Citizens of Bethlehem, and those who love the city and want to preserve it:
Developer Abe Atiyeh has proposed building a series of drug rehab centers, juvenile detention centers, and prison work release facilities all within the confines of Bethlehem which taken together, have the potential to make him rich at the expense of the integrity of our neighborhoods, our safety, our property values, and our community.
Atiyeh's vision for the city of Bethlehem is to use Bethlehem as his host town for his privately owned drug rehab, mental illness, and prison-related centers for treating social disorders. Once operational, he has the potential to transform Bethlehem to an available resource for New York, Philadelphia, Reading, and other localities to outsource their social, urban, drug and, crime problems into our town. Atiyeh plans to get rich doing this, but is this our vision for Bethlehem? Do we have a say in this? What about our kids, don't they deserve to grow up in safe neighborhoods?
On this Monday, April 30, in Bethlehem’s Town Hall, the round building located by the library at City Hall, Bethlehem’s Zoning Board will hear two proposals for drug rehabilitation centers presented by Atiyeh’s attorney, Blake Marles:
- 2110 Center Street: 28 beds, on the corner of Center and Dewberry located in a colonial home located adjacent to the former Calvary Baptist Church in which he was recently unanimously denied an application for a 170 bed treatment center. He moved the application 50 yards west with no change to the fundamentals of the proposal that was just rejected by Bethlehem’s zoning.
- 2349 Linden Street: 47 beds at the former Moose & Bug Flower shop, very close to . Drug rehab near an elementary school!
In addition, the developer has submitted plans for:
- 238 W. Goepp Street: 100 beds at what is presently the Silk Mill apartments, not far from . There was also discussion of a work release program located here.
- Privately owned – which he gained approval for upon judicial appeal but has currently lost his customer.
- A Psychiatric and Mental Hospital on Center Street across from Calvary Baptist and . Do we want Abe Atyeh constructing a four building mental hospital complex in Bethlehem?
- Juvenile delinquent detention center on Linden St., Bethlehem.
And there will be more equally unsatisfactory proposals in the future, you can count on it. Obviously, the developer thinks he has found a way to make crime pay – and we will be the losers for it.
Attorney Marles arrogantly minimizes and dismisses all concerns about safety and public welfare. However, drug use is not new in America, nor does any local usage justify the large increase in facilities, many of which presently exist.
Granted, there is a need for such facilities but there are proper places to locate them and to ways operate them. This developer’s proposals meet none of the criteria. After a 40 year war on drugs, we understand that drug use has a high association with crime, theft, violence, family breakdown, and mental illness. We further understand that locating this activity close to Spring Garden Elementary, BeCa, and middle class neighborhoods with adolescents, children, and the elderly is extremely irresponsible and reckless. We realize that this facility will only increase any local drug use creating its own set of problems that we, as taxpayers, are expected to pay for in the form of police, social workers, etc. Crime will rise.
Bethlehem is a historic city. Moravian College traces its roots back to the first girls boarding school in America. President George Washington in his second term personally petitioned the headmaster of Moravian for admission of two of his great nieces.
In addition to its heritage, Bethlehem has many fine residences, quality schools, and safe neighborhoods. We would like to keep it safe and maintain the integrity of its neighborhoods. Don't be fooled or complacent. Atiyeh's initiatives are well thought out, generously funded, and will be financially solvent due to his ability to tap into our tax base once operational. Take the developer and his vision to transform Bethlehem very seriously. Do not be complacent. This is what you can do:
- Please attend the Bethlehem Zoning Board Meeting this Monday, April 30, in the Town Hall, the round building, located by the library at City Hall when Bethlehem’s Zoning Board will hear two proposals for drug rehabilitation centers on Linden and Center. The system is geared toward the success of the developer – unless we show up, he wins and we lose.
- Attend City Council meetings on May 1 to voice your opinion to your elected officials concerning this matter. This developer represents a challenge to our city and our Mayor, the city council, the planning commission. Officials need to be motivated to take an active role in writing specific regulations prohibiting drug rehab in residential areas. They are already debating these rule changes due to public concern. We need to keep the momentum going. The changes need to happen in our local ordinances, and not left to the ZHB hearings which are judicial in nature and not legislative. Crafting appropriate rules removes the ZHB from the discussion. City Council must craft rules such that the ZHB does not have to even hear these cases. We need to buy time for the city to respond by defeating these proposals on Monday and any following hearing.
- Speak with neighbors and friends and ask if they know about this issue. Build greater awareness.
- Do not think that since you live one mile or further away from a site you are safe. This effects Bethlehem as a whole and many more proposals will come once he gets a single example from which to justify additional centers. No-one knows his true plans since they change frequently.
- In addition to attending City Council meetings and zoning meetings, call the Mayor’s office and write letters to the Mayor and City Council and other executives of the City’s governance. Their names are on the City of Bethlehem’s web site as well as the address. Send a paper letter stating your opposition. That truly sends the message that we want and need appropriate rule changes to protect our children and the lifetime investments we have made in our houses, schools, and communities. This is highly effective as shown by current steps to change local ordinances.
- By letter, phone, or conversation, make your opinion on this known to any key person or decision maker within the larger community of Bethlehem and Northampton County. If these key people get the sense that this has gone too far and people won’t accept transforming Bethlehem into New York’s urban dumping ground for the financial benefit of Abe Atiyeh, attitudes will change fast and the developer will find himself facing a very unsupportive local governance.
Please, attend the zoning board meeting this Monday, April 30, at Bethlehem Town Hall to show your visible support against the proposal. When large numbers of residents show up, the decision makers take note. The most effective means of defeating a proposal like this is to show up. It is important to be present on Monday to give City Council the time it needs to finalize the rule changes to protect our city from this form of harassment.
Thank you for your consideration.