The history of the Bethlehem Housing Authority is similar to that of other housing authorities. . .
The National Housing Act (1937) was one of president Franklin Delano Roosevelt's early initiatives, designed to improve living conditions for Americans adversely affected by the Great Depression of the 1930's, and to jump start a depressed construction industry. The following time-line will help you reference the important events that shaped our agency. This time-line project is ongoing and will be updated regularly.
- Mark Iampietro
Robert Nuemeyer becomes the Authority's first executive director. The Authority's first office is located at Broad and Main Streets, in the "Bethlehem Trust Building". (Eventually, the headquarters would move to the Pembroke Community Building on Fritz Drive.) By December, 1941 (as the first low-income development is being designed and built) , the US enters WW ll. Industrial cities like Bethlehem have an acute need to house working families engaged in the war effort. Pembroke is built and is designated as "permanent war housing"; South Terrace and Parkridge are designed and built as temporary war housing.
BHA's first board consists of chairman (and mayor) Robert Pfeifle, Weir Jepson, Merritt Kreidler, Lt. Colonel William Coyle and Andrew W. Litzenberger.
Pembroke Village is completed (202 units) for $855,000.00 (a per unit cost of $4,275.00) Parkridge, originally planned as a 165 unit development is enlarged to 180 units. First lady Eleanor Roosevelt has a hand in designing two of the buildings . Parkridge's first family is the Rosh family, formerly of McAdoo Pennsylvania. The Bethlehem Real Estate Board tours the "Defense Homes" in October. The members acknowledge the need for low-cost housing and approve of the project. Bethlehem's project (South Terrace , 320 units and Parkridge) is among the five largest in Pennsylvania.
World War II ends and now, homes are needed for returning war veterans. This results in a need for more homes and schools in the Bethlehem area. During the next decade, the city will expand its boundaries, adding neighborhoods, shopping centers, and expanding water and sewer services. Bethlehem is declared "Pennsylvania's Fastest Growing City" by the governor.
Mayor Pfeifle (also BHA's chairman) declares that the "ceiling rent" is too low and proposes to raise it.
The "payment in lieu of taxes" (PILOT) made by BHA to the city averages about $11,000.00 per year through the decade.
Mayor Pfeifle's annual report includes an ambitious plan to increase the public housing stock by "at least 1,000 units" in the coming years. The board of commissioners is comprised of George Sides, Merritt Kreidler, Andrew Litzenberger and Henri Bodder. ( Litzenberger and Pfeifle have served continuously since 1938.) Bethlehem's plan for 520 new units is approved. Pressure is on to make a decision regarding the "trailer camp" in the northeast area. The camp was built as temporary housing for families engaged in war industry work.
The Housing Authority is very close to acquiring the 86 acre Weaver farm property, located along the Route 22 bypass (Pembroke Road). The Authority plans to build at least 400 homes on the property. In May, BHA receives the first payment from the state for the proposed construction of 120 units to be known as "Fairmount Village". By June, bids are received and the low bid for the building of Fairmount is awarded to Gottleib and Schneider of Bethlehem for $962,000.00. By the end of the year, the Marvine bid is also awarded to Gottleib and Schneider for $3.9 million. The BHA board consists of Pfeifle, Litzenberger, Bodder, Louis A. Villard and Marvin Steyers. According to an internal survey, the Authority determined that approximately 100 of the 952 public housing families in Bethlehem owned television sets. As a result, a monthly charge of $1 is levied to these households cover "extra electricity" costs.
With Mr. Nuemeyer ill and unable to perform his duties, Ralph J. Bartholomew is named to the post of E.D. in November. Mr. Bartholomew, a native of Catasauqua was formerly vice president at Union Bank & Trust (Bethlehem). His annual salary is $6,000.00. A "tenant selection" office is created for the first time. R.F. Hoover is put in charge of the fledgling department.
Robert Nuemeyer dies in February at age 85; an engineer by trade, Nuemeyer was born in Nazareth and graduated from Lehigh University in 1887. He joined the construction staff of the Norfolk-Western Railroad, but found municipal engineering more to his liking. In 1892, he became engineer for the borough of North Bethlehem. When it became clear that the three boroughs would merge (So. Bethlehem, West Bethlehem) Nuemeyer was given the responsibility to tie the separate communities into one, unified city. His plans helped interlock the communities and consolidation became possible. He was named chief engineer of District No. 5 by governor Earle in 1935 and worked toward modernizing and planning the transportation needs of the Lehigh Valley until called on to lead the Bethlehem Housing Authority in 1938. At this time, the administrative offices are moved from the Pembroke community building to the remodeled farmhouse on the old "Weaver property". This property is being converted to low-income public housing and will eventually become Marvine-Fairmount-Pfeifle. The office remains at 1409 Pembroke Road until Monocacy Tower is built in 1973.
The Marvine Village project moves along quickly and a sample home is opened at 1312 Marvine Street. April - Mr. & Mrs. Roy Abel accept their keys to their home and become Marvine Village's first family.
Former Mayor Robert Pfeifle and Andrew Litzenberger are cited by Federal Housing Administration (HUD) for fifteen years of service to the board. They are the last of the original board of commissioners South Terrace and Parkridge become part of the housing authority's low-income housing inventory. A retirement plan is offered to all BHA employees. A modern elementary school is proposed for the northeast area; BHA offers land it owns along Lebanon Street. The site becomes Marvine elementary school. BHA makes its Pembroke community building available to the Boy's Club as a "northeast branch". Marvine (400 units) and Fairmount (120) are built in the northeast; while the Marvine units are part of a federally-funded low-income program, Fairmount's units are designed for working families and are funded by a State program. (This remains true until 1980.) The Housing Authority lifts rental "ceilings" at Pembroke in August. All rents will now be based on family size and income.
The northeast communities embrace little-league baseball in a big way by forming a "Tri-Village" league. The loop consists of age eligible boys from Marvine, Pembroke and Clearfield. The league received its official charter from Little League headquarters in Williamsport in 1951.
The BHA board approves the conversion of coal to oil for heating purposes at South Terrace and Parkridge. Maintenance men average $1.85 per hour or $3,848 annually.
