Chewing on SBHS concerns: CM Callahan’s response (5)

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

Gadfly has pointed out – very recently, in fact — that CW Van Wirt and CM Callahan, literally sitting at the far ends of the Head Table, are North Pole and South Pole.

One might think of CW Negron and CM Callahan as North Galaxy and South Galaxy.

Gadfly has written of the Great Divide between them on visions of the Southside.

Whether you were in attendance at the June 4 Council meeting or watching on tv, you just knew that CM Callahan was going to respond to CW Negron’s 10-minute emotion-laden commentary on the South Bethlehem Historical Society’s May 22 letter.

Low-hanging fruit.

But to Gadfly CM Callahan’s response was – happily — different than expected.

Yes, he showed the usual defensiveness and fact-checking: no demolitions occurred on the Southside for new construction, you can’t force developers to do lower cost housing, Lehigh University has done the necessary.

But his tone was even, not angry or aggressive, or, I thought, condescending, and he recognized the validity of perhaps the key problem CW Negron identified – affordable housing – and volunteered three times to “team” with her – yes, yes, though not with a tremendous amount of confidence — to find developers interested in providing more affordable housing.

Gadfly found that something to behold.

And told him so (he doesn’t follow the blog).

Listen on the City video at min. 1:58:01 or here below.

As usual, leave the soundbites for later review. Listen to the primary source.

  • I read Mr. James’s letter, and I agree with a lot of it in there.
  • I think it’s also important to know that . . . the two new properties down there . . . nothing demolished there.
  • I’m not sure that we can force anybody through ordinances . . . you can’t force someone to build low income, or middle income, or high-income housing.
  • You can’t do that – you pass the zoning, you can say high density, low density, or whatever.
  • But if a developer wants to build higher-end condo units and that’s what the market is bearing, then that’s what they’re going to do.
  • I’m sure it will come a time – I hope it’s soon – that some developer – or, Ms. Negron, I’d be happy to work with you if we could find some developers – I don’t know where – but through my contacts I’d be more than happy to reach out to some of them and maybe we can find some property on the Southside where we can build more moderately affordable housing over there .
  • But, you know, I’m not sure the City can tell a developer that you can’t build housing, residential units that are high-rent.
  • That’s just what the market’s bearing right now.
  • So I don’t think I’ve ever voted on a historical structure other than Martin Tower . . . that’s ever been ripped down in the City.
  • All the other development over there was on empty land.
  • But I agree with you that the affordability is a huge issue.
  • I teach at Northeast Middle School, I think 75% of the kids there are from Marvine and Pembroke Village, and a lot of those kids are really struggling every day, and I see it, I live with them every day.
  • And I’d be more than happy to team up with you [CW Negron] and see if we could find some developers – maybe you have some people that you might know that might want to do low-income or moderate income housing on the Southside.
  • I do know for a fact, though, that Lehigh University does have Graduate housing for married couples.
  • I think Lehigh has done what they’ve had to do as far as graduate-level, married couple housing.
  • I would be more than happy to team with you and try to find builders.
  • I’m not sure we can force them to do that, but it’s worth a try.

Heckuva 3-part interchange we’ve chronicled here. SBHS, ON, and BC. Let’s think about whether we’ve made any progress on important issues here. Next.

One thought on “Chewing on SBHS concerns: CM Callahan’s response (5)

  1. The Councilman’s memory is rather selective. The rectory to the church (still standing thankfully) in the unit block of West 4th Street was demolished at least 5, possibly 10 years ago. Residential units (affordable?) were demolished so that the New Street parking garage could be built. A row of retail structures was demolished so the 6 story office building could be constructed at Third and S. New Streets. The former Bethlehem Steel Hammer Shop was demolished so that SteelStacks and the ArtsQuest Center could be developed. Several structures including the former Laufer’s Hardware Store were demolished to make way for a suburban designed CVS drugstore. A developer has plans to construct a high rise building at West 4th and Vine Streets that will require demolition of 2 buildings. So, demolition has taken place and is projected to take place. The former Boys & Girls Club building on East 3rd Street seems to be in jeopardy based on the rumor mill

    Let there be debate about whether or not demolition needs to or should take place, but make no mistake about it that demolition has taken place.

    The Councilman’s offer to find developers who will build affordable housing seems commendable on the surface, but affordable housing is generally not built by for-profit developers. It’s built by non-profits who in many cases receive public subsidies to develop.

    I’m not quite sure how teaching in a middle school with students from low/moderate income families who reside in public housing really correlates to the issue. They are already residing in affordable, albeit public housing.

    Nearly every rental housing development completed, underway, or in planning stages has been described as upscale in the last few years. A recent rollout for affordable housing projected a handful of units, although it is hope that a revolving loan fund can be established to continue that initiative.

    I welcome City Hall’s involvement, and particularly any elected official’s commitment, but until public entities and private developers work hand in hand and commit to create a broad range of ownership and rental housing opportunities, it’s my opinion that gentrification will continue in certain areas of Bethlehem.


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