Farming, food and infrastructure discussed at Slopes May meeting
May 21, 2019
Updates on the Hilltop Urban Farm, Just Harvest farmers’ markets, and infrastructure improvements highlighted the May 14 general meeting of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA).
Ned Brockmeyer, the Hilltop Urban Farm’s youth farm program manager, said the youth farm will engage children from the Hilltop communities in food production, farming, and teamwork.
The youth farms promote the teaching of nutrition, cooking, growing food, farming principles, and more.
Program partners include Penn State Extension, Allegheny Land Trust Education Dept., and Grow Pittsburgh. With Penn State, for example, farm tours will be conducted, and farming programs, which the university already offers, will expand to include the urban farm.
The wireless at the site will be great for classes needing wireless hook-up, he said.
Volunteers are sought at the urban farm on these workdays: June 1, June 29, July 27, Aug. 31, Sept. 28, and Oct. 26. All times are 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with public tours offered from 11 a.m. to noon those days.
Volunteers should wear closed-toe shoes, sunscreen, sunhat, and weather protection, and bring a water bottle.
The nonprofit urban farm is located on the former St. Clair Village site.
“We’re trying to reinvest in the community through farming,” Mr. Brockmeyer said.
The property is still owned by the federal government as the transfer of federal property into a public/private partnership takes time. The plan is 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.
Eighty acres will be undeveloped as a hillside. Eleven acres are ready to be used. There will be quarter-acre plots.
The plan includes building a farmers’ market on the site. There are already two water lines there.
The next speaker was Megan Whitmer, a site coordinator for Just Harvest.
“We are all about food access.
“We help point folks in the direction of services,” she said.
The nonprofit’s services are designed to reduce hunger by boosting income and healthy food access.
Those free services include: tax help; Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“food stamps”) application assistance; public assistance case advocacy; community solutions to improving food access in low-income neighborhoods; and fighting hunger through area farmers’ markets.
The latter, called the Fresh Access program, provides a Just Harvest kiosk at farmers’ markets to allow shopping with food stamps using ACCESS/BET cards. Just Harvest also provides food stamp shoppers with “food bucks” to help them buy fruits and vegetables.
Food stamps may also be used to purchase food-producing plants and seeds.
Ms. Whitmer said while the foot traffic is good for the farmers’ market at East Carson and 18th streets, more customers are needed.
“It’s really been slowing down. If you’re there, the farmers will be there,” she said.
Currently, vendors at the South Side farmers’ market include a produce vendor, bread maker, and more.
There is no organic farmer at this time.
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In his infrastructure updates, Councilman Bruce Kraus said $20 million has been allocated to paving this year, which is the most ever. The Bandi Schaum lots will be done, and the Mission St. Bridge concrete work was completed.
He also reported that 18th and Josephine streets will receive new traffic signals.
The East Carson St. streetscaping project is underway, and the work includes: all electrical conduit being installed for pedestrian lighting, highway lighting, and new traffic signals.
Eighty trees will be removed, with new ones installed at the end of the project. Old utility poles with no purpose are also being removed, totaling about 40.
Mr. Kraus also said he received questions about ADA ramps. He said all ramps are temporary and will be redone after the PennDOT project.
He also said that “puddling,” or rainwater covering a surface, is a problem outside some businesses at the moment, but that it will be corrected by the fall.
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Once the city project is completed in about two more months, the PennDOT project will begin.
The East Carson St. safety improvement project will extend from the Smithfield St. Bridge to 33rd St., and be carried out by the state Dept. of Transportation [PennDOT].
It will include resurfacing, upgrading intersections, ADA ramps and more.
“A better and more safe street” is the goal of the city and state, he said, whether lighting, ramps, and more.
DPW closed the facility when it became toxic and no longer viable. Division 4 responsibilities have since been split between divisions 3 and 5.
Mr. Kraus said the proposed elements of the new campus include existing fuel pumps and tanks;
warehouse/garage/offices; car wash for city vehicles; responsible recycling center; and more
PW’s proposal is to return Mathews Ave. to two-way and add a cul-de-sac as it would allow DPW to secure the site and provide safety for DPW vehicles and employees maneuvering the site.
An ongoing series of public meetings will take place before anything is finalized. The next public meeting on the issue will be at 6 p.m. on June 10 in the Knoxville Library.
The hope is to begin construction in the fall as he would like to see snow vehicles coming from there.
The family-oriented event will feature food, music, tables with information, and more.
The purpose of the picnic is to bring police and public safety bureaus together with residents to develop and sustain mutual understanding and respect to maintain a safer Zone 3.
In committee updates, the annual StepTrek, the non-competitive, self-guided walking tour of the Slopes, will be held on Oct. 5. Planning will begin this month. To volunteer, contact Brian Oswald.
In outreach, a picnic will be held at 7 p.m. on July 9 at the Bandi Schaum Community Garden.
The final news was the active shooter presentation at 6:30 p.m. on June 18 at the Brashear Association, 2005 Sarah St.
Hosted by the South Side Planning Forum, it will feature a presentation by Duquesne University Chief of Police/Director of Public Safety Tom Hart. He will share information on how to protect yourself in the event of an active shooter situation.
Water and snacks will be provided during the 90-minute event.
Attendees are asked to RSVP to: Southwatch15203@gmail.com.
The SSSNA’s next general meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 8 at the St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center.