Edward J. Gallagher, Bethlehem immigrant, retired, nearly 50 years as Professor of American Literature at Lehigh University, known as "Dr. G" and "Conan the Grammarian" to students, whose virtual world avatar "EdwardScholarhands" stares at you here, has reinvented himself as the Bethlehem Gadfly.
The pitch the developer made to the Planning Commission was very “politic,” indicating they were intently following the City discussion of regulating student housing, were aware of the purposes of that project, even specifying them, and denoting 4 synergies with their project:
Just .3/mile from the edge of the Lehigh campus, this project will help pull students out of the neighborhood row homes
and that will encourage more retail business on 3rd. St.
The project is close to multiple modes of public transportation,
and will have substantial economic impact for the city, since the property pays only $499/tax this year ($105 to the City), basically nothing, and now will be taxed at $180,000 ($39,500 to the City).
Gadfly found the following brief comments by the developer about their relation to and relationship with Lehigh very interesting. If Gadfly understands correctly, Lehigh has publicly stated that it is providing housing for all of its students on campus, so what we have here is a stark example of minding the main chance — the developer realizing that he can offer a premium product to students for whom price is not a concern.
We designed Polk Street [310-22 E. 3rd St. — his nearby companion building] . . . things where I would want my daughter to be . . . . That shows we can get a premium in the market if we have the right product.
We’re not talking with Lehigh because we’re competing with Lehigh quite frankly.
We’re trying to grab the best of the best out of Lehigh and bring them down here.
We’re going after the top of their student housing stack, if you will.
I view us as a competitor to Lehigh, truthfully.
They’ve been a great competitor for us because it has been easy to pick off what we want.
We think we’re a better mousetrap.
But the best part of the commentary on the new project came from Kim Carrell-Smith, whom we have come to recognize always has sensible comments based on research as well on her lived experience on the Southside and her good taste. As Kim has done before, she asks for design of the new building that “blends” better with its neighbor to the west built by the same company.
I wonder if we could persuade you to work on a complementary design to your first building [310-22 E. 3rd St.].
It would add to the character of what you have already done.
It would definitely provide a kind of gentle way to come from the historic district out of the historic district.
I think that would be a great thing for the community.
It would be a great thing for the historic district.
And a good thing for the shopping, living, playing public.
Could you fill that niche with a building that doesn’t detract from your initial project?
The Planning Commission gave the go-ahead for this project for a new building at 403 E. 3rd St. (across Polk St. from Mo;inari’s) in its April 8 meeting. with the chair almost gushing with his affirmation. There was, however. considerable grousing about the stalled Polk Street Garage project across the street that would provide so much necessary parking.
Gadfly will post some audio and commentary from the meeting shortly.
Ashley Development Corp. plans to build a 7-story mixed use development at Third and Polk streets. Plans call for two floors of retail and then a mix of 80 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments on the upper floors built on a parking lot at 404 E. Third Street. The property sits between Third and Mechanic streets and bounded by Polk Street to the west.
Ashley recently had great success converting office space in an adjacent building at 322 E. Third St. into 52 high-end apartments targeting Lehigh University students and young professionals, Pektor said. “We are really trying to push the market to a high-end, higher quality product,” Pektor said. “We’ve learned that students, graduate students and staff people will pay for high-quality units and they will pay to be close to convenience… The more foot traffic and more residential units we can put in that approximate area I think is good for everyone.”
Pektor wants to capitalize on his success with a mixed-use development of more housing next door. He’s also in negotiations with two high-end, local restauranteurs who would occupy the first and second floors, he said. The more students developers can draw down to the business district the more the city can preserve the integrity of its original neighborhoods and create a more vibrant commercial district, Pektor said. And it creates a boon of foot traffic for local businesses, he said.
The planning commission ultimately signed off on several variances it has the power to approve under city zoning and made them contingent on developers nailing down where tenants will park. The biggest unknown for the project — estimated at a $16 million to $18 million investment — is where its residents and visitors will park. The coronavirus pandemic and unexpected emergency repairs at the Walnut Street parking garage have derailed plans for the Polk Street parking deck across from Pektor’s project. He is prepared to lease 114 spaces in the Betlehem Parking Authority deck if it is built. Without it, he might require tenants to provide proof of parking elsewhere or have to redesign the project, Pektor said.
Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez on Friday [said] much hinges on the forthcoming Walnut Street garage condition report and clearer federal guidelines on how the stimulus funding can be used. “Polk Street is basically shovel ready and now we have more (lease) commitments today than we had for the garage a year ago,” Donchez said. “That puts the parking authority in a stronger position. The key is what does the Walnut Street report say and what are the guidelines and regulations for how we should use the stimulus money? I am very bullish on Polk Street.”
Gadfly told you that there was a bit of the back and forth, a bit of the give and take between mayoral candidates Reynolds and Grubb at the April 6 meeting of Lehigh Valley for All.
He will present those interchanges in posts over the next few days.
But, first, a bit of a tempest has blown up in local social media about candidate Reynolds’ claim that candidate Grubb lied about not soliciting endorsements from City Council members.
As far as Gadfly can tell, at least some people engaged in the tempest making have not heard the interchange and are curious about it.
Here it is:
The best that my opponent has as far as a vision is complaining about something that happened in 2011. So, I can tell you, and once again I guess I would say look at my colleagues. And if you take a look at Dr. Van Wirt and Councilman Colon. and Councilman Colon, and Councilwoman Negron, like they are all supporters of mine, and they are also people my opponent went to for support, and they said no because of his negativity and his vision.
I did not go to any elected officials looking for endorsements — at all.
Tip o’ the hat to Lehigh Valley for All for convening the mayoral candidates April 6 for a bit of the back and forth. Gadfly will spin out the various pieces of their interchange over the next week or so, beginning here with their introductory remarks. Best to listen to the audio; the text is not an exact transcription.
