Friday, October 21, 2016

9-year-old girl shot in Pittsburgh's Hill District

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 6:07 PM

Pittsburgh Police are investigating the shooting of a nine-year-old girl this afternoon in the Middle Hill District.

According to a press release from the Bureau of Police, the girl, who was not the tar
  • Stock Image
get of the assailant was shot in the ankle. The victim was outside when an armed man started shooting. The full release appears below

PITTSBURGH, PA – At approximately 3:30 p.m., Paramedics and Zone 2 Officers were dispatched to the 2400 block of Bedford Avenue for a report that a child had been shot. Upon arrival, it was discovered that a nine-year-old female had been shot in an ankle. Paramedics transported the victim to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in stable condition. According to the investigation, the victim was outside when a male began shooting.

As people began to run from the gunfire, the girl was shot. Detectives do not believe the girl was the intended target. The actor is described as a black male who was wearing a black tassel hat, a black hooded sweatshirt and dark pants. At least eight shell casings were found at the scene. The Group Violence Intervention Unit is continuing the investigation.

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Striking Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians volunteer with 412 Food Rescue

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 3:54 PM

Striking PSO musicians unload a truck of food from 412 Food Rescue at Hawkins Village as two fellow members play soothing chamber music for residents. - CP PHOTO BY STEPHEN CARUSO
  • CP photo by Stephen Caruso
  • Striking PSO musicians unload a truck of food from 412 Food Rescue at Hawkins Village as two fellow members play soothing chamber music for residents.
Striking Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians might have been unloading trucks Thursday, but it wasn’t because they're giving up on music.

The performers, on strike since Sept. 30 after contract negotiations broke down with the PSO, were instead teaming up with 412 Food Rescue, a Pittsburgh charity dedicated to fighting hunger by saving food waste. With the aim of “feeding the body and soul” of their neighbors, the yellow-shirted musicians unloaded trucks of food at four separate stops around the city to Mozart melodies and Telemann tunes.

Jennifer England, 412 Food Rescue’s director of operations, described it as a “neat partnership” that fits into their model of working with businesses to take their food waste — and recruit volunteers. She also noted that PSO workers had a “very unique skill to bring” besides carrying crates: their music.

Normally, 412 Food Rescue is looking for donors — of which they have more than 100 — to give away excess food that, while still perfectly edible, is past its sell-by date. (England says the date “indicates nothing.") But the group also takes food that may just appear unpalatable, or that doesn’t match a seller's aesthetic expectations.

“[The food might be] fresh peppers that are too big, or too small, or ugly,” England said. “If there’s too many in the case, then the whole case has to go.”

At the event yesterday, PSO musicians helped distribute food at four locations. Lorien Hart, a violinist, found out about 412 Food Rescue over the summer and convinced five co-workers to volunteer with her. After participating, the maestros brainstormed a way to contribute in a distinct fashion.

“[We said that 412 Food Rescue] is awesome and is great, but we need to be bringing music to these communities,” Hart said.

The day started outside Braddock’s Free Store, as curious residents perusing the shop’s wares listened to Hart and Rhian Kenny, a flutist, play a four-song performance. The airy melodies floated around the shop, only stopping between songs — or because the breezy October day disturbed the musicians’ sheet music.

Wilkinsburg resident Donella Smith enjoyed the music. She works in Braddock with Early Head Start, a home-visiting program for pregnant women that works with low-income families. She says she uses music in her job to interact with kids, because of how well people, young and old, respond to a melody.

“Music has always been part of life, period. It gets you moving and dancing and changes your mood as well," Smith said. “That’s something I love to expose [my nieces and nephews] more too, the arts,”

Like the store, every performance of the day was free of charge. 

One of their other stops was Hawkins Village. There, the musicians — with some help from a few residents, such as Treyvon and Jamiere Roberts, ages 4 and 3 respectively — unloaded provisions such as six pounds of carrots and four pounds of pork and beans, as Hart and Kenny worked through a set . Elizabeth Roberts, the two children’s great-grandmother, was happy the kids were exposed to something new.

“It’s more important for [the musicians] to bring kids out,” Roberts said.

England, a former flutist herself, plans to keep the partnership going even after the strike is over. A monthly commitment from PSO would give listeners a way to find peace in their day, according to Hart

“[Music] brings [people] a moment of getting away from ... their reality,” Hart said. “It brings us all to this sacred space, where we can just sit and enjoy something beautiful.”

