Northside United and its allies are making the case for a community benefits agreement to go along with a subsidized development project while hosting bus tours of the development zone and of nearby communities.
Post-Gazette reporter Diana Nelson-Jones sums up last Wednesday’s experience as well as I can HERE.
The argument the coalition is making is neither simple nor absolute, so I highly recommend the two videos below (especially if you’re not interested in reading). Both attempt to respond to the popularly held counter-arguments against pursuing CBA’s.
Introductory presentations were made at the Letter Carriers Building. Here is Janice Parks, from the Young Men and Women’s African Heritage Association:
Speakers took turns along the way, in the buses and during stops outside. Here is Ronell Guy, from the Northside Coalition for Fair Housing:
In addition to several residential communities, the tour featured the industrial park near Route 65, the site of the new casino, a stop at some of the green space between the stadiums, and a playground.
Here are some of my own observations:
As the bus wound through the streets of Pittsburgh’s North Side, I was struck by how many doorways and windows are boarded up compared with how many have doors and glass in them. It’s possible the tour route was designed for that effect, but the frequent and obvious signs of blight reminded me of my own North Side neighborhood of Deutschtown or East Allegheny. I thought we were the exception rather than the rule on the North Side. Now I’m not so sure.
Upon approaching Rivers Casino-area construction, one of the other tour narrators noted dryly, “Tell me if anyone sees a female, or any minority working these jobs.” In what seemed like a 300-400 yard stretch driving past active construction, this blogger could not find one, and nobody else called bingo.
Councilman Bill Peduto, Council nominees Robert Daniel Lavelle and Natalia Rudiak, and staff representing State Rep. Don Walko attended the tour. Rudiak mentioned to the Comet that she “did a little research”: turns out her home in Carrick (the Scranton of Pittsburgh) is worth roughly $30 per square foot. This came by way of contrast to the $10 per square foot rates to be found on Pittsburgh’s North Shore.
About four or five times during the tour, the tour guides had to point out, “this is where [somebody] recently got shot”.
The tour often summoned to mind old displacements and grievances stemming from the construction of Route 65, the construction of Allegheny Center, the construction of the Veteran’s Bridge and the construction of already established subsidized developments in the area. While passing beneath some railroad trestles on the way out of the Shore area, intermittent past promises from city government to beautify the entryways and egresses were recalled to some cynical amusement.
There were brief speeches from folks with organized labor, from the green movement, and one from a consortium of neighborhood ministries who spoke of a new public safety effort called the Holy Ground Campaign. The Mattress Factory provided bottled water on a hot day.