Robert Pfeifle dies in March at the age of 77. From humble beginnings as a poor farm boy from rural Bucks county, he settles in South Bethlehem in 1902 and begins to make an indelible impression on his adopted home. A trained carpenter, Pfeifle helps build homes in Bethlehem. During his later years of public service, (1937 -1958) he has a hand in building neighborhoods for the city's less fortunate as the catalyst behind the Bethlehem Housing Authority. He is elected to the town council of So. Bethlehem, becomes a councilman in the newly consolidated city in 1918 and then becomes mayor in 1929. He goes on to serve as the Bethlehem's chief for an unequaled five terms and leads the city through the stock market crash, the great depression and World War ll. Bethlehem grows in population from 40,000 to 66,000 (65%) and he sees to it that first-class water, sewer and trash disposal infrastructure is in place to meet the demands of such a city. His vision insures that Bethlehem will continue to grow while other Pennsylvania cities are in decline.
The "payment in lieu of taxes" reaches $57,000.00 per year. This sum is paid to each local taxing body. (School District, City etc...)
A bond issue is approved for the construction of "The Robert Pfeifle Homes". That loan, worth $620,000 is set to mature in the year 2003.
Discussions take place regarding the possibility of using land in the "Monocacy Creek Urban Renewal Area" for elderly housing. City officials at the time are against the idea, preferring to use the land for tax-producing development. Plans to build a senior highrise move to the south side ; although a site is not agreed to, S. Harmon Brown is named as designer. A committee is assigned to find a suitable site for the building; the group consists of commissioners Litzenberger and Milton Greenberg and director Bartholomew.
The city offers a site on Cherokee Street and almost immediately protests are heard from residents in the area of the proposed site.
Andrew Litzenberger is honored by the Federal Housing Administration for twenty-five years of service as a member of the housing authority.
Pembroke's children surprise long-time playground leader Marjorie B. Fink with a party and gifts, thanking her for 16 years of service as the community's leader. She started out by organizing a playground at the original trailer camp which preceded Pembroke. She became permanent in 1947 and served continuously through 1963!
The authority is called upon to find homes for Cuban refugees; West Bethlehem residents, displaced by the building of the Rt. 378 Spur Route are also integrated into public housing at this time.
As of 1964, the authority's households break-down thusly: 1,257 white families, 120 Puerto Rican families and 104 African-American families. 13% of the residents are receiving public assistance.
Bowing to public pressure, the Cherokee Street location is abandoned. Instead, the authority and the Redevelopment Authority agree to develop an East Fourth Street parcel. Plans are approved to build the new highrise, as well as a community building for Marvine.
The Girl's Club opens a branch in the Pembroke community building. The Bethlehem Boy's Club begins fund raising efforts to build a new club near Marvine homes. The building will cost $250,000.00.
Andrew W. Litzenberger, an original member of the Authority board dies. An architect by trade, Litzenberger worked for Bethlehem Steel, but made his mark as Lehigh University's superintendant of buildings and grounds. In addition to the time he spent guiding BHA, he served on the city's planning commission, was a director of the Bethlehem National Bank and was a long-time member of the Masonic Lodge and of the Chamber of Commerce.
Ground is broken for the $1.5 million "Andrew W. Litzenberger House". The eight story, 100 unit structure will be built on East Fourth Street.
The Housing Authority starts a major controversy when they attempt to evict an unwed mother from her South Terrace home. BHA and the NAACP face off on the issue. The board consists of Henri Bodder, George Kotich, George Desh, Charles Stehly and Milton Greenberg.
January - City Council approves Reverand Frank Flisser's appointment to the board; Flisser replaces Mr. Greenberg.
Social unrest is rampant across the nation; although not as serious as in other cities, Bethlehem's low-income projects have their share of tension. A "Northeast Grievance Committee" is formed and issues like rental inequality, unfair eviction policies, and poor maintenance are brought forth. The Authority answers with a ten page report. Construction of the $100,000.00 Marvine Community Building begins in September. The one-story brick and steel building will be located at the end of Fritz Drive and together with the new Boy's Club will afford Marvine residents with plenty of activities.
November - The first residents move into the Litzenberger House. Mr. and Mrs. George Gasdaska, life-long southsiders, move into apartment #301. The 69 year old Mr. Gasdaska,a retired steel worker, "plans to watch alot of TV"; Mrs. Gasdaska is impressed with the kitchen and the "friendly atmosphere" in the building. Thomas J. Gori manages the building. By March of 1968, the building is at full occupancy.
1968 - Nearly 100 South Terrace residents meet at the community building to air grievances ranging from rent collection to rat infestation and safety needs.
Executive Director Ralph J. Bartholomew dies. Bartholomew led the Authority for 21 years and the agency changed in many ways during his tenure. The defense projects" South Terrace and Parkridge became part of the BHA conventional stock, Marvine, Fairmount and Pfeifle Homes were built, all between 1952 and 1962. In addition, he oversaw the building of four highrises, all built between 1966 and 1973. The Bartholomew building was dedicated in his honor, prior to his death. A total of 970 new housing units were built during this period.
The board brings HUD labor relations expert Frank V. Loretti in on a temporary basis to serve as executive director. During Mr. Loretti's first three years, he continues to be paid by HUD. As recently as the early 1970's, he had visited Bethlehem in an effort to mediate labor problems between the Authority and its maintenance employees. The Authority he inherits contains aging buildings in need of rehabilitation. During his initial ten year period, modernization of the family units becomes his primary task. Within twenty years, South Terrace and Parkridge will be replaced with new units, Marvine, Pembroke and Fairmount will be totally renovated, and every other building will see some form of physical improvement. In addition, a new centralized maintenance headquarters is built, the main office is relocated to Monocacy Tower and the Authority becomes one of the first in the nation to find itself "computerized". Loretti would go on to become BHA's longest tenured executive director.
The "Central Service Facility" is dedicated; the $177,000.00 two-level structure is located near the Marvine boiler plant on Garfield Street. All Authority maintenance shops are brought together under tighter control. At the same time, inventory, purchasing and auto repairs are centralized. Workers have a full service carpentry shop, shower and locker facilities in one, modern location.
The Authority board consists of Robert Czopoth, Bob Donchez, William Gorscan, Joseph Albanese and Rev. Frank Flisser.
