Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Friends of Johnston Need More Friends With Bethlehem Township's Board

Bethlehem Township's Board of Commissioners
Despite pleas from the recently-formed Friends of Johnston, Bethlehem Township Commissioners said No at their February 18 meeting to an offer of help in restoring a 22-room mansion that was once home to Bethlehem's first Mayor, Archibald Johnston. In a 3-2 vote, Commissioners declined to support this group. President Paul Weiss, Michael Hudak and Martin Zawarski voted against the proposal, which was supported by Tom Nolan and Phil "Felix" Barnard. But after the meeting was over, President Weiss indicated that Commissioners would support the Friends of Johnston if they are willing to work with and under the Township's Parks and Recreation Board.

The Friends of Johnston has been establish to preserve, restore and repurpose Housenick Park, located off Christian Springs Road. It was donated to the Township under the Will of Janet Housenick in 2006, and consists of the mansion as well as a 55-acre tract of land, nestled along Monocacy Creek. Housenick also established a $2 million trust fund to assist with maintenance costs.

Ten Johnston Friends urged Commissioners to adopt a resolution supporting their mission at the park. Dr. Andrew Unger, respected pediatrician, argued for a restoration of the mansion. "They just don't make 'em like that anymore," he observed. His sentiments were echoed by Bethlehem City Council member Karen Dolan. "You can't pass up an opportunity like this," she urged. "Accept this gift. You will not regret it."

Vicky Bastidas challenges Board to be visionaries
Victoria Bastidas, who along with Commissioner Tom Nolan has been the driving force behind this movement, challenged Commissioners to be as visionary as Mayor Archibald Johnston, who in his 1918 inaugural address recognized the importance of community centers.

But Commissioner Michael Hudak stated that Commissioners are already following a 2011 Housenick Park Plan that calls for $1.7 million in improvements to the park, with another $1 million for mansion restoration as a public use. The plan envisions 2.29 miles of walking trails, a pavilion, trail head and public restrooms. "Contrary to what we heard earlier, progress is being made there," he stated.

Nolan sharply disagreed. "You put a dagger in the heart of the mansion tonight," he charged. Right after the meeting, Nolan and Hudak engaged in a heated exchange.

Exec. John Stoffa drops in on discussion
"You should be ashamed of yourself," Hudak said to Nolan. "Who do you represent, the people of this Township or Vicky Bastidas?" Bastidas lives in Bethlehem City, not the Township.

But despite the angry words, President Paul Weiss believes things can be worked out. If the Friends are willing to interact with the Township's Parks and Recreation Board, he would support their efforts. He complained that the Board had been blindsided. "They never talked to the Board, they never talked to the manager or any of the staff," he observed. "Before it hit the press, they should have come to the Township and discussed their proposal with us. ... We all found out at the last minute."

Weiss also complimented the Friends. "I think they've got a great group of people there. But collectively, between them and the Township, it's going to be a question about how you dovetail that together."

The Township's Parks and Recreation Board has been charged with facilitating the Housenick Park Plan, but Nolan complained it is collecting dust. "If they [the Johnston Friends] think they can facilitate the restoration of the mansion faster, I'm all for it. I've got no problem with that."

Contacted after the meeting, Bastidas said her group is willing to work with the Township's Parks and Recreation Committee.

74 comments:

Anonymous said...

wow....so i can form a committee, and then try to usurp the power of my duly and legally elected government representatives?


cool

Anonymous said...

You do not become a friend by trying to jamb your will down someone's throat

zoid said...

imagine you had a house and barn on a farm that had some local historical value and unknown to you a group formed to preserve that property without asking your permission and then comes to you with their plan for your property and want to implement it. Something seriously wrong with how this all was orchestrated and played out!!

Anonymous said...

While working with Hudak is next to impossible for any but his closest allies, this group did not approach this in a very intelligent fashion.
This outcome was preordained. That is unfortunate as these people appear to have very valuable contributions to make.
( Why is commissioner Hudak such an unpleasant person? )

Anonymous said...

I agree with Zoid at 8:25
--- who do these citizens think they are fooling with Michael Hudak's house and farm and barn?. Some peoe have a lot of nerve.

Anonymous said...

I can't tell you a thing about the politics, but I can tell you no work has been done out there of any significance. Just ain't so.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Michael Hudak is letting his dislike of Ms. Bastidas get in the way of actually making some progress. Seven years is way too long to let this matter sit and just talk about it without doing anything. What morons turn down a charitabl e donation, as in NO TAXPAYERS DOLLARS. Not to make a personal attack on Hudak, but maybe he needs to go throw some coffee at a car on Rt 22 and get arrested again. There is definitely a pattern to his rages.

