The purpose of this letter is to request that you initiate an internal investigation of a study conducted by the Brookings Institution titled “Capturing the next economy: Pittsburgh’s rise as a global innovation city”. It was written by Scott Andes, Mitch Horowitz, Ryan Helwig, and Bruce Katz.
The study called for the creation of a so-called Oakland Innovation District that would encompass the entire 1.7-square-mile neighborhood. Unfortunately, the perception, whether or not it is true, is that the wealthy foundations which funded the study as well as their supporters are able to use your institution to further their own agendas. Will this study, if left unchallenged, eventually bring this shame to your institution?
The success of a city is not based solely on its economy. It is also about how a city values the dignity of its people. Nowhere in the study do the recommendations focus on their impact to Oakland’s longtime residential community. Why? Don’t these residents matter? Part of the mission statement of your institution is to do high-quality research. Did these writers know about the history of Oakland’s residential community and its catastrophic decline due to the presence of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University? Did they talk to any of the longtime residents of Oakland to ask about their thoughts on the impact the universities have had on their community? There is no indication that they did. Do the writers fully comprehend what will happen to the residential community because of their recommendations? Do they care?
Both the residential and business districts of Oakland are being decimated by the presence of these universities. The above mentioned study is already being used by university administrators and their supporters to foster the continued uncontrolled growth of the universities in our urban community. The University of Pittsburgh, which currently owns over 100 buildings in the neighborhood, recently purchased yet another building for their “innovation center”. The above study is also used as justification for the construction of a roadway through two neighborhoods to connect the Almono site mentioned in the study to the universities. Such a roadway would have a severe, detrimental impact on these two neighborhoods. Heinz Endowments, one of the two funders of the study, just happens to be one of the owners of Almono.
Please view “The Litchfield Consciousness” at www.SavePantherHollow.com. In this article, I believe you will find similarities between University of Pittsburgh Chancellor David Litchfield’s grandiose plan of the past and this Brookings Institution study of today. In both of these efforts, the dignity of the residential community is devalued. On December 15, I asked Kelly Cofrancisco to bring the above website to the attention of the four writers of the study as well.
There will be no pressure from the local media for you to conduct an investigation. They lack the ability and the will to challenge the universities’ uncontrolled growth, and their impact on the host community. There will be no pressure from the national media, for they consider our community problems to be only a locally newsworthy issue. You will need to make the determination of whether or not to initiate an investigation based on your own values.
We are not casting judgment on the writers of this study, because we do not fully have the information as to why our longtime residential community was ignored. We simply need and deserve to know the full truth. You were elected president because you are widely respected for your skill, integrity, and courage. Those are precisely what are needed to reveal the truth.
As a retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star general, you admirably defended our country. Now we ask you to defend the truth in our community.
Please let us know what choice you will make.
(Author’s Note: David Litchfield’s should read Edward Litchfield’s)
The Litchfield Consciousness, one of the most destructive for a residential community hosting a university, should never exist in any city, university, or certainly any urban environment. Tragically, it is deep-rooted in the University of Pittsburgh where it originated and in the city of Pittsburgh which is the university’s host. What follows is a thoughtful examination of that consciousness with all of its resultant chaos, devastation, pain, and suffering brought to the host community.
Edward Litchfield was chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh from 1956 to 1965. He was an outsider to the community, as all of the university’s past chancellors have been, who attempted to dictate how the community should live and even whether the community should exist or not.
During his short tenure, he set in motion a wave of ruination for Oakland’s residential community, which continues to fight to maintain its identity and very existence today. He was dismissed by the university trustees in 1965, in part due to placing the university in financial debt. He passed away two years later, but his consciousness is still very much alive today within the university and throughout the city.
Panther Hollow Project
On June 6, 1963, Litchfield unveiled his plan that was known as the Panther Hollow project. It was described as a 21st Century Research Park that would be one of the “architectural wonders of the world,” and become the “nucleus of the nation’s first 21st century city.” The initial phase was to begin at Fifth Avenue and expand down Neville Street, at a width of up to 900 feet and a length of one mile. The project would have cut through Panther Hollow, eradicating the neighborhood and reducing it to rubble. His plan was to build a 21st century “city within a city” while destroying the existing neighborhood within a neighborhood.
