Thursday, October 18, 2018

Updated: Allentown City Council Video Feed Malfunctions for Nat Hyman

A vacant warehouse owned by Allentown businessman Nat Hyman on Oct 7. Fortunately, no one was injured in the blaze. Two days later, without bothering to even consult with Hyman, Allentown officials may have entered into a $1.25 million contract to demolish the building. That's about five times as much as Hyman would pay under a bid for the work he already received. They've been doing their best to vilify Hyman as well, so much so that he visited Allentown City Council last night to give his side of the story. I had intended to watch and report on it from my underground lair. Mysteriously, the video feed just happened to fail.

On the night of this fire, Mayor Ray O'Connell was at the scene and was cordial to Hyman.

Then he fucked him.

One reporter actually approached Hyman and said some people were calling the fire "Jewish lightning." Hyman told the reporter he had no property insurance. That became one of the screaming headlines.

I would have punched the reporter in the mouth.

But I'm Irish, not Jewish.

Hyman does maintain liability insurance at all his buildings but there was no good reason for him to have property insurance.

As Hyman explained to me, the building is assessed somewhere around $191,000. No insurance company is going to insure it for a higher value. From a business perspective, it makes no sense to insure.

Let me tell you what's going on here. The City is going to have to raise taxes next year. It is going to have to raise taxes because City Council has been asleep at the switch and failed to exercise proper oversight of disgraced former Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski. He ran the City into the ground and they let him.

Instead of having voters blame them for their own financial mismanagement, Council members and O'Connell would much rather have them blame Nat Hyman.

They're hoping you don't notice.

In reality, Hyman has provided a great deal of affordable housing in Allentown by taking old factories and warehouses and turning them into apartments. Of course the properties are a mess when he buys them. That's what happens to old vacant buildings.

I can tell you this much. I live in Nazareth. I've lived here for over two decades. I am still considered an Auslander. But they love Hyman. He is converting an old factory into apartments, and people are moving in as he continues to work on different parts.

I am disappointed at how the City handled this unfortunate event. City officials are in no position to vilify anyone. They should try to work with Hyman before convening an executive session to sue him.

I understand Hyman was actually permitted to speak for nine minutes and brought money, which was turned down. After he was out the door, the vilification continued. Cndida Affa claimed she had tried calling him,but his numbers were disconnected. She waited until Hyman was out the door before slurring him. Hyman tells me that none of his numbers has been disconnected for years.

Hyman's Address to City Council:

Last week I experienced a tragedy like few that I have experienced in my life. Beyond the enormous financial loss I have sustained, seeing one of my buildings go up in flames was terribly upsetting. I had put a lot of time and effort into taking that blighted building to make attractive affordable housing from it.

As you also know there was a fire in another one of my buildings this past Sunday night. To be clear, these fires started at the hand of someone. There is no other way they could have started. I think I have a good idea who did it and I’m working with the police on bringing him to justice.

As bad as this whole experience has been, it was made infinitely worse when our INTERIM Mayor railed against me and took my tragedy and turned me into the villain, for his own self-serving reasons. Frankly, I was surprised by it because prior to that he was nice to my face and never made mention of the demolition or any costs associated with it.

I decided to come tonight because my name has been so slandered that I felt compelled to clearly and succinctly provide you with the irrefutable and incontrovertible facts related to this matter:

1. When Ray told you that the city had reached out to me several times but I never responded…that was categorically untrue and he knew it when he said it . The city solicitor sent one e-mail to my attorney at 12:49 PM on Tuesday... a one line e-mail asking simply what Mr. Hyman’s intentions were for the building. Never a mention of demolition or any costs. When that attorney contacted me, I told him that he would not be representing me in this matter. There were absolutely no other communications…zero. This past Monday, the communications director for the City told The Morning Call, and I quote "The City reached out to Mr. Hyman by phone AND contacted his attorney in the days immediately after the fire." That was likewise untrue. As it looks inevitable that this matter will head to litigation, costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands more in legal fees, I want to remind you that those statements will have to be made under oath, under penalty of perjury. In addition, as part of the discovery process, we will require production of the phone records proving that they called me. I promise you they will not do either because it never happened. So, what this illustrates is that this administration is willing to lie to the citizens to cover their mistakes.

2. I never knew about, was consulted, given the courtesy of any discussion or even told that the city was tearing down my building. I found out from the media like everyone else.

