Premier by local artist this weekend — don’t miss!

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hear Gadfly read Walt Whitman

There’s an original play premiering in Bethlehem this weekend.

Original.

Local talent.

Part of the IceHouse Tonight series.

Gadfly wants to begin to pay more attention in these pages to local arts and artists — the kinds of things that aren’t heavily advertised or covered in the local press and want and deserve our support.

What should he cover? Let him know.

And who is able to post substantively (not just performance info) on such events?

Frankly, the IceHouse Tonight series has not been on Gadfly’s radar. Maybe the same for many of you.

The Ice House is a beautiful venue, local treasure (and let’s take a moment to remember the great Charlie Brown).

Original work by local artist — always beautiful too.

“Jetblack Sunrise”
by Michael Fegely
8PM, Jan, 24-26
The Charles A. Brown Ice House
56 River St. (Sand Island)

Kathy Lauer-Williams, “Original play based on Walt Whitman’s poetry opens at Ice House.” Morning Call, January 21, 2020.

Allentown’s Michael Fegely has long been fascinated with the poetry of American icon Walt Whitman. His 2016 one-man play “Whitman by Fire” was based on Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”

Now Fegely is premiering a new theatrical interpretation of Whitman’s work in “Jetblack Sunrise,” which comes to Bethlehem’s Ice House this weekend and to Easton’s Nurture Nature Center in February.

In Behlehem, “Jetblack Sunrise” is part of the IceHouse Tonight series, and brings to life “the soaring, enigmatic work of America’s greatest poet.”

The intimate hour-long production is staged simply, and tells the story of a former soldier struggling to grasp his place in his country, his place among mankind, and ultimately his place in all of time.

The creators say they have developed a new way to communicate Whitman’s poetry to “unscrew the locks” and “embrace your soul” so that audiences embark on a brief odyssey of the mind — from the smallest blade of grass to the reaches of the cosmos — along the way finding their shared humanity, and awakening our familiar self in its immortality.

Fegely stresses that the performance is not a poetry reading of Whitman’s work. However, every line and word is drawn from an 1855 first edition of the poet’s “Leaves of Grass” and the 1856 poem “Song of the Open Road.” The title comes from a line in “Song of Myself,” one of the poems in “Leaves of Grass.”

Fegely and Amenda used lines and passages from the poetry to create an original active through-line that is brought to life on stage, while remaining absolutely true to the poet’s grand thoughts. They say in this way the audience “shares in the revelation of his vision as it is brought into the present to live among us.”

More info on Lehigh University’s proposed “Packer Avenue Promenade”

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TONIGHT!

Pilot study: temporary closing of Packer Avenue
Public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 23 at the
Broughal Middle School Auditorium

Nicole Radzievich, “Should Bethlehem close this major street near Lehigh University?” Morning Call, January 16, 2020.

Gadfly’s trying to get some preliminary info out there for those who want to attend the meeting tonight — so that you can have some questions in mind.

Gadfly was able to get this PowerPoint prepared for presentation at our Environmental Advisory Council last May. It gives us a quicker way of grasping the gist of Lehigh University’s “Packer Avenue Promenade” project than the link to the full Lehigh report Gadfly gave you earlier.

Packer Promenade – Environmental Advisory Council

Also, here is an audio recording of the EAC meeting at which two Lehigh grad student contributors to the report discussed some of their findings. Old timers will recognize and enjoy the distinctive voice and style of Mike Topping, long-time City employee.

You will hear that the promenade is associated with Lehigh’s already implemented plan to be a walking campus and that the impact on Zoellner Arts Center seems to be a major concern

The Southside face of Lehigh is obviously changing with its “Path to Prominence” program.

There’s a bit of a building boom going on. There’s a new building well underway at Webster and Morton. And one going through the approval process at Webster and Packer.

One should also remember that South New Street from the Fahy Bridge up to Lehigh’s Farrington Square is due for a makeover.

Lots going on. We can’t lose sight of the good things Lehigh does for the Southside. Followers might remember that Gadfly enjoyed taking a leisurely, multi-post walk through the Sunrise on the Southside documentary.

But, as a follower just said to him, Lehigh looks out for itself.

One issue with the promenade might be parking. The two new buildings in the area mentioned above take off over 150 parking spaces. A small parking lot on Packer Ave. will be lost by the promenade. Street parking along Packer will also be lost.

At a Planning Commission meeting two weeks or so ago, Lehigh said that it has a surplus of 2000+ parking spaces on campus overall, 400+ on lower campus adjacent to the promenade, and 100+ in the Zoellner parking zone.

Gadfly suggests Lehigh be sworn under oath on those numbers.

Just sayin’.