His intention was to then continue the project through the Four Mile Run neighborhood in Greenfield, eradicating it as well, until it reached the banks of the Monongahela River.
The main purpose was to create useable income-producing space for the University of Pittsburgh. The plan stated: “The Panther Hollow project was conceived and developed for a high economic purpose: to lay the foundation for and to help build a new and urgently needed supplemental industrial complex in Pittsburgh and the surrounding region.”
Panther Hollow Community
The history of Panther Hollow, one of Pittsburgh’s first Italian neighborhoods, is the quintessential story of the immigration experience in America. Early settlers began arriving in the late 1800s, largely from the two small towns of Gamberale and Pizzoferrato – humble peasants in search of honest work and a new life. They were skilled bricklayers, cement finishers, and laborers who built most of the neighborhood. They constructed homes, cemented the sidewalks, and dug out mud two feet deep to build a red brick street for their neighborhood. The women cared for their own families as well as for the welfare of numerous boarders in this new neighborhood. It became a close-knit community in which no one was a stranger and everyone knew their neighbors.
In 1900, over 200 Italians were living in Panther Hollow, and in 1920, at the height of the Italian immigration experience in America, the population grew to approximately 470. When Litchfield decided that Panther Hollow didn’t deserve to exist next to his university, three generations of Italians lived there – the first arrivals who came at the turn of the century, their children, and their grandchildren.
Litchfield was insensitive to that sacred history, and when he announced his grandiose expansion project, the community sprung into action. An organization called Citizens Against the Ravages of Urban Renewal was formed. Eugene “Jeep” DePasquale, whose parents were among the early settlers, travelled to Washington D.C. and spoke before the U.S. Senate on behalf of the organization. Another descendent of the early settlers, Nicholas Diulus, expressed the sentiments of the community when he said that you couldn’t give him enough money to move out of his home and his neighborhood, and that he would fight the project to his last drop of blood.
In 1965, the Panther Hollow project failed.
The Panther Hollow project.
The Panther Hollow project.
The Panther Hollow project.
The Panther Hollow project.
Edward Litchfield is in the background overlooking his Panther Hollow project. Under his plan, the Panther Hollow community would have ceased to exist. Nearly 60 homes would have been demolished and over 250 longtime Italian residents displaced.
The Panther Hollow project. (Click on the images to see a large version.)
The Litchfield Consciousness
Since Litchfield’s attempts, history has shown that the Litchfield Consciousness has continuously been deeply engrained within the University of Pittsburgh and the city of Pittsburgh. The university now owns over 100 buildings in the neighborhood, and is currently purchasing new property. Meanwhile, the decline of the longtime residential population is approaching 90% since the university moved from the North Side to Oakland in 1908.
It is important to understand the key components of the oppressive Litchfield Consciousness. The Panther Hollow project illuminates the fact that the keystone of that consciousness is the devaluation of human dignity and the elevation of economic profit as the highest priority. The cornerstone of that consciousness is that of domination, manipulation, and instilling fear.
The Panther Hollow project was an attempt of ethnic cleansing – later extended to residential and elderly cleansing – not cleansing that results in physical death, but rather results in the death of the hopes and dreams of those whom it severely impacts.
The Litchfield Consciousness doesn’t permeate the entire being of a person. It is an insidious consciousness that is compartmentalized and activated in matters pertaining mainly to the expansion plans of the university. It causes a person to lose his or her moral compass. Some individuals who possess the Litchfield Consciousness are considered stalwarts in society, and deserve praise for their many contributions. They can be found attending, preaching, and leading singing in churches, donating to charities, and volunteering to help the needy, among many other wonderful good deeds.
The Litchfield Consciousness, although abhorrent and destructive, was fully accepted and embraced by the University of Pittsburgh. Edward Litchfield was given the high honor of having buildings named after him. The three tallest and largest dormitories of the university bear his name – Litchfield Towers.
The Consciousness Spreads
South Bouquet Street – In 1958, during Litchfield’s reign, the university purchased the iconic Forbes Field for a little over $3 million with the stipulation that the Pirates would play there until Three Rivers Stadium opened. An article in the University Times quoted a university director of public relations referring to that purchase: “. . . the plan was to eliminate the Oakland community in all directions surrounding the site of Forbes Field.”
