Pittsburgh City Council
December 21, 2015
This morning’s comments will focus on the community of Panther Hollow. Many of those individuals who seek to destroy Panther Hollow with an ill-conceived roadway project have never made the time to know its residents, or experienced the neighborhood’s peace and serenity.
The historical and cultural significance of Panther Hollow, one of Pittsburgh’s first Italian neighborhoods, is well documented on the website www.PantherHollow.us. The neighborhood continues to have an Italian sense of place. Preservationist organizations and historically-minded citizens understand the importance of protecting and preserving this iconic neighborhood.
Mayor William Peduto, who often talks about his Italian roots, does not share that belief. The mayor’s allegiance is with Carnegie Mellon University and the Almono site’s profit-seeking owners and property managers, among others. As a councilman, he allowed the universities to destroy much of Oakland. However, the line is drawn at Panther Hollow.
Descendants of early immigrant families visit to show their children the neighborhood where their grandparents lived. Last week, I met with a childhood friend visiting with his younger sister and significant other. We walked past every house recalling the people of the past and beautiful memories there, and ended the day by visiting with longtime residents who never moved away. That was a magical day of remembrance.
There is a famous movie playing this time of year called It’s a Wonderful Life. In a poignant scene, Jimmy Stewart says to his angel, “I wish I was never born.” The angel shows him what the neighborhood would look like then. In a similar fashion of projecting into the future, would the name of our neighborhood be changed to Pedutoville? Would the site of the Italian social club that provided for the welfare of newly arrived immigrants become a four-hundred bed dormitory for Carnegie Mellon University students? Would the area where children played for countless days of fun and laughter instead be filled with CMU President Subra Suresh’s autonomous vehicles? Would eminent domain cause all the longtime residents to move away?
There is a force that cannot be fully described in words, and that is beyond our imaginations, which the residents of Panther Hollow have for this sacred place and the mayor and his supporters do not. That force is called love. And that force that residents have for their beloved neighborhood will prevail. There will be no roadway through Panther Hollow.
My comments will continue this afternoon at the Standing Committee meeting.
Lack of Integrity
The lack of integrity in city government is again the focus of my comments. The mayor’s plan to build a roadway through the communities of Panther Hollow and The Run was deceptive to the public when a $3 million grant was applied for in secret. However, it was also deceptive to our councilmen Bruce Kraus and Corey O’Connor, who were unaware of the plan until a month after the URA submitted the application.
The deception and disrespect to our council members continued last week. In an interview with the Pittsburgh City Paper, a reporter asked Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin when the idea for the transit connector first materialized. He responded that it was “irrelevant,” and thus the secrecy continues. The council members were also deceived when the URA gave them the application. Numerous important documents were missing. Some of these documents included letters to the State Department of Community and Economic Development from Mayor William Peduto, Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin, and RIDC President Donald Smith, as well as budget sheets showing the project cost was reduced from $7.2 million to $4.2 million.
Council members were further deceived when the city said that lights were needed on the bike trail parallel to the proposed roadway, due to a vast increase in bike traffic because of the Greenfield Bridge closure. Residents of both communities will tell you this justification is untrue. City administrators further insulted our council members’ intelligence when the city revealed that these seventeen light structures will be removed when the bridge reopens. Honest individuals will tell you this lighting work is connected to construction projects on Second Avenue and Almono, and has very little to do with any bike traffic increase.
The application for the $3 million grant itself is deceitful to the decision-making Commonwealth Financing Authority. Numerous individuals who support this roadway project have not commented or have refused to reply to inquiries. These individuals can continue with their arrogance and avoid answering to the communities and media. However, they may not be able to do so with the district attorney’s office. A four-page letter was hand-delivered to the office of the District Attorney Stephen Zappala. This roadway project warrants an investigation, and our communities trust in the integrity of the judicial system. The letter can be viewed on the website www.SavePantherHollow.com. We will continue to shine the light on this roadway project and we welcome further support from the media.