Monthly Archives: July 2018

Protecting and Preserving Our Two Neighborhoods

On July 29, 2018, residents and supporters of Panther Hollow and The Run held a protest rally at the monument site in Panther Hollow, and then proceeded to walk to The Run. The purpose of the protest was to send an unequivocal signal to city, university, and foundation leaders that this proposed roadway, from the old Almono site in Hazelwood (now called Hazelwood Green) to Oakland, is neither wanted nor needed by our two communities. Speeches were given in Panther Hollow and The Run. The following is one of those speeches.

July 29, 2018

By Carlino Giampolo
Panther Hollow

I would like to thank the residents of Panther Hollow and The Run, as well as all of our supporters, for being here today for this historic gathering. We unite as one to urge city administrators, foundation leaders, and university leaders to end the plan to build a roadway through our two neighborhoods.

Panther Hollow, one of the first Italian neighborhoods in the city of Pittsburgh, is a cultural treasure. This historic neighborhood should be protected and preserved, not threatened with an ill-conceived roadway. The Italian history of Panther Hollow is the quintessential story of the immigration experience in America that dates back to the 1880s when immigrants, mainly from the two towns of Gamberale and Pizzoferrato in the region of Abruzzi, settled here.

That first generation of humble, honest, hard-working immigrants came in search of a new life and brought with them their Italian traditions. In 1900, over 200 Italians lived on this street, and by 1920, that number grew to 470. Many of the early immigrants built their own homes and created a self-contained community with six stores, two banks, a travel company, cows and a milk company, vegetable gardens, and wine vineyards. Families looked out for one another and it was a place where everybody knew each other’s name. A detailed history of our neighborhood is on the website: www.PantherHollow.us

This is not the first time that Panther Hollow has been threatened with an ill-conceived development plan. In 1963, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Edward Litchfield proposed a 21stCentury Research Park that would have begun at 5thAvenue and Neville Street, and continue through Panther Hollow and The Run until it reached the banks of the Monongahela River. In Panther Hollow, 60 homes would have been destroyed and over 250 Italians displaced. In addition, Central Catholic High School would have been destroyed, depriving any future students of graduating from there. The second generation of Italians, that of my parents, prevailed and Litchfield was defeated.

It is now up to us, the succeeding generations of our ancestors, whether you live here or not, to protect and preserve our historic neighborhood.

To those who propose this roadway, I have already provided numerous solutions that would not impact our two neighborhoods. Four roadways already in existence can be used instead: Second Avenue to Brady Street, Second Avenue to Bates Street, Greenfield Avenue to the Greenfield Bridge onto the Boulevard of the Allies, and Greenfield Avenue to Swinburne Street. In each of those alternatives, the travel time from Saline Street and Greenfield Avenue until you are in Oakland is, well, less than 10 minutes. This destructive roadway plan, which would save only a few minutes in drive time, is convenient for the universities and foundations, but devastating for our two historic communities. I have also suggested simply to employ express buses from the old Almono site to Oakland. These are just two of 12 suggestions that are on the website www.SavePantherHollow.com.

I had also asked 10 of the top city, university, and foundation leaders who support the roadway, to please provide to us in detail all of the benefits to the Panther Hollow community, especially to the elderly residents who have lived here their entire lives, and who wish to live the remainder of their lives here in dignity and peace.Those leaders failed to provide any benefits. They all chose silence.

We all know who benefits the most:

They are the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. These are institutions of higher education. Should they not also have leaders of higher intelligence who can creatively figure out how to help the Hazelwood community without destroying Panther Hollow and The Run?

The roadway also benefits the foundations who own the old Almono site in Hazelwood. These foundations spent nearly $10 million dollars on the purchase of that property as well as for studies to support the proposed roadway. Would that money not have been better used to help the disenfranchised in our city?

The roadway also benefits our Italian mayor’s political ambitions. Should he not be using his energies to protect and preserve our historic Italian neighborhood, and to support efforts to enhance the neighborhood by building an Italian Cultural Center here? Should Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, whose mother-in-law was born and raised here, not do the same?

This neighborhood is sacred to us. We deeply honor and highly respect the legacy of our ancestors who came before us and sacrificed to make Panther Hollow a special place. They may very well be looking down on us, saying: keep on, keeping on, for your cause is just.

We will. We will stand tall, stand proud, stand out. We will triumph. There will be no roadway through Panther Hollow and The Run.

