“Our neighborhood now faces an existential threat”

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

Contact for the Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development is Seth Moglen: moglen@lehigh.edu. This group is open to all, not just 1st Terrace area residents. The more membership, the greater the power. And the issue here is not limited to one neighborhood.

Continuing here the thread started with the May 22 letter from the South Bethlehem Historical Society and reinvigorated Saturday by Gadfly Antalics’ essay in the Morning Call.

“Our neighborhood now faces an existential threat.”

Gadfly quotes from Seth Moglen’s presentation at City Council July 16 in which he describes the situation in his Southside neighborhood, describes what he and his neighbors want from the Mayor and City Council, and announces the formation of Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development.***

Gadfly wants you to listen to Moglen. No pulling soundbites to make it easy for you this time. Always go to the primary source. Listen. Takes but six minutes.

Gadfly is depending on you to have listened.

He wants to focus on and play off one element.

The assertion of political power.

“What we are asking you for now is this. We want you  . . . to develop the tools that City government requires in order to stop this kind of predatory real estate speculation. . . . That’s what we are asking you to to do now, not years, months. There are dozens of us who have joined in an organization [Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development], we hope there will be hundreds of us soon. We will vote in the next election. . . . We are not going away.”

The nascent Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development has thrown down the gauntlet.

“We want . . . We will vote . . . We are not going away.”

Sounds like the BRRDers are telling the politicians that action on this Southside “existential threat” may determine the way they vote.

Gadfly urges you — wherever you live in the City — to email Moglen (moglen@lehigh.edu) as an act of solidarity and to get your name on their mailing list.

Bodies on board count.

And have you emailed the Mayor and City Council? Sent a letter to the Morning Call?

*** Gadfly focuses on Moglen’s presentation here, but that City Council meeting featured a half-dozen moving resident comments. Please find complete audio here.

Numbers can lie, and the Mayor can speak

(Latest post on such topics as Neighborhoods, Southside,
1st Terrace, Affordable Housing)

Gadfly:

If “data-driven” means making decisions based on fact rather than assumptions or favoritism, I’m all for it. But I think we all know that statistics data can be shaped to prove almost anything, so that approach can be dangerous as well.

The ABCs should not be mere puppets, but for the Mayor to be silent on important issues is also inappropriate. He is, after all, an elected representative of the people, and silence communicates agreement. (Too often, he has used his platform to speak out in favor of developers, even when proposed development clearly violated the city’s own ordinances.)

Peter Crownfield

Two Councilpersons respond to the Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development

(Latest post on such topics as Neighborhoods, Southside,
1st Terrace, Affordable Housing)

Contact for the Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development is Seth Moglen: moglen@lehigh.edu. This group is open to all, not just 1st Terrace area residents. The more membership, the greater the power. And the issue here is not limited to one neighborhood.

So Gadfly has covered in detail the forceful first appearance of what he thinks we can now call the “Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development” at City Council Tuesday night. A group that he feels can accomplish much good.

But there were two meaningful responses by Council members that we should note as well.

First, Councilwoman Van Wirt.

In reference to the 1st Terrace issues that the residents spoke about, PVW wants data and seemed to get into a slight bit of tangle with the City rep over getting it. Nothing serious. But I don’t think the rep got the importance of what PVW was asking.

PVW has described herself as data-driven. She’s a doctor. A “fixin’ doctor,” a term Gadfly’s kids used to differentiate their father’s degree.

Data-driven — Gadfly likes that.

PVW wanted “firm data,”  a “firm study” to show “actual need” for housing around Lehigh. She wanted “something to refer to.”

(Ha! Gadfly would “fix” that ending preposition to “something to which she could refer.” See, kids, your dad is a “fixin’ doctor” too!)

Gadfly likes that. Glad we have a person like that on Council.

Second, Councilman Reynolds.

JWR thanked the Mayor for weighing in strongly on the 1st Terrace proposal, but his more general point was the power that Mayor has in such situations, implying, Gadfly thinks (he almost literally talked directly to the Mayor at one point), that the Mayor/Administration should wield that power more often.

“One of the lessons going forward here is the power the Administration has to weigh in on these projects publicly and privately. . . . when Administrations take positions on any of these things, it is extraordinarily rare for these Authorities, these Commissions, these Boards to necessarily say no, no, no, we disagree with what the professionals say, we disagree with what the full-time people say, we disagree with what the elected officials say about this. . . . and I want to say thank you to the Mayor for weighing in on this, but at the same time it’s also a model. We can pass all the ordinances we want. But the strongest thing that we have is that we have an Administration that will stand up and say we like this project, we understand some people disagree, we understand some people don’t like elements of it. . . . I just think that going forward . . . as we talk about other development projects throughout the City, all of our voices are important, but the most important one is siting there [the Mayor], and I have confidence, I have faith, and I just want to say thank you.

Gadfly thanked the Mayor too. He didn’t trust the Zoning Commission to have any more “No” than the Planning Commission in this 1st Terrace proposal that seemed so obviously wrong. Gadfly liked that the Mayor saw it his way.

But how would he feel in the opposite case.

Which, Gadfly feels, has happened in the not-so-distant past.

JWR seems to literally argue for a strong Mayor (Administration). But does that tilt the ABCs toward puppet rather than independent status?

