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Monday, August 03, 2015

Atiyeh Real Estate Deals Approved by Allentown City Council

About two years ago, Allentown bought two properties it does not need from Abe Atiyeh, giving him at least a $1 million capital gain. This money certainly went a long way toward helping the colorful entrepreneur in acquiring the assets of an existing billboard company that already had 13 locations. That company, Clinton Street Media, was the beneficiary of a new zoning ordinance that enabled Mayor Edwin Pawlowski, aka Fed Ed, to change the uses of city-owned property at his own whim. And he did. In a zoning challenge filed by Atiyeh, Pawlowski was subpoenaed to testify concerning what exactly happened. But he never did. The matter was resolved when Atyeh ended up owning the company about which he was complaining.

Mickey Thompson, a lawyer and Atiyeh's COO, had called the Mayoral exemption a "get out of jail free" card for special developers who are on Fed Ed's good side. Speaking of the blindfold on Lady Justice, Thompson added, "That blindfold's been ripped off and the City is picking winners and losers." I guess now that Atiyeh has been selected as one of the winners, the blindfold can stay off. Abe Atiyeh has suddenly transformed from being one of Fed Ed's harshest critics - one who actually sued over the Neighborhood Millionaire Improvement Zone (MIZ) - into being a lapdog who has resumed making political contributions to Fed Ed and all his puppets.

Real Estate Deals Approved By Council

On Friday, I told you about the real estate deals (Union and Basin, Martin Luther King Highway) in which Honest Abe's capital gain was at least $999,000. At the time, I was unable to determine whether this was actually approved by Council. But thanks to Richard Fegley, who was there, I know the spending plan was approved at Council's April 16, 2014 meeting, although there was no indication at that time of what exactly was being purchased. Jeanette Eichenwald cast the sole No vote. The money did come from the City's lease of its water and sewer funds.

This matter had been discussed in more detail the previous week, at a meeting of the Council as a Committee-of-the-whole. At that time, as noted by Randy Kraft in an exhaustive report for WFMZ-TV69, the proposal was opposed by residents Bonnie Bosco and Fegley.

Managing Director Francis Dougherty stated that a nearly nine vacant tract at the southwest corner of Union and Basin Streets, complete with a pre-existing billboard, was being purchased as an area where several trails can eventually connect.

I see.

Abe spent $350,000 to buy this property in December 2012. In June 2014, he sold this vacant tract, encumbered by a billboard easement in his favor, to the City for $950,000. How the hell does that happen?

The other property, nearly seven acres along Martin Luther King Highway, is the old Lebanon Fertilizer Company. Atiyeh walked away with $399,000 after unloading that property

There is no indication that any appraisals were provided to City Council so they could determine whether the City was being paid a fair price.

Suffice it to say that with $999,000 in hand, Honest Abe was clearly in a position to purchase the assets of Clinton Street Allentown Media LLC, the company that did have contracts with the City for billboards at 13 different locations.

Why Was Fed Ed So Afraid To Testify?

Why was Fed Ed so willing to give Honest Abe such a sweetheart deal? I doubt seriously that he was concerned very much about the legality of a new zoning ordinance that gave him incredible powers. But for some reason, he did not want to testify. He postponed his first appearance, and then the matter was just postponed generally.

Fed Ed may have been leery to discuss how he chose to deal with Clinton Street Allentown Media. I've been informed that Fed Ed's campaign manager, Miked Fleck, was working as a "consultant" for that company.

Fleck later would become Atiyeh's business consultant.

Clinton Street, a very successful cell tower company, was made up of Attorney Nicholas Pullen and Engineer Larry Romanowski. Pullen needed no consultant. He was an early Pawlowski campaign contributor and also was appointed by former Governor Ed Rendell as his Chief Counsel to the Pa. Comm'n on Crime and Delinquency. He managed Jim Eisenhower's bid to be Attorney General. He's currently a principal at Edgewater Partners, which describes itself as "[n]avigating the confluence of business and politics." Pullen already appears to be a first class crony capitalist with no need for someone like Fleck. But he used him.


Anonymous said...

Dougherty, keep your eyes on this guy. He will prove to be the link between Philadelphia corruption and the local rot.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy, another reaching for straws story. First, nothing illegal is even alleged in your story about land sales. Second, you reference Rich Fegley as a source of misused funds. The irony of that is that the brewworks is completely under the control of the NIZ outside of the 4th floor which is still KOZ land. The 4th floor which was/is occupied by Traffic Planning and Design, Inc. and Shane Patrick. TPD remains, but Shane Patrick and co-owner Derick Davis wisely bolted to the new Trifecta Building, which is NIZ. I guess the biggest irony is that Rich, Dick, Peg and Jeff Fegley are all sitting on a gold mine at the Brewworks but some how Rich bitches and complains about the development of downtown one way or another... Man does he sound like a bitch known as Diane.

Anonymous said...

Fran made the trains run on time for Fed Ed, who was most often distracted by political ambition. Naturally Fran understood that in his job politics trumped good management even though he was a competent manager.
Politics and blind loyalty always in hires, no exceptions.
Fran won't be falling on his sword for Fed Ed however, it's way not his style.
It's every man for himselfnon the Good Ship Allentown as she starts to go down.

