Keep the “flavor” of locally-focused retail

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

Although she’s lived in Bethlehem for almost 20 years, Carol Burns’ new career as a freelance marketer is giving her an opportunity to “discover” her hometown. She volunteers for several arts-related organizations, and her newest adventure is dipping her toe into local politics and community organizations.


And these numbers just reflect the resident side — how about all the proposed new retail spots? Will they be affordable for local businesses — or will we see an influx of “name brand” companies that can afford the rent? To me — no pun intended — the “flavor” of Bethlehem retail is that it is so locally-focused. I’d hate to lose that.


Yes, note that the local “Factory” is planned for first-floor retail at the Polker.


Gadfly turns 1!

Born September 16, 2018, just at this time — 2PM


Definition of gadfly
1: any of various flies that annoy livestock

2: a person who stimulates other people especially by persistent criticism
3: someone who challenges people in positions of power


1,032 posts and 365 days later.

The ceremonial time to touch base with the beginning, with the original purpose, with the original spirit.

A time to take stock.

What is Gadfly about?

That introduction is pretty pompous, pretty idealistic, but I still subscribe to its essence.

And won’t rewrite. In fact, you can’t rewrite what is in effect the creating moment.

At that creating moment you aren’t really in control, and you can’t re-live it.

I still believe that the fantasies we have shape the lives we lead.

Mine is a Norman Rockwell fantasy of Bethlehem as the small town embodied in the “Freedom of Speech” painting and Rockwell’s other works.

A place of good will, a place of mutual respect, a place where residents care and participate, a place where leaders listen as they lead.

I try to run Gadfly as an example of democracy in action, a place for healthy dialog about issues that concern our city.

I love your voices, as I have tried to show you time after time.

I’m not sure I’ll change anything of substance in the upcoming year.

But I would like to see some changes:

  • more original posts from you, the followers — not just comments on my posts or the posts of others, but thoughtful, original, chain-starting posts


  • and this might be a bridge too far in the trust that can be built in just a year, but posts from our elected officials and city administrators providing facts, trying out ideas, sharing visions, correcting misconceptions, combating ignorance — trusting the value of what we can never have too much of, good communication, good conversation

“Good conversation builds community.”

Gadfly’s birthday list

In 10 days Gadfly will celebrate his first birthday.

Some of you may be scratching your heads or butts over an appropriate present.

At last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilwoman Van Wirt spake sweet words that sounded to Gadfly’s ears like Marilyn Monroe singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to JFK and suggested the perfect gift.

Now you know what Gadfly wants for his birthday.

Gadfly, a simple man

The Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem (CADCB): Part 3

(Latest in a series of posts about Neighborhoods and the Southside)

Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem
409 East 4th Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015
Anna Smith, Director

“Empowering people and transforming South Bethlehem”

Time for Gadfly to wrap up his reporting on the visit to Anna Smith to find out more about the little office on 4th St. with the big name of The Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem.

Sadly, as he told you earlier, he waited too long to begin posting, and the notes he took that day have gone cold.

But you can find a lot of information browsing through the CADCB web site.

For instance, the link to a 2017 Morning Call article by Nicole Radzievich contains specific examples of the kind of work with housing and specifically affordable housing that we have been concerned about in recent months here on Gadfly.

“How Bethlehem’s Hayes Street was rediscovered”

For instance, one man’s perspective:

The lively, blue-collar neighborhood that Raymond Richter remembers as a child is showing subtle signs of a return along south Bethlehem’s Hayes Street.

Preening alongside the tired brick facades of his hillside neighborhood are the strategic restorations of some early 20th century homes.

Asphalt siding on one twin has been stripped down to the original wood. Chipped gray paint on another brick home has been covered in a warm, red color, and flowers flow from boxes affixed underneath black-trimmed windows.

A festive mural sprawls on the side of a row home. On the corner, benches and trees fill what had been an empty corner lot, drawing residents out of their homes for breathtaking views of the architecturally lit blast furnaces below.

The recent improvements there recall the days when steelworkers would while away the evening on their porches, watching the headlights flicker up South Mountain. Neighborhood nuns and children would go toe-to-toe on the basketball court, and two shoemakers would compete for the soles of the Hungarian, Polish and Italian families who lived there.

After Bethlehem Steel’s decline and the passing of some old-timers, Richter said, many of the homes became rentals. Backyard grapevines and vegetable gardens gave way to weeds, and aging homes went unrepaired.

While redevelopment of the Bethlehem Steel plant has monopolized the city’s attention for decades, he said, it’s heart-warming to watch as his neighborhood also gets rediscovered.