The only question that really matters in America right now is are you supportive of the changing identity of America. Our campaign is building momentum every day because of our commitment to building a more inclusive, vibrant, and equitable city. We have a chance coming out of the pandemic to invest, fix, and build better systems. During the pandemic so many of our systems failed, whether or not it was healthcare, or economics, or our educational systems. We have a sense of optimism right now, an opportunity to see what is possible throughout the Lehigh Valley. In Bethlehem we’ve been building those systems for several years, our Climate Action Plan, our Northside 2027 initiative, which has just recently gotten the addition of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op, and our commitment to expanding high-speed internet are just a few. Our campaign last week announced the endorsements of my great friends Grace Crampsie Smith and Dr. Van Wirt. They both commented to me that the reason whey they were supporting our campaign was because of our ability to build multi-class and multi-racial coalitions in our community and how this moment demands that kind of coalition and leadership. This momentum is not just because of my candidacy. We have wonderful candidates running for City Council as well. For the first time in January we are going to have a majority City Council. I’m excited to work with them. I’m excited for their support for my campaign. Bethlehem has always been a great place to live, work, and raise a family, and we have a vision to make our city more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable.
My integrity is not for sale. I have not sought nor would I accept endorsements from sitting elective officials because of the inside political dynamics that come with them. I also have not sought nor am I accepting contributions from the major developers who regularly do business in Bethlehem. I want economic development projects to stand on their own merit not the size of campaign contributions. I feel Bethlehem needs a comprehensive ethics ordinance. If we learned anything from what happened in Allentown, we’ve got to move in that direction. Of course, I’ve had many years experience in city government in a variety of capacities. I’ve managed both large and small staffs. I’ve budgeted. I intend to re-establish the Department of Parks and Recreation to better maintain and enhance our parks and facilities. I’ve been a small business owner for 17 years. And I intend to support the small business community by creating a one-stop shop. My mayor’s office will be bilingual and will include a community outreach position. And I will continue open office hours for the mayor. Affordable housing is something very near and dear to me When I managed as grants administrator the federal Community Development Block and Home grant program, we created a number of ideas and programs to address that, and to this day I work for a non-profit affordable housing group. I’m a strong component of community policing and providing the most up-to-date training. I will implement a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and intimidation, and discriminatory words and actions for city employees. I’ll look for the best and most diverse applicants for city positions as well as appointments to city authorities, boards, and commissions. I’m an environmental activist, member of the Sierra Club and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and I hike, I bike. I think there are a number of things we can do to address the environmental impact of vehicles and development where it impacts traffic, air quality, carbon footprint, diesel idling, etc. I will remain an independent political influence, seek to serve residents first, and bring a lifetime of government and small business experience to the mayor’s office and hit the ground running.
Location: Historic Rose Garden, Eighth Avenue and Raspberry Street
Details, vendors: The market, held in arguably one of the prettiest spots in the Valley, will be back with more than two dozen vendors (with at least eight new ones) offering organic and humanely raised chicken and beef, produce, baked goods, peanut butter, nuts, vegan yogurt, dairy, flowers, kombucha and microgreens as well as soaps and women’s and children’s clothing. This market is also moving to the circle in the park, a more central location to enjoy all the scenery.
Shoppers may notice a lot of improvements at the park this year thanks to a state grant that has funded the addition of walking paths connecting the site of the market to the children’s play area and bandshell.
Looking further ahead, the market will be part of Rose Fest, which is planned for June 26 and will be a rededication of the park and mark the 90th anniversary of the garden.
While a Minnesota courtroom heard testimony Tuesday morning in former police officer Derek Chauvin’s trial in the death of George Floyd, Northampton County officials unveiled an implicit bias training program for local police departments they hope can help prevent similar tragedies.
The training, which is becoming more common in corporate America as well as in law enforcement, is intended to make people aware of the unconscious, learned stereotypes that inform their behaviors and thinking. For police responding to sometimes tense situations, these biases can carry drastic consequences.
“I think everyone can benefit from this kind of training, and we want to fund it because we have the money and we know municipal budgets are stretched,” County Executive Lamont McClure said while announcing the $20,000 program.
The county already provides the training to corrections officers at the Northampton County Jail through consultant Guillermo Lopez of Intersekt Alliance. Lopez will now lead 20 three-hour sessions with up to 20 police officers at each. Northampton County Director of Human Services Susan Wandalowski said police chiefs at the Bethlehem, Bethlehem Township, Colonial Regional, Nazareth and Palmer Township departments expressed interest in the program.
The county normally has no direct role in police training, but is making money available through its Human Services Department, which typically handles social work. McClure and Wandalowski said they felt it was an appropriate use of the money, comparing it with the crisis intervention training it already offers local police to emphasize de-escalation techniques.\
“At the end of the day, we all have a common goal, and that is to make sure everyone gets home safely,” Wandalowski said.
Lopez, who has offered similar training sessions to police in Easton, Bethlehem and Allentown over the past decade, said the training tasks officers with considering how they perceive the people they serve, how those people see them and how differences in those perceptions arise in diverse communities. Police are already drilled on how to protect themselves, but sometimes more training is needed to identify actual threats from perceived threats.
“We work to help them understand there is a difference between being unsafe and being uncomfortable,” Lopez said.
In an interview Tuesday, Bethlehem police Chief Michelle Kott said she will require her officers to attend the training. The department had Lopez’s training 13 years ago with periodic refreshers from the Municipal Police Officers Education and Training Commission since then. But communities across the country, including Bethlehem, have demanded police show more empathy and awareness since Floyd died after Chauvin kneeled on his neck for more than 9 minutes last summer.
“I just don’t feel it was given the attention it deserved in the past across the board,” Kott said. “That’s something that on a year-to-year basis can be hampered by training budgets, be hampered by the availability of officers. We’re incredibly grateful the county is investing in the training.”
