February 2, 2010 |

Things now falling into place for Allentown revitalization workplan

Quick fixes for Allentown.

That was guest speaker Greg Panza's topic when he suggested some helpful ideas as guest speaker at the Dec. 28 Allentown Community Development Corporation meeting.

Mr. Panza is program manager of the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation and that organization has pledged to help Allentown's group because the MWCDC has expertise in addressing development issues.

Among his suggestions were: painting and improving the appearance of street poles carrying Allentown banners; storefront renovations funded by matching grants; planting of trees, shrubs and perennials at key locations by volunteers; holding the National Night Out festivities at other locations in addition to the Allentown Senior Center; upgrading the appearance of "gateways" to the community; and replacing old "Welcome to Allentown" signs with new attractive three dimensional signs.

He plans to work with the Zone 3 crime prevention officer in identifying trends in crime and forming block watches. They plan a "walk-through" to identify problem areas in the community.

Mr. Panza showed "before and after" pictures showing what the town could look like once it is improved.

Judy Hackel, Allentown CDC board president, complimented Mr. Panza on his track record at MWCDC. "He can call people and get things done. He knows the people to contact," she said. Allentown is relying on Mount Washington for help because the ACDC has no staff and its work is currently being done by officers and board members who are busy with full-time jobs.

Ken Wolfe, an aide to State Rep. Jake Wheatley, spoke briefly. He announced that the next regular meeting of the Allentown CDC will be a town hall session hosted by Mr. Wheatley at 7 p.m. March 25 at St. John Vianney hall. He also said that his office has a satellite office session 1 to 5 p.m. on the last Friday of the month at the Brashear Association neighborhood employment office.

He mentioned that that the public is invited to attend the Zone 3 Public Safety Meetings held at 6 p.m. on the third Wednesdays on the fourth floor of the police station.

That night Allentown CDC elected board members. They are: Father Victor Cianca, George Norkus, Mike Bodnar, Jeremy Hoover, Ralph Monti, Amy Averbeck, Patty Germeyer, Nicole Ballard and Ethel Flam.

Ms. Hackel also spoke of upcoming opportunities for local residents to buy fresh farm grown fruits and vegetables.

Allentown will be joining with Mount Washington to take advantage of the Farm Stand Project sponsored by the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

The goal of the project is to place farm stands in low-income neighborhoods with limited access to grocery stores. The Food Bank provides start-up equipment - such as tents, calculator, cash box, posters – and delivers produce at cost for sale.

Each farm stand is open for its market day once a week. Allentown's day will be Wednesday. The possible locations from June through November include either Beltzhoover and Warrington Avenues or Warrington Avenue and Millbridge Street.

The stands will accept payment from customers from Allentown and nearby neighborhoods in cash, WIC and food stamps.

According to literature Ms. Hackel passed out, the project tries: to provide low income people with better access to fruits and vegetables; to provide nutrition education and food demonstrations that enable customers to make better informed food choices; and to expand local farmers' markets creating a link between farms and local neighborhoods.

Councilman Bruce Kraus attended the meeting and was asked to speak by Ms. Hackel.

He told the attendees that each council person chairs a committee and explained why he opted to chair the Public Works Committee after two years in charge of the Public Safety Committee. He said he wants to change the appearance of the Hilltop neighborhoods and that "projects need to be done."

He said he needs residents to inform him of problems – such as abandoned cars, clogged sewers, illegal dumping sites – and to also call 3-1-1 so the information will be entered on a data base. "Help me help you."

He admitted "this is a monumental task and a lot needs to be done. At the very least we need to gather the information…I like to call it ‘Coming Home.' I'll get my hands dirty."

Ms. Hackel brought up a concern she had - that Mr. Kraus will have a satellite office in Arlington that will benefit residents of that neighborhood, not the rest of the Hilltop. "I was never asked what would be the best location. No community leaders were asked this."

Mr. Kraus said that Arlington volunteers offered to help him. "I welcome volunteers from any neighborhood who want to help. I can't be everywhere at once. But the satellite office is not the only way to reach me."

He also suggested that residents call 3-1-1 to register their complaints.

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