Center St. and Linden St.: both hazardous and divisive

logo The latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027 logo
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:

It’s hard to find fault with the article in the Morning Call by Bethlehem Councilman J. William Reynolds on the North Side.

It’s nice that a priority is converting Linden Street between Church Street and Fairview Street back to a two-way street.

It would be even nicer if Center Street between Church Street and Elizabeth Avenue were similarly converted.

Center Street is the bigger problem, especially when cars jockey for position as they approach the single lane north of Elizabeth Avenue. NASCAR does not belong in an urban neighborhood. The city-wide accident statistics I have seen bear this out.

These two streets are not only among the most hazardous in the city, they serve to divide the North Side into distinct and separate neighborhoods.

Bill

Northside 2027: a blueprint forstrengthening neighborhoods

logo The latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027 logo

Haven’t heard about Northside 2027 for a while. Good to know it’s cookin’. Once again tip o’ the hat to Councilman Reynolds, Mayor Donchez, and City Administrators.

NS 2027 final brochure Spanish

NS 2027 final brochure English

Northside 2027

Councilman Reynolds’ fond memories of Thomas Jefferson (the school, not the president — Reynolds is a young man) always taps Gadfly’s memories of the Highland Ave. playground in Lansdowne, Pa., where he literally learned the facts of life among a rich diversity of mates and where your three-pointer ca-chinged rather than swished because of the chain nets. It was a multi-ethnic crucible. A place that formed values just as surely as the home down the street and the church across the street.

J. William Reynolds, “Your View by Bethlehem councilman: How we can improve our North Side neighborhoods.” Morning Call, March, 12, 2020.

Bethlehem is built on the places we share as a community. The Steel. Liberty. Freedom. Moravian, Lehigh and Northampton Community College. When one of these Bethlehem institutions comes up in a conversation, everyone smiles because we have something in common.

In January of 2017, working with the city administration, I launched North Side 2027, an investment and revitalization strategy for our north Bethlehem neighborhoods that surround Thomas Jefferson and William Penn Elementary Schools. These neighborhoods are wonderful places to live, but I thought they could be even more.

Which brings me back to our institutions. Our success in North Side 2027, as a city, will be determined by our ability to see our future through shared goals, experiences and identities. Those shared places are why we have a city that is special. “Yeah, my dad and his dad worked together at the Steel” or “Yeah, we know their family through church.”

Those connections are what make people love our community. Looking across America, the decline of our institutions has led to individualized identities that disconnect us from each other in ways that make it difficult to accomplish community vibrancy and growth.

Bethlehem officials are organizing a number of committees that will include residents, small business owners, elected officials, representatives from the Bethlehem Area School District, Moravian College and other important community partners. The committees will meet regularly to implement the neighborhood priorities that have arisen from the North Side 2027 planning process including:

    • Fostering safe public spaces through streetscape improvements and traffic calming investments.
    • Increasing the economic vitality of small businesses through physical improvements to our Linden and Broad Street corridors including prioritizing returning Linden Street into a two-way street.
    • Supporting homeowners and renters through financial home improvement incentives and increased code enforcement.
    • Focusing on the priorities of our families, including increasing access to health care, healthy food availability and valuable neighborhood services.

So how are we going to accomplish these goals in the North Side 2027 neighborhoods? We have already begun. In the past two years, the city has funded projects in these neighborhoods including:

    • Over $2 million in public infrastructure spending including street paving and pedestrian improvements in the North Side 2027 area.
    • $100,000 for Friendship Park.
    • $350,000 for the Bethlehem Food Co-op project, a community-owned grocery store that has the potential to become a new place that we can share as a city.

I was fortunate enough to grow up on Linden Street and attend Thomas Jefferson Elementary School so I hold a special connection to these neighborhoods. I remember walking to school with my friends and my siblings. We would say hello to neighbors we didn’t know who were out early to work on their yards. We would see our coaches from North Central Little League who would remind us about practice after school. We would talk with our crossing guards, who made sure we got to school safely.

Bethlehem’s neighborhoods were special then and still are today.

At meeting after meeting, I witnessed neighbors who previously didn’t know each other share similar experiences about their neighborhoods and their lives in Bethlehem. It was remarkable to watch people nodding their heads in agreement with people they had never met before.

I like to think even putting neighbors in the same room to listen to each other was a small victory for our city. The common priorities that were shared became the backbone of the strategies laid out in North Side 2027.

It is my hope that North Side 2027 will serve as a blueprint for how Bethlehem can bring together our residents, public schools, small businesses and institutions of higher learning in an effort to strengthen our neighborhoods and our city.

Let’s get to work.

 

Info on converting Linden and Center Sts. to two-way

(the latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027)

Gadfly attended the Committee of the Whole meeting on the 2020-2024 Capital Plan — the kickoff of the budget season — before the Council meeting on Wednesday.

2020-2024 Capital Plan

Mostly routine matters not especially rising to the interest of Gadfly followers, except perhaps this Northside 2027 item on the long-considered conversion of Linden and Center Sts to 2-way, which was expanded on in discussion by Councilpersons Colon and Reynolds as you can see in the short video.