The officer who Cassandra Quinto-Collins says kneeled on her son’s neck for over four minutes assured her it was standard protocol for sedating a person experiencing a mental breakdown.
“I was there watching it the whole time,” Quinto-Collins told The Associated Press. “I just trusted that they knew what they were doing.”
Angelo Quinto’s sister had called 911 for help calming him down during an episode of paranoia on Dec. 23. His family says Quinto did not resist the Antioch, California, officers — one who pushed his knee on the back of his neck, and another who restrained his legs — and the only noise he made was when he twice cried out, “Please don’t kill me.”
The officers replied, “We’re not going to kill you,” the family said. Police deny putting pressure on his neck. Three days later, the 30-year-old Navy veteran and Filipino immigrant died at a hospital.
It is the latest stark example of the perils of policing people with mental health issues. In response to several high-profile deaths of people with mental health issues in police custody, lawmakers in at least eight states are introducing legislation to change how law enforcement agencies respond to those in crisis.
The proposals lean heavily on additional training for officers on how to interact with people with mental health problems. It is a common response when lawmakers face widespread outcry over police brutality like the U.S. saw last year following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But none of the proposals appear to address the root question: Should police be the ones responding when someone is mentally ill?
In California, lawmakers introduced legislation on Feb. 11 that, among other things, would require prospective officers to complete college courses that address mental health, social services and psychology, without requiring a degree.
In New York, lawmakers in January proposed an effort to require law enforcement to complete a minimum of 32 credit hours of training that would include techniques on de-escalation and interacting with people who have mental health issues.
“The training that police have received for the past I’d say 25 years has not changed significantly, and it’s out of date, and it doesn’t meet today’s realities,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based think tank. “I mean the last thing a mother wants when they call the police is for an officer to use force. Especially in a situation that didn’t call for it because the officers weren’t trained in how to recognize a crisis.”
The Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to getting treatment for the mentally ill, concluded in a 2015 report those with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than others.
“The solution that would have the most impact on the problem is to prevent people with mental illness from encountering law enforcement in the first place,” said Elizabeth Sinclair Hancq, co-author of the report.
Since that is not always possible, she said, another solution is to create co-responder programs where a social worker or other mental health professional assists officers on such calls.
For families of victims, who now say they regret calling 911 for help, required training and legislative reform are long overdue.
“In retrospect, it wasn’t the smartest idea to call the police,” said Isabella Collins, the 18-year-old sister of Quinto, who died in California. “But I just wanted him to be able to calm down, and I thought that they could help with that.”
Quinto’s family filed a wrongful-death claim against the city in February, claiming he “died as a direct consequence of the unreasonable force used against him.”
“I guess it was really naive of me to think that he wouldn’t get hurt,” Collins said.
Looks like it’s re-imagining public safety morning on The Gadfly.
It usually cracks us up. It usually softens the domestic post-mortem.
And then we can go about learning something from the dumb or well meaning but misguided things that one or more of us did.
Ok, ok, the D.A. ruled the police officer justified in killing Ryan Shirey. The officer feared for his life.
God love the officer. He knows what it’s like to look into the barrel of a gun. And he knows that he killed a mentally ill person he knew had seizures and who was holding a gun that was not loaded.
Gadfly can well imagine sleepless nights, lots of them.
So let’s put the actions of that officer on February 19 aside. He was justified in the eyes of the law.
But did thinking about that event at 90 Bridge St., Catasauqua, stop on February 20 when the Chief hit save on his computer, sending his report into Dataville where it will emerge at the end of the year in a cold litany like this:
142 criminal arrests
19 DUI arrests
45 Juvenile arrests
732 Citations issued
117 Violation Warnings
808 Parking tickets
85 Abandoned vehicles tagged
Will thinking about that February 19 event stop on April 6 after the D.A.’s press conference?
Can we not hope that there was or that there will be a meeting convened in the back room at 90 Bridge St. where the question of what we learned today is asked?
Do we ever hear of such an aftermath after this kind of event?
What happened on February 19 was justified, but, arguably, it was not smart.
What “de-escalation” training or range of de-escalation techniques do we see in operation?***
Gadfly has been watching the Chauvin trial. Have you? The other day the subject of the testimony was de-escalation.
The purpose of de-escalation was memorably described in a soundbite by one of the testifiers as to enable the officer to go home and the subject to go home.
The saving of life. All life. A noble purpose.
Was it the best thing to do for the three officers to, in effect, corner a man who perhaps had access to a rifle and bow in a basement described as dark enough so that officers had to use flashlights to maneuver, that was divided into rooms, where vision was obstructed by the layout?
What if the officers had waited, had not gone into the cellar, had bought time to contact headquarters and be made “fully aware” of the subject’s history of seizures and bought time for an agitated man to calm down, time to talk to his father as he wanted?
Maybe the outcome wouldn’t have been different. Gadfly knows that.
But he agrees with the family member: “Guns only escalate situations. If walking gun-first into a tense situation with an obviously troubled person is by the books, the books need to be rewritten.”
That sound like common sense.
Gadfly has to hope that the Catasauqua police department doesn’t close the book on this incident without asking whether there was something else they could have done to provide “protection to any and all residents,” in the words of their mission statement.
And Gadfly hopes for a more vigorous and more visible discussion about re-imagining public safety here in Bethlehem.
*** Followers will recognize that this is the question Gadfly is exploring in the Christian Hall case.
The Lehigh County district attorney determined that the Feb. 19 shooting death of an armed 27-year-old Catasauqua man at the hands of police was justified.
Ryan Shirey was killed in his home at 133 S. 14th St. after his ex-girlfriend called authorities during a “heated” argument. Police said that when three borough officers arrived at the home, Shirey fled to the basement. He was found there holding a .38-caliber handgun that he refused to drop and then pointed at a borough officer, police said.
