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Friday, January 13, 2017

Pittsburgh’s National Day of Action for Immigrant Rights draws a rally for local undocumented immigrant

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 5:39 PM

IMAGE COURTESY OF UNITED WE DREAM
  • Image courtesy of United We Dream
On Jan. 14, immigrant-rights groups will be gathering in their respective cities across the country to protest President-elect Donald Trump and his campaign promises to carry out mass deportations. Demonstrations are planned in at least 20 states as part of national immigrant-rights group United We Dream’s #HereToStay campaign.

In Pittsburgh, ralliers will gather in Beechview to protest not only Trump’s campaign promises and the practices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, but also the in-process deportation of one of the city’s undocumented immigrants, Martín Esquivel-Hernandez.

“Tomorrow people are going to stand with immigrants and refugees and stand with Martín Esquivel-Hernandez,” says Christina Castillo of the advocacy group the Thomas Merton Center. “Because he was a community leader and father, and this is the time to tell ICE that Martin belongs here in Pittsburgh.”

Esquivel-Hernandez is currently in ICE custody in the Seneca County Jail in Northwest Ohio. ICE officials told City Paper last week that they intend to deport him, even though he accepted a plea deal to lower his felony re-entry charge to a misdemeanor, had no prior criminal record other than minor traffic violations, has a young family (including a U.S. citizen son), and has been an advocate for Pittsburgh’s Latino community.

Castillo says she expects more than 100 protesters to join in and they will recreate the last immigrant-rights march that Esquivel-Hernandez took before he was detained by ICE in May 2016. They will stop the march the last place he was photographed, because “we can't continue this march without Martín,” says Castillo. “We will only march a short distance in the hopes that he will be able to rejoin us the next time.”

For those interested in attending, the rally will start at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 14 at St. Catherine of Siena Church at 1810 Belasco Ave. in Beechview. Castillo says for those unable to attend, they can do their part by calling the office Detroit ICE Field Office Director Rebecca Adducci at 313-568-6036 and request she practice “prosecutorial discretion” and release Esquivel-Hernandez.

Esquivel-Hernandez’s wife, Alma Brigido, will be speaking in Detroit on Jan. 14 in hopes to be reunited with her husband. ICE has hinted that Esquivel-Hernandez could be deported sometime next week.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Community-led business incubator to launch in Wilkinsburg

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 2:51 PM

IMAGE COURTESY OF NEW SUN RISING
  • Image courtesy of New Sun Rising
While to outsiders Wilkinsburg is mostly known for its problems with crime (most notably the mass shooting that happened there last spring), those who live in the community see many of the positive things happening in the borough. New shops have moved into town over the last couple years and the borough is planning a big restoration of their old train station.

And to capitalize on this momentum, New Sun Rising, an organization specializing in community-based business incubators, is opening a 12-month long business incubator called Launch Wilkinsburg in partnership with the Wilkinsburg Chamber of Commerce. New Sun Rising has had previous success with this model in communities like Pittsburgh’s North Side, as well as Millvale.

“Together, our work will activate the self-identified priorities of community members,” said New Sun Rising director Scott Wolovich in a press release, “while inspiring creativity, fostering innovation, and strengthening networks within Wilkinsburg.”

Launch Wilkinsburg will provide people looking to start businesses in the borough access to experts and consultants, connections to partners, potential funding opportunities all in a physical space. The incubator, to be located at 900 Wood Street,  will also include teams of residents who will guide businesses on how to best impact the community, with an emphasis on improving community engagement, vacant lots, Main Street development, the arts and culture.

“I believe now is a great time to invest in Wilkinsburg,” said Wilkinsburg Chamber of Commerce president Yvonne James in a press release. “As we watch our community revitalize it is exciting to see a new generation of folks ‘reinventing’ our business district while still preserving our beautiful architecture and realize small walkable business districts are the new norm and are anxious to be a part of this great affordable change.”

