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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mayor Ed's "Pay to Play" Pal of the Week - Nic Zawarski & Sons

It's not every day you see a realtor's phone number listed on a municipal web page. But that's exactly what you'll find in Allentown, which is pimping The Townes at Trexler Square for developer Nic Zawarski & Sons. Mayor Ed Pawlowski, of course, even issued a news release for the ground-breaking in 2006. Now that Phase 23 is finished, one of the puff blogs just gushes, "Who knew living in Downtown Allentown could be so luxurious?" And let's face it, that name does sounds pretty damn exclusive, doesn't it? Bet you won't find too many "HISPANIC EXCREMENT HOODRAT SALSA INFESTED" people there, as The Morning Call Reader Forum tactfully puts things.

Not many lowly Nazareth title searchers, either.

It's a bargain, too! Although you'll be paying over 2oo large for a town house in downtown Allentown, you're still exempt from Pa. and local income taxes and real estate taxes, too.

Whoopee! Just think, all those suckers with Chinese restaurants, Korean sneaker stores and Spanish dollar stores on Hamilton Street get to subsidize YOU.

Ain't gentrification grand?

Wait, it gets even better. Turns out that Nic & Sons are moving their world HQ to the former Schoen’s furniture store building on Hamilton Street. Of course, there will also be another upscale restaurant and even more "loft apartments."

Did I mention this just happens to be another KOZ location, i. e. exempt from nearly all taxes? Misanthrope Molovinsky complains that moving there requires no guts, just the "right connections." But cheerleader Damien Brown exclaims, "I certainly hope so. I can't imagine our city moving very far if our leaders don't build relationships and network with the movers and shakers in the area."

You tell 'im, Damien. That's why it's called "pay to play". As it happens, Mayor Ed has 13,350 reasons to be Nice to Nic. He's received $13,350 in campaign contributions from Zawarski and pals between 2005 and 2007.

Here's the low down. (Only the 2006 and 2007 reports are online.)

04/26/2007 $150.00 John Robert Zawarski
01/16/2007 $1,000.00 John Robert Zawarski
08/16/2006 $200.00 John Robert Zawarski
03/08/2006 $10,000.00 John Robert Zawarski
08/28/2006 $200.00 Campos, Luis
04/26/2007 $150.00 Campos, Luis
01/22/2007 $150.00 Campos, Luis
10/26/2005 $200.00 Campos, Luis
08/05/2005 $500.00 Taras Zawarski
10/25/2005 $500.00 John Robert Zawarski
10/25/2005 $500.00 Martin Zawarski

You think it ends there? Think again.

As luck would have it, the Allentown Parking Authority now wants to sell two "excess" parking lots to Nic & Sons at Turner & 7th. Never mind that this will force Verizon workers, who work 24 hours per day, to walk several blocks at strange hours in the most dangerous part of the city. Nic at Nite might be a tad unpleasant.

Forget that the property was never even appraised - the idea is to go off assessment values, even though Lehigh County has seen no reassessment since 1991. Zawarski will cram about a gazillion townhouses on postage stamps. The children will burden the already cash poor Allentown School District.

What's most amazing is just how quickly Nic & Sons was identified as the buyer. These lots were first declared "excess" on January 19, even though they are sixty per cent full. After that, complex RFP(Request for Proposals) was circulated God knows where, with a return date of February 15. Miraculously, by February 27, Nic & Sons was the only buyer. What's more, there were "complete plans and architectural drawings." Clearly, this has all the earmarks of an insiders' deal.

Molovinsky notices all of these irregularities in a post published last night. "Chicken or Egg, impropriety or shenanigans, excess or coveted, something seems very wrong."

It's called "pay to play".


Anonymous said...

Good research, Bernie! I was a Pawlowski admirer, but this is the straw that broke the camel's back. Her's a bum.

michael molovinsky said...

In allentown KOZ is the gift that keeps on giving. There is a large sign on the schoen building indicating financial aid from AEDC . BrewPub received a "loan" from the city's hud funds and cityline received the facade budget for the entire street. the koz's are just the front door, how pawlowski has used the various Authority's in allentown to finance these projects would require a investigative accountant. i doubt if we will ever know the true equity position, if any, of the various "chosen" developers.

Anonymous said...

KOZ is a non-issue for most of these projects, it expires in 2 years. It will be one year or less once these things are up and running. Also, the townhomes proposed on 7th are not even in a KOZ.

Are you getting worried Bernie that the yuppies might start choosing downtown Allentown instead up your xenophobic enclave?

Bernie O'Hare said...

KOZ remains an issue. Governor Rendell recently declared he intends to seek extensions and expansions. The townies proposed for the insider deal on 7th St are not in a KOZ, but I never said that they were.

As far as being worried about "yuppies" moving to A-town from Nazareth, we are no hotbed of "yuppies" here. Most of us have been dead for several years.

My fear for A-town is that it is a culture of corruption in which campaign contributors are rewarded with favorable treatment and insider deals at the expense of everyone else, whether they are minority merchant shopkeepers on Hamilton or blue collar Verizon employees.

Anonymous said...

Being poorly dressed does not make you blue collar. Verizon employees are compensated very, very well for the work they do.

In reality, the Verizon folks agree this is a good use of the lot. If they disagreed a few of them would have showed up at the public meeting on the subject or their union would have submitted a bid on the lot.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Being poorly dressed does not make you blue collar.

Whoah. Not too snobby now, are we?
What, does A-town have a dress code now, too?

And your representation is NOT the way things were presented when the parking authority actually met ... buring the day ... when most blue collar workers are working.

Please save your propaganda for the puff blogs.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 2:09, over 70 verizon workers signed a petition opposing the sale of the lot. although both ms. weller, director of the Authority and the Mayor met with the verizon workers, ms. weller conceded(feb.26) they still oppose the sale; why wouldn't they????
your statement "they agree this is a good use of the lot", is the puff propaganda which allows the long term interests of allentown to be compromised.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, do you do title searches for Angle ? How long have you been doing it ? Do you do title searches on homes that Angle bought at Sheriff's Sale ? Do you have any problem making money off of the mortgage crisis ?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anon 8:49, This is the typical type of personal attack that usually follows any criticism of Allentown, but I'll answer your questions.

1) In all the years I've known Angle, I've done two title searches for him. The first was for the property where he lives. The other was a property he owned but which had some outstanding issues. I've also done two lien searches when he's purchased a few properties at a sheriff's sale so that the owner could stay there the rest of her life.

2) Almost every property Angle buys, he does so on gut feeling. He never gets a search done, except for the examples above. I've seen him buy properties on accident and still make money.

3) I do not search for any of the law firms who specialize in foreclosure. I doo not search for the secondary mortgage firms or credit companies. My client base consists of local attorneys and title companies who have been in the business for many years.

4) The mortgage crisis has reduced my income to about 40% of its previous level. Those of us who search titles for people who buy or refinance homes have felt the pinch long before anyone.

Thanks so much for your concern.