The escape from reality goes for the musicians, too, said Hart. Despite the PSO’s cancellation of all concerts until Nov. 18 due to the strike, she was determined to keep performing.

“[Playing music is] a distraction for us, but we just want to go out and play,” Hart said. “If there is no music going on in Heinz Hall, we’re going to bring it out in the community,”

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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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As Strike Continues, Pittsburgh Symphony Musicians Offer Free Concert Sunday

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 12:13 PM

Things aren’t looking good for a resolution any time soon of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra musicians’ strike: The two sides aren’t talking, and the PSO has now canceled all performances through Nov. 18.

(For the record, management blames the union for not talking; the union says that management won’t come to the table unless the musicians accept the PSO’s “last and best offer,” which includes a 15 percent pay cut.)

The strike began on Sept. 30.

However, PSO musicians plan to keep playing.

On Sunday, at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, they’re staging A Brass Spectacular! featuring the brass sections of both the PSO and the Philadelphia Orchestra. They’ll be joined by brass players from the Boston Symphony, National Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra. Musicians of the Philly orchestra recently ended their own brief strike.

East Liberty Presbyterian Church is located at 116 S. Highland Ave., in East Liberty.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pittsburgh YWCA gathers local organizations to tackle sexual and domestic violence

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 5:18 PM

Education materials from the Futures Without Violence Coaching Boys into Men program - CP PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
  • CP Photo by Rebecca Addison
  • Education materials from the Futures Without Violence Coaching Boys into Men program
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's lewd comments from 2005 have become widely known in just the few weeks since they were released. But now they're also being used to educate Pittsburgh youth about gender violence. 

At a meeting of area social service agencies and nonprofits today, as part of YWCA's Week Without Violence,organizations shared the resources they're using to prevent domestic and sexual violence. The event was put together in collaboration with Southwest PA Says No More, a local chapter of the No More campaign created by the FISA Foundation, Heinz Endowments and the United Way of Allegheny County to focus on prevention-focused work to stop gender-based violence.

"YWCA Greater Pittsburgh was thrilled to partner with Southwest PA Says No More to host the program today with the overall theme of Facing Violence Among Men," says Chaz Kellem, senior director of advocacy for race and gender equity for YWCA's Center for Race and Gender Equity. "The hope was to collaborate and learn about programs that are working with men and boys towards ending domestic and sexual violence...It is our hope that it will help build and strengthen relationships and explore possibilities for collaboration."

While several participants at the Oct. 20 event talked about resources they use to work with adults, most talked about educational resources for working with children. George Fleming is a batterer intervention specialist who works with men who have been court ordered to seek treatment for violent behavior. He says prevention programs in schools are key to ensuring fewer men come through his doors.

"The majority of the men in the group have never had education," Fleming says. "These types of subjects are taboo. If you don't go down to the board of education and demand some education in these schools you are moving backwards."

One popular gender violence prevention education training program used by high school athletic coaches is Coaching Men into Boys. Another is MVP Strategies, which is used in local charter schools like Urban Pathways and City High Charter.

MVP uses scenario-based intervention training. For example, one scenario would ask students what they would do in a situation where a group of friends are making homophobic remarks.  

Chris McAneny, executive director of Educating Empowering Eliminating Dating Violence, says these programs can only be effective if everyone in a school is participating.

"If the teachers, administrators and principals aren't on board, we're losing opportunities to teach everyday," McAneny says.

According to Southwest PA Says No More, 44 percent of reported sexual assaults take place before a victim turns 18. That's why the organization is hoping national attention on addressing sexual assault on college campuses will find it's way to middle and high schools.

"There's been a lot of great work happening at our colleges around sexual violence," says Kristy Trautmann, executive director of the FISA Foundation. "So what we've been looking at is taking what works and moving it down to our middle and high schools."

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Best Rejected 'Best Of Pittsburgh' Categories

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 12:52 PM

In May, CP editor Charlie Deitch asked the staff to submit suggestions for new categories for our Best Of Pittsburgh issue. When the new categories were announced, I was surprised to see that only my “Best animal at the zoo” submission was accepted (my vote: the ants!). While I’ll concede that some were a little obscure (“Best plumber to become the next Mac Miller”) or potentially divisive (“Best new god [monotheistic]”), I think Charlie really dropped the ball on these gems. 