The article went on to say: “In 1967, to expedite Pitt’s expansion, the General State Assembly (GSA) stepped in and, invoking eminent domain condemned all the buildings in the two-block area south of Forbes Avenue between Oakland Avenue and South Bouquet Street, and sent eviction notices to tenants and business owners there, many of whom were long-term occupants. The GSA also declared that only academic buildings could be developed in the two-block area, a position that became important later.” The two-block area referenced above was located across the street from Forbes Field.
In 1971, the university demolished Forbes Field. Prior to the university’s invoking eminent domain and demolishing Forbes Field, over 200 longtime residents and only about a dozen students were living on South Bouquet Street. Today, only two longtime residents and about 800 students live there. Eminent domain is meant to be exercised for the public good, not for the selfish interests of a university. The invoking of eminent domain was a catastrophic social injustice. The residential cleansing of South Bouquet Street, including many of the elderly whose families had called it home for generations, is almost complete.
That street is one example of the domination and manipulation inherent in the Litchfield Consciousness. University administrators knowingly used manipulative lies to the community by saying that constructing two Bouquet Garden dormitory buildings in that eminent domain area would remove students from the residential neighborhood. They used the same lies to justify the construction of dormitory buildings in other parts of Oakland, while at the same time increasing their student enrollment to nearly 30,000 students.
Forbes Avenue – The Litchfield Consciousness permeates this street. University administrators are fully aware that the community cannot attract young families or grow a neighborhood when its business district is destroyed by the presence of student dormitories and other university–related buildings. During the current administration, massive dormitories have been – and continue to be – under construction on Forbes Avenue. In addition, the university announced that it is spending $1.9 million to purchase the Allegheny County Health Department Medical Building next to the future student housing site. This purchase is a part of their plan to turn that street into an alleged innovation center. The Litchfield Consciousness continues, with Litchfield’s original words “research park” simply being replaced by “innovation center”.
University of Pittsburgh Faculty – The university faculty is an example of the Litchfield Consciousness that not only dominates and manipulates but also instills fear in others. A culture of fear fills the university. Faculty members are too fearful to say what they honestly feel in matters pertaining to university expansion. When Litchfield announced his Panther Hollow project, not a single faculty voice publicly opposed the plan. Today, none of the 5,000 faculty members has publicly spoken out in opposition to the university’s uncontrolled growth that is decimating the residential community of Oakland. It is phenomenal that 5,000 intelligent faculty members all apparently think alike on matters pertaining to the university’s uncontrolled expansion.
The Mayor – In 2015, the city announced a plan, reminiscent of the Litchfield Consciousness, to build a roadway through the neighborhoods of Panther Hollow and Four Mile Run in order to connect the old Almono site in Hazelwood to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. It would have eventually accomplished what Litchfield had initially wanted to do: eradicate these two neighborhoods. The Litchfield Consciousness attracts the like-minded. The disgraced former leader of Uber was in consultation with the mayor to use the roadway for that company’s autonomous vehicles. The mayor often speaks of his Italian roots and his grandfather’s immigration experience, as well as his desire to protect Pittsburgh neighborhoods. However, the roadway initiative he advocates is a continuation of the Litchfield Consciousness in which glory, greed, and economic profit take precedence over human dignity.
City Council – Pittsburgh City Council members have passed hundreds of bills in the last ten years, but never even attempted to introduce a bill to end the uncontrolled growth of the University of Pittsburgh. The city council is an example of this basic truth: Individuals who choose to dominate, manipulate, or instill fear need victims. The Litchfield Consciousness cannot exist unless there are those who are willing to fall victim to that consciousness. The massive excavation taking place now on Forbes Avenue by a developer from Dallas, Texas to build more students housing is another example of the council’s role as victims. The developer mentioned in a public meeting that he could not do the same project in California because the state laws prevent him from doing so. The Litchfield Consciousness thrives when there are willing victims and good people who choose to do nothing.