Authorities identified the officer who fired the fatal shots as Joelle Mota and indicated he was in fear for his life when he did so.
Authorities later learned the handgun Shirey was holding was not loaded, but officers had no way of knowing that, according to Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin. He said there was nothing to suggest that Shirey knew the gun was unloaded.
Martin made a ruling in the case Tuesday, after a probe that included witness statements, investigative reports and the review of body cameras from the three officers.
Martin said Mota gave Shirey six orders to drop the gun during the 36 seconds that elapsed between Shirey’s being found in the basement and Mota’s opening fire.
Martin learned that Catasauqua police had responded to the Shirey home seven times in the past, but never for a law enforcement matter. He said that on five of those occasions police arrived to help Shirey during medical calls when he was having seizures and once when his arm was lodged in a chair during what Shirey’s father, Karl Shirey, described as a “mental episode.”
Martin said none of the three officers who responded was fully aware of these incidents, though Mota was at the home in July 2019 to help Shirey during a seizure. The DA also noted that the officers were unaware of Shirey’s mental health issues, which included a diagnosis of schizophrenia when he was a teen and an extended involuntary commitment for mental health treatment.
“When reading the full account of what happened when Ryan was shot dead in his home, one can only imagine how he felt, surrounded by police, weapons drawn,” Shirey’s family said in a statement Tuesday. “He must have been terrified and felt his life was in danger. And, in fact, reality bore that suspicion out. In a mere 36 seconds he was gone.”
At 1:48 p.m. Feb. 19, police officers Mota, Patrick Best and Jenna Dumansky-Potak responded to the South 14th Street home after Shirey’s ex-girlfriend and his mother’s health care aide, Alyssa Nicole Adams, said she was assaulted and locked out of the home. Police said Shirey refused to come outside to talk to officers and eventually retreated to the basement.
Karl Shirey tried unsuccessfully to persuade his son to speak with police and leave the basement. Karl Shirey told police there was a rifle and a bow in the basement but he didn’t think either was accessible to Shirey, and Adams agreed. Martin said no one in the home mentioned there was a pistol in the basement, which belonged to Karl Shirey’s father, from his time as a police officer.
Best led the way into the basement, followed by the two other officers and Shirey’s father. The stairway was dark and narrow, and officers used their flashlights to look around. They had unholstered their weapons because of the possibility of Shirey’s using the rifle or bow.
The basement was divided into rooms, and the officers split up to look for Shirey. Body camera footage showed that when officers reached Shirey, he said he wanted to talk to his father.
“I want to talk to my dad,” he said, according to body cam footage. “I want to talk to my [expletive] dad.”
Mota asked Shirey to show his hands and saw he was holding a handgun.
“Put the gun down,” Mota said, according to the report. “He has a gun. Put the gun down. Put the [expletive] gun down. Go back. Put the [expletive] gun down, Ryan. Put the gun down. He has a gun, move back. Ryan move back. Pat, get out of the door. Put the gun down. County 26, we got an armed male.”
The body camera footage records Mota abruptly moving to his right.
“He has it pointed, yo move back.”
Mota then fires five rounds while moving to his right and calling out,
“Shots fired! Put the gun down.”
When interviewed after the shooting, Mota said Ryan told him, “I told you not to [expletive] with me” and pointed the gun in the direction of the officers.
Best’s body camera footage captured Shirey saying, “[Expletive] you think I’m kidding.”
Mota said he was trying to retreat when he saw Shirey move toward him with the gun raised and pointed. Mota said he fired out of fear for his own life. Shirey was hit five times in his head and abdomen.
Body camera footage shows the gun on the floor at Shirey’s feet after the gunshots rang out. Mota, Dumansky-Potak and Best then called for EMS and tried to render aid to Shirey.
Dumansky-Potak and Best were behind a closed door and did not witness firsthand Mota’s encounter with Shirey. Karl Shirey’s view was also blocked by a furnace and chimney.
Shortly after the shooting, Jeff Purdon, a spokesperson for the Shirey family, said the family was devastated by the loss and did not believe Shirey was intent on hurting anyone. Purdon said the 27-year-old could become paranoid by the presence of law enforcement and the family wished police had not cornered Shirey in the basement.
In a Tuesday statement in response to Martin’s findings, the family said, “Guns only escalate situations. If walking gun-first into a tense situation with an obviously troubled person is by the books, the books need to be rewritten.”
“In this time of great loss, the outpouring of support from not only our friends and family, but also the surrounding community has touched us deeper than words can express,” the statement said.
Perhaps the most interesting part of last Tuesday’s April 6 City Council meeting came near the very end under new business.
A discussion of the $33.7m in Covid money coming to Bethlehem from the federal government. Business Administrator Evans advised that half will arrive this summer, half a year later, and that there will be eligibility guidelines and that information should come in a month or so.
Once it’s clear what the parameters are, then there will be discussion of how to spend that money, and Mr. Evans said there were ideas of opening discussion up to the public.
Councilman Callahan made 2 welcome suggestions, that residents be given a rebate of the 5% tax increase and that funds be put to affordable housing, supporting the efforts of Councilwoman Crampsie Smith in that direction.
The tax increase is raising $1.5m, just a fraction of the Covid windfall.
Looks like we’re in for some good discussion in a couple months! About how to spend all that money in the best possible ways.
Council approved legislation adopting policies and regulations which determine stormwater user fee credits and how property owners could appeal the stormwater fee the city assigns them to pay. The stormwater fee a property owner is charged is based on impervious area on the property, according to the city.
Residents have two ways to reduce that fee. One is by reducing the impervious area and the other is by having a stormwater management structure on the property. Those structures include dry and wet ponds, wetlands, bioretention, bioswales and filter strips, permeable pavers and green roofs.
