Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Hyman Sues To Halt Allentown State Hospital Demolition



On Monday, Allentown entrepreneur and real estate developer Nat Hyman filed a lawsuit to prevent Pennsylvania from demolishing the buildings on the Allentown State Hospital campus. Filed in Commonwealth Court by Attorney Suzanne Ilene Schiller of the Bala Cynwyd law firm of MANKO, GOLD, KATCHER and FOX, LLP, the litigation is an attempt to halt the latest folly coming from  a cabal of state and local officials who seem to be more interested in enriching a Doylestown tax deadbeat than in doing what is in the best interests of the community.

Background

As we all know, state officials who know better than the rest of us decided some years ago to close down the state hospitals. Residents there would do better in community mental health programs, they said..You've seen the results  Some severely mentally ill people are on the streets, including me. Instead of being treated in a hospital, they've been flooding our jails, too. In Northampton County, 72% of the jail population is mentally ill. Twenty-three percent suffer from serious mental illness, with acute symptoms.

In the meantime, Allentown State Hosptal's 200-acre campus sat dormant while state officials considered how they could top the initial blunder of closing it down. They came up with a scheme so monumentally stupid that you have to wonder whose pocket is getting greased.

Get this. Our leaders in Harrisburg plan to spend $15 million to tear down the buildings so it can be sold to a wheeler-dealer from Doylestown named David Ali.  It gets better. In addition to being someone who has no clue about the Lehigh Valley, Ali is a tax deadbeat who has racked up eight judgments in Bucks County, including tax liens to the state and IRS. It gets even better. The state is giving him three years to arrange financing.

Why such a sweetheart deal?

Two words. Jenn Mann. The former state lawmaker turned lobbyist is running interference for Ali. She has current state lawmakers Mike Schlossberg and Pat Browne waving the pompoms. She has quietly been pushing officials at Allentown School district to buy some of the land from Ali for an unneeded school. She is also pushing to give Ali a tax break, not that he pays them.

Of course, this is corruption. It's a little more smooth than what we saw with disgraced Allentown Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, but it is still corruption. In fact, it's worse. For all his flaws, Fed Ed at least thought he was doing what was in the best interests of Allentown. No one can say that about this scheme.

Nat Hyman, who is local and has no tax liens, was also interested in buying the property. He sought no tax breaks, either. He wants to preserve the buildings. Officialdom ignored him. So Hyman did the only thing he could do - sue.

The lawsuit

According to the suit, Allentown State Hospital is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is listed on the Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places. As a result, a state law called The History Code required a consultation with the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office, which is a part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. In fact, the History Code actually requires the state to consider alternatives to demolition of historic structures. It also mandates the General Services Department to “[i]nstitute procedures and policies to assure that [its] plans, programs, codes, regulations and activities contribute to the preservation and enhancement of all historic resources in this Commonwealth.”

The state has no procedures or policies. It ignored its own laws.

The State Historic Preservation Office did visit the site, and concluded
Per the appraiser’s evaluation, many of the buildings due to
their overall condition and general maintenance that they
have received, are in average condition, and may be viable
for rehabilitation and reuse. Even those buildings that had
not been included in the overall usable square footage may
have potential rehabilitation potential. A practical plan for
redevelopment of the campus should balance historic
preservation and economic development.
It added that “[t]he demolition of the hospital complex will adversely affect the property as it will no longer be able to convey its historic and architectural significance.”

In addition to ignoring The History Code, the suit alleges that the state has even failed to follow the law authorizing this conveyance. In December 2017, the state legislature blessed a conveyance to Ali's company, TCA properties. It specifically authorized a conveyance that included the buildings and structures on the campus.No law authorized any demolition.

Hyman seeks an injunction that will halt demolition and preserve the status quo.

Allentown State Hospital, which opened in 1912, was designed to be in a block plan with several buildings connected by corridors and originally included administration buildings, patient ward buildings, a dining room and auditorium, two chapels, a dietary kitchen, a boiler and an electric plant. It includes historically and architecturally significant building details, such as marble floors and columns, stained glass, stately wood trim and wood doors, and a spiral staircase with brass railing and marble steps.It was closed in 2010.

Most recently, it was the location of a movie.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bernie, were you one of those people that was shuttled between Norristown State Hospital for the criminally insane too? You like me are one infected with mental illness that doesn't even count in there calculated miscalculations by design, a agenda driven calculation that only your head count garners federal monies for misappropreation!

Charlie Sc said...

There should be an open transparent competitive process for development of the site. In the meantime, the state could demolish the worst of the buildings that have no reuse value and no historic architecture.

There appears to be differences of opinion among the Allentown School Board about whether the site should be used for a middle school. One east side board member is pushing for it, but at least 2 others are skeptical.

