Archive for category Bethlehem

South Bethlehem development should focus on reuse, not tall buildings, residents say

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Attendees at a Wednesday meeting on South Bethlehem development called for the reuse of the Bethlehem Steel General Office building and Home & Planet in favor of new tall buildings.

Attendees at a Wednesday meeting on South Side Bethlehem development called for the reuse of the Bethlehem Steel General Office building and Home & Planet, instead of new tall buildings.

Two South Side business owners said they don’t think the city should pin its hopes on the three new tall buildings proposed for the neighborhood. Both Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem and Lehigh Riverport were supposed to revitalize the neighborhood and they’ve haven’t, Homebase Skateshop owner Andy Po and Deja Brew Coffeehouse & Deli owner Jeff Vaclavik said.

“We were told when Sands comes, South Side Bethlehem is going to be this crazy place of business,” Po said. “My business is not successful because the Sands is there.”

About 50 people attended the Town Hall Lecture on “Responsible Development and the Future of South Bethlehem.” The event was co-sponsored by the city and Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative.

Vaclavik pointed out the opening of Lehigh Riverport also was supposed to be a boon to the neighborhood and it hasn’t been.

“Where are all the residents of Riverport who were going to flood the South Side and flock to our stores? There’s no one – no one is even living there any more,” Vaclavik said.

Vaclavik said the city should rally to get a new business into the former Home & Planet storefront in the same way city officials pushed to reopen Hotel Bethlehem. He said the store should have been included in Bethlehem’s City Revitalization and Improvement Zone because it is that important to the neighborhood.

Others pushed for the inclusion in the zone of the former SGO building on East Third Street.

“We have to look at what we have already there – I wish the politicians would lean on the owners of that building to do something with it,” said Roger Hudak, a South Bethlehem resident who is chairman of the Mayor’s South Side Task Force.

South Side resident Olga Negron also pointed out Bethlehem, and the Lehigh Valley’s, tallest building — Martin Tower — is a large, empty building that has been difficult to redevelop.

“We really need to think about marketing these tall buildings in our neighborhood,” Negron said. “We need to redevelop what we have.”

Developer Dennis Benner has proposed three tall buildings — 13, 9 and 7 stories — in the South Bethlehem business district, which some residents and business owners have been fighting.

Po pointed out a lot of the landlords who declined to rent to him when he was opening Homebase in favor of holding out for stores like The Gap when Sands opened still have vacant storefronts today. He advocated for the city to crack down on absentee landlords to encourage more spaces for small businesses to rent.

“It was a small business community that made South Bethlehem the envy of the Lehigh Valley,” Po said.

Lehigh graduate student Mike DeCrosta pointed out the only successful CRIZ project thus far has been the Social Still, which is one building being operated by a local business.

“I think we can get a lot done if we think on a smaller scale and more local scale,” DeCrosta said.

Lynn Olanoff can be reached at lolanoff@express-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @LynnOlanoff. Find Bethlehem news on Facebook.

Ex-manager at Sands Shoppes jewelry store offered chance to clear record

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Catherine Rennig, 33, was manager of Kay Jewelers in the Shoppes at Sands outlet mall when she allegedly stole more than $16,000 from the jewelry store.

A former manager at a Shoppes at the Sands outlet store will have a chance to clear her record of theft and related charges filed last September, according to her attorney.

Ex-manager at Sands Shoppes jewelry store offered chance to clear recordCatherine Rennig 

Catherine Rennig, 33, of the 4800 block of MacArthur Road in Whitehall Township, was admitted Wednesday into Northampton County Court’s Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program for first-time offenders.

She goes into the program charged with receiving stolen property and two counts of theft.

“Obviously once she’s done with the program, all the charges will be dismissed,” her attorney, Joshua Fulmer, said.

Rennig was manager of Kay Jewelers in the outlet mall alongside Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem when she allegedly stole more than $16,000 from the jewelry store, by applying store credit to her accounts and taking gift cards.

She has paid $16,479.13 in restitution, Fulmer said.

