Gadfly the grinch

(latest in a series of posts on neighborhoods)

Gadfly sometimes forgets he was young.

Last night he called the police on his student neighbors (two houses away).

Who were partying.

Maybe 25-30 strong.

And it wasn’t even 9PM.

It wasn’t their chatter. The night was young. Alcohol had not yet spiked the volume.

It was the loud outdoor music.



And music several light years distant from the “Swing and Sway with Sammy Kaye” of Gadfly’s ballroom period.

I figured we must have a music ordinance.

The students immediately complied when the police arrived (new call system worked fine and very fast!)

a dead soldier, the only morning mark of the festivities

There are 15 close-together houses (doubles and triples) in the Gadfly stretch of block.

7 are now rentals.

The last 2 student housing.

One sees a pattern emerging.

My recurrent nightmare is that we are the last homeowners on the block.

I am the only one who regularly cuts the postage-stamp plot of grass.

And shovels snow promptly.

And who replaced his dying tree.

And whose car doesn’t oil-wet the street.

(Ok, that last one is somewhat of an exaggeration, sorry.)

In my nightmare, after finally, heroically succumbing to attacks by encircling students armed with jagged-edged cell phones, instead of

the last shall be first (King James version, Matthew 20:16)

Stephen Antalics will engrave my stone with this verse from the Zoning Bible:

 Family. One or more individuals who are “related” to each other by blood, marriage or adoption (including persons receiving formal foster care) or up to 5 unrelated individuals who maintain a common household with common cooking facilities and certain rooms in common, and who live within one dwelling unit. (Developers version: 1302.43)

That is, if I don’t die beforehand from overexposure to the “Words-that-don’t-mean-what-they-mean” virus.

Suffer any damage from the Martin Tower implosion? (75)

(75th in a series on Martin Tower)


If you know anybody that suffered any damage during the implosion tell them to file their claim sooner rather than later. The implosion company is refusing to pay its claims on a building they did months ago.

George Lopez

Gadfly asked for this! Peter does some chewing on the Mayor’s letter!

(The latest in a series of posts on the Southside and Neighborhoods)

Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.


1. Why do the Mayor & Council assume that economic development = progress?
Wouldn’t a more logical & holistic approach be to define progress not only in terms of money, but in realizing the provisions of Article I, §27 of the PA Constitution? (‘The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania’s public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come….’)

2. The Mayor says, “There is a process that each developer has to go through prior to the demolition, rehabilitation, construction of a particular project. . . . There are various city departments, boards, authorities, and commissions that assist with development in the city of Bethlehem often paying close attention to the historical nature of the site and the potential impact the development will have on neighborhoods.” Are these ordinances and guidelines waived for certain favored developers? Why then did the administration pressure the Historic Conservation Commission to recommend a Certificate of Appropriate for the new building at 3rd & New and support Planning Commission & City Council approval — despite the fact that it violated provisions of the zoning ordinance and historic guidelines?

3. I suppose we will never know whether the department that approved the exception for Zest was negligent, incompetent, or just going along with [Dennis] Benner.

4. The Mayor & Historic Conservation Commission should demand that Council rescind the COA for a 9-story building at 4th & Vine, another absurd and outrageous violation of the zoning ordinance & historic guidelines. (This was also approved by the HCC under extreme pressure from the city.)

5. Those concerned about a sustainable future should demand that no new building be approved unless it is climate-neutral.


The Mayor answers SBHS

(The latest in a series of posts on the Southside and Neighborhoods)

Chew on this.

Followers know that the May 22 South Bethlehem Historical Society letter touched Gadfly deeply and kicked off a thread that started here and continues, a thread that has several thoughtful responses, especially the series by Anna Smith.

The Mayor sent SBHS a letter June 12? That’s two weeks ago. Damn. Nobody tells Gadfly anything.

Sara K. Satullo, “Does the gentrification of South Bethlehem pit preservation against progress?”, June 27, 2019.

Today, the face of the Southside is changing amid a growing gentrification as those with disposable income are drawn to an arts district, restaurant and burgeoning craft beer and spirits scene that’s been many years in the making. As South Bethlehem increasingly is seen as a hot place to live, developers are serving up building after building of luxury apartments, where the rents are sometimes double the going rate for nearby homes.

All of this has left the South Bethlehem Historical Society fearful that development may drive out the very residents that built the neighborhood’s vibrant social fabric. This led the board to write an open letter to Mayor Bob Donchez and city council members, which President Lou James read to council May 22. The letter was posted on Facebook Tuesday.

Mayor Bob Donchez, who is a Southside native, penned a response to the historic group June 12. “I’m on the Southside a lot and frequent many of the businesses on the Southside,” Donchez said Wednesday. “I understand their concerns. You try to find a balance to economic development where you want to preserve history and move the city forward with economic development.”