Anonymous said...

Jersey Mike's bias is so apparent. He and Mann are still pissed about Hyman running for Mayor.

"Democratic state Rep. Mike Schlossberg also said earlier this year that rehabilitation and environmental remediation costs make it unlikely a reputable developer will emerge with a plan that involves saving the hospital buildings." From the mcall.com

Anonymous said...

It should be evident that Mr. Hyman will NEVER prevail in today's political socialist climate because, hey, he is of the Jewish persuasion, and Mr. Ali? Sure sounds Muslim; no?

Dennis P said...

If you believe there is no need for a Middle School in East Allentown there is a need in Allentown for a modernized Harrison-Morton … That school is essentially land locked … Many years ago the site that comprises the current Dieruff High School was to become a Junior High School but at the last moment became Allentown's 2nd High School … Previous to the establishment of Dieruff High School , East Side students had to travel the relatively long trek to Allentown High School in a district that did not rely on its own bus transportation. So East Side students had to walk, take the Lehigh Valley Transit bus service, have their parents take them to school by car, have their own car transportation or hitch a ride with a friend.. During this period as a sophomore at Allentown High School my sister took one of these means of transport to school during a snow storm and found out that the superintendent had called a rare snow day for the period … The following year my sister went to the new High School on the East Side which was just a park away from her home... The opening of Dieruff High School never satisfied the want of many residents of the East Side concerning a Junior High School or Middle School … My preference would be for a new Dieruff High School to be built on the State Hospital grounds and the old Dieruff High School be refitted for a Middle School … Remember Dieruff High School was to be a Junior High School in its early planning stages. Bernie … Many longtime East Siders have a long standing opinion of the need for a new Middle School on the East Side … Maybe some of the newer residents of the East Side don't have an opinion of the subject or don't care .. But there is a need that non-residents of East Allentown for political and financial reasons may ignore … The problem is despite the need the issue has always been put in back order as other issues have been dealt with … Bernie, so sorry that you do not accept the East Side's traditional want … Do you agree that a current representative of the East Side should be at the table when the issue of the State Hospital rese is discussed and planned …The problem is whom would be at the table for the East side … Are there any East Side residents on City Council … And whom among the current council or future council will actually represent the East Side position exactly .. Are there any East Side residents on the Board of County Commissioners? Yes, Amy Zanelli is a district representative in which the East Sie is part of. But, what will she represent the East Side position exactly.. And will state officials like Pat Browne, Mike Schlossberg and Peter Schweyer do the same... Which leaves us to the Allentown School Board … Yes Bob Smith lives on the East Side .. But he is the only East Sider among 9 on the School Board … And with him running for the re-election, will he be on Board come this December.. And will we have two members of Schweyer's staff n the School Board them... Remember Schlossberg and Schweyer got their feet wet in politics being members of Jenn Mann's state office swtaff and now Geoff Brace too is a member of Schlossberg's staff. And Brace has a wife on the Allentown School Board too. So who will represent East Allentown in this scenario... A few years ago one might ay me , and can still say me, but I no live in East Allentown .. Yes I still care, but may now have disqualified myself by moving to the foothills of the Pocono's East Peen Township.. And also by the fact I am running for Board of Supervisor for that Township … I expect to be on the Nov 5 ballot unless something clearly unusual occurs in the primary.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dennis, though my point has nothing to do with Hyman’s lawsuit, let me explain my thinking. ASD is not just broke, but has substantial debt and runs a deficit every year. Instead of building another monument, the school district should be looking for efficiencies. Should there truly be a need, which I doubt, the last place for a school is near the border with Bethlehem.

Barbara Diamond said...

This smells just like the rezoning of Martin Tower to benefit Ronca and Herrick developers. Thanks for bringing this kind of unethical behavior to our attention.

Anonymous said...

Hyman does more for this City than any other single person and all he gets is crap for it. He rehabilitates those old buildings with no tax payer money (unlike JB Reilly who is taking the tax payer money to line his own pockets), he put himself out there and ran for Mayor when he clearly does not need the money and now he is spending his own money to fight the corrupt Mann, Schlossberg, Courtney Robinson, Affa regime and save the historic state hospital. But all of the public officials keep giving him shit. Frankly, I'm surprised he doesn't pull up stakes and get out of this mess of a city!

Anonymous said...

Barbara Diamond is 100% correct! This smells worse than Robert Trotner!

Anonymous said...

