Thursday, October 18, 2018
Updated: Allentown City Council Video Feed Malfunctions for Nat Hyman
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.
(This posted originally at midnight and has been updated to include Hyman's remarks.)