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Occupy protesters take stand against improvement zone

By Katie Shank, Senior Producer, KShank@wfmz.com
Published On: Feb 16 2012 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 17 2012 05:49:06 PM CST

Members of the "Occupy Allentown" movement are saying "no" to the NIZ.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Members of the "Occupy Allentown" movement are saying "no" to the NIZ.

Demonstrators gathered Friday outside Pa. Sen. Pat Browne's office at 7th and Hamilton streets in Allentown to protest the neighborhood improvement zone, also called the NIZ.

It's a 125 acre zone that focuses mainly on the area surrounding the new hockey arena.

Tax money generated from businesses inside the NIZ will go toward funding redevelopment and revitalization projects within the zone, like the arena, but demonstrators said other tax-dollar supported institutions like public schools are being shortchanged by the NIZ.

"It really appears to just be a way in which money is funneled from the taxpayers into private development corporations," said Elijah Lopinto, Occupy Allentown.

Leaders from local municipalities were supposed to meet with Browne Friday to discuss the neighborhood improvement zone, but that meeting was rescheduled.

Browne's office released a statement on Friday's protest, saying the NIZ will compliment funding for public schools and provide economic opportunities for thousands of workers in the Lehigh Valley.