TCA has absolutely NO SHOT at that property.
Ali is small potatoes.
Let's see if the GSA comes TO Allentown to discuss the property with Allentown residents.
They will not step one foot into Allentown.
Why not give Hyman a shot at the property????
I hear from a real good source that Pat Browne is already making deals with people and organizations in Allentown about the property ( in particular the East Side Youth Center).
Let's make it a HUGE community center to benefit the families of Allentown.

Dennis P said...

So the residents of East Allentown are being punished for being next to Bethlehem … During the debate over the possible closure of Harrison-Morton someone said we can't put a school in the suburbs.. So is East Allentown just a territory compromised by its location... I am sure people in Midway would love ending their Middle School kids to Nitschman but they can't... How nice would it be if West Bethlehem, East Allentown and the Catasauqua School teamed up as one school district.. That would be efficiency. But as we stand East Allentown at least the 15th Ward needs a Middle School and the territory to where the Palace Center needs to go to a East Side located Middle School … The students in the Keck Park and old Hanover Acres area can still go to a modernized Harrison-Morton.. So what you are saying is that the East Side of Allentown must be the ones to pay the price for the bad policies of those whom lead us. And for the most part we are not at the table politically. But one thing is amazing in certain areas are local elementary kids are doing a pretty good compared to what other children in other sections of Allentown fare... In the end the Allentown S.D make sure that schools with transient children do the job to educate these children without causing undeserved problems in East Side Elementary … Harrison-Morton of course is not the same school it was when I attended it … I got a good education there as I did at Dieruff H.S. ---Even then the parents of East Side children wanted a school for their Middle school age kids in East Allentown even if some considered it a suburb not an integral part of Allentown... As an native American would say … I have spoken … You may continue to disagree with me … That's just the way it is...

Dennis P said...

I think the East Side Youth Center wants some of the land for athletic fields .. Previous to the closure of the Allentown State Hospital … They wanted use of Keck park for a lighted football field but never achieved that.

Anonymous said...

"Frankly, I'm surprised he doesn't pull up stakes and get out of this mess of a city!"

I've been asking myself this question for years, why do I stay in Allentown? Have you seen the slate of candidates for Mayor, City Council and ASDSB? It's sobering. How can a working class homeowner ever expect anything to get better in this City?

Anonymous said...

My lobbyist tells me the Governors office is likely involved with the deal. Nothing this size happens without his blessing. The deal reeks and I'm sure there was some fist class horse trading involved with this deal.

Anonymous said...

Even though I think @9:38, @12:03 and @12:07 is a total whack job, I do admire his enthusiasm, dedication and passion for the (l)east side of Allentown.

Also thank you to @11:30 for my laugh of the day!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Dennis P, the focus here is the demolition of ASH buildings, and I apologize for my own comment because it has distracted you and others from what should really concern you, and that is the idiocy of this deal. I at no time suggest that East Allentown residents be penalized for being next to Bethlehem. But to me, it makes no sense for a cash-strapped school district to build a school. It makes even less sense to build one so close to a municipal border.

Dennis P said...

Anonymous 1:08 I forgive you for the false characterization of my efforts in your statement and for you disrespect for the people in the 14th and 15th Wards of Allentown … Bernie --It has been the position of the neighborhood too that in the footprint of valuable historic building that there be no demolition or as little demolition of ASH buildings as possible and no destruction of the historic grounds entrance … The water tower seen on the grounds for miles must not be destroyed either … Anonymous 1:08 whomever you are, have a good day …

LVCI said...

Another thing should be pointed out. East Allentown wasn't always part of Allentown. As Dennis is aware it was formerly known as Rittersville. In 1904 it was annexed to Bethlehem In 1920 it was re-annexed to Allentown. Perhaps this whole area would have been better off if it would have remained Rittersville since neither city seems to take great interest by investing in it. All one has to do is see all the huge changes both cities have made over the years while 'East Allentown' has been mostly ignored and little has.

LVCI said...

Going back to Bernie's main point. I was aware of the BS going on. I think the Morning Call did a similar piece on this a while back. I have the impression the so-called developer plans on selling off chunks of the property rather then doing anything useful with it. Thus making a tidy little profit for himself at the taxpayers' expense. If the state were an honest broker it seems to me they should deed it off to Allentown to decide it's future. It would be a win for both the city and Pennsylvania. The whole deal stinks to high hell in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

The deal was a done deal with the two fast Eddy's, one in the federal prosion system and the other LEFT the office of governor with the help of real estate brokerage. Did the second also get a Toyota from the Bennet relocation to the infected exide land too?
Seems to be more than just the Allentown State Hospital from the airial view from goggle maps.

LVCI said...

I apologize-- it wasn't the Morning Call it was you Bernie who first posted about this back on January 16, 2019. Maybe sometime the paper may catch up.

Anonymous said...

