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.

Northside 2027: Draft Plan Goals and Strategies

(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

April 10, 2019 meeting

Gadfly apologizes for the long delay in posting info on this excellent Northside 2027 meeting. The projects feels far along. You will find here a series of goals now, each with several sub-points. It is very interesting reading. Chew on this, and perhaps we’ll come back and look at specific recommendations. What jumps out at you?

The Introduction:

Councilman Reynolds, above, introduces the April 10 meeting of Northside 2027, focusing on the way the developing plan is built on community input , a fact very clear from the presentation that followed.

The presentation:

You can coordinate the slides with the audio and follow the presentation quite well.

Recap

2:43/slide 4: October 11 2018 Community Kick-Off

5:03/slide 6: Preliminary Vision Statement

5:33/slide 7: Plan Themes and Priorities Emerged

6:29/slide 8: November 2018 Residential and Commercial Area Tours

7:44/slide 10: Community Meeting #2 and Working Groups

10:07/slide 11: Groups Met Again

10:18/slide12: Community Survey Response

12:50/slide 14: Neighborhood Assets

Foster a Safe and Vibrant Public Realm

13:50/slide 15: Goal 1: prioritize multi-modal safety and connectivity between neighborhood assets

18:36/slide 18: Goal 2: enhance and beautify the public realm to create a sense of space

Foster Economic Vitality

20:34/slide 20: Goal 1: implement physical improvement to the Broad Street commercial corridor

23:40/slide 22: Goal 2: implement physical improvement to the Linden Street commercial corridor

26:15/slide 24: Goal 3: support existing businesses and attract new ones

Support the Housing Market

27:55/slide 25: Goal 1: support home owners and renters

29:40/slide 26: Goal 2: enhance quality of life for all residents

Support Residents through Services, Out-Reach, and Community Development

31:31/slide 28: Goal 1: leverage existing neighborhood assets to expand availability of resources

33:06/slide29: Goal 2: build community cohesion

Building Blocks of a Neighborhood Identity
34:10/slide 30

Neighborhood Constraints and Opportunities
35:10/side 31

38:48: Q&A

 

 

Improve Northside neighborhood: make Linden and Center Streets two-way again

Just take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey, wouldya?

(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)

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.

Northside 2027 meeting Wednesday April 11, 5:30, William Penn School

Gadfly:

On Thursday, October 11, the City of Bethlehem, with their consultants, held a planning meeting in Liberty High School to gather ideas for a vision entitled North Side 2027, defined as the area bounded by Elizabeth Avenue, and Main, Broad, and Maple Streets. One of the announced goals was to create a greater sense of neighborhood identity and unity.

Possibly the most important thing the city can do to improve neighborhood identity and unity is make Linden and Center Streets two-way again. For example, Center Street is one-way northbound from Church Street to Elizabeth Avenue, with two lanes of traffic, plus one lane of parking on each side. At Elizabeth Avenue the left traffic lane must turn left into Elizabeth Avenue, leaving only one lane to continue northbound. There always seems to be one or two or three cars that do not want to get in line to go northbound, so they get in the left lane and drive faster, looking for a spot to cut into the line of cars waiting their turn to go northbound. Some of the cars in the proper lane also increase their speed, to avoid being cut off. This creates almost a wall of traffic splitting the neighborhood in half. When one wishes to cross Center Street on foot, or even in a car, it is necessary to look carefully to the south to make sure that the next pack of cars is not bearing down.

I have been told that it would cost a million dollars to make Center and Linden Streets two-way again. It is difficult to imagine what could cost so much. But if the City is really serious about improving neighborhood identity and unity, it will find a way to do this. Perhaps some grant money will be available, since the goal is a neighborhood more tied together.

This traffic pattern was established to quickly get the steelworkers in and out of the city. I haven’t seen many of those lately.

Bill

Just take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey, wouldya?

Northside 2027 moving along (6)

(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)

Gadfly had to miss the Northside 2027 meeting at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School last Thursday January 24.

But a tip o’ the hat and wave of the wing to follower Kate McVey for attending, participating, and picking up handouts for us.

Kate reports that attendees split into three groups: housing, mobility, and commerce.

Kate went first to the mobility group in which the discussion mostly centered on safety: crossings clearly indicated, how traffic signs were placed, making streets one way and two way, sidewalk work, and grants.

She then went to the housing group and caught the end of discussion about the shelter at United Church of Christ and affordable housing.

Here are handouts from two of the groups.

Each group has a “vision statement” to gradually fill in. The two columns filling up so far are “major concerns” and “potential strategies” to address those concerns. See summaries of concerns below. Take a look at the handouts for proposed strategies.

The Neighborhood Plan Map: shows schools, parks, churches, historical sites, commercial corridors, open spaces, and so forth in the Northside 2027 territory.

northside 2027 neighborhood plan map

Mobility: concerns include unsafe intersections, safety for children walking to school, fast vehicular traffic, minimal access points to the Monocacy Way Trail, traffic signage on alleys, bicycle infrastructure, lack of awareness of “rules of the road.”

northside 2027 mobility 1 jan 24
northside 2027 mobility 2 jan 24

Housing: concerns include conversion of homes into multi-family rental units, code enforcement on quality of life issues, aesthetic upkeep of homes, sidewalks, available resources for both renters and homeowners, lack of neighborliness and community cohesion, ways to keep up with maintenance and improving the look of the neighborhood.

northside 2027 housing jan 24

Continued kudos to CM Reynolds for leadership and other reps from the city (Congressman Samuelson’s office was represented) who may have been there (Kate suggests introductions and name-tags next time so that we can know the royalty).

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.