“I think it was an unfortunate situation, and I think she’s happy to be able to make full restitution and hopefully move on from the matter and put it behind her,” he said.

Rennig has been free on 10 percent of $20,000 bail, posted Sept. 23, the day after Bethlehem police arrested her at the store.

Bethlehem City Council Candidates Exchange Views at Northwest Blockwatch

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

Jeff Kocsis

All seven Bethlehem City Council candidates were in church last night, but they were not praying. At least not yet. They were there for a candidates’ night hosted by the Northwest Block Watch, which meets monthly at the Church of the Manger on Greenview Street. It was standing room only, too, as about sixty people crowded into the nave, including State Rep. Danny McNeill and Lehigh County Commissioner candidate Dan Hartzell. Bethlehem Zoning Hearing Board Chairman Gus Loupos served as facilitator. He just got back from Ireland and claimed to have a piece of blarney stone for any candidate who was bashful about speaking. None of them needed any help. For a little over an hour, the candidates fielded some excellent questions.

Matt McKernan

Three of the seats up this year are for four-year terms. Four candidates are in the running, including incumbents Willie Reynolds and Mike Recchiuti, along with newcomers Shawn Martel and Michael Colon. Reynolds and Martel are teachers. Recchiuti is an elder law attorney, and Colon heads up volunteer services at Gracedale. One of these candidates is going to come up short, but all four proved to be knowledgeable and engaged.

One seat is only for a two-year term. It is the balance of Karen (K. Dierdre) Dolan’s unexpired term. She resigned at the request of a Northampton County Investigating Grand Jury. Her position is being sought by Jeff Kocsis, Matt McKernan and Olga Negron. Kocsis works for Lehigh County in the register of Wills office, and Negron is employed by the Bethlehem Area Public Library. McKernan owns Mosaic, an ad agency in Bethlehem.

Olga Negron

1. 911. Since the City is being forced to contribute more money for 911, should it consider regionalizing with Northampton County, Lehigh County or Allentown? – In his opening statement and at other times during the evening, McKernan spoke of the need to create efficiencies by regionalizing municipal services. But not 911. He called it “vital to our City” and said it would be a “big mistake” to walk away. Negron added that consolidating 911 with another entity would be “horrible.” Kocsis argued for keeping 911 “at all costs.” Martel stated that Bethlehem’s 911 is much more comprehensive than one seen elsewhere, with 108 cameras to assist firefighters, police and EMS. But Martel noted that, under current state law, Bethlehem will receive no funding for 911 next year. Colon, who worked in 911 himself, stated that some of the “equation may be out of our hands.”

Michael Colon

Reynolds explained that, at one time, the state funded 75% of the cost of 911. He acknowledged everyone wants to keep it, but noted that Allentown and Bethlehem are the only two cities left in the state with their own 911 centers. “There’s a very real possibility that we won’t have a choice,” he added.

“We on Council have done everything we can,” noted Recchiuti. He told the audience that the 911 tab this year is $3.4 million, and Bethlehem is paying $2.1 million of it.

Several candidates pointed their finger at Harrisburg, and State Rep. Dan McNeill pointed out that all 83 Democrats voted to continue finding 911.

Shawn Martel

2. Single hauler. – None of the candidates champion the single hauler solution championed by former Mayor John Callahan. They instead support zoned hauling, which will permit the City to ensure that trash is not out on the street for days at a time while protecting private businesses. According to Recchiuti, Mayor Bob Donchez will soon be introducing a zoned hauling plan.

Reynolds stated that when a single hauler proposal was first floated by Mayor Callahan, his mother gave him an ultimatum. “If you vote for single hauling, take the yard sign out,” she warned him. “I’ve known my garbage man longer than I’ve known you, and he’s more reliable.”

Mike Recchiuti

Negron stated that, as a community organizer in Allentown, she once was in charge of 42 blocks. “Allentown has a single hauler and is still full of trash,” she commented, quickly adding she did not mean that quite the way it came out.
McKernan stated that, from a pure business perspective, single hauler makes sense because it is much better service at about half the cost. But he said that it’s still a bad idea because it would take jobs and income away from people. “When you hire a Bethlehem hauler, that business stays in Bethlehem,” he observed.