Anonymous said...

Vicky Bastides and other supporters have tried to work with the township over the past year. The township is required to fix the mansion according to the will. Do the commissioners want the mansion to just rot? Are they hoping people are too complacent to notice?

Anonymous said...

1) mr hudak is embarrassment to the other commissioners and the township he represents.
2) the friends of group do not appear to be very sophisticated politically.
One can only hope and pray this beautiful land reaches its potential as a magnificent park.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely this historic building should be saved. A community center is not necessarily the best wisest used for that historic building. Who's decession was that?
Commissioner Michael H. has little or no credability.
This group could have had the support of Mr. Zawarsky and possible Mr. Weiss if they had their ducks in a row.

Anonymous said...

What "charitable donation"? A project like this will never be accomplished without taxpayer dollars from some level of government. Don't shoot yourself in the foot by making silly inaccurate statements.
This park certainly deserves much more then the short shift it has been given by the Township.
Perhaps Hudak and Ms.Bastidas should both step aside so the important work of saving this historic building and protecting this extraordinary park can finally procede.

Anonymous said...

The township seems to be lacking vision. It's unclear that the township has any real plans for this beautiful 55 acres. The citizens group has plans that are half assed at best. Maybe if the the two of them get together something decent can develop herer. One can always hope.

Anonymous said...

Community building? You want a community building, rip the old house down and build a community building.
I would rather save the old house. Just sayin'.
Nature center. Now that would be cool.

Anonymous said...

Save the historic house please.

Anonymous said...

They had a tour of the old mansion on Channel 69. Steve Barron led the tour and is the "face" of the committee.

Kilts for all!

Anonymous said...

4:44
Sounds wonderful!
Why no website or Facebook page yet?
Come on now, let's get with it!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Okay sounds like a pretty good group of people. So let's say they restore the building, then what?

Anonymous said...

This group has organized an impressive list of people supporting them. But with all that brainpower, no one could count the votes going into the meeting?
Didn't do their homework.
Too bad.

zoid said...

The real crime in all of this is not the good intentions of the good people that came forward last night but the misinformation that Ms. Bastidas has and continues to put out there to everyone. She is a misguided soul and a control freak much like Mr. Nolan and that attitude will get them no where. There is an opportunity to work with the folks who spoke last night but it has to be on the terms of the municipality not that of Ms. Bastidas. That building is indeed a gem and worth saving and together perhaps the two sides can get that accomplished!!

Anonymous said...

I suspect that Commissioner Weiss knows very well why the Township wasn't included in the conversation earlier. As president, he has a colleague who is a loose cannon and a bully who he can not, or chooses not to, control. No reasonable person would choose to include that individual in an open process.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Steve Barron led the tour and is the "face" of the committee.".

That's enough, all by itself, to make me wonder.

Lighthouse said...

The tract of land, the mansion, and the history--in the long haul, this is going to be a real asset for the community. I genuinely believe that all involved have good intentions (as they see it). Unfortunately, anyone following this the past few years knows that some "personality conflicts" are part of the problem. In the end, I am sure neither the Board nor Housenick Trustees want to burn through all the money on the mansion. So hopefully a way will be found for a cooperative joint public-private fundraising effort. I think the "Friends"-- or something similiar-- offer a lot of potential. Unfortunately having Dolan spouting off non-sense about the COB trying to take it from the Twp, and publicity seekers like Barron, will only further poison an unnecessarily contentious relationship. Mrs. Housenick has to be crying in her grave to see what was meant to be a gift of tranquility to the Township argued over for so long after her death.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Amen. Karen spoke out of turn. I missed her remark, which was made after the meeting. I also think it is a terrible idea to involve Barron, who is a publicity hound. That hannel 69 story, which implied that Commissioner are doing nothing, had to piss them off. I just saw that a few minutes ago. He and Bo Coldcock could fuck up a church picnic.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe this whole thing could be handled so poorly. The trust fund shouldn't spend a penny on the building unless it is able to leverage a disproportionately large amount of dollars. With Brady on the trust all bets are off anyway.
Mr. Nolan seems like a gentleman to this observer.
Zoid, forgive me, but if you are pointing out control freaks in the Twp. and you don't include Michael Hudak you are totally full of shit and your opinion is absolutely worthless. You've exposed yourself as an ass.
What an unfortunate amateur hour this entire episode has become. Are there no adults involved?

