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Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Allentown Pastor Slams Gentrification at Expense of Education

Rev. Gregory J Edwards
When he was in 8th grade, a guidance counselor first told Rev. Gregory Edwards to forget about college.He thanks her because those negative words inspired him to go on and graduate from Geneva College (B.S.), Drew University (Master of Divinity) and The New Brunswick Theological Seminary ( Doctor of Ministry in Public Policy). He is the founder and Senior Pastor at Resurrected Life Community Church in Allentown. He was the keynote speaker yesterday at the Bethlehem Elks' annual lunch, and took the opportunity to blast away at the gentrification going on in Allentown.

I'm absolutely concerned about the gentrification of our cities. It's happening in Allentown. Allentown now has the largest community development initiative in this state's history. It's happening in Allentown, where 125 acres have been set aside to gentrify and reclaim space that was owned by others that were indigenous here, prior to developers like J.B. Reilly, Zach and Mark Jaindl and Gregory and Lee Butz.

So we have to know that land is valuable. Land is valuable, property is valuable, God is not making any more earth. Through public policy and legislation written by [Senator] Pat Browne and made sacrosanct by Mayor Pawlowski, we have 125 acres that have been set aside, that have been gentrified. Those natives, folk who have been indigenous, going to work there, going to church there, worshiping, walking there, the barber shops, the bodegas, the nail salons, ordinary folk, have been and will continue to be displaced.

We gentrify because there is no talk with $6 billion, give or take, in economic development taking place downtown. There is no talk to do anything with the largest public entity in the Lehigh Valley, which is the Allentown School District. 

We've got 18,000 children, a graduation rate of about 60%, and only 19% of that 60% go on to college. Almost 90% of our children qualify for free or reduced lunch. Eighty or 90% of our children are determined to be "at risk" in terms of poverty. Ninety per cent of the children are children of color and really, if I wasn't a preacher I'd cuss right here, but really, nobody cares.

There seems to be a lack of outrage. We have churches everywhere. We have nonprofits everywhere. But there really seems to be a lack of consciousness on how important and how valuable our children's futures are when it comes to education. 

I firmly believe that one of our greatest civil liberties is public education.    

All of the state tax dollars that are funding Allentown's gentrification come at the expense of those 18,000 children, whether it is deficits in children healthcare funding or in state educational funding.

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amen! Well spoken! Save the Lehigh Valley, and stop catering to the wealthy!

Iced Tea said...

Maybe the swarthy unwashed masses should stop having so many youngins if they can't provide a proper upbringing, Margaret Sanger was on to something with eugenics....Time to clean up the filth, from Osche to Octavio the local lush Allentown must purge it's undesirables and bring in the new monied classes to restore its place as a family destination not an urban wasteland.

Anonymous said...

Looking at the recently published Trexler Trust awards targeted for the NIZ, I wonder how residents feel if they live on the wrong block? If a person lives two blockslated outside the NIZ, could they benefit?

Scott Armstrong said...

This November Democratic organizers will once again flood the city and use this poverty population to produce huge votes tallies for Democratic victories. Once that mission is accomplished they will move on and again, nothing will change. Maybe the pastor should tell the voters in Allentown to try something new.

Anonymous said...

Gentrified my ass. Take a walk downtown as I do 3-4 times a week when there is no hockey game or concert. If having some new parking garages and some new suburban commuter traffic Monday - Friday is gentrification then OK. I see nobody walking around downtown except the urban underclass, homeless and the mentally ill. Its easy to toss the term gentrification around, I've been to gentrified neighborhoods and Allentown isn't one of them. Take a walk on 10th or 12th Streets if you dare. There's no gentrification. Check out Jackson Street, Turner from 7th to 4th, Linden at 8th. I haven't seen a white collar pedestrian or bicycle rider commuting to their professional job downtown in years. I'll bet the small AM crowd at Starbucks are suburban commuters. Rittenhouse Square us gentrified not the NIZ.

Anonymous said...

Funny how nothing ever changes in the inner cities , including the one party democrat rule. maybe that is the real issue. democrats running each and every big city and nobody has been helped , despite all of the typical promises heard every election. the democrat take the inner city voters for granted. once the voters wake up and see this, we might have real hope and change. Until then, it will be business as usual. this is not a partisan comment. This is a fact

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Maybe the swarthy unwashed masses should stop having so many youngins if they can't provide a proper upbringing, Margaret Sanger was on to something with eugenics....Time to clean up the filth, from Osche to Octavio the local lush Allentown must purge it's undesirables and bring in the new monied classes to restore its place as a family destination not an urban wasteland."