The board dedicates the Monocacy Tower community room in the honor of former US congressman Fred B. Rooney and the Bodder room in the name of state representative Frank J. Meluskey, who died a year earlier.
Fairmount is modernized and at the same time, becomes part of the BHA "low-income" program. (Fairmount was originally designed, built and intended to house working families under a state program.) The total cost to renovate Fairmount is $6 million.
The first South Terrace units are demolished, paving the way for a new community.
The housing authority rededicates the Pembroke community in the honor of Marjorie B. Fink. The building is remodeled along with 120 units in the Fairmount section.
Firms representing BHA and Dow Chemical Company begin investigating the Monocacy Tower building in an attempt to determine the cause of deterioration in metal fasteners which hold brick panels on the building. Thirty lawsuits are pending around the country involving the "Sarabond" mortar additive which is thought to be the cause of the problem.
The Authority expects to receive $4.6 million in federal funds for the modernization of Marvine. Kitchens and bathrooms will be upgraded and energy efficient doors and windows will be installed. Flat roofs are being replaced with "A" roofs under a separate $1.5 million project.
BHA's ten year old "van service" ends due to lack of participation by highrise residents. At the time of its inception, there were few modes of transportation available to Authority seniors. In recent years, more and more options become available; fewer than eight percent of highrise residents use the BHA option.
The board of commissioners directs Frank Loretti to submit necessary paperwork to HUD in order to obtain funding to build 100 low-income housing units at the west-side site of the former Parkridge project. The twenty acre site is vacant; one potential problem is the concern about "radon" gas beneath the surface.
August - BHA maintenance employees begin the final phase of testing for asbestos-related health problems. The employees, are thought to have been exposed to asbestos while working beneath the forty year old structures. Pipe insulation is believed to be the culprit. The Authority shares the expense with its insurance carrier. Work continues on the removal of the insulation through a private contractor.
Lynfield community completed - After many years of wrangling with authorities in Washington, BHA finally received the go-ahead to demolish the 45 year old South Terrace homes, beginning in 1980. The neighborhood, never intended to remain in use for four decades was beyond repair. Families were moved out building by building, beginning in the early 1980's and structures were razed to make room for a modern community. The development was built in two 100 unit phases known collectively as "Lynfield". The Authority decided to build duplex units, rather than the barracks-style, so popular in the 1940's and 50's. The new buildings give Lynfield the look of a real neighborhood which fosters pride among the residents. By mid-decade, the final touches resulted in a beautiful new community, which has served as a template for public housing redevelopment in other communities.
In accordance with the state "Clean Indoor Air Act" BHA bans smoking in common areas of its highrise buildings.
Marjorie B. Fink dies at age 89. Known as "the first lady of dance", Fink taught dance for 50 years. She was the founder of the Ballet Guild of the Lehigh Valley and operated her school and the guild from her 556 Main Street location until retiring in 1973. Miss Fink was a long-time playground supervisor at Pembroke Village (22 years) and was honored for her service by the Housing Authority and by the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission for her contribution to the arts. In 1966, she was named "Woman of the Year" by the local chapter of the American Business Women's Association. Miss Fink lived at Monocacy Tower for many years before moving to Gracedale.
BHA applies for $3.3 million dollars in federal funding, part of which will be used for education and perhaps to fund additional police as part of its drug prevention program. Most of the money is earmarked to the improvement of the 45 year old Pembroke area.
Northeast Ministry celebrates its tenth anniversary in the Marvine-Pembroke area; the small staff has grown to nine people with an annual budget of $150,000.00. The ministry provides a food bank, tutoring services, support, advocacy and counseling.
November - Residents of BHA's northeast neighborhoods honor their patrolmen for their efforts against the drug trade in their community. The first "substation" is located at 1235 Fritz Drive and is manned by officers Willie Williams and Don Cervellini. They are part of a Public Housing Drug Elimination Program (PHDEP) funded with $250,000 federal dollars. Mayor Smith, commissioner Dolores Caskey and fifty residents took part in the celebration held at the Fink building. As part of the PHDEP program, a "tenant patrol" is initiated. It consists of volunteers who act as eyes and ears for the police. In December, the patrol plans a Christmas party for the children and residents of the northeast communities.
After a similar period of negotiation with HUD, the Authority finally prevails and receives money to rebuild Parkridge. The 180 war-time units are bulldozed to make room for 100 specially designed duplex units. The $9 million project includes handicap accessable apartments, play areas and eventually, a community building.
1993 - BHA accepts a low-bid of $5.5 million for Pembroke renovations; the Authority hires former DA Jack Gallagher to oversee its Drug Elimination program; BHA announces that it will award a $76,000 bid to General Elevator Co. to outfit all elevators for handicap use; former Clearfield/Pembroke residents gather at Silver Creek A.A. to swap stories about the old neighborhood .
1994 - BHA's Drug Elimination Program is bolstered by $25,000 in Federal funding. The money will be used to hire a part-time youth worker; BHA resident Teresa Negron joins the Board of Commissioners; the Authority considers adding two more PHDEP officers (Lynfield, Parkridge.)
1995 - State Senator Joe Uliana introduces a bill which will help housing authorities evict drug dealers; former Tenant Selection manager Bart Crosby dies at 84.
1996 - BHA commissioner Dolores Caskey is honored by the local branch of the NAACP for her efforts on behalf of the City's African-American community.
1997 - BHA receives a $2.5 million dollar grant. The money is earmarked for playground and heating system improvements. Charles G. Stehly dies. He served as a commissioner from 1965 - 1971; he was 83.
1998 - The BHA budget is approved for $5.8 million; fourteen BHA residents share $6,000 in scholarship money as winners of the seventh annual contest are named.
2000 - A massive sinkhole swallows three dwelling units on Argus Court in Lynfield. There are no injuries, but the homes cannot be saved. All residents are relocated within 24 hours. The units are demolished.
BHA sponsors an Authority-wide clean-up effort in which residents gather and dispose of litter in Parkridge, the Northeast and in Lynfield. The Lynfield effort is dedicated in the memory of the late Josefina Berrios, former BHA grounds worker.
2001 - The first annual "Josefina Berrios Community Service Award" is given to Marvine resident Barbara Jean McNeely in a ceremony attended by family, friends and BHA authorities.