During the new business portion of the meeting, in discussing what he called a “windfall from the federal government” in COVID-19 funding, Councilman Bryan Callahan said it would be a “goodwill gesture” to provide rebates to property owners. Last year, council voted for a 5% tax increase, which Callahan said was challenging for taxpayers struggling during a global pandemic.
“Let’s give a break back to the residents,” said Callahan.
A new position devoted to addressing homelessness in Allentown was proposed Wednesday night by city council.
Council forwarded legislation that would create a “homeless service coordinator” position responsible for “providing coordination and support for the initiatives of the Allentown Commissioner on Homelessness,” according to the bill.
The hire would be tasked with educating the public and local government officials on issues regarding people without homes. They would also develop and implement related strategies and services, as well as coordinate the efforts of agencies already serving homeless people, such as the local government and not-for-profit and faith-based providers.
The homeless service coordinator would also be expected to increase the number of landlords willing to rent to homeless individuals, acquire federal and state funding to expand rental assistance to help people who are facing eviction, and expand affordable housing options.
Ultimately, the work of the position should result in “reducing the number of people and families that experience homelessness, so that homelessness in Allentown is rare, brief and non-reoccurring.”
selections from Paul Muschick, “Tiny homes for Allentown homeless worth a try. Here’s why.” Morning Call, March 25, 2021.
The idea of building tiny homes for Allentown’s homeless has merit and I hope city officials will consider it.
It’s not a perfect solution to addressing the problem of homelessness, as critics have pointed out. But there is no perfect solution. The problem has nagged society for centuries.
Tiny home communities are one of the latest concepts. They exist in some places, mostly out West.
Are they working? That’s depends on who you ask. But the lack of universal consensus shouldn’t kill the idea here. Allentown shouldn’t be afraid to try something different.
There are more pros than cons, and that’s why they should be considered.
Plans call for the village to receive mail, meaning people who live there would have an address to use on applications for benefits and jobs. That’s a huge barrier for the homeless.
The agency would help residents get identification, another barrier.
Residents would be required to open a bank account and save money. They would have to participate in six to 12 hours of programming a week on topics such as cooking; computer and trade skills; fitness; parenting; GED classes; family counseling; mental health; and drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
Residents would have to work, either on- or off-site. They would have to pay rent of $25 to $50 a month, depending on their income. But the rent would be refunded back to them to be used to help pay for permanent housing. The length of stay for each resident would vary.
All of those services would help get residents in a position of stability where they could live on their own, without such intensive support.
The biggest con to the plan is finding a location.
Where do you put a village of 25 tiny homes and its communal facilities? And how do you convince people living nearby to accept it?
Another con of a tiny homes community for the homeless is that it segregates them, as pointed out by opponents of the plan in a recent op-ed in The Morning Call.
I also wonder how many people would want to live in a tiny homes community. There’s a reason that some homeless people prefer to live in the woods. They want their independence.
Living somewhere with rules — such as a 9 p.m. curfew unless you’re working, and requirements to work and have a bank account — likely wouldn’t be popular with some. Nor would paying rent, even if that rent is returned to them.
Then there is the cost. It’s big.
Operation Address The Homeless is seeking nearly $500,000 in public funding, plus an additional $200,000 if Allentown and Lehigh County can’t donate property. That’s a big sticking point for a city with financial struggles.
But it could be looked at as investment because, if it works, a tiny homes community could mean lowering other costs related to serving the homeless.
Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election
Lehigh Valley for All is a progressive, community-minded, grassroots organization whose goals are to provide a platform for voters to gain knowledge of the political system and to effectuate progressive policies within their communities through issue campaigns and encouraging our membership to seek office.
We are a group of volunteers that work hard to organize and help candidates that believe in our progressive values and want the Lehigh Valley to move forward. Our group will put “boots on the ground” for candidates that receive our endorsement.
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL
Grace Crampsie Smith
Being endorsed by Lehigh Valley for All comes with a promise that we will assist in the candidate’s campaigns and help on election day at polling locations. Each of us must commit to writing postcards, posting signs, dropping off literature or making phone calls. LV4All has a reputation throughout the Valley for getting the best candidates elected and putting our time where our mouths are.
That’s the very first question in the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission design guidelines:
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF THE HISTORIC CONSERVATION DISTRICT?
The South Bethlehem Historic Conservation Commission (SBHCC) encourages the economic development and revitalization of the South Bethlehem Historic Conservation District while attempting to minimize the burden on long-term residents. Although each property owner can define the benefits of the Historic Conservation District based upon personal experience, historic districts have been found to: •Increase neighborhood stability and property values, foster economic development, increase business district investment, and revitalize older commercial areas by attracting new customers •Provide funding opportunities to property owners with grants and financial incentives to improve their historic buildings and structures •Preserve the physical history of the area and promote an appreciation of the physical environment •Foster community pride and self-image, increase the awareness and appreciation of local history and tourism.
The proposed new construction at 404 E. 3rd St. that we just posted on gives us a shorthand way of answering that basic question for visual learners:
Here we go again! The latest proposal for Southside Bethlehem is up for approval, and since it lies outside the Historic Conservation District, residents and business owners only have one chance to weigh in on the project—the upcoming Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, April 8 at 5 pm. Based on my experience with the current Planning Commission, I have little hope for any discussion that extends beyond minute technical details and congratulatory remarks to the developer, and a swift approval of everything as designed and presented. But, hey, we could be surprised. Regardless, I encourage folks to attend to remind our Planning Commission that residents and small business owners are interested in weighing in on proposed projects, which they are charged with ensuring represent “the best possible development” for our community.
