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'Reckless Nonsense': LVJI Criticizes Proposed Cost Increases for Easton Boys & Girls Club | WDIY Local News

Boys & Girls Club of Easton

A local justice advocacy organization is calling for a stop to efforts that would raise costs for the Easton Boys & Girls Club.

Joseph Welsh, Executive Director of the Lehigh Valley Justice Institute, sent a letter to the Easton Housing Authority’s board of commissioners on Monday.

He wrote that the LVJI was expressing its concern about “recent, unprecedented issues arising between the Housing Authority and the Easton Boys & Girls Club.”

According to The Express Times, in June the Housing Authority’s Executive Director Tyler Martin proposed a renegotiated rent rate for the club of $192,000 a year, up from the current $1.

The club leases its building from the Easton Housing Authority, and Martin said the new proposed rate was based on the commercial market rate of the facility’s value per square foot.

However, the proposal received much backlash. The club’s Executive Director Dean Young said it was unaffordable, and Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said it could force the club’s closure.

The Express Times also reported that Martin recently proposed a new compromise to keep the rent at $1 a year, but have the club pay for maintenance and upkeep, but Young said the cost could affect programming.

In his letter, Welsh called for the immediate halt to what he deemed the “harassment” of the club, and said raising costs was “unimaginable, unconscionable, and unEastonian.”

It has often been said that the power to tax is the power to destroy,” he wrote, and referred to his own position as the executive director of the nonprofit LVJI.

“I can assure you that the types of numbers which have been recklessly thrown around, in derogation of a half century commitment, would mortally jeopardize the continued viability of this shining star of our community.”

Welsh said the Easton Boys & Girls Club has provided programming and a supportive environment to local youth, particularly youth of color, for nearly a half-century.

He noted that these programs can help keep vulnerable youth out of the “School to Prison Pipeline” by giving them positive role models and other assistance.

“The entire nation is headed in the direction of supporting youth programming to end the cycles of violence and incarceration in so many of our communities,” he wrote.

“Unfortunately, the administration of this Authority seems to be trying to move Easton in the opposite direction.”

The letter concluded by saying that the LVJI stands “in solidarity” with Panto, Councilman Ken Brown, apparent Councilman-elect Frank Pintabone and others who supported the club, and implored the authority to end “this reckless nonsense.”

The Easton Boys & Girls Club was incorporated in 1974, and its programs range from computer access and after-school tutoring to summer enrichment, sports and fitness, and art.

The Easton Housing Authority provides affordable housing, and oversees the city’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.

(Original air-date: 8/23/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.