Community Action | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Posted By on Tue, Dec 26, 2017 at 3:16 PM

click to enlarge Example of postcard asking to maintain route 61 bus service - PHOTO COURTESY OF NICA ROSS
Photo courtesy of Nica Ross
Example of postcard asking to maintain route 61 bus service
Last week, about 100 residents met at the Braddock Carnegie Library in Braddock to sign postcards asking the Port Authority of Allegheny County to consider their public-transit needs when considering changes that will likely come with the proposed implementation of a Pittsburgh Bus Rapid Transit system.

The BRT, which some have called light rail on rubber wheels, will make big changes to infrastructure along Fifth and Forbes avenues between Oakland and Downtown. The project will include installation of bus-only lanes, new stations with modern shelters, bike lanes, and will shorten bus-travel times. But, as City Paper reported in April, it could also change the bus rides of at least 1,500 riders from areas like Swissvale, Braddock, Duquesne and McKeesport. The number 61 bus routes, which currently start in McKeesport and Braddock and travel towards Downtown through Oakland, will be altered thanks to the BRT and their future of the 61 routes is up in the air.

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Monday, December 4, 2017

Posted By on Mon, Dec 4, 2017 at 4:26 PM

click to enlarge Chelsey Engel outside of Pat Toomey's office in Downtown Pittsburgh - PHOTO COURTESY OF IKE GITTLEN
Photo courtesy of Ike Gittlen
Chelsey Engel outside of Pat Toomey's office in Downtown Pittsburgh
In 2017, Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh) has had a consistent record of ignoring the requests of thousands of protesters. The senator has met with a few members of Tuesdays with Toomey, a left-leaning group organized in late 2016, and Toomey has held some highly-restrictive tele town hall meetings, but constituents upset with Toomey’s choices told City Paper in September that they have grown tired of trying to persuade him of altering his votes and stances.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Posted By on Wed, Nov 29, 2017 at 5:31 PM

click to enlarge Protesters outside of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross on Nov. 29. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Protesters outside of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross on Nov. 29.
Protesters in Pittsburgh’s North Hills are begging for their fellow residents to pay attention to the details of what is in store if the Republicans’ tax-reform bill passes and is signed into law.

“With the demographics that live in [Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District], almost no one will benefit from this plan,” said Stacey Vernallis, of left-leaning grassroots group PA 12 for Progress, at a Nov. 29 protest in Ross. About 20 other protesters joined Vernallis outside of the office of U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley) to protest the the proposed tax bill.

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 5:33 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburghers marching in Washington, D.C. - PHOTO COURTESY OF MONICA RUIZ
Photo courtesy of Monica Ruiz
Pittsburghers marching in Washington, D.C.
On Sept. 5, about 60 people took a bus from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., to protest President Donald Trump’s rollback of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). One of them was Monica Ruiz, an organizer with Latino-rights organization Casa San Jose.

In an interview with Pittsburgh City Paper on Sept. 6, Ruiz said it was an emotional day for the travelers, who were comprised primarily of Latino DACA recipients and their families and friends.

“It was very emotional, many were crying and their parents were crying,” said Ruiz. “For one parent, it was the first time she heard her son talk about his future and his dreams.”

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Friday, August 25, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Aug 25, 2017 at 2:06 PM

click to enlarge Affordable-housing advocates protesting in Riverview Park on Aug. 24 - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Affordable-housing advocates protesting in Riverview Park on Aug. 24
When longtime Penn Plaza residents Myrtle Stern and Maybel Duffy were forced to vacate their East Liberty homes earlier this year, their options for replacement housing were limited. They need elevator access, as they are in their 70s and have trouble navigating stairs. “I have arthritis and a metal knee,” said Duffy at an Aug. 24 protest in Riverview Park. “I can’t do steps.”

The best option for them was Auburn Towers apartments, in Verona, Pa., which is more than an hour away from Penn Plaza via public transit. And Stern says this move has lowered her quality of life.

“When I lived in East Liberty, I used to walk a block or two to visit with my daughter," said Stern in a press release. “When I got to feeling bad, I used to babysit my grandkids, and then I would feel better. But I had to move out to Verona, where there are so few buses that I feel trapped out here, especially on the weekends when there are no buses at all. I want to be able to return to my home in East Liberty.”

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Posted By on Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 5:43 PM

click to enlarge PHOTOS BY JOHN COLOMBO
Photos by John Colombo
In response to the news that groups associated with white supremacists and other so-called "alt-right” causes were planning to protest at the Google offices in Larimer, local counter-protesters knew they needed to respond strongly. The far-right-wing groups called off their protest of Google, but counter protesters continued with their march anyway.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 12:26 PM

click to enlarge Laura Wiens, of Pittsburghers for Public Transit, speaking at an August URA meeting - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Laura Wiens, of Pittsburghers for Public Transit, speaking at an August URA meeting
When it comes to building affordable housing, there is no better place to do so than near public transportation. Since low-income people are less likely to own cars than higher-income individuals, good access to public transit is necessary for affordable-housing dwellers to travel to work, visit family and just get around. According to the nonprofit Center for Housing Policy, people in the Pittsburgh Metro area spend 34 percent of their income on transportation, the second highest figure of large U.S. metro areas, just behind Tampa.

