Friday, October 30, 2015

UPDATE: Janitorial workers reach agreement with employers

Posted By on Fri, Oct 30, 2015 at 10:44 AM

Earlier this week City Paper reported on a potential strike for janitorial workers in Pittsburgh and surrounding areas. On Oct. 27, members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ voted to give union leadership the authority to call for a strike if a contract agreement wasn’t met with the Managers, Owners and Contractors Association (MOCA), the organization that handles negotiations for local offices and buildings.

But last evening, two days before their current contract was set to expire, SEIU reached a deal with MOCA. According to SEIU, the agreement "includes a fair wage increase and maintains benefits at their current level," for 1200 local employees.

In a statement Western Pennsylvania District Leader Sam Williamson said: “We are showing that employees and businesses can work together effectively to reach a fair agreement. This is a win-win for everyone. We are glad that the day-to-day operations of these buildings will continue. We are happy these hardworking men and women can continue making a family-sustaining wage which allows them to support their families and make our city’s economy stronger. These are good jobs. Together with our commercial office cleaners and newly organized security officers, we are strengthening the middle class."

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Pirates sign former pitcher, current parking-lot manager, as batting practice pitcher

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 2:26 PM

In 2013, as the Pittsburgh Pirates were preparing for their first postseason appearance in more than 20 years, City Paper told you the story of Chris Peters.

Peters, a native of Peters Township, was, and still is, a manager at a couple of Downtown parking lots. He was also a former starting and relief pitcher for the Buccos when CP spoke to him about the team's current success. Peters was a Pirate during the team's 20-year losing streak, never tasting the success that current players are experiencing. 

"It was tough losing as much as we did," Peters said at the time. "On the other hand, i
  • Photo by Alex Zimmerman
  • Chris Peters
t was kind of one of those things where you look around and there are a lot of young guys. Even though we expected to win every night, you go up against teams with veteran superstar players."

Even though his Pirates career ended in 2000, the 43-year-old Peters will get a chance to be part of a winning Pirates' team. Last week, Peters re-signed with the Pirates as a left-handed batting-practice pitcher

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, manager Clint Hurdle mentioned earlier this month the need for a left-handed pitcher to pitch batting practice. Peters had been approached during spring training, but the deal wasn't official until last week. Aside from managing the parking lots, Peters also coaches youth teams and works in private instruction for Allegheny Health Systems, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Travis Sawchik.

Peters told the P-G: "They knew I lived in the area and used to pitch here. I guess they figured it might not be a bad idea. I was a fan before I played for them and probably a bigger fan now.”

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Artisan Tattoo on Penn Avenue vows to keep moving forward as Indiegogo campaign winds down

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 2:40 PM

A banner that reads "Keep Artisan Alive" hangs on Artisan Tattoo's facade along Penn Avenue in Garfield. - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
  • Photo by Ashley Murray
  • A banner that reads "Keep Artisan Alive" hangs on Artisan Tattoo's facade along Penn Avenue in Garfield.

With less than 24 hours to go on its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to pay for renovations, the owners of Artisan Tattoo still need to raise about half of their $87,200 goal.

"The money that we raised made the situation go from impossible to just really hard," says Meliora Angst, co-owner of Artisan.

Meliora and her husband Jason Angst are raising money to keep their business "alive" after being told they'd need to do costly renovations to keep their Garfield business up to code.

Owners Jason and Meliora Angst - PHOTO BY ASHLEY MURRAY
  • Photo by Ashley Murray
  • Owners Jason and Meliora Angst
The couple purchased the Penn Avenue building in 2012 and say they have since been trying to navigate the city's zoning laws for their vision of a three-story commercial business,  which will eventually include a cafe in addition to the tattoo studio and art galleries. When a new inspector nixed the approvals of an initial inspector, the process became confusing and expensive, the Angsts say — a situation they described for City Paper last month. And now they say, they're required to spend more than $60,000 on building a new three-story fire escape, as well as almost $30,000 on renovating several bathrooms to become compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Tim McNulty, a spokesperson for the city, told CP last month that Artisan did not contact the city to have its 2014 renovations approved and was operating its business in the building before it was allowed.

"As with everything, the city has to balance business needs with safety," McNulty told CP.

The new inspector gave the couple a six-month temporary occupancy permit, so that the business could stay open during construction.

"[The fundraising campaign] bought us time," Angst says.

Angst says the city still has to process some paperwork before their six months officially begins.

"We’ve got half the money, so that’s great," Angst says. "We can figure the rest out on the way."

Angst says after Indiegogo takes its cut of the campaign money (crowdfunding platforms often take a percentage) and they pay for their "perks" promised to donors, they'll have about $30,000, which she says is enough to buy all of the construction materials.