Bernie O'Hare said...

I do think both sides have good intentions and this will have a happy ending.

Anonymous said...

BOH,
Having Barron and Dolan involved was just plain dumb. That does not change the facts---- the commissioners have done very little. Unless you include Hudak's shenanigans. I can't see anything good coming out of this as long as he is a commissioner. The Friends people seem clueless of the political realities of the area. Sad state of affairs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Hudak is one man and one vote. There are five votes on that Board.

Anonymous said...

Could someone tell me what Commissioner Michael Hudak's good intentions are?
I see nothing from this guy but negative. Anybody who trusts him is fool. Pres. Weiss appears to be afraid of the guy.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Let's assume he has bad intentions and is Evil. He is one vote. He and I do not get along, but I suspect he thinks he is following the mandate of the will and distrusts an outside group that may end up commercializing it. I don't know. I do think EVERYONE involved wants what is best. if you think Hudak does not, then it is EVERYONE MINUS ONE. You should be able to work this out.

Anonymous said...

Hudak is elected by the people in his ward. None of the Friends people are elected or accountable to anyone other then themselves. Kudos to Hudak for thinking about the 1000's of people he represents and not the self servers. Everybody knows that the taxpayers in the Township will pay for that Mansion some way or another and it won't be cheap. Hudak is aware of that and is taking things slowly. 1000's of people in his ward and arguably throughout the Township who pay tons of tax money may not be able to afford what the friends want no matter the historic value. Thank you Mr. Hudak for representing the taxpayers of Bethlehem Township!!

Anonymous said...

The township seems to be lacking vision.

To put it bluntly, Bethlehem Township is run by stooges. Everyone should take a page from (gasp!) Allentown's book and take a look at Trexler Park or the Parkway. You can't even WALK A DOG in a township park. Absolutely pathetic.

Anonymous said...

implied that Commissioner are doing nothing

Someone mentioned it has been 7 years. Seven years. I interpret that time frame slightly different than you and your personal pissing match with Barron.

Anonymous said...

1000's of people in his ward and arguably throughout the Township who pay tons of tax money

C'mon, the taxes in the Township are not that high. Stop inventing problems that don't exist.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" You can't even WALK A DOG in a township park. Absolutely pathetic."

That's true in many municipalities. And it's because people are slobs, unwilling to clean up after their pets.

Anonymous said...

So rather than establish rules and enforce them. Let's make everybody live by the lowest common denominator Bernie. No dogs, no games, no kids, no noise, no Nuttin. That's a grand vision for our republic Bernie.

Anonymous said...

Sadly a majority of people in the township don't give a good gosh darn about this park. They simply don't appreciate it and could care less about the house or it's history. It's a crying shame it's not in Bethlehem City. Mr. Hudak indeed represents them very well with her lack of vision and provincial mindset.
Welcome to Bethlem Township the land of strip malls and tract housing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Actually, it's a question of responsible citizenship and public safety. Those parks are not places for dogs to run and play, but are mostly set aside for kids' sports. I personally don't think it's safe or wise for a kid to have to roll around in dog shit and piss when playing soccer, baseball, football or lacrosse. I love dogs, but I love kids a little more.

What you are suggesting is a staff of park guards who run around making sure people clean up their dogs' do do. Have you given any consideration to what that would cost?

It might make sense to allow dogs at Housenick bc no sports are played there.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Sadly a majority of people in the township don't give a good gosh darn about this park. They simply don't appreciate it and could care less about the house or it's history. It's a crying shame it's not in Bethlehem City. Mr. Hudak indeed represents them very well with her lack of vision and provincial mindset.
Welcome to Bethlem Township the land of strip malls and tract housing."


This disdain of Bethlehem To and its people is condescending. I suspect a majority of Bethlehem City know less.

if this is a Friends' group, and not a condescending collection of snobs, what you should be doing is enlightening people, not disresepecting them.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"It seems entirely natural, fitting and proper, that a park like this would attract interest from around the region. Isn't this just another indication of what a wonderful gift this part represents. What I don't understand is why there is little excitement in Bethlehem Tp.for this super cool place."

That's fair and that's where a real friends' group can do a lot of good.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Someone mentioned it has been 7 years. Seven years. I interpret that time frame slightly different than you and your personal pissing match with Barron"

Really? Let's look at that time frame, shall we? Ms. Housenick died in 2006. She had an estate that had to be probated and trustees had to be appointed and all that happy horseshit. Then the Tp had to decide how to address the park It did so with a Master Plan that was approved in 2011 after input from many members of the community, including outlying areas. The focus right now is on the grounds. The building has been weatherized and the Township is moving forward. if you ant to say they could move more quickly, that's fine. But it's unfair to say they've done nothing in 7 years.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Wasn't it a whopping 37%"?