And at a Aug. 10 meeting, this thinking led a group of affordable-housing advocates to request that Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority include affordable-housing measures in its pitch to redevelop the Lexington Technology Park, in North Point Breeze.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Posted By on Wed, Aug 2, 2017 at 11:21 AM

click to enlarge A mock-up of the Four Mile Run green infrastructure project - IMAGE COURTESY OF PHRONESIS DESIGN AND PITTSBURGH PARKS CONSERVANCY
Image courtesy of Phronesis Design and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy
A mock-up of the Four Mile Run green infrastructure project
The residents of Four Mile Run, an isolated neighborhood on the edge of Greenfield, have wanted one thing for a very long time: a major sewage infrastructure project to alleviate its flooding problems. The neighborhood nestled in a valley south of Oakland consistently sees flooding in heavy rains, including the overflowing of Saline Street in September 2016.

In December 2015, Pittsburgh officials  attempted to convince the neighborhood to support a transit project that would have shuttled autonomous vehicles through Four Mile Run (this was part of the city’s Smart Cities transit application that the city wasn’t awarded). Most Four Mile Run residents opposed the transit project, and many argued that if the city was going to invest in the neighborhood, an infrastructure project to solve the area’s flooding issues should be first on the list.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Jul 7, 2017 at 5:08 PM

PNC Park
PNC Park
Pittsburgh has the smallest percentage of foreign-born residents of large metro areas in the U.S., so when immigrants and refugees arrive here, it can be an isolating experience. Sloane Davidson knew this. So, in March, she started a mentorship program linking foreign-born residents with native Pittsburghers as a way to combat xenophobia and improve the lives of the area's refugees and immigrants.

So far the program, called Hello Neighbor, is off to a fast start with 25 refugee families paired with 25 native Pittsburgh families. Davidson says the families have spent more than 450 cumulative hours together since June, including 120 interactions. "It's pretty remarkable," says Davidson. The families have held an event at a park in Brookline and even went to visit The Andy Warhol Museum together.

And now the Pittsburgh Pirates are getting in on the action. On Aug. 1, the Pirates are hosting a Hello Neighbor night as a way to raise awareness for supporting immigrants and refugees. Discounted tickets are offered, and before the game, there will be a hang-out at Picnic Park, which is beyond the bleachers in centerfield.

The hang-out is open to the public, and Davidson encourages people to attend so they can meet and interact with their international neighbors. Davidson says the families (totaling 183 individuals) hail from six different countries, including Iraq, Syria, Burma and Somalia.

"These events are a great way to bring new people and like-minded people to the park," says Davidson. She adds that even though a few in Pittsburgh have not always been the most welcoming to international residents, the Hello Neighbor program has been acceptable by all.

“I know there are lot of different opinions about how open Pittsburgh can be,” says Davidson. “But we have felt nothing but warmth and acceptance.”

To purchase discounted tickets for the Hello Neighbor night at PNC Park, visit the Pirates website and enter the code NEIGHBOR. Discounted tickets in the infield grandstand are $20, and include a Pirates cap. Davidson adds that there is also a public potluck in Riverview Park on Sat., July 8, that will have music, entertainment for kids, and relay races marshaled by a Pittsburgh Pirate Pierogi mascot.

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Posted By on Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 2:58 PM

click to enlarge Mock-up of Upper Lawrenceville's Community Land Trust - IMAGE COURTESY OF LAWRENCEVILLE CORPORATION
Image courtesy of Lawrenceville Corporation
Mock-up of Upper Lawrenceville's Community Land Trust
Pittsburgh’s Lawrenceville neighborhood has one of the hottest and fastest-growing housing markets in the region. A few years ago, houses typically sold for less than $100,000, but now some properties have reached prices of more than $500,000. According to the nonprofit community developers at the Lawrenceville Corporation, the percentage of property sales $250,000 and above has doubled since 2012.

As a response to this exploding market, the Lawrenceville Corporation knew it needed to do something bold. As City Paper reported in January 2016, Lawrenceville Corporation created the region’s first Community Land Trust (CLT), hoping to sell homes to low-income residents and to combat the neighborhood’s affordable-housing struggles. And last month, the group broke ground on its seven-property CLT.

“This is a direct and catalytic response by the Lawrenceville Corporation and our partners to the issue of housing insecurity. The neighborhood, through the award-winning Upper Lawrenceville Vision Plan, set 'housing for all' as a priority. … We are excited to be taking one more step in our disruptive, innovative approach to create housing that is permanently affordable,” said Lawrenceville Corporation director Matt Galluzzo in a press release.

CLTs maintain permanent affordability for the properties by having an entity (in this case, Lawrenceville Corporation) retain ownership of the land, but sell the homes to qualifying residents who earn 80 percent or less of the area’s average income — about $55,000 for a family of four. The homes in the Lawrenceville CLT will be sold for between $125,000 to $140,000 and will be constructed new or will be remodels.

Ed Nusser, of Lawrenceville Corporation, said in 2016 that CLTs allow homeowners to grow a limited amount of equity, but leaves them unable to sell the property to the highest bidder. Instead, Lawrenceville Corporation will manage the sale of the property to another low-income buyer. Nusser said that land-trust homeowners can make alterations to their properties and will otherwise have all the freedoms of a typical homeowner.

The properties will be located in upper Lawrenceville, near the corner of McCandless Avenue and Duncan Street. The CLT was funded by a variety of private and public entities, including Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has been supportive of the initiative.

“As a 21st-century city, we must have innovative out-of-the-box solutions to 21st-century issues. The City is proud to support Lawrenceville Corporation's CLT initiative­ — a direct implementation of the City's Affordable Housing Task Force recommendations with clear alignment with our p4 Performance Measures,” said Peduto spokesperson Katie O’Malley in a press release.

And the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that there have already been 65 applications to purchase the Lawrenceville CLT homes. Lawrenceville Corporation says applications are still open online at the group's website.

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