Interested parties are encouraged to apply to the year-long program before the deadline on Jan. 18 at 11:59 p.m. To submit an application and learn more about the program, please visit the Launch Wilkinsburg website.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Don't forget: Port Authority fare changes start Sun., Jan. 1

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 10:49 AM

Grab your free connect card before 2016 ends. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Grab your free connect card before 2016 ends.
Starting New Year's Day (Sun., Jan. 1, 2017), there will be a slew of changes coming to how riders pay for and ride on Port Authority of Allegheny County buses and light-rail cars. Most riders have probably been reminded hundreds of times by the media, Port Authority advertisements and bus drivers themselves, but Pittsburgh City Paper thought it prudent to offer one final reminder.

Also, Fri., Dec. 30, and Sat., Dec. 31, are the last days to get a free ConnectCard at the Downtown Port Authority Service Center at 534 Smithfield St., participating Giant Eagle grocery stores and a lots of other locations. ConnectCards will cost $1 starting Jan. 1, 2017. And you'll want to have one, because the cash fare is rising from $2.50 to $2.75; ConnectCard users will pay $2.50.

Since the $3.75 Zone 2 fare charge is being scrapped and all fares will be $2.75 or less, the changes should provide a boost to some suburban riders who rely on the bus to get around. And there are also some policy changes that could help riders with disabilities.

All the changes are outlined below:

Fares

  • $2.50 fare throughout whole system if using ConnectCard
  • $2.75 cash fare
  • $1 transfers using ConnectCard only (cash users will have to pay $2.75 again if transferring)
  • $1 fee to purchase new ConnectCards
  • 7-day pass available for purchase
  • Half-fare passes for people with disabilities will be available on ConnectCards, as will reduced-fare child passes eventually.
Riding
  • Pay-as-you-enter on all routes
  • Exit through back door(s) on all routes. (Riders unable to use back door can exit at front.)
  • Elimination of the Downtown free zone for bus rides. (Light-rail will still be free Downtown and to the North Shore.)
  • Suburban light-rail riders will operate on a honor system and will tap cards either in car or on receptacles on stations, starting July 2017.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

UPDATE: Pittsburgh undocumented immigrant accepts plea deal, now in ICE custody

Posted By on Wed, Dec 28, 2016 at 6:05 PM

Advocates for Martin Esquivel-Hernandez outside the Federal Building, Dowtown - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Advocates for Martin Esquivel-Hernandez outside the Federal Building, Dowtown
Updated 11 a.m. 12/29: U.S. Judge Donetta Ambrose of the Western District of Pennsylvania has accepted the plea agreement of Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant and Pittsburgh resident currently facing deportation, which downgrades his charge to misdemeanor illegal possession of an identification document. He was initially charged with felony illegal re-entry, and if convicted of that charge, his deportation would be almost automatic.

In courtroom 3B inside the federal courthouse, Downtown, Esquivel-Hernandez pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 89 days incarceration, which will be considered time-served because he has spent the last eight months in detention, and no fine or supervised release will be imposed. Esquivel-Hernandez's lawyer, Sally Frick, said at the hearing that this misdemeanor charge and sentence of less than 90 days gives him a good chance at avoiding deportation.

"[Esquivel-Hernandez] knows he has immigration consequences upcoming," said Frick to Judge Ambrose. "So it's necessary for him to have only a misdemeanor and less than a 90 day sentence."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Hull, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the U.S. government, agreed not to oppose the recommendation of lessening the charge to a misdemeanor and sentencing Esquivel-Hernandez to less than 90 days. Esquivel-Hernandez pleaded guilty to intentionally using another man's VISA document when he attempted to cross the border in Nogales, Ariz. in December 2011.

Esquivel-Hernandez spoke during the hearing, asking for leniency from Judge Ambrose before she accepted the plea and sentenced him. "I [used an illegal ID] because I needed to be with my family," said a teary-eyed Esquivel-Hernandez in Spanish. "Anyone would do anything, even the impossible, to be with their family."

