South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

South Side Slopes prepares for elections, events


September 16, 2008

News of two notable events on the South Side Slopes highlighted the September 9 meeting of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association.

StepTrek 2008 will be held on Sunday, October 5 from noon to 4 p.m. It will be the eighth annual, non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes.

The theme is "Step Trek - 8, SSSNA - 10, Pittsburgh - 250, view from the Slopes - timeless!"

The honorary chairperson is city Councilman Bruce Kraus. Artwork will be provided by artist Johno Prascak.

StepTrek is the biggest annual fundraiser for the SSSNA. To register, visit .

The other upcoming event of note is the September 25 combined celebration of the SSSNA's Tenth Anniversary and the lighting of the Monastery garden.

The party begins at 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center. From there, attendees will walk to the garden and light the scrim.

In other news, board elections will be held during the October 7 annual meeting. Members whose terms are ending are Joe Balaban, Misi Bielich, Bev Boggio, Paul Lorincy, Brad Palmisiano, and Peggy Sullivan.

Ms. Boggio will not be returning after this, her tenth year of service, so her seat is open. The others are seeking reelection.

Anyone interested in a board position should contact a board member for details

In the Elm Street update, Judy Dyda reported that $50,000 in steps repairs had

just been completed.

Consultants were hired for an environmental study of South Side Park. Once filed, funding will be sought for the 64-acre park.

Ms. Dyda also told attendees to tell friends and neighbors to expect to receive an envelope with an invitation to the September 25 event; a survey; a copy of the Good Neighbor Handbook; SSSNA newsletter; StepTrek information; and a cover letter from President Brad Palmisiano.

In the first of the evening's three presentations, Jenny Kohnfelder, manager, Consumer Programs, of the Housing Department of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, discussed four types of home improvement loans available through the URA.

The Pittsburgh Home Rehabilitation Program offers a zero percent interest rate to help low-income city homeowners improve their homes.

The URA will provide technical assistance, including a construction advisor to work with the homeowner to finalize a work write-up.

If the homeowner does not have a contractor, the URA will put the job out for bid on their contractor list. The construction advisor will inspect all work, and the homeowner must approve the work prior to the contractor being paid.

Under the Home Emergency Loan Program, eligible city homeowners may receive financing to help with unforeseen emergency conditions that present health and safety hazards to the household.

The URA offers a zero interest rate to correct the condition. The maximum loan amount is $5,000 for single units and $7,000 for two units. The loan term is up to ten years.

The Home Improvement Loan Program offers a 5.99 percent rate to help eligible city homeowners upgrade their homes. Homeowners may borrow up to $15,000, and are permitted to do their own work. Only the cost of materials can be financed.

The URA is an administrator of the new Keystone Renovation and Repair Program, a program of the state Housing Finance Agency.

The income limit is $90,000 per household, and applicants must have a credit score of at least 620.

The interest rate of 6.375 percent to 8.875 percent is based on 10, 15, or 20 year terms.

For more information on the programs, visit: .

In the next presentation, Lisa Ceoffe, an urban forester with the city's Dept. of City Planning, said trees in an urban area offer many advantages: reduce landslides; purify the air by absorbing pollutants; increase property values; foster safer neighborhoods; and more.

While the city has about 30,000 street trees, thousands will be removed due to disease, old age, and neglect.

Community groups and nonprofits can apply for trees, as well as maintenance and planting assistance, through the TreeVitalize program.

TreeVitalize is a joint project of the county, city, state Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. It plans to plant 20,000 new trees in the Pittsburgh region by 2012.

Through TreeVitalize, neighborhoods with certified tree tenders who organize neighborhood tree plantings will be eligible for 10 or more street trees for their communities.

Residents can register for a tree tender course at . For more information, email , or call 412-362-6360.

They can also contact Janice Serra, of the SSSNA, who already took the tree tender class.

The evening's final presentation was by Tiffani Emig of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area in Homestead. Its mission is to preserve the steel-related heritage of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

She is curator of collections at their museum.

As part of Pittsburgh 250, the city's celebration of its 250th birthday, the Rivers of Steel sought volunteers earlier this year to take photographs of their neighborhoods in the spirit of "What makes your neighborhood unique?"

Residents were encouraged to take up to 30 photographs of what defines their neighborhoods — the good, bad, ugly, beautiful, humorous, etc.

In all, 44 photographers from 11 neighborhoods participated.

The result is a book containing photographs chosen by a committee that is part of an exhibit on display until Jan. 31, 2009. It can be viewed at the Bost Building, 623 E. Eighth Ave., Homestead.

Besides the photographs, some video-clips of interviews with the photographers can be viewed.

Ms. Emig encouraged attendees "to steal the idea" and produce a similar book of photographs about their own neighborhoods.

The next SSSNA meeting will be on Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. at the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center.


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