Allegheny County Executive Director – At the forefront of the new grandiose plan to make Pittsburgh the innovation center of the world is the executive director of Allegheny County. He is the main supporter for the Allegheny Council approving the University of Pittsburgh’s purchase of the above mentioned medical building on Forbes Avenue. He is also a fervent supporter of the roadway initiative, despite the fact that his mother-in-law was born and raised in Panther Hollow. Sensitivity and empathy to the wants and needs of a community, especially the elderly, are not a priority of the Litchfield Consciousness.
Pittsburgh Foundations – The old Almono site in Hazelwood is owned by three of Pittsburgh’s largest foundations – Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation, and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. These foundations are also at the forefront of the roadway initiative through Panther Hollow and Four Mile Run. These leaders’ actions are an example of how the Litchfield Consciousness is compartmentalized. These foundations give millions and millions of dollars to worthy organizations, ensuring their leaders are esteemed in the city. Recently, the Heinz Endowments announced a major donation for a Mister Rogers Neighborhood project. Mister Rogers Neighborhood is as sacred to its followers as Panther Hollow and Four Mile Run are to their longtime residents.
The Media – One of the most formidable protectors of our basic rights is the media: men and women entrusted with accounting for the integrity and identity of our residential communities. Tragically, the media has never conducted an ongoing, in-depth investigation of the University of Pittsburgh which is systematically destroying the residential community of Oakland. Their inaction is another example of how the Litchfield Consciousness can instill fear in others. It is safer for them not to rock the boat and possibly jeopardize the revenue they receive from the university and its supporters, not to jeopardize their relationship with university administrators who are a source of information, or not to potentially uncover wrongdoing which could tarnish the image of the university and the city. It is safer to remain silent and sit by idly as a residential community – which they had been entrusted to serve – vanishes before their very eyes.
Oakland Organizations – University administrators can provide a long list of all they do for Oakland organizations and the community. However, it is astounding that none of them, or very few if any, of their 5,000 faculty members live in Oakland. All of these individuals could live nearby and walk to work, but choose not to live in a neighborhood that they have helped to create. The university’s generosity is very much akin to a dominating husband who showers his wife with gifts in order to maintain control over her. The wife may even deny the abuse, or even defend the husband, when others bring the abuse to light. The deep fear instilled by the Litchfield Consciousness can lead Oakland organizations to mask, deny, or ignore any wrongdoing.
Litchfield Consciousness Begins to Erode
In 2015, when the city announced plans for its roadway initiative, one of the foundation owners of the old Almono site was the McCune Foundation. They have since sold their interest to the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The leaders decided not to continue involvement in an initiative that would severely impact two neighborhoods. Kevin Acklin, the mayor’s chief of staff and a strong advocate of the roadway initiative, announced his resignation effective in January 2018. He was born and raised in South Oakland and attended a high school with many young men of Panther Hollow. Subra Suresh was president of Carnegie Mellon University in 2015 and another strong advocate of the roadway initiative. CMU is deeply infected with the Litchfield Consciousness and their administrators have laid a path of destruction in North Oakland. Suresh resigned in 2017 and doing so became the shortest tenure of any president of that university. He moved to Singapore with his wife. Karina Ricks was hired as the director of the newly formed city Department of Mobility and Infrastructure. On October 6, 2017, she took a public action that was unheard of: she made a decision that went against the plans of the universities, city, foundations, and their supporters. She chose not to apply for a federal grant for monies that could be used for the roadway initiative.
When individuals take actions to prioritize human dignity, and do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do, they gain self-respect and earn the respect of everyone who shares those beliefs. Thus, the Litchfield Consciousness begins to erode.
Communities get destroyed when good people choose to do nothing.
The Litchfield Consciousness is an outdated consciousness that will have no place in a world becoming new. Not simply an improvement of the same old world, but the beginnings of a New World. Choice is seminal to that change.
The Litchfield Consciousness has always been a conscious choice. Therefore, it will also be a conscious choice of good people to end this destructive consciousness. Choice alongside beliefs are the most powerful raw materials for creating this new world.
What will you choose to do to end the Litchfield Consciousness?
Pittsburgh City Council
November 29, 2017
By Carlino Giampolo
I am here because the city of Pittsburgh, in collusion with CMU, Pitt, and the foundation owners of the old Almono site in Hazelwood, is once again attempting to build a roadway through the neighborhoods of Four Mile Run and Panther Hollow.