Kocsis, Martel and Colon all spoke of giving people the right to choose. Martel stated he’d be unable to sleep at night if he voted to pass a bill “that would cause people to lose their jobs.”

Willie Reynolds

3. What’s happening to Martin Towers? – Recchiuti was quick to point out that the city does not own the 53-acre site. He stated plans are in the works and should be on the table in three or four months. He supports a mixed use development, a proposal shared by other candidates. He stated the CRIZ is not the NIZ, referring to two development tools that develop sites with public assistance. “We’ve always known that this is going to need taxpayer assistance,” he added. Colon lamented the lost local tax revenue from a vacant building.

Martel pointed out that it will cost $40 million to remediate problems at the site, which include asbestos. Negron stated she has a “lot of hope” for the building (there are actually several buildings) but that the City “needs to do a better job reaching out to developers.”

Dan McNeill

McKernan called it “kind of an eyesore” that’s “not doing anything for us.” He thinks that a solution can be found by convening more “community forums” to talk about it.

Pointing out that he lives on the west side, Kocsis advised being “vigilant” and watchful. “Your concerns are mine,:” he said to the largely West Bethlehem audience.

Reynolds noted that demolishing the building might release a lot of asbestos in the air. Whatever plans are ultimately produced must “balance the needs of the neighborhood,” he stated.

4. If you had to cut, where would you do it? –   Reynolds joked that he’d eliminate the $25 currently paid to Gus Loupos to conduct zoning hearings. Recchiuti stated that he does not think it would be possible to pick any one thing, but suggested a possibility with recreation. Colon proposed closing a few swimming pools. Martel agreed with cuts to recreation and overtime. Kocsis seemed to object to the question.”You can’t just go in with a machete and cut away,” he complained. Negron suggested recruiting volunteers and students to save costs.

“I don’t want to cut anything,” said McKernan. “We just need to be more efficient.” He added it would be “short-sighted” to close the pools because the kids would start getting in trouble.

What Questions Would You Have For Bethlehem City Council Candidates

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

Tonight, Bethlehem City Council candidates will speak at the Church of the Manger (1401 Greenview Drive). West Bethlehem’s Blockwatch is hosting a Candidates Night. All seven candidates will be there. I am going to get the contact information of each candidate and present them with five questions. I will run their answers in a future blog entry.

What questions should they be asked? That’s your job. Please post them in the comments below. I will take the five best ones and send them out.

Bethlehem dedicates new patio, concessions and bathrooms at Bethlehem Skateplaza

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

The patio was heralded as a significant amenity in a neighborhood the city considers important and it's also expected to be used by South Bethlehem Greenway users.

Bethlehem Skateplaza Greenway PatioThe bathrooms and concession stand at the Greenway Patio at the Bethlehem Skateplaza were created out of a former shipping container. (Lynn Olanoff | Lehighvalleylive.com Photo)

A patio, concession stand and bathrooms accessible to both the Bethlehem Skateplaza and South Bethlehem Greenway were formally opened Friday.

Work was completed on the $344,304 project in December but officials waited until the spring to hold an official dedication.

The patio was heralded as a significant amenity in a neighborhood the city considers important. The patio is across from Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem and near the South Side Bethlehem business district city officials have dubbed the Eastern Gateway.

“It really is a great asset to the quality of life here in the city of Bethlehem,” Mayor Bob Donchez said. “The city is one step closer to the overall vision of the Eastern Gateway.”

The skate plaza, which opened in 2010, is well used in the neighborhood and the patio will be, as well, by both skate plaza and greenway users, officials said.

“We’re conveniently located next to the greenway, so it’s a place where people can come and rest,” Eastern Gateway committee member Sean Dooley said.

The patio funding included $172,000 from Northampton County open space money, $100,000 from Southside Vision 2020, $42,304 from the city and $30,000 from the R.K. Laros Foundation.

