I have to ask whether this is an appropriate use of city money & time.


The proposed Christmas lights: “All in all . . . a very nice design” (6)

(6th in a series of posts on Christmas lights)

Judy Parr is a lifelong resident of Bethlehem.


I agree with Barbara — it was very festive and cheery. I particularly liked the proposed placement of oversized Bethlehem stars at Five Points and elsewhere. I was relieved to see that the iconic 4 advent candles were still featured, and I appreciated the designer’s attention to the original Christmas designs from the 20s and 30s.

Across the Fahy bridge, the design shows colored lights leading north and then switching to white lights as the lights cross the bridge. This is unfortunate and, as I said in my notes on the design, does not provide the unity that they planned for.

All in all though, a very nice design, sensitive to Bethlehem and the commercial value of the season to the city.


“We are very much trying to provoke conversation” about the Christmas lights (5)

(5th in a series of posts on Christmas lights)

See this article for a series of pictures of the proposed lighting scheme!

Christmas lights

  • None of the changes are set in stone, and nothing is changing for this coming season. The earliest the new decor may appear would be in Christmas 2020, with a five-year phase-in, said Allyson Lehr, city housing and community development planner. “Major, major fundraising” with community partners will be needed to make the proposals into reality, Lehr said. “This is about feedback,” said Alicia Miller Karner, city director of community and economic development. “We are very much trying to provoke conversation.”
  • The city in January hired New York City-based David Weiner Design for $35,000 to brainstorm ways to freshen up the Christmas City’s holiday look. Weiner said he drew inspiration from the city’s holiday icons, like the Bethlehem star and Moravian candles. Moravians named their settlement that would become Bethlehem after Jesus’ birthplace, on Christmas Eve 1741. And during the Great Depression, city business leaders tried to cash in on that holiday heritage and began marketing Bethlehem as the Christmas City in 1937. “The idea was to create something both unifying from an iconography perspective but could be modulated in a way that could be unique to each neighborhood,” Weiner said Thursday.
  • Lots of questions remain, like whether to go with a singular unifying look using all Bethlehem stars or mix in Moravian stars on the city’s north side; Bethlehem stars have a longer tail, while Moravian stars are more symmetrical. Another unresolved point is whether to go with all white lights, or continue South Side’s tradition of colored lights. The city will be soliciting additional feedback on its website and through its social media channels.
  • One idea shared Thursday is to use projectors to turn building facades, such as Moravian College’s Comenius Hall, into light shows for people to view at scheduled times.
  • John Halleman, Sandra’s husband, said he thought the designs were well presented to residents. “It was nice we had a little bit of voice into it, as citizens,” he said.

Catching up on the Charter School issue (20)

(20th in a series on Education and Charter Schools)

Last time Gadfly weighed in on charter schools was two months ago, reporting on a great meeting with Dr. Roy.

Where o’ where did those last two months go?  Let him try to catch up a bit here.

First, let’s remember what triggered this information gathering: concern about the size of the charter school line in the BASD budget and thus the impact on our taxes. As reported several posts back in this thread: “Approximately 2100 BASD students attend charter schools (12 different ones but 50% at one particular charter school), about 13% of the total student population, at a cost of 29 million in charter tuition this year, which is roughly 10% of the budget.”

The BASD budget

Theresa O’Brien, “District in the black; no tax hike likely.” Bethlehem Press, May 21, 2019.

The good news. The tentative 2019-20 BASD budget “includes no increase in the tax millage for the first time in several years, and uses only $1.6 million from the general fund balance to make up a shortfall.”

Board member Dean Donaher commended those involved in the process for bringing in a zero-tax-increase budget without losing any programs and while “maintaining momentum” on strategic initiatives of achieving grade-level reading proficiency, delivering personalized learning and growth, and meeting students’ social and emotional needs.

Well, relative good news. If the charter school chunk were less, then there would be more money in the system for education needs and maybe no need to draw from the general fund balance. But at least looks like no tax increase. And, if I remember correctly, Dr. Roy said charter school attendance was leveling off.

Lehigh Valley Academy

Lehigh Valley Academy is the charter school to keep an eye on. 50% of the BASD students going to charter schools go to LVA. Several posts back in this series, Gadfly profiled LVA.

Jacqueline Palochko, “Lehigh Valley Academy now looking in Bethlehem Township to put its $50 million school.” Morning Call, May 30, 2019.

