South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret L. Smykla
Contributing Writer 

Carson Street in 'disarray' as patrons, litter return

Adding Clean Team members, using light towers seen as part of solution

 

Light towers are being used at 15th and 17th street on E. Carson Street to help calm the street on weekends when people are crowding the street in the early morning hours.

A third member may be added to the two-person Clean Team for the summer months, reported city Councilman Bruce Kraus at the June 8 Zoom meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.

"The street is in disarray," he said of E. Carson St., citing debris, ongoing construction, and the growing influx of customers in light of the loosening of pandemic restrictions.   Seventy-seven new trees are also in a state of disrepair, he said.

Last month showed trash levels approaching pre-COVID levels for the first time, he said.

Block by Block, or the Clean Team, is paid by funds from Parking Enhancement District (PED) revenue.

The PED is the enforcement of South Side Flats parking meters from 6 p.m. to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.

The funds must be invested back in the neighborhood for public safety, cleanliness, and infrastructure improvements.

The Clean Team removes trash and graffiti/stickers, lends hospitality assistance, and more.

Currently, there are two workers on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and one worker on the other days. 

Mr. Kraus would like two workers on the street at all times, especially as Monday is as bad a day as Saturday or Sunday, he said.

In April the cost for the Clean Team was $12,372. The price would be an additional $17,000 for a full-time worker for three months.

In the PED report for May, Mr. Kraus said revenue totaled $11,876.

The 2021 revenue to date is $47,925.32.  The total revenue since the PED began in April, 2017, is $726,569.68.  The PED trust fund totals $243,983.

May enforcement costs were $1,235.

The Clean Team removed 10,082 pounds of trash and 16 graffiti/stickers on 11 blocks.

There were no South Side alcohol license changes. 

Besides adding a third member to the Clean Team, another issue up for discussion involves the Gator cleaning machine used by the Clean Team throughout the streets.

Mr. Kraus reported the machine is down, and that the one currently being used is on loan from the Downtown Partnership.  Options include leasing a machine, buying the used machine, or buying a new one.

The price of a new one would be $25,000.

Funding for both the machine and a third worker would be from the PED trust fund.

Mr. Kraus said he would discuss both issues with city nighttime economy coordinator Allison Harnden.

When he asked forum members' thoughts on adding a third Clean Team member, Rev. Kathy Hamilton-Vargo, pastor of South Side Presbyterian Church, said she thought it was a great idea.

South Side Community Council (SSCC) president Barbara Rudiak agreed, and said she would talk to the SSCC board about it and the Gator machine.

"We want it to look the way it has in the past," she said of maintaining the neighborhood by adding a third Clean Team member.  She added that residents complain if the area is trashy.

Businesses should also be cleaning their sidewalks in the morning, she said.

South Side Chamber of Commerce executive director Candice Gonzalez said she would inform the Chamber board of the Gator and third person Clean Team discussion.   She will also work on a letter telling businesses it is to their advantage to keep their storefronts clean.

Mr. Kraus said businesses are coming back following the pandemic, and they will want to make a good impression with customers.   New traffic signals and lighting are also coming, which will further enhance the neighborhood.

How to improve safety on the streets is important to him and public safety officials in light of the increase in national gun violence.

One step they are taking is the addition of light towers on 15th and 17th streets to protect public space. 

"It will calm the energy of the crowd," he said, while also increasing visibility for police.

People who come here deserve to be safe, he said.

He called it a work in progress.

The safety lane at 12th through 17th streets is also a priority in case the EMS must respond.

Mr. Kraus also raised the matter of "fat alley" between 17th and 16th streets (Mary and Jane streets) and "skinny alley" between 16th and 15th streets.

He said there have been requests to pave fat alley for fear of someone falling, especially the elderly.  But it is not public property so the city cannot pave it.

The alley has been gated by the owners to limit access as they like that it is secured.

Mr. Kraus said he has been receiving lots of calls about it.  "A lot of people are unhappy," he said.

Ms. Rudiak said in the mornings the owners were cleaning up animal and human waste, used condoms, beer bottles, and more.   So, it was dangerous and an insurance liability -- quality of life issues.

She concluded that the alley being gated is a good solution for the owners.

Next, in the Development Activities Meeting (DAM) update, Ms. Rudiak reported there were two presentations at the SSCC on May 27. 

A DAM provides an opportunity for citizens, property owners, business owners, and stakeholders to learn about the proposals that affect them and to resolve concerns at an early stage of the application process.

