Festival in a fortnight!

(4th in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre)

Who are we now that the Steel is gone?

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

If this video doesn’t make your hair curl, your nose bleed, your palms sweat, your piggies wiggle, and your loins leap, then you are following the wrong blog!

  • VOLUNTEERS – We’re looking for a monumental volunteer brigade to help us power ten days of community-wide creations! Interested in getting involved? Email mike@touchstone.org or fill out the volunteer form on our website.
  • “STEELBOUND” SCREENING – Curious about the production that inspired it all, Touchstone and Cornerstone Theatre’s Steelbound (1999)? Join us for a screening of that unforgettable production, as we prepare to celebrate where we are twenty years later. Steelbound will play at the National Museum of Industrial History on September 25, with opening remarks by Hank Barnette, former CEO of Bethlehem Steel beginning at 6:30p.
  • HAPPY HOUR AT APOLLO GRILL – Our friends at Apollo Grill are kindly hosting a happy hour to benefit the festival! Join us Thursday, September 26, 5:00-7:00p, where you can enjoy munchies and drink (and the company of the Touchstone Ensemble). We’ll have a raffle basket, and $1 from every Jack Daniels drink goes toward Festival UnBound. A delicious way to support art! Learn more here.
  • JOIN US IN SONG – Like to sing? We are seeking Touchstone friends to be in a Pop-Up Choir, led by the Valley’s Kira Willey, for the Opening and/or Closing ceremonies – since we hope you’re already planning to be with us for performances, why not have a hand in making art as well? Please go to our Google sign-up here to indicate your interest and availability.

Keep the “flavor” of locally-focused retail

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

Although she’s lived in Bethlehem for almost 20 years, Carol Burns’ new career as a freelance marketer is giving her an opportunity to “discover” her hometown. She volunteers for several arts-related organizations, and her newest adventure is dipping her toe into local politics and community organizations.


And these numbers just reflect the resident side — how about all the proposed new retail spots? Will they be affordable for local businesses — or will we see an influx of “name brand” companies that can afford the rent? To me — no pun intended — the “flavor” of Bethlehem retail is that it is so locally-focused. I’d hate to lose that.


Yes, note that the local “Factory” is planned for first-floor retail at the Polker.


Boom times?

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

So, apropos of much Gadfly traffic lately, one follower asks:

Where are all these deep-pocketed tenants — residential and retail — going to come from?

Forsooth, we’re looking at one helluva lot of new apartments coming online.

Gadfly — dancing with the downsizing devil — may be looking for one.

But he’s not deep-pocketed.

Is Bethlehem a deep-pocket magnet?

Mr Connell — of the Garrison development we have most recently been discussing — mentioned that he’s engaged a study. I wonder what it will show.

Take a look at this list of apartments (numbers may be off):

548 — Martin Tower
74 — New/Garrison
33 — 548 N. New
120 — Boyd Theater
40-50 — Skyline
33 — Polk St.

And what has Gadfly overlooked?

We are creeping toward 1000 new “luxury” apartments.

Is that realistic?

Will an oversupply drive the price down into Gadfly’s range?

So big that we might have to put on an extra Councilperson to handle the work!

Festival UnBound

Widening the circle of commentary on Garrison St.

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

(5th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

After the Garrison St. neighbors spoke, two champions emerged for their cause.

Bruce Haines

Haines is a litigant in the latest chapter of the highly divisive 2 W. Market St. issues that Gadfly has covered extensively (see the link to 2 W. Market on the sidebar) and sees this issue through that lens as another example of “true commercial intrusion” into neighborhoods tacitly then visibly supported by the City. The developer has a “great project,” but it’s in the wrong location. Striking to Gadfly is the practical point that a vote yes is a vote for an open door. Since the rendering of the project shown at the meeting is only tentative, the final project could be “anything,” a fate Haines underlines with some nasty examples. “This is about integrity,” Haines says, and repeats it so often that Gadfly looked up the definition to make sure he knew what Haines saw as the transcending issue: “firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.”

