Blight Poses Challenges For Distressed Cities

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton is a city of 76,000 people with a housing stock largely built before 1940 for a population almost twice that number.

It has the blight to prove it.

As the financially strapped city struggles to combat blight and the host of ills it fosters, Scranton finds itself in a position common among many Rust Belt communities: many old buildings, too few people willing or able to keep them up and limited resources to press aggressively for a comprehensive solution.

The region’s other two major cities, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton, are dealing with similar issues, though their circumstances don’t precisely mirror Scranton’s.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/blight-poses-challenges-for-distressed-cities-1.1744585

Business, Workers Flee Electric City Taxes

picture-0571A decade ago when real estate up-and-comer Charles Hibble looked for a headquarters for his business, Scranton was a natural choice.

He invested $1.2 million converting an aging building on Penn Avenue into modern offices and apartments. Mr. Hibble accepted real estate tax and parking cost increases and the mercantile tax as costs of doing business. When city leaders began talking about a commuter tax in 2012, the owner of Weichert Realty Hibble & Associates reached his breaking point and moved out.

“I was getting pressure from my employees, who could work from anywhere — their homes or cars,” he said. “They didn’t want to pay another tax.”

Mr. Hibble’s move prefaced an employer exodus from the city. After being kicked around and eventually shot down in court, the commuter tax came back in the proposal of consultant Henry Amoroso, who cited a state law that allows municipalities to impose a commuter tax to bolster distressed pension funds. Scranton City Council swiftly approved the local income tax on commuters, which would cost employees earning $50,000 as much as $375 a year. Combined with a proposed increase in the emergency service tax – yet another withdrawal from the wages of commuters — the cost of having a job in the city has mounted.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/business/business-workers-flee-electric-city-taxes-1.1733479

Lackawanna College To Convert Downtown Office Complex Into Clinic, Classrooms, Cafeteria

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a property acquisition that will change Lackawanna College and bring life to a long-languishing downtown anchor, one of the city’s largest office complexes, Adams Plaza, will become classrooms, a clinic and a cafeteria.

Officials expect to buy the deeply discounted, 110,000-square-foot, two-building complex, more recently known as the Scranton Center, in mid-August. The college has ambitious, evolving plans to renovate the inside of the buildings into classroom and office space, a campus cafeteria and a community health center, making the property at Adams Avenue and Mulberry Street a town-and-gown nexus.

Just steps away from the campus and visible from his office, Adams Plaza would be difficult for Lackawanna College President Mark Volk to ignore, even as he resolved after his 2012 appointment to eschew debt.

“We weren’t looking for another building,” he said. “But considering where the college is going and how we can better serve the community, we started to think it would be great if we could get it.”

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/business/lackawanna-college-to-convert-downtown-office-complex-into-clinic-classrooms-cafeteria-1.1724063

Study: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Area Is Tops … At Being Unhappy

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SCRANTON, PA — Feeling a little down in the dumps?

Chances are you are not alone, according to a new study.

According to the analysis, co-authored by Joshua Gottlieb of the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver School of Economics, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton region is the least happiest place in the United States.

Local psychologist Robert Griffin says there no need for a region-wide prescription for anti-depressants.

Read more:  http://timesleader.com/news/home_top-local-news/50014789/Study:-Area-is-tops–at-being-unhappy

Wiz Khalifa Taking Under The Influence Tour To Camden / Scranton

Editor’s note:  Don’t necessarily agree with some of his activities but it’s cool to see somebody from Pittsburgh love their hometown and be proud of it.  

Summer is Wiz Khalifa time. His tune “Shell Shocked” is on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sound track. His new album, Blacc Hollywood, drops in August. And the rapper will take his third Under the Influence of Music summer tour through Scranton on Thursday and to Camden on Friday.

“I always wanted to make Under the Influence something to talk about,” says Khalifa, “not just the day after the show, but the rest of your life.”