It is well-documented that the city’s first attempt to do so resulted in protests at CMU, Heinz Hall, and Benedum Center, and was brought to the attention of the district attorney and other entities outside of the city. During that period, although the reasons are unknown, the city lost the Smart City Challenge, and the president of CMU resigned in a shroud of mystery.
The ill-advised decision of city leaders to once again attempt to build a roadway through these two neighborhoods may place them on a path of self–sabotage in their efforts to make the city the site of Amazon’s second headquarters.
We strongly recommend the city to indefinitely suspend any plans for a roadway. The mayor has in his possession a petition signed by 462 powerful individuals who are adamantly opposed to this roadway, and who have emphatically stated that this roadway is not needed or wanted. The opposition to the roadway now will be in greater numbers, and extend to more venues.
Three minutes is not enough time to detail all that needs to be said, but let me highlight a few key points. In the bigger picture, we are faced with this issue because of the uncontrolled growth of Pitt and CMU that has devastated the residential and business districts of Oakland, and, like a cancer, the effects of that uncontrolled growth have now spread to the communities of Four Mile Run and Panther Hollow.
Communities get destroyed when good people choose to do nothing. These good people may also be referred to as enablers – individuals who are well aware of the injustice but remain silent anyway. They include the thousands of faculty members of these universities, the media, and this council. We are asking this council to break its silence, and form an alliance with our two communities to put an end to any plans of a roadway through our two neighborhoods.
We are also asking the same of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald whose mother-in-law was born and raised in Panther Hollow. On November 1, in a television interview with KDKA, he referred to the Kaufman building downtown. He said, “Moving into the future while still preserving the past. That’s who we are in Pittsburgh.” Belief precedes experience and we ask that he extend his belief about buildings to also include neighborhoods.
The leadership of Pittsburgh will not be remembered by how many thousands of robots are manufactured at the old Almono site in Hazelwood. Rather, the leadership will be remembered more fondly if they make human dignity their highest priority.
Robots never have, and never will be, made in the image and likeness of our Divine Creator.
Proposed Roadway (Mobility Trail) Through Panther Hollow and
Four Mile Run
November 14 & 15, 2017 Meetings
at the Jewish Community Center.
By Carlino Giampolo
These meetings are the third attempt by city leaders and their supporters to propose a roadway through the Panther Hollow and Four Mile Run neighborhoods. The residents there have been adamantly opposed to such proposals, and will continue to be, now and in the future.
The motivation of the proponents lays at the root cause of many problems in our world today: lack of human dignity. These individuals are fully aware of the residents’ tremendous fear, anxiety, and worry—yet they continue their attempts. They are aware of the 85-year-old grandmother and lifelong Panther Hollow resident who felt these worries, and who died from a heart condition last year without knowing if the city’s roadway grant application would lead to this problem in her neighborhood. Sadly, proponents are more concerned about condoning the uncontrolled growth of Pitt and CMU, and economic profits generated from the old Almono site.
Panther Hollow, one of Pittsburgh’s first Italian neighborhoods, is sacred and beloved by many. Many bicyclists commend the beauty, peace, and serenity of Panther Hollow, and the fact that it is one of the safest neighborhoods to traverse through. Not many areas in the city of Pittsburgh have the honor of their residents having their ashes scattered in the neighborhoods they loved. This is our Panther Hollow, but proponents of the roadway do not value that sacredness or the history of this treasured neighborhood.
Many proponents of the roadway have not visited Panther Hollow, or if they have, never took the time to personally meet any of the residents. Among the proponents are the leaders of Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation, and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, which are the owners of the old Almono site. These individuals do everything in their power to foster the uncontrolled growth of Pitt and CMU, yet none of them would ever want these universities to be ensconced in the neighborhoods where they live.
There are others who are connected to Panther Hollow in one way or another, yet shamefully support this roadway. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is a fierce supporter of the roadway, and last month became angry when told that Karina Ricks would not file an application for federal Tiger Funds. He remarked: She is not the decision maker. However, his mother-in-law was born and raised in Panther Hollow and played with the other children there until her family moved to Greenfield. Her family’s name is still inscribed on a plaque, at the monument site in the neighborhood, that bears the names of 95 Italian families who lived there.