Also as reported earlier, LVA is planning on a new building at substantial cost. This morning’s paper indicates that the proposed site of that building has now changed from what Gadfly reported earlier. LVA rents now, and owning its own building would be more economical. LVA will have to seek permission from both the Bethlehem Area and Saucon Valley school boards to change locations because it is a regional charter school.

Other charter schools

There seem to be no especial administrative or educational quality issues with the three Bethlehem charter schools — the kind that characterize many school districts and charter schools. But there are enough such issues in the Lehigh Valley to keep us continually conscious of a nagging bad side to charter schools. These are the kinds of things we don’t want happening here.

Innovative Arts, Catasauqua:

Sarah Wojcik, “Innovative Arts Academy Charter School makes argument to stay open while Catasauqua blasts school’s poor academic scores.” Morning Call, May 22, 2019.

Catasauqua administrators painted the Innovative Arts Academy Charter School as a school that’s habitually failing students academically. Charter school administrators sought to portray the school as one where students in need of extra attention found solace and purpose while staff contended with a demographic of economically disadvantaged students with unexpected challenges.

Allentown School District:

Jacqueline Palochko, “Allentown school board to try again to borrow $10 million to avert financial crisis.” Morning Call, May 1, 2019.

A week after a deadlocked school board left the Allentown School District in budgetary limbo, a new attempt will be made Tuesday to borrow $10 million to avert a financial mess. . . . costs weighing on the district are charter school tuition.”

Ok, there’s a catch-up on some of the factual context. Gadfly will return shortly to catch up on some more substantive issues suggested by followers Dr. Roy, Karen Beck Pooley, and BASD Proud Parents.

High-five to all concerned for tending the budget nicely!

The proposed Christmas light scheme: “The design was very festive” (4)

(4th in a series of posts on Christmas lights)

Barbara Diamond enjoys retirement as Lehigh University Director of Foundation Relations by engaging in various activities and organizations hopefully for the betterment of the community. Her particular interests at the moment are preventing gun violence, local government ethics reform, and Bethlehem Democratic Committee work.

Dear Gadfly,
I walked over this afternoon to view the photo facsimiles of what the decorations would look like. The plan proposes unified decorations on the major gateways to the city (Rt. 378, New St Bridge, 5 Points, 4th Street) , Main Street, and a focus on Payrow Plaza. The proposed decorations have a consistent theme of garlands with multicolored lights and a central white star. There are different iterations of this along with trees wrapped in lights and the rotunda and library wrapped in lights and snowflakes projected on the plaza pavement and walls of the plaza buildings “painted” in projected light, along with the tree & creche.The design was very festive, and I can imagine that it would enhance downtown Bethlehem for the Christmas season as a destination benefiting our downtown merchants. Not sure what the cost is of all of this, so that is a different discussion. Interestingly, the design included some giant candles where the menorah usually is situated. I asked the designer, David Wiener, where they planned to put the menorah, and he said that no one had mentioned a menorah to him so he planned to follow-up with that.


Thanks, Barbara. Hey, Judy, did you get to go? Your email is not working for me.

“plans for the site are likely to change” (6)

(6th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Anna Smith is a life-long Southside resident and Director of the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem, a non-profit dedicated to improving the quality of life in south Bethlehem by fostering economic opportunity, promoting community development, and empowering residents to actively participate in the decision-making process regarding the future of our diverse community


Feelings on the water park aside, I think having a plan for the Number 2 Machine Shop was seen as important for gaining State and City support for the sale. But as today’s article in The Morning Call mentions, they only have $150 million of the $250 million available to commit to the project. I have a feeling the plans for the site are likely to change before long, now that the sale has been approved. . . . Unless there is someone sitting around with $100 million to invest in partial ownership of an indoor water park . . .


Southside Bethlehem — a community of Stacks, Steeples, and (Water) Slides (5)

(5th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Gadfly needs help.

He feels a CAVE*** coming on.

He may need an intervention. Or an exorcism.

He felt the onset writing this post headline yesterday: “A step closer to the windfall from Wind Creek.”

He coo’d over the idea of a “windfall” there, and as he did he heard a faraway sound of nails or chalk screeching on a blackboard.

Windfall . . . dollar signs . . . big bucks . . . mucho dinero

“Windfall” temporarily blinded him.

Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.

Gadfly wants the money, but he doesn’t really want a waterpark.

Feels like a pact with the Devil.

Before he was struck from his horse like Paul on the road to Tarsis, Gadfly-to-be was just passively negative to the idea of a casino.