Ambrose said she accepted the plea and granted a variance to only sentence Esquivel-Hernandez to 89 days because she believed he was telling the truth about his intentions to enter the U.S. and because he has been a positive force in the Pittsburgh community.

"I understand that defrauding the U.S is a serious crime, but I believe its true when [Esquivel-Hernandez] speaks to me, that you are some who is civic minded and loves his family," Ambrose said to Esquivel-Hernandez. "[Esquivel-Hernandez shows] nothing that threatens society in any way. I believe your motives were pure in coming here."

After the sentencing, Esquivel-Hernandez was taken by U.S. Marshals back to the private, for-profit prison in Youngstown, Ohio where he will be handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforce (ICE). ICE will then decide whether to deport Esquivel-Hernandez.

Guillermo Perez, of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, has been advocating for Esquivel-Hernandez and said after the hearing that this was a victory made possible by the seven months of advocacy by labor groups, faith leaders and immigrant and Latino activists. But, he added that now the groups supporting Esquivel-Hernandez must turn their attention to ICE.

Perez said that because of Esquivel-Hernandez's lesser conviction and sentence of less than 90 days, he is not a "priority" for deportation, under ICE's current guidelines. ICE has shown they often ignore these guidelines, but Perez said LCLAA will submit a letter to ICE detailing how Esquivel-Hernandez doesn't fit into any category for deportation and will ask the agency to practice prosecutorial discretion and release Esquivel-Hernandez.

"[President Barack Obama's] administration has said it deports felons, not families," said Perez. "Well, [Esquivel-Hernandez] is not a felon and he has a family."

Alma Brigido, Esquivel-Hernandez's wife, was present in the courtroom during the hearing. Together they have three children, including a U.S. citizen son. Brigido said in Spanish through a translator, that she felt good about the result of the hearing, because "in a way it is good news."

She is still worried about what ICE will do concerning Esquivel-Hernandez, but is not giving up the fight to keep Esquivel-Hernandez in Pittsburgh. "[Keeping Esquivel-Hernandez] here is something we have to fight for," she said.

———

On Thu., Dec. 29, Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant and Pittsburgh resident currently facing deportation, hopes to reach a plea deal reached with Western Pennsylvania District U.S. Attorney Soo Song. It will give him a better chance at avoiding deportation, and potentially return him to his family.

Song contacted Esquivel-Hernandez’s lawyer, Sally Frick, the afternoon of Dec. 28 to notify her that the U.S. Attorney’s office was open to negotiating with Esquivel-Hernandez. According to Antonia Domingo, of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), which has been advocating for Esquivel-Hernandez for months, a deal has been reached that would reduce Esquivel-Hernandez’s felony illegal re-entry charge to a misdemeanor, and keep him off the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) “Priority Deportation” list. The plea deal still must be approved by a judge.

Esquivel-Hernandez has been living in Pittsburgh for more than four years, where he has been an advocate for immigrant rights, better Spanish-language service in public schools, and a devout parishioner at two local churches. In May 2016, he was taken by ICE the day after he marched in an immigrants-rights rally in Beechview. Esquivel-Hernandez had traveled more than 5,000 miles to escape gang violence in Mexico City and reunite with his family, who had immigrated to the U.S. in 2012 before him. He has no criminal record beside two minor traffic violations.

News of his potential plea deal was announced on Dec. 28 at a rally in front of the U.S. Courthouse, Downtown, where more than 80 supporters had gathered to call for his release. A previous plea deal was rejected last month by Esquivel-Hernandez because that new charge would have still been a felony, almost guaranteeing his deportation. Guillermo Perez, of LCLAA, said to the crowd that the new plea was a small victory, and that now the advocates must turn their attention to ICE.

ICE still has a detainer on Esquivel-Hernandez, and because he has been deported before, he is not guaranteed an immigration hearing. Kai Pang, of labor coalition Pittsburgh United, who has also taken up advocating for Martin, said that ICE should release Esquivel-Hernandez and return him to his wife and three children (the youngest is a U.S. citizen). Esquivel-Hernandez has been held at a for-profit, private prison in Youngstown, Ohio for more than seven months.