You managed to be both a racist and a classist in one comment. Congrats.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"This November Democratic organizers will once again flood the city and use this poverty population to produce huge votes tallies for Democratic victories. Once that mission is accomplished they will move on and again, nothing will change. Maybe the pastor should tell the voters in Allentown to try something new."

If the pastor did that from the pulpit, he'd be breaking the law. He was not there to talk about political parties. He was mainly there to talk about education, and what parents should be doing. He started off with Allentown's gentrification. I may bring you the rest of his speech tomorrow.

The person honored at that luncheon was Esther Lee, who incidentally is or was a Republican.

Anonymous said...

Indigenous people? Is he referring to hunters and gatherers, the Lenni Lenape? Despite his higher formal education I dont think this guy makes a persuasive argument. To invest tons of money in a failing downtown is debatable, but I dont think any poor people are being displaced in Allentown. In fact one
could argue the urban poor (and a certain ASD Board member) are benefiting through increased access to jobs and specialized training/scholarships.

Anonymous said...

lol @8:59...yet guy like Farrakhan and wright and Father Michael Pfleger can spew their hate from the so called pulpit, and yes, it is hate. I am well aware of Pfleger and Wright after spending 8 years in Naperville and Wheaton Illinois.
they too break the law every single so called sermon, with no repercussions? go figure.
BTW would that be the same Margaret Sanger that Hillary Clinton admires.

Lets see what she said bout the racist Sanger...As then Secretary of State, under America’s first black president no less, Mrs. Clinton said in her acceptance speech, “I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision.” Can't make it up. It is all there as she testified in front of Congress and at other times.

Bernie, thank you for the Sanger reference.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Av6D6Cs8SY

Charlie Sch said...

The buildings in the NIZ continue to pay full real estate taxes to the county, the school district and the city.

We have an extremely transient public school population. Teachers often have an almost completely different set of kids at the end of the year than they had in their classroom at the beginning of the year. Then those teachers are blamed when those transient kids don't do well on standardized tests.

Some past studies have shown that the Allentown School District actually does reasonably well with students who actually stay in the same school for a few years.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Look,this post is not about Wright or Hillary Clinton. Give it a rest. It is about gentrification, Allentown and public education. Quit trying to fit round pegs into square holes.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"The buildings in the NIZ continue to pay full real estate taxes to the county, the school district and the city."

About $100 million in state taxes have been diverted, and much of that money would have gone to fund schools, CHP and other programs to help those of limited means. The fact is that the working poor are subsidizing a plan to put money into the pockets of developers who are already wealthy. is your name Charlie or Pollyanna?

Bernie O'Hare said...

"but I dont think any poor people are being displaced in Allentown. "

That's because you choose to wear blinders. I know people who were displaced. I know businesses who were shoved out of the way. At the time, they were referred to as a cancer. Now, you choose to pretend they were never there.

Charlie Sch said...

http://www.pennlive.com/news/2016/06/puerto_ricans_fleeing_debt_cri.html#incart_2box

Article about how the worsening economic crisis in Puerto Rico is causing increased migration to Allentown and nearby cities.

Bernie O'Hare said...

So that's a justification for diverting what is now $100 million in state tax dollars so that engineers like you can be employed to fill the city with people who are more to your liking? That's racism, But because you are a pretend liberal, you don't see it.

Anonymous said...

There's a few problems with this post. First, I don't think that any of the limited "gentrification" that's gone on has actually hurt the school district. Second, I don't think the district is suffering from a lack of funds. Allentown regularly receives much more funding from the state than other school districts, and I don't think their funding (including property tax revenue) has actually gone down.

Beyond that, I think that the state is in the upper echelon in terms of the cost of educating a student, yet among the bottom as far as results. So I don't think that throwing more money at the problem will necessarily fix it.

Instead of grousing about the NIZ (which I hate but believe is unrelated to the school situation), it would be nice to see downtown pastors do something innovative and find a way to improve the educational outcomes among their flock. How they do that, I don't know. Maybe it's a one-on-one mentoring program that keeps an eye on each of "their" student's progress, maybe it's tutoring in subjects that a student is having trouble in, maybe it's just giving kids a place to come after school to learn, study, and expand on what they've learned in school each day.

I think something like that would have much more of a positive effect for members of this pastor's congregation than complaining about the NIZ and gentrification. And with so many inner-city congregations, that would translate into many informal incubators to see what might work. Once we see what is working, it could be replicated in other churches.