He thought of the Sesame Street game: “Which of these things doesn’t belong?” Religion, industry, gambling.

How does gambling fit with a lineage of piety and hard-work, of people fleeing from persecution and poverty, of contributions to spiritual and physical well-being?

What does gambling contribute to the good of mankind?

Rah, rah! Ok, Gadfly, get off the soapbox, get out of the pulpit.

So, something had to be done with that wreck of a site, and, frankly, the casino has been barely a blip on Gadfly’s radar. He accepted it, hardly even notices it, thinks not much about it. It’s become part of “us” to him. And we have not become Sodom and Gomorrah.

But — now struck by lightning and converted to Gadfly — he feels uneasy about Wind Creek’s plans.

He recognizes that they seem to be good people. The plan designed seems to “fit in” architecturally. They aren’t chopping heads of employees, and, in fact, are bringing jobs — lots of them. Yes, yes.

Gadfly hears Mayor Donchez’s affirmations that the Wind Creek plans are people-oriented, community-oriented (Gadfly’s aphrodisiac word!), fun-oriented. Yes, yes.

And there will be a windfall. Visions of firetrucks, pedestrian bridges, and Rose Gardens dance in his head. Yes. yes.

But yet something sticks in Gadfly’s thin throat.

A waterpark in Machine Shop #2. A waterpark in South Bethlehem.

It just doesn’t “feel” right. (CAVERS suffer from this a lot.)

Gadfly’s not sure that he wants Bethlehem to be “the No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast.”

There, he’s said it.

Southside Bethlehem — a community of Stacks, Steeples, and (Water) Slides.

Gadfly guesses a good PR person will make something out of that.

Gadfly guesses he should get over this feeling.

Especially since there’s nothing to be done.

And especially since he has no constructive alternative.

And especially since he hears no one else whimpering.

Gadfly, maybe a true, lone CAVER on this one.

***CAVE: “citizen against virtually everything,” famously attributed to Councilman Callahan, recently self-described as “a gentle teddy-bear,” in a moment of impatience with citizen criticism.

Gadfly wonders if his funk is triggered by Lou James’s letter on the Southside.

The Great Southside Sale 2019 this Saturday: you can help by buying and/or volunteering

from follower Kim Carrell-Smith:

Attached is info on the sale this year, from what we have to how it works. I didn’t include our latest find, the sweater shrug (pretty unspectacular, very basic) that had Barney’s tags, and the designer’s own tag still on it. The price: $650!! Amazing. You never know what treasures will be on the tables at the sale…

We also have other high end goods, but really its all about more basic things people need and want: great brand name clothes, loads (really a lot more) furniture, small appliances from lamps to kitchen to billions of fans (well, perhaps a small exaggeration). And really great quality rugs, plastic storage containers and drawers of every description; mountains of towels, sheets, blankets, pillows, etc; so many pots, pans, dishes, glasses, knickknacks and decor items, games, toys…I run out of breath describing it all!

100% of the proceeds go to fund programs and field trips for Southside kids, with some assistance to at least one other Community School in need. Broughal received bleachers this year thanks to the sale proceeds, and three schools were able to go on field trips with this funding!

So, really, great reasons to shop, and volunteer to help!


Full details at Gadfly’s previous post on the Great Southside Sale 2019!

Buyers needed: Kim says, “We need to sell it all in five and half hours!!”

Workers needed: volunteers, please sign up for shifts here:

The Great Southside Sale 2019

The Great Southside Sale is an event with multiple, far-reaching effects:

  • cleaning up the streets when students move out
  • keeping thousands of dollars-worth of reusable goods out of the waste stream
  • allowing Lehigh students to “give back” to their adopted community
  • providing terrific high end items in a sale that allows low income residents and others to purchase goods with dignity, at affordable prices

And finally, there is the money we raise each year: $20,000+ in 2018, on over $100,000+ of goods (calculated at regular thrift shop prices)—ALL of which goes to fund field trips for Southside schools, three nationally-recognized afterschool homework clubs,  and other programs for Southside school children.

What’s being sold at the 2019 sale?

This year we have way more furniture –gorgeous dining tables and chairs, dressers, desks, sofas, side tables and MORE—plus the usual mountains of beautiful clothes (many with tags still on!); household goods (from china to crystal, pots and pans to knick knacks!); over 100 rugs, SO many electronics, from Keurigs to fans to more; and toys, baby things of all kinds; sporting goods; and more! It’s going to be enormous, and we believe it should raise more than the average of $20,000 in five and a half hours, once again this year.

