Friday, April 14, 2017

Allentown We Don't Do That No More

Time Flies

Allentown once thrived.

Here a few of the large businesses once exclusive to Allentown that have since disappeared from the city (other then retail and eateries).

Furniture Stores: (Berman & Glazier, Harold Furniture Co., Stern & Co., Miller Furniture Co. and J.B. VanSciver). Dry Cleaners: (Kohlers, Allen Laundry, Tidy-Didy Diaper Service). Men's & Women's hat, clothiers and tailoring shops. Grocery stores: (Mohican market, A&P, Food Fair). Dozens of knitting and sewing mills: (Franklin knitting, Charis, Phoenix, Levin's). These along with A&B meats, Mack Trucks two huge locations (S. 10 Street & 12th & Lehigh), Breweries: (Neuweiler, Horlacher & Daeufer-Lieberman). Shoe manufacturers: (Quaker), several city founded banks, Appliance/electronic sales and repair: (Eastern Light, Laubach & Johnson, Peters, Lafeytte),.... I could go on and on.

The Point Is
We can't make Allentown thrive once again hosting only offices, retailers and eateries. Yes It's true most of these older jobs I mentioned either went overseas, relocated to industrial parks outside of the city or are no longer in demand. But what we still need are neighborhood jobs if we're going to improve. Years ago businesses were scattered throughout town. These days concentrated industrial/warehouse areas are the way to go. So how could we have found better ways in trying to revive the city?

One way we can't do it is by trying to make us a bedroom community for blue collar jobs residing outside the city. Offices and eateries can only take us so far. One of the things Bethlehem has done well is to set up a large industrial area close to I-78 and rail service. We've gone in the opposite direction. For example rather then encourage development along Lehigh Street near I-78 it's filled with car dealerships and retailers. It started off well enough (near the rail tracks to the South) but we never fully exploited the opportunity when we had it. We also dropped the ball in the Basin Street and 7th & Lehigh Street areas which houses older buildings. Each having close access to the Allentown rail yards.

Don't get me wrong I like Coca-Cola baseball park as much as anybody, but wouldn't it been better located on what currently is Allentown's non profitable golf course? There's just as easy an access off of 309 (I-78) or down Cedar Crest from Route 22 much like it is now. The area where the ball park is currently located would have been a perfect location for industrial warehouses seeking easy access for both trucks leaving and to the airport bringing in shipments.

Besides Industrial Parks?
Allentown doesn't need more housing. What we need is the "right" kind of housing. I understand it can take a long time but the city needs to be more aggressive with it's boarded up housing problem. Instead of incentivizing new construction--dilapidated current structures should be brought up to standard or torn down. Why not offer someone who is willing to buy and fix them up--with the contingency they have to live in them--the opportunity to live tax free for a few years? After all most of these boarded up properties aren't generating taxes now anyway. What we're seeing instead is a handful of individuals from outside the city sitting on these properties. Small individual homeowners will always have a greater stake in what happens within our neighborhoods when they have to live in them.

One or two years tax free dependent on them owning the building. It's important for them to own the building. Otherwise some will stiff the landlord--take the money and run. Some may argue they could do the same with taxes. Not if they agree the city holds a "deed of trust" for the first one or two years if they should skip town after bagging the profits.

Let's not kid ourselves Allentown schools are a mess. We've had several neighbors move here. When they started to have children--or when their kids were old enough to go to school--they sold their homes and moved out. One of the reasons ours schools are such a mess is because of administration not the educators. Check out this story in The Morning Call on April 14, 2017-- Report finds 'waste, abuse' of money in Allentown School Distriact's business office-- "The Morning Call had filed a Right-to-Know request for the report, but the district denied the request. The request was also denied at the state level on appeal." Unless/until we straighten our Allentown schools things aren't going to improve the situation either.

In Summary
We may not be able to turn back the hands of time, but there's better ways of going about then the way we have. It doesn't help our government is under a cloud right now with the FBI investigation going on down at city hall either.

I do think Allentown stands a chance to improve. What we all need to understand is the situation isn't hopeless--but without a clear understanding of the past mistakes made and taking future course corrections these hopes grow dimmer It's my wish--with the upcoming elections looming on the horizon--whoever leads the city and the school district forward in the next few years manages to do better jobs.


  1. I agree with you analysis, however, crime is the No.1 problem in Allentown. Our current policing concept, reactive, not proactive, is a major impediment in crime fighting. In the late eighties and early nineties we had a robust neighborhood community policing program. This put police officers into the neighborhoods where crime starts. Over the years this concept was slowly abandoned by successive mayors and the PD lost communication with the citizens in these neighborhoods. The problem today is the current mayor and police command were not around to see how successful this program was. At one time, we had 23-officers assigned to this program in over 20 offices citywide. Even though technology helps their policing efforts today, some old programs, [with new enhancements], could be brought back in a hybrid program. With force complement up to a reasonable limit, this program can be resurrected with no additional manpower cost. A reconnection with the neighborhoods is imperative and must be done to at least fight crime on strategic level.

    1. I agree. Having cops "on the street beats" was the norm in those days.


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