South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Recycling, neighborhood programs highlighted at community forum


Recycling, neighborhood crime, and Hilltop Alliance programs were among the topics at the March 23 meeting of the Mt. Oliver City/St. Clair Community Group held in the Ormsby Avenue Café.

The first speaker was the city’s recycling supervisor, Kyle Winkler.

According to city code, all city residents must separate recyclable items from household trash and package them for bi-weekly recycling curbside pick-up. Non-compliance may result in a citation.

The recyclable items include metal (aluminum and steel cans), plastic, glass, paper, cardboard cartons, and cardboard. The latter should preferably be flattened.

The recyclable materials should be placed away from refuse in a blue bag or a blue bin. Bins can be purchased for about $10 at retail establishments.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus said the city is looking at a better means of recycling, such as removing the blue bags because they clog the system.

He also said there is a bin outside the Giant Eagle in South Side where blue bags may be deposited.

Next, resident Patty Stewart gave a brief overview of the March 20 Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting.

She said the meetings are always very informative, such as that there were multiple overdoses on St. Joseph St., which surprised her.

The next Zone 3 Public Safety Council meeting will be at 6 p.m. in the zone station on April 17. On April 19 at 6 p.m., a city-wide public safety council meeting will be held at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, 5738 Forbes Ave., Squirrel Hill.

In her presentation, Zone 3 community relations Officer Christine Luffey reported that the 19th annual “Biscuits Bingo,” held on March 4 and presented by the Pittsburgh Police, was “the best bingo we ever had.”

The fundraiser for 14 local animal shelters and organizations raised $35,421.

On the topic of animals, she told the story of a local couple who abandoned a cat and three dogs when they relocated elsewhere on the Hilltop. She contacted the volunteer Homeless Cat Management Team, who located the couple via Facebook.

Officer Luffey charged the couple with two counts of cruelty to animals, no licenses and no vaccinations. The good news is that all of the animals have been adopted to good homes.

She next reported there were four overdoses in the neighborhood the past two months: one on Ottilla St., and three on St. Joseph St. In all four cases, the overdoser was revived by police with Narcan, a prescription medication that immediately reverses the effects of a potentially fatal overdose.

To a question of whether the drug users are cited, Officer Luffey said no. They can refuse to be taken to the hospital.

In her brief overview, community group coordinator Suzanne Photos said she is working on the vandalism at the Mountain and Fisher streets site, including getting cameras. She received $400 from GTECH for new benches.

She also reported that volunteers are needed for an April 22 clean-up. However, the date might be changed.

Next, Sarah Baxendell, project manager, greenspace asset development for the Hilltop Alliance, said the organization is compiling a Hilltop contractor data base to be able to hire neighborhood residents for projects.

The form to be completed by interested contractors asks for type of work the company performs, and the neighborhoods in which owners and crew members reside. The form should be handed in to her office.

Regarding the proposed urban farm on the former St. Clair Village site, she said a site access agreement, which would allow work on the farm prior to the sale, is almost completed.

To a question of why it is taking so long for the project to get underway, Ms. Baxendell 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).

The transfer of federal property into a public/private partnership takes time, she said.

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.

Ms. Baxendell said she and Aaron Sukenik, executive director of the Hilltop Alliance, were scheduled to travel to Penn State on Feb. 9 to give presentations to agricultural officials about the opportunities at the site, such as becoming a partner on the farming aspect.

However, the meeting was cancelled due to snow, and rescheduled for the last week in March.

She said among the strategies for advocating for the farm plan is for residents to the city at 412-255-4773 and express their support.

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

Ms. Photos said, if implemented, the urban farm would be the biggest one in the U.S.

“So this is a big deal,” she said.

Ms. Baxendell next discussed the Hilltop Alliance’s Property Stabilization Program, which works as a code enforcement intermediary to assist homeowners in connecting them to resources to make repairs to their homes.

Roy Blankenship, who was hired two months ago, will come to a cited house, and provide the homeowner with materials to help correct the problem.

Regarding abandoned cars, he said he catalogued the list of 14 cars that Ms. Photos compiled, and took photographs.

“I’m very pro-active,” he said.

Mr. Kraus said he also has the list. One of the hindrances to action is if the car is on private property, it is difficult to remove.

If it is on public property, with broken windows and other safety hazards, it can be quickly removed.

“It’s a huge problem,” he said.

Ms. Baxendell said the Hilltop Alliance has a Free Wills Program for Hilltop homeowners aged 50 and above to assist with will preparation. The organization also assists property owners in acquiring adjacent vacant lots through the city’s Side Yard Sales Program.

She said for any issues regarding repairing a home, buying a lot, or with a will or an abandoned car, call the Hilltop Alliance and ask for Mr. Blankenship.

He said he has also started two block watches, and is looking to form more block watches on the Hilltop.

 He planned to have volunteers from the national MAD DADS organization in the neighborhood the following weekend to speak with, and provide mentorship to, youngsters.


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