@12:18 is right. The slate of candidates is horrible. If this City re-elects Affa, Robinson and Thiel then they have no one to blame for the condition of the city but themselves. They are all puppets of Mann and don't care what is best for this city, just what is best for themselves. But the real killer is O'Connell!! A 27% tax increase has permanently doomed this city . Anyone who was barely making it, is leaving. Anyone who was thinking of moving here, will not. And any money that a homeowner might have put into improving their property, is gone. And the worst of it all is he will raise them again! How were those people who wrote O'Connell in to take the votes from Hyman so stupid? Imagine how much better off we would have been with Hyman. He showed what a fool O'Connell is when he did the demolition of his building for $200,000 when O'Connell was going to spend $1,200,000 of our tax dollars!! That was just one occasion. Imagine how much money he would have saved the city with all of its spending!!

Anonymous said...

Denis you need an editor skilled in summarizing.

Anonymous said...

Will Jenn Mann do anything to save the albino colony?

Anonymous said...

I hope these buildings can be saved because they are absolutely beautiful. If they can’t, then I hope those who are doing things illegally will find themselves wearing orange on a daily basis.

Anonymous said...

Bernie all must love the left handed circus carnival circle jerk comming from there momma's big tent out back in the glory holes gatherers little tent currently the downtown stall wall experience at the arena!

DAMM that is one run on sentence, where is the grammer police when they are needed.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, I drove around the grounds the other day and was told by a security guard that my license plate had been photographed and that no pictures were to be taken. To my recollection, there were no signs telling me to hit the road or giving a warning that Big Brother was on the grounds. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

No question Bernie is right on all counts here & Hyman should be praised for stepping forward. Anything that Mann & Pat Browne are involved in likely benefits some Chrony. This is in fact the same routine as Donchez/Boscola shilling for Martin Tower owners as suggested anove.

Guy Williams said...

In my view the best possible use for that property would be the new home for Allentown Central Catholic High School and athletic complex.Gotta be able to use at least the main Hospital Bldg. Makes good sense if only a dream to upgrade ACCs current location. Existing ACC buildings still could be used by ASD so a win win for all. Left over land at ASH could be used for development so believe there is a common sense solution if we only work together.

Anonymous said...

Word is that they want to bulldoze everything in order to build storage units and a 7/11.

Apparently they briefed this information to an executive session of the ASB.

Bernie, get your investigative reporting shoes on and confirm this.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Bernie, I drove around the grounds the other day and was told by a security guard that my license plate had been photographed and that no pictures were to be taken. To my recollection, there were no signs telling me to hit the road or giving a warning that Big Brother was on the grounds. Thoughts?"

I believe you were well within your rights. You do own that property, at lest for now. They must have mistaken you for Nat Hyman.

Dennis P said...

The EARN Statement before a State hearing on the State Hospital Closure given 2/22/2010 said:

6. It would be totally acceptable that the
current footprint of the Allentown State Hospital be
utilized by the Allentown School District or some
private school to meet their school building needs.
7. A certain portion of the footprint be used for
Athletic fields for East Side A-Youth Youth
Organizations.


If there was a trade off between the Allentown School District and Allentown Central Catholic how would it be used by the district?

As a departing leader of my neighborhood I would still be interested to hear some details...


Anonymous said...

It's all part of the plot to Eastrail 177 trilogy.

If the complex, where the "Black Clover Tatoo" society destroys our superheroes is itself destroyed, it will be to erase the practice of their dastardly craft.

On the other hand, if it's restored it could serve as a Great Temple to the anti-hero.

In the world of M. night Shyamalan fans, this building is akin to the Texas School Book Depository, leaving fans wondering, who, what, where, how, do they get away with it?

LVCI said...

Anonymous 1:09 PM-- An example of why they never should have shuttered ASH

Anonymous said...

1:58PM LVCI

Are you suggesting I need such services? etcetera (Hedwig)

Anonymous said...

I'm sure schlossberg and in her day Jennifer Mann indulged in the pile of perks legislators get, but tell me why today on College hill in Easton, city councilman Julio G. has a municipal plated 2016 or newer black Toyota highlander hybrid suv parked as he goes into a Mexican joint in Easton? Allentown taxpayerz are getting hosed!

Deb Boylan said...

Bernie,

This entire thing stinks to high heaven. I pledge my support going forward to Mr. Hyman. I'm tired of classic buildings falling to the whims of private interests. I may have moved to the greener pastures of Philly, but my heart belongs to the Lehigh Valley, especially Allentown.

Regards,
Deb

Anonymous said...

12:17AM
"I'm tired of classic buildings falling to the whims of private interests."

um..err...private.. int.. aah… forget it.