The project under consideration is a 7-story (85 ft) mixed-use building proposed for the corner of Third and Polk streets in south Bethlehem, to be developed by Lou Pektor’s Ashley Development Corporation (owners of the mixed-use building across Polk Street). The current site is a parking lot that was previously slated for development as a two-story building with a major restaurant tenant, which went through a few different iterations over the years. Times have changed, and post-COVID, Lehigh Valley-housing-crisis projects are flooding in, as are proposals hoping to sneak in before height limits are changed for the Southside commercial districts. The new project consists of two floors designed for commercial use, with two retail spaces on the first floor, a large commercial space on the second floor (medical office? gym?), and then five floors that will include 25 studio apartments, 35 1-BR apartments, and 20 2-BR apartments. While they have not specified it, I believe that the apartments are likely going to be targeted as college student housing, given their size, location, and the developer’s recent conversion of their adjacent property to student apartments.
Support projects that incorporate locally owned businesses into their plans, and that lead to a net increase in small businesses.
Here’s a big question for the developers, and one that I hope is addressed at the Planning Commission. Based on Ashley Development’s track record at their adjacent Third Street property, I’m nervous about the first-floor retail spaces. To their credit, after years of persistent vacancies, they have finally filled the huge holes in their first floor (and upper floors, for that matter, which were vacant for years following the departure of St. Luke’s). However, having worked with small businesses that were interested in locating in the property, I know that the developer was willing to sit on vacant properties for years rather than lower prices to attract a small, local business—a trend that is all too common (and unfortunately, makes financial sense). The types of businesses that can afford a large, unfinished storefront are few and far between.
So, the questions we need answered here: Are the developers working with specific local businesses on this project? How will they ensure that the first and second floor spaces meet the needs of actual businesses in our community and remain filled?
Prioritize development of vacant industrial properties over demolition of historic properties.
This seems like an apt location for new development. Parking lots don’t add much to the neighborhood, and extending the commercial corridor along Third Street has been a goal of the City’s for a long time. No historic properties will be harmed in the construction of this building, so that’s always a plus!
Encourage new development that does not exceed the size of surrounding properties and blends with historic architecture in order to create a cohesive sense of place and encourage walkability.
This is an interesting one. Once you get to Polk Street, Third Street becomes an eclectic mix of sizes and styles, particularly considering proposed structures for the many parking lots of the redevelopment area. There is no master plan for design for this area (that I’m aware of) to encourage developers to build in any consistent way. Here’s where something like a form-based master plan could have been helpful. But it’s too late for that, so let’s look at what we have in front of us.
Personally, I think the building is pretty ugly. The dark, set back retail spaces under the massive overhang of several stories of apartments do not look inviting. Ashley Development’s other project on Third Street made an effort to blend in with the surrounding neighborhood, probably because it was required to as part of the historic review process. But the Historic Conservation District ends at Polk Street (along Third Street), so I suppose they are going for a cheap look rather than one that blends with their next-door neighbor. What do you think?
When it comes to building height, most folks on the Southside seem to agree that this end of town is best suited for large buildings given the tall historic structures that already characterize the area. The project requires a significant number of variances due to the proposed density on such a small site, but the location within the industrial redevelopment area means that it will be easier to get these and that this site in particular would not be affected by proposed height reductions throughout the rest of the business district. At 85 feet, the building will be taller than most of the surrounding properties (existing and proposed), although the developers indicate that it will be similar to the Northampton Community College building.
I’m not thrilled about the building’s appearance and don’t think it fits very well into the surrounding area. But I want to hear the thoughts of other residents and business owners.
Support projects that incorporate diverse residential and commercial offerings that are accessible and affordable to South Bethlehem’s population.
This project will offer a range of studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments. I hope that the developer will indicate if these are intended to serve college students or another population. Given the small size of the units and the likely price range, I don’t see much of a market for these studios beyond students. A range of apartments in these sizes is needed in our community, but it is highly unlikely given construction costs that the developer will charge prices that would actually meet the affordable housing needs of our community. I look forward to hearing more about this point.
Support adaptive reuse of historic buildings.
This is not an adaptive reuse project and doesn’t seem to have potential to be one.
Support projects that incorporate green space and/or the development of public spaces into their design.
This project proposes covering 95+% of the lot with impervious surfaces and removing 17 12-foot sycamores from the property, so green space looks to be a net loss (not that there was much to begin with). The second-floor commercial space and residential entrances will be located on the Mechanic Street-side of the building, so at least the view from the Greenway will be more than just dumpsters. Not much else to say here.
Support projects that are developed in response to community needs identified by residents and stakeholders, and that engage residents and stakeholders in idea development and the design process.
There’s no indication that residents and community stakeholders were consulted in the development of this project. I know it’s not the norm, but I will continue to insist that the best projects require community input.
Support projects that prioritize sustainable development practices and take proactive approaches to addressing challenges presented by our changing climate.
Thus far, this project does not address this point. I hope that the developer’s presentation will include an analysis of the environmental impact of the project.
Avoid projects that cause displacement of long-time residents, low-income residents, and locally owned businesses
No businesses or residents will be displaced through this project, so that is definitely a plus.
Do not use projects that are nearly universally considered planning and design failures as precedent for elements of new development (e.g. Urban Renewal projects like Rooney building, Litzenberger House, Lehigh’s Brodhead House; Rite Aid shopping center)
This doesn’t seem to be an issue in this particular case.
All in all, I’m not extremely excited about this proposal. I’m interested in learning more. I agree that this is an appropriate location to direct development, but I wish it were more attractive, and I hope the storefronts will be filled immediately with small, local businesses that serve Southside residents. I’m interested in hearing if this will be student housing. I’m also curious to see if the project will actually move forward, since the developer has been sitting on the property for years.
I hope that the Planning Commission will take the final point on the City’s letter seriously and condition approval on obtaining contracts for parking spaces at the specified Parking Authority lots. Given the explosion in development proposals on the Southside, it will be a race for developers to acquire a finite number of spots. I believe other developers have cited some of these same parking spots in their calculations, so we will need to keep an eye on approvals to ensure that spaces are not double-counted.
