Charlie Versaggi

Birthday Wanderings…with a little help from my friends

Today was my birthday; for the past week I have been enjoying the passing of another year. Combined with a concentration of friends, family and memories, it has all made me a bit nostalgic. With my Irish ancestry this state of mind should call for a bender, but since I don’t drink, at least to that degree, I’ll share my “sober” reflections instead.

The nice thing about having a blog is it’s kind of like talking to yourself only better. You can have complete conversations, discuss important issues, and never lose an argument unless someone who disagrees with you posts a comment. You also get to ramble on about whatever is on your mind like I’m doing now…

I’ve always loved birthdays: Mine and my friends’. It’s the only day all year that’s about you…no Santa Claus, Easter bunny, candy-filled hearts or parades. It’s a celebration of one’s life; what that life has meant and who it has touched.

Sangria at PacificoThat’s why the love and fun and thoughtfulness of my family and friends these past few days has meant so much. They made me feel special, and what human being doesn’t need that?

My dear friend Charlie Versaggi took me to a fabulous al fresco lunch at one of my favorite places, Pacifico. We ate a tub of guacamole and drank, (I judiciously sipped), the best white sangria I’ve ever tasted.

And in an act of great unselfishness, Charlie then accompanied me to the strawberry festival at my childhood church, Church paintingSt. Peter’s Tohickon Church, out in the boonies of Upper Bucks County. It’s a real  beauty; almost two centuries old, built of fieldstone with rare stained glass windows.    

It was a true homecoming filled with names that were familiar connected to faces that no longer were, and so many memories that they tripped over each other rushing past my lips.

As we sat under the maple trees eating ice cream and strawberries, listening to the soothing Jim Steager playsmusic of Jim Steager, the church’s pastor, Rev. Steven Hamilton, sat beside us to talk of the area’s history, he even showed a genuine interest in all the “I walked three miles to school in the snow” stories.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was seeing Elwood Clymer. Now 93, Elwood and his family used to own the local mill, a real mill beside a creek, that ground flour and grain, where I bought feed and hay for my horse. He and his daughter, Brenda Elwood Clymer & daughterChernikovich, were in charge of the shortcake so we only reminisced for a short time, but it was so good to see him again.

As we were leaving, I paid my respects to my parents and my daughter whose final resting place is in the cemetery there.

The next day, my friends Eileen Stewart and Nancy Tulli, celebrated our mutual June birthdays by taking in the Wine & Food Festival at the Sands which was a benefit for the Northampton Community College Foundation. It was the first year for the event but I hope it won’t be the last…it was fabulous !! Many of the area’s top restaurants were there as were wine purveyors from around the world. Everything was delicious and it was very well organized.

One of the best parts of having a summer birthday is the family picnic and joint birthday party with my grandson, Connor, who was born within two days of my birthday so that we always get to celebrate together. The weather was perfect, the air filled with stories and laughter, and the cake was delicious. My wonderful husband surprised me, really surprised me, with something I’ve been wanting for a long time: A top of the line hi-def flat screen television for the bedroom, where I “nest” when I need to decompress. It has a beautiful picture with gorgeous color and I can now get all the movie channels. I’m enjoying it so much.

Now the birthday cavalcade is coming to a close; the mantel is filled with cards, my Facebook page is filled with good wishes, and my heart is filled with gratitude for all the love and friendship that this birthday has brought me. I am truly blessed. 

Voices in the Wilderness

Blogger’s Note: The primary purpose of the following post was to highlight the email message that Charlie Versaggi distributed yesterday to city council and the city administration, continuing to point out the issues with council’s approval of the funding for the proposed 7th St low income housing project. The point being that council’s approval is not the end of the objections to the lack of vision being shown regarding Allentown’s future.

The main point of discussion has been waylaid by the detail of council’s vote relating to the funding. Jarrett Renshaw of the Morning Call and Councilman Michael Donovan have both weighed in this morning with clarifications of council’s vote on this project. Jarrett to say that yesterday’s story was not as clear as it could have been and Michael to post a written explanation in the comments to this post. I thank both of them for their consideration.