How does the sale work?

  • In May, Lehigh University Community Service Office runs the Lehigh Moveout Drive that collects donations from students (and some faculty and staff members)—anything people can’t use, don’t want to take home at the end of the semester, or wish to share with others.

   Organizations that benefit from the Lehigh Moveout Program (presale):

  • Both New Bethany Ministries and Hispanic Center of the LV Foodbanks received vanloads of food, as well as toiletries and cleaning supplies for their New Bethany shelter residents
  • Bethlehem Area School District “Community Schools” received school supplies for their homework clubs and science programs, balls for recess, and more.

Organizations that benefit from the proceeds of The Great Southside Sale itself –over $20,000 last year:

  • Donegan Elementary School
  • Broughal Middle School
  • Fountain Hill Elementary School
  • Marvine Elementary School

How do they benefit?

  • School Fieldtrips to: Da Vinci Science Center, LV Zoo, Shakespeare Festival, Jacobsburg State Park, Lehigh Basketball Diversity Pride Game, and more
  • Three nationally-recognized afterschool Tutoring/Mentoring Homework Clubs for south Bethlehem kids, four days a week from September through May. School students are matched with individual Lehigh University tutor-mentors who work with the children throughout the year.
  • Broughal Bowling Program (Once a month, kids go to bowl with Lehigh students — the scoring monitors are shut off, kids calculate their own scores and complete math packets, THEN get a real game with the works, including pizza)
  • Purchase of bleachers for Broughal Middle School so fans can watch sporting events on the playing field
  • T-Shirts for: school field trips and sports teams
  • Leadership Ropes Course for Donegan and Broughal students
  • And MORE!

Who helps to make this event possible?

It is all coordinated by Lehigh University’s amazing Community Service Office

With support from

Lehigh University’s

  • Auxiliary Services
  • Facilities Services
  • Office of Community and Regional Affairs
  • Residential Services
  • Office of Residence Life
  • Dean of Students Office
  • The Lehigh University Basketball Team
  • The Lehigh Wrestling Team

AND Community partners:

  • The Bethlehem Parking Authority
  • The City of Bethlehem
  • John’s Windish Lutheran Church
  • The City of Bethlehem Mayor’s Office
  • AND MANY MANY individual faculty, staff, student, and local community volunteers!!!!

“How many communities would deliberately destroy their historic tallest building?” (66)

(66th  in a series on Martin Tower)

Though Martin Tower is now an imploded heap of rubble and thus “old news,” Gadfly hastens to archive follower Al Wurth’s perspective so that it will be available to historians of this moment in Bethlehem history.

Wurth’s moving comments at the Nitschmann public meeting (where he was rudely interrupted from the head table) got the most vigorous applause of the night.

Here’s Wurth’s excellent essay, a version of which appeared as an op-ed just before the demolition.

Al Wurth, “What is the advantage to the community of ‘imploding’ Martin Tower?” Lehighvalleylive, May 17, 2019.

What is the advantage to the community of “imploding” Martin Tower?

In a few days, on Sunday May 19, Bethlehem residents will have a surprise on our way to church.  The spectacle is the announced  “implosion” of the iconic Martin Tower, the former headquarters of the steel company known round the world by the name of its birthplace — Bethlehem. However, it won’t be terrorists who have carried out the assault but rather our local officials and people we call “developers” who have led us to do it to ourselves.

The building will fall on itself after being broken apart with explosive charges and will release a cloud of dust that will spread over the city (and Nitschmann school across the road), and travel for miles in an ever-larger pattern to the Southeast, if prevailing winds are in place—aimed initially toward the most densely populated parts of town – the near West Side, downtown, the historic districts and the South Side—and toward South Mountain, which will likely contain even more of the dust in city.

Actually, we did not vote for any plan to destroy the Martin Tower; it was not a decision made by the people. It would never have been supported by a referendum, but we never had a vote. It was instead enabled, ambiguously, in a 6-1 rezoning vote (promoted by Mayor Donchez), by city council in December 2015, that effectively removed protection of Martin Tower as a historic structure. Only three of the members of City Council who approved that rezoning remain on council, Councilors Callahan, Reynolds, and Waldron; the lone dissenter, Kathy Reuscher, and the others, including City Business Manager Eric Evans, are no longer on council.