Anonymous said...

@ 2:06 AM.
Do you think bashing the Fegley family will help the Team Niz gang at sentencing time?
The Miracle that is Allentown is looking a bit like a used car lot after the end of the month tent sale has gone bust.

Unknown said...

Troll on my Anonymous friend @2:06 AM.

My family has worked hard to survive downtown Allentown and Mayor Pawlowski.

I thought the FBI was holding up the show when it's the sad bunch of people who run City Hall who can't get documents organized and submitted to the FBI.

Troll on if you must.

Anonymous said...

The confluence between politics and business has just hit a patch of treacherous water, but don't worry about the cities managing director.
His family has already opened up a back channel line of communication with the Feds in Philadelphia. They have been down this road more then once.
.....and that is a fact, Jack!

Anonymous said...

If the City ever wants a state or federal contract ever again post Pawlowski:

No current City Council member is going to be mayor.

Nobody who took money from Ed's PAC is going to be mayor either.

For some it's guilt by association. Others it's guilt by complicity.

Don't think for a minute that the governor and the state Democratic party is going to exert considerable pressure to bleach the house of this mess.

As for the land sales, the only time you don't get appraisals for a sale is when you deliberately go out of your way not to get them and that alone is a red flag two stories tall.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Anonymous Troll at 2:06, Actually, I referenced the minutes of City Council and credited Rich Fegley for finding the link and being at the meeting. He is part of Allentown's solution. Trolls like you are part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Dougherty may be gay but he is a tough fella just the same. He was the one after all who was in charge of unleashing the code department thugs on resistant citizens who needed a little lesson in political compliance.

Dougherty tried to leave the Miricle That is Allentown once, but things didn't work out too well for him at the Philadelphia School Dist., a political defeat and legal draw for Fran, all a matter of public record.

He's not happy with Fleck or Edwin and he is a character worth watching as this thing plays out.
Fran is an unhappy camper ready to leave the reservation when it serves his legal interests.
He does not want to face indictment, let alone conviction, to save anybody.

This guy is no fool and he's very unhappy.

Anonymous said...

Probably getting advice to sell the billboard contract or company to DigiErase the conflict away, percieved or otherwise. Smart to get the Mcall on contract as now they have a vested interest.

Anonymous said...

What a freaking snake pit!

Anonymous said...

Doughtery is Ed's link to philly machine, and philly union coffers, he keeps an eye on things in atown for philly

Anonymous said...

Gotta chuckle over Mickey Thompson's comments in the post. Wonder if he's changed his tune, too? Remember, he wants to be your next County Council member...Not on my short list.

Jamie Kelton said...

Allentown city government never used to be like this before Ed.

Today it reminds me more of Chicago.

Thanks Ed.

Jamie Kelton said...

Sorry, just had a nostalgia moment. When Allentown was a city that I was proud to live of and be from

When Allentown took pride in its appearance, and we had things that were visible signs of our progress and the people. Such as the Lehigh Valley Dairy

A vibrant central business district that was safe to shop in, even on monday and thursday nights when the stores were open until 9pm.

A school district that produced graduates that went on to college and made their marks on the world.

West Park, the Rose Garden, Lehigh Parkway, Cedar Beach, Trexler Memorial Park that you could drive though.

Where did it all go wrong ?

Anonymous said...

I was always under the impression Mr. Atiyheh wanted to build his hockey arena on stilts at 3 rd. and Union because of a chronic flood zone.What does Mr. Pawloski want with this property ?

Anonymous said...

Mayor Gross and Gen Harry Trexler would turn turn their backs on such a billboard deal. They were both visionaries for the park system, especially WPA.

Anonymous said...

Where did it all go wrong ?

Great question. Molovinsky could probably write a thesis for us. However some social and political scientists point to two key turning points. The first (social) was the introduction of low income public housing in the city and subsequent "white flight." The other (political) would be the disastrous financial mismanagement during the Afflerbach administration.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it was a garden spot and cultural Mecca until a few years back.

Anonymous said...

I could be wrong, but I thought it was a requirement to obtain an appraisal when a municipality purchases real estate? Seems silly if you are required to obtain bids or an RFP -request for proposal for basic supplies but you can buy a million dollars of real estate without a simple appraisal? That's not right.


Anonymous said...

Fast Eddie Rendell finally shows up in the mess. What a shocker.

Anonymous said...

Maine, Vermont, Hawaii and Alaska are four states that currently ban billboards. It sure would be nice to add Pennsylvania to that list. That would be a major step towards beautification of Pennsylvania. Instead we have people like Atiyeh taking us in the other direction. How sad.

Bernie O'Hare said...

John M, An appriasal was obtained, and i got it today. I'll tell you about it tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

"Where did it all go wrong ?

Great question. Molovinsky could probably write a thesis for us. However some social and political scientists point to two key turning points. The first (social) was the introduction of low income public housing in the city and subsequent "white flight." The other (political) would be the disastrous financial mismanagement during the Afflerbach administration."

Fill in any other mayor's name and you have almost every major and medium size Democrat-controlled city in the country.

Anonymous said...

I guess it's too late too get our water back?