The pastor correctly recognizes the importance of education. I'm just not sure he already realizes the opportunity he already likely has to make an impact. Finding a solution that works would likely not only help their district, but also help their congregation grow.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The main reason gentrification will fail in Allentown is because of its failing school system. And Pastor Edwards did not say the answer is throwing more money at schools. He had other ideas that include parents and yes, churches, taking more responsibility. I will have to feed in the rest of his speech.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Mr Edwards church can pay some school taxes since he's so concerned.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather see this gentleman railing on the racial segregation of public schools in Lehigh County. He appears to want to address public education, but to criticize a downtown revitalization effort while 70-80% of the county's Hispanic and African-American children are concentrated into one of 8 or 9 public districts? Edwards should be supporting the NIZ and calling for regional solutions to further improve Allentown.

Bernie O'Hare said...

He should support a gimmick designed to make the welthy more wealthy while screwing the working poor, and that fails to address Allentown's two most serious problems - its schools and its neighborhoods? We have another Polyanna, who will support racist answers if it helps make way for more pretty buildings that will eventually be empty, rotting hulks.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I've deleted a comment bc it is an anonymous personal attack. If you can't make your points without getting personal, and can't say who you are, don't bother.

Anonymous said...

I'm absolutely convinced that both the Strata Flats (I & II), as well as the Renaissance Hotel will, sooner or later, come under the control of the Allentown Housing Authority.

That will provide much needed affordable housing within the NIZ

Anonymous said...

And I emphasize the sooner, rather than later in that last comment.

Jamie Kelton said...

When we moved from Bryn Mawr to be closer to our parents, the last place we wanted to move to was into the City of Allentown and have to send our daughter to the ASD. So we chose Upper Perkiomen so she can get the same quality of education both my husband and I received.

As long as the ASD is as rotten as it is, Allentown doesn't have to worry about being "gentrified", as no sane person would want to move into it, sorry.

Jamie Kelton said...

And also, Mr. O'Hare, the problem with the ASD isn't money. If it were the schools in Allentown would be one of the finest in the nation.

Start with eliminating much of the bloat that perminates the administration, use that money to hire young, high quality graduates from Kutztown or other teacher colleges. And Good God, start to expel the children who are troublemakers and cause the ASD to hire more security guards than Lehigh Valley Prison. If they don't want to study or be there, let their parents stand in front of a judge to explain why. It's not the district's responsibility to parent them.

Citizen said...

Our youth are our future. If we invest so little, that will bear a certain fruit. They deserve so much more!

Scott Armstrong said...

Bernie,

Gentrification was always the way Ed was going to "fix" the downtown. That was plain to see from the start for anyone who wanted to see. It was however never mentioned in the media or talked about by the "right" people. I did have an interesting discussion with a well connected Democrat apologist at a west end cook out about this subject. He made no apologies for this and said it was the "Rendell"model and that was "according to the experts" the only way it could done.

Anonymous said...

A big problem little discussed is that the NIZ board is largely white and male.

That board is giving 99% of the approvals and NIZ funds to white male men.

I'm not sure that's the right way to go about redeveloping a city that has a large cross-section of minority residents.




Anonymous said...

1:16 PM

So you're claiming they're biased because of their race?

You and Donald Trump, perfect together.

Patriot2 said...

As pointed out by 10:11 the development in the NIZ is adding significant school tax revenues to improve the district. While I dislike the NIZ as it relates to the state revenues it is adding to ASD funds thru local tax increases from new assessed property.

Anonymous said...

Allentown has EXACTLY the government and city it elected. Natives (the pastor's word) should show up and vote for something different. But they won't. Bernie has written extensively about the death of democracy in Allentown.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You may be a Patriot, but I have noticed in this and other threads that you simply get your facts wrong. Dead wrong. The NIZ is an incredibly long, 30-year tax incentive. It diverts nearly all state taxes, including sales tax and cigarette tax, that would ordinarily go to the state to help pay for public education and even children's health insurance. I am told that the amount of taxes diverts in three short years has approached $100 million. I am not sure of that precise figure, but it is very clear to me that the big losers in the NIZ arte children in Allentown and throughout the state. The increases in property tax, such as they are, are more than offset by the losses in state taxes.

Anonymous said...

I live in the 6th ward in Allentown. This used to be a decent area until people began fleeing their homes only to have them become rental units. There is no pride in ownership because everyone is on sec 8 housing with 5 kids.
The garbage is strewn through the streets and crime is rampant. Just because you are poor doesn't mean you have to live or act like an animal. There is no reason your children should be out in the street at 11pm on a school night.
I ask Mr Edwards to address his congregation to take responsibility for there neighborhood failures. Stop the blame game and hands out...instead, make change for yourselves.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Your bigotry keeps you from noticing, but nothing in the portion of the speech That I've excerpted places blame on anyone. He is simply outlining the problem and is asking, where is the outrage? Your own guilty conscience prevents you from recognizing that. You have not noticed anything aside from the color of his skin.

