Sands, parking and spring fundraisers
The Mayor’s South Side Task Force March 28 meeting at Northampton Community College’s E. Third St. campus began with chairman Roger Hudak channeling Sergeant Schultz from “Hogan’s Heroes.” “I don’t know anything about the Sands,” said Hudak concerning the possible sale of Sands Bethlehem to MGM Resorts International. “Nobody knows anything. Everything’s being done in Las Vegas,” he added. He expressed concern about whether a new owner would honor the agreements that were previously made between the Sands and the city regarding preservation of historic structures on the property, as well as other commitments.
Hudak anticipated that parking issues would be a major topic at the community forum scheduled for later that evening for public discussion on Lehigh University’s proposed residence hall across from Broughal MS. He added that Task Force members Adrienne Washington, from the Community & Regional Affairs office at Lehigh University and Estefania Perdomo, from the Community Action Development Corporation of Bethlehem were away making preparations for that event.
Kate Cohen, director of development and communications New Bethany Ministries, said they added a crowdfunding component to their recently launched annual Spring Against Hunger campaign, saying, “Our most dire time of need in terms of donations, and when our services are most stressed, is summer.” She also announced a reinstated “Summer Sizzle Putting FORE,” a family-friendly golf tournament fundraiser for New Bethany Ministries, scheduled for the morning of June 3 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at Putt U in Center Valley.
Cohen also revealed that New Bethany Ministries has partnered with the Southside arts district with the Spring on the Southside community festival and Chili Cook-Off. People who donate food items will be offered a discounted Chili Cook-Off passport for the April 22 event. The annual Cops ’n’ Kids event will be held the same day.
Cohen mentioned executive Diane Elliott has been working with several committees of stakeholders affected by the lack of affordable housing stock in the area. They are continuing their search for solutions to a growing problem.
Hudak praised Lehigh University and Donegan ES for their increased involvement with the annual “Spring Southside Cleanup” scheduled for Saturday, April 8. He also spoke of how clean the neighborhood has become because of the hard work of the Southside Ambassadors.
Paul Pierpont, chairman of the advisory committee of the Southside arts district, reported the organization is facing a shortfall in funding for the Southside Ambassadors and other community initiatives. With Lehigh pledged to provide $100,000 annually, this only covers half of what they need in the budget. “By the end of this September we will be short $100,000 every year for the next three years,” said Pierpont. The organization is committed to finding a way to raise money to finance their plan to improve the Southside.
Southside resident Stephan Antalics praised Bethlehem’s public schools citing a dramatic increase in reading test scores. Although the state mandates kindergarten through grade 12, Antalics believes that for the families who can afford it, pre-kindergarten education prepares students better for school. He suggested that the city provide grant money for children from poor families to attend Pre-K. “Since they [public schools] can‘t afford it because they’re losing money, and because the recent head of education in Washington is so anti-public schools, they are between a rock and a hard place,” said Antalics, who then wondered if tapping money from the sports budget could fund those grants.
Pierpont joined the conversation by pointing out, “Harrisburg has 10 times as much impact on education here as Washington does. That’s where the problem is.” He continued, “If you want to direct your energy in trying to impact public policy in a way that it affects Pre-K as well as it affects the whole K through 12, the focus should be on Harrisburg more than Washington, D.C.”
Hudak said the Sands was assisting with planting community gardens at Lynnfield Terrace.