Edward Logar, 74 dies. He served the maintenance department as a superintendant and later as modernization coordinator. He retired in 1992 after a thirty-three year career.
Mrs. McNeely is also named to the BHA board as a commissioner in August. The Authority was required to fill the expired term of Dolores Caskey with a current resident.
Commissioners, staff members, city officials and residents gather to dedicate the new Parkridge basketball court. Also in attendance - Pennsylvania Valleydawgs head coach, Daryl Dawkins. Dawkins led the 'Dawgs to the USBL title in 2001.
2002 - Reverend Frank Flisser celebrates thirty-five years of service as a BHA commissioner. Rev. Flisser was originally appointed by Mayor Payrow in January of 1967.
January- Former police official Reggie Cora joins the board and is named vice-chairman. Larry Kisslinger assumes position of chairman. Kisslinger, a former Marvine resident, served as Bethlehem city council member and on the school board. Elected as Jaycee's Young man of the year (1973), Kisslinger is employed by Service Electric Cable TV.
New chairman Kisslinger begins his term by shifting the Authority's philosophy from providing low-income rental units to homes low-income reidents can own. His plan is to have the Authority become a major developer of such new homes in the Bethlehem area. "We have the resources to impact on the housing shortage that exists for low-income folks", Kisslinger said. In February 2002, the Authority announced plans to develop land it owns, adjacent to Fairmount apartments on Bayard Street.
At the March board meeting, former police commissioner Eugene Learn is named as the replacement for recently retired Reverend Frank Flisser. Rev. Flisser served the board for thirty-five years. The board now consists of chairman Kisslinger, vice chair Reggie Cora, Barbara McNeely, Robert Czopoth and Mr. Learn.
March - The board of commissioners unanimously pass a resolution to create a non-profit housing development group. This will allow for the Authority to move toward its goal of developing a "home ownership" program.
April - The Authority continues to promote its Family Self Sufficiency program. The initiative is designed to eliminate traditional barriers to success. BHA promotes education, training and planning. In addition, FSS helps residents save money toward their goals by providing an interest bearing escrow account !
2003 -- Frank V. Loretti steps down as executive director; deputy director Clara A. Kendy becomes BHA's fourth director since 1939 and the first female to hold the position. She names Eugene J. Gonzalez and Mark C. Iampietro as co- deputy directors. Gonzalez will be responsible for planning, construction and maintenance while Iampietro will head the management team.
August - The Authority proposes to create a fund to assist residents in paying for child care.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Renewal prohibits BHA from purchasing additional police services from the city of Bethlehem. There had been talk that the Authority might consider an additional six officers, but that plan was nixed by the federal government.
September - With an October deadline approaching, the Authority decides to outsource the federally-mandated "community service" requirement to an outside agency. The service requirement is part of the Quality Housing & Work Responsibility act and is something all public housing residents must comply with. Those deemed as non-exempt will need to fullfill eight hours per month. The Bethlehem Christian Training Center is chosen to administer the program at the September board meeting.
- BHA partners with four local housing agencies to host a "Landlord Fair". The purpose is to recruit new participants for the Housing Choice voucher program, formerly known as "Section 8". The fair, held at Holiday Inn (east) attracted over 500 property owners. Also involved were the housing authorities of Easton, Allentown, Northampton and Lehigh counties. BHA staff members Pat Donchez, Patty Buhay, Bob Caprioli all contributed time in making the fair a success.
- October - Peter Potochney, an architect who served the housing authority from 1975 - 1985 died on October 20th. He was 89 years of age.
- Residents, staff members, commissioners and civic leaders gathered on October 25th to rededicate Roberto Clemente Community Park on the thirtieth anniversary of the park's opening. Chairman Larry Kisslinger told the assembled group that the authority was renewing its commitment to the park by replacing equipment, repairing the field and by erecting a monument at the park. Also onhand for the ceremony, executive director Clara Kendy, mayor James Delgrosso, councilman Ismael Arcelay, state representative Steve Samuelson, community activists and residents, past and present. Monsignor Robert Bizek of Holy Infancy Church gave the invocation.
- Plans are underway to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Bethlehem Housing Authority.
- Demographically, the Authority's makeup in 2003 is 356 white families (26%), 67 african-american (5%) and 933 hispanic families (69%).
November - Former commissioner Leonard A. Wenzel died. Dr. Wenzel was chair of Lehigh University's chemical engineering department for over twenty years. He also served the community as a tutor at Broughal M.S., and on the board of the South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center. Dr. Wenzel was 80.
December - The board votes unanimously to purchase a derelict home at 402 Wyandotte Street. The Authority plans to remodel the unit, then make it available to a low-income, first time homebuyer. The home was purchased from the redevelopment authority for $42,000.
- Commissioner Eugene Learn steps down from his post on the Authority board.
March - Mayor Callahan appoints local businessman David Sanders Sr. to fill the unfinished term of Eugene Learn.
- The Authority board adopts an $8.7 million budget at the March meeting; because of a projected deficit, BHA must siphon $1.3 million from its reserve account to balance the budget.
May - Following the City's decision to close the Marvine pool, the Housing Authority offers swimming passes to residents of public housing. The City, Boy's Club and BHA will work together in an effort to provide alternative recreational opportunities to offset the loss of the pool.
August - Two windows looking out to a lush garden now greet visitors and residents as they enter the main lobby at BHA's Andrew W. Litzenberger House, thanks to the combined efforts of the housing authority, Banana Works and some talented young artists. The mural is the final result of an intense, six-week program designed to create public art, while teaching basic job skills to low-income youth. The youngsters, all in the 16 - 17 age range learned to dedicate their time and see it through to the end. They also learned the importance of cooperation and teamwork. The idea for the garden window came from the Litzenberger residents themselves.
November marked the passing of former BHA solicitor Lawrence J. Briody Sr. Mr. Briody, 80, was born in Bethlehem and was a graduate of Lehigh University and the Temple University Law School. In addition to his law practice, which spanned a total of 45 years, Mr. Briody served as an assistant district attorney for Northampton County. He served as solicitor of the Bethlehem Housing Authority for a total of 25 years. Today, his son Bruce serves as BHA solicitor.