“We love it when our money gets used for unique, cool projects,” Laros Foundation board member George Mowrer said. “This pavilion is another step in making South Bethlehem a welcoming place.”

The concession stand – which was made from a former shipping container – should be open in about a month, Bethlehem Parks and Public Property Director Ralph Carp said. The city is in the process of selecting an operator and the stand will be open at least five hours every day, he said.

Lynn Olanoff can be reached at lolanoff@express-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @LynnOlanoff. Find Bethlehem news on Facebook.

Bethlehem garage bomb threat suspect arraigned after committal, records say

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Aristotle Tarboro, 46, is charged with felony terroristic threats in the April 3 incident outside Bethlehem City Hall at 10 E. Church St. 

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The Fountain Hill man accused of saying he had a bomb in the garage below Bethlehem‘s city hall and main library has been arraigned and sent to Northampton County Prison.

Aristotle Tarboro, 46, is charged with felony terroristic threats in the April 3 incident at 10 E. Church St.

City police reported having him committed to St. Luke’s University Health Network for a mental evaluation after the incident. He was arraigned Monday before District Judge Patricia Romig-Passaro and sent to Northampton County Prison in lieu of $25,000 bail, court records say.

Tarboro pulled his pickup truck, with girlfriend Stacy Baret in the passenger seat, into the parking garage about 11:15 a.m. that Friday and told police Sgt. John Pesesko: “I have a bomb in my truck,” records say. The garage is beneath Bethlehem City Hall and its Town Hall meeting room, as well as the Bethlehem Area Public Library, which was closed for Good Friday.

Pesesko got Tarboro to drive outside onto Sakon Place on the west side of the municipal complex, records say, where Tarboro refused to exit and locked himself and Baret inside.

Detective Moses Miller negotiated Tarboro’s surrender after an hour, but only after the incident drew a response from some 30 police officers, city paramedics and the city fire department’s bomb squad, records say.

“Due to his declining mental condition, after being taken into custody he was taken to the hospital,” police wrote in court records.

Baret told police she was not held against her will and that she wanted to stay with Tarboro “to make sure he was OK,” records say.

Tarboro faces a preliminary hearing tentatively scheduled May 26 before District Judge Roy Manwaring II in Bethlehem.

Tarboro is represented by attorney Gary Asteak, who was not immediately available for comment late Friday afternoon.

Ohio man sentenced up to 20 years in South Bethlehem shooting wants to take back guilty plea

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

Northampton County President Judge Stephen Baratta on Friday granted defense attorney Phillip Lauer's request to file post sentencing motions on behalf of Manuel Collazo, 31, of Cleveland.

An Ohio man sentenced to up to 20 years in state prison for shooting another man outside of a South Bethlehem bar last summer wants to withdrawal his guilty plea.

Northampton County President Judge Stephen Baratta on Friday granted defense attorney Phillip Lauer’s request to file post sentencing motions on behalf of Manuel Collazo, 31, of Cleveland.

Collazo pleaded guilty on March 27 to aggravated assault and a weapons offense in the shooting of Sheldon Hottenstein on Aug. 7 outside the Happy Tap Bar, where both had been drinking, court papers and lehighvalleylive.com archives say.

Numerous charges, including attempted murder, were dropped as part of the deal, court papers say. Collazo was sentenced to 5 to 12 years in state prison on the assault charge and 3 1/2 to 8 years for a charge involving felons not allowed to possess firearms, court papers say.

After his sentencing, Collazo tried to contact Lauer to file post sentencing motions on his behalf but Lauer did not get the messages until the deadline had passed, court paperwork indicates.

Lauer said he was out of the area for another legal case and then underwent surgery.

In court paperwork, Lauer takes issue with the methodology used to compute Collazo’s sentence. He argues Collazo’s prior Ohio sentences for robbery and felony assault were improperly weighted in determining the new sentence. The filing indicates Collazo wants to withdrawal his guilty plea.