3. While it is true that getting insurance on large vacant buildings is nearly impossible because they are magnets for vandals, drug addicts and squatters, that is not germane to this discussion. As you all know, no insurance company will EVER issue insurance on any building higher than its value. With that in mind, I have for you a copy of the Lehigh County Assessment record for this property. As you will see, Lehigh County just reassessed this property last month and INCREASED the value of this building from $121,900 to $191,100. So whether it was insured or not has absolutely no bearing on this matter.....even if it had been insured it would be for a fraction of the $1.25m at issue here.

4. One of my maintenance crews was at the building the Tuesday before the fire, once again boarding up every broken window and chaining and barring every door….as we have done countless times before. The building could not be alarmed because it had no power and even if it did have power, the alarm would go off 5 times per day driving the police crazy. But, as those of you in law enforcement know, the reality of these buildings is if someone wants to get in, they will get in. More importantly, I want to remind you that this building has been in this same state for 30 years....long before I bought it!

5.I had said that we planned on starting work the next day. To those people who have questioned that because there was no power to the building, we had 10 people who had finished cleaning out the smaller building on the same lot. If you went in that smaller building today, you would see it perfectly clean. They were to move over to this larger building on Monday to start cleaning out all of the garbage left by the prior owner and putting it in roll off dumpsters. As was the case with cleaning the smaller building, the daylight is sufficient for this task. From my past experience, this clean out would have taken 2 months, involve a hundred tractor trailer loads of garbage and does not require any permit.

Now for the 1.25 million dollar question, do I think the tax payers should be paying for the demolition of this building. ABSOLUTELY NOT. And as one of Allentown’s largest taxpayers, and the person who may have CREATED MORE PROPERTY TAX REVENUE FOR THIS CITY THAN ANYONE IN ALLENTOWN’S HISTORY, I am uniquely sensitive to wasting taxpayer dollars. I have seen that waste every day from the first days of this administration with its hiring dozens of people despite the fact that the city is losing $4m to $5m and will, undoubtedly, be raising our taxes in this upcoming budget.

BUT I will not pay for someone’s stupidity, nor should I be expected to.

I recently tore down a 40,000 square foot building on Gordon Street. It cost me $72,000. This past summer, I tore down a 10,000 square foot building in Nazareth for $37,000. I went out for bid on this demolition before I knew the City was doing the work. One bid came in from the company which did these 2 aforementioned jobs for me. I have that bid here for you tonight. The amount quoted for the entire job is $217,325.00 . And, frankly, I think I could have gotten it done for less.

As these documents I will give you will clearly illustrate, the cost for the demolition of a commercial building is $4 to $6 per square foot. If one simply googles " per square foot cost for demolishing a commercial building" they can confirm these numbers.

To pay $1.25 million dollars for the demolition of that building is so outrageous that I respectfully suggest that City Council investigate who is getting rich from this, because I assure you that someone certainly is! Using just common sense, you know that they have said this job will take plus or minus 10 days of work. That means they are making $125,000 per day! If there are 5 guys working on site, that would mean they are paying each of them $25,000 per day! It is precisely because of outrageous expenditures like this, that this city is barreling toward insolvency.

This job should have been bid out to market rate contractors and those bids could have been back in 2 days. And if the argument is that it was an emergency and had to be done immediately, then ask yourself what would have happened if City Council voted no to authorizing the funds? And why aren’t they working weekends and evenings? I went out to the site on Sunday morning at 10 am and no one was working and there was smoke coming out of the building! Clearly it was not as much of an emergency as we were led to believe. I think that Mr. Guridy had it right when he tried to take the prudent path of minimizing the exposure.

When I stood before you when you were selecting a Mayor and told you that I believed that you were selecting a CEO for a $100m business, I believed that then and believe it now. Well your CEO just went out and gave a contract to a company for a job at 6 times the market rate. If you want to know why Allentown is in dire financial straits, look no further.

And when Ray was grandstanding before you yelling that “Mr. Hyman, this is not a threat, it is a promise, you will pay the City back every penny” he either knew then that what he was saying wasn’t true or is painfully uninformed. The property is owned by a limited liability corporation. There is absolutely no recourse to your recovering that money. But the anger Ray tried to have everyone direct at me is misguided....It should be directed at the person who decided to pay $1.25m for a $200,000 job .