March - Former long-time commissioner Reverend Dr. Frank Flisser dies. Rev. Flisser served the housing authority longer than any other commissioner, a total of thirty-five years. Rev. Flisser was originally named to the board by Mayor Gordon Payrow. Under his guidance, the authority built several high rises for senior citizens, initiated the Housing Voucher Program (Section 8), and made millions of dollars worth of capital improvements to all other properties. Rev. Flisser was 85.
April – The Bethlehem Housing Authority and a local non-profit organization are moving ahead with plans to open a children’s three hole golf course to replace a swimming pool closed by the city last year. The project, approved earlier in 2005 as part of the Authority's 5-Year Plan would include three short holes, a netted driving range, a chipping course, a putting green and a learning center, all on an acre owned by BHA, next to the Boy’s Club.
For the second straight year, the authority runs a deficit of $1.5 million.
The Bethlehem Housing Authority’s first try at helping its residents become homeowners finally happened. The Authority sold the renovated property at 402 Wyandotte Street to Shayla and Hector Torres for $79,000. The sale came about one year after the Authority acquired the dilapidated home from the Redevelopment Authority. The property had been vacant for more than ten years.
Officials at the authority decided to reduce the number of Housing Choice vouchers they give out by 4 percent, to 469, in the coming months.
September – Residents of the Bayard Street area had the opportunity to attend a public meeting at the northeast Family Development Office on September 20th. The purpose of the meeting was to unveil the plans for the land between the Authority’s Fairmount development and the homes on Bayard and Lebanon Streets. BHA plans to build twenty replacement housing units on the vacant parcel. Interested residents were assured that the Authority intended to build units that would be appropriately sized for the neighborhood and explained that the units were intended for senior citizens and the physically disabled. Representing the Authority were administrative and management staff members as well as architect Chris Portner.
February- The Housing Authority reevaluates its nonprofit arm known as Bethlehem Homes Inc. BHI, was created in 2003 to help build more low-income housing in Bethlehem. Since that time, the Authority learned that most of its multimillion dollar surplus cannot be used for the nonprofit’s building projects. The Authority is expected to hire a consultant to study the issue.
Authority board members seem enthusiastic about forming a partnership with Habitat For Humanity to build affordable homes in the City. The Authority purchased a small lot, adjacent to its Fairmount/Marvine community along Marvine Street for this purpose. The lot was acquired from Northampton County for $3,500. The initial plan is to build two adjoining ranchers at about 1,000 square feet each. One unit would be a two bedroom handicapped accessible home, the other a three bedroom style.
March- BHA commissioners ok’d a plan to have students paint a mural on the back of the Marjorie B. Fink community center this summer. The six-week project received a $5,000 pledge from BHA toward the $12,000 cost. The artists, all high school aged and members of the low-income communities, would work with a professional artist toward the goal of completing the mural by September 1st. The project, the third in as many years once again combined BHA with Banana WORKS and PIC. Every effort will be made to ensure that the mural is weather and vandal-proof.
Plans were revealed describing a City initiative to rehab facades along the 400 block of Wyandotte Street, between Fourth Street and Five Points. Building owners would receive low-interest loans for the exterior work. The block long project was spurred by the BHA’s recent renovation of a once derelict home at 402 Wyandotte Street.
April- The Bethlehem Housing Authority learns that community police officer Edmund Miller is battling cancer. A ceremony was held at the Parkridge Community Building to boost Officer Miller’s spirits on April 9th. In addition to Ed Miller and his wife Shirley, members of the BHA staff, fellow officers and many members of the Parkidge community joined together to sing, pray and praise the man they had come to know. “He is an important member of this community”, said Valerie McClendon, event organizer and a resident of Glendale Avenue, adjacent to Parkridge. “You can readily see the positive effect one good man can have on a community”, she added. Miller was humbled by the outpouring of friendship and support. “This means a lot to me”, he said.
The Authority brokered a deal that would allow it to buy and sell a house to one of its tenants, the second such project in its history. The commissioners approved the purchase of 52 West Ettwein Street for $56,100. Eventually, the home would be sold to a participant of BHA’s Housing Choice Voucher program.
May- BHA donation supports the Illick’s Mill Partnership “River Fusion” music festival. The goal is to provide an urban music venue that would be of interest to BHA youth, while supporting the restoration of the historic mill.
Funeral services are held for Bethlehem Police Officer Edmund Miller. Miller lost his battle with pancreatic cancer May 9th.
BHA’s First Tee Golf Facility is dedicated; the project, supported by the Authority, the USGA, and others is expected to serve approximately 300 youth the first year. In addition to golf, the youngsters will be taught social skills so important to success in life. The program is built around the core values of honesty, integrity, sportsmanship, respect, confidence, responsibility, perseverance, courtesy and judgment.
August- BHA decides to spend $15,000 to study whether to work with the nonprofit organization formed three years ago. Bethlehem Homes, Inc. has yet to build or sell a single home, in part because federal law prohibits BHA from using its surplus. The consulting firm chosen is Mullin & Lonergan of Bucks County.
Following six weeks of work, BHA unveils its latest mural project. The sports-themed mural is located on the exterior wall behind the Marjorie B. Fink building.
The Housing Authority and others gathered at the Parkridge community to honor the late Officer Ed Miller, rededicating the community building in his name. Mayor John Callahan was among the dignitaries on hand on a drizzly August afternoon. A plaque was unveiled at the center, and people spoke about Ed and his impact on the community. The Mayor called Miller “…the embodiment of a Bethlehem police officer”.
October- Facing budget cuts and shrinking reserves, BHA wants Hogar Crea to begin paying rent. The drug treatment center, located along Pembroke Road and housed in a property owned by BHA has only been charged a nominal $1 per year fee since locating at 1409 Pembroke Rd. in 1980. The new rent will be determined.
Northeast Ministry dedicates its new computer learning room to Dolores Caskey. Mrs. Caskey is a longtime supporter of the agency and is also a former city council member and BHA commissioner. "Mrs. Caskey always had the kids best interests at heart", said NEM director Steve Godbolt. "She felt that poor kids should never be at a scholastic disadvantage simply because of their economic status". The computer room will enable kids to utilize the technology during the NEM's popular after school program. In addition, adults can use the computers at other times during the day. The computer room is located in the Fink Building, at 1161 Fritz Drive.