The mayor knows that it can be hard and controversial to find the right balance between preservation and economic development, but it is gratifying to see a renaissance that’s been talked about for more than 30 years finally taking shape. “There is a process that each developer has to go through prior to the demolition, rehabilitation, construction of a particular project,” Donchez wrote in his response to the historical society. “There are various city departments, boards, authorities and commissions that assist with development in the city of Bethlehem often paying close attention to the historical nature of the site and the potential impact the development will have on neighborhoods.”

The historic society and Negron worry that this rapid redevelopment of the Southside with luxury apartments and new Lehigh University student housing is pricing long-time residents out of the area or into apartments in deplorable conditions. The group and Negron want to see proper code enforcement and slumlord landlords shut down.

In his letter, Donchez points to the Neighborhood Works revolving fund as a program that can help create affordable housing. The program provides money to rehabilitate homes in Southside in need of substantial repairs and the homes are then sold to low/moderate income, first-time homebuyers. The proceeds from the sale go back into the trust to rehabilitate more homes.

Negron said she knows of several smaller developers who are bullying residents to sell their properties to them. “People are literally being chased out,” she said.

False Statements and Fact-Checking

(The latest in a series of posts on City government)

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.

Gadfly suspects this post references Councilman Callahan’s challenges.


Recently there have been a couple of discussions at the Bethlehem City Council about false statements being made and the consequent need for fact checking. I feel that the bottom line is that we have to allow for opinions. A statement that is clearly an opinion is not a false statement, because it is only an opinion. Conversely, an opinion presented as a fact is a false statement. Suppose you make a statement that is clearly an opinion. If I call it a false statement, I am actually the one making a false statement. And if I respond by offering my opinion as a fact, then I am making another false statement. When it is uncertain whether or not a statement is an opinion, the words “in my opinion” would be useful.

Let me illustrate with the proposed number of apartments on the Martin Tower tract. The 528 apartments proposed is a fact, assuming the press coverage has been accurate and that I remember it correctly. When I say that it is difficult for me to imagine someone wanting to live there, that is clearly an opinion, since I am reporting on my imagination, and there is no way anyone else could know my imagination better than I. When I say that the proposed number is bad planning and bad marketing, that is also clearly an opinion, since there is no way I could state that as a fact, since I am not the repository of all such knowledge. Now Woodmont Mews has 204 apartments. This is a fact, if the web site is correct. It is also a fact that the Martin Tower apartments would then be 2.5 times the number of Woodmont apartments. There will be some people that will find Martin Towers to be too much of the same thing, but would not feel the same way about Woodmont Mews. This is clearly an opinion, since there is no way of knowing this beforehand. If this opinion turns out to be true, then it will be harder to fill up the Martin Tower tract than it was to completely rent Woodmont Mews. This last is a true statement because it depends upon an “if clause”.

In our discussions, let’s make room for opinions, as long as they are obviously or clearly identified as opinions.


Gadfly #2’s mind is a joy to behold.

Northside 2027 planning phase ends with opening of renovated Friendship Park

(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)

Charles Malinchak, “How Bethlehem envisions bringing life back to its North Side.” Morning Call, June 26, 2019.

Northside 2027

The Northside 2027 final meeting Tuesday night was an open house, people browsing the posters and talking informally with the consultants and the City officials.

Here is the final brochure for the project.

NS 2027 final brochure Spanish

NS 2027 final brochure English

A written final report will come out in the near future with a section on implementation that will outline steps to be taken to act on the plan.

But a first step — the Friendship Park renovation — is just about complete.

Fship park

The ribbon-cutting is Tuesday, July 2, at 2:30.

Your tax dollars at work!

EAC turns up the heat on solar

(The latest in a series of posts relating to the environment, Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, and Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council)

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

Our Environmental Advisory Council’s (EAC) Brian Nicas urged the Zoning Hearing Board to be aware of storm water considerations last night.

Took Gadfly by surprise — took the ZHB by surprise likewise — and he wasn’t prepared to record it.

Gadfly had not heard such a thing in the two years he’s been attending these meetings.

Good work, Brian!

But that EAC moment reminded me that I wanted to catch up on presentations he did record by EAC chair Lynn Rothman and member Kathy Fox on the EAC solar proposal (EAC Solar Ord. proposal) at the June 4 City Council Meeting.

(I’m reminded of Peter Crownfield’s comment on the Gadfly post about Lehigh’s new building — is Lehigh incorporating solar and other climate-relevant technologies? One would hope so even without an ordinance requiring it.)

EAC is not only active in producing good work (for example, the plastic bag ban proposal, a report on electric vehicles, etc.) but also active it promoting it.

We’ve all been reading about the legislators in Colorado who have left the state to avoid voting on Climate Action Plan proposals — I think our EAC has climate sheriffs posted at all the roads leading out of town to prevent such dastardly happenings here!

Listen to Lynn and Kathy’s pointed presentations:

Lynn Rothman

Kathy Fox

Gadfly loves to publish such voices as models of productive resident participation and as inspiration for us all to get involved.

Your non-tax dollars at work.

It’s Thursday, June 27, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?