Northside 2027 on the web!

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

Gadfly never thought blogging would keep him so busy.

Trying to catch up.

Martha’s post on William Penn school reminded me that I missed a Northside 2027 meeting in November because I wasn’t on the mailing list.

Won’t happen again.

The project has a web site now with a place to sign on.

Why don’t you sign on, even if you are not living in the area.

See what ideas are developed there that might be applicable elsewhere in the city.

Click on Northside 2027!

 

I love our William Penn neighborhood

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

(see Gadfly’s “Memories of William Penn” — Oct. 27)

Martha A Larkin is a lifelong learner, linguist, caffeine connoisseur, and country road commuter. She has found her teaching home in a rural community in the northwest corner of the LV that we call Tiger Country. She attended and graduated from Bethlehem schools (K-M.Ed.). Bethlum is where she resides.

To the Gadfly:

I love our neighborhood. I live in the home that I came home to as an infant. The only one of my six siblings born in Bethlehem. I went away for awhile but my roots are here. They’re firmly planted in a neighborhood rich with things that I love: education, history, and trees. I’m not The Lorax; I don’t speak for the trees. I’m the Larkin; I speak of several trees in this neighborhood that I’ve grown with.

There’s a tree on the corner of Main and Fairview Streets at William Penn school that I helped to plant one year on Arbor Day. It always makes me smile. I enjoy pointing it out to friends. I often wonder who else helped to plant it and what year that was. It had to be between 1972 and 1977.

The foundation of my interest in education research began at William Penn. I was self-aware enough to realize that all the visitors to see our “pods” in one of the two open concept schools were observers and guests. We had peer:peer math and spelling. (I have a whole other story about my a self-diagnosed spelling disability as a result of “ita” and peer:peer spelling.) We were always fortunate to have student teachers from Moravian. I later learned about John Dewey lab schools, so my romanticized version of my elementary years puts William Penn in this category. My actual memories include a brightly decorated space with 70’s color carpet and NO gum chewing. We had wonderful teachers; many of the Gadfly’s sons’ teachers were mine too. There was also Mr. Gary Marsh. He’s the teacher I miss the most.

As a result of walking past Jon Amos Comenius everyday, THE father of education, when it was time for me to become a teacher, my roots brought me back to the neighborhood. The day I made the decision to quit my job, go back to school, and change careers, I made that decision while volunteering at William Penn school. One of my best memories of attending William Penn was seeing the Moravian college student teachers around the neighborhood, because we all lived and walk around here. There are amazing old trees in front of Comenius Hall where we used to play and climb. My roots were becoming branches.

I do not know whether I’m an alum or product, but I’ve done all right at schools in the neighborhood from William Penn to Northeast and then Liberty. I can do a 3-mile loop that I like to call the “Old School” walk from my house. I then went on to Moravian and Lehigh. I’m happy being a teacher today; everyday I learn something.

Martha

More love at the library

(5th in a series of posts on Northside 2027)

Jacqueline Palochko, “Ornaments made from books to help Bethlehem students.” Morning Call, November 21, 2018.

“Old, tattered books usually end up discarded at the Bethlehem Area Public Library. It’s not that the library wants to toss books away, but sometimes it’s saddled with the same aged cookbook or numerous copies of a bestseller from a decade age. But staff and volunteers are putting those books to use by turning pages of used books into tree ornaments.Proceeds from the sale of the ornaments will go toward helping to pay off lunch debt and overdue library fees of Bethlehem area children.”

“It’s recycling old books and giving them purpose again as ornaments on a tree.”

“Last year, the state passed a new law that bans schools from stigmatizing children for having debt. Under the law, schools must give every child a meal, regardless of how much is owed on a child’s account. Districts have reported an increase in their debts since the law went into effect. Bethlehem Area saw a 50 percent jump in its debt — the biggest among area districts. In August, the district reported its debt at $154,590. The library understands the debt the district is facing. After library patrons hit a $10 overdue fee, they can no longer check out books. Many times, it’s children who have accumulated debt on their library cards. Library fees add up, too. Children from Thomas Jefferson Elementary in North Bethlehem alone have racked up $1,500 in overdue fees, Berk said. Berk speculates that many families who are struggling to pay their children’s meals are also finding it difficult to pay off library fees.”

