Mayor' SSTF: Community input crucial to future
At the monthly meeting of the Mayor's South Side Task Force Sept. 25, the future of Bethlehem was key. The meeting was held at Bethlehem's new welcome center cattycorner from Arts Quest SteelStacks. The building maintains the historic feel of a past generation steel town. The city tried to maintain the integrity by changing the building as little as possible. Upon walking through the entrance, visitors see a large mural on the wall of a map of the once booming Bethlehem steel industry. When the welcome center is fully open to the public, there will be computers available for all of those that would like to do research on the Lehigh Valley.
Since the city moving forward was the main focus of the meeting, one of the key elements brought up was the students who reside in Bethlehem and their safety. Many students who attend Lehigh University live in off-campus housing which is not provided by the university. Many student housing owners in the area are concerned with people purchasing and renting out their properties from out of town to non-student tenants. Local Landlords and residents worry that owners living farther from the area aren't able to frequently check on their properties, their tenants and if their buildings are maintaining the safety and integrity of the neighborhood.
One local landlord, who has several properties available to students living off campus, stated, "In my experience the police department has been very quick and responsive to any issues that I have to deal with. It is impossible to prevent every crime before it happens, but they can investigate a report for suspicious activity. It is up to the community to keep an eye on their own neighborhood and report anything that doesn't seem right so the police can look into it. If we make it uncomfortable for criminals to be in this town, they will eventually go somewhere else."
Lehigh University and other local entities have vowed to continue to maintain and work for the safety of students and city residents.
Individuals concerned with these topics and others will soon have the forum to share their thoughts. Monica Estrada George of Envision Lehigh Valley made an open invitation for several dates in which the community will have a chance to get together and, "Voice your ideas and opinions, and tell us what you see in your city's future." The following dates and locations for Envision Lehigh Valley are; Oct. 23 at Calypso ES, 1021 Calypso Ave. and Nov. 14 at Northampton Community College's Fowler Family South Side Center at 511 East Third St. All meetings begin at 6 p.m. and there will be free childcare and refreshments. Local police officers and students are taking to the initiative to be present at these meetings. To RSVP to these meetings, call 610-849-7825 or visit www.envisionlehighvalley. com