As CP’s most recent editorial hire, I had to swallow my pride and accept that the world simply wasn’t ready to rank the neighborhoods based on smell, or crown the “Cutest Squirrel in Squirrel Hill.” While our 2016 winners are in the bag (read here), there’s always hope for next year. So here are some of my rejected suggestions, worded as they were in the email, with some additional fawning commentary. 

If you like, love or hate these, or have ideas for some of your own, please email me at to commiserate. Enjoy. 

1. Best local commercial
When I moved here in 2005, I remember thinking that Pittsburgh had the greatest local commercials in the country. There was that “Pepper!” guy, the dudes who stand on their windows, Steidl and Steinberg, Sir Edgar Snyder, and that wacky millennial lawyer Dan (lots of lawyers, they may need their own category). These people deserve recognition. 

2. Best show flier

There is nothing funny about this. We have great show posters in this city and the sketch-jockeys doing the work really deserve a day in the sun.

3. Best river swimming
They say you really shouldn’t swim in the rivers, but I say we put it to a vote. 

4. Best creepy building
We are stacked in this department. Have you seen those new condos in Lawrenceville? Spooky!

5. Best online-related graffiti: "Facebook Is Boring" vs. "War on Google"
Not sure how popular this trend is at this point, but I was thinking maybe we could add “Squarespace Sucks” or “Words With Friends: Bad” or “Fuck You, Venmo” into the mix.

6. Best shortcut, vehicular/bikular/pedestriatic 
I’ve discovered some doozies around town. Pro tip: The more yinzery the Lyft/Uber driver, the cooler the shortcut. Did you know there’s a West Carson street? Fantastic. 

7. Best parking lot to commit misdemeanors 
Let’s say you’re fixing to do some loitering or bigamy but can’t find a good venue, this category would be just for you. For my money, nothing beats the Mount Washington CoGo’s parking lot for impersonating public servants. 

8. Best bathroom graffiti
Once, when I was a kid, I read this on the inside wall of an outhouse in Upstate New York: Here I sit / broken hearted / I tried to poop / and only farted. That day changed my life. I think we shouldn’t underestimate the power of a good stall-wall sketch or proverb. 
Bathroom graffiti at Gus's in Lawrenceville. - PHOTOGRAPH BY ALEX GORDON
  • Photograph by Alex Gordon
  • Bathroom graffiti at Gus's in Lawrenceville.
9. Best place to sit down in public
There are so many candidates: benches, etc ...

10. Best public fountains to steal pennies from
We’ve all been there: The rent’s due and you’re several thousand cents short, so what do you do? Where do you go? Do you need a net? The people need to know. 

11. Best place to cry in public
This one could go two ways: either a good place to cry discreetly if you’re caught up in emotion while out and about; or a good place to get some attention for your sadness. Personally, I think a good cry deserves a good audience, and everybody I know agrees. My vote: the top of one of those double-decker tour buses, into the microphone. 

12. Best sidewalk to ruin peoples’ brunches with your crude behavior
Sticking it to yuppies is a Pittsburgh tradition as old as sand. With new restaurants being built every day, it’s impossible to keep up with all the best spots to flip the bird at people eating frittatas. Freaking out squares shouldn’t require a master’s degree. Let’s make it easy, and by this time next year, you’ll be hocking loogs and blowing vape smoke all over the hottest bruncherias in the city. 

13. Best neighbor’s Wi-Fi network name
Mine is “NETGEAR82.” 

14. Best sidewalk chalk sign
From “Today’s Specials” to “We’re Open,” Pittsburgh is the chalk-sign capital of Pa.! Let’s show off a little. 

15. Best unrealized blueprint for Pittsburgh public transportation
This one is very specific. I think there is only one

16. Best day of the past year/Best weekend/whatever of past year
Seriously, this is a good one. We should do this. 

17. Best bus driver
I love a good bus driver and I can’t imagine I’m alone on that. While I don’t like the idea of excluding those who don’t make the cut, the A-listers deserve some kudos.

18. Best crossing guard
I can see why this was cut. 

19. Best unbroken stretch of bikability (bikable terrain)
They say any stretch is bikable if you bike on it, but as a safety nut, I prefer to do it away from cars and people and hills and grass and dirt and stones. (“Unsafe at any speed,” Ralph Nader wrote.) That’s why I’d like to find some spots where I can bicycle smoothly and safely, like an abandoned mall or a bike lane. 

