The Garrison neighbors: Community Matters

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

It was a week ago that Gadfly presented the petitioner’s position in the case of the rezoning of 11 and 15 W. Garrison. In the meantime and ongoing, Gadfly’s attention has been on Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound. However, we need to complete our train of thinking on this case before the next Council meeting even though Gadfly understands that there will be no second vote. For now, the rezoning of 11 and 15 W. Garrison died with the 4-3 vote against the petitioner at the October 1 Council meeting, but the petitioner does not have to return to Council for any plans he has for the rest of his properties on New and North Streets. The project itself is not dead.

October 1 City Council meeting video
minutes 22-1:08:00

007

A few posts back, Gadfly asked you to role play being a Councilperson weighing your decision on the rezoning of 11 and 15 W. Garrison.

You have heard the petitioner fairly presented. Now below let’s hear the neighbors.

Gadfly could boil these 11 testimonies down to a succinct paragraph or two. But what he loves to do — and what the ample space on a blog provides that a newspaper can’t — is enable you to hear the actual resident voices in full.

This is what the Gadfly project is all about — honest, healthy dialogue from all perspectives.

People speaking out and up. People enacting their right to petition their government. Democracy in action.

——

Gadfly apologizes if he didn’t catch names correctly.

Barbara Diamond (video 22:00)

  • “Although development is essential to the growth of the City , I hope you will not lose sight of the considerable capacity of neighborhoods to produce well being among their residents and factor this in to your decision.”

Lauren Miller (video 27:15)

  • “Community is the answer. And more people doesn’t mean community. Relationships are community. More floor space doesn’t mean community. . . . It very much can mean their isolation. . . . My question for Bethlehem is what matters most to us? . . . For me it’s people.” [Brings garden products to share, shows poster with pictures.]

Julie Codero (video 37:30)

  • “This house is love, and I’m going to make it love. I’m going to turn it around, and I’m going to make you see this neighborhood is not shit, this neighborhood is not trash. . . . We have so much hope in that neighborhood. . . . I’ve always felt just loved and safe there. . . . I never envisioned when I purchased that house, that we would be thrown away so easily. . . . You are transforming a neighborhood into a disposable neighborhood, turning off the lights, and so many lights in that neighborhood.”

Sara Heidibrink-Bruno (video 42:05)

  • “I didn’t think that I was necessarily going to not just own a home at this point in my life but also live in a community and a neighborhood that would organize in that way [throw a block party]. It was amazing. . . .That’s what you are dealing with here. . . . I want [my son] to grow up here.”

Jim Shofstall (video 44:45)

  • “I’m a 3rd generation Bethlehemite living in the same house. . . . The City has done so much for our community. . . . It’s a different generation of love, a different generation of something special. This kind of building that’s proposed is going to tear down that genuine feeling of togetherness that we have. . . . Parking is at a premium. . . . a love in the neighborhood. . . . Traffic. . . . Our kids are at jeopardy. . . . We are afraid. . . . I’m so afraid that we are going to regress. . . . . It’s a life-giving place. . . . We’ve gone from baseball bats and knives . . . to a beautiful neighborhood.”

Lisa Robinson (video 49:10)

  • “I used to live on _____ St. . . . I wouldn’t trade all the money in the world for what I have now. in what some people call the ghetto. . . . I want to stay there, I want to live there, and I want all these people to stay because we all get along”

Mr. and Mrs. Rafael Toledo (video 53:42)

  • “We’re here because we care. . . . We just love where we live. . . . As a community we just don’t feel that it’s right. . . . Mr. Donchez, dig deep inside your heart. . . . Maybe somewhere else, but not here.”

Lita Medina (video 56:30)

  • “We don’t mind progress, we don’t mind having more neighbors . . . but to put who-knows in there because there is no real plan. . . . Why does it have to come into W. Garrison St.? . . . We truly are a community. . . . We don’t see anything wrong with progress. Storefronts on our street really doesn’t belong.”

Bruce Haines (video 58:50)

  • “Quite frankly I’m shocked that in-between the hearing and this meeting that the City Administration didn’t change your position. There’s no reason that the developer can’t build what he wants to build in the commercially zoned area of the City. . . . I implore you Mayor before there is even a vote tonight to change your position . . . and force the builder to build what he wants to build, which is reasonable, on the commercial space on New St. . . . It doesn’t put the City in a position where you are intruding into a residential neighborhood. . . . I think you need to start acting with the integrity to preserve the zoning ordinances as written.”

John Rothschild (video 1:04:08)

  • “From my perspective, this looks like a clear example of spot zoning. And this would potentially change the character of this neighborhood in a negative way. . . . Something like that could go on my street. There’s no reason for this . . . rather than gouging another chunk out of this neighborhood.”

——

Now Mr. Morales took another approach and should be separated from the rest. Gadfly senses, in fact, that his approach was shared by some of the Council members.

Chris Morales (video 50:30)

  • “Instead of always opposing new projects, figure out a way how we can invite that into a prosperous community we already have and how can we let more people in to our circle . . . how can we bring this project in to the current neighborhood and plug it in to what’s already there versus we don’t want anybody else to join our secret circle. . . . figure out a way that everybody wins.”

—–

Ok, now think like you were at the Head Table. There was a lot of emotion here — as one neighbor pointed out. There was crying, worry about kids, about friendships, about investments at stake that were not only financial. And this wasn’t just one or two neighbors, but probably as many as Gadfly has seen testifying in a case like this except for the 2 W. Market St.

In short, the neighborhood position is “Community Matters,” as Lauren Miller titled her poster.

Perhaps a classic confrontation, as one neighbor suggested, between economic development and community development.

Now let’s take a look at the decision.

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

One thought on “The Garrison neighbors: Community Matters

  1. Ed, It seems that city hall does not place much priority with Bethlehem neighborhoods when it comes to development. Dana

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