The insensitivity of the city leaders to the history and the uniqueness of the structure should not be surprising. Abandonment and destruction of old structures in “historic” Bethlehem has lately been common.  Indeed, good advice for preserving property would be: Don’t get on the National Register of Historic Places—like the old Broughal School, or even be designated historic, like the 2nd Avenue Armory, because you end up in the cross-hairs of the absentee out-of-town speculators that call themselves developers.

So, three years later, it should be no surprise that the unique and historic structure, the tallest building in the Lehigh Valley, would be scheduled for demolition by “implosion” at the same time that cities around the world are seeing a boom in distinctive tall structures.  I recently visited Durham NC, where one was just completed, and condominiums on the upper floors are listed at $1 million. Rather than take advantage of the unparalleled views (much better than Durham’s) from our own tallest building (that used to be reserved for the steel execs), our leaders’ choice apparently has been to destroy both the uniqueness and the historical character of Martin Tower in favor of suburban-style “generica” developments made up of low-rise structures on acres of parking lots—mirroring the shopping centers across the street.

Bethlehem doesn’t have to settle for this plan, and certainly citizens should not face the risks of the “implosion demolition.” The original rationale for demolition, that the Tower was too plagued by old construction materials like asbestos, no longer applies. Fortunately, the negative characteristics of the old building have been removed by the developer; only the historic significance and the unique character of the building remain. With its costly and dangerous asbestos removed, it is what Bethlehem Steel made it to be—the skyscraper company’s skyscraper—a hometown tribute to the builder of world-class bridges and buildings.

Instead of completing the destruction, why not retrofit the remaining steel structure with new cover skin with solar panels, add state of the art efficiency, insulation, and daylighting, and other modern technologies, and remodel the old monument in a 21st century form? The solar exposure (for PV panels and daylighting) is unmatched as the building is not shaded from any direction—another distinctive  characteristic of its monumental status.

The mayor and council and other state and local officials (who have been conspicuously silent) can work together to find a better and much safer plan. Place a moratorium on any demolition to get clear comparisons of cost and risk of the slow but steady (job creating) piece-by-piece demolition alternative, compared to the quick and dirty implosion. These estimates have not been provided to the public. Meanwhile, seek initiatives from other builders who could contract with the current owners for the structure’s skeleton and shell to be turned into multi-use and multi-level  residential, and commercial area, like so many similar developments in other communities.

The complaints from the absentee owners about how long it will take can hardly be considered serious given the years of inactivity that the location has endured. The owners will still have their special tax breaks from the CRIZ–that they can apply to the project and the surrounding property.  Make no mistake, citizens are paying for the destruction of Martin Tower not just in the destructive pollution and loss of our history; our leaders are actually giving special tax breaks to the wreckers.

The old obstacles to reuse have been removed; why destroy the core and its historic and structural integrity—and make citizens hide from the pollution?  How many communities would deliberately destroy their historic tallest building?  Bethlehem officials, and the developers, can do better.

Op Ed submitted by Prof. Al Wurth, Bethlehem resident and (imperiled) neighbor of Martin.

Wind Creek Bethlehem: “Our expectation for this property is it will be the No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast” (4)

(4th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Bethlehem)

Jon Harris, “With state’s approval, Wind Creek Bethlehem plans to become ‘No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast’.” Morning Call, May 29, 2019.

  • More than 14 months after the deal was announced, the $1.3 billion sale of Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem to an affiliate of an Alabama Indian tribe is almost across the finish line.
  • With state approval now in hand, the sale of arguably Pennsylvania’s most successful casino is expected to close as early as Friday, Wind Creek President and CEO Jay Dorris said.
  • Wind Creek is planning a hotel and meeting space expansion, a $90 million project that will take about two years to build a 276-room hotel along with another 42,000 square feet of meeting space.
  • Then there’s the head-turner proposal for the No. 2 Machine Shop at the former Bethlehem Steel site. Wind Creek is planning to transform the crumbling structure into a 300,000-square-foot adventure and water park that also will include a roughly 400-room hotel.
  • “Our expectation for this property is it will be the No. 1 resort destination in the Northeast,” Dorris told the board.
  • With the hotel expansion, Wind Creek believes it will be able to unlock revenue and earnings potential by growing lodging, meeting space and food-and-beverage offerings to meet existing demand. The Machine Shop redevelopment, meanwhile, offers diversification for revenue growth and could bring an estimated 1.4 million new site visits.
  • Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez said he was pleased with what he heard from Wind Creek at the hearing: that it would develop family-friendly attractions to augment the gaming operation as it prepares to compete with gambling expansions in the Northeast. “They really emphasized that they were community-oriented and that they would be making investments that would bring jobs,” Donchez said. “That’s what they’ve told me from the beginning, and I’m encouraged that’s what they are continuing to say today.”
  • Wind Creek, in its presentation, said the Sands Bethlehem management would be retained, including all nine members of the senior team, who are signed to three-year employment contracts that begin once the transaction closes. Wind Creek also plans to keep all of the facility’s 2,500 employees.