The goals of the proposed “Packer Avenue Promenade”: knitting together the northern and southern halves of lower campus, improving the safety and mobility of pedestrians

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TONIGHT!

Pilot study: temporary closing of Packer Avenue
Public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 23 at the
Broughal Middle School Auditorium

Nicole Radzievich, “Should Bethlehem close this major street near Lehigh University?” Morning Call, January 16, 2020.

Impeachment closed early Wednesday night, and Gadfly found himself reading through the interesting “Sustainability Impact Assessment” the Lehigh class did on closing Packer Ave. between Vine and Webster and creating “The Packer Avenue Promenade.”

The study focused on six areas: sense of place, local business and the arts, the natural environment, traffic and transportation, pedestrian mobility, and safety and emergency access.

Lehigh “tasked” this graduate class to do the study, and Gadfly wonders if enough consideration was given to impact on the residential neighborhoods around Lehigh.

But then, he thought, are there really any residential neighborhoods left to be affected?

Has Lehigh sprawl finally succeeded in snuffing out the residential neighborhoods?

Anybody want to comment on that?

Here is a random collection of soundbites from the report that kinda jumped out at Gadfly.

  • The goals of the proposed Packer Avenue Promenade project are to knit together the northern and southern halves of Lehigh University’s Asa Packer Campus and improve the safety and mobility of pedestrians.
  • One of the main concerns with the proposed closing of Packer Avenue to vehicular traffic is the impact it will have on the local community and its relationship to Lehigh University.
  • Packer Avenue is currently a relatively heavily traversed road with metered parking on both sides of the street. It is used primarily by people affiliated with the university, with university Transportation Services estimating that over 70% of the cars parked on Packer Avenue are Lehigh University affiliated.
  • The Packer Avenue Promenade project follows a pattern of eliminating vehicle traffic from roads on the interior of campus. University Drive, Memorial Drive, and Library Drive, all now pedestrian walkways, have been closed to cars over the years.
  • With ongoing potential to improve “town-gown” relations, we recommend that Lehigh University utilize this space to hold programming that is not only for the Lehigh University community, but also invites and includes all communities in Bethlehem.
  • By making it more difficult or unpleasant to access Zoellner, we risk reducing utilization and attendance. This would have a significant financial impact on Zoellner itself, and would also impact any businesses that depend upon patronage associated with Zoellner events.
  • With the traffic shunted from Packer Avenue to East 4th Street, an increase in congestion can be expected on East 4th Street and is indeed welcomed by local businesses. Conventional wisdom would dictate that congestion impedes growth, but this is not necessarily the case. In fact, economic growth is correlated with congestion until a threshold of 15-minute delay per trip is achieved.
  • To improve upon the 2005 committee, and in order to work towards greater cohesion and communication between the Lehigh University and Bethlehem communities, committee members should also represent Bethlehem community members and institutions. This might ensure that affiliates of neighboring institutions, such as Broughal Middle School and St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, are not only aware of developments in the Packer Avenue Promenade project, but that they can also voice their concerns, ideas, and opinions regarding mobility and access.
  • The proposed project is expected to improve pedestrian safety from assault and crime because Lehigh University would be able to replace and alter the lighting and design of the area, once Packer Avenue is transferred from the city to Lehigh University.
  • The proposed project does not degrade emergency access for ambulances, fire trucks, and service vehicles on Packer Avenue with respect to accommodating service and emergency vehicles on the promenade and emergency vehicle response times.

Next Gadfly will post discussion of the promenade by Lehigh student contributors to the report at our Environmental Advisory Council back in May.

“Enforcing Robert’s Rules will not in any way suppress ideas. . . . The purpose of Robert’s Rules is to get things done in a meeting”

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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:

Just as it takes three things to go wrong simultaneously for an airliner to crash, it takes only two things to go wrong for a lack of decorum and civility at the city council: a disruptive councilperson and a “soft gavel.” Enforcing Robert’s Rules will not in any way suppress ideas, because any actionable idea can be expressed without insulting another person or impugning their motives. The purpose of Robert’s Rules is to get things done in a meeting. In order to do so, the Rules eliminate time-consuming arguments about process, and eliminate the inflammatory comments described above, which can lead to responses that are sometimes inflammatory in themselves, and to a meeting that can end up, in the extreme, in a fist fight, which happened once in a Lehigh Valley Township. There is a reason why Robert’s Rules are followed in almost every deliberative body in the United States of America and have lasted for well over 100 years. This reason is to actually get things done in a meeting. After the meeting, you can shift to the First Amendment.

Bill

A Lehigh study on the proposed Packer Ave. closing

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Pilot study: temporary closing of Packer Avenue
Public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. Jan. 23 at the
Broughal Middle School Auditorium

Nicole Radzievich, “Should Bethlehem close this major street near Lehigh University?” Morning Call, January 16, 2020.