20. Best Wendy’s
Liberty Avenue, in Dormont. It’s got a fireplace. 

21. Best new resident
That kid who got stuck between buildings in Oakland, was he new here? Either way, he deserves some sort of recognition. 

22. Best place to hear a great echo 
Another gem. 

23. Best commemorative plaque 
Idea: the winning plaque could be adorned with another, smaller plaque commemorating its Best Of win. If there’s a three-peat, we upgrade the plaque to a billboard. 

24. Best Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra guest collaborator, probably Nelly

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Public officials calling for removing law enforcement from schools at panel tonight in Pittsburgh

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 12:26 PM

Dignity in Schools campaign poster - COURTESY OF DIGNITY IN SCHOOLS CAMPAIGN
  • Courtesy of Dignity in Schools Campaign
  • Dignity in Schools campaign poster
According to a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Education for Civil Rights, students of color are disproportionately more likely to be referred to law enforcement and be subject to school-related arrests.

This is why a group of local, state and national policy-makers is calling for law enforcement to be removed from public school campuses, instead replaced by additional counselors and social workers. The group is part of the Dignity in Schools Campaign and will be discussing these school-arrest issues at a dinner and panel discussion tonight in the Hill District.

The message of the event is written in a press release put forth by the campaign: "Instead of hiring school police, schools should invest in hiring more counselors and training school personnel in these positive approaches, which research shows can significantly improve behavior, decrease suspensions and expulsions and improve academic outcomes."

Speakers include Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Anthony Hamlet, state rep. Ed Gainey (D-East Liberty) and Tanya Clay House of the U.S. Department of Education. Also local rapper and activist Jasiri X will be performing. 

The group is demanding that schools across the nation stop arresting minority students; shift funding from police to counselors and “peace builders”; fund measures like positive interventions; enforce the Every Student Succeeds Act; and abolish paddling in schools. The group will also be focusing on decreasing school suspensions, since data from the Department of Education shows that once suspended, students are more likely to drop out.

The event is free and starts at 5 p.m. at the Jeron X. Grayson Community Center
(1852 Enoch Street, Hill District). It's open to public and those interested can register at the group’s Eventbrite page.

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Fundraising campaign for Pittsburgh actress recovering from car crash

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 11:29 AM

Friends of Tracey D. Turner are running a GoFundMe campaign for the veteran local actress as she recuperates following an Oct. 7 hit-and-run car crash near the Westinghouse Bridge, in East Pittsburgh.

Publicity photo of Tracey D. Turner - PHOTO COURTESY OF TIM COX
  • Photo courtesy of Tim Cox
  • Publicity photo of Tracey D. Turner
The incident occurred while Turner was in rehearsal for a production of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Turner’s car was hit from behind and slammed into a cement barrier. Her left arm, left leg, tongue and facial orbital bone were injured, and she has had six surgeries. She is expected to recover fully, but will be unable to work for a while. She will spend the next few weeks in a nursing home, undergoing several hours a day of rehab.

Her car was totaled. The GoFundMe campaign, "Turn It Up for Tracey D. Turner," seeks $15,000, mostly to cover the purchase of a reliable used car and to pay her rent and child-care expenses while she recovers.

Reached by phone this morning, Turner, 53, was between speech therapy and her morning physical-therapy session. “I am feeling better every day,” she said from the facility in Squirrel Hill.

The year had been shaping up as a good one professionally for Turner, with roles in A Lesson Before Dying, at Prime Stage Theatre, and Ruin, for the Entertainment Consortium Inc. African American Conservatory, already under her belt before Prime Stage’s Mockingbird. “It just seemed like everything was coming together,” she said.

Now, with pins in her left arm and leg, Turner, a single mother with two daughters, is getting around in a wheelchair and facing months of rehab even after she leaves the nursing home.

The GoFundMe campaign is organized by three of Turner’s friends, local performing-arts stalwarts Phat Man Dee, Christiane Dolores and Mark Whitehead. It’s off to a good start, with $6,315 raised as of today.

Turner said contributors have includes strangers as well as friends and family, and donors from as far away as France and New Zealand. “I have been blessed,” she said. “I am just blown away, I am humbled.”