Mayor William Peduto, who was first elected on the promise of being the “Neighborhood Mayor”, often talks in public forums about his grandfather’s own Italian immigrant experience. That experience is not dissimilar to the hundreds of Italian immigrants who settled in Panther Hollow beginning in the 1880s. His chief of staff, Kevin Acklin, resided in Oakland and graduated from Central Catholic High School, with many other students from Panther Hollow.
Residents of Panther Hollow and Four Mile Run promise to continue to protect and preserve our neighborhoods. (See attached Drive Times from Saline Street to Oakland, and 12 Solutions).
Drive Times from Saline Street to Oakland
November 10, 2017
Saline Street to Second Avenue to Brady Street to Forbes Avenue
On November 9, 2017 at an Oakland community meeting concerning changes to be made to Bigelow Boulevard between Forbes and Fifth Avenues, a city planner mentioned that Forbes Avenue is under capacity and can accommodate an additional 7,000 vehicles.
7:00 am – 3 Minutes 12 Seconds
10:00 am – 3 Minutes 54 Seconds
2:00 pm – 4 Minutes 19 Seconds
4:00 pm – 3 Minutes 36 Seconds
Saline Street to Greenfield Avenue to the Greenfield Bridge to the Boulevard of the Allies and Hobart Road
From Hobart Road, drivers can be on the CMU or Pitt campuses in under 3 Minutes.
7:30 am – 4 Minutes 11 Seconds
10:30 am – 3 Minutes 31 Seconds
2:30 pm – 4 Minutes 55 Seconds
4:30 pm – 4 Minutes 19 Seconds
Saline Street to Swinburne Street to Boulevard of the Allies
8:00 am – 2 Minutes 21 Seconds
11:00 am – 2 Minutes 25 Seconds
3:00 pm – 2 Minutes 32 Seconds
5:00 pm – 2 Minutes 51 Seconds
November 14 & 15, 2017 Meetings at the Jewish Community Center. By Carlino Giampolo
1) Three viable vehicle alternatives for travel from Saline Street to Oakland currently exist – without impacting the neighborhoods of Panther Hollow or Four Mile Run: a) Via Second Avenue to Brady Street to Forbes Avenue; b) Via Greenfield Avenue to the Greenfield Bridge to the Boulevard of the Allies; or c) Via Greenfield Avenue to Swinburne Street to the Boulevard of the Allies.
2) Express public buses must be employed from the old Almono site in Hazelwood to Oakland. Such buses leaving the site and traveling down Second Avenue onto Brady Street underneath the Birmingham Bridge would be on Forbes Avenue in Oakland in approximately seven minutes at most times of the day. A city planner mentioned at an Oakland meeting last week that Forbes Avenue is not operating at full capacity, and can accommodate an additional 7,000 vehicles.
3) If needed, an additional roadway could be built adjacent to Brady Street for the exclusive use of buses.
4) The watershed problems that residents of Four Mile Run have suffered for far too long must be addressed immediately, and be given the city’s complete attention instead of the plans to build a roadway through Four Mile Run and Panther Hollow.
5) Instead of the Almono site’s future tenants traveling to the universities in Oakland, Pitt and CMU must downsize in Oakland and expand at the Almono site to satisfy the tenants’ needs,
6) A fundamental focus for the development of the Almono site must be the enhancement of the quality of life in the neighborhood of Hazelwood.
7) There must be a moratorium on any further expansion by universities and developers in Oakland.
8) There must be honest in-depth Impact Statements on how any future development plans in Oakland affect its longtime residents.
9) Plans for any future expansion or major projects by universities and developers in Oakland must be presented to the city council for approval.
10) The local media must end their silence and not sit by idly as Oakland becomes systematically destroyed by its two major universities and developers, both in the residential and business districts.
11) If the city of Pittsburgh wants to be known as the Silicon Valley of the East, then its leaders and decision-makers must use their innovative and creative skills to resolve their problems without negatively impacting the neighborhoods of Four Mile Run and Panther Hollow.
12) Human dignity must be the highest priority in any decision-making, for when that belief is fully understood and implemented, problems become easier to resolve the right way.