The Martin of Martin Tower (65)

(65th  in a series on Martin Tower)

Bob Bilheimer is General Manager of the Industrial Archives & Library here in Bethlehem and was the General Manager of Public Affairs at Bethlehem Steel Corporation, where he was responsible for corporate communications.

Bob prepared these press releases on Ed Martin for publication before the demolition.

Gadfly got behind in his journalistic endeavors, however, and apologizes to Bob for not posting them at a more timely moment.



Edmund F. Martin – The Man Behind the Tower – IAL News Release – May 15, 2019


Edmund F. Martin & Bethlehem Steel Timeline


Return to the original intent for the Christmas lights, with white-only on the Moravian buildings, festive colored lights everywhere else (3)

(3rd in a series of posts on Christmas lights)


Agree with Steve. The all white scheme on the north with colored lights on the SS may have been well intended, several people have interpreted it as having a racial overtone. (north side=white only; SouthSide=colored). This alone is enough reason to return to the original intent, with white-only on the Moravian buildings, festive colored lights everywhere else.

And someone needs to rethink the desirability of spending hundreds of hours of time & many $$ attaching trees to all those light poles — especially plastic trees!

Peter Crownfield

(Can anybody go to that open-house Thursday 5-7 at Town Hall and report to us?)

The new Christmas lighting system MUST preserve the original intent of the lights: a unified city (2)

(2nd in a series of posts on Christmas lights)

Stephen Antalics is Gadfly #1.


There are two versions of history, the revised and the real. The original Christmas lights were not about the holiday. The holiday was a powerful vehicle used by Vernon Melhado and Mrs Grace to try to unite both of the mutually antagonistic sides of the city. It was a device for social unification aided by the holiday celebration. Bethlehem is now “The Christmas City,” the city of brotherly love. The holiday became the vehicle. Equal lighting on both sides of the river, a symbol of unity. The only white lights were in the Moravian building windows on Church St. and the large composite trees located at the roundabout at the end of the Hill to Hill bridge. (There was no 378 then). The new lighting system MUST preserve that original intent of the lights reflecting a unified city and with the Lehigh River not again becoming the Social Iron Curtain of Bethlehem!!


Chewing on SBHS concerns (1)

(the latest in a series of posts on Neighborhoods)

1 : to call upon in supplication : beseech
2 : to call or pray for earnestly : entreat
  • The many construction projects along 3rd street, the expansion of Lehigh University, the closing of many churches, the closings and changes to streets, as well as the demolition of many historic homes, businesses and neighborhoods, is changing the historic character of the Southside.
  • We write to implore you to consider the economic impacts progress has on the residents of South Bethlehem and the changes to the character of the neighborhoods, which are still as vibrant and diverse as they were when many of our parents, grandparents and great grandparents made their homes here.
  • A developer once said at a council meeting “. . . in ten years you will not recognize South Bethlehem . . .”
  • We ask you honorable Mayor and City and Council members, to consider the history that is being destroyed in the name of progress.
  • Ask yourselves about the history of the architecture that is being demolished and if the new plans reflect the importance and beauty of what South Bethlehem was and continues to be.

The Great Southside Sale 2019 this Saturday STILL needs volunteers

photos from followers Kim Carrell-Smith and Carolina A. Hernandez

You know “community” is aphrodisiac for Gadfly!

Last year the sale raised over $20,000 . . . and 100% of the money raised supports youth programs, three nationally-recognized homework clubs, and school field trips for Southside children, all administered by the Community Service Office at Lehigh.

Full details at Gadfly’s previous post on the Great Southside Sale 2019!

Volunteers are needed!

Please sign up for shifts here:

South Bethlehem Historical Society concerns

(the latest in a series of posts on Neighborhoods)

At City Council May 22, Louis James, President of the South Bethlehem Historical Society, presented this polite but forceful letter to the Mayor and City Council in a likewise polite but forceful manner.

What’s going on here?

And will President James’s letter be answered?

Let’s chew on this.


