South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Community group asks for action on wish list given to councilman


The former Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Block Watch held its first meeting on Nov. 17 since changing its name to the Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Community Group. The meeting was held in the Ormsby Avenue Café.

“We’re coming into the twenty-first century,” group coordinator Suzanne Photos said of the broader name reflective of all of the community work the organization is engaged in. There is also a new logo.

The group’s involvement includes a “Hilltop community conversation” from 6-8 p.m. on Nov. 29 at the Knoxville Public Library, 400 Brownsville Rd, for residents of the Knoxville, St. Clair, and Mt. Oliver neighborhoods. Dinner and free childcare will be provided. RSVP: 412-403-1641.

“We have a lot going on,” she said of the Hilltop and its proposed projects, like the urban farm on the former St. Clair Village site. “We just have to be patient.”

She next told Neil Manganaro, chief of staff for city Council President Bruce Kraus, the neighborhood would like the action items addressed she handed in a list to Mr. Kraus in September.

Those items include: repairing the Fisher St. steps between Mountain Ave. and Engstler St .; repaving Parkwood Rd .; filling the “horrible potholes” on Schuler St .; inspecting and repairing the walkway on Fisher St. from Mountain Ave. to Engstler St .; repairing the sidewalks in the 600 block of Mountain Ave. toward Wagner St .; and more.

Mr. Manganaro said as it is budget time, it is a good time to make requests.

Ms. Photos asked attendees about being part of the Hilltop Alliance, which everyone agreed was a good thing. She said she would continue as a delegate in the organization representing the neighborhood.

Next, Port Authority Transit (PAT) community outreach coordinator Deborah Skillings informed attendees about the new fares and other changes, starting Jan. 1.

With the new reusable plastic ConnectCard, riders pay a $2.50 flat rate per ride no matter the distance. With cash, each ride is $2.75. As paper transfers are going away, cash riders will pay an additional $2.75 for another ride.

With a ConnectCard, riders tap their ConnectCard at the farebox of the connecting trip and $1 will be deducted from their stored value.

Riders can load a ConnectCard with passes or stored cash at Port Authority’s downtown service center, most area Giant Eagle locations and other select retailers.

It can also be reloaded at ConnectCard machines throughout the PAT service area, and online by setting up an account and using the new online ConnectCard management system.

Also starting in January, riders must pay as they enter in the front of the bus, and exit in the rear.

A $7 pass to ride all day ends at midnight.

Seniors, age 65 or older, ride free anywhere in the state with Medicare ID or a state-issued Senior Citizen Transit Pass. The latter can be obtained at senior centers or the office of state Rep. Harry Readshaw.

Children age 5 and under ride for free with an adult. Children ages 6 to11 pay half-fare.

To a question about complaints and suggestions, Ms. Skillings said a “service request” may be made on-line at:

She said at the end of November each year, the service requests are reviewed and analyzed, with decisions made on whether they can be implemented. If so, the change would be in the next fiscal year budget.

Next, community relations officer Christine Luffey reported the neighborhood crime statistics from the September meeting until that evening were “extremely low.”

She shared brief details on four of the five reported crimes.

In an animal cruelty case, the owner did not respond to charges she filed. When the reported abuse continued, he was taken to jail, and three dogs and a cat were removed from the house.

The other cases involved a stolen credit card, a Protection from Abuse (PFA) warrant, and a beating by two females on a woman as she was sitting in a truck.

At the group’s next meeting in January, she will bring the abused dog she adopted recently from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.

To a question about speeding dirt bikes, Ms. Photos said the officers must see them speeding to issue tickets.

An attendee said they fly up and down the Mountain Ave. and Fisher St. area without stopping at stop signs.

Officer Luffey said she would let Zone 3 Commander Karen Dixon know.

Attendees also told her school zone signs and a crossing guard are needed at the renovated, former Phillip Murray School, which reopened this year as Arlington PreK-8.

The final presentation was by Sarah Baxendell, project manager, greenspace asset development for the Hilltop Alliance, who spoke about the proposed urban farm on the former St. Clair Village site.

Scheduled for the next day was a tour of the farm with agricultural officials from Penn State. There will be discussions on Penn State becoming a partner on the farming aspect, which would result in their committing their expertise, research department, 4H clubs, and more.

To a question of why it is taking so long for the project go get underway, she said there are no new developments in the plan for the Housing Authority to sell the property to the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA).

As the land is owned by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the sale must be conducted under HUD guidelines, which delays the process.

With the urban farm, the transfer of federal property into a public/private partnership takes time.

To a question about what we can do to express our support for the farm plan, Ms. Baxendell said to call the mayor’s office at 412-255-2626 and ask for “community affairs.”

Identify yourself and neighborhood, express your support for the plan, and ask the current status of the proposed project. She also said to call frequently to keep the public pressure on.

The next community group meeting will be on Jan. 26.


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