BHA administrative officials will meet with 15th District representative Charlie Dent on October 12th to discuss the state of public housing and in particular, the effect of Federal budget cuts on the local Authority. The meeting is held at the Congressman’s Bethlehem office.
The "payment in lieu of taxes" (PILOT) made by BHA to the city averages about $100,000.00 per year through the decade.
Maintenance men average $19.20 per hour or $39,900 annually.
January - At the Authority's annual reorganization meeting, Mrs. Iris Linares was introduced as BHA's newest commissioner. Mrs. Linares was recommended by Mayor Callahan. Her appointment was approved by city council in December. Her appointment fills the vacancy created by Regino Cora's departure in October. During the meeting, David Sanders was elected to the position of chairman, while Joe Long assumed the vice chairman's position. At the conclusion of the meeting, commissioner Larry Kisslinger announced his resignation. Mr. Kisslinger was originally appointed by former Mayor Cunningham in 1999. He was reappointed to a new five year term in 2004.
A committee recommended Carmelo Courvertier for the 2007 Josefina Berrios Community Service Award. Mr. Courvertier, a Parkridge resident, is president of the Parkridge Tenant Council, and as such, actively supports all efforts to improve life for his fellow tenants. Carmelo was honored especially for his attention to programs that directly benefit the youth in his community. Members of Josefina's family joined family, friends and BHA staff in honoring Carmelo.
March - George Samuelson joins the BHA board as its newest member. Mayor Callahan's choice to replace Larry Kisslinger was approved by city council and he was introduced at the March 12th board meeting. Samuelson is a grants administrator and accountant in Lehigh County's fiscal office, where he has worked since October 1998. Also during the meeting, solicitor Bruce Briody was replaced by Bethlehem attorney William Matz Jr.
The Bethlehem Housing Authority adopted Monday a policy based on the year-old federal Violence Against Women Act. It gives preference for housing to victims of domestic and dating violence and stalking and affords protection against eviction.
May - The commissioners voted 3 - 2 to award a contract to Ameresco Inc. to review BHA's heating, electrical and water systems. The purpose of this energy audit is to help the Authority to save money on future utility bills. Utility costs represent a large portion of BHA's annual expenditures; the anticipated savings will cover the annual debt service of possible upgrades, which could cost as much as $7 million. Ameresco is located in Chapel Hill NC. The second bidder was CLT Efficient Technologies Group.
June- Long-time BHA employee Lynn Pietrouchie loses her battle to cancer. Lynn began her career with BHA in 1973. At the time of her death, she was Tenant Selection/Section 8 manager.
The Bethlehem Housing Authority received a national award for its First Tee golf facility program. Now open one year, the program was recognized by the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities (NAHRO) with a 2007 Merit Award for Program Innovation in Resident and Client Services.The Merit Award program recognizes outstanding achievement in housing and community development programs throughout the nation. BHA will accept the award in July at NAHRO's convention.
December - Another BHA partnership results in a homeownership opportunity for low-income residents. The Ortiz family proudly accepts keys to their brand new home on Marvine Street on property owned by the housing authority. Habitat For Humanity provided the necessary support and a number of local companies contributed to the project. It is the second such partnership between BHA and Habitat this year. Earlier, a family moved into a new Habitat home on Hayes Street. In each case, the recipient contributed many hours toward the building of the home, along with other community volunteers.
Mayor Callahan reappoints Joe Long to the board of commissioners for a second five-year term.
Citing Bethlehem Homes Inc.'s failure to bring worthwhile affordable housing ideas to BHA, the commissioners vote to suspend the relationship between the two agencies. The door is left open for partnering should BHI bring forth a project deemed worthwhile by the BHA board.
The year 2007 ends with BHA learning that they are rated in the highest category by HUD's Public Housing Assessment Subsystem or PHAS. Housing Authorities are rated in categories such as management, fiscal condition, physical condition as well as relations with tenants. The highest possible score is 100% and BHA reached 91%. In addition, BHA's Section 8 program management graded out to a perfect 100% this past year.
January - BHA commissioners voted unanimously to borrow $7.1 million for 14 energy-efficiency upgrades. The effort is a part of a nationwide initiative of HUD to reduce energy usage.
- Janira Alvarez received the eighth annual Josefina Berrios Community Service Award on January 28th. Ms Alvarez, who resides in Lynfield has volunteered more that 500 hours at St. Luke's Hospital center in the neo-natal care unit.
- Resident safety at Monocacy Tower was improved with the recent addition of a pedestrian pylon. The sign is positioned at the busy crosswalk on Main Street, which connects the Tower with the North Street parking garage.
- The cost of rental housing kept climbing this past year, according to Affordable Housing Finance Magazine. The article reports that there is no city or county in America where minimum wage earners can afford even a one-bedroom apartment. Also according to the article, the "housing wage" climbed to $17.32. This would be the hourly wage a full-time worker needs to earn to afford a modest apartment in his or her community, while spending no more than 30% of income on housing.
- Following the September board meeting, Paul Reitmeir tendered his resignation from the BHA board to Mayor Callahan. Mr. Reitmeir was appointed by the mayor in January of 2005, filling the unexpected departure of Barbara Fains. Mr. Reitmeir was a BHA resident (HCV) and as such, his place on the board will have to be taken by a current resident of public housing. Mr. Reitmeir was also the vice chair of the board, so that position will also need to be filled at the October meeting.
The energy conservation program begins in the Fall.
Contractors put the finishing touches on the Argus Court units damaged in the 2000 sinkhole at Lynfield.
Iris Linares is elected by fellow commissioners to fill Paul Reitmeir's position as vice chair of the BHA board.
BHA makes its annual PILOT payment (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) to the City, counties and school district. The payment is $142,524.38.
The City begins curbside pick up of cardboard, newspapers and other related items.
January - A combination of factors stalls BHA's "Bayard" development. The project, in the planning stages since 2002 hits a snag due first to paperwork problems at HUD, then by the credit crunch. The Authority is hopeful that if there is a "silver lining" to this, it's that new bids may be lower than originals. Bids are due January 28th.
