How many zeroes is that? (8)

(8th is a series of posts on Lehigh University)

Daryl Nerl, “Lehigh University launches $1 billion campaign plus $20 million gift from trustee chair, wife.” Morning Call, October 25, 2018.

“Lehigh Launches Public Phase of $1 Billion+ Campaign with $20 Million Gift Announcement.”

“Lehigh University launched what it is calling its most ambitious public fundraising campaign ever Thursday with a goal of bringing in more than $1 billion to support hundreds of initiatives including construction, increasing the student population and diversity through financial aid, and the establishment of a new college.”

At the beginning of this thread 7 posts ago, Gadfly described the Lehigh “Path to Prominence” plan as breathtaking.

It is two breathtakings. Or twenty.

Look at this! Lehigh plans to raise a billion dollars.

$1,000,000,000

And former gadfly student Kevin Clayton (from a whole family of Lehigh benefactors) is dropping $20mill in the bucket to get things started.

Not to be a wet blanket,

but Gadfly looks at the “GO Campaign,” which “has already raised $550 million toward its goal,” from ground-level.

And hopes that the kleig lights on the Lehigh tote board don’t cast low and minimum wage workers into shadow.

There is/will be plenty of money, yes?

Let’s just make sure that City residents and taxpayers, low and minimum wage workers from wherever, are treated fairly on the “Path to Prominence.”

Let’s ask Lehigh to publicly discuss in much more detail how their parking and traffic plans affect workers at the low end of the pay scale before any other further approvals are given.

On the face of it, a university with all of that money and all of that space would seem able to do right by everybody. Yes?

There may be no problem. Gadfly just thinks we all need more info from Lehigh.

One of the ways you measure a just society is the way it treats its most vulnerable people.

 

The ball Gadfly is keeping his eye on (7)

(7th is a series of posts on Lehigh University)

“But let’s keep our eye on the ball. That [a walkable campus] is not what the Gadfly is raising questions about.” (Gadfly, post #6 in this series)

I admire that you are worried about low wage workers, but I think you are missing one important point. Many of these workers may already walk or take the bus to campus. If so, there would be no hardship at all imposed by these changes. In fact, it sounds like people who already take the bus or who choose to utilize the shuttle will actually benefit by having more money in their pocket. (streets.ahead, post #5 in this series)

The ball Gadfly is keeping his eye on is how low wage, non-unionized workers – some, maybe many of whom will be Bethlehem residents and tax payers — will be impacted by Lehigh’s self-conscious parking decisions on the “Path to Prominence.”

After all, one of the ways you measure a just society is the way it treats its most vulnerable people. (Does that sound silly, sentimental, old-fashioned? Gadfly is always sensitive to the charge of being a blubbery bleeding-heart. Tries not to be.)

And Gadfly literally penciled into his spiral notebook (not taking notes on his phone yet, like many of you modern technophiles do) a recent, inspiring observation by one of our local elected officials that there was “increased advocacy for people of low income” at City Hall.

Let me tell you, that wakened a smile in the little child who still lives within Gadfly, the child who grew up in an across-the-tracks neighborhood called “Tin Town.” (Our scrub football team was the “Tin Town Tigers” – colors, faded red and white — you gotta love it!)

Gadfly is simply asking questions. Questions do not imply hostility. Questions imply ignorance.

The Admin at the info session Gadfly attended was not prepared to answer the question of who would use the Northside Commuter lot and how the cafeteria-grounds-cleaning, etc. folk would be impacted, if at all.

Gadfly would simply like some conversation on this subject.

Gadfly doesn’t want this to be a tempest in a teapot.

And, to comment on streets.ahead’s two points:

1) yes, might be no hardship on low class workers; Gadfly would just like to hear Lehigh (and them) say so, and

2) Gadfly is not worried about such workers having a choice of where to park but being forced where to park.

It sounds as if “location-based” spaces on campus will fill up and that the Northside Commuter lot is necessary for the overflow.

Don’t know for sure. Just need more info.

And it is just not clear to Gadfly where the low wage workers fit into “the plan.”