  • This is a deja vu all over again.
  • Remember 2 W. Market St.? This is commercial intrusion into residential neighborhoods. It’s plain and simple.
  • Except instead of being in the historical district, it’s a wonderful community on Garrison St.
  • It’s a community. It’s a neighborhood.
  • Certainly that’s a great project [the developer’s], as they even acknowledged, on New St. and around to the commercial business district as it exists today.
  • There’s not a house on that street that fits the variances and the codes, but at the end of the day, they are all residences.
  • So, how familiar is this? Here we have an individual coming to redo a zoning change again. We don’t have the City endorsing it. They’re sitting neutral. They’ll wait till the 11th hour like they did for 2 W. Market St., and then they’ll weigh in to make sure you understand how you’re supposed to vote.
  • And are we then pretty soon going to have Sand Island named after Mr. Connell or his business?
  • What we’ve got here is true commercial intrusion.
  • I really feel for these neighbors, and I’m going to stand up for them.
  • Because if you go ahead with this, you are marching down the the exact same path you marched with 2 W. Market St.
  • Now we are hearing the CB [Central Business district] . . . doesn’t apply on a local street so on Garrison she [City Planning administrator Darlene Heller] didn’t tell us what could go there . . . the largest bar and restaurant in the city . . . the biggest Hookah lounge, the biggest tattoo parlor . . . who the heck knows.
  • I think this is a great project. I’m not here not supporting a great project for the City.
  • Just put the project in the district where the project belongs which is the Commercial Business district, and leave these neighbors alone, and leave their businesses alone.
  • So what this is about is the same as 2 W. Market St., and if you keep going down this path, it’s about integrity.
  • This is about integrity. The whole thing is about integrity. It’s the integrity of our zoning code, which [the City administrator] won’t stand up to defend . . . It’s the integrity of our neighborhoods, and it’s about integrity of government.
  • You’re marching down the same path that will have you in court for 5, 7 years, the same as you’re going to be for 2 W. Market St.
  • This is a travesty, and you guys should need to squelch this from the beginning.
  • Not only that, you’re buying a pig in a poke. You’re going to change the zoning  . . . and you don’t even know that you’re going to get this project.
  • Once it’s CB, it can be anything.
  • We know that the majority of Council believes that economic development outweighs neighborhoods.
  • If you were to approve this CB without it being attached to this project or conditional . . . you’re really done a disservice to this community.
  • [applause]


Stephen Antalics

Looking and sounding much like an Old Testament Jeremiah, Gadfly #1 speaks, as he always does, with rhetorical and moral brevity and clarity: whose will should Council serve, the public or the private? There’s the question that applies to not only this case but to a span of cases this Gadfly #00 has covered over the past year. To Antalics, the answer is self-evident.

  • There’s an old adage that says government of, for, and by the people, and it seems that’s been lost.
  • It’s almost like governance in spite of the people.
  • Bruce [Haines] is exactly right. The key word is integrity.
  • Integrity is expressed when the will is recognized and supported.
  • It then becomes whose will.
  • We have on many occasions intelligent concerned people who love the City come here and testify after intensive research why something shouldn’t happen.
  • But the people come forth who have private interests, which is fine . . . as long as private interests do not impinge upon the will of the people, the people who chose you to represent their interests.
  • So the question is, whose will are you going to serve?
  • And this question has come up much too often.
  • The will of the people or a private individual.
  • My sympathy for these people who spoke, because they represent the core of the City, decent people who love the City, and enjoy living in the City.
  • And what you can be doing here is depriving them of their way of life, uprooting them, forcing maybe some to move out of the City because they came here for that simple reason.
  • So, I think it’s very clear what has to happen here.

So, “where’s your head at” on the rezoning of the houses on Garrison St.?

Festival UnBound

Student Climate Action strike today, Payrow Plaza — can anyone go and report?

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

Many Gadfly followers are committed to action on Climate Action. Student strike event today at 2PM Payrow Plaza.

Gadfly would like to cover but can’t make it.

Could one or more followers attend, participate, and send comments for posting here?

Michelle Merlin, “Lehigh Valley climate strikes planned for global day of action.” Morning Call, September 20, 2019.