TRIUMPH. The residents of Panther Hollow once again extend our sincere gratitude to all those individuals, known and unknown, who assisted us in protecting and preserving our historic neighborhood.
On October 5, 2017, I attended a meeting conducted by the city’s Director of Mobility and Infrastructure believing that it would be about the major ongoing stormwater problem faced by the residents of Four Mile Run in Greenfield. Surprisingly, discussions began about building a “Mobility Trail” for vehicles and bicycles adjacent to the railroad tracks above Panther Hollow, which would travel through Four Mile Run, to connect the Almono site in Hazelwood to Pitt and CMU.
The plan was for the city to pursue a $5–25 million dollar grant from the federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) program by getting approval for the grant application from the Urban Redevelopment Authority’s board of directors at their October 12th meeting.
After hearing adamant opposition to the plan, mainly from Panther Hollow and Four Mile Run residents, the city decided not to place the issue on the board’s agenda.
We remain vigilant and look forward to the day when the city seeks other viable transit alternatives outside of our neighborhoods.
TRIUMPH. The residents of Panther Hollow extend our sincere gratitude to all those individuals, known and unknown, who assisted us in protecting and preserving our historic neighborhood.
The city of Pittsburgh’s application for a $3 million Multimodal Transportation Fund grant for a roadway project that would have devastated our neighborhood was denied by the Commonwealth Financing Authority. The city’s proposal for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, which included the roadway project, was also rejected when Columbus, Ohio was declared the winner.
Should anyone attempt to revive this ill-conceived roadway project, our community will remain vigilant. This is a part of our continuous efforts to protect and preserve Panther Hollow.
I hope you had a successful trip visiting the seven Finalist Cities in the Smart City Challenge. The information below was sent to the office overseeing this challenge, but I am not certain if it had been forwarded to you directly.
I wish to make comments concerning the “Smart City Challenge.”
Every city in America wants the best possible technology and innovation available toward having a modern and efficient transportation system. However, of most importance is the means used to accomplish that end. City of Pittsburgh leaders, as well as the leaders of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, have already demonstrated through a proposed roadway project that they are willing to possibly decimate and forever alter two of the city’s beloved neighborhoods in order to achieve their transportation goals of self-driving cars.
In past local newspaper articles, the mayor has said the City of Pittsburgh would move ahead with transportation expansion plans whether or not the city wins the challenge, despite census figures indicating the city’s population is declining. He also said that if the city is awarded the $50 million, it could double that amount through corporate donations. Although our efforts as residents would become even more daunting if the city wins the challenge, those of us who desire to protect and preserve our neighborhoods will continue our efforts regardless of the outcome. We will hold firmly to the belief that human dignity must be the highest priority in any decision-making process, even concerning futuristic transportation goals.
I do not expect you to read all of the material on these websites that document our efforts to protect and preserve our neighborhoods. However, they will give you an indication of our desire to place importance on the city’s people above its “image” or any other consideration:
Also, below is my letter to the editor that was published recently in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Thank you for your kind attention to our concerns.
My Panther Hollow prayer is that forces promoting transit corridor stay out
May 15, 2016
I would like to respond to Brian O’Neill’s May 8 column, “What Can 21st-Century Transit Do for The Run?” Although I generally enjoy his columns, in this one, his obsession with a roadway constructed alongside the railroad tracks to connect the Almono site in Hazelwood to the Oakland campuses blinds him to the truth that this roadway will adversely impact the communities of The Run and Panther Hollow.
This obsession puts him in the shameful company of other outsiders — from as close as Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze to as far as San Francisco and India — who want to dictate how we should live in our own communities.
I have listed 10 alternative solutions to this roadway on the website SavePantherHollow.com. If these are insufficient to the outsiders who support this roadway, then perhaps they should come up with their own creative solutions that will not negatively impact residents at all. Innovation and technology must be used to enrich human dignity, not diminish it.
Mr. O’Neill ended his article saying he prayed in a Greenfield church for the transit corridor to be built. We don’t intend to make this a holy war, but we have our own prayers. My suggestion is that he pray every day in gratitude for the benefits that Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh create for his family — while not having these universities ensconced in his own quiet North Side neighborhood.