Just need more info.

“a self-reinforcing phenomenon benefiting legions!”(6)

(6th in a series of posts on Lehigh University)

“Like Gadfly, I too was on the faculty at Lehigh. My wife and I have been a single car household for forty-nine years. One consequence was that I walked home (West Market Street) every day… best twenty-five minutes of the ‘work’ day. So, if Lehigh somehow promotes more pedestrian commutes, it could become a self-reinforcing phenomenon benefiting legions!”  Steve K

“Overall I think it is very exciting for the City that Lehigh is looking to emphasize the walkability of campus and reduce reliance on cars.” streets.ahead

Ooooo, my, Gadfly rushes to high-five the above comments by Steve and streets.ahead!

Steve, I thought we were the only one-car family left in North America!

It was exactly a 2.0 mile walk from my home on the northside to Maginnes Hall where I first worked (I later moved uphill to Drown Hall, and sometimes took the bus there). When I was young it took 30 minutes. I used to joke that I could literally “see” old age advancing, death approaching, for when I retired, it took me 32.5 minutes.

I “know” the walk. I know that in springtime as you walk along the trees blossoming next to God’s Acre and you look across at the Mountain greening, the feeling is orgasmic. I know that if you take the left path around City Hall, the wide steps augment a downward momentum into almost an exhilarating jog whose energy doesn’t dissipate till you have crossed well onto the bridge. I know there are exactly 613 steps on the Fahy bridge for my 6’1″, 205 pound stride. I know that in the winter about 2/3’s of the way across the bridge a wind coming from the west hugging the shoreline will make you wish you took that job in the south. I know that when you hit 3rd and New, one of the worst intersections for walkers in the City, you say your prayers. I know that co-workers tried to give me rides, but I waved them on. I know that when I stopped walking, the people who set their watches by me asked my son the UPS driver if I had died. Believe me, I “know” the walk.

I know that years of walking are good for your health. I was the second-fastest 75+er in the Runner’s World 5k this past weekend. (Council meeting watchers will note how speedily I get to the podium!)

So, I rush to high-five the above comments by Steve and streets.ahead!

And I call your attention to the wonderful things in the Lehigh Connections: A New Mobility Ecosystem plan. I applaud both Lehigh’s academic plan and walkability aspirations. No question.

But let’s keep our eye on the ball. That is not what the Gadfly is raising questions about.

More later.

Gadfly misses one or two important points (5)

(5th in a series of posts on Lehigh University)

From streets.ahead

Overall I think it is very exciting for the City that Lehigh is looking to emphasize the walkability of campus and reduce reliance on cars. You describe a colleague circling around to try and find a parking spot. Is this because there were no spots available on campus, or because they were trying to get lucky and find a spot right in front of their building? If a faculty member has a reserved parking spot that is a 5 minute walk from their building, would that eliminate the desire to circle campus in a car?

I admire that you are worried about low wage workers, but I think you are missing one important point. Many of these workers may already walk or take the bus to campus. If so, there would be no hardship at all imposed by these changes. In fact, it sounds like people who already take the bus or who choose to utilize the shuttle will actually benefit by having more money in their pocket.

(Gadfly has moved streets.ahead’s “comment” up to a top-level post. Gadfly is not happy with the way that WordPress seems to bury comments. And, since this is a contrasting view, Gadfly especially wants to make sure it isn’t missed.)

“of great concern to the neighborhood folk near campus” (4)

(4th in a series of posts about Lehigh University)

Gadfly, thank you for this, and for your energy and advocacy. If I might just add: there is one piece missing, and it is of great concern to the neighborhood folk near [Lehigh’s] campus, and that is our expectation that Lehigh will begin knocking down homes to create more parking on the fringes of campus, but in our neighborhoods. It’s not an unconfirmed rumor, but it’s a long-term plan; just not sure how long-term that may be. Note how many homes Lehigh has bought up in the area near Alumni Hall, for example . . . . This is a HUGE concern of some of us, who see the Lehigh sprawl threatening usable family homes that are definitely in demand on the Southside (if they are not taken over by the big companies who only rent to students, whether that’s legal or not!). Will you bring this up in your next flight to council? This is a concern that neighbors are expressing; and some are beginning to say maybe it’s time to just move. Could we all work together to STABILIZE neighborhoods, assure affordable housing for many, and be good neighbors to one another?