“What a waste of time and resources to try and deport this man who has helped this community so much,” said Pang at the rally. “This is the kind of person we want in this community.”

Mike Saber, a Swissvale resident, came out to support Esquivel-Hernandez because he wants to “make Pittsburgh a better place” and stand up for people being treated unfairly.

“We need to be an inclusive society,” said Saber at the rally. “Where there is injustice, there really cannot be justice.”

If the plea deal is approved by a judge, Esquivel-Hernandez will most likely be taken into ICE custody and possibly deported. Perez said LCLAA plans to submit a prosecutorial discretion letter to ICE that might convince them to free Esquivel-Hernandez. However, Perez notes that ICE has no obligation to release Esquivel-Hernandez and can deport him regardless.

Pang said at the rally that this is why the community must continue to fight for Esquivel-Hernandez's freedom. “We will be out here fighting until [Esquivel-Hernandez] is brought home.”

Margaret Philbin, of the U.S. Attorney's office, said local rules of the court do not allow the office to comment at this time.

According to Domingo, Esquivel-Hernandez's plea hearing is scheduled at 9:15 a.m. on Thu., Dec. 29 at the U.S. Courthouse, 700 Grant Street, Downtown.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Martin Esquivel-Hernandez could be released tomorrow, Dec. 8

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 3:39 PM

Martin Esquivel-Hernandez (center) at an immigrant-rights rally the day before he was detained. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Martin Esquivel-Hernandez (center) at an immigrant-rights rally the day before he was detained.
The fate of a Pittsburgh undocumented immigrant facing deportation could all come to a head tomorrow, Dec. 8.

Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, originally from Mexico, was detained in May by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and faces possible deportation after his federal sentencing hearing concludes at the federal courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Esquivel-Hernandez’s lawyer has negotiated a plea deal for him, that if accepted, could lower his felony re-entry charge to a misdemeanor. Esquivel-Hernandez was detained this year after attempting to enter the country illegally four times between 2011 and 2012. His family had already immigrated to the U.S. and he was attempting to reunite with them.

Since, he has lived in Pittsburgh with his wife for more than four years, where the couple have three children, including his U.S.-born son, who attend public school. He has also become an advocate for Pittsburgh’s Latino community and is active in two local churches.

If his plea deal is accepted, his advocates are hoping ICE will drop the detainer against Esquivel-Hernandez and he could return home directly after his federal hearing concludes at 1:30 p.m.

However, ICE indicated to Pittsburgh City Paper last month that they will not drop Esquivel-Hernandez’s detainer. For this reason, his advocates are calling for supporters to come together and rally outside of the federal courthouse tomorrow to demand that he not be turned over to ICE.

“Martín should have never been detained in the first place,” said Guillermo Perez, president of the Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), in a press release. “He wasn't a priority for enforcement the day he was taken, and he still isn't a priority under the terms of this plea deal.”

Under the Obama administration, the priorities for deporting undocumented immigrants include being suspected of terrorism plots, involved in gangs,convicted in “aggravated felonies,” and other offenses. Jennifer Williams, Esquivel-Hernandez’s pro-bono immigration attorney says he doesn’t fit into any of the listed priorities.

“If you follow the ICE guidelines, [Esquivel-Hernandez] should not be a priority for removal,” says Williams.

So why was he detained? In April, Esquivel-Hernandez was cited for driving without a valid license by Mount Lebanon police, who then contacted ICE, who felt compelled to detain him because of his multiple re-entries. Also, stats from Syracuse University show that ICE officials consistently ignore the priority guidelines.

If ICE doesn’t drop Esquivel-Hernandez’s detainer, Williams says he could be thrown into the deportation process almost instantly and they will only keep him in custody “long enough to facilitate his removal.” Williams details that this could take a matter of weeks with Esquivel-Hernandez being shipped from detention center to detention center with little notice to his family and representation.