Gadfly filed this November story because of its reference to CM Reynolds’s “beloved” Thomas Jefferson School (along with William Penn). It’s one dramatic example of the need for a Northside 2027 plan.

Gadfly kind of forgot about the story till faithful follower “ssider” sent an email reminder that “School lunch is sometimes the only meal children may have, when they live near, at, or below the poverty line” and reminding me of the library fund-raiser.

Bethlehem Area Public Library  **********  Kindness is Magic

007Gadfly hustled down to the library and bought several ornaments in fact. As shown here, one is tentatively nestled at the top of a small tree ‘neath a picture of Gadfly and his six “boys.”

Gadfly won’t say that they were all readers as kids. But they were always surrounded by books. And the eldest has recently confided that he used to sneak out of bed at night and grab one (probably above his maturity classification!) for midnight reading. Now it makes sense that he had one eye as well as one arm of his glasses going east and one north as I rousted him out of bed. Six boys, one shower. They were supposed to go chronologically, oldest first. He could never make it first. Now I have a better idea why.

Lunches and books — kids need ’em.

Memories of William Penn (4) (5)

(4th in a series of posts on Northside 2027)

(5th in a series of posts on Neighborhoods)

As you can tell, Gadfly’s been thinking about neighborhoods.

Sometimes at Town Hall meetings or even reading the Call, you get the idea that Main St. “is” Bethlehem. Look at our official (and even unofficial) iconography. Hotel Bethlehem. Central Moravian Church. And such.

To wit: much of what Gadfly has “covered” in the first month of life has to do with the Northside historical district (Airbnb, 2 W. Market, parking stuff, etc.).

What’s life like out on the frontier?

Councilman Reynolds talking of the importance of William Penn and Thomas Jefferson schools to the Northside 2027 neighborhood really caught my attention.

Gadfly was a teacher. And at some level of consciousness – especially as you are older and wonder “what it all means” and “where all the time went” – teachers wonder if they had impact, if they will be even remembered.

Think of how many teachers you had in your life – and how many you remember, can name.

Probably not many. Sigh.

Was it all worth it, teachers ask, in those dark nights of soul?

The Gadfly’s have six children – all boys – who went to William Penn, some even before it was “open concept.” Gadfly was even PTA president for two years a hundred years ago. Years in which the “Ladies Auxiliary” did everything. That’s the way it was. Gadfly wonders when the first female PTA president was chosen.

As far as Gadfly can tell, we don’t even have one picture of a William Penn teacher from those days. He’s rummaged through all the shoe box collections. But there is one picture of the championship basketball team son Chris the UPS driver was on — Greg Zebrowski, the coach, a teacher, but I don’t believe Greg was assigned full-time at William Penn.

So I asked “the boys” whom they remembered.

The memories were vivid.

Mrs. Tachaguchi, the librarian, who always had a tissue in her sleeve.

English teacher Mrs. Lutton getting angry and threatening to “shake the liver out of you.”

Mr. Antry, “the very, very cool” science teacher, who got the boys fake addresses in Bath so they could play on his basketball teams.

“Everyday Mr Dolak Ate Soap,” Math teacher Mr. Dolak’s mnemonic for learning the mathematical order of operations (exponents, multiply, divide, add, subtract).

The “imposing” head lunch aide Mrs. Avate keeping order – the sound of her name makes them shiver still.

The crossing guard at Main Street, Mr. Chuck (“we called him Mr. Chunk, RIP”), who was missing half of a finger.  (Boys will be boys.)

Toss in the fiery red-head principal Jack Burke, who knew everybody’s name and patrolled from dawn to dismissal and beyond.

Gadfly loves these little walks down Memory Lane.