Now, as far as the question of whether I intend to pay for the demolition, the answer is that I am willing to pay that which it would have cost me had I done it, as it should have been done. Accordingly, I hold here a check made payable to the City of Allentown, for $217,325, which is more than generous because I could have negotiated that price down. I am willing to give it to you tonight, provided that you give me your assurance that the work will be completed and that no liens will be placed on the property and no litigation related to this matter will be initiated against me or any of my companies. Any reasonable person understands that I should not bear the burden of Ray's poor business management skills.

This City just wasted $1.25m but you aren’t going to put that on me:

1. I didn’t start this fire,
2. I didn’t ask or authorize anyone from the city to knock
this building down nor was I even consulted about it.
3.I didn’t ask or authorize anyone from the city to pay for it.
4. I fully expected to knock it down myself and at my own cost and would have done so promptly if given the chance.
5. I certainly didn’t agree to or authorize anyone to pay $1.25m for this work

Finally, we all agree that 2 of this city’s biggest issues are blight and affordable housing. I am the only one attacking both of those problems on any meaningful scale and the only one doing substantial development in Allentown without any government assistance or tax advantages. I don’t need your thanks or recognition but I certainly should not be criticized while doing it. If you ever hope to see development of the long neglected east side and south side and downtown area outside of the NIZ, you must be accommodating to people who try to do it and treat them with a modicum of decency and civility.

Thank you.

(This posted originally at midnight and has been updated to include Hyman's remarks.)


Anonymous said...

Looks like the taxpayers of Allentown have been hosed again! No pun intended. The city makes a rash decision to pay over a million dollars for a demo job that could have been done, and paid for by Hyman for a quarter of the cost. Complete CYA bullshit that they couldn't contact Hyman, that his phone was disconnected. Bumbling city officials without a care for precious taxpayer dollars.

Anonymous said...

The Dems on City Council and also O'Connell all have it in for Hyman because he split from the party to run for mayor last year as a Republican. They consider him a turncoat and this entire situation is all a way for them go get back politically for what he did last year.

I wouldn't doubt there is also a dose of antisemitism involved also And you're correct that they're going to shove the massive debt Allentown is facing and force part of it on him. There is also talk of a firebug at work also against Hyman, supposedly two more of his properties caught fire but were put out.

Someone has it against him for sure enough real,

Anonymous said...

Something stinks. Why would a responsible businessman not have insurance on the building regardless of its condition? If someone got hurt in it or there was a serious accident, how would it be handled. Would he be able to pay any settlement or court finding out of pocket? Something does not sound as neat and clean as you want to portray it.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not insurance companies are reluctant to insure any vacant buildings, move out of your house and let it sit vacant and see what happens. the city has overstepped its authority in an attempt to screw Hyman, They signed the contract, they can pay the bill, they will most likely also be paying for attorneys, court costs and possibly reparations. I see that there was also another fire at one of his buildings, hope there are not some vengeful democrats at work here.

Anonymous said...

I thought O'connell had more on the ball. This incredibly poor deal makes him look like a blithering idiot. Allentown is nowhere near fixed. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Why wasn't Hyman at city hall the morning after the fire explaining how he was going to handle this responsibility?

Anonymous said...

"Something stinks. Why would a responsible businessman not have insurance on the building regardless of its condition? "


Bernie O'Hare said...

Asked and answered. The building can only bevinsured for=assessed value, not what it would cost to demolish. Now if you don’t have that kind of $, it makes sense. But if you do, and buy insurance, you’re just making the insurer rich. So Hyman acted like a responsible business owner and your question reveals why you are not in that category.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Ray and city council look bad, not Hyman.

Anonymous said...

Allentown won’t hit bottom for a long long time. The full cost accounting for the Pawlowski era hasn’t yet begun.
Untold damage lurks under the surface.
The Jenn Mann Mafia is patiently waiting for the worst to surface so they can pin it all on Mayor Ray and take full control as the authentic reformers.
Smart plan.
Horrifying in all it’s ramifications.

Wait a decade or three until the Hockey Palace reaches the end of it's shelf life, and then there’s the school district.
Out of the frying pan and into a fire that will make this affair look like a flickering candle
in a dark room.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The way Ray and Council handled this reflects poorly on them both.

Anonymous said...

Did Council solicit three bids? I imagine there is an emergency court process for things such as this. Did they have a blight vote? Did they have a condemnation vote?