According to Williams, because Esquivel-Hernandez previously received an immigration hearing when he was caught at the border (an extremely expedited process where it’s normal to have 60 to 100 cases prosecuted in one day, according to Carlos Garcia, of the Puente Human Rights Movement, a Phoenix-based migrant-justice group), Esquivel-Hernandez can be removed from the U.S. without seeing an immigration judge.

Regardless, Williams says she will advocate for him to receive an immigration hearing if Esquivel-Hernandez’s ICE detainer isn’t dropped.

“Its very important that ICE give him due consideration,” says Williams. “To really consider the facts. To consider his family and come to a conclusion that this would really hurt a family.”

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Free Parking in Pittsburgh's Strip District for Small Business Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 1:16 PM

IMAGE COURTESY OF STRIP DISTRICT NEIGHBORS
  • Image courtesy of Strip District Neighbors
The irony of Small Business Saturday is not lost on us at Pittsburgh City Paper. The event was created by the American Express credit-card company and is sponsored by the company to this day. The shopping day is meant to promote small businesses that make communities unique and support them so that money spent goes directly back to locals. But, since American Express charges businesses more to use its credit cards than Visa or Mastercard, many small businesses don't take American Express.

Nonetheless, the event has grown in popularity since its 2010 inception and the Strip District wants to take advantage of that momentum with one of Pittsburghers' favorite things: free parking.

According to Strip District nonprofit Strip District Neighbor's Twitter feed, all meters in the strip district will be free of charge tomorrow (Nov. 26) for Small Business Saturday. Strip District Neighbors also created a handy deal guide that details more than a dozen sales and deals of participating retailers, restaurants and bars.

Deals include 10 percent off all furniture at boutique furniture store Hot Haute Hot, 10 percent discount on all purchases at Mancini's Bread Co., and $5 off purchase of $25 at Bradley's Book Outlet.

The deals and free parking last all day. Check individual business' websites for their listed hours.


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Friday, November 11, 2016

Affordable-housing advocates rally as part of international housing summit in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Fri, Nov 11, 2016 at 2:45 PM

Mischelle McMillan speaks to the crowd at an affordable-housing rally in Oakland. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Mischelle McMillan speaks to the crowd at an affordable-housing rally in Oakland.
On Nov. 11, more than 50 affordable-housing advocates rallied on the University of Pittsburgh's campus to discuss what needs to be done to address the world's shortage of adequate and affordable rental housing. The rally is part of a larger Housing Summit which is sponsored by Pitt's Global Studies Center, bringing hundreds of people from across the globe to discuss how the affordable-housing crisis is affecting Pittsburgh and other cities.

"We need to fundamentally change the whole discourse on housing and human rights," said summit organizer and Pitt professor Jackie Smith. "We need to build it up from the grassroots, not the top down."

Speakers at the rally focused on topics like ensuring that decent affordable housing was located in places with good public-transit access and rethinking the criteria that qualifies neighborhoods for subsidized housing. One topic that resonated with the crowd was giving control on housing decisions directly to the community, instead of putting it in the hands of landlords and developers.

"As more and more people become renters, we need to be able to expand renters' rights," said Malcolm Terrejón Chu of the National Homes for All Coalition. "It's not just about affordable housing, it's about permanent decisions on housing [being] controlled by the community."

After the rally, attendees hopped on a bus tour that took them to the Hill District, the North Side, Beechview and East Liberty to see Pittsburgh's affordable-housing stories first hand.

Mischelle McMillan, of local housing advocates Action United, has been advocating for better housing in the Mon Valley and Pittsburgh for years. She said that housing is not a privilege, it is a "God-given" right, and the city has a ways to go in terms of having a wide-ranging housing stock with good living conditions.

"I am disappointed with Pittsburgh," said McMillan. "We have too many landlords that are allowing us to live in deplorable conditions."

Rob Robinson, of the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, spoke at the rally about the importance of renters speaking up for themselves. According to an August 2016 study, put out by apartment-search website Apartment List, renters are less likely to vote than homeowners, 58 percent to 72 percent respectively. "If you want human rights, you are going to have to take them," said Robinson.

