South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

Mayor visits Slopes, updates residents on the state of the city


September 18, 2007

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was the guest speaker at the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association's monthly meeting at the Veronica's Veil auditorium.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Jeff Koch was driving a city truck down 18th St. when the radio reported a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.

"That wasn't an accident," he told his colleague.

On Sept. 11, 2007, the councilman relayed that story during the rededication of the Pius Street Memorial.

As the monument is dedicated to all veterans from all wars, staging the event on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks called to mind the members of the Armed Forces deployed today around the globe, he said after the ceremony.

The restoration of the memorial site was a project of the South Side Local Development Co. and the South Sides Slopes Neighborhood Association's Elm Street Committee.

The ceremony was held prior to the SSSNA's September meeting in the Veronica's Veil Players Auditorium, featuring speaker Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

While awaiting the mayor's arrival, president Brad Palmisiano discussed association business.

StepTrek 2007 will be held on Sunday, Oct. 14 from Noon to 4 p.m. It will be the seventh annual, non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes. To register, visit

Board elections will be held during the Oct. 9 meeting. Members running for election are Joe Ciccola, Kate Fink, Matt Schaefer, Janice Serra, and Fr. Don Ware. Anyone interested in a board position should contact a board member.

Next, the Democratic nominee for the District 3 city council seat, Bruce Kraus, informed attendees that the Pittsburgh Zoning Board rescheduled the zoning appeal of Angel's to Oct. 11 at 9 a.m.

Angel's, on Josephine St., is appealing the revocation of its zoning approval and occupancy permit. They were revoked after neighbors wrote letters to the Zoning Board testifying that the establishment was closed for more than a year. The owner

denies it.

Mr. Kraus said residents are opposed to its reopening due to the noise, litter, traffic, and so on which is the byproduct of having a nightclub in a residential area.

The appeal will be heard at 200 Ross St., downtown.

Next, Janice Serra, the SSSNA's representative to the South Side Planning Forum, informed attendees briefly of two issues discussed at the evening's forum meeting.

First, the SSLDC requested a vote by the forum on a request by Matcon Diamond to permanently close 29th St. between East Carson St. and the alley immediately to the south to construct an office building.

Second, there is a proposal to erect a GetGo convenience store with pumps and car wash between the FBI and Immigration Services buildings.

Next, Duane Ashley, the city's Director of Parks and Recreation, offered an update on the "request for proposal," or RFP, for the reuse or redevelopment of the closed Neville Ice Arena within South Side Park.

"I was less than pleased with all four of the respondents," he said. "We have four bad RFPs."

The options now are: to toss out the proposals; reissue the RFP, relying on local organizations to find respondents; or for the city to find a reuse for the facility after obtaining funding.

In his brief overview of the current state of the city, Mayor Ravenstahl focused on financial, developmental, and quality of life issues.

Regarding financial, he said the city has 3,000 employees, down from 4,000 employees three years ago.

"We're doing more with less," he said.

He expects the city to have $80 million in the bank at the end of the year.

For development, he pointed to the construction in the SouthSide Works, North Side, East Liberty, and more sites.

"Making government more business-friendly is my goal," he said.

Regarding quality of life, he said he is focusing on the basics when it comes to the 88 neighborhoods. For public safety, the goal is to have officers spend one-and-a-half hours out of their cars during an eight-hour shift, or "beat cops."

Surveillance cameras are also needed to fight crime, he said.

The Weed and Seed program is also a resource for fighting crime.

If a proposal submitted by Hilltop neighborhoods is chosen for federal funding next summer, it would mean the infusion into the area of $1 million over five years.

To an attendee's question about neighbors' garbage left outside days before pick-up, the mayor said to call 311, the city's phone number for government information and non-emergency services.

Environmental Services would look into the matter, he said.

To a complaint about rats, weeds, and overhanging tree limbs on an abandoned property, the mayor said nuisance properties are the number 1 issue for him in neighborhoods.

He is looking at making legal the nuisance property ordinance written by former councilman Gene Ricciardi, and passed when Mr. Ravenstahl was on council.

The goal is to make landlords responsible for tenant problems, such as rundown and weed-infested yards, noise, and so on.

After police are dispatched to a home a third time in 30 days, the property owner becomes responsible for it, and the property is liened.

To a question of whether the reopening of the Zone 4 police station in the West End on Jan. 1 will leave enough officers in Zone 3, the mayor said the response time will be enhanced as the patrol area in Zone 3 will be smaller.

The city will also be hiring new officers, with the goal being a 900-officer force by next year.

The next SSSNA meeting will be held on Oct. 9 in the main lounge of the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center.


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