June 19, 2012 |

Phillips' principal, new parking meters, introduced at forum

The new -- parking meter system; principal at Pittsburgh Phillips K-5 -- and the old -- aftermath of last month's Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) vote -- were among the topics at the June 12 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

There was also a presentation on the upcoming Pedal Pittsburgh.

The meeting began with Dr. Barbara Rudiak, a former principal at Phillips, introducing the new principal, Martin Boonstra.

A graduate of Eastern Michigan University and the University of North Carolina, and a former teacher, Mr. Boonstra spent the last year-and-a-half as principal of Schaeffer Primary, which is closing. He begins his South Side post on July 1.

Rodney Necciai, the current principal of Phillips, will be the principal of the new K-8 West End school.

Next, Tony Boule, of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority (PPA), said September is the goal for the new parking system to be implemented by Cale America to be up and running city-wide.

To park at meters, customers will enter their vehicle license plate number, without dashes or dots, at a solar-charged, multi-space meter. They then enter their planned time length.

Payment is by coins, credit cards, or debit cards. Dollar bills will not be accepted because they can jam the machines, Mr. Boule said. There will be a local phone number on the face of the meter to call if there is a problem.

Cale's system will inform parking enforcement staff which vehicles are paid.

"The only trick is remembering your license number.

"If you put the wrong number, your car will be in violation and you could get a ticket," he said.

Mr. Boule said the PPA does not control the rates or the enforcement hours. Sunday parking will be free.

Next, Seth Gernot of Bike Pittsburgh said the organization will be hosting Pedal Pittsburgh, the state's largest biking event and a non-racing event, on Aug. 5, rain or shine.

The three-and-a-half blocks from REI to the Birmingham Bridge will be closed to traffic from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. to allow adults and youngsters to enjoy the streets on their bicycles.

"It will be a little inconvenient for folks that Sunday morning," he said.

The ensuing festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and feature live music, a kids zone, bike vendors, food, and more.

Pedal Pittsburgh is the largest fundraiser for Bike Pittsburgh, which is a local advocacy group for safer cycling.

For more information, see: www.bike-pgh.org.

In the neighborhood plan update, Judy Dyda, of the South Side Local Development Company (SSLDC), said the Chamber of Commerce has not yet reviewed the latest revision. The hope is to vote on adoption of the plan revisions at next month's forum meeting.

Regarding a NID within the South Side Flats, forum chair Hugh Brannan said the document adopted by the forum on May 8 advocating formation of a NID has been formally transmitted to city officials.

However, considering city Councilman Bruce Kraus announced a few days after the vote he will not support a NID, it is not likely to move to city council, where the legal process for NID formation would have taken place.

In a NID, property owners agree to a self-imposed annual fee for services which supplement those provided by the city, such as a security team and street cleaning.

Supporters view it as a means to secure quality-of-life services in light of the neighborhood's prolific number of drinking establishments, while opponents decry it as double taxation.

In her report of the (NID) Steering Committee, Susie Puskar asked what is next for the committee since it has completed its charge of preparing a plan.

Paul Lorincy, of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association, suggested the committee remain, but that members decide whether individually they want to remain involved. A few members have already stepped down.

If the committee continues to exist, said Mr. Lorincy, and there is a call in say, six months, to reignite the topic, then it will not have to be formed again from scratch.

"This has been a huge disappointment to many of us," Mr. Brannan said not only of the decision by Mr. Kraus, but of his rendering his decision within a few days of the vote, which followed an intensive, two-year process.

Ms. Dyda said the forum process is not being respected.

"If it is not being understood there is a problem," she said.

Mr. Lorincy said the "strength of our community is inside this room.

"Why, all of a sudden, did we become unimportant?" he said.

Mr. Brannan suggested each member organization of the forum express their disappointment to Mr. Kraus, as well as the forum in its response to Mr. Kraus' letter notifying them of his non-support.

Next, Mr. Brannan announced that this would be the last meeting for Ms. Dyda and Ms. Puskar as the South Side LDC will be ceasing business operations at the end of June after 25 years.

"I, for one, am going to miss it," he said.

There was a round of applause for Ms. Dyda and Ms. Puskar for their service as forum members.

Ms. Dyda next gave the report of the new Development Review Committee (DRC), a standing committee of the forum.

The committee was formed as a merger of the LTV Steering Committee and the South Side LDC Design Committee.

The LTV Steering Committee monitored development on the South Side Works site for 16 years. The Design Committee conducted design reviews of South Side projects, upon request, for more than 20 years.

In the report, Ms. Dyda said discussions are on-going with a restaurant for the former Toby Keith site.

Sales for both retailers and restaurants are up from last year, which was up from the year before.

South Side Riverfront Park will not be operated like a conventional city park. The park will not be owned by the city in order to leverage sponsorship dollars. The park's final stage 3B (riverfront/public docks) construction will begin in the next few weeks.

Get-Go is aiming for September to begin construction.

The DRC officers are: Tracy Myers, chair; Jason Roth and Marty Uram, co-vice chairs; Aaron Sukenik, secretary; and Mr. Kreuthmeier, Planning Forum representative.

In the latter role, Mr. Kreuthmeier will be delivering monthly reports on the DRC to the forum for the near future.

In New Business, a huge, 200-ton crane will be blocking the 18th St. bend for half a day sometime in June while new light poles are set on the 18th St. steps.

The work is being financed by a Duquesne Light grant.

In Brashear Association news, the organization's "Christmas in July" toy drive will be held on July 18 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Rowdy Buck, 1325 East Carson St.

Attendees are urged to bring a new, unwrapped toy or cash donation.

The annual toy drive begins in the summer so as not to run short of toys in December for Christmas. Last year, more than 2,000 toys were distributed to more than 500 families.

The next forum meeting will be a combined July-August meeting on July 24.

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