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.