A full slate of workshops are scheduled for tomorrow, Nov. 12, at the Frick Fine Arts Center in Oakland, as part of the Housing Summit. The summit is free to attend, but organizers ask that attendees register.

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Monday, November 7, 2016

Pittsburgh reinvigorates transatlantic connections with direct flights to Iceland

Posted By on Mon, Nov 7, 2016 at 5:01 PM

IMAGE COURTESY OF WOW AIR
  • Image courtesy of WOW air
For years, the only all-season international flights out of Pittsburgh International Airport were one-hour journeys to Toronto, a city just a five-hour drive from Pittsburgh.

But today it was announced PIT airport will finally be seeing year-round flights again across international borders with flights to Iceland. WOW air has announced four flights a week from Pittsburgh to Reykjavik, Iceland's capital, starting in on June 16. From the volcanic nation's capital, WOW also offers connections to 20 European cities, including Paris, Rome, London and Barcelona.

“We are excited to once again have year-round transatlantic service with easy access to Europe,” Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis said in a press release.

WOW air is a low-cost carrier that has been rapidly expanding into U.S. markets, with Pittsburgh becoming its first midsize city to receive service. Flights are currently on sale from Pittsburgh to Iceland and beyond, with some one-way flights for as low as $99. (However, rates in the summer months are about triple that.)

Regardless, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is thrilled to see Pittsburgh get more European flights.

“Our recent growth and momentum at Pittsburgh International is matching the momentum and growth of our region," said Fitzgerald in a press release. "WOW recognized Pittsburgh’s pent-up demand for air service to Europe, and the airline will greatly enhance travelers’ options.”

And WOW's CEO Skúli Mogensen feels that the airline's expansion into Pittsburgh will work as a two-way benefit, also attracting Europeans to the Steel City. (Maybe they will want to visit our potential Whiskey Museum.)

“Pittsburgh is certainly a destination on the rise and one that will appeal to a wide range of European travelers looking to discover somewhere different, so we’re thrilled to add the destination to our route list,” said Mogensen in a press release.

But while excitement seems to be in the air at the airport, riders on WOW might want to temper their enthusiasm; the low-cost carrier only allows one carry-on bag per passenger and the fees can reach as high as $100 on a one-way flight.

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Light Up Night 2016 schedule announced, pedestrian improvements and green-energy installation among changes

Posted By on Thu, Nov 3, 2016 at 1:08 PM

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
Anyone familiar with Light Up Night knows that it’s one of the most vibrant, crowded nights that Downtown Pittsburgh experiences each year. Pedestrians cram on the sidewalks and streets to watch buildings and Christmas trees get illuminated, listen to live music and watch fireworks erupt over the the city's three rivers.

To accommodate all the foot traffic, sections of Ft. Duquesne Boulevard will be closed to cars and will act as a pedestrian promenade during the holiday festival held on Nov. 18. The promenade will include two large music stages, as well as many food vendors and interactive attractions. It will also provide great views of the fireworks, said Jeremy Waldrup of nonprofit coalition Pittsburgh Downtown Partners at a Nov. 3 press conference. Also new this year: cable and internet giant Comcast agreed to a multiyear naming-rights deal, so the festival will be referred to as Comcast Light Up Night

Waldrup joked that it might be a difficult sell Pittsburghers on the name change, given how many locals still call PPG Paints Arena the Civic Arena, even though they were never the same structure.

“I know Pittsburghers can be a little resistant to change, but we need your help to make Comcast Light Up Night a household name,” said Waldrup.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald recognized Pittsburghers' stubborn ways, but believes things are changing, considering Downtown's renewed vitality.

“We may be a bit resistant to change, but things are changing,” said Fitzgerald. “People are living Downtown, and we are embracing the changes.”