Casino Transfer Tax perhaps far less than estimated (4)

(4th in a series of posts on Wind Creek Casino)

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.


I believe [the Casino Transfer Tax] will be far less than the City has estimated. Other business people agree with me. The deed transfer tax is only paid on the value of the real estate, not on the value of the business. The $1.3 billion purchase price is based in large part on the value that the current Sands has for earnings. I believe that the City should have budgeted much more conservatively because of this.

What would I do with this money? First, I’d give 1/2 mill back to the taxpayers, because the so-called Hirko Tax (1/2 mill) continues to be collected by the City despite the financing that paid that settlement being paid off in, I believe, 2015. Secondly, I’d take $500,000 to $1 million and place it in a “Rainy Day” fund so that the City would have a reserve. This should have been done from the start with the casino host fee. Had the City put just $250,000 aside annually, they’d be approaching a $2.5 million reserve.

Just like the casino host fee, this potential windfall for Bethlehem residents has been “spent” before it was ever received.

How sad for us.


A step closer to the windfall from Wind Creek (3)

(3rd in a series of posts on Wind Creek Casino)

Today is a BIG day. Approval of the Sands sale is expected. The Mayor announced last Council meeting that he, Alicia Karner, and Eric Evans are traveling to Harrisburg for the BIG meeting. Probably entering the turnpike as I write. Wind Creek has already announced BIG plans for a Water Park and etcetera and etcetera (see below). And the City coffers are lusting for a BIG windfall.

Here’s how that last part goes, as reported here on Gadfly March 15: “See the City 2019 budget p. 278. See the column for “Casino Transfer Tax.” The City estimated revenue from the CTT at $5,995,000. But that was just an estimate for budgeting purposes. It may have little relation to reality. The actual amount is not known at this time. And could be significantly less. What would you do with the extra money, however much it is? In that column, you will find a list of specific proposed expenditures agreed upon by the City and Council based on the budgeted figure. If the actual CTT income is less that $5,995,000, the City and Council will negotiate again, using that list as a basis, on how to allocate the actual amount. Everybody will have different favorites on that list, but Gadfly knows that many followers will be pulling for the $50,000 that would be earmarked for the Rose Garden and the $40,000 for the pedestrian bridge study. Of course, these projects would be competing against such items as a fire truck!”

Jon Harris, “Sands Bethlehem casino sale up for state approval today.” Morning Call, May 29, 2019.

  • The $1.3 billion sale of Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem could get the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board’s blessing at a special meeting scheduled for 1 p.m. in Harrisburg. If the board votes to approve the change of control from Sands Bethworks Gaming to PCI (Poarch Creek Indians) Gaming Authority, the deal is expected to close within a month.
  • [Wind Creek] is planning to transform the No. 2 Machine Shop at the former Bethlehem Steel site into a 300,000-square-foot adventure and water park that also will include a hotel.
  • That investment is separate from the planned $90 million, 300-room hotel Wind Creek is proposing to complement the existing hotel tower near the casino.
  • Wind Creek said it believes the best way to combat competition is to invest in the site by adding a hotel tower to boost the casino business via longer stays and by diversifying “the facility’s appeal through the creation of additional non-gaming attractions.”

Jon Harris and Nicole Radzievich, “Wind Creek has $250 million plan to turn storied Bethlehem Steel machine shop into massive adventure and water park.” Morning Call, May 16, 2019.

  • Wind Creek Hospitality’s top executives came to Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem in January and announced plans to invest $190 million in the gambling complex once the transaction closed.
  • The deal isn’t yet done, but Wind Creek now plans to make an even bigger splash, beefing up that estimate to approximately $340 million.
  • While Wind Creek initially said it had $100 million earmarked for the No. 2 Machine Shop at the former Bethlehem Steel site, the company on Thursday said it now plans to spend about $250 million turning the storied — but crumbling — structure into a 300,000-square-foot adventure and water park.
  • The park would include several food, beverage and retail outlets along with about 105,000 square feet of water attractions. It also would offer outdoor activities such as rock climbing, rope courses and zip lines.
  • Oh, and Wind Creek plans to build a 400-to-450-room hotel for the adventure park, a lodge that will be in addition to the $90-million, 300-room hotel the company plans to construct to complement the near-capacity existing hotel near the casino.
  • Sands’ change of control could get approved [today, May 29], paving the way for the deal to close within a month.
  • Wind Creek . . . plans to preserve much of the architecture and spirit of the No. 2 Machine Shop.
  • The renderings show a rehabilitated No. 2 Machine Shop with glass covering the sides, leaving the interior steel beams visible and the iconic Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces looming in the distance.
  • “Water parks draw a large number of people with families — and that’s what we want to do in Bethlehem,” [Mayor Donchez] said.
  • Wind Creek’s proposed adventure park would compete in an area with several amusement or water parks , namely Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in South Whitehall Township along with Great Wolf Lodge and Kalahari Resort in the Poconos.
  • the 300-room hotel expansion would mean another 400 jobs, and a project at the No. 2 Machine Shop could mean a couple hundred more.