We don’t want a lot of random, fragmentary mentions more appropriate to one of the Bethlehem Facebook groups, but I wonder if someone would do a paragraph or so sketch of a teacher or an anecdote from school  — especially but not limited to William Penn or Thomas Jefferson — as a “local color” piece for the blog. Gadfly would surely help put it together if desired.

Hey, remember a teacher once in a while, wouldya?

Northside 2027 Takes a First Step (3) (4)

(3rd in a series of posts on Northside 2027)

(4th in a series of posts on Neighborhoods)

Daryl Nerl, “With $100,000 investment, Friendship Park finds friend in Bethlehem’s North Side 2027.” Morning Call, October 12, 2018.

“This week in Bethlehem history: Tank Park.” Bethlehem Press, January 17, 2013.

Let’s be sure to keep Northside 2027 on our radar. As a first tangible move, Mayor Donchez plunked down $100,000 for renovating Friendship Park, “the square-block pocket park framed by East Garrison, East North and Penn streets.”

I know that some of you will recognize the location better if I say (hem, hem) that it’s kinda behind Mach’s Gute.

Daryl’s story outlines the projected improvements:

“The city will buy new play equipment for young children to slide, swing and climb on; install a spongy ground surface around them; add benches, trees and other landscaping; and reduce the amount of macadam.”

Daryl’s story also outlines better than Gadfly could last time some of the motivating reasons behind the Northside 2027 project as a whole:

“The neighborhood includes both Thomas Jefferson and William Penn elementary schools, which have both seen an increase in recent years of transient students and more pupils who qualify for free and reduced lunches, school district officials say.

The rate of unemployment in the neighborhood is higher than the city average and there has also been an uptick in the number of homes that have gone up for sheriff’s sale for tax delinquency, city officials said. Housing stock in the neighborhood is also generally older and has a lower sale value than other homes in the city.

Fifty-five percent of the houses in the neighborhood contain rental units, 37 percent are owner-occupied and 8 percent are vacant, according to statistics provided by WRT, an urban design and planning firm that is leading an analysis of the neighborhood.”

The Gadfly visited the park on a recent unfortunately pretty dismal afternoon weather-wise. His first impression was how unexpectedly huge the park is as it opened up on the left as he pulled down the narrowish Garrison St.

001Who named the park “Friendship” and why? Anybody know? Can you hear kids saying, “I’ll meet you at Friendship”? Nice. (Gadfly hopes that great tree survives reconstruction!)

008The Friendship Park has found a “friend” in Mayor Donchez, Councilman Reynolds, and other City officials.

007Felt like a “Twilight Zone” episode on the dismal day Gadfly visited. Where are the kids? I hope not immobilized by their mobile devices. Gadfly hopes the park is not too late to save their souls from tech-rot.

009Huge! Look at that space! Gadfly can just hear a kid cocking a football and yelling, “Go deep!” Macadam? They were tough in the old days.

012Every playground in America has a net like this. Gadfly couldn’t resist. Grabbed the bb from the back of the car. Wanted to see if the jump shot (now a hop shot) still worked.

 

Tank Park 2
“Tanks” to an unnamed writer at the Bethlehem Press (see the link above), we know that the park has a history. It was once “Tank Park.” And its roots go back to Bethlehem’s origin!  On the site of an original Bethlehem water reservoir, a huge tank – holding 800,000 gallons of water – was erected in 1872, and tanks resided thereon till 1965.  (Eeerie. What is going on here? Looks like the apes around the monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”)

Great start to a great project. Gadfly looks forward to following the progress.

Northside 2027 Gets Movin’ (2) (3)

(2nd in a series of posts on Northside 2027)

(3rd in a series of posts on Neighborhoods)

“Just about everyone who has ever run for elected office in a city has talked about the value of neighborhoods.  This is especially true in Bethlehem where neighborhoods provide the backbone of our city. Neighborhoods and the community institutions within those neighborhoods have helped to develop and maintain the quality of life that people in Bethlehem appreciate and cherish.”

