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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Pennrose By Any Other Name

Before he was being paid by Miked Fleck to shill for Fed Ed, Daryl Nerl was already doing basically the same thing for The Morning Call. In a breathless 2005 account about Pawlowski's obscene campaign finances, Nerl makes it seem like a good thing. Get the very first sentence of his story. "Boosted by an unlikely amalgam of developers he helped bring to Allentown, labor unions and historically heavy-hitting GOP contributors, Democrat Ed Pawlowski has raised 50 percent more money for his mayoral campaign than Republican William L. Heydt." Those developers were already here. For all we know, they brought Pawlowski in from Chicago. He was not here to save Allentown's minority population, but to exterminate them. But in that account, the seeds were already in place. Marcel Groen. Butz. And Penrose. This is about the Pennrose connection. Over the years, Pennrose and its Race Street PAC have been Pawlowski's biggest contributors.

Contributions started in 2005 and have continued from both the Race Street PAC and Pennrose principals Mark Dambly and Richard Barnhart. Pennrose received KOZ benefits for the former Trojan Powder Company and Allentown National Bank Building renovations on Center Square - across from the Arena - in 2004 converting the buildings to subsidized elderly housing. Pennrose also was named developer for the Hope VI HUD funding Hanvover Acres and Riverview Terrace conversion to mixed use housing by the Allentown Housing Authority. That's a $75 million project. The Mayor controls appointments to the Allentown Housing Authority and was a member of the Board himself while DCED director. Alan Jennings, Julio Guridy and Sara Hailstone are members now. Pennrose was also named to redevelop Cumberland Gardens, but that deal was rejected by Lehigh County Commissioners because of the ridiculous $225,000 per unit expense.

Between the two projects, Pennrose was involved with over $90 million in projects for Allentown. They also were named developers by Easton for their Hope VI project. Pennrose is also co-developing Strata Flats with City Center in the NIZ.


Anonymous said...

Musty Muller and the old Cunningham gang in the county were up to their eyeballs in that deal. Check it out if you dare.

Anonymous said...

The snake its own tail.

Anonymous said...

The snake EATS its own tail.
( Apologies.)

Anonymous said...

The Trifecta!!!!
Hailstone, Jennings and Guridy have been quite the efficient team.

Anonymous said...

The sleeze runs DEEP DEEP DEEP.
Just take a glance at all the fine Pharisees, young and old.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Part 1 of 2

A little background on Mike Fleck, Alan Jennings and the Easton Hope VI Project. In early 2001 I was part of the Weed & Seed TALL Team for Easton's West Ward. As a personal project, and at request from my neighborhood association, I took on the task of writing a physical redevelopment plan for the neighborhood to be presented to the PA Commission on Crime & Delinquency (PCCD) that sponsored W&S. The powers that be in Easton at the time did not, to my knowledge, ever present that plan to the state but instead buried it. As you may remember, I and a handful of TALL Team cohorts exposed improprieties in Easton W&S that resulted in all funds being frozen and audits performed by city, county and state officials. The result was a rash of resignations within W&S and city hall, culminating with Tom Goldsmith's early exit from office for a PLCB job.

Nonetheless, I presented many of the ideas from the plan, including Hope VI for the West Ward, at every W&S management meeting I attended. The Easton Housing Authority (EHA) under Gary Smith was at the table for all of those meetings and never made a peep regarding their position for or opposed. Years later and without warning EHA proposed Hope VI to replace Southside's public housing project. When this was first proposed Morning Call reporter Tracy Jordan called me for my opinion on the application. I indicated that Hope VI was the best federal program for rehabilitating neighborhoods in the history of this country - and that Easton had no chance of getting the grant. She was shocked and asked why. I told her because HUD reviewed management competency before awarding the money and EHA was run like a circus.

They were rightly rejected but tried again in the next grant round, whereupon I was asked the same question by the press and gave the same answer. They were rejected again. The third time was the charm but came at the very end of the Hope VI funding cycle as GW Bush was trying to kill all funding for public housing at the time. I attended the city council meeting for CDGB funding when EHA came in to make their case for Hope VI on Southside. It required a city match. Gary Smith gave his entire presentation and then sat down while council conversed among themselves. At a certain point former councilman Burns Bamford made the offhand comment that EHA would probably be coming back at some point in the future to ask for money. Thats when Gary Smith said, without batting an eye, "no, we need a million dollars now." I thought they'd fall off their cushy chairs. Smith did the whole dog & pony show, sat down and never mentioned that they wanted $1 million right then and there.

End Part 1

Dennis R. Lieb said...

Part 2 of 2

As things progressed Pennrose was brought into the conversation by Fleck and he couldn't wait to tell council that Pennrose would take them all on an all-expenses paid field trip to Virginia to see a current Hope VI project they had just completed. Thats when I couldn't take it anymore and got up to tell the audience and press that Hope VI was a well established program with a long track record of completed projects and that anyone interested in the details could find that information at any of dozens of project websites on the internet - it didn't require a free trip for politicians to Virginia or anywhere else. I guess that was one small victory in derailing Fleck's Easton gravy train (although I think the feds should probably be looking into his other dealings here too, especially election day shenanigans.)

The two kickers to the story: First, they could have made the project much denser to match the character of the surrounding neighborhood but city council caved when Southside NIMBY's complained about having more rental units - so of course a lot of potential affordable units were shit-canned to appease political constituents and the displaced were scattered to the winds. Second, when I was working for CACLV, Alan Jennings gave employees a driving tour of Easton (quite insulting to be given a tour of the city you grew up in by someone that never lived here). During the Neston Heights portion - the name of our Hope VI community - Jennings basically took credit for getting Gene Pambianchi appointed to replace Gary Smith and pretty much for realization of the Hope VI project here too.

My notes on the corrupt personalities I've come across in the past fifteen years of citizen activism in Easton might make a good movie someday. In the meantime, I love it when current events like this NIZ fiasco open the door for the chance to set the record straight on past misconceptions of local history. This stuff never makes the papers. I will continue to look for chances to prevent the Flecks (and Pantos - yeah, him too) of the world from spreading their propaganda.