 

Gadfly will not normally publish anonymous comments, but the writer here is known to him and the wish for anonymity is understandable and valid.

Gadfly Quixote Tilting Again (3)

(3rd in a series of posts on Lehigh University)

Hi Darlene:

So I offered my two cents about Lehigh U and the Lehigh parking lot again at Council last night. Last week at Planning, I couldn’t see Tracy because of the posters, but – ha! — you looked like your chair was on fire – and I thought you were going to jump out and come after me. But this is the kind of thing that jangles Gadfly nerves. I hope you understand.

I’m guessing that Lehigh will next be before Planning again on the College of Health at Adams and Morton. I would like to see Lehigh lay out in more detail the aspects of their Parking study relating to off-campus parking (have you guys seen their study?). And I’m copying Adrienne Washington and the Planning Board with this letter in case I miss the next time Lehigh appears. If I’m not there, maybe somebody will have this letter or remember my concerns. I did not catch the name of the Lehigh vice-president present last week, but I assume Adrienne can share with him.

1) I’m wondering about Lehigh’s use of that Northside lot now and possible more need for off-campus parking in the future. At a previous City board meeting (I forget which one, I hang around a lot of them!), Adrienne said the parking study showed the campus could absorb the lost parking spaces. I got up and questioned whether by campus she was including the upper and over campuses. She said yes. I’m sure she said the “campus” could absorb all lost parking spaces due to construction. I worked on that lower campus for almost 50 years and always thought of parking as tight. I went to work earlier and earlier in the morning (like before 7AM) when I drove (I was mainly a walker) in order to get a parking space close to my building. From my window I could see colleagues circling several times hoping for an open space. We would joke about it – “there he goes again!” So I always thought parking tight and questioned Adrienne. I couldn’t see how the lower campus would function if parking was taken away there, and thus I asked if she was saying that there would always be spaces available somewhere across all our campuses. I’m sure she said the campus could absorb all lost parking spaces due to construction. No mention of off campus parking. Therefore, I was surprised to hear about the 150 spaces in the “Northside Commuter Lot.” So what happened? I think we should clearly understand openly what’s going on here. And, further, I think we should clearly understand openly if there will be additional off-campus parking needs. It looks to me like the “Path to Prominence” is being phased in over several years. Is the 150 spaces the current need that will need to be augmented as the Lehigh plan hits full stride? The estimate of lost spaces is over 800 total, larger by 100 spaces that our largest garage, 1/3 larger than the new New St. garage. That’s a lot of spaces that Lehigh self-consciously designed to lose. I’m not sure the City should be bailing Lehigh out. And if the City has a better use for that lot. A Gadfly poster reports that the lot was constructed using CDBG funding during the City’s 250th Anniversary to provide parking for users of the Sand Island amenities such as the Towpath and Ice House.

2) This one is squarely in Gadfly’s mission. Gadfly looks out for the common folk. Let’s back up for a minute. Lehigh parking will now be highly regulated — location-based parking and all of that. Faculty and staff will have some choice. Parking on lower campus will now cost $500/yr., and there is free parking on the other side of Stabler arena (the moon) and in the Northside Commuter lot (3/4’s of a mile from the lowest part of lower campus). Parkers in the NCL will be bused to Farrington Square (the lowest point of lower campus) where they will connect with another bus if their workplace is farther up-campus (the type bus is also of interest to me, but that is for another day). Lehigh must have made some conclusions about whether the spaces on campus would fill, thus forcing some people into the free lot. Lehigh must have made some calculations about the possibility that the free lot would fill before satisfying the demand. What happens then? Lehigh also must have made some conclusions of who would choose the free lots. That’s all info that should be laid out. Here’s why. On the surface, common sense tells you that low wage workers (graduate student teaching and research assistants, adjunct faculty often working at other places too, cafeteria-grounds-cleaning people), not able to afford $500, would, of necessity, choose the free lot and put up with added inconvenience that in some cases, according to my estimates, might add 80-90 minutes to their work day. Actually, the admin at the information session I attended didn’t know if the cafeteria-grounds-cleaning people were even considered Lehigh staff under this plan since they actually work for Sodexho and places like that. So that is a key question. Where do these low-wage, non-union, probably overwhelmingly minority people fit into the plan? These people will be Bethlehem residents and tax payers to a large extent and vulnerable – they can not question, can not rock the boat. Somebody has to make sure they are treated fairly. Some probably work at night when the parking will not be so regulated and thus might not be a problem.