So spaketh Councilman Willie Reynolds in his “Bethlehem 2017” (see the Gadfly sidebar for the full report), and back on Oct 11 he and Mayor Donchez put some spit behind those words kicking off Northside 2027 at a meeting at Liberty High School.

Mayor Donchez and Councilman Reynolds

The program will soon have a website, but at Liberty the organizers talked of such main goals for Northside as creating a sense of place and identity, fostering economic vitality through the commercial corridors, supporting the housing market, and generally serving the neighborhood in a variety of ways.

When we talk of “Northside,” what exactly are we walking about? Take a look at the yellow section here: roughly Broad St on the south, Laurel on the north, Mauch Chunk on the west, Maple on the east.

Northside

These two sections below cribbed from the City’s call for consultant proposals will give you an idea of what’s up.

PROGRAM GOALS AND OBJECTIVES

The goal of the study is to enhance the Northside 2027 neighborhood by stemming declines in housing stock, promoting homeownership, improving the visual attractiveness of the area, ensuring vehicular/pedestrian mobility and safety, strengthened community facilities and improving general quality of life in the neighborhoods.

The areas of study will at least include streetscape, traffic, recreation, community facilities, housing and population changes and commercial vitality. Recognizing the limitation of City budgets, the plan should provide a combination of capital and program improvements to balance the number of low, moderate and higher cost recommendations.

SCOPE OF WORK

– identification of trends in housing changes, programs for housing improvements and priorities for such improvements

– enhancement of the area to retain and strengthen commercial and mixed use development along East Broad and Linden Streets

– identification areas where public improvements consisting of lights, landscaping, paving, signage, and street furniture may be used to enhance the area, along with a prioritization of the projects

– a review the existing transportation system for vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists and provide recommendation for improved safety and mobility

– a review the existing zoning or other ordinance provisions that apply in these neighborhoods and provide recommendations for ordinance amendments that can improve quality of life in the neighborhoods

– how existing programs within the neighborhood can contribute to maximize resources in the neighborhood enhancement process

And the City has already put some muscle behind the spit. More on that in an upcoming post.

The Gadfly selfishly wishes the line could fly three blocks north!  How about a new neighborhood: “North Northside” or “Northside North” or “North of Northside.” Help me out here, folks!

 

The Northside 2027 Neighborhood Plan (1)

(1st in a series of posts)

Nicole Radzievich, “Bethlehem lays out long-range plan for north of historic section – North Side 2027 initiative, a $100,000 study, aims to spruce up neighborhoods.” Morning Call, October 19, 2017.
http://www.mcall.com/news/local/bethlehem/mc-nws-bethlehem-north-side-meeting-20171017-story.html

On Thursday October 11 the first public meeting on “Northside 2027” will be held from 6-8PM at Liberty High School in the chorus room.

The Gadfly will be there. Will you? Pass the word.

Well, ok, Gadfly, you say, what is “Northside 2027”? My immediate thought was that it was a television series: Hawaii 5-O, Beverly Hills 90210, 77 Sunset Strip (Gadfly goes way back).

Take a look at the City newsletter that should be appearing in your mailboxes right about now for a description.

“The ultimate goal of [Northside 2027] is to enhance the Northside 2027 neighborhood by stemming declines in housing stock, promoting homeownership, improving the visual attractiveness of the area, ensuring vehicular/pedestrian mobility and safety, strengthening community facilities, and improving the general quality of life in the neighborhoods.”

North Side is defined as running “roughly between Broad and Laurel streets.. . . in some areas, west to Mauch Chunk Road and east to Maple Street.”

“The initiative is a partnership involving Bethlehem, Bethlehem Area School District, Moravian College, businesses and citizens.”

Gadfly will attend the meeting and will report.

Mayor Donchez, Councilman Reynolds, Moravian president Grigsby, and BASD School Board president Faccinetto all follow this blog (a tip o’ the hat for that – I guess Gadfly should say a wave of the wings), and Gadfly hopes they will weigh in as appropriate.

The Gadfly is eagerly looking forward to learning more about this project.