Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Allentown, Bethlehem & Easton's "Low Income" Areas

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingEver travel through Lehigh Valley's slums? Don't kid yourself. We have pockets of poverty everywhere. I pass through one on my way to Easton's courthouse. If I'm on a bike, it's up close and personal.

But for a young kid, life in a slum may be no worse than in the gentrified Riverport. Yesterday, I saw a young boy running down a street near Easton's courthouse with a Halloween mask covering his face. No costume. Just a simple pumpkin mask. He was having the time of his life. He didn't know he was poor. His spirit hasn't been crushed. When he took off his mask, he had the most beautiful smile, one that warms the heart. But how long will that last? I notice the smile decreases as the age increases. The older kids don't smile.

Lehigh Valley slums claimed another life last week, a young man in Allentown who shot a cop and then blew his brains out. He was once a young boy, and perhaps he once had a great smile, too.

"The children of the Ghetto possess all the qualities which make for noble manhood and womanhood; but the Ghetto itself, like an infuriated tigress turning on its young, turns upon and destroys all these qualities, blots out the light and laughter, and moulds those it does not kill into sodden and forlorn creatures, uncouth, degraded and wretched below the beasts of the field ... In such conditions, the outlook for children is hopeless. They die like flies and those that survive, survive because they possess excessive vitality and a capacity of adaptation to the degradation with which they are surrounded."

Jack London's words are as true today as they were in the early 1900's.


Anonymous said...

Kudos, Bernie.

If you haven't already, please read Jonathan Kozol's "Shame of the Nation"

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks, Mr. Ed. I'm glad I'm not a teacher. I've only read a portion of that book and it really bothered me. But Kozol's right - we are gradually returningto a form of de facto segregation. This time it is not primarily racial, although that is a big part. I think it is primarily dependent on income. I'll check out that book next time I hit the library.

Anonymous said...

I take it you've never been to the boros and villages of ne Lehigh and Nw Northampton. The collapse of industry up there has left the areas pretty bad off. In some places as bad as what your talking about.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon, There are pockets everywhere, even here in Nazareth.

Anonymous said...

No there aren't! The Dow just hit 12,000!! Are you crazy?!
Everything is beautiful!
Republicans are wonderful! I can't thank them enough for the meager scraps I get from their table!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Team Bush judges the economy by their stock coupons. Most of the rest of us look at more mundane things like home heating bills, food bills, dwindling incomes and increasing costs for deteriorating health care. Silly us.

Anonymous said...

The area where the the police officer was shot in Allentown is nothing close to a "slum".

What you had there is a stupid punk who lived in a nice area where many good people and good opportunities exist, but where problems exist if one chooses to seek them out. This individual choose the lesser of the two paths.

I think it is a stretch to refer to any neighborhoods in the Lehigh Valley that may need a bit more attention as slums. One of the key parts of that definition is squalor and lack of opportunity. I haven't seen any concentration of shanty homes or abandoned areas that would fit that word.

Refereeing to these areas as something worse than they are reinforces the negative perceptions of them. In time this will create a reality consistent with what you describe by encouraging others to stay away, thus allowing the decline to further and removing the opportunity good people and invested people provide to the less fortunate in the areas they both call home.

Writing a check is not a solution, you are. If you want to see these areas change move into one of them and use your human capital to uplift the neighborhood, it's opportunities, and pride for people in it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

To Anon 8:40,

I know a lady who has a small business located very near that area and she told me it's bad. And if you don't think we have slums in the LV, you better get rid of your rose colored glasses. A short walk from the Easton circle to the courthouse is liking walking in a third world country. The same is true for many areas in Allentown and Bethlehem. That is reality. Pretending we don't have these pockets of poverty is myopia, but you're certainly entitled to your views.

The fellow who killed himsewlf obviously did choose the wrong path, but he was once one of those smiling kids.

And as far as writing a check is concerned, who said that was the answer? Read what Jack London wrote. Your answewr solves the picture he paints, but there are several answers.

I know Allentown is making a comeback, and this is not intended to disparage Allentown. But I think we have to be honest.

LVDem said...

that area in Allentown isn't bad... I live there. You want bad, go over to 2nd street.

Every city and town has its bad section but I do agree that by and large "slums" may not be the appropriate term. Distressed, low income, high risk, blighted...yes... but slum brings with it a "building is falling down", overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions.

Still, it's why I get up and go to work everyday.

Bernie O'Hare said...


If you live there, it's gotta' be pretty bad.

I accept your point. "Slum" does not equal "low income."

Anonymous said...

But the point isn't whether they get called slums or not, right?

No place FORCES people to shoot police officers, and the choice that kid made in Allentown was horrible, horrifying, evil, and wrong. But that's not the point either.

The point is, we know that bad choices are more likely to be made by people who don't feel like they have a lot of good choices, more likely to be made in neighborhoods that lack good choices and role models.

And we can do better, and we have to. The kid Bernie saw yesterday would deserve it even if he DIDN'T have a great smile.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 6:38, You said it far more eloquently than I. In fact, I think you said it better than Jack London.

LVDem said...

right on anon... Amen! We turn the blind eye and that is flat wrong.

Bernie, I happen to have demonstrated evidence that property values have gone down since I unloaded my U-Haul. Likewise, public nudity, public drunkeness and political yard signs have also increased.

What can I say: I'm the white guy who manages to ruin the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Aw, shucks, Bernie.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 7:43, You really did say it quite elegantly and succinctly. I appreciate it.

And LVDem, Nazareth has room for only one screwy blogger, and I'm pretty sure they want to get rid of me, too.

Anonymous said...

Allentown is so dangerous that one is risking his life just to go to a City Council meeting.

Julio 'The Terrorist' Guridy wants it that way.

You might want to take a walk thru downtown Allentown, not a drive. It doesn't have to be at night, either. You won't because you are not a masochist.

Some friends of moshki's just closed a business on Hamilton St. because of the loitering and veiled threats.

Why Liberals have this fanatical desire to help those who mostly despise them is certainly a strange phenomenon.