  • Ashley Barrasso, a student and the president of the Climate Action Network at Northampton Community College’s Bethlehem campus, is also hoping people take note of the climate strike, including one at Payrow Plaza in Bethlehem.
  • She was inspired by Thunberg’s trip across the Atlantic, and realized that her group needed to participate in the global climate strike. One will take place at NCC’s campus from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and another in front of City Hall from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Lehigh University students are also planning a strike at 1 p.m. on campus and will move to Payrow Plaza.

It’s Friday, September 20, do you know where your local Climate Action Plan is?

The Garrison St. neighbors respond (2)

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

(4th in a series of posts about 11 and 15 W. Garrison St.)

Garrison St.

More beautiful Bethlehem voices–

Voices worrying about practical things like damage to foundations in an area in which there was a sinkhole, but mainly worrying about damage to community, serenity, peace, safety, beauty — yes, beauty (who’s in charge of Beauty in Bethlehem, Gadfly has asked).

Julie Cordero (17 W. Garrison)

  • It’s a safe place to live. It’s an affordable place to live.
  • I have two kids in the Bethlehem School district who walk to school.
  • How does breaking ground affect my foundation and foundations down the street?
  • My house is my heart, my home.
  • I don’t really see that as a feasible option to break ground for a 74-space parking garage . . .
  • I’m a disability advocate . . . we have people on our street who have wheelchairs and are on walkers. You gonna shut down Garrison St. [during construction] and make everyone walk?
  • Is this street going to be closed down for weeks on end?
  • Housing for veterans . . . I’m all for that . . . if it doesn’t carry on into Garrison St. which is a well-established family neighborhood.

Vanessa Torres (23 W. Garrison St.)

  • I come from New York. I left New York to get away from high-rises and buildings.
  • I left New York city to be in a calm, beautiful environment, and I love my neighbors, and I know everyone’s name,
  • But for that I just move back to New York city, a high-rise with so many families, such a busy environment.

_____ Toledo (18 W. Garrison)

  • I like a family.
  • We have community there.
  • We’re not going to feel safe there.
  • [Now] all the kids are outside playing, and we feel safe there.
  • So if there are two big buildings across the street, I know a lot of us won’t feel safe there.
  • [she speaks for others in the audience]
  • applause

Chewing? Next, comments from a couple of resident gadflies, who do not live in the neighborhood.

Festival UnBound

Puerto Ricans come to Bethlehem (again)

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13


They came from Puerto Rico to Pa. after Hurricane Maria

We owe this interesting article to Councilwoman Olga Negron, whom followers will remember did a recent Bethlehem Moment, “Puerto Ricans come to Bethlehem.”

They are coming again, but as CW Negron says, now things are different.

  • To be sure, Puerto Rico residents have been relocating to Pennsylvania for decades, lured here by jobs in the steel mills, farms and factories. But the migration pattern in the wake of Hurricane Maria has been noticeably different.
  • Not everyone who has left the financially troubled island has needed social or Negronpublic assistance. These days, a substantial number of new arrivals from Puerto Rico are prepared to pivot directly into jobs, professions or college. “This migration is very different than any other before,” said Olga Negrón, a member of the Bethlehem City Council and the Latino Leadership Alliance of the Lehigh Valley. “Many of them are bilingual. They have professions or a level of education capacity to get higher paying jobs. They were ready to work. Ready to interview and get a job.”
  • Two years ago, Negrón, herself a Puerto Rico native, helped spearhead a grassroot effort to assist hurricane refugees find homes, schools and whatever public services they needed in the Lehigh Valley, which became a major destination for hurricane refugees. She found that a substantial number needed little assistance. “We are seeing a lot more at the professional level than we were used to in the last few years, maybe it’s because the influx has been going on for so long,” Negrón said.

CW Negron’s “Moment” awakened an interest in Gadfly to know more about local Puerto Rican historia, and didn’t Gadfly librarian and HomeworkGiver Tony Hanna send him a reference to a book precisely on that subject precisely at that time.

The space for the next Bethlehem Moment is now unexpectedly open, so Gadfly’s going to try to do another moment of Puerto Rican local history with its aid for next Council meeting.

Hmm, Gadfly is also curious about Portuguese in Bethlehem. In old news stories Gadfly has seen political meetings held at the Portuguese Club, and we still have one, don’t we? Gadfly wonders about the Bethlehem-Portuguese connection. Anyone help?

Festival UnBound