The main premise of this post remains: I encourage you to scroll down and read Charlie Versaggi’s well reasoned message to the city’s leadership.


It was discouraging to open today’s Morning Call and read that Allentown City Council had done the exact opposite of what I suspect most tax-paying citizens wanted them to do: Council, by a 5-1 vote Wednesday, The final vote was actually 6-0 by which City Council agreed to use $433,333 in federal funds to support a proposed project that will build low to moderate income apartment units at 22. N. Seventh St., site of the former Corporate Plaza.

I am simply at a loss to understand how council could justify this vote. Looking over the larger picture of the city’s current condition and the ripple effect of such a decision on everything from the potential need for increased security to the increased demand on the school system, it boggles the mind that people elected to look out for the overall good of ALL Allentown’s citizens, would allow this project to go forward. Surely there are better, more productive uses for that money.

In an attempt to try to reason with council, a respected member of the community spoke out. Charlie Versaggi, a former Air Products exec and former member of the Allentown School Board, was quoted in an article on Wednesday, May 5, urging that the focus be placed “exclusively on adding middle- to upper-income housing for the next 10 years to achieve a healthy housing stock mix”.

Council approved the plan at Wednesday night’s meeting, and Charlie Versaggi has again spoken out. Addressing city council and the city administration in an email which he has shared with this blog, his message follows reproduced exactly as I received it. Thank you, Charlie, for continuing to be a voice in the wilderness that has become public policy in Allentown.


To: ‘’; ‘’; ‘’; ‘’; ‘’; ‘’; ‘’
Cc: ‘’; ‘’; ‘’; Ed Pawlowski (
Subject: "Affordable Housing"

I just got back into town and read that Council is supporting the Lancaster HDC’s proposal for the 7th Street project.  In spite of my telephone conversation with the Mayor Tuesday evening, I’m still not on board with this.  My concern is that we’re adding to the number of low-income housing units when we should be doing exactly the opposite. What we should be doing is setting a target of a maximum number of low-income families in the City (let’s use 25-30%) as a starting point and produce a plan that gets us down to that number.  I told the Mayor that the City needs to take a minimum of 200 slum units off the street –the City, AEDC or another City agency can acquire them and bulldoze them.

I don’t believe anyone should live in a slum, and I don’t believe this City should tolerate slums (and we aren’t). But it is not healthy or sustainable for a City and School District to support the  70+% level of poverty in its school system. And it’s not like we only have a 2% unemployment rate either – it’s closer to 10% – so that even if we provide additional housing, there’s still no work for these folks.

Please let me re-iterate, I’m not anti-poor… but we cannot have a healthy City at the current levels of poverty. We are doing the poor in this City a disservice by putting the City into a poverty hole that neither the City or its citizens can dig-out of.

I’ve attached my February e-mail to your for reference and below are comments I posted to the Morning Call story on Council’s decision.

To add insult to injury, assuming this project will be owned by a non-profit, not only will your and my federal and state tax dollars help to fund this, but it will be off the City’s and School District’s tax rolls too!!!
As I told the Mayor Tuesday night, for starters, I want to see 200 deeds of scum landlords acquired by the city and those properties bulldozed – without that scale (larger actually) of slum housing razed, these "affordable" projects only net-increase the poverty level in the City. If you can’t afford to live here, go somewhere else!
Charlie Versaggi.

versagcj (05/06/2010, 4:22 PM )

In addition to taking a minimum of 200 slum units off the city’s roster, I suggest we require the Lancaster HDC to make this property a true “mixed income” property and contractually agree to the following housing mix for the first 10 years of operation: 34% Low Income, 33% Middle and 33% Higher Income. That would be good for the City. If those conditions prevent the Lancaster HDC from qualifying for the use of my tax money to build the project – tough.

Best regards,


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