Comcast is also bringing changes to the night. Christine Whitaker of Comcast said there will be 30 “street team” members in light-up jackets roaming Downtown and handing out Santa hats. She also said there will be a virtual-reality booth where users can experience a NASCAR simulation and WiFi access on Ft. Duquesne boulevard.

Another big change to this year’s festival is the installation of a wind-powered, LED-light display on the Rachel Carson Bridge. Similar to the popular light display on the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, the vertical suspension bars on the Rachel Carson Bridge will light up in artistic patterns.

“We are celebrating what we are: a city of bridges,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto at the press conference. “And we are celebrating one of our great leaders, Rachel Carson.”

Carson, a Springdale native, was a pioneer in the the U.S.’s environmental movement, and authored influential books, such as Silent Spring and The Sea Around Us. The project is sponsored by German-based material-science company Covestro and will use wind turbines manufactured by Pittsburgh-based manufacturer WindStax to power the lights.

This year, the main music stages will be placed on Ft. Duquesne Boulevard, and top musical acts for the festival include rock band O.A.R. and local pop singer Daya, as well as other artists.

Comcast Light Up Night will be held Fri., Nov. 18. The tree lighting is at 11:15 a.m.; activities run throughout the day, with the fireworks begining at 7 p.m.

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Friday, October 21, 2016

Memorial bike ride scheduled today for Susan Hicks

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 1:19 PM

Susan Hicks ghost bike on Forbes Avenue in Oakland - CP PHOTO BY THEO SCHWARZ
  • CP photo by Theo Schwarz
  • Susan Hicks ghost bike on Forbes Avenue in Oakland
When Susan Hicks was bicycling in Oakland on Oct. 23, 2015, she was riding the exact way Pennsylvania law told her to: as if she were driving a car.

Unfortunately for the University of Pittsburgh educator, and for those who loved her, a car collided into a car behind her and caused a chain reaction that squeezed Hicks in between two vehicles and ultimately resulted in her death. Now, on the near anniversary of that tragic day, advocates and friends are organizing a group ride to honor Hicks and to bring awareness to bike-safety issues.

"Remembering Susan helps us remember her legacy of making the world a better place to live, which include the safety improvements that are so necessary in Oakland," Eric Boerer of Bike Pittsburgh wrote in an email to Pittsburgh City Paper. He is helping organize the event with Hicks' close friends.

Hicks' death, as well as the death of cyclist Dennis Flanagan in the West End, was the last straw for many bike advocates in Pittsburgh. On Aug. 31, hundreds of advocates packed a room at Carnegie Mellon University, demanding that PennDOT start to create more bike-friendly infrastructure, starting with Forbes Avenue in Oakland, were Hicks was killed.  

Dawn Seckler, a close friend of Hicks, says that Hicks was a very passionate academic adviser to her students who helped them get grants and scholarships.

"Susan was really that kind of adviser that would get students really excited about getting opportunities," says Seckler. "And she would work hard to make those possibilities become realities."

To celebrate Hicks' life as a cyclist and educator, her close friends started a scholarship fund last year in her honor. Seckler says that Hicks had such a positive effect on people, that the fund raised more than $20,000 in less than a year, and a Pitt student has already received money from the scholarship.

"This was a really tangible way that we could create a legacy to Susan's energy," says Seckler.

Seckler adds that the cycling community has also been instrumental in advocating for Hicks.

"Susan was a multifaceted person," says Seckler. "She had more than one community, and these communities have been engaging with one another. The biking community has been able to mobilize her advocacy and get to know this really unique woman. We all have so many communities, and they don't always come together, and it has been wonderful seeing these communities come together."

For those wishing to participate, a memorial event starts at 4:30 p.m. today (Oct. 21) at the Hicks ghost bike, near the corner of Forbes and South Bellefield avenues, near the Carnegie Music Hall. A memorial group ride then starts at 5:30 p.m. from the ghost bike to Brillobox in Bloomfield, where a fundraiser happy hour will be held from 5 to 8 p.m.

Those interested in donating to The Susan M. Hicks Memorial Fund can do so on Pitt's donating website.  

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