South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Flagpole, urban farm projects moving forward in Mt. O. City


The Sept. 24 meeting of the Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Block Watch featured updates on the flagpole at the intersection of Mountain Ave. and Wagner St .; the project at the corner of Mountain and Fisher streets; and the proposed urban farm on the former St. Clair Village site.

The meeting was held at the Ormsby Avenue Cafe.

Regarding the flagpole, block watch coordinator Suzanne Photos said the lighting has been installed and is working well.

The cost was $4,000 for the lighting of the flagpole display, which Ms. Photos has called the “Gateway to the Hilltop” from Becks Run Rd. She credited city Councilman Bruce Kraus for the lighting.

The acquisition of the sign and landscaping began with Councilman Jeff Koch, the predecessor of Mr. Kraus.

The flagpole was purchased with $1,000 from the Birmingham Foundation.

She said she would like another flagpole with the city and MIA flags.

Concerning the city-owned property at the corner of Mountain and Fisher streets, Ms. Photos said the city’s Art Commission gave final approval to GTECH to finalize the site’s landscaping, Little Library, and plants and foliage -- all of which have funding.

Funding is also needed for benches, for which Ms. Photos said Mr. Kraus said he would help.

She asked attendees to submit potential names for the revitalized space.

On the topic of trash, she said students from the University of Pittsburgh would be picking up trash in the community in October.

Residents interested in helping should contact Ms. Photos. She said Mountain St. is bad for trash as it serves as a cut-through to the city.

She would like to see the fencing on Fisher St. painted, and the city steps and sidewalks in the area repaired.

Next, Ms. Photos said she is a board member of the Hilltop Alliance, with her term ending at year’s end. She told attendees to let her know if anyone is interested in a two-year term.

She also reported the next “Fresh Friday” will be held beginning at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 9 in the St. John Vianney Church parking lot, 823 Climax St. Produce will be distributed while supplies last. It is a project of the Hilltop Alliance.

For more information, contact the Hilltop Alliance at 412-586-5807.

Ms. Photos said a permanent meeting space is needed for block watch meetings.

Community relations Officer Christine Luffey volunteered the Zone 3 police station conference room. The Mt. Oliver fire hall was suggested as another option.

Next, Sarah Baxendell, project manager, greenspace asset development, for the Hilltop Alliance, spoke briefly about the proposed urban farm on the former St. Clair Village property.

The Hilltop Alliance would operate the non-profit farm programs.

Site access must first be secured, followed by the purchase of the property from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The proposed “Hilltop Village Farm” would include 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.

Next, Officer Luffey reported on the crime statistics in the area from June 1 to the present, which she called “very low.”

They are: one aggravated assault, one burglary, one criminal mischief, one criminal trespass, two simple assaults, one vehicle stolen, five thefts from autos, five thefts from persons, and one terroristic threat.

The aggravated assault occurred on June 15 as a 15-year-old girl was shot in the face. An 18-year-old male was arrested in August for the crime.

Officer Luffey also reported the new Zone 3 Commander is Karen Dixon, a 20-year veteran of the force.

Officer Luffey called her “a really good person” who “truly cares.”

To a question about illegal parking in the Mt. Oliver City area, she said officers write tickets for illegal parking, but usually only if someone calls and complains.

It is illegal to park on a crosswalk or in front of a driveway. Residents should call 911 for the latter and the car will be ticketed and towed.

If a car is parked on the sidewalk, and the police are called, officers will respond. The officers cannot write a citation for one car, but for all the cars parked on the sidewalk in the block.

“We cannot do selective policing,” Officer Luffey said.

Next, she talked about the “Get Stuffed With Love” program that ensures no residents go without Thanksgiving dinner.

Again this year, the delivery of free, warm meals on Thanksgiving Day will expand to serve everyone in need in the city of Pittsburgh. There are no income or age requirements.

This will be her eighth year of organizing the delivery of the meals.

To a question of where does the money come from, she said donations.

The food is prepared by volunteers from the South Side Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary, and others. Cooking occurs at St. Mary’s Orthodox Church in South Side.

Volunteers are sought to ride in officers’ cars to assist them in delivering the dinners.

The next block watch meeting will be on Nov. 19 at either St. John Vianney Church, or the Ormsby Avenue Cafe if St. John Vianney is closed.


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