I do think Hyman's estimate is low, especially for this area. In another area, a 70,000sq ft building is being torn down for $400k. The highest bud was $!.4M.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This is ridiculous. Hyman's number is low, but the City is being nutz ... and dishonest. I am very disappointed at how this was handled. I expect Cabdida Affa to be a snake, but not Ray.

Anonymous said...

The end to this is predictable.

After our elected "public servants" make a foolish move for the "common good," lawsuits will result, the city will lose and the taxpayers will pay. In this case, taxpayers will be on the hook for lawyer fees and demo overcharges.

One need only look at the LCA fiasco to get an idea of how O'Connell's bluster and posturing is likely to play out.

Anonymous said...

I saw the meeting and City council explained that the 1.25 million is the budget and that doesn't mean that it would cost that, that is what they said.

Anonymous said...

We were reminded yesterday in a LVLive article regarding the incompetence of Bethlehem Township elected officials in their costing their taxpayers almost $800,000.00 in a street light scam. Today it;s Allentown, tomorrow?

Folks, our elected officials have been making bad decisions, some political and some simply out of ignorance I suppose for some time. What's the answer???

Monkey Momma said...

Who is setting these fires? What is the motivation?

And, sorry - I'm sure I missed this in the stories on this matter - but how many bids did the City get on this job prior to initiating demolition? Who won this bid?

Given the bizarre nature of this entire fiasco, I think this story will go national, if it hasn't already. And since Pawlowski left such a stain behind, I think it will be very easy (and perhaps very appropriate) for the spin to be that council and the mayor are still corrupt and/or inept, even after Pawlowski's ouster. And if you think the demolition is expensive, just wait until the lawyers' fees and court costs get tallied. This sounds like it could be more expensive than building a pool in a flood plain.

Anonymous said...

Council would be best to negotiate a mor true reimbursment cost and providing strict oversight on the contractor (man hours, equipment, # trucks, etc).

I too believe the City could have implemented a better process with documentation.

Any idea the square footage of the building?

Anonymous said...

They couldn't possibly have given Hyman due notice of their imminent decision, they are in legal trouble, They will lose big in court.

Anonymous said...

I give you credit Bernie for calling out Ray !

Anonymous said...

What a waste of taxpayers money! The games continue in Allentown- Ray and the entire city council needs to go!

Bernie O'Hare said...

”I give you credit Bernie for calling out Ray”

I love Ray, but he handled this very poorly. He has to remember that he and most of his fellow council members are just as responsible as Fed Ed for the City’s financial mess. He was a man and admitted his willingness to trust Fed Ed instead of provide oversight. Now he has to be honest instead of trying to make Hyman the bad guy for the inevitable tax hike. I expect that kind of horseshit from some of those snakes, but Ray is better than this.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Monkey Momma, I imagine the fires were st by squatters as a parting gift. I was really infuriated when a reporter actually asked Nat if this was a case of Jewish lightning. I thought we were beyond those days. Clearly, city officials, with a little help from the press, were ready to scapegoat Hyman. Same tactic Fed Ed used to use.

In an emergency when public safety is at issue, the city can take drastic actions and let a contract with no bid at all. But this is something that should have been discussed with the owner of the property. They all have his cell phone.

Anonymous said...

Quite frankly if the city litigates this and tries to sue they will lose in court and it will cost the taxpayers even more. Take his 217k check and move on.

Anonymous said...

I thought I read this building was under contract for repairs that would have be started the following day had there been no fire.

A $191,000 building could have had a repair/renovation contract greater than the value of the building.

Does any know what firm had the repair contract and was the contract insured against disruption?

Anonymous said...

The 1.25 million was a high ball estimate.
Council did not want the administration coming back meeting after meeting asking for more change orders and money (like the Cedar Beach fiasco).
That stated these are the costs involved---demo,disposal, backfill,soil.
I think they all knew that the 1.25 was high, but rather come in lower at the end , than go back to and ask for more money each month.
This is straight from a member of city council.
So maybe a compromise is coming.
From what I was told also, Hyman can pick up the ball any time along the way.
Like once the building is down , he can do the disposal.

Bernie O'Hare said...

If you're relying on what a council member told you, you better check it with several others. Some of them are quite slippery. And what kind of nonsense is it to actually argue that you set a high number so that you don't get bothered by change orders? It is their job to award a bid at the right price, and if a change order is needed, to carefully review it. Whoever you talked to fails to understand that his or her role is guard the public purse.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Quite frankly if the city litigates this and tries to sue they will lose in court and it will cost the taxpayers even more. Take his 217k check and move on."