He’s a Pittsburgh native. His 2010 hit “Black and Yellow” was a pledge of allegiance to the Steelers. “Eagles, Steelers,” he says. “You know there’s no competition. You already know about that.” But there is a Philly connection: his wife, South Philadelphia-raised Amber Rose. “My Philly girl,” he calls her. He and the model married in 2013 after their son, Sebastian, was born, and they settled in Canonsburg, near Pittsburgh.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20140724_Wiz_Khalifa_taking_Under_the_Influence_tour_to_Scranton_and_Camden.html#sQPxiIK8oCy2WyV3.99

Arby’s Closings Leave Employees Jobless

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ashley Douglas was depending on her next paycheck from her job at Arby’s to catch up with her rent.

But the single mother of three children will have to find another way to pay her bills. Douglas, 29, of Wilkes-Barre, who worked at the Wyoming Valley Mall Arby’s, was among dozens of employees at six Arby’s restaurants in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania who lost their jobs when the businesses closed on Friday.

That was the same day the franchise owner’s Chapter 7 liquidation was approved in federal court.

“That was the only job I was working at for right now,” said Douglas, who is separated and raising her children, ages 7, 4 and 3. “I’m depending on that. I’m trying to find something else. I still owe my landlord the rest of the rent for this month … If I don’t get something to pay for my rent, I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news/302844/Arbys-closings-leave-employees-jobless

Massive Scranton Bust Highlights Flow Of The Heroin Pipeline

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Given a little more time, Dakeem Booker might have turned 2.6 ounces of heroin into $50,000.

The Lackawanna County Drug Task Force had other plans.

Mr. Booker, 28, of Scranton, was arrested last month at his Palm Street home and charged as a drug dealer. County detectives and members of the state parole office raided his home after a tip, detectives said. They found a digital scale, a revolver and countless wax sleeves stamped “Magoo,” a brand of heroin.

Scranton police have charged 713 people for dealing either heroin or cocaine since 2009, according to uniform crime reporting statistics.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/massive-bust-highlights-flow-of-the-heroin-pipeline-1.1722278

Boscov: Mall Price At Sheriff’s Sale Probably Too High

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Department store owner Al Boscov is unlikely to bid when the Mall at Steamtown goes on the block at a sheriff’s sale next week, saying he anticipates the asking price will be too high.

The businessman has been unable to strike a deal with LNR Partners, the real estate company representing the mortgage holder, to acquire the mall but hopes to renew negotiations if the lender finds no takers for the property at the sale Tuesday, he and his lawyer said.

“At that point, it would be just as if we were buying a property in a private sales transaction,” said attorney Scott M. Esterbrook. “The (sheriff’s) sale is not the be-all, end-all. It’s one step in the process, and where we’re at today is we just haven’t reached an agreement yet.”

The mall entered foreclosure March 7 after owner Steamtown Mall Partners defaulted on a principal balance payment of $37.1 million due last July on its 2003 mortgage, setting up the sheriff’s sale. Mr. Boscov is a principal in Steamtown Mall Partners.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/boscov-mall-price-at-sheriff-s-sale-probably-too-high-1.1718214

Northeastern Pa. Jobless Rate Falls

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA – Following a recent pattern, the unemployment rate in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market fell in May, but so did the number of people with jobs.

The 7.2 percent rate was down one-tenth of 1 percent from April and 1.9 percentage points from the May 2013 rate of 9.1 percent, the state Department of Labor and Industry said. But the region that includes Luzerne, Lackawanna and Wyoming counties maintained the unenviable distinction of having the highest jobless rate in Pennsylvania.

Both the size of the labor force – people working or looking for work – and the number of people with jobs fell compared to April and over the year. So, while 6,100 fewer people were reported as unemployed than last May, some of them may have given up looking for work.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/business/1509561/Northeastern-Pa.-jobless-rate-falls

La Festa to Renovate Electric City Sign

picture-0571One of downtown Scranton’s largest events is coming to the rescue of one of its most iconic landmarks.

La Festa Italiana of Lackawanna County will contribute up to $10,000 to renovate the Electric City sign overlooking Courthouse Square before the annual Labor Day weekend celebration of Italian culture and cuisine.