You may have noticed that my analysis is less robust than usual. This is a factor of time; as a community, we were made aware of this project on April 5 thanks to a Morning Call article. The actual plans weren’t published on the City’s website until late in the day on April 5, leaving the community three days to analyze the proposals in preparation for the only opportunity to provide input in a formal setting. I’m staying up far later than I would like to finish this analysis so that it can be published by The Gadfly and hopefully encourage a few folks to come out to the Planning Commission meeting. Do you see the problem here? I hope so. Responsible and community-oriented development requires doing a lot better.
Touchstone Theatre of Bethlehem is introducing an experimental performance that combines a drag show and art installation and will be presented in person, but socially-distanced.
“An Imagined America” will be presented between 5 and 9:30 p.m. April 9 and 1 and 9:30 p.m. April 10, Fine Art Galleries, Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, Allentown Arts Walk, 21 N. Seventh St., Allentown.
The performance is created by Adam Ercolani of Bethlehem. Ercolani is an apprentice at Touchstone Theatre and a 2021 candidate for a master’s degree in Moravian College’s MFA program. The play was written as part of Ercolani’s thesis.
The performance takes place over 45 minutes with just five guests allowed in the gallery at a time.
According to Ercolani, the show is “bringing history to life through a re-imagination of what America is, was, and can or may be.”
The show features performances by two regionally-known drag queens, Majestee Crowne Le’Vixenn of Reading and Rogue-Star Givenchy of Allentown.
“From the get-go, I knew I wanted this project to focus on the medium of drag performance since it provides a unique way to recontextualize the historical moments we’re looking at,” Ercolani says.
“Drag performers are notorious for their ability to capture a room and really kill it with what they’re bringing to the table,” says Ercolani.
The show is a performance piece and an art installation that is a study of human bias and behavior, says Ercolani.
“It’s a dissection of American identity: the good, the bad and the ugly,” Ercolani says. “Audiences and actors alike will be left asking themselves what exactly America is and what they want America to be.”
Ercolani envisions “An Imagined America” engaging Lehigh Valley audiences in a new way, and providing them with a new lens with which to view society.
He hopes the piece will help the community “understand the challenges those unlike them face, and perceive ways in which they feed into the system of which they are inherently a part.”
Tickets for “An Imagined America” are limited and there will be staggered entrance times for only five patrons at a time. Attendees are asked to arrive 15 minutes before their slotted entrance time. Masks are required. Part of the performance will take place in the gallery and part of it will take place just outside the gallery. In the event of rain, the full event will take place indoors. Tickets are free with donations accepted.
“The overarching issue is inclusiveness and transparency in our city government so that we can bring everyone together and move forward with a true sense of belonging as residents of Bethlehem.”
“For me, the building of a homeless shelter would be of upmost importance. . . . I hope to focus on environmental justice. This focus will allow me to work with council members and our local nonprofits to address the need for a homeless shelter. . . . The matter of a homeless shelter is one that speaks to our humanity.”
“It’s crucial that we provide swift, equitable, and easily accessible funding to help our small businesses stay in business.”
Bryan, Grace, Hillary, Rachel, Kiera:
In the first three forum prompts, I have given you the topics.
Let’s turn that around this time.
You get to choose the topic.
Attached you will find a comparison chart. I wanted voters to have a handy way of looking at you all at once. I filled in the blocks of the chart from your campaign literature or hearing you make presentations, or, with Bryan and Grace, simply from knowing what you’ve done. I have tried to include what I have heard you identify as a campaign or platform issue.
Please pick one campaign or platform issue and elaborate on it.
What do you most look forward to working on in your term on Council?
Council members are problem solvers. What major problem would you like to work on either through the influence inherent in your position or through developing specific legislation — whether alone or, most likely, in coalition with fellow Councilors?
Elaborate. What is the problem? How is it affecting our residents? How did you become engaged in it? What will you have to learn about it? What preparation will you have to do? With whom will you need to engage? What will be your goal? How will you go about achieving the goal? How will you gain support from your Council colleagues? What outcome do you seek? What value to the residents in our city will your work have?
Thanks for your service and your willingness to serve.
I would like to think that we all have an ethos, consciously or subconsciously, that guides how we make our decisions. For me, environmentalism is that ethos. In this time
of hyperpolarization, I believe that we can all agree on this one thing, there is only one planet Earth. For this reason, whenever I make a decision, I think of how this might affect my family, my neighbors, my community down to the seventh generation. Understanding environmentalism as a platform is to truly understand what it means to be part of a community. It isn’t just about planting more trees, although I believe we should. It isn’t just about picking up litter, even though I love a good clean-up effort. Environmentalism is investing in local economies and supporting our small businesses. Environmentalism is addressing the placement of factories in our communities and how this affects already marginalized communities. Environmentalism is addressing access to nutritious food and affordable housing. When we put the health of our community at the core of our decisions, we can address the macro issues of environmentalism, like our air quality. We can make real change.
I think of affordable housing when I think of environmental issues. When we cannot find affordable housing, we are forced to move further away from our communities, adding to our overall emissions. I think of access to a full-service grocery and of members of our community who must drive 20 minutes just to pick up a few items during the week. I think of our homeless community members that are at a higher risk of experiencing environmental hazards. One thing I love about Bethlehem is that we have community organizations that work on issues like these. Our council has members that champion environmental issues and work diligently to address affordable housing. If I am afforded the opportunity to serve, I hope to work along side of them, and bring my unique perspective as a resident of South Bethlehem. For me, the building of a homeless shelter would be of upmost importance. This past year has shown us that, as a community, we are all connected. When we help our most marginalized community members, we help the community at large.
