In an excellent editorial, The Express Times condemns this misadventure, mainly because the Christmas City will be destroying what sets it apart - its rich history. Looks like there are archaeological artifacts right where they plan to dig.
Al Bernotas, a fixture at Bethlehem meetings who may have come with the furniture, has forwarded me emails of several people who attended City Council on Tuesday night. They belong to some mass email list. Although I feel comfortable publishing their remarks, I will keep their identity confidential because I had no time to contact them.
The bizarre thing about this meeting is that it was so completely obvious that they needed to take some time to re-evaluate the situation following all the 'new' information presented by Lanie Graf of the Moravian Archives. [Of course, Gordon Mowrer could have been expected to know much of this, but he seemed more interested in peddling copies of his book.]
I suppose it's no shock that the City made no effort to consult the Archives when they first considered the project, but for them to get it this far without any thoughtful process is at least a little surprising. They pushed this like they do so many other things -- with hyped up estimates of benefits, 'hearsay' testimony about all the people who support it, and a careful process of concealing the facts. They got around CDBG requirements by adding a handicap parking space, despite the fact that the first two spaces in the adjacent Hotel Bethlehem lot are also handicap spaces and that the two existing handicap spaces on Main Street are often not used.
We've gotten used to thoughtless and irresponsible action by this administration and council, but I was surprised that everyone was so blind that they went ahead even after several people pointed out that this would be a repeat of the root cellars destroyed to build Moravian College's new HILL building.
Karen Dolan made a motion to put the CDBG money in a holding account until the site could be evaluated, but the motion failed to get a second. [We didn't expect any thoughtful action from people like Willy Reynolds, but even Jean Belinski, normally a supporter of preservation, remained silent.]
The big surprise of the evening came after the meeting when Bruce Haines, Managing Partner of the Hotel Bethlehem, withdrew his & the hotel's support and said that the historical features were much more important than a few parking spaces.
The only way to stop this now is to get them to slow down long enough to get someone on council to bring it up for reconsideration. In reality, someone should get a restraining order to prevent irreversible damage and loss, but I don't think anyone has the courage to do that and earn the wrath of the administration.
Hip-hip-hooray for the Express-Times!
It's about time that our city government listen to the people, the ones who make Bethlehem the special place that it's become. Tuesday night, assistant Moravian archivist Lanie Graf mentioned the chipping away that was going on in Bethlehem. It's exasperating when a city government that is growing more out of touch with its constituency can't see what is happening, yet many of us can.
The most telling moment came when Historic Hotel Bethlehem managing partner Bruce Haines reversed his initial support for the project, giving way to the newly revealed knowledge of potential archaeological resources at the site.
And, there is the fact that this knowledge only came to light recently, which raises these two additional questions: first, who is doing the city's homework when it comes to advancing a public project in such an historically sensitive area; and second, if city officials had any inkling of this information, why have they been ignoring it? If the later is the case, it raises substantial concerns about the qualifications and intentions of those in our local government who are minding the store, so to speak. They are certainly not operating in the city's best interests!