Baratta made no ruling Friday on the merits of Collazo’s request but just agreed to extend the time frame for Lauer to file motions on his client’s behalf.

The shooting took place during the week of Muskifest in Bethlehem. On Aug. 7, 2014, Collazo pointed a gun at two other men just before he shot 24-year-old Hottenstein in the back just after 12:30 a.m. as all three left the Happy Tap Grille and Pub, 601 E. Fourth St., according to police.

Hottenstein ran from Collazo, who chased him, but managed to escape, police said. Hottenstein was found by Bethlehem police at Second Street and Founder’s Way.

Lauer has said a prior incident between the families escalated the situation last summer. In district court in November, Hottenstein confirmed under cross examination from Lauer that, two years earlier, Hottenstein shoved the face of Juanita Gallardo — Collazo’s mother — into his crotch.

Collazo appeared to leave his criminal past behind in recent years, Lauer said at the time of sentencing. Collazo is married, with two children and owns a home and business in Ohio.

Collazo surrendered several days after the shooting. He was taken into custody at the Lake County Sheriff’s Department in Ohio and was extradited to the Northampton County.

Sara K. Satullo may be reached at ssatullo@express-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @sarasatullo. Find Bethlehem news on Facebook.

Plans announced for Flatiron building, neighborhood to be revitalized in Bethlehem

Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.

A Bethlehem developer on Friday announced plans to finish renovating the city's Flatiron building and also released ambitious plans for other development in the South Bethlehem neighborhood.

Bethlehem developer on Friday announced plans to finish renovating the city’s Flatiron building and also released ambitious plans for other development in the South Bethlehem neighborhood.

Stone House Group owner Larry Eighmy announced plans to renovate the vacant second and fifth floors of the 5-story Flatiron building at 301 Broadway, which officials called one of the Lehigh Valley’s most iconic buildings. He also released a master plan for the neighborhood that shows a brewpub and beer garden, a new facility for New Bethany Ministries, more apartments and office space and tiny, environmentally-efficient houses.

Eighmy said he is committed to investing heavily in South Bethlehem because of the strong momentum in the city.

“What you’re really seeing is a renewal,” he said.

Renovation work at the Flatiron building should start in two months and be completed in another nine months, Eighmy said. He’s planning 3,000 square feet of office space on the fifth floor – which has sweeping views of Bethlehem on all sides – and four apartments on the second floor.

Eighmy doesn’t have any timeline for the rest of his Flatiron-area master plan, though he said he’s in talks with a company for the proposed brewpub and outdoor beer garden, which would be built in place of the current parking garage next to the Flatiron building. The master plan calls for a new garage on the parking lot next to the existing garage that also would include apartments and retail space.

“We’ve seen lots of interest for housing in South Bethlehem,” Eighmy said.

Eighmy’s plans also include a new 6-story building for New Bethany Ministries atop a parking lot at Fourth and Wyandotte streets. He would then turn the current New Bethany facility across the street into market-rate apartments.

Eighmy also is interested in putting a large “Flatiron” sign atop the building similarly styled to the “Hotel Bethlehem” red rooftop sign. Eighmy, who favors environmentally-conscious development, also has drawn plans for a temporary community of tiny houses of between 100 and 400 square feet in the neighborhood.

While he doesn’t have a timeline or funding for most of his Flatiron neighborhood projects, Eighmy said it’s important to outline a vision for the entire area. He’s previously announced other ambitious plans for the neighborhood but believes the time is right to pursue major redevelopment.

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez said he’s pleased with Eighmy’s strong interest in revitalizing the neighborhood because it’s an important Bethlehem gateway.

“I think it’s great when you have a developer like Larry or anyone who wants to invest a tremendous amount in South Bethlehem,” Donchez said.

Officials gathered Friday especially to celebrate the planned start of construction for the remainder of the Flatiron building. Eighmy bought the building, built in 1911 by famed Bethlehem architect A.W. Leh, eight years ago. In the time since, Eighmy has increased the building’s occupancy rate while decreasing its energy use by 40 percent.