Volunteer worker bees needed for “The Great Southside Sale 2019” this Saturday

Urgent message from Kim Carrell-Smith and Carolina Hernandez:

The Great Southside Sale 2019 is coming up THIS SATURDAY, and we are in desperate need of at least 50 more volunteers. Would you have time to help for a shift or two? The sale proceeds provide field trips to Southside schools, support three nationally recognized Homework Clubs, and many other youth programs and projects. At the bottom of this message is some info on what the sale does for our community.


The Great Southside Sale 2019
JUNE 1, 10 am-3:30 pm
East 4th and Buchanan Streets
South Bethlehem


Shifts when we need the most volunteers are setup from 7:30-9:30 am, and 9-11:30 am when the work is most intense. However, we would be happy to have you join us ANY time, all day long.

  • 7:30 am – 9:30 am       Setup: Distributing boxes, unpacking, and organizing merchandise.
  • 9 am – 11:30 am          Opening: Crowd control, unpacking boxes, organizing
  • 11 am – 1:30 pm          Recovery: Reorganizing, folding, and crowd control after the blitz.
  • 1 pm – 3 pm                Winding Down: Organizing, folding, assisting with bag sale.
  • 3 pm – 5 pm                Clean Up: Packing boxes, loading trucks, collecting trash.

Please sign up for shifts here:

Thanks for considering our plea, and for sharing this with your friends, co-workers, communities of faith, clubs, neighbors, etc.

Please help us find willing hands for this fun, rewarding day!

Best regards,

Kim Carrell-Smith and Carolina Hernandez, Assistant Dean and Director, Community Service Office, Co-Directors of The Great Southside Sale


The huge sale is mostly comprised of Lehigh Moveout donations from students as they pack up to leave at the end of the year; the results are

  • part social justice
  • part environmental
  • and part just plain great entertainment.

Volunteers include high school and college students, Lehigh faculty, staff and administration, and MANY community members, from teachers to principals, ministers to storekeepers, parents to CEOs. Join us!

Last year the sale raised over $20,000 on great reusable items that stayed out of the waste stream. Most things are priced between 25 cents and a few dollars, which allows everyone to buy great quality goods with dignity, and 100% of the money raised supports youth programs, three nationally-recognized homework clubs, and school field trips for Southside children, all administered by the Community Service Office at Lehigh.

This sale builds community in many ways; come meet new folks, do a good deed, and have a blast!

You know Gadfly is all over activities that build community!

Think Christmas! Gadfly elves needed Thursday (1)

(1st in a series of posts on Christmas lights)

So we know how important the Christmas season is for the City  — for a number of reasons.

And the Mayor has employed a consultant to present recommendations for lighting and decoration.

The follow-up to April’s meeting is an open-house this Thursday 5-7 in Town Hall.

See this announcement below that went up on the City web site on Friday.

Now Gadfly is not really a “Christmas-person” — he’s been known to be a bit grinchy.

Nor is he adept at or attuned to matters of style and decoration. (You’ve seen the way he dresses.)

But, given the importance of the decorations to the City and wide interest among the citizenry, Gadfly would appreciate followers who are “in” to these matters attending the open-house and reporting back to us.

We could use several perspectives. What say?

 THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2019 FROM 5:00-7:00 PM  

The City of Bethlehem will have the proposed improvements to the City’s Christmas lighting and décor on display for the public to view on May 30 from 5:00-7:00 PM.  These renderings are a result of the public meeting held in April and the various stakeholder meetings held with David Weiner Lighting Design, LLC, the consultant for the project. 

“The City relies on a robust Christmas season to support our small businesses and to provide a terrific experience for our residents”, said Mayor Robert J. Donchez.  “The enhancement of our décor program is a necessary step in making sure Bethlehem remains a destination for the holiday season.”

The public is invited to stop by the open-house format anytime between 5:00 and 7:00 PM in Town Hall at 10 E. Church Street, Bethlehem.