About Me

My photo
Nazareth, Pa., United States

Monday, February 29, 2016

323 Northampton St Collapse: Storm or Negligence?

Last week, Easton Mayor Sal Panto managed to annoy downtown merchants in a lengthy discussion over whether to light the gigantic Phallus symbol known as the Easton Peace Candle on Black Friday or Small Business Saturday. The following day, just as a woman had walked past the building at 323 Northampton Street, a section of brick wall collapsed onto the bank Street alley. Fortunately, no one was hurt, although surrounding businesses will be closed. An Express Times headline calls it a "storm damaged" building. But Mother Nature had nothing to do with the decision to completely gut the building, even below the foundation. Easton Codes was apparently warned about this condition, yet did nothing.

323 Northampton is the former Dollar Store, and is being converted into a restaurant by the River Grille and Ocean owners. At the rate things are going, all dining there will be al fresco. Though that term sounds very foo foo, it actually means spending time in jail, and some people are claiming on the Easton Facebook page that what has happened is criminal.

Easton's $87,000 per year Code Inspector is Stephen Nowroski, remember? About this time last year, I told you he had left Forty Fort in the midst of allegations that his department engaged in retaliation and played political favorites. According to the Department of Labor and Industry, his department only inspected about 25% of the properties for which permits had been issued. Forty Fort residents also got stuck with an 80' high lighted billboard after he or the Solicitor neglected to mail an adverse ruling to the property owner. That turned a No into a Yes.

Neither the public nor Easton City Council knew any of this when Nowrowski was hired. Panto wanted it to be a surprise.

In the meantime, architect Jeff Martinson went to work at the Dollar Store at 323 Northampton Street. Yes, this is the same genius who recently testified in the Palmer Points project that the Value Place Extended Stay Motel is an example of excellence in architecture. He was unable to answer basic questions, like how a "story" is defined under Palmer's zoning ordinance.

Martinson completely gutted the building. According to merchants in the area, he got rid of all lateral supports, and nothing was there to prevent the building from collapsing. Bricked-up windows were removed inappropriately. There was no proper temporary bracing to the weakened wall. He also allowed the building to be unsecured to the point where someone could literally step from the alley, over a 16" high window sill and fall 20 ft into the basement.

Unqualified workers were used. I doubt any trades unions worked here.

Martinson also dug below the foundations. So no 50 mph winds were needed. A healthy fart could have sent that building into a nosedive.

This point is corroborated by this Easton Facebook entry. "Storm damage? Are you kidding? The building was completely gutted including all the floor joists, the windows were removed and they excavated under the existing foundation. They even dug under the foundation of the party wall connecting to the new public market."

Kevin Ruppert adds, "In fact the city has failed. There is no veil to hide this. Was the undermining of the foundation planned? I saw many truckloads of compacted clay removed in a grasshopper landscaping truck. Where were the code inspectors?"

I am informed that calls were placed to the Easton Codes department in October and November, to no avail.

I expect to see Panto respond to these concerns with his usual bully tactics. He's too busy doing things he strongly denied. One of his buddies wants him to fix a parking ticket. Shhh!


Anonymous said...

Applying both meanings of the term "al fresco" in such an effortless manner - your command of the English language is impressive.

Anonymous said...

You would not believe some of the work being performed around Easton. Buyers of many of the older homes west of 6th St.are simply making the properties look good. The work is all under city building permit but old rotten wood is not repaired or replaced, just covered over. Lead based paint is just covered. Sprucing up town eh!!!!!!!!!!!!! Never see a code guy ever. 10 maybe 20 years from now these buildings will have rotted away hidden from plain view. Some will fall sooner. If I were a fireman in Easton I'd be concerned. Home buyers beware. What code team????

Anonymous said...

Illegal immigrant labor: si senior, no comprende...

Anonymous said...

Rope lighting? No Mayor Panto - THIS is the type of stuff that will keep me away from Easton. And that candle is hideous and probably expensive to deal with.

Anonymous said...

This entire affair demands an investigation
BEFORE the shell is demolished.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Seems like everyone has an opinion and not one is a building or codes expert. When Code Enforcement does their job they are criticized and now some people are saying they don't. The fact is were laws broken? It's no different than the Rock Church. The city goes after them and the courts protect them. When I see a member of the code team I am going to thank them for doing a good job. By the way just as a matter of facts --- only the first floor joists were removed, the second floor's were intact.

Bernie O'Hare said...

11:38, I am informed all lateral supports are gone and the building was gutted.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Not passing the smell test.

Anonymous said...

"Were laws broken?"
Damn good question.

Unknown said...

Don't know about this issue enough to comment but I am sure the Emperor with no clothes will have volumes to say!

Anonymous said...

no local Unions on this job, being staffed by 1099 workers (remember morganelli case against salukis white) Unions are not even asked to bid these jobs in easton, everything goes to the one who can cheat the most. Legacy costs are going to be huge in easton in the future. Buyer Beware never meant so much before, Eastons inspection teams are easily bought especially now that they hired someone from Forty Fort. Good luck weaseling your way out of this one SAL

Anonymous said...

Sal always has allot to say

Anonymous said...

yes by the city and the contractor. how do yu remove supporting structure and have the city inspection team not notice? oh yeah its too far away from he new city hall to get there.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to living in the ABE area. . Money over safety . What code was not missed . The A for Allentown , B for Bethleham E for Easton.
Can anyone tell the mayor's apart . Pay to play is everywhere ?
Sad not to have the protection from the code officer. What's next Easton ?

Anonymous said...


Dennis R. Lieb said...


The link to the Facebook story about parking tickets has expired.