But there may be no problems here at all. Gadflies just are by nature jittery. I just think Lehigh should simply lay it out to show that they have considered some important issues, especially people issues, especially Bethlehem people issues. And that we know if there is any impact on our residents and taxpayers. The end of the conversation between the Lehigh lawyer and your Gadfly at Planning last week was classic, he saying Lehigh had complied with all the rules and regulations, your humble Gadfly, sounding like Jimmy Stewart in an old Capra movie, ventured something corny like “Waallll (can you hear the Stewart imitation?), there’s law and there’s concern for people.”

Simple explanations could probably answer all these questions. But I think they should be asked. I am always careful to frame my annoying gadflyness with how great the Lehigh plan is. No question there.

I have a thread on this on the Gadfly blog, and I am hoping that you will keep me in the loop, so that I can keep the ever-growing number of followers posted. In fact, direct contributions by City folk and or Lehigh folk would be very welcome. Adrienne told me she looks in on Gadfly once in a while. Others might need to be reminded: https://thebethlehemgadfly.wordpress.com/

Fight the good fight, as I always say—

Ed

Gadfly Testifies (2)

(2nd in a series of posts on Lehigh University)

Nicole, Radzievich, “Take a peek at Lehigh University’s latest project: ‘Bridge West’.” Morning Call, October 11, 2018.
————————

Gadfly attended the Planning Commission meeting described in Nicole’s article.

The only spectator.

Tickets to the Planning Commission meetings are a tad or two easier to obtain than to Dr. Phil.

To summarize: Lehigh University has embarked on a breathtaking ambitious plan to increase its national reputation by adding a 5th college to its academic roster, adding 1800 students-faculty-staff, and turning its lower (Asa Packer) campus into a walking campus. Lehigh has chosen to site new construction associated with this worthy plan on previous parking lots on lower campus, causing a loss of over 800 parking spaces. (For comparison purposes, our New St. Garage has 626 spaces, our Walnut St. Garage has 750 spaces.) That’s a lot of lost parking for a lower campus on which parking was already tight.

It was previously claimed at City meetings at which the Gadfly attended that a Lehigh comprehensive parking study showed the university could absorb that loss on its campuses (Lehigh has several campuses: Asa Packer, Mountaintop, Goodman, Southside), that is, not spilling out onto Bethlehem streets. Yet in the roll out of its “Connections” plan, Lehigh has apparently leased 150 spaces in a Northside lot at 123 W. Lehigh St. (adjacent to the Wooden Match and the entrance to Sand Island) from the Bethlehem Parking Authority.

That Northside component came as a surprise to Gadfly, who had witnessed questions about use of that lot for other purposes at other City meetings met with garbled responses. Lehigh’s contract was not acknowledged at those times. Gadfly now understands why the responses were garbled.

Parking on campus in this new “Connections” plan will cost faculty and staff $500/yr. This “Northside Commuter Lot” across the river, said to be .75 miles from Farrington Square at the lower end of the Asa Packer campus, will be free, and serviced by a bus every 10 minutes to transport users to campus. Faculty and staff will be given a $250 “signing bonus” the first year to sweeten the transition to the new more tightly monitored (spaces will be assigned) and much more expensive plan. The system is highly regimented. Gadfly, for instance, a retired Lehigh faculty member, will pay $86/yr to park on lower campus only after 4pm and weekends and will not be permitted to park during weekdays. Northside lot users who work further up campus will transfer to another bus at Farrington Square.