Gadfly needs to chew on this some more. You are welcome to help.

Two thoughts regarding the issue raised by the Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development

(Latest post on such topics as Neighborhoods, Southside,
1st Terrace, Affordable Housing)

Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

Great to have this group [Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development] speaking out!

One thing about off-campus student housing is that it tends to promote gentrification—despite its generally poor quality and high rents. This is exacerbated by new high-end rentals (such as the new SouthSide Commons) which also drive rents in the community.

One more factor: overpriced dormitory housing, which makes the off-campus housing more attractive. Colleges & universities could easily price their on-campus housing at a price that would pull many students back on campus.

Peter

Contact for the Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development is Seth Moglen: moglen@lehigh.edu. This group is open to all, not just 1st Terrace area residents. The more membership, the greater the power. And the issue here is not limited to one neighborhood.

Meet the “Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development”

(Latest posts on such topics as Neighborhoods, Southside,
1st Terrace, Affordable Housing)

In a model display of public participation and activism, a group of residents associated with the 1st Terrace situation that Gadfly reported on earlier attended City Council last night, announcing the formation of  “Bethlehem Residents for Responsible Development,” describing the deteriorating situation in their neighborhood from the increasing pressure of student housing and firmly pushing the Mayor and City Council to take action NOW before it is too late.

You can find audio of the full individual statements from these residents at the bottom of this post, but here just below Gadfly has arranged clips in the form of an interview to capture the powerfully cumulative effect of their presentations.

Describe your neighborhood. (Moglen)

Why are you living there? (Mendez)

What is your purpose in coming here to this meeting? (Moglen)

Isn’t off-campus housing for students needed because of Lehigh’s expansion? (Handler)

What’s it like to live next to students? (Handler)

Are you opposed to neighborhood students and development? (Handler)

Give us some historical perspective. (Evans)

What’s the developer like? (Stark)

What’s your experience with the developer? (Long)

How urgent is the problem and how committed are you to pushing for a solution? (Saunders)

What is it that you want? (Moglen)


Don’t miss the full presentations:

Anne Evans

Kristin Handler

Chris Long

Mrs. Mendez

Seth Moglen

Murdock Saunders

Gretchen Stark

The Mayor clobbers the 1st Terrace proposal, but . . .

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

Zoning Hearing Board meeting, Town Hall, tonight, Wednesday,
June 26, at 6PM

There are three items on the Zoning Board agenda tonight.

The middle one is the proposal to put 40 student housing units on residential 1st Terrace above Lehigh University.

We have written about this before as a bad proposal. Gadfly was troubled that the Planning Commission couldn’t find its “no.”

Now it is before Zoning.

Stimulated by the posts of Kim Carrell-Smith, Gadfly devised the notion of butt-sharing.

Neighbors helping neighbors.

You get your butt to the hearing about my neighborhood, and I will get my butt to the hearing about yours.

Lots of you have never been to a City Council meeting, much less a Planning or Zoning meeting. Tonight would be a good opportunity to see important City neighborhood business in action.

Please turn out and lend silent symbolic support, even if you don’t plan to speak.

But the 1st Terracers have an unusual, powerful ally. The Mayor has taken a position against the proposal in the letter below. This IS unusual. Word is that this Mayor has not taken this step in a residential case before.

Donchez 1st Terrace

But the attorney for the developer is a good one. We’ve seen him in action before. He’s used to winning.

And the Planning Commission, faced with the same kind of evidence, couldn’t find its “no.”

It seems hard to say no to a developer. That’s why every neighborhood should be on the alert.

And butt-sharing.

Zoning Hearing Board meeting, Town Hall, tonight, Wednesday,
June 26, at 6PM

New idea: butt-sharing

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

Zoning Hearing Board meeting, Town Hall, Wednesday, June 26, at 6PM

Gadfly tries to make clear that when he writes about one neighborhood, all neighborhoods should pay attention.

What’s happening in one neighborhood can happen in another.

Especially if it’s something bad.

We are all linked.

A recent case is the proposal to build 40 student units in the 1st Terrace residential neighborhood just above Lehigh University.

Gadfly whined about the Planning Committee’s wussy decision on this proposal: The Planning Commission couldn’t find its “No”

Then Kim Carrell-Smith followed with a provocative proposal of her own in these posts: butt-sharing.

Please support the residents of the 1st Terrace neighborhood at the Zoning meeting June 26

Southside residents and environmental folks need your body in a seat!

Well, butt-sharing is my term for what she suggested.

We have bike-sharing, ride-sharing, why not butt-sharing!

Kim suggests that even residents from outside the 1st Terrace neighborhood attend the Zoning Hearing Board meeting, Town Hall, Wednesday, June 26, at 6PM, in a show of support.

What a great idea.

Butts-in-the-seats!

And in one of her posts Kim even suggested standing in solidarity during the testimony! Better yet!

We give blood to our neighbors in need. How about giving your butt to a neighbor in need?

Are you free Wednesday night? Stop by. Developers are persuasive in this town. Our volunteer resident Boards sometimes have a hard time saying “no” to them.

“No” is easier with lots of butts in the seats.

Developers are easily emboldened. Let’s activate some restraint.