Think of this the next time you ride up or down Hayes Street.

The Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem — an organization doing great work for “us.”

CADCB: “Empowering people and transforming South Bethlehem”

An example of good Zoning Board action

(The latest in a series of posts on City government)

Al Bernotas is a 36-year resident of Bethlehem, somewhat of a law and order zoning wonk, with many years fighting a ruling by the Zoning Hearing Board, only to find out that they had discretion to do whatever they want to do. So said the Commonwealth Court, with the Supreme Court of the State of Pennsylvania turning down a request to hear the case. Now he just spends much of his time mowing his lawn, while watching tractor-trailers mosey on down the residential street whereupon he lives, Johnston Drive. In his spare time he is a Medicare Advisor, Census Bureau Enumerator, and Landscape Specialist, and All-around Handyman. Or, some other folks would call him a know-it-all.


My experience with the zoning hearing board shows me that, in the past, they would stretch every zoning ordinance, and word within, to accommodate the appellant, often to the detriment of a neighborhood or a neighbor. Below, is a summary of a zoning case which I feel sets a good example of how to work with the zoning code. Hopefully, Bethlehem’s current Zoning Hearing Board is more inclined to work within the letter and spirit of the law.

NY Appellate Court Upholds Zoning Board’s Denial of Application to Change Nonconforming Use to Another Nonconforming Use and for Area Variance
by Patricia Salkin

Petitioner purchased real property in December 2013 on which a gas station and auto repair shop were operated as a legal nonconforming use. In May 2015, the petitioner sought approval to renovate the gas station and convert the auto repair shop to a convenience store. The application was denied and petitioner applied to the Board of Appeals for permission to change the preexisting nonconforming use to another nonconforming use. The petitioner also sought an area variance in connection with the placement of the convenience store’s solid waste disposal unit. Following a hearing the Board denied the application. The petitioner appealed and the Supreme Court granted the petition, annulled the determination, and, in effect, directed the Board to grant the petitioner’s application. The Board appealed.

The appellate court reversed, noting that “because nonconforming uses are viewed as detrimental to a zoning scheme, the overriding public policy is aimed at their reasonable restriction and eventual elimination…courts will enforce a municipality’s reasonable circumscription of the right to expand the volume or intensity of a prior nonconforming use.” The Court explained that the City code provides that a nonconforming use “may be changed to another nonconforming use … based upon a finding that the proposed use is more consistent with the character of the surrounding neighborhood and having less adverse impacts.” Here the Board determined that the change from a gas station and auto repair shop to a gas station and convenience store would have an adverse impact upon traffic. The Appelllate Court said that the Board’s determination was not irrational and was supported by evidence in the record, and that the denial of the petitioner’s application for the change of nonconforming use rendered the petitioner’s application for an area variance academic.

Nabe v Sosis, 2019 WL 3679336 (NYAD 2 Dept. 8/7/2019)


Grace Crampsie Smith: One step closer

(The latest in a series of posts on City government)

Grace Crampsie Smith 2

Morning Call photo

Smith is on the verge! Let’s welcome her. If you browse through “candidates for election” under Topics on the Gadfly sidebar, you will find abundant statements by her. One of Gadfly’s goals is to help you know your Councilpersons.

Nicole Radzievich, “Bethlehem City Council picks unopposed candidate Grace Crampsie Smith to fill vacant seat.” Morning Call, August 20, 2019.

Democrat Grace Crampsie Smith, who is running unopposed this fall for Bethlehem City Council, will be sworn into her seat on council early.

She was unanimously picked Tuesday by City Council to fill out the final four months of the term of freshman Councilman Shawn Martell, a Democrat who resigned this month for personal reasons. She is unopposed on the November ballot for a two-year term, which would start in January.

Smith is expected to be sworn into office next month.

After Tuesday’s vote, Smith said in an interview that she was honored and humbled by the support she received during the campaign and by council’s appointment. She said she appreciated the ability to join council in time to be part of vetting Mayor Robert Donchez’s budget proposal for next year.

Smith, a school counselor, holds a master’s degree in education and school counseling from Lehigh University and a bachelor’s degree in sociology and social welfare from Bloomsburg University.

She was a member of the adjunct faculty at Lehigh Carbon Community College and also worked as an addictions counselor and coordinator of community and early intervention services for the office of Lehigh County Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities. She completed the Bethlehem Police Citizens Academy. And has participated in several political groups including the Northampton County Democratic Committee, Lehigh Valley Democratic Progressive Coalition, Lehigh Valley ROAR and Lehigh Valley for All.