One presentation involved the Oliver Bath House.  The work will include the completion of the preservation and renovation of the building to include windows, ingress/egress, code compliance, new MEP systems, new roof/roof structures, and the removal of the non-contributing penthouse.

"It was a good presentation with good discussion among community members," she said.

The other presentation was for 2400 East Carson St, or the former Goodwill building.   The building was purchased from Goodwill by a private owner, who will lease to UPMC, which will operate a program for children to age 5.

A vacant lot at 24th and Sarah streets was also purchased for a parking lot and playground.

As all of the property will be leased by UPMC it will be on the tax rolls, attendees were told.

There were numerous community concerns with the project, such as drop-off and pick-up by parents; how will this occur on the busy street?  What is the plan for the flow?

As the children will be so young it will take time to remove from vehicles and deliver safely to the site.

A traffic study was also suggested by attendees.

Employee parking is also an issue.   With 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours, residents want to know the parking plan as parking is a premium on the South Side, and they do not want street spots taken from residents.

The hope is that an UPMC official, and not just developers, will attend the June 24 DAM to respond to the concerns.

The project will go before the Historic Review Commission because of changes to the building's exterior.  It will also go before the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) to use the vacant lot as a parking lot and playground.  

Next, in the report of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA), president Blake McLaren said the annual summer picnic will be held, in person, on July 13 beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Bandi Schaum Community Garden.

There will be a food truck and free food.  Attendees should bring their own beverages (BYOB).

In the report of the Chamber, Ms. Gonzalez said the annual South Side Golf Classic would be held on Aug. 2 at the South Hills Country Club in Whitehall.

In the SSCC report, Ms. Rudiak said there have been numerous beautification efforts the past month, such as weeding, planting, and mulching at 18th and Carson streets, 11th and Carson streets, Armstrong and Ormsby parks, and elsewhere.

"The South Side is looking more beautiful every day," she said.

Next, Rev. Hamilton-Vargo reported her church is part of the South Pittsburgh Coalition for Peace, and a rally/prayer vigil against gun violence was planned for the following day.

In the UPMC report, Lynn Kurhan reported the UPMC Outpatient Center, 2310 Jane St., continues to administer COVID-19 vaccines, although the number of people seeking the vaccine is dropping. Walk-ins are accepted.

She also said that Julie Hecker, VP of Operations, UPMC Mercy, will speak at the Planning Forum's July 27 meeting.

Next, Moira Kaleida, of the office of state Rep. Jessica Benham, reported the new unemployment system went up that day, and they had some success with it.   The office can assist with unemployment issues for residents, if needed.

The office will also be happy to assist with forms for property tax rebates, especially for seniors.

The office is working on a Hilltop health fair for this summer or early fall during which blood pressure can be taken, Medicare/Medicaid information provided, and more.

The final report was from Gisele Betances of the Mayor's Office, who reported that 2022 budget forums are currently being held. 

Residents are asked to provide input on the 2022 capital and operating budgets by completing surveys at:  engage.pittsburghpa.gov/2022 budgets.

"We want everyone's voices heard," she said.

 Ms. Betances also reported that June 14 is the deadline for applications from community groups for the "Love Your Block" program.  For more information, visit: engage.pittsburghpa.gov/loveyourblock2021.

The mini-grant program awards $1,500 to community groups to complete volunteer projects in their neighborhood.

She also said the city is planning to open eight of its pools this month, but is in need of lifeguards to staff the pools.  Applicants must be city residents and at least 16 years of age.

For more information, visit: pittsburghpa.gov/citiparks/lifeguard-info.

In other news, Ms. Rudiak reported that the two friends displaced in the fire in the 1100 block of East Carson St. have found a place on the Slopes.

On Feb. 8, an historic four-story building was destroyed by a massive fire.  It housed the Chamber offices, barber shop, and six apartments. While everyone escaped safely, the building had to be demolished.

"I was happy to hear they have landed on their feet," she said of the men. 

Mr. Kraus said there are reports of people blasting music at Esser's Plaza, 1200 East Carson St. He said signage may be developed to enforce the rules on amplified sound and more.

The final news, reported by Jessica Chau of the office of state Rep. Jake Wheatley, Jr., is that a health and wellness weekend will be held on Center Ave. the weekend of Aug. 21.

The next Planning Forum will be a combined July-August meeting on July 27.

 

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