Basta is Basta

Panther Hollow & Th Run United As One

Break the Silence

Stephen Zappala, Jr.
Allegheny County District Attorney
436 Grant Street #303
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

July 11, 2018

RE: Oakland Transit Connector

Dear Mr. Zappala:

I am writing to you once again concerning the proposed Oakland Transit Connector project. On December 14, 2015, I hand-delivered a letter to your office, along with supporting materials, stating that this project warrants an investigation by your office.

You have chosen not to respond. However, it is now time to break the silence. The tragedy of this ill‑conceived project continues today, as evidenced by this letter to you. Your silence is a mystery, and from mysteries come numerous possible solutions. Here are a few questions we have for you:

1) Did you read my letter with the supporting documents and decide not to do an investigation? If so, why not? Were you contacted by any City and County political officials, leaders of the foundations that own the old Almono site, or any University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University leaders about this possible investigation? If so, what were you told?

2) If your office did an investigation, who conducted the investigation and how extensive was it?

3) As you know, on July 31, 2015, the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s (URA) then Acting Executive Director Robert Rubinstein submitted an application in secret for a $3 million Multimodal Transportation Fund grant to the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the Commonwealth Financing Authority (CFA). Was DCED and CFA deceived about the funds available for the project, and was there an overvaluation of a security amount to obtain the grant?

4) Mayor William Peduto stated in a letter to the DCED that the City of Pittsburgh will be committing $400,000 in the 2017 budget for the construction of this project. Did the mayor overvalue a security to obtain the grant?

5) The application was submitted by the URA on July 31, 2015, but was not ratified by the board until August 13, 2015. Board Chair Kevin Acklin wrote a letter to DCED stating that the URA will be committing $400,000 to be used in the construction of this project. Did the board chair also overvalue a security to obtain the grant? As you know, he was also the mayor’s chief of staff and has since resigned to work for a public utility company.

6) The application stated that the project will be a public-private partnership between the city of Pittsburgh, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the University of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Mellon University. However, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher stated that he had no involvement in this project. University of Pittsburgh Attorney Paul Supowitz stated that the university was not involved in any discussions about the roadway project, and that they first learned about the proposed roadway in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article. Were university officials and city officials questioned by your office about this discrepancy? Who is telling the truth: University of Pittsburgh officials, or those who prepared and submitted the grant?

7) Former CMU president Subra Suresh resigned in 2017, making his tenure the shortest in the school’s history. For some, this created another cloud of mystery. Was he questioned extensively by your office about this project? Did he eventually become aware of the injustice this project would cause to the communities impacted, or by the morally corrupt manner in which it was proceeding? Did he decide not to become further involved, thus creating tensions with others at CMU who do support the project?

8) The McCune Foundation was one of the four original foundation owners of the old Almono site. The leaders made the decision to sell their interest to the Richard King Mellon Foundation, thus creating another mystery. Were the leaders of the McCune Foundation investigated by your office as well as the leaders of the other foundation owners – Heinz Endowments, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation? What were the results of the investigation, if any?

9) It was discovered that the land for this roadway project proposed in the grant is owned by a railway company, the city of Pittsburgh, and the University of Pittsburgh. The assertion in the application which stated the land for this project is owned solely by the city of Pittsburgh is not true and was deceptive to the CFA. Did your office investigate this untruth?

10) There were two versions of the application: one given to our community with pages missing, and one that was more complete and given to the DCED and CFA. Did your office investigate this discrepancy?

11) What was the involvement of Uber? Were there secret deals made between Uber and the city, foundations, and university officials?

12) The grant application stated there would be $200,000 of federal funds for the project, but there is no documentation of federal approval. Did you investigate this, or is this the domain of federal investigators?

We as a community are suspending judgment, for we want to hear from you directly. Both the #MeToo movement and this project bring to light once again that shame that is masked, denied, numbed, or ignored continues to grow. Similar to this project, the Duquesne Light Company recently purchased a parking lot in our community for $5.45 million in secret, without informing city council representatives, Oakland organizations, or our community.

In 1963, when former University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Edward Litchfield wanted to destroy Panther Hollow to build his futuristic 21stCentury Research Park, he also wanted to demolish your alma mater Central Catholic High School. Litchfield failed and the residents of Panther Hollow prevailed, allowing you and over 10,000 other graduates since to create memories and forge a solid moral foundation there.

Silence is compliance. Stand tall. Stand proud. Stand out. We trust you will respond this time, from your deepest inner integrity about everything you know. In the end, we believe goodness and truth will prevail.

Thank you,

Carlino Giampolo

The December 14, 2015 letter is on the website:  www.SavePantherHollow.com