It is not clear to Gadfly whether Lehigh staff in the “Connections” plan includes workers for Sodexo or Brickman or whatever companies like that Lehigh contracts lower-level-wage work to, and probably not technically Lehigh employees any more. At the information session Gadfly attended, there was no answer to that question. It might be that many cleaning people, for instance, work at night when parking is basically unregulated, so there is no problem there. But the status of that level staffer was not clear. And needs to be.

Now why Lehigh chose to cram all this construction onto lower campus when it has acres of space elsewhere would be an obvious question to an outsider.

But there are no doubt good answers for that question, and, in any event, what Lehigh does within its perimeters and with its faculty and staff is its own business.

For Gadfly it’s that surprise appearance of the Northside commuter lot that perked up his antennae.

Gadflies ask questions.

In essence, then, Gadfly posed the two questions in his previous post to the Planning Commission:

1) If the City has some parking space needs (maybe we don’t), is it ok to be opening that [Northside] area to Lehigh?

There is a multi-step bureaucratic process to build in Bethlehem. Lehigh has been bringing the various individual pieces of its new plan to the various committees one at a time. Almost each piece has a parking component. Approved one at a time, it is easy to lose sight of the total number of parking losses cumulatively mounting. Gadfly’s sense was that the Planning committee was surprised at the 800+ total number. Gadfly suggested that somebody had to take a Big Picture view, especially in light of the move to the Northside, which committee members were not aware of. The question that needs discussion is why the City should bail Lehigh out for decisions it made that affected parking. And does the City have a higher priority for that Northside space? If the City has discussed this, I think we should know the details. My sense – and it’s only a sense – is that the contract has been kept under the radar. Gadfly could well be wrong, but he would like to be sure that discussion was in the open.

2) Does the City owe some thought to these people [the low wage workers who will gravitate to the Northside free lot]?

Gadfly wonders about and worries about the people forced, in effect, to choose that faraway free lot. One can easily imagine that lower paid faculty and staff will not be able to afford the $500/yr. Gadfly – a Bethlehem resident and tax payer — couldn’t have in his first few years of work there. Low paid adjunct faculty and grad students will seek the free lot. If the cleaning people, the cafeteria workers, the grounds people are involved, then, for sure, they will seek the free lot. A percentage of these people will be City residents, City taxpayers. Should we care about “our” people who could find 1 – 1 1/2/hrs added to their work day just getting to the free lot and back?

Is Gadfly too much a bleeding heart? It’s ok, you can say it.

The Planning Commission was lenient, giving Gadfly more time to talk than is usually given, answering rebuttals and explanations by Lehigh’s lawyer. Bottom line seemed to be Lehigh saying we have abided by all the City regulations and guidelines (which they have, no question), with Gadfly saying something dramatic like “there’s law and then there’s concern for people.”

Interestingly, when the Commission chair asked for a motion to approve the Lehigh plan, no committee members responded, which I took to mean they were troubled. Seeing no committee action, the chair dutifully made the motion himself, to which the 4 members all voted aye but, to my eyes, not without some hesitation. They were thinking about the issues.

Gadfly made a mistake. A rookie. He should have offered the suggestion that the motion be tabled, asking Lehigh to come back in a week with a more detailed analysis of who will be using that Northside Commuter Lot. (Why do you always think of these things when you are back in the car?) That may have given the members an option for their unease and, frankly, it would have given Gadfly some assurance that the “little guys” were fairly treated.

Gadfly is a soft touch where the little guys are concerned. I want my City to have that soft touch too.

Again, it is Lehigh’s business, but, as Gadfly pointed out to the Planners, the system seems a bit absurd: it’s like working at City Hall but having to park at Lump’s Deli on Center and bus in.

Just me?

Gadfly will raise the issue again Tuesday to the full City Council. Bleeding heart gadflies are indefatigable.