SSI Committee for Responsible South Side Development

This committee engages community members in activities intended to ensure responsible social and economic development in South Bethlehem. Presently the committee is working with South Side residents to generate a “Western Gateway Plan” for the area of South Bethlehem that lies just north and west of Lehigh University.


Olga Negron 
She has been a member of several organizations in the Lehigh Valley and through Pennsylvania. Some of her involvements include: Member of Community Revitalization and Crime Prevention Advisory Committee-Appointed by former Governor Randell, Member of Pennsylvania Statewide Latino Coalition, Member of Bethlehem Rotary, Board Member for Latino Leadership Alliance of the Lehigh Valley, Vice-Chair of the Bethlehem Planning Commission-Appointed by former Mayor Callahan, former Vice President for Bethlehem Area Public Library-Appointed by Bethlehem City Council and President of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley board, Member of Southside Vision 2014. Olga has been the recipient of many awards, some of which include: Legendary Locals of Bethlehem-Book by Karen M. Samuels, named Lehigh Valley Woman by Lehigh Valley Magazine, named Hispanic Pride (Orgullo Hispano) by Univision TV, Latino Leadership Award by Lehigh Valley Latino Magazine, named twice a Personaje Ñ (Who is Who) by WFMZ, named Coordinator of the Year by Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, Allentown Human Relations Award recipient, Caring for the Community Award and Bright Star Award by Community Services for Children, Presidential Award for Academic Excellence, Community Involvement by Austin Community College and Mayor Ed Pawlowski Latino Leadership Award for Government Services. Her work history includes working as a community organizer, executive director of non-profit organizations and for the Pennsylvania House of Representative as the Legislative Assistant for Representative Steve Samuelson. She is now the Adult Services Technician for BAPL. Olga Negrón moved to southside Bethlehem with her three daughters, Corazon (now a grad student at UPENN Medicine), Isis (now a grad student at UCONN Law) and Paloma (graduated from Trinity College), 16 years ago where she still owns her home.
Javier Toro 
He was born and raised in Puerto Rico and has a B.A. in History and Political Science from "Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico" (Interamerican University of Puerto Rico). As a resident of Bethlehem for twenty years, he is passionate about community, social and economic development and is an avid cultural promoter. Currently he is Director of the OnTrack Program at Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, and he formerly served as Executive Director of the South Bethlehem Neighborhood Center, President of the South Bethlehem Historical Society, Member of the PUC Consumer Advisory Council. In 2008 Mr. Toro was recipient of Lehigh University's Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, for Dedication, and Commitment in Service, and in Spring of 2009 he was Co-instructor with Prof. Edward Morgan of undergraduate course Organizing in Democracy, at Lehigh University. He is trained and certified as Community Organizer by the People Improving Communities through Organizing (PICO) and Congregations United for Neighborhood Action (CUNA).
Samuel Nazario 
He was raised in South Bethlehem. He graduated from Liberty High School and took courses at Northampton Community College. He currently works in Business Management. He has dedicated a lot of his free time to helping the community though volunteer work with the kids, fundraising for poor families, and advocating for greater minority outreach between the community & school district. He is also a member of the trustees for his church, Fritz Memorial United Methodist Church in South Bethlehem. 
Kim Carrell Smith 
She is a resident of South Bethlehem, the Director of Lehigh University’s Community Fellows Graduate Program, and is a Professor of Practice in Public History, specializing in community-engaged history. She enjoys introducing Lehigh students, faculty and staff to the vibrant, multicultural Southside through community walking tours and ethnic restaurant adventures. In 2008 she received Lehigh's first faculty Martin Luther King, Jr. Award for Dedication and Commitment to Service for her work in founding Lehigh Moveout and the Great Southside Sale, as well as for her efforts to develop the Community Schools model in the Lehigh Valley. She has served on several local historical boards and co-chairs the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley's Education Council. She received her MA in history from the University of Delaware/Hagley Program and a PhD from the University of Delaware/Winterthur Program in the History of American Civilization, and has diverse experience in public history, ranging from very small historical societies to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.
Peter Crownfield 
He is a founding member of the Alliance for Sustainable Communities and  is active on a number of community, environmental, social justice, and human rights issues in South Bethlehem and the broader Lehigh Valley. Peter served as a community partner with sociology professor Judy Lasker, assisting with environmental health studies as part of their research methods course. In his capacity as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley, Peter developed the first campus sustainability internships at Lehigh and other campuses in the LV.  More recently, he worked with a series of interns to promote awareness and action of climate, food,&  health issues, including sustainable campus dining and the Bethlehem Area School District’s Climate and Sustainability Commitment. Peter's diverse experience also includes several years working with a Plainfield NJ organization developing a bottom-up community assessment and developing ways to respond to the challenges of growing up in a high-crime city neighborhood.
Karen Beck Pooley (SPIG Director & Chair of Western Gateway Plan)
Karen is a Senior Associate at czb LLC and a Professor of Practice at Lehigh University.  She was previously the Executive Director of the Allentown (PA) Redevelopment Authority and a Deputy Director with New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. She has a Ph.D. in City Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.  Both her research and professional work focus on neighborhood revitalization strategies and the evolution of federal, state and local housing policy. 
Michael Decosta
Michael was born and raised in Bethlehem.He attended Lehigh University in South Bethlehem, receiving a BA in sociology and economics and an MA in sociology. In 2015, he received the Vice Provost Award for Service for his advocacy for equitable development and public art in the community. He has experience working in the fields of urban planning and community development as well as in the non-profit sector.
Breena Holland
She is currently the Director of Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative. As an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative, she teaches courses on environmental politics and policy and has recently published a book that addresses environmental inequity in federal-level domestic environment policy. Breena is passionate about local environmental issues and is active in many local environmental projects and debates. Presently she is working on local projects related to food security, air quality, and community-based public health.