It was 70% over two years.

Anonymous said...

Bernie it would be a terrible idea to let dogs run around in that park disturbing the abundant wildlife. allowing dogs in on a leash no longer than 6 feet is a different matter. No you don't need a poop police force, what you need is well posted rules, and then peer pressure will take care of the rest, perhaps a very few fines imposed. Come on man! It works in thousands of communities around the country where responsible dog owners are welcome and the poop gets scooped. I can't believe we're having this ridiculous conversation

Anonymous said...

PS in areas of the park where there is sensitive wildlife habitat dogs should never be allowed. I'm surprised at you Bernie, disallowing a whole class of users, because of a few assholes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Come on man! It works in thousands of communities around the country where responsible dog owners are welcome and the poop gets scooped. I can't believe we're having this ridiculous conversation"

Actually, it does not work, and that is why dogs are banned in many municipal parks. That is not a problem with the government, but the governed.

Anonymous said...

It works all around the country. With a modicum of enforcement and a large dose of peer pressure. You really don't know what you're talking about on this one. I love your blog. I hate to see when you fall into misinformation.

Anonymous said...

.... and of course you don't want dogs on ballfields et cetera. Naturally you don't.

Anonymous said...

The United States involvement in World War II took approximately 4 years from beginning to end

Bernie O'Hare said...

I agree I don't know much about dog shit. I do know that numerous municipalities ban dogs in parks.

In National Parks, they are only permitted in National Parks along roadways, in developed areas and in campgrounds, and must be restrained on a leash no longer than 6 feet in length, caged or crated at all times. Pets are not permitted inside buildings, on most trails, on beaches, or in the backcountry.

http://askville.amazon.com/dogs-banned-National-Parks/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=7080112

Park bans are getting more and more common. It is not acceptable for them to defecate next to children's play areas.

Some dog owners persist in not cleaning up after their animals and with attitudes like that it is only a matter of time before these animals start being banned from all parks and playgrounds. Municipalities simply lack the resources to hire park cops.

This might be a subject for another post. Don't get me wrong. I love dogs and love when they can run free.

Bernie O'Hare said...



Um, our national existence was at stake. This is not quite the same thing.

Anonymous said...

And hey, no little girls playing youth soccer, running around and making all that noise. Good hard-working people paid lots and lots of money for those houses. Long-live Bethlehem Township!

In a generation that park will be the tp biggest attraction and will boost the livability and real estate value like no other asset, with or without the
wonderful historic house.

Anonymous said...

That's true in many municipalities. And it's because people are slobs, unwilling to clean up after their pets.

That's life. A little dog shit from an ignorant fool isn't going to hurt anyone. Go walk around Trexler Park and see if an occasional dog shit takes away from the beauty of the park. It doesn't. You can take a dog into any Allentown park. Any. And they are all better than anything in any of the townships.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it does not work, and that is why dogs are banned in many municipal parks. That is not a problem with the government, but the governed.

Actually, it's banned because a few busy body douchebags wasted their time getting them banned. Who in their right mind ever heard of a PARK where you cannot walk your dog? It's beyond absurd.

Anonymous said...

Louise Moore Park is another park that bans dogs. It's a county park. On the west side, there are no sports. It's rules imposed by busy bodies that see one errant dog shit and freak out. By the way, our children are rolling in shit all the time. Rabbit shit, squirrel shit, deer shit. Get real. It's a nanny state reaction to people that hate dogs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"You can take a dog into any Allentown park. Any. And they are all better than anything in any of the townships."

Allentown does have the best park system in the LV, I agree.

Look, I love dogs. I don't like rules. All I am saying is I understand why they are there. There are health and safety concerns. Rabbits don't bite.

Anonymous said...

The occasional fine and I mean occasional, and word gets around, people will pick up their dog poop. No one is more disturbed by poop left behind more than responsible dog owners. Responsible dog owners will see to it.
And yes, keep them leashed.

Anonymous said...

Who was arguing for unleashed dogs Bernie, I missed that?

Anonymous said...

The friends group should have had more local involvement, true. The commissioners also have a responsibility to engage their citizens. There is no gain in insulting Twp. residents, but they do come off looking rather uninformed and apathetic at best.
I mean this is a major issue that will affect generations to come. Township citizens appear to be asleep at the wheel. Not an insult, an observation.