In the rest of his speech, Edwards does identify the sources of this problem. They include lousy teachers, nonprofits and churches who are not stepping up to the plate, parents who fail to take an interest, etc. he spares no one. Try reading what he says instead of just attacking him bc your own conscience is guilty.

Ovem Lupo Commitere said...

I have always opposed the NIZ, and other such use of tax monies for corporate welfare. However, I disagree on too strong of a connection to the woes of ASD. ASD was in decline long before Browne/Riley et al, and long before the Pawlowski regime. Following the decline of industry in the valley, when Allentown allowed single family homes to become multi-family rental units, it inevitably evolved into an unfortunate cycle of lower-income transient citizenry. Those who can afford to, move out while they can still make money on their property. More business leaves... Then, the cycle repeats in a downward cycle.

That said, I think a poster on your previous Notre Dame article said it best when it comes to education: "We need "dedicated" involvement from the student , the teachers , the parents and the admin. When all four come together , we generally see amazing out comes as a whole. Is it possible to see amazing outcomes if any of the four refuse to participate, yes, but the odds are stacked up against the student."

While important influence, money itself is not one of those four variables, and money alone will solve nothing for ASD. Many folks, if honest, may have worked hard to get where they are, but are not truly "self-made." Many had a ladder extended to them somewhere along the line, whether it be entry-level job opportunities, student loans, temporary AFDC/TANF, food stamps, etc. However, as attributed to Andrew Carnegie, "You can't push anyone up a ladder unless he is willing to climb a little himself."

I do agree, however, with the Pastor that those displaced working poor still land somewhere. I believe Alan Jennings (before being a NIZ cheerleader) used to make that same point in his push for more regional support for his CACLV. Points north of Allentown, such as Catty and Northampton, have already seen demographic changes the past decade.

Anonymous said...

He may have mentioned it but these type of guys love to blame everyone else for their own problems. They have too many kids without employed live in fathers. They refuse to learn the English language that every other foreigner has learned to get ahead. They enjoy the squalor that encourages al the free handouts from the working and producing class.

In a debate someone should hand the good pastor a box of mirrors to hand to his flock and explain that in the mirror is the solution to all their problems. Another reason why I and millions others will support Trump

The Hard Facts of Life!

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

The school can only do so much, The focus to all these problems start with the family. otherwise we continue to try to treat the results and symptoms. If somehow we could bring back sound 2 parent well functioning families, many of these problems would go away. I know this sounds too simplistic in todays, "the government has to do something mentality". all the money in the world will not solve these problems.

Anonymous said...

Edwards attended bullshit colleges and never missed a a school lunch.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You are only displaying your bias at this point. Try reading a little more slowly next time.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the people are getting off topic by injecting some politics into this issue. I may be looking very deep in to some of the comments, but the bottom line is we have tried the same party rule in our town for decades.
Now the real question,, who owns this so called process of gentrification ? What the good Pastor is saying has been raised by numerous people, politicians , business owners, teachers, and so on. In fact Fed Ed and his crew own this idea of gentrification.
We, tax payers, have thrown dollar after hard earned dollar towards , the economy, the education., the criminal justice system, healthcare and so on...
To claim that money solves the problems is not being honest. To continue to throw hard earned tax payer cash, or what is left of the tax payers in Allentown ,is insane.
Bad ideas don't need more money. Resources are being drained by many of those who do not belong in the country and or on the streets of Allentown. It is reflective in the education system.
To get a glimpse of your cities future , no need to look any where else but your high schools , their graduation rates, reading and math proficiency and so on .
This city is a mess and needs cleaned up ASAP. This city is corrupt beyond belief and many people knew this issue for decades. The school district is one of the worst in the state and the city is open to any and all to use all the services available. That is a recipe for destruction.
We have paid numerous tax increases slapped on us by the school board.
And what do we have to show for it?
Until the family unit grows stronger in this city , and or any other city , be it rural or urban, we will continue to see failure. It may not happen to all, but it is like a bad cancer...it spreads and continues to spread.
IT ALL STARTS IN THE HOME ! JUST WAIT UNTIL MORE TAX PAYERS FLEE THE CITY . THEN WHAT ? WHO PAYS THE BILLS TO RUN THE SOCIAL PROGRAMS ?
LOOK AT DETROIT AND YOU WILL SEE MANY COMMON THEMES WITH ALLENTOWN.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, his parishioners seem to prefer to live in squalor and poverty while blaming e very one else for their problems. You only defend him because you hate Pawlowski and the NiZ.