- The ninth annual Josefina Berrios award is presented to Evelyn Rivera of Pembroke. Evelyn started an after school program designed to get young girls off the street. The dance program has grown to the point where Evelyn's troupe routinely enters and wins competitions for step dancing across the region. All the while, her pupils maintain good grades and learn valuable life lessons about discipline, self-sufficiency and perserverence. For her volunteer efforts, Evelyn was rewarded with a certificate, a trophy and a check for $100.00. Her story was documented by both local newspapers.
February - William C. Korpics passed away. Bill served as Central Service and Supply manager from 1976 - 1984.
- The Bayard project is rebid and necessary paperwork is filed. The project is now on track with a groundbreaking ceremony and site preparation coming. The new bids are actually lower than expected.
- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes substantial funding for a number of important housing and community development programs. At BHA, our portion ($3 million) will be applied toward the ongoing renovation of the Marvine area. BHA can proceed with comprehensive improvements for approximately 100 units of low-income public housing. The law was signed by President Obama on February 17th. The stimulus money will be used immediately here in Bethlehem.
Under fair skies on April 2nd, government officials joined BHA commissioners and staff as the Authority officially broke ground for the long anticipated Bayard housing development. The 20 unit community will be located on land owned by the Authority, adjacent to the Fairmount community in northeast Bethlehem. Attendees heard all about the history of the project from Deputy Director Gene Gonzalez. BHA Director Clara Kendy took time to thank the many people who were instrumental in helping to bring the idea to its construction stage. BHA Chairman Dave Sanders represented his fellow commissioners and thanked the staff, HUD and former commissioners who helped to guide the process during their time on the board. Various people spoke and congratulated BHA, including Dennis Bellingtier, Director of Public Housing at HUD’s regional office in Philadelphia. Gregg Bortz represented Congressman Charlie Dent while Bethlehem’s Director of Community & Economic Development Tony Hanna spoke on behalf of Mayor Callahan. He mentioned the strong partnership between the City and its housing authority. Robert Donchez represented State representatives Joe Brennan and Steve Samuelson. When completed, the community will consist of 16 one-bedroom units and four two-bedroom units contained in three single-story buildings. The area is bounded by Lebanon, Bayard, Woodbine and Leonard Streets. According to the project architect, the $2.2 million project should be completed within one year.
On April 21st, Mayor Callahan's nominee for the BHA board was unanimously passed by council. Dot Saby was officially named to the board and she replaced the departed Paul Reimeir. Ms. Saby, a BHA resident, fulfills the obligation that one commissioner be a current BHA tenant.
Numbers released this month indicate that the recession has had a dramatic affect on American households. Poverty has risen to an 11 year high, incomes shrank and the number of people without healthcare rose to 46 million. Unemployment is at 9% compared with 5% a year earlier. Household income dropped about 4% during this time. All of these statistics indicate that healthy public housing programs are needed more now than ever before.
Former employee John Crockett passed away. He worked in the accounting department for many years.
BHA's 70th anniversary was officially noted during the October board meeting held on the 12th at Monocacy Tower. Dignataries such as Mayor John Callahan, US Representative Charlie Dent, as well as people representing the the county executives were on hand to pay tribute to the housing authority's seven decades of service to the low-income community. Chairman David Sanders spoke of BHA's many other contributions such as job creation, and various youth programs including a scholarship program. Several current board members spoke of their tenancy in public housing. Four of the five current members have lived in public housing in the city. City Council was represented by member Karen Dolan who spoke glowingly about the condition of the neighborhoods, crediting BHA for establishing a true sense of community for residents.
Retirements caused movement at the top of the Bethlehem Police Department this Fall. Commissioner Randall Miller's retirement resulted in the promotion of Stuart Bedics to Commissioner and Jason Schiffer to Deputy Commissioner. The BPD assigns six officers to community duty on BHA properties.
The Bayard project continues; the first structure is under roof and work proceeds on the excavations on the other two buildings.
Former BHA commissioner Mahlon Hellerich passed away in January. He served several terms beginning in 1989, being originally appointed by Mayor Ken Smith. He was 90 years of age. In November, Irene Halkias died. Irene was a long-time co-worker, working primarily in the Central High Rise Office. She was 82.
BHA's First Tee program continues to garner attention and awards. A July article in the Morning Call described the program from the perspective of a young participant, one Hector Alvarez. By September, BHA officials were accepting a certificate of achievement, awarded by PAHRA's annual conference in Grantville PA. PAHRA (Pennsylvania Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities) selects worthy programs each year from across the state. This award is in addition to a national merit award won in 2007.
Construction-wise the Bayard Development is moving along, as the staff goes over the proposed list of new residents. It is hoped that the initial units will be occupied soon.
The new year begins with the reorganization of the board of commissioners. Iris Linares assumes the position as chair, while Joe Long becomes vice chair. Both recognize and thank outgoing chairman Dave Sanders for his leaership the past two years. Dot Saby and George Samuelson round out the membership. During the past calendar year, the BHA maintenance department dealt with a total of 177 vacant apartments. The Fraud & Collections Department collected an average of $1,000.00 each month during the year. The maintenance department also dealt with an average of more than 1,000 work requests each month.
In January, BHA presented its 11th Josefina A. Berrios community service award. Recipient Donna Boyle has worked closely as a volunteer with Bethlehem Special Olympics for 15 years. Donna and son Nathan are BHA Housing Choice program participants.
January - Robert Czopoth passed away at the age of 93. Bob was a former BHA employee as well as a two-time member of the board of commissioners. As an employee, Bob was remembered as manager of the SouthTerrace development in the 1960's; he was appointed to the board in 1971 by then-mayor Gordon Payrow, then served another term beginning in 1998, after being appointed by Mayor Cunningham. Bob was also well-known as a businessman, having formerly owned and operated the Lehigh Tavern on Fourth Street. Bob also managed Allentown's Episcopal House high rise upon its opening in the late 1960's.
February- Frank Schweitzer passed away at the age of 82. Frank worked for the BHA maintenance department before retiring in 1992.
March- Sergia Pereira Montz passed away in her home in St. Augustine Florida. Mrs. Montz was a teacher by trade. She became very involved in the Bethlehem community upon her arrival. She is credited as a founding member of the Lehigh Valley Council of Spanish Speaking Organizations. She became director of the Bethlehem Area School District's Bi-Lingual Education program, which was only the second in the state at the time it came to be. Other community work included working with the United Way, the Bethlehem Public Library, PIC, CACLV, New Bethany Ministries, Southeast Neighborhood Center, the YWCA and as a board member of the Bethlehem Housing Authority. Mrs. Montz was 93 years old.
