By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Mt. O. City block watch learns more about the status of area projects


Last updated 4/6/2015 at 5:53pm

Block watch coordinator Suzanne Photos began the March 26 meeting of the Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Block Watch with an update on the tentative revitalization plan for the former St. Clair Village and adjacent neighborhood.

She said she talked to Aaron Sukenik, executive director of the Hilltop Alliance, who told her a new hire, Sarah Baxendell, will be in charge of projects, including this one.

The proposed “Hilltop Village Farm” would be a farm incubator, small youth farm, community supported agriculture (CSA), community greenspace, special farm events, restoration of native landscape, and more.

The $28 million project would also include 60 for-sale townhouses and duplexes, and 60 rental units on the site.

Ms. Photos said Mayor Peduto supports the project.

She said she hopes the property can be purchased from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) which must occur before the project can proceed.

She will try to have Ms. Baxendell speak at the next block watch meeting.

Next, Neil Manganaro of city Councilman Bruce Kraus’ office, gave an update on the plan for lighting the flagpole at the intersection of Mountain Ave. and Wagner St.

He said the city is waiting for the school district to provide an easement, at the request of Guy Costa, the city’s chief operations officer.

Ms. Photos said when it was installed she was told the solar lighting on the bottom would be strong enough to get to the top, but that was not true.

An attendee commented that military veterans are concerned about the lack of lighting at the flagpole.

Ms. Photos told Mr. Manganaro there will be a revolt if the project is not completed. But she trusts that Mr. Kraus will follow through, and the project will be done.

At this time, all that can be done at the flagpole is picking up trash, she said.

But by taking ownership of our community, “we create an example,” she said.

Regarding the city-owned property at the corner of Mountain and Fisher streets, Ms. Photos said it is a work in progress for which additional money is being sought. She welcomes all thoughts and ideas on the project.

In her update, community relations Officer Christine Luffey said the 911 call volume in the area is very low.

“That’s something to be proud of,” she said.

The other good news was the 17th annual “Biscuits Bingo,” fundraiser for local animal organizations held on March 7 raised a record $26,090, or $5,000 more than last year. The 600 attendees sold out the the IBEW Hall Local #5, South Side.

She then detailed her experience the prior day responding to a neighbor’s call about a neglected and abused puppy.

Officer Luffey and an Animal Friends officer went to the offender’s Allentown home, where they found the 10-week-old dog which was skin/bones, shaking, and with a broken tail.

The owner said he paid $120 for the dog, and would beat her whenever he wanted. His girlfriend agreed.

After calling back-up as the man spoke abusively to them and had a history of a propensity for violence, Officer Luffey removed the dog. She is filing criminal charges against the man and his girlfriend.

Officer Luffey commended the neighbor for calling 911 about the animal cruelty.

“She had the courage to do something about it,” Officer Luffey said.

She told attendees to call 911 when witnessing criminal activity, like drugs being sold out of houses.

She said that in Carrick there has been much progress in closing down drug dealing due to the efforts of the Carrick/Overbrook block watch.

It meets the first Mondays of the month at 7 p.m. in the Pittsburgh Concord K-5 auditorium.

The block watch has over 100 members, and always features a guest speaker at meetings.

Members always receive a phone call reminding them of an upcoming meeting.

A Carrick/Overbrook block watch representative/member said she has learned the best way to get things done is to join together.

She has also learned to call 911, 311, Mr. Kraus’ office, and Officer Luffey.

The block watch member said it has taken three years to clear out the drug houses in the rental section of Kirk Ave. in Carrick. The 14 drug dealers on Kirk Ave. have been whittled down to four.

She also suggested attendees stop by the Zone 3 Public Safety Council meetings, which are held at 6 p.m. on the third Mondays in the Zone 3 police station.

To a complaint about a vehicle parked for a lengthy period of time on Mountain St., Officer Luffey said she would email the information to the officer who addresses car issues in Zone 3.

The next block watch meeting will be on May 28 in the Ormsby Avenue Cafe.


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