Turner thanks everyone who’s helped her for their support and prayers — especially the Lesko family, who has been assisting in the care of Turner’s 10-year-old daughter.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Allentown business district capitalizes on South Hills tunnel detour

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 5:24 PM

Black Forge Coffee House - CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
  • CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
  • Black Forge Coffee House
For the past few months, residents of the South Hills have been plagued by a series of traffic nightmares thanks to Liberty Bridge construction delays. And now, public-transit users in the South Hills are also being inconvenienced.

Since the closure of the Mount Washington Transit Tunnel, which connects Station Square to the South Hills Junction, Port Authority of Allegheny County light-rail vehicles and buses have had to detour through Allentown, adding additional minutes to daily commutes. 

But residents of Allentown are using the inconvenience to their advantage. Tomorrow, business-owners, employees and residents of the neighborhood will gather at the corner of East Warrington and Allentown avenues to draw attention to their community’s growing business district . The event is organized by the Hilltop Alliance, whose executive director, Aaron Sukenik, says the goal is to draw detoured commuters "to come back and shop in Allentown." 

“What we envision is the Allentown community coming together to draw the attention of the hundreds of commuters passing through our neighborhood in the morning,” Siena Kane, Allentown business district manger, said in a statement. “This is a great opportunity to promote the emerging businesses and encourage the commuters to come back and shop."

Participants will include Black Forge Coffee House and Spool craft store. The business district has seen the addition of 16 new small businesses in the past two years.

"Our goal is just to have some signage up and hopefully people will see it," says Ashley Corts, co-owner of Black Forge Coffee House. "All of us took a big risk opening up in Allentown, because there's no foot traffic. We're hoping people will notice all of the new businesses here when they're passing through and decide to come back." 

According to a release about tomorrow's event, Michelle Lancet, co-owner of Spool, says he's seen the success of sandwich boards and other signage for commuter traffic, especially when the T light rail detours through the neighborhood.

“We always ask new customers how they’ve heard of us, and we were surprised and delighted to recently hear that people came to the shop after seeing it during the trolley detour,” Lancet said in a statement.

The transit tunnel's closure is scheduled to end after Oct. 22. 

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Young Preservationists Association to highlight top 10 historic Pittsburgh structures in need of help

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 2:26 PM

St. John Vianney Church in Allentown (formerly St. George's) - PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIE COLLINS
  • Photo courtesy of Julie Collins
  • St. John Vianney Church in Allentown (formerly St. George's)
Pittsburgh has a dilemma when addressing its aging building stock. The city is chock full of historic buildings, but Pittsburgh is also loaded with blighted and abandoned properties. Sometimes those two intersect, and the city is stuck with a tough decision: Spend the money to rehab a historic property, or tear it down after it falls into disarray.

The Young Preservationists Association of Pittsburgh is bringing awareness to those historic buildings that are in need of some help.

“Every year we are looking to highlight the top 10 buildings that need a bit more attention and have opportunities to be preserved,” says Julie Collins of YPA. “We have a diverse mix of buildings, not just in the city and county, but also outside the county.”

The full list of top 10 buildings will be released at a party at the Frick Art & Historical Center in Point Breeze on Oct. 20, but Collins says that one of the properties on the list is the St. John Vianney Church in Allentown (formerly St. George's).

“St. Vianney is particularly important because it is in a transition,” says Collins. “We are trying to get the building to be on historic-designation lists, and trying to re-purpose it back to a church or some other community asset.”

In the past YPA has been successful in preserving the Cork Factory in the Strip District, which is now a luxury-apartment complex, and maintaining a historic facade in East Liberty. In addition to buildings, Collins says the list, which the group has put out since 2013, always includes an issue important to historic preservation, and this year the issue is “preservation-friendly ordinances.” She says that old city and county rules, like parking requirements and mandatory set-backs, make it very difficult to keep historic buildings fully intact, which is important to the character of Pittsburgh.

“It's our history. We are not going to get them back once the wrecking ball comes,” says Collins. “Pittsburgh has so many historic and unique buildings. There are interesting landscape challenges, and they have given us a unique style. Without them, our [architecture] would not be what it is.”

VIP doors open at 5 p.m. (regular admission at 6 p.m.) at the Frick on Oct. 20. Tickets can be purchased in advance online at up until noon on Oct. 20 and can also be purchased at the door.

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