Theoretically, if anyone in Easton were now to attempt to find out what went wrong at this or any other project via a Right-To-Know request to city hall they would be given the runaround. The city has made it an official policy to obstruct as much publicly available information as possible. If you are lucky enough to receive a file it will be scrubbed of all meaningful evidence. I used to be able to walk into the code office and look at any public building file I needed to see. Conversely, in my last few years as a Planning Commissioner I was asked to fill out a RTK request to get the minutes to my own Planning Commission meetings. These are supposed to be available to anyone online! This is clearly the mayor's mandate. It is obstructionism and bad government, pure and simple. What is he hiding?

In early 2013 I requested a building file on the Armory at 7th and Northampton as part of a personal investigation of illegal use that was brought to my attention by neighborhood residents. Knowing that the building had at least a 30 year history of partial abandonment, no official zoning classification under either the old or new ordinance, official blight status and numerous code complaints (including two filed by me; for illegal street tree removal and soil dumping on the vacant lot), there should have been a dog-eared file at least two inches thick. Instead I received a pristine folder with eight crisp, clean pieces of paper in it.

I had requested that the Planning, Public Works and Code Directors make in-person visits to my block twice in the past 18 months to get on record that the neighborhood has major issues that require a coordinated city/resident plan to alleviate. Nothing of substance has emerged from those two visits and only George Kinney, our third former Planning Department professional to leave in the past few years, ever bothered to follow up with me. Things are now worse than ever.

I hope the mayor enjoys his last few weeks of relative serenity. I am not alone in my intemperance to get to the bottom of these issues. We are coming for him. We are investigating numerous issues, complaints and building irregularities all around the city. It is too late to start shredding and burning...we already have what we need.


Anonymous said...

This is unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, haven't redd this til now,
This is allentowns slumlordian campaign contribution donors manipulation flipp flopp to sisters brothers second cousins on there mothers mother name that has been the blight master plan¿!)$ Drain said buildings into blightable rentable tenaments dstroying ajoining owner occupied sigle family homes driveing down hom prices as well as setting up sales to peple that can not make mortgage payments, real proprty snakoil sales people colluded with banking institutions and said original owner whilein second mothers on its cousins side¿!)$
Right now they are finally cutting ugi pipes in the street for the elegal deconversion to elctric heat by unlisenced quility tradsmen that cant even pull there pants up let alone tie there shoes while working on a incom prpoperty¿!)$ Code officials except there donation to look the other way causing possible risk of life from gas explosion¿!)$
This is the high quality developer extraordinair fictisious appraisals of un usable poisoned land bought will found city monis¿!)$
redd for Republican
patent pending

Anonymous said...

those dirty rotten republicans/tea party extremists, up to no good again. first it is allentown,with the feds and city govt going to jail, then Bethlehem , with more pay to play, and now Easton. the gop needs to get lost . over the last 50 years , they have destroyed democracy, transparency and city govt.like
cant wait to see the gathering of all the mayors from this area at the next meeting sponsored by the corrupt chamber of commerce on march 31st.
BTW , love when the people , claim this is not a political issue. IT IS TOTALLY A POLITICAL ISSUE. It is always a non political issue when one certain party is totally responsible.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This moronic comment assumes a fact not in evidence - pay-to-play. You can certainly argue that one-party rule exists. But there is no pay-to-play. None. You don't know what ypu're talking about and are just hurting your own party with inane rants like that.

Anonymous said...

Dennis and Bernie--

There is something going on that is kind of stinky at the Easton Codes Office, other than a corrupt code enforcement director. With the armory building, especially. It is a mess. Honestly, its just another property that is shown favoritism in the city. Code harasses some people and lets the big things go ignored. Here is an article about it:


The article is from 2014 and quotes Mayor Panto-- "The former Easton armory building at Seventh and Northampton streets lay vacant for more than 20 years before Easton residents Peter and Odil Koorie started working on it, according to Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr." The Koories bought it in 2012 for 50k and, according to the article, "they have steadily worked to bring the building up to code although it's unclear what purpose the building will ultimately serve." Steadily? They can just take their time? The article continues: "The mayor said the Koories have worked well with the city. New windows are in and work is underway to replace a roof beam and put on a new roof. Panto expects the work to wrap up in late October or early November. Koorie said he wants to get as much work completed as he can before the cold sets in."

Why does this building get to take its time to "get up to code," when only certain people are harassed by code? It's no different than the lack of code taking action on certain properties (like the one that just collapsed) just because of who owns them. For the armory, maybe its this: the armory is owned by the "Koorie" family in Easton, who, not surprisingly, have Sharbel Koorie sitting high and dry as a "Code Compliance Officer & Mechanical Inspector" in the city codes officer, working under the-esteemed Stephen Nowroski. Take a quick look at property records, this Koorie family owns a bunch of properties that are sitting vacant and chipping away, paint included. They have daddys house or place that sells food down the street, where Panto and Nowroski eat all the time. Funny cause daddys place restaurant actually catered Panto's inaugural party at the grand eastonian a few months back... I wonder if that was reported on his finance reports, which seems to be missing from any campaign finance reports...

Why does this building get special treatment and can take its time "getting to code." Its not even up to code yet and it was purchased in 2012 and in 2014 Panto said they are bringing it to code. It's 2016 now. Where are the citations? Are they being cited for code violations? The windows that Panto refers to as changed do not even fit the window frames that they are in. I wonder if they even had permits to change the windows or permits to change beam and the roof? The building is an eyesore, it is dirty, not protected, has all kinds of trash in its parking lot, is pretty much open for anyone to walk into, has glass falling from the windows that were not replaced. It's a mess and is apparently used to store alcohol, which isn't even authorized.

Leonardo Dicaprio said...

The Event will NOT happen until the scalar plasma grid is taken care of.EMF Protection 

Charlotte J. Gravely said...

This is really nice post. I love it !