Chris DiMattio, La Festa president and chairman, said the organization looks for community projects it can take on and thought the Electric City sign would be a natural.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/la-festa-to-renovate-electric-city-sign-1.1712363

Local Services Tax Could Triple Under Act 47 Plan

HARRISBURG — People who work in Scranton and other distressed municipalities could see a $52 annual tax triple under a new Senate amendment.

Lawmakers want to steer Act 47 municipalities to levy a higher local services tax as an alternative to a commuter tax.

The distressed cities legislation cleared a first Senate hurdle Wednesday with a comprehensive amendment added by the Local Government Committee.

The committee’s action is the latest step in an effort to overhaul the Act 47 program for fiscally distressed municipalities. Scranton, Nanticoke, West Hazleton and Plymouth Twp. have Act 47 status. Shamokin is seeking to enter the program.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/tax-could-triple-under-act-47-plan-1.1705643

Scranton OKs Surveillance Camera Network

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scranton City Council on Thursday unanimously approved having the city create a community video-camera surveillance network at police headquarters.

Council voted 5-0, with President Bob McGoff and Councilmen Joe Wechsler, Pat Rogan, Jack Loscombe and Bill Gaughan all in favor, to adopt a resolution to apply for and execute a $146,390 grant for a “community surveillance network system” at the police station on South Washington Avenue.

Council also unanimously advanced on second reading an ordinance to create an account to process the grant.

The surveillance network would allow private surveillance cameras in the city, such as those at banks, businesses or colleges, to link to the police station. There, a wall of 32 video monitors will show live feeds from privately owned and operated surveillance cameras that already exist in public areas.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/scranton-oks-camera-network-1.1695262

Enhanced by Zemanta

Scranton Police Arrest 16-Year-Old In Cabbie’s Murder

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As Aazis Richardson walked out of the makeshift courtroom at Scranton Police Headquarters to the holding cell, he gave a simple explanation for shooting a McCarthy Flowered Cab driver twice in the back of the head early Friday morning.

“That’s what I do to people that don’t listen.”

Just hours after Vincent Darbenzio was murdered in his driver’s seat, police found the 16-year-old hiding in an attic at 1009-1011 Washburn St. with suspected blood on his pants and arrested him.

Richardson, 1011 Washburn St., Scranton, was charged with first-, second- and third-degree murder, robbery and related counts. He was sent to Lackawanna County Prison without bail. His preliminary hearing is set for May 30.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/scranton-police-arrest-16-year-old-in-cabbie-s-murder-1.1691773

Enhanced by Zemanta

Coroner: Shooting Death Of Scanton Cab Driver Ruled A Homicide

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

SCRANTON, PA — The shooting death of a McCarthy cab driver has been ruled a homicide, Lackawanna County Coroner Tim Rowland said.

Vincent Darbenzio, 47, of Scranton, died from multiple gunshot wounds to his head, Mr. Rowland said. Scranton police and the Lackawanna County District Attorney offices are conducting the homicide investigation.

Mr. Darbenzio was dead inside his cab early this morning, said Brian McCarthy, owner of McCarthy Flowered Cabs. Mr. Darbenzio, 47, was dispatched early this morning to Washburn Street to pick up an individual and drop him or her off at Valley View Terrace.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/coroner-shooting-death-of-scanton-cab-driver-ruled-a-homicide-1.1691340

Enhanced by Zemanta

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Region’s Health Checkup Results Less Than Stellar

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Northeastern Pennsylvania should be concerned about its health.

Luzerne and Lackawanna counties possess a “hard-living” population that is predominantly overweight, smokes and drinks too much, has easy access to illegal drugs, has a rising increase in mental-health issues and is living in poverty, according to data released Tuesday at the Community Health Needs Assessment forum sponsored by Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center.