Anonymous said...

So the Pastor says this ...It's happening in Allentown, where 125 acres have been set aside to gentrify and reclaim space that was owned by others that were indigenous here, prior to developers like J.B. Reilly, Zach and Mark Jaindl and Gregory and Lee Butz. D
May I be so bold to ask what he means by indigenous ? Does he mean the people who legally migrated to this country and settled in this city and worked in the steel mills and other manufacturing facilities, to make a living to support their families bc if they did not, they would not survive , bc there was no safety net.?
When the politicians cut deals like the NIZ, nobody gets a free ride in regards to taxation. Somebody is picking up the tab.
Without out the so called evil rich, the poor and middle class would have fewer options in regards to making a living if they did not create their own way to make a living.
IMMIGRATION WITH OUT ASSIMILATION IS NOTHING SHORT OF AN INVASION.
THE PASTOR NEEDS TO DISCUSS THAT ISSUE , BUT MY GUESS , HE , the GOOD CHURCH AND THE RULING PARTY WILL NEVER TOUCH THAT 3rd RAIL.
Does the Pastors flock have any responsibility to the city and making it strong and vibrant or will it be business as usual and look to blame others for the main problems? Where is the outrage from those living in the neighborhoods? I know that the city is loaded with good people. I spent a good part of my career in the inner city working with many of these people. We have a different crowd today. The mothers and fathers and grand parents wanted no hand outs , even if they were eligible. Today, when a system gives a single mom more cash for having more kids that she can not support, even though , birth control is free, one has to wonder...who the hell created this system and why does it reward this type of behavior.

Anonymous said...

The NIZ is a clever way of enriching a few millionaire "developers", while purging part of the city of "undesirables". Allentown has taken a very aggressive action to stem its urban blight. The jury's out as to whether anything truly good will come of this. Does Hamilton to 7th to Linden to 8th look better than it did five years ago? Yes. Does the development truly solve the city's deep rooted problems? No.


VOR

Anonymous said...

Why would a city not want to purge itself of the crime ridden class? Who wants to move into crime and filth? What is this guys problem? he should preach a different lesson to his flock. Show then soap and condoms for a start.

This is why Trump will win big time!

Anonymous said...

Given the NIZ effects on Gentrification as part of the NIZ plan supported by State and local officials, how does HUD envision the results of the $3.4M grant for affordable housing and walkable jobs? Each City recieved a substantial portion of the grant. How were those dollars invested and was there any material benefit? How did the HUD money invested in Easton's 13st corridor, Bethlehem's Eastern Gateway, and Allentown's Lehigh Industrial Corridor support the HUD mission? Are there plans for affordable housing at these locations?

Anonymous said...

LCCC has a satellite location across the street from PPL Center so there you go. Are the charter schools included in the stats above? If so close them for sucking and put the money they've been getting from the school district back into the district. As others said, cleaning up to the downtown has nothing to do with the poorly managed school district. Maybe the school administrators should ask the downtown investors about how to make Allentown great again.

Anonymous said...

What elementary school do the children go to whose families live in Strata Flats?

It can't be a very good one

Bernie O'Hare said...

8:46, You are really OT. This post has nothing to do with Easton's 13th Street corridor. I'mm not even sure what point you are trying to make, if any. There was a $3.4 million grant by HUD, but it was to the ENTIRE LV. The portion dealing with Easton is for redesigning the Rte 22 Interchange, improving walkability and bicycle use, much needed streetscape improvements, new signs and supporting the Silk Mill redevelopment. I'd agree that not a dime should go to the Silk Mill, but have no problem with the rest of it. http://www.easton-pa.gov/geninfo/13stpubpresentation8oct14.pdf

Citizen said...

I have been to the pastor's church and he and you both preach the same thing in terms of responsibility. The difference is, he preaches with encouragement and compassion. You, with judgement.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
Yes, you are right the whole of pa's indigent childrens hedge funds are the most henious?!($ The reel question is were did the capitol start up funds come from?
The water war creation by design was to pay off the pension issue facing the city? Ass we see some was miss appropriated for land aqwasition?!(
There is monies needed in the BANKto start a project such as this, they say a bond purchase went on for the public to be able to cash in too? I have searched and searched and see no public holdings on any of the appropriate areas?
RE:publican redd