Last week, after attending a 4 Mile Run Watershed workshop, I had a brief conversation with an official of the Urban Redevelopment Authority concerning the Oakland Transit Connector project. As you are all aware, the project is a city initiative to construct a roadway from the Almono site in Hazelwood to Carnegie Mellon University and other sites in Oakland. This project would pass through and decimate two neighborhoods, The Run and Panther Hollow.
The URA official mentioned that one reason for this roadway project is that it currently takes 40 minutes by bus to go from near the Almono site in Hazelwood to Oakland. This project has once again brought to the surface a myriad of problems. I would like to share ten solutions for consideration by Oakland’s three councilmen, the councilman for The Run, community organizations, and others who either support or are undecided about this roadway project.
1) Express public buses must be employed from the Almono site in Hazelwood to Oakland. Such buses traveling down Second Avenue onto Brady Street underneath the Birmingham Bridge would be on Forbes Avenue in Oakland in approximately seven minutes at most times of the day–without impacting any adjacent neighborhoods.
2) If needed, an additional roadway could be built adjacent to Brady Street for the exclusive use of buses.
3) Instead of the Almono site’s future tenants traveling to the universities in Oakland, the universities and health institutions should expand at the Almono site to satisfy the tenants’ needs, and the needs of the people of Hazelwood.
4) The fundamental focus for the development of the Almono site must be for the enhancement of the quality of life for the people of Hazelwood.
5) There must be a moratorium on any further expansion by universities and developers in Oakland.
6) There must be honest in-depth Impact Statements on how any future development plans in Oakland affect its longtime residents.
7) Plans for any future expansion by universities and developers in Oakland must be presented to the city council for approval.
8) The local media must end their silence and not sit by idly as Oakland becomes systematically destroyed by its two major universities and developers, both in the residential and business districts.
9) The watershed problems that residents of The Run have suffered for far too long must be resolved immediately without any quid pro quo requests by supporters of the Oakland Transit Connector.
10) Human dignity must be the highest priority in any decision-making, for when that belief is fully understood and implemented, problems become easier to resolve.
On July 31, 2015, the city of Pittsburgh submitted an application for a $3 million Multimodal Transportation Fund grant to the State Department of Community and Economic Development and the Commonwealth Financing Authority for a roadway project that would destroy Panther Hollow, one of Pittsburgh’s first Italian neighborhoods.
Courage is often defined as the willingness to seek the highest truth, or as honesty even when it is not in one’s own best interest. Cowardice is refraining from seeking the highest truth, or hiding the truth. Numerous inquiries to the city and other officials who support this project went unanswered and are well-documented on the website: www.SavePantherHollow.com
Council President Bruce Kraus, you represent Panther Hollow, but chose not to attend a meeting last month that would have given you an opportunity to voice your solidarity with those of us who oppose this roadway project. By the events of these past five months, it is apparent that your personal friendship with the mayor is greater than your caring for the community you represent. We cannot force you to change that.
However, here is a consideration that may help you choose greater caring for our community, and also help others understand our commitment. At a City Council meeting several months ago, you talked about your past alcoholism and how you have refrained from drinking alcohol since 1988. That is truly a remarkable and commendable accomplishment. There is nothing that anyone could say to you that would break your commitment and lead to your downfall and destruction. Similarly, there is nothing that anyone could say to those of us who oppose this roadway project to break our commitment to preserving and protecting Panther Hollow.
Here is another consideration. You have been repeatedly ignored and deceived by the secrecy of the supporters of this roadway project, and their actions have formed a cloud of suspicion about the integrity in city government. Therefore, you must ask yourself this question—a question that others in city government, in the judicial branch of government, and in those media outlets that have remained silent about this issue should also ask themselves; What is my highest priority: my dignity in my profession, or my loyalty to the mayor?
This is the year of the city of Pittsburgh’s bicentennial celebration. It would be hypocritical of the mayor to talk about his Italian roots, and about immigrants’ and their descendants’ many accomplishments that made this city great, while attempting to destroy one of our first Italian neighborhoods. We hope the mayor will abandon this roadway project, and instead focus on collaborating to preserve and protect our historic neighborhoods that truly make us say: “Lucky we live in Pittsburgh.”
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.