Anonymous said...

The wax figure of Stoffa placed on the chair almost looked lifelike.

Anonymous said...

As a Bethlehem Township resident, I'd love to become involved in this. The "Friends" should openly recruiting supporters not trying to do it on their own.

Anonymous said...

Now the township and the region will see if President Weiss has the capacity to lead or not.
The ball's in Mr. Weiss's court.

Anonymous said...


Just a few FACTS that by the way can be easily verified.
1. The three commissioners did NOT vote to turn away money or help from the friends group. They actually made it very clear that they would love to accept any contributions they want to make. Of course that didn't make the papers so I see why there are so many misinformed people out there. The main reason they were turned away was they wanted to take control from the township on developing the mansion and park and I will quote, "oversee the development of the plan, revenue and act as the liaison between the public and private sector, all agencies and individuals necessary for completion of the project".
Their project and plan NOT Bethlehem townships. How could any responsible commissioner elected to represent the taxpayers of bethlehem township turn over controll of their own park ?? You would have to be an idiot or in someones pocket.
2. They have adopted the plan and that INCLUDES restoration of the Mansion . Also they are following time line in the master plan, Patience !
3.Hudaks good intentions? How about he was the one back in 2006 who wrote the resolution to preserve the estate as a passive park when everyone else wanted to throw in sports fields. His obvious passion for this property seems to be solely for the benefit of the taxpayers he represents. Mrs Bastidas interest is clearly for her own benefits.
4. FYI, he was never arrested! followed up and the truth was as he told it. He takes a lot of unwarranted grief but it's clear he represents the people and not himself.
Everybody do youselves a favor and actually go to the meetings. I've found the commissioners are more than happy to speak with you after and answer your questions. Don't believe everything you read. Remember, dirt sells not boring truth. Sorry Bernie, don't mean you, love your blog.

Anonymous said...

I just read all the comments. I am surprised to see so much township bashing by people who want to persuade the township. If I were the commissioners I would not even entertain one idea from them after the bashing and ridicule by the members of this "Friends" group. Really? I hope Weiss does not change his position. He will just look like he caved to an organization that needs to back off.

Bernie O'Hare said...

My take is that people are venting right now. I sometimes feel this is like an Internet bar room.

Paul Weiss, who is by no means parochial, will sit down with anybody. He even sits down with me. ... as long as i keep my distance.

The people making these accusations should look at the Bachman House. A 501c3 was formed, and all kinds of money raised, and it constantly needs public support.

Here, if this group fails, it is Twp Comm'rs who will be left holding the bag. This is a very real concern, not parochialism. I think this is the point cOMM'RS are trying to make.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"As a Bethlehem Township resident, I'd love to become involved in this. The "Friends" should openly recruiting supporters not trying to do it on their own. "

That's very nice of you. I will try to get contact info and post it.

Anonymous said...

Ok 5:40 pm. Fact for you, plead guilty to the incident, which was throwing coffee at another car. Stop making excuses. I will commend you for adding facts which were not in the coverage of the meeting however. There does appear to be two sides now.

Anonymous said...

Whoever voted to prevent playing fields at this park did the right thing. They also did the obvious thing, as typography does not easily allow for playing fields. Additionally, playing fields was CLEARLY not what the parks benifactor invisioned. At the very least Mr Hudak comes across as abrasive. After the meeting I witnessed him refuse to shake a hand that was extended to him. Is this a gesture that a public official makes?

Anonymous said...

BIG @ 5:58
Point well taken.

Anonymous said...

The fact that the FRIENDS people have no website and no contact information says reams about their competence and openness.
Not ready for prime time.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Let's be nice. These are good people. Let's not lose sight of that and work together.

Anonymous said...

The fact that the FRIENDS people have no website and no contact information says reams about their competence and openness.
Not ready for prime time.

Anonymous said...

BOH @ 9:01
AMEN BOH. Wouldn't that be something? Here is where the Trust can help if they are paying attention.

Anonymous said...

Hudak's obvious passion for the park? You must be fucking kidding me.

Anonymous said...

Hey 7:16 PM
I saw that too !
That was Barron. The same guy that just bashed those commissioners on TV not 2 hours earlier.
I wouldn't have shaken his hand either. Good for Hudak. At least he was honest about it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I did not see this but if it is true, my respect for Hudak went up a notch. Barron is just a relentless self-promoter who does not give a shit about the park.