Here is a “Sustainability Impact Assessment” on the proposed Packer Ave. closing performed by a Lehigh University graduate class a year ago.

Gadfly always says go to the primary sources. Let’s try to take a look before tomorrow night’s meeting (of course, the only other call on our time is an impeachment — history unfolding before our eyes).

Packer Avenue Promenade Project: Sustainability Impact Assessment (May 2019)

Conclusion

Sustainability considers impacts on human, environmental, and economic well-being. A Sustainability Impact Assessment (SIA) is an expansion of the traditional Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and represents a vital step toward ensuring that sustainability is adequately addressed during the project assessment process.

Lehigh University is exploring the possibility of closing Packer Avenue to traffic and converting it into a pedestrian promenade. In Spring 2019, Lehigh University graduate students conducted an SIA for this potential project. SIAs offer a comprehensive guide for decision-makers by laying out positive and negative impacts of a project as well as recommendations for mitigating negative impacts.

SIAs encourage using assessment tools most appropriate to the stakeholders and the impact being assessed. The Packer Avenue Promenade SIA identifies six key categories for assessment. Methods of assessment were tailored to each category and included literature reviews, interviews with experts and stakeholders, online surveys, and quantitative data collection. Local businesses, restaurants, and arts organizations were also interviewed.

The proposed project may have both positive and negative impacts. Among the most significant are improved aesthetics and prospective student experience, decreased stormwater runoff and greenhouse gas emissions, reduced exposure of students to harmful vehicular emissions, and impacts to accessibility and mobility. Our recommendations include, but are not limited to, addressing potential parking issues at
Zoellner Arts Center, implementing bioswales with appropriate vegetation, conducting further traffic studies that include the broader South Side area, appointing an implementation committee that includes non-Lehigh community members, providing alternative accessible transportation options, implementing programming in the new space to improve communal sense of place, and using tactical urbanism to test the road closure for effectiveness and approval before implementing the proposed project.

SIA is a new concept within minimal implementation requirements that provides Lehigh University and the City of Bethlehem the opportunity to be leaders in an emerging policy movement with global implications. Assessing the effects on community, environment, and economic well-being will promote Lehigh University and the City of Bethlehem as leaders in sustainability.

President Waldron indicates he hasn’t “been deaf to the criticisms of my style” and that maybe he will be “a bit more” aggressive

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At City Council last night, President Waldron once again responds to concerns about his soft-gavel style:

  • I take this position seriously; I’m honored to serve for another term.
  • I stand by my legacy in the work that I did in my role over the last two years and hope to build on that.
  • I will continue to encourage as much public comment as possible as well as healthy debate among members of council.
  • I have brought in the live-streaming in an effort to get more people engaged.
  • I have made attempts to interact a bit more with the speakers in a way . . . to try to answer some questions whenever it is appropriate and try to have a small dialog.
  • I haven’t been deaf to the criticisms of my style of allowing a very long leash and using a soft gavel, and I’ll continue to try to reflect on that in ways to help guide the conversation in a more positive and productive way.
  • I’m serious in my commitment to listening to my members of Council and hearing their feedback on my management of the meetings.
  • I would say that generally most of the criticisms directed at me for not managing a specific member of Council and not silencing them or gaveling them down.
  • Which I think is a fair criticism; however, I have made attempts to guide that conversation to be a bit more productive, and those attempts have not been successful.
  • Ultimately I think if there’s a single bad actor, that doesn’t reflect negatively upon Council.
  • I think that reflects upon that individual, and those comments are representative of that certain person, not of the entire Council.
  • I will, however, try to continue and maybe a bit more aggressively help try to push that conversation to a productive one.
  • It’s my hope that everybody can continue to work together, we have a generally good working relationship among Council and the administration, and I hope that we can continue that over the next two years.
  • I think the City is in great shape, and a lot of that has to do with these relationships.
  • I thank members of Council and the public for their support.
  • I am very open to having a dialog and a conversation about how we can continue to improve things here at City Council meetings as well as in the City as a whole.

Bethlehem Moment: The Portuguese in Bethlehem

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Bethlehem Moment 19
City Council
January 21, 2020

audio

Bethlehem Moment: 1860-1880, the Portuguese come to Bethlehem

Portuguese Heritage

Portuguese Heritage: Adding to the Fabric of South Bethlehem
by Armindo P. Sousa
“Southern Exposure,” Winter 2009

Dana Grubb reads selections from the above newsletter issue, compliments of the South Bethlehem Historical Society, in particular the late Armindo Sousa and Ken Raniere, who authored the newsletter.