The benefits of the conversions are described as traffic calming, an aid to the businesses there, and increased future development. PennDOT plans are still pretty far out there time-wise, but Councilman Reynolds pointed to the priority of Linden from Fairview to Church and its relatively low cost.

Linden and Center Streets Two Way Conversion

Dating back to when Bethlehem Steel was in operation, Center Street was made oneway  north and Linden Street one-way south between approximately Elizabeth Avenue and the fahy Bridge (New Street). This was to facilitate traffic to and from the Steel Company during peak hours. Since the closure of Bethlehem Steel, the roadways have been left in their one-way configurations and the City will explore the conversion back to two-way traffic with the driving forces being economic impact and traffic calming /accident reductions. A full traffic impact analysis would be conducted to analyze the proposed modifications and recommend timing changes to the signals and/or the installation of additional signals, etc. to support the conversion. Design costs will also incorporate the revisions to all signal permits. Construction costs are anticipated to be high due to the amount of signal work to be completed on both roadways to support two-way traffic. This project has been placed on the Long Range Transportation Plan with funding planned between 2031 and 2045. Penn DOT has programmed $7.2M for this project in the future. We believe the Linden Street portion of the work could be completed for far less and have estimated a 2020 cost of $lM. The conversion of Linden Street is a higher priority for the City and we may complete that project sooner if alternate funding is identified.

Did the City demand independent studies of the synthetic turf safety?

(the latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027 and Neighborhoods)

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.

Gadfly:

This looks great.

The news article mentions a “pour-in-place surface that’s springy underfoot,” but doesn’t say any more about it. Does anyone know what this is made of? Synthetic turf fields are associated with a number of serious health and safety concerns that do not seem to be considered by the municipalities, schools, and colleges & universities that install them. The new surface may be safer if a child falls, but what happens when it starts to wear or degrade and produce toxic particles from whatever it’s made of?

Did anyone at the City demand independent studies on these questions, or did they accept the claims from the competing vendors?

Peter

Friendship Park rededicated under Northside 2027

(the latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027 and Neighborhoods)

“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil.
The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.”
(Kurt Vonnegut)

Nicole Radzievich, “Always want a tree house? Check out the newest amusement at Bethlehem’s Friendship Park.” Morning Call, July 2, 2019.

Kurt Bresswein, “Bethlehem’s newest playground has a 1st for a city park.” lehighvalleylive.com, July 2, 2019.

Friendship Park was rededicated Tuesday, the first step in the Northside 2027 project, whose roots go back four or five years. As Vonnegut says, and as Gadfly loves to quote, “the triumph of anything is a matter of organization.” We see the first fruits of that organization here.

“Our future goals at all of our parks are to promote more green space, benches, and trails for all of our residents to enjoy.” (Recreation Director Jodi Evans)

“This is really what neighborhoods are about. . . . To have a park come back to life like this really attracts middle-class families.” (Mayor Robert Donchez)

“This [Northside 2027] is what a comprehensive approach looks like. It is about playgrounds, it is about recreation, but it’s also about services for the neighborhood, it’s about our neighborhood public achools, it’s about economic development, it’s about walkability. . . . [This playground] needs to stand as an example of what happens when everybody does their little part. (Councilman Willie Reynolds)

“How can a city government build a sense of community? I think it’s by investing in attractive, safe public spaces that bring residents together.”  (Anna Smith, Director, Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley)

Gadfly, who always has a ball in the car in case a court needs christening, was chosen to make sure the baskets worked and to provide entertainment. Here he is shown performing his signature “flying ball” trick.

Tip o’ the hat to the City! Good luck, Friendshippers!

Northside 2027 planning phase ends with opening of renovated Friendship Park

(the latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027 and Neighborhoods)

“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil.
The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.”
(Kurt Vonnegut)

Charles Malinchak, “How Bethlehem envisions bringing life back to its North Side.” Morning Call, June 26, 2019.

Northside 2027

The Northside 2027 final meeting Tuesday night was an open house, people browsing the posters and talking informally with the consultants and the City officials.

Here is the final brochure for the project.

NS 2027 final brochure Spanish

NS 2027 final brochure English

A written final report will come out in the near future with a section on implementation that will outline steps to be taken to act on the plan.

But a first step — the Friendship Park renovation — is just about complete.

Fship park

The ribbon-cutting is Tuesday, July 2, at 2:30.

Your tax dollars at work!

Northside 2027: the final plan is coming!

(the latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027 and Neighborhoods)

“There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil.
The triumph of anything is a matter of organization.”
(Kurt Vonnegut)

Northside 2027

Mark your calendars!

Time & Location

Jun 25, 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM
William Penn Elementary School, 1002 Main St, Bethlehem, PA 18018, USA

About the Event

Stop by William Penn anytime between 5:30-7:30. The City will be present with plan materials along with several community partners who offer services to this neighbhorhood. Come see the compliation of your suggestions and feedback in the final report and learn about resources to help with healthy homes, food access, housing rehabiliation, youth programs and more.