Also, rather than cash, Angst says, some construction companies donated free labor and other organizations donated free space for fundraising events. She says a few more monetary donations could pan out before the deadline tonight.

"We're continuing to build with the money that we raised, while also continuing to work really hard," Angst says. "We have plans A, B, C and D. We're just waiting to see what works out."

Video by Ashley Murray

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Inaugural Pittsburgh Fringe Fest Breaks Even

Posted By on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 1:13 PM

The organizer of Pittsburgh’s first showcase for under-the-radar performance says that while attendance at the May 2-11 event fell short of his expectations, “We’re not in the red. … We pretty much broke even this year.”

Dan Stiker says he’d hoped for 2,500 attendees and got an estimated 1,200. (He hasn’t yet tallied official figures.)

While 90 percent of the box office went directly to the performance companies, funding and other support from backers like The Sprout Fund kept the two-weekend fest financially solvent, he says.

Moreover, Stiker and his team of volunteers pulled off the remarkable logistical feat of staging some 70 performances by 26 acts in four different Shadyside venues. (I attended three of the shows, and they all started on time, with no serious tech glitches.)

So Stiker’s primary goal was achieved, with positive feedback from both attendees and performers. “Everyone who came to see the fest really enjoyed themselves and started understanding what fringe really means,” he says.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Point Park-produced doc series to air on STARZ

Posted By on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 at 3:21 PM

The new documentary series produced by Point Park University has found a home. The Chair will air on STARZ this fall.

The Chair is a 10-episode series, shot in Pittsburgh, that follows two first-time feature-film directors making their films based on the same source material. More details are here.

Filming — of both the dueling features and the documentary series — took place in February and March at various locations around town.

Locations for the film directed by YouTube star Shane Dawson included places like Garfield’s Most Wanted Fine Art gallery (disguised as a used-record store). Writer, actress and producer Anna Martemucci shot in locations including a private home in Upper St. Clair.

The two films are both based on a coming-of-age comedy script by Dan Schoffer about former high school classmates who return home from college for Thanksgiving. However, said the films’ producer, Josh Shader, both directors had leeway to adapt the script, and Dawson’s is pitched more as a raucous comedy while Martemucci’s is more bittersweet.

The Chair will document the making, marketing and theatrical release of the two films, which themselves will also air on STARZ. (The project was launched before producers Chris Moore and Before the Door Pictures — whose principals include Pittsburgh native and film star Zachary Quinto — had an outlet for it.)

After the films air, audience voting will determine which filmmaker wins the $250,000 prize.

Point Park says that “more than 100 Point Park Students and alumni .. supported the TV series and two feature films as interns, employees and through class projects.”

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Council Passes Resolution on Antibiotics in Livestock

Posted By on Thu, Mar 27, 2014 at 8:53 AM

Pittsburgh City Council is among the first in the country to pass a resolution calling for federal legislation to rein in antibiotics use on factory farms.

On Tuesday, council adopted the resolution, which “supports a statewide and national ban on nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics in livestock production.”

As detailed in CP in February, nationally based group Food & Water Watch had asked council to approve the measure as part of its campaign to pass the Protection of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) and the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act (PARA), in the U.S. House and Senate, respectively. The resolution says Council “will send letters to our Congressional Representatives and U.S. Senators” urging them to co-sponsor the bills.

In particular, the group is targeting U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Bans on nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics on cattle, pigs and chicken, for instance, are controversial, though much of the opposition seems to originate in the pharmaceutical industry. Similar bans in European countries, including the Netherlands, are generally regarded as successful.

“We applaud Pittsburgh, PA for passing one of the first city-council resolutions in the country, calling on federal legislators rein in the rampant use of antibiotics on factory farms,” Food & Water Watch volunteer Nicole Kubiczki, a Pittsburgh resident, said in a press release.

“Factory farms feed low doses of antibiotics to livestock to promote unnatural growth and compensate for filthy, crowded living conditions,” said Kubiczki. “As a result, we’re entering an age in which these life-saving medicines are no longer working to treat infections in humans. We need to change course in our handling of antibiotics in this country, and Pittsburgh took action to stand in support of public health this morning.”

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Day of Giving Nets Record Number of Donors, Less Cash

Posted By on Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM

More donors than ever participated in the Pittsburgh Foundation’s fifth annual 24-hour race for matching funds for local nonprofits. But fewer overall dollars were given — something that might have more to do with a PittsburghGives rule change than with locals’ generosity.

Nearly 18,200 donors participated on Oct. 3, contributing $6.4 million to more than 720 groups, according to a statement from the Pittsburgh Foundation. That's up from 17,719 donors last year.

Combined with $750,000 in matching funds administered by the Pittsburgh Foundation, the donations placed about $7.15 million into the groups’ coffers. (A Day of Giving for Westmoreland County channeled a total of $575,000 to groups based there.)