I'd opt to let Hyman do it and then check. It's his property. If the City does it, it has to pay prevailing wage. I could see $400k with good union labor.

Anonymous said...

If the city as any intelligence, they will apologize to Hyman and give him 30 days to tear it down. They should also kiss his ass a little next time.

Robert Trotner said...

I was there. If you want to see what really happened asked Lewis Shupe for his video. It's not exactly as Hyman told you.

Anonymous said...

I giggle every time I see one of his "Hyman for Rent" or "Hyman for Sale" signs.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I was there. If you want to see what really happened asked Lewis Shupe for his video. It's not exactly as Hyman told you."

Excuse me, but his remarks above are exactly what he told Council. I am aware that after he left, Candida Affa slammed him, something she lacked the personal integrity to do to his face. I really resent the botched attempt to vilify Hyman over a tragedy instead of working with him, and am outraged by what the reporter said to Hyman. The goofy tenant association can complain allthey want, the simple fact is that Hyman has done more for the City than any other developer in terms of providing affordable housing, and hasn't asked for any handouts.

The city needs to work with people like Hyman, not attempt to marginalize them.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know who the reporter was that made the comment about Jewish Lightning?

Anonymous said...

The smart thing to do is for City Council to void it's current demolition contract forthwith. Pay the contractor for the work completed and inform Hyman he has 30 days to tear down the remainder of the property at his own expense,

Then this matter is settled.

Anonymous said...

The City of Allentown Communications Director is a Pawlowski sycophant who should have been indicted as a Fed Ed co-conspirator.

Anonymous said...

when the democratic council put in their buddy demo o'connel the old boys system you knew the city would sink even lower than fed ed had it these democratics do not know how to manage anything people of Allentown deserve thjs because they continue to vote these people in

Anonymous said...

"good union labor" assumes bad non-union labor, which is ridiculous, especially when it jacks a $217K job to $400K. When costs are needlessly inflated like this, it's actually "bad union labor." Very bad.

O'Connell's behavior betrays a nastiness when his lying and stunning incompetence are questioned. Did a single reporter ask him to verify his earlier statements, that we now know to patently false? He's Pawlowski without a federal prison sentence. But I'll bet Ray earns one of them too, at some point. What an embarrassment to good government and common decency. What a political rat.

Anonymous said...

There are three competent morons on Allentown City Council, Affa is one of them.

Anonymous said...

The video-feed equipment went down during Nat's statement?

Sounds like a case of Allentown Lightning.

Anonymous said...

“There are three competent morons on Allentown City Council....”
You’re too kind.

Anonymous said...

Neither side has commented on the roof collapse Pryor to fire?

X said...

Bernie, when hyman was bent over for the fucking as you put it was there rainbow uniKoRnZ shooting from his ass before that gapping took place. The colours would match some of his buildings window sashes of too.

Now for the 1.25 million dollar question does any insurance underwriter insure for the peril of demolition due to public safety or any other reason. No only if you pay a extra supremo premium as well as ask for it?

Love your tail better than Molovinskys and he was there for the festivities but didnt partake except in the hall.

Anonymous said...

the people of Allentown never vote o'connel mayor they shot him not once but twice his democratic buddies on council put him office even if the people did not want him

Anonymous said...

When I saw the report that $1.25 million was approved to be spent to tear this building down, I said to myself "what the hell?" Now I see I was right. Whoever approved this expense is a moron, getting kickbacks on the side, or both.

Anonymous said...

I’m an Allentown resident and I don’t buy this story. I have no faith in the Allentown City Council, the Unelected Mayor or the Lehigh County District Attorney. Our previous Mayor isnt even in prison yet and we have more nonsense to deal with. The Lehigh County DA is busy railroading poor people with no legal representation to keep the jail full yet fails to investigate anything else. We have to rely on the Feds to clean up our city and the cleaning isn’t finished. I’m absolutely disgusted ...don’t move or invest in this place.

Anonymous said...

I started to feel bad for Hyman after reading his remarks at the council meeting. Do I believe that he could have had that building demolished at a lower price? yes. Do I believe he had no idea that Allentown was going to demolish it? absolutely not. Even if no one from the city contacted him or was able to reach him (as both sides have claimed) how did Hyman not hear of the news? I don't even live within Allentown and it was all over local news media about how City Council was going to have a vote to spend 1.25 million to demolish the building, and that was before they even voted on it.