Teri Ooms, executive director at the Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development in Wilkes-Barre, gave a presentation to about 6o people representing various agencies and health care facilities that showed the area’s needs and offered recommendations to improve health care, increase services and retain patients who seek care outside the area.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1358272/Regions-health-checkup-results-less-than-stellar

Enhanced by Zemanta

Steamtown Mall Goes To Sheriff’s Sale June 10 With $43.7M Asking Price

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lackawanna County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The asking price for the foreclosed downtown shopping center will be $43.7 million, according to a list released Monday by the Lackawanna County sheriff’s office.

The sale begins at 10 a.m. in the first-floor jury lounge at the Lackawanna County Courthouse, said Robert Moore, a deputy sheriff. Although the mall is the first item on the list, the auction will follow bidding for other properties held over from earlier sales, the deputy said.

Mall principal Al Boscov continues to put together financing to try to make the acquisition, said Scott Esterbrook, a Philadelphia lawyer who represents the department store magnate in the foreclosure.

“Albert is still working on a lot of details relating to the foreclosure sale,” Mr. Esterbrook said. “He is trying to raise the capital to pull it off.

Read more: http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/steamtown-mall-goes-to-sheriff-s-sale-june-10-with-43-7m-asking-price-1.1676862

Enhanced by Zemanta

$300M Being Pumped Into I-81Between Wilkes-Barre And Scranton

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christopher Santizo faces a challenge every time he drives to class at Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke.

The 29-year-old graphic design and advertising student who commutes from Duryea, said construction on Interstate 81 routinely has made it difficult to get to class on time.

“I’ve been everywhere from stopped to 45 miles per hour,” he said.

He is among an estimated 70,000 drivers who traverse a half-dozen Pennsylvania Department of Transportation construction projects totaling more than $100 million between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Upon completion of those projects, PennDOT will begin widening the highway near Scranton to the tune of $174 million — ensuring years of additional construction zones.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1333853/Endless-I-81-construction-tests-drivers-patience

Enhanced by Zemanta

Study Showing Area’s Shaky Economy No Surprise

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Frank Nemeth, of Wilkes-Barre, doesn’t need a study to tell him the region is in rough shape.

Nemeth works at the Main Street Trading Post, a pawn shop south of Public Square, and he said his job has exposed him to the harsh realities of the city’s economy.

“I don’t see any recovery happening,” he said.

Instead, Nemeth said he sees some of the same people everyday — sometimes two or three times — trying to sell their belongings to afford necessities like food and gas.

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/news/1334175/Study-showing-areas-shaky-economy-no-surprise

Enhanced by Zemanta

Forbes Magazine Ranks Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 8th Best Place To Raise A Family

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — Diamond City Partnership Executive Director Larry Newman said Friday he wishes he could be more enthusiastic about the Forbes Magazine ranking that put the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metropolitan area as the eighth best place in the U.S. to raise a family.

“It’s difficult to get enthusiastic about these types of rankings because they come out a lot,” Newman said. “And they’re becoming increasingly more frequent. But don’t get me wrong, I’m glad that we’re being recognized in a positive way.”

The Forbes list had this to say about the region:

“One of the lowest median family incomes ($42,000) among U.S. metro areas, but crime is low, commutes are short and housing is affordable (87 percent of area homes are affordable at the median income level).

Read more: http://timesleader.com/news/local-news-news/1337182/Region-gets-high-praise-from-Forbes

Enhanced by Zemanta

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Last In Beating Recession

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro...

Locator map of the Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metropolitan Statistical Area in the northeastern part of the of . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the race to climb out of recession, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre metropolitan area is dead last among the 100 largest urban areas nationwide.

That is the finding in a recent “Metro Monitor” study by The Brookings Institution that tracked the economic performance of 100 metropolitan areas on four indicators: jobs, unemployment, output (gross product) and house prices. The analysis focused on the change of the indicators during three time periods: the recession, recovery and a combination of both.

During the recovery period, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre ranked 100, or last, trailing Little Rock, Ark., (99) and Greater Hartford, Conn. (98).

“In terms of recovery, it has been pretty slow” for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, said Siddharth Kulkarni, a research assistant in Brooking’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

Read more: http://citizensvoice.com/news/scranton-w-b-last-in-beating-recession-1.1667766

Enhanced by Zemanta