However, despite the increase in people giving, the $6.4 million in public donations was a drop of nearly 10 percent from last year’s record of $7 million.

Given the regular growth in donations to PittsburghGives over the years, that drop likely had to do with the initiative's new rules for matching funds. This year, for the first time, only the first $1,000 given by each individual to any group would be matched. The previous cap was $10,000.

Pittsburgh Foundation spokesperson Christopher Whitlach said the lowered cap was meant to spread donations around more and increase the match percentage, measured in cents per dollar.

In Allegheny County, every donor dollar given this year became $1.13 for a favored group, up from $1.09 last year. And gifts of under $1,000, which last year totaled $4.1 million, this year totaled $6.8 million.

The group with the most donors was the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, with 1,245 donors. Next was the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (1,010), followed by 90.5 WESA (769), Animal Friends Inc. (757), WQED Multimedia (743) and the Animal Rescue League of Western PA (742).

In terms of funds donated by the public (not counting matching funds), the biggest recipients were the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (($191,547), the Food Bank ($176,137), Central Catholic High School ($122,640), Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh ($118,141), the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust ($115,544), Rodef Shalom Congregation ($98,652) and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh ($95,538).

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Cultural Trust, Artist Reach Rubber-Duck Detente

Posted By on Wed, Oct 2, 2013 at 1:10 PM

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and cartoonist Joe Wos have reached an agreement over Wos’ use of the image of the giant rubber duck that’s part of the Trust’s Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts.

The gist is that the Trust won’t object to Wos’ “Quack N’ At” T-shirts as long as all of the proceeds benefit The Toonseum, the nonprofit museum of cartoon art he runs Downtown.

Wos had previously said that only a portion of the proceeds from T-shirt sales would benefit the Toonseum.

A few weeks back, Wos had upset the Trust by announcing he was taking orders for T-shirts bearing an image of artist Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck Project, plus the motto “Quack N’ At.” The Trust wrote Wos to ask him to stop selling the shirts because he was infringing on the festival and its own merchandise sales.

Wos refused, and in fact last Friday was selling “Quack N’ At” shirts at the Trust’s Rubber Duck Bridge Party, from a booth perhaps 100 yards from the Trust’s own official merchandise booth, featuring duck buttons, hats and T-shirts.

The party drew thousands who filled the Clemente Bridge and lined both sides of the river to witness the arrival by river of the 40-foot-tall inflatable yellow duck. Both booths seemed to be doing brisk business, though the line at the Trust booth was considerably longer.

But bygones appear to be bygones. Here’s the statement the Trust issued about 11 a.m. today:

“The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Toonseum have come to a positive resolution regarding Quack N'at T-shirts with 100% of the proceeds now benefiting the non-profit Toonseum. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is an ardent supporter of Toonseum and independent artists. Both organizations share a common goal of getting people to flock to Pittsburgh's Cultural District for outstanding arts and entertainment. We look forward to focusing on the incredibly favorable attention the Rubber Duck Project is bringing our city.”

The Trust was not taking additional questions. Wos could not immediately be reached for comment.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The corpse flower is blooming!

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2013 at 9:56 PM

Remember when we warned you that the corpse flower was about to bloom? Guess what? IT IS NOW BLOOMING. AS WE SPEAK. IF YOU ARE ANYWHERE IN OAKLAND OR SQUIRREL HILL, YOU CAN PROBABLY SMELL IT FROM YOUR HOUSE. OK, that's an exaggeration. But still.

Phipps Conservatory announced via email just after 7 p.m. tonight that the flower was in bloom, and that tonight and tomorrow, the conservatory will be open late — we mean super late. 'Til 2 a.m. So that you can come and experience the worst-smelling plant on the planet. More info on Phipps' website, here. It could be in bloom for as little as 24 hours, so get there ASAP if you want to smell it!

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thunderbird Cafe "very pleased" with expansion approval

Posted By on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 12:00 PM

As we noted yesterday, the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved the expansion plans of Lawrenceville's Thunderbird Cafe.

In its ruling, the ZBA ruled that there would be no detrimental impact on the neighborhood — as some opponents of the plan fear.

The board granted the adjustments and variances sought by Lawrenceville Holdings VI LP as long as the city's zoning administrator reviews the final site plans and that developers provide a plan for valet parking within 30 days.

In response to the ruling, community groups Lawrenceville United and Lawrenceville Corporation sent out a statement yesterday saying they would appeal the decision.

Thunderbird owners and developers say they are pleased with the ruling and are flummoxed by the LC/LU response. Chris Lasky, Vice President of Massaro CM Services LLC and designer/consultant on the plan, sent us this statement:

Continue reading »

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