Environmental issues will be my driving force as I work with other council members. Although environmentalism is multifaceted, I hope to focus on environmental justice. This focus will allow me to work with council members and our local nonprofits to address the need for a homeless shelter and to address our air quality. I am already working with members of the community that have boots on the ground, so to speak, regarding these issues. The more I work with them, the more I learn about what has been successful in the past as well as what has not worked. If we come together, the Council and the nonprofits that have already done much of the heavy lifting, we can come up with an effective plan that implements proven solutions. The matter of a homeless shelter is one that speaks to our humanity. It has support in our community. It is my hope that we can take the next steps and make it a reality.
The meaningful relationships I have developed with small business owners in Bethlehem through my work at Fig have brought this community, and the issues they
face, close to my heart. I have always admired, deeply, the extraordinary hard work and dedication it takes to launch a small business. But this past year, I have been in awe. Forced closures, capacity reductions, layoffs, complex and time-consuming grant applications, learning how to keep customers and staff safe in a pandemic—the list of unimaginable challenges goes on.
With over $33 million of funding coming to Bethlehem through the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, the City will have the opportunity to provide desperately needed support to small business owners: to help them keep and hire back employees, provide debt relief, cover the cost of upgrades and strategies required to keep customers safe, and more. It’s crucial that we provide swift, equitable, and easily accessible funding to help our small businesses stay in business. And not only the funding itself, but the guidance and information to help small business owners navigate the process of applying for and utilizing it. This involves direct communication with small business owners themselves and working closely with those already serving the important role of supporting our small business community—including our existing economic development team, organizations like CADCB, and individuals like Missy Hartney with the SouthSide Arts District and Tammy Wendling with the Downtown Bethlehem Association (both of whom have worked tirelessly to guide our small business owners through the ever-shifting landscape of the past year).
We must look beyond the pandemic, as well. What do our small business owners need to succeed and feel supported by the City in the long term, and how can we better provide that support? What can we do to create an even more vibrant small business community? Can we improve practices with regard to inviting entrepreneurship and encouraging new small business owners to choose Bethlehem? How can we, as a City, more actively promote our local businesses? What mistakes have we made in the past, and how can we correct them? How can we make it as easy as possible for great small businesses to open, expand, and thrive—not just post-pandemic, but well into the future?
Small businesses are often referred to as the lifeblood of the US economy, for good reason. Spending that we do at local businesses helps our local economy. Small businesses create jobs, drive innovation, and enable us to purchase products made locally. And small business owners are members of our community, too. They are neighbors and friends; they know our favorite item on the menu, how we take our coffee. They, and the work they do, provide character and individuality to Bethlehem. They are invested, deeply, in what happens here. And the past year has challenged them like no other. Celebrating and supporting small business is more important than ever, and taking a greater role in helping our hard-working community of small business owners thrive—now and into the future—will be a great privilege and responsibility of my role on Bethlehem City Council.
Residents are welcome to fashion reflections on candidate comments, sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org. On Gadfly we seek the good conversation that builds community, so please be courteous at all times. Gadfly retains the right to abridge and to edit your reflections and to decline posts that are repetitive or that contain personal attacks. Gadfly will publish resident reflections on the week’s Forum at noon on Friday.
Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election
“I was fortunate to grow up in the Jim Thorpe area, so I was surrounded by the beauty of the environment as I was growing up.”
Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, April 1, 2021
born to a police chief and a nurse
grew up in Jim Thorpe area, surrounded by environmental beauty
spent career in human services: guidance counselor, addictions counselor, mental health and disabilities
taught at community college
grateful mother of three
almost arrested for refusing to litter (you have to listen!)
Affordable Housing Task Force
Insurance coverage for PTSD for first responders
helping business owners during pandemic
Community Engagement Initiative for social justice and police issues
working with Chief Kott of police training
responsible contractor ordinance
critical to preserve single-family homes
voted for regulation of student housing
voted against closing of Packer Ave.
supported pedestrian bridge feasibility study
initiated block watch
partnered with Pros-for-Clothes supplying clothes for homeless
“The issue of homelessness and the lack of inclusionary, multi-level income housing in our city is very passionate to me, and I have fought to try to do whatever we can to make Bethlehem as inclusionary as possible from a housing perspective.”
Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election
“I really appreciate the incredible effort you have put into the Climate Action Plan. . . . It’s not just creating the infrastructure but the culture shift.”
Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, April 1, 2021
lived in Cambridge for 14 years, a city that puts a high priority on the environment
currently director of Fig Bethlehem magazine, whose mission is to support local business
has used her platform at Fig to engage in advocacy, including for the environment
piece on Jennie Gilrain, John Noble, and the Swifts in the current issue
appreciates incredible effort put into the Climate Action Plan
very important is the attention it gives to justice and equity
our most marginalized communities suffer the negative effects the most
advocacy leans in the community direction: walking, biking, pedestrian bridge, public transportation
need messaging, culture change
not just creating the infrastructure but creating the culture shift
improving and creating parks and green spaces
access to our river
nature is there for all of us
“I believe that caring for the environment is important for many reasons in and of itself, but it is a way of caring for ourselves and our neighbors. It is in its nature equitable. It is there for all of us. And so it has the potential to gather us all together on bike and on foot. It is there for all of us.”
pieces of the CAP are in all of the parts of her plan
particularly loves that the CAP instills environmental justice throughout
particularly struck by the implementation part of the CAP and Council’s important role there
avid organic gardener
changing policies to create better access to renewable energy
an ally to implementation of the CAP
worked on the communications piece of the CAP
timing of the CAP is brilliant, aligning with the federal infrastructure plan
“Pieces of the Climate Action Plan are in all of my plan, actually, because I want to address racism and inequality, I want to reimagine public safety, and I want to foster vibrant neighborhoods which also involve the parks, the playgrounds, the green space in out communities. What I love about the Climate Action Plan is that it instills environmental justice throughout.”