Eighmy received an $830,000 state loan to renovate the second and fifth floors and is planning additional environmentally-sound upgrades, including a green roof, occupancy sensors and an energy-efficient boiler.

“The building has tremendous potential,” state Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton/Lehigh said. “Just the view itself and the energy around it is pretty incredible.”

Lynn Olanoff can be reached at lolanoff@express-times.com. Follow her on Twitter @LynnOlanoff. Find Bethlehem news on Facebook.

Cemetery Residents Have No Objection to Home at Holy Ghost

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

Bethlehem ZHB deliberates. 

His name is Bishop but he’s a priest. Father Cliff Bishop, Pastor at both the Incarnation of Our Lord and Holy Ghost Parishes in South Bethlehem, stood before the City’s Zoning Hearing Board on April 22. The cemetery there has a house that was once occupied by a caretaker, but is currently vacant. So Father Bishop wants to offer the home for sale. He needed what zoners call a variance for the residential use right next to the graveyard.

“I would assume there would be no objection from the residents right next to the home?” asked Chairman Gus Loupos.

“I would hope not,” answered Father Bishop, who added they’re “pretty quiet” and “don’t make much noise.”

The use variance was unanimously granted by four members of the Board. Linda Shay Gardner, detained by a business conflict, was absent.

The Diocese of Allentown was represented by Allentown Attorney Benjamin Traud.

The Board also gave Dylan Finelli permission for a carport at his home at 627 4th Avenue and approved a four lot subdivision at 802-804 Atlantic Street after an extensive presentation by Engineer Kevin Horvath and Bethlehem Attorney Joe Piperato. Owner Brett Lewis plans to build four single homes at the site. Attorney Michael Santanasto, who is acquainted with Lewis, recused himself.

Finally, zoners granted Colleen Miller permission to establish a new storage facility next to one she already owns at 815 Traveler Avenue. She testified that no chemicals and no residents are permitted at the site, which is located near the Greenway.

She caught a person there last year who was living in one of the storage sheds.

“I think it’s wonderful that she didn’t mention you by name, Bernie,” wisecracked Santanasto.

Miller was represented by Easton Attorney Ted Lewis and Engineer Kevin Horvath. “We liked him so much we asked hom to stick around,” joked Lewis.

The Perils of Running For Bethlehem City Council

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

Jeff Kocsis

I saw Jeff Kocsis, one of three candidates for a two-year seat on Bethlehem City Council, at my satellite office (Panera Bread) yesterday. He stopped there for a tall cup of coffee after work at the Lehigh County Register of Wills. He tried to dart away when he saw me, but I blocked the door. I finally let him go after he gave me his number. When I called later that night, Willie Reynolds answered.

He got me good.

Jeff’s been knocking on doors all over Bethlehem. “I do enjoy it,” he admitted, but had a close call last weekend.

Most people aren’t home when candidates knocks on doors. So Jeff writes out a little “Sorry I missed you” note and sticks it in the door with a flier. He was doing that on Sunday when he saw a dog at someone’s home, not too pleased to see him.

Maybe the dog was a Republican.

Because it was behind a closed window, Jeff was unconcerned.

“What kind of dog was it?”

“Couldn’t tell you.”

As Jeff walked away, out of nowhere, the dog jumps him from behind, like a ninja, and sinks his fangs into the back of his thigh.

“Holy shit! Where’d the dog come from?”

“Couldn’t tell you.”

Jeff finally got away.

“It got me good!”

Kocsis’ mom and recently departed father both worked two jobs to make sure he got through Becahi and Moravian College. He told me he’s proud to be from Bethlehem. “I love it here.”.

“I’m a dog guy, you know.”

He’s running on a “clean and safe ” platform. In my view, this is the foundation from which everything else flows.

“I’ve got a Shepherd.”

Maybe that dog was a Liberty grad.

Last time I got bit by a dog, which was just last year during those Lenten feasts in Roseto, the dog got rabie and had to be put down.

I’m a carrier.