May- BHA comptroller Aliasgar Khalfan passed away at age 65. Ali, a native of Kenya, was employed by BHA for more than 15 years and was a valued friend and employee. His knowledge, expertise and gentleness will be greatly missed by friends, family and co-workers.
September- Steve Godbolt passed away at age 54. Steve served as executive director of the Northeast Ministry since 1998 and was instrumental in helping to guide children who resided in the Marvine, Pembroke, Fairmount communities. Despite this loss, the Ministry remains committed to provide residents with the personal and spiritual resources to improve the quality of their lives.
- George Samuelson stepped down as a commissioner. Samuelson was named to replace Larry Kisslinger in 2007.
January- Mayor Callahan appoints Bethlehem resident Valerie McLendon to replace George Samuelson on the board of commissioners. In other news, the board reorganizes with Joe Long and David Sanders taking over chair and vice chair, respectively.
March- The BHA staff begins training with the planned implementation of a new software system. The new system is user-friendly and is especially designed for the public housing industry.
- Planning is underway to implement "BHA-TV", a new initiative designed to better inform BHA's High Rise residents while at the same time, saving on labor and other related costs to the Authority. Instead of writing, printing and delivering the routine notices, the new process involves a simple adjustment one time to the electronic program. Any notice can now be delivered instantly in English and Spanish via cable TV. A dedicated channel will be set aside by the cable operator and the service will be available to all residents 24/7. In addition to these regular notifications, residents will also receive music, weather, horoscopes and pictures and videos.
-As anticipated, the inability of Congress to manage the Federal Budget by March 1 brought about "Sequestration". Massive across the board cuts are now to take place, and the public housing industry will be especially hard hit. All programs will be somewhat at risk moving forward.
June- The Authority dedicated a park bench in the name of Kenny Staples. Kenny died tragically ten years earlier when a bus he was on caught fire. Members of Kenny's family, his friends, former co-workers as well as his BHA family were on hand for the celebration of his memory. The bench sits in a serene area behind Monocacy Tower in Johnston Park.
July- The Authority plans to dedicate the athletic field behind the Fink Building in the name of the late Steve Godbolt, who passed away suddenly last September. Steve, the longtime director of the Northeast Ministry was a friend and mentor to many children. The idea is to memorialize the athletic complex in his name. There will be both a sign outside and a plaque inside the Fink Building proclaiming the site to all.
January- The board reappoints Joe Long and Dave Sanders to chair, co-chair.
2014 marks BHA's 75th anniversary year. The event is celebrated by the issuance of commemorative calendars, an annual report/book, and other items. In addition, the annual Field Day event will provide a platform for additional celebration and remembrances.
February- I.V.R. stands for “Interactive Voice Response” and it was introduced in February.
Any applicant may check the status of their application by calling 610-419-3180. The service caters to bi-lingual customers. By providing some information callers will hear a recording, letting them know what their status is at the time they called. The line is private and secure and callers may check as often as they care to. Residents may also use the line to check account balances.
BHA estabishes a presense on social media outlet Facebook. The site celebrates BHA's 75 years of service and connects the agency to the more than one billion Facebook members.
January - Jennifer Rodriguez of Marvine was honored as BHA’s latest recipient of the Josefina Berrios Award for community service on January 28th. An audience of more than thirty included her friends, her former principal and guidance counselor and members of the press. Jennifer’s story may be found at BHA’s Facebook page.
February- Executive Director Clara A. Kendy announces her retirement effective February 27th. Mrs. Kendy's decision ends a 47 year career which began as a clerk in South Terrace and saw her advance through many positions over the years. She became BHA's fourth director (and first female) in 2004. Eugene Gonzalez was named as interim director and Mark Iampietro remains onboard as Deputy Director.
March-- Civic Activist, Community Leader, Long time Bethlehem resident and former BHA commissioner Dolores White Caskey died March 24th at Moravian Village of Bethlehem. Mrs. Caskey was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico in 1920. She attended Highlands University in Las Vegas, and taught school in Pecos, N.M. before moving to Texas to work as a civil servant for the Army Air Corps during World War II. She married then Capt. James W. Caskey in 1947. In 1973 she was elected to Bethlehem's City Council, where she served for 12 years, four as Council President. Mrs. Caskey was a tireless advocate and worker for the community, especially its disadvantaged. She was appointed to the Board of the Bethlehem Housing Authority where she served more than 10 years, and was the recipient of various leadership, service, and civil rights awards. Her fluent Spanish language skills and commitment to civil rights enabled her to help build bridges among disparate interests for the betterment of all. In addition to her own political campaigns, Mrs. Caskey was an active volunteer for many others, and for the Democratic Party. She served as Secretary for the Pennsylvania delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 1980.
April - Eugene Gonzalez officially named Executive Director. Resident Commissioner Dot Saby passes.
May - The BHA board of commissioners made it official at their May meeting naming Mr. Jay Schuster as maintenance director for the Bethlehem Housing Authority. Jay started his BHA career as an inspector and since 2004 has been assistant director. Jay and his assistant John Ritter are responsible for a 24/7 operation. Each year the maintenance department turns over 200 vacated apartments and answers more that 10,000 work requests. In addition, all grass cutting, snow removal, trash and recycling tasks are coordinated through their efforts.
Mr. Rogelio Ortiz is named our new resident commissioner ... Congratulations and well deserved!
June - BHA resident Jennifer Rodriguez is selected for the PAHRA Scholarship award ... She continues to reap the rewards for her hard work.
June 8- The board dedicates the quiet room at the Bartholomew House in honor of commissioner/resident Dot Saby, who passed away earlier.
January - The board of commissioners reorganized by electing Iris Linares and David Sanders to the positions of Chair and Vice Chair, respectively. They will serve one-year terms.
It was also announced that Mark C. Iampietro would retire effective February 2016. Iampietro served for 42 years, having started in the maintenance